This week the Utah Senate passed a controversial bill that mandates an abstinence-only sex education curriculum for Utah public schools. The bill passed with little debate.  The passage of the bill is deeply troubling for a few reasons. Not only is the bill a bad piece of legislation, it makes me question the overall competency of my legislators.

The language I keep hearing from legislators who support the bill is “Teaching teens about contraception will lead to premarital sex,” and “Sex education should be taught at home, not at school.” Here is what’s wrong with these two viewpoints.

Teaching kids about contraception does not lead to premarital sex; raging hormones and lowered inhibitions lead to premarital sex.  Learning about contraception no more leads to sex than learning about illicit drugs leads to drug abuse, or taking a firearms class leads to illegal shootings.  

Don’t the legislators know that understanding birth control is an important element in preparing kids for young adulthood and marriage?  Married couples should understand birth control options.  If the schools do not teach them, then who?!  Parents?  Did your parents teach you all about condoms, IUDs, and birth control pills and how and why they work?  Did your parents use appropriate hand drawn pictures and diagrams to teach you about birth control?  Did your parents give you adequate, up to date statistics on the effectiveness of each method and explain which methods help prevent STDs and which ones do not?  Of course not.  Most parents are not comfortable with such a task, let alone adequately equipped with materials and understanding to teach the biological intricacies of birth control.  The Utah legislature is under the illusion that they are.  

Utah legislators also believe that sex education should be taught at home, not at school.  Whose position is that?  I don’t remember reading that in the LDS church manual.  Oh, I see . . . it is the position of the legislators.  What right does the legislature have to tell parents that their kids should only be learning about sex at home?  Indeed parents should be talking with their kids about sex, but why can’t the kids learn about sex elsewhere, like at school?  Moreover, does the legislature honestly think that parents are able to provide adequate biological instruction on sexual intercourse?  Apparently they do.

Parents need to talk with their kids about their views, values, and expectations about sex – this is the moral element.  Kids also need to learn the biological elements of sex, which is why school sex education is so important.  Proper school sex education provides value-neutral instruction on intercourse, pregnancy, STDs, contraceptives, and abstinence as the best way to prevent pregnancy and disease.  If the Utah Legislature gets its way, our kids will get plenty of moral instruction, but very little biological instruction.  

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