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STATE POLITICS & POLICY | Utah Bill Would Offer Parents Choice of Two Sex Education Options

STATE POLITICS & POLICY | Utah Bill Would Offer Parents Choice of Two Sex Education Options
[June 22, 2009]

A bill (H.B. 189) before the Utah Legislature's Health and Human Services Interim Committee would allow parents to choose between two sex education curriculums, the Salt Lake City Deseret News reports. The first curriculum would be "abstinence-based and teach strategies for waiting until marriage but also offer information about issues such as sexually transmitted" infections. The "other class would emphasize abstinence but also offer facts," including STI prevention and contraceptive options.

State Rep. Lynn Hemingway (D), who proposed the bill, cited data from the state Department of Health showing that 4,356 young women became pregnant in 2007 and that there were 1,805 reported cases of chlamydia among girls ages 15 to 19 in 2008, an increase from 1,332 in 2005. Hemingway said, "These numbers are frightening. This isn't a moral issue anymore. This is a health issue." Hemingway's bill is modeled after similar legislation under consideration in North Carolina.

According to the Deseret News, the state Office of Education's rule on sex education currently states that educators are allowed to instruct on contraception options if they have parental consent. Some advocates, policymakers and teens argue that students are receiving inadequate sex education because instructors are leaving out important information over concern that they will be accused of advocating sex. Hemingway's bill allows instructors to provide information on contraception "without fear of reprimand," according to the Desert News (Stewart, Salt Lake City Deseret News, 6/18).