Last year, Representative Brian King (Democrat – Salt Lake City) ran HB 246 – Reproductive Health Amendments, legislation that took a realistic look at human sexuality that gave young adults the tools they need to make good, comprehensive, decisions about themselves, their sexual health, and their psychological health. The legislation did not disregard abstinence as an option and would emphasize that abstinence is the only proven way to always prevent STI transmission and pregnancy.
[pullquote]Despite being less effective than other methods, there are many conservative groups who disregard the evidence in favor of a strict abstinence-only policy. Yes, the ostrich patrol just can’t seem to accept that treating teenagers like people might actually produce better results.[/pullquote]But the legislation was also realistic. As we pointed out last year abstinence-only programs have been shown to be no more effective at increasing the age of first sexual contact, decreasing the number of sexual partners a teen may have, preventing pregnancy, or the number of reported STD diagnoses when compared to other groups. However, youth who receive abstinence-oriented educations are more likely to not know the role of contraception (particularly condoms) in the prevention of spreading disease. Furthermore, a majority of Utahns do not agree with this method of sex education being taught to their child.
King’s legislation in 2016, in short, realizes that hormone crazed teens don’t make smart decisions and that equipping them with the knowledge necessary to avoid pregnancy and STI transmission works far better than pretending there isn’t a problem.
Well, Representative King is back at it again with HB 215 – Reproductive Health Education and Services Amendments. This year’s legislation is quite similar to 2016’s, however, King has opted to remove language related to Medicaid waivers for family planning services – instead opting to place it into a separate bill, HB 57 – Reproductive Health and Medicaid Amendments.
As in last year’s bill, HB 215 places an emphasis on providing evidence-based, age appropriate, information “shown to be effective in changing behaviors that contribute to pregnancy at a young age and sexually transmitted diseases and infections, including: sexual abstinence and delaying sexual initiation, reducing the frequency of sexual intercourse, reducing the number of sexual partners, and increasing the use of condoms and other contraceptives.”
Another key component of HB 215 is the importance it places on how to recognize, avoid, and respond safely to situations where sexual or physical violence may occur – an all too important and sad reality in our modern world.
One slight tweak to the bill when compared to last year is that King would specifically make the sexual education curriculum available to parents so that they not only know what is contained in the various courses, but can also engage in conversations about it if they so choose. Though this was implied in 2016’s legislation, the addition may ease some concerns.
It should come as no surprise that King has already received pushback on the legislation. Despite being less effective than other methods, there are many conservative groups who disregard the evidence in favor of a strict abstinence-only policy. Yes, the ostrich patrol just can’t seem to accept that treating teenagers like people might actually produce better results.
No, King is not doing away with abstinence education. No, King is not telling teenagers to give into their hormones. No, King is not shutting parents out of the process or forcing state approved sin education upon innocent youth. What King is trying to achieve with HB 215 is to provide a comprehensive, realistic, age-appropriate education about maturation and sexual health that is specifically designed to reduce the spread of STI’s, reduce pregnancies, and delay sexual activities until a person reaches a more responsible age.
Last year King’s bill died in the Education Committee along partisan lines. Perhaps this year King will make some progress on this important issue.
To contact Representative King, click here or call 801-560-0769
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