Conservative states are finally realizing that teenagers have sex—even if you tell them not to—and taking that into account in education addressing legislation.
Reports surfaced today concerning Utah’s HB 189, a proposed state bill introduced by representative Lynn Hemingway, D-Salt Lake, that would allow the state’s schools to teach comprehensive sexual education, moving away from the abstinence only policy that was previously enforced. This comes just days after North Carolina state representative Susan Fisher, D-Buncombe, said she would promote similar legislation this session in her traditionally conservative state.
Apparently Mr. Hemingway has paid attention to the onslaught of recent studies proving that abstinence-only programming simply doesn’t work. Even if you don’t tell a teenage boy he has a penis, he’ll figure it out—and without education, chances are what he does with it will be irresponsible. Need proof? Another report came out of Utah today that the state’s Latin American teen birth rate is four times higher that of other Utahans – 66.3 per 1000 for Latinas versus 17.5 for those from other backgrounds – which is a clear failure on the part of the state’s education system.
The bill, which was introduced to the state House of Representatives on Monday, is a step in the right direction. It was amended based on the guidance of the school district’s Curriculum Materials Review Committee, and states that there are still several topics that are prohibited for discussion in the classroom:
"(I) the intricacies of intercourse, sexual stimulation, or erotic behavior; (II) the advocacy of homosexuality; or (III) the advocacy of sexual activity outside of marriage."
I wouldn’t want my teacher explaining the intricacies of intercourse to me, either—that’s what best friends are for.
However, teachers are no longer prohibited from encouraging "the use of contraceptive methods or devices," a provision to the law which is currently on the books. Instead, the new legislation requires the districts to provide education about the proper use of birth control and barrier methods as a way of preventing pregnancy, STIs, and HIV/AIDS.
It’s reassuring to see Utah, one of the most traditional states in the Union, proposing legislature that promotes education instead of blind ideological policy.
But I may be speaking too soon.
According to an article in the Desert News, the Utah Eagle Forum, a "pro-family" forum established in 1972 to promote conservative values throughout the state, is in a stink over the proposed legislation.
"It’s a bad bill," said Gayle Ruzicka, the president of the forum, to the newspaper. "Utah has always had the best laws dealing with abstinence education and that is where we want to keep it." The best laws dealing with abstinence? To me, that sounds like a contradiction in terms.