A new bill proposed in the Utah House of Representatives would create two types of sex education, abstinence-only and comprehensive, and let parents choose which class their child would take. The first class would advocate abstinence until marriage and talk about STIs while the second class would “emphasize abstinence but also offer facts including STD prevention and contraceptive options.” Representative Lynn Hemingway, D-Salt Lake, who proposed the bill, cited Utah’s quickly rising rate of STI infections among teens as a reason for its introduction, citing the nearly five hundred new cases of Chlamydia between 2005 and 2008 in Utah girls aged 15-19.
Abstinence only programs do not work for every student, as evidenced by a 2002 study done by the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the U.S. (SIECUS), which showed that approximately 55% of teens surveyed ages 15-19 had engaged in some form of sexual activity.
In a state as traditionally conservative as Utah, offering comprehensive sex education in this format would be a huge improvement over current practice. Currently, teachers need permission from students’ parents to discuss contraception during sex education. And the threat of being fired can prevent teachers from giving full information. This bill would permit teachers to discuss contraception in the comprehensive class without fear of termination.
This legislation would be a major step towards meeting the needs of students and parents and equipping students with the skills they need to make healthy decisions about their lives.