On Wednesday, the Utah House passed HB363, a bill that would let schools skip sex-ed all together and would ban instruction on the use of contraception if they chose to even talk about it. Wright’s craziness was watered down from the original bill which banned any discussion of sexuality except abstinence and fidelity in marriage. Instead, this more moderate bill* allows discussion of contraception but prevents teachers from advocating its use or conducting discussions about sex outside of marriage.
Representing Utah’s vast Neanderthal community, Rep. LaVar Christensen said “Maybe you’ve noticed that the world has figured out how to populate itself over thousands of years without sex education.” It’s important to give LaVar** some leeway here – his prehistoric brain focuses on things like gathering berries, sharpening pointy sticks for defense, and getting the head on his antelope petroglyph to look just right.
Utah’s current law is already at the back of the pack nationally. Schools can choose to adopt abstinence only education (which Alpine, Canyons, Jordan, and Nebo districts have) and any parent can remove their students from the education programs. The conservative Sutherland Institute along with the Eagle Forum killed a bill last year that would have revamped the sex-ed program to give parents the choice between abstinence only or STD/contraceptive classes. The same group this year complained about the need for new legislation asking why it’s the job of government to teach their kids. Perhaps because, when left up to the ever caring parental population of this state, you get non-answers and misinformation resulting in over 17,000 teen births between 2004 and 2008.
Some fantastic facts about the national status of sex education (sexy infographic at right):
- Among developed nations, the US ranks 1st in teen pregnancy and STDs.
- Every 2 minutes, 2 U.S. teens get pregnant. Of these, more than 80% are unintended.
- 1 in 4 sexually active teens will contract an S.T.D. this year.
- Though young people only account for ¼ of our sexually active population, they contract ½ of that population’s S.T.D.’s.
- Chlamydia among U.S. teens has nearly doubled since 2000.
- Abstinence only states have the highest rates of teen pregnancy in the nation, but comprehensive sex-ed states have the lowest rates, yet abstinence still reigns supreme in American schools.
- Teens who receive comprehensive sex-ed are 50% less likely to get pregnant than teens who receive abstinence-only.
- Teen pregnancy dropped 40% between 1990 and 2005. 80% of this drop was due to increased contraceptive usage. Just 14% was due to decreased sexual activity.
Virgina, not content to be upstaged by Utah, briefly flirted with imposing required trans-vaginal ultrasounds on those seeking an abortion. The procedure, deemed by many to be forced rape, would required the insertion of an ultrasound device into the vaginal cavity. The Virginia state governor, taking cues from Mitt Romney, saw that the people of his state weren’t too excited about taking the invasive government mantle from Utah and tempered his support for the measure. The measure was watered down following public outcry to only require external ultrasounds, and passed the state house.
Utah’s bill passed 45-28 (with 11 more rational members of the Utah GOP voting against it). The bill has to pass the state senate and governor’s desk before your children can remain innocent little lambs in the world full of wolves.
*Moderation in this point is relative – hold this bill up next to Hannibal Lecter and you’d choose fava beans every time.
**I can’t help but think some of his irrational internal anger stems from being named LaVar.