By Anna Jaffray
Last week, the Utah House approved new legislation requiring abstinence only education to be taught in schools (45-28). It was then approved by the Utah Senate (19-10). The new law makes any discussion of contraception, STDs and homosexuality in sexual education classes illegal. The amendment now goes to the desk of Governor Gary Herbert.
The Governor said in an interview with ABC4 News that, “there are arguments that are good on both sides of the issue…that’s why we want to do a methodical review and analysis before we make a decision.”
Such drastic curriculums would limit schools from discussing STD prevention, un-planned pregnancies, and sexuality itself. The legislation , “requires human sexuality instruction or instructional programs to teach and stress the importance of abstinence from all sexual activity before marriage and fidelity after marriage as the only sure methods for preventing certain communicable diseases.”
Utah parents currently have the right to opt their children out of any sex education program, even though few do according to a Salt Lake Tribune survey.
Most research shows that states with more comprehensive sex education programs had lower teen birth rates, but this is contingent upon social and political factors such as race, income, crime rate, abortion laws and religion, according to the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.
The drastic measure has swiftly garnered national attention and outrage at the drastic limitations present in the legislation. A petition on SignOn.org, started by bus driver Paul Krueger, has garnered nearly 35,000 signatures in opposition to the legislation.
The Utah PTA, which opposes the bill, states on their website that, “…this law ignores the fact that teens are increasingly exposed to sexual messages through the media, technology and friends…A meaningful and ongoing dialogue in the home supported by a thoughtful classroom unit is critical.”
ACLU Utah and PrideUtah have also publicly opposed the bill. Utah would be the first state to outlaw discussions of contraception in sex education curriculum.