Utah's Abstinence-Only Sex Education Law Vetoed. Parents Can Rejoice.

Health & Wellness on 03.20.12
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It's not just the teaching of science and climate change that is under politically motivated attack in our schools. Sex education, too, is becoming a hot button topic - despite the fact that research shows that teaching sex education helps prevent risky behavior in teens.

Having lamented that Utah's abstinence-only sex education law was a betrayal of our teens, I was delighted to hear - as reported in the Daily Herald - that Utah's governor Gary Herbert has vetoed the bill, arguing that parents need "more involvement, more information, and more choice. Not less."

While some Conservative voices will no doubt be outraged, the move may turn out to be a savvy piece of political manouvering. A separate report over at al.com suggests that even in the South, where abstinence-only sex education has traditionally held sway, and where higher-than-average levels of teens suffer from sexually transmitted diseases like HIV, most parents support evidence-based, age-appropriate sex education in schools:

Issues such as high teen pregnancy rates can place heavy burdens on government and taxpayers. According to the study, for example, teen-childbearing expenses in the South cost local, state and federal governments an estimated $2.3 billion in 2008 The report offers a solution, said principal investigator Yanyi Djamba, by encouraging parents, educators, policymakers and young people to demand improved access to quality sex education.

“We knew that abstinence-only is not really working as much as we would like,” said Djamba, director of the AUM Center for Demographic Research. “It’s not a bad thing, it is just not working.” One of the main conclusions from the report, Djamba said, is that almost 90 percent of parents do not oppose the teaching of evidence-based, age-appropriate sex education in schools. 

There comes a time when we have to leave the politics at the door and let educators decide what is, and what is not, appropriate to teach in our schools. Those decisions should be based on evidence of what actually works to teach our kids a safe, healthy attitude to sex that respects the diversity of our culture - not on who shouts the loudest in the State legislature.

Governor Herbert has taken a welcome step in that direction.

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