Update: This bill was passed into law and is now a part of the state's Reproductive Health and Safety Education. If you have questions about how it is being implemented in classrooms, please contact our School Engagement Specialist Jenny Palmer.
This morning, the House HHS Committee will hear (and most likely pass) a bill to add abortion education to the state’s health education requirements. The bill (S132) amends the state’s reproductive health and safety education program to include the following item starting in 7th grade:
Teaches about the preventable causes of preterm birth in subsequent pregnancies, including induced abortion, smoking, alcohol consumption, the use of illicit drugs, and inadequate prenatal care.
Setting aside your feelings on abortion (these are ours, fyi), it’s important to screen this against the reality of sex ed.
Do you want your 7th grader to learn about abortion from a teacher?
How do you feel about abortion? How does your kid’s teacher feel? You play that out in your own mind. The vast majority of adults want their kid to get school-based sex ed that includes information on abstinence, contraception, and healthy relationships. And that makes total sense: The vast majority of adults approve of abstinence, contraceptive use, and healthy relationships. The same cannot be said of abortion.
7th graders ask a lot of questions.
According to the bill, the state Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Public Instruction will provide the abortion education lesson plan. But no matter how scripted it is, kids ask questions: Who gets abortions? How do they work? What is an abortion? Do they hurt? Where can you get one? My mom had a miscarriage; was it caused by an abortion? Are these the classroom conversations the bill’s sponsors want?
Educators will freak out.
In most school systems there are a handful of topics you DO NOT EVER TALK ABOUT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES WHATSOEVER. EVER. Abortion. Masturbation. Sexual pleasure. Health teachers who provide effective sex ed are fantastic professionals. They also teach with the fear that a parent or community member will launch an all-out crusade against them. This bill thrusts them right into the middle of America’s biggest culture war.
Most schools won't ever teach it.
So here’s the big reality check: Most students will never receive this lesson plan. Four years after the passage of the Healthy Youth Act, there are schools systems that still teach the worst-of-the-worst abstinence only curricula. There are school systems that bring in “educators” from religious groups who dump a bucket of trash on the floor and say, “If you have sex before marriage, you’re no better than this pile of trash.” There are school systems that have adopted comprehensive sex ed policies but “forget” the contraceptive lesson. These school systems aren’t going to teach about abortion.
We welcome any attempt to improve young people’s health, to help young people prevent pregnancy, to help schools provide effective sex education. This bill doesn’t do any of those things.
PS – Don’t forget: Teen abortions are exceptionally rare (about 9% of teens have one each year, and most who do are 18-19-year-olds). Teen abortions are down 78% since they peaked in 1988. If a 7th grader has had sex, gets pregnancy, or has abortion, it’s most likely she was raped.
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