Utah legislature has passed a sex education bill that allows schools to decide whether they will teach students about human sexuality and in the event that they do, requires that it use "abstinence-only instruction materials." The bill now goes to the governor for approval.
The Salt Lake City Tribune reports supporters of the bill, which passed 19-10 in the Senate, believe that the details of sex education should be left to parents:
"To replace the parent in the school setting, among people who we have no idea what their morals are, we have no ideas what their values are, yet we turn our children over to them to instruct them in the most sensitive sexual activities in their lives, I think is wrongheaded," said Sen. Stuart Reid, R-Ogden.
On the flip side, Sen. Pat Jones, D-Holladay called it a "mandate against reality". The Tribune reports that parents already have the option of opting their children out of sex education classes and districts did have the ability to choose teaching abstinence only.
The Desert News reports that HB363 was sponsored by Rep. Bill Wright, R-Holden, in response to graphic content and what he considered inappropriate material presented in classes, especially that coming from Planned Parenthood.
Watch this report from the Sutherland Institute:
According to the Desert News, senate sponsor Margaret Dayton, R-Orem, presented the bill, noting that in the years since sex education began in schools, there has been an increase in sexually transmitted diseases:
"This just clarifies we'll have an abstinence-only curriculum or a nothing curriculum," she said.
While some think this bill puts control of a child's education back into parent's hands, others have said that it takes away parental choice. The Desert News has more:
"You just took away the power of parents by having the state of Utah dictate what students are going to be learning," [Sen. Luz Robles, D-Salt Lake] said.
While explaining his opposing vote, Sen. Ross Romero, D-Salt Lake, speculated that the bill would lead to an increased number of teen pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections and result in a deficient curriculum. He said senators were being "naive" if they thought that children weren't being exposed to images of adult sexual activity over the Internet from a young age and added that those experiences lead to confusion about sexuality that may or may not be able to be addressed in the home.
"We've been discussing this as though every child has the benefit of two loving parents who are ready to have a conversation," he said. "That is not the case. There are kids in our community that do not have that luxury."
According to the bill, if a school decides to teach sex education they must teach it in the context of "abstinence from all sexual activity before marriage and fidelity after marriage as the only sure methods for preventing certain communicable diseases." The bill says that at any time when human sexuality is being taught, instruction is not to include information about "the intricacies of intercourse, sexual stimulation, or erotic behavior; homosexuality; or [the advocacy or encouragement of] the use of contraceptive methods or devices."
NPR reports that according to the Guttmacher Institute, 21 states require schools teach students about sex education and in 18 of these states contraceptive methods must be a part of the lesson.