February 5, 2016 — A Utah lawmaker has introduced a bill (HB 246) that would allow for comprehensive sexuality education in public schools and provide family planning services to low-income residents who qualify for neither Medicaid nor subsidies under the Affordable Care Act (PL 111-148), Salt Lake Tribunereports (Davidson, Salt Lake Tribune, 2/3).
Under current state law, schools are only permitted to teach abstinence-only sexuality education. Parents must opt their children into the course if they want them to participate (Mills, Good4Utah.com, 2/2).
According to CDC, Utah in 2014 ranked 47th in the country for rates of chlamydia and 43th for gonorrhea. The rate of gonorrhea soared between 2011 and 2014, from 9.8 per 100,000 state residents to 49.7 per 100,000 state residents. The state's chlamydia rate also increased between 2011 and 2014, from 251.5 per 100,000 residents to 283.5 per 100,000 residents.
The bill, introduced by state Rep. Brian King (D), would allow for comprehensive sexuality education in Utah public schools. Parents would still need to opt their children in for participation.
The bill also would require state officials to obtain a Medicaid waiver from the federal government. Under the waiver, the state would be able to offer family planning services to low-income residents who do not qualify for Medicaid or for subsidized health care coverage under the ACA (Salt Lake Tribune, 2/3).
King acknowledged that it likely will be difficult to pass the measure, but he said "it's very important to that we have this discussion." He said, "I just reject the idea that by keeping [children] ignorant they are somehow kept safer" (Good4Utah.com, 2/2).
King noted that families might not have "the knowledge or the comfort level" to discuss sexuality or be able to provide sexuality education with "the kind of detail that public health officials do" (Salt Lake Tribune, 2/3). He said, "I want them to go forward with protection, and the first protection they need to have is knowledge about the facts that relate to these sexually transmitted diseases and to sexual activity in general" (Good4Utah.com, 2/2).