Educating our youth on birth control – sensibly

(cross-posted to Utah Legislature Watch)

Sen. Stephen Urquhart, R-St. George is working on a bill that would, if passed, required schools to incorporate instruction about contraceptives in health education courses.

According to a Salt Lake Tribune Poll,  citizens are evenly divided on the issue.

Urquhart said the poll results don’t surprise him, but he hopes that once people understand the details of his bill, they’ll be more supportive.

“This is a very scary topic for a lot of people,” Urquhart said. “People I talk with initially have a strong reaction one way or another but if we can talk about the particulars of the bill, they almost universally approve of it.”

Right now many educators do not even broach the topic since the current law, while allowing the instruction of contraceptives, has many restrictions on how and what can be taught.

Urquhart said the change is needed.

“Few things that our youth do can have more of a profound impact on their lives than sex,” Urquhart said. “We’re seeing that in the numbers of teenage pregnancies and infection rates of sexually transmitted diseases. Education can improve behavior in all aspects of life, including sex.”

Under this measure, abstinence would remain in the curriculum and parents would still have the opt-out provision for their children.

There is opposition, of course.

Gayle Ruzicka, leader of the conservative Utah Eagle Forum, said she would expect people of many faiths to have similar feelings.

“It is a religion that really pushes parental involvement,” Ruzicka said. “Those parents that realize it’s their responsibility, not the school’s responsibility are going to say, ‘Schools, stay out of the lives of my children when it comes to these very personal things.’”

Ruzicka said Wednesday she hadn’t yet read Urquhart’s bill but would oppose removing the prohibition against teachers advocating the use of contraceptives and would oppose requiring teachers to include contraceptives in their instruction.

“When you teach them about sex, that just encourages sexual activity,” Ruzicka said. She said the current law should remain in place.

This mindset has it that kids would never think about sex if they didn’t have sex education.  This is not admitting reality.  Kids think about sex and kids experiment, no matter what parents do to educate their children.  Pregnancies occur and many are those from families who think it will never happen to them.  The lack of sex education in schools likely has the opposite effect of  encouraging sexual activity.  There is no guarantee, either that most parents teach their children about sex.

Melissa Bird, executive director of the Planned Parenthood Action Council (PPAC), however, said the results of the poll are surprising. PPAC, which worked with Urquhart and the state PTA to create the bill, conducted its own poll through Dan Jones and Associates in September. In that poll, PPAC asked respondents if they agreed or disagreed that “comprehensive sex education will likely reduce the number of unintended teen pregnancies.” Sixty-seven percent of those polled in the PPAC survey agreed.

This is a sensible bill.  Kudos to Sen. Urquhart for realizing the necessity of this plan.

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