The House Education Committee heard testimony on two bills, crafted with the help of Planned Parenthood, seeking to eliminate abstinence-only education in public schools. HB 1163 would require schools to teach so-called “comprehensive” sex education and mandate state funding for this curriculum, and HB 1162 requiring parental notification (not a bad thing) by schools, but only when abstinence is being taught, when there is no such requirement for condom demonstrations!
Here are just a few reasons why this bill is bad for Pennsylvania:
1. The sponsor, Rep. Chelsa Wagner (D- Allegheny), said of her bill: “Nothing in the bill says what the comprehensive sex education will provide.” Not only is HB 1163 dramatically changing the education of our children, but it mandates this education without any specific knowledge of what will be included in the curriculum.
2. HB 1163 would force all Pennsylvania teachers to teach comprehensive sex education curriculum in all health classes; no matter what their personal beliefs are on the material. Jennifer May, coordinator for PA Coalition to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, said on the matter, “They have to teach the needs of their students. They are under contract to do so.”
Also, here is a response to two claims made by supporters of HB 1163 at the committee hearing:
1. False Argument: “Teachers teach about alcohol, drugs, unhealthy foods, etc. and how to prevent against those. We need to also teach about comprehensive sex-education. If you don’t teach a puppy to sit, they won’t sit.”
Amy Scheuring, Executive Director of the Women’s Choice Network, put that idea into perspective:
“We set a standard for our kids by asking them to abstain from smoking, drug and alcohol abuse and even from eating fatty foods. We are intentional and detailed in our instruction about the medical risks and long term effects of dangerous choices. We do not abandon those standards just because they will shove down the occasional burger and fries. When it comes to sexual values, goals and standards, comprehensive sex education is ready to dumb down the curricula because some kids are bound to “do it anyway.”
2. False Argument: “Abstinence-only programs are ineffective and harmful to students.”
They cite the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) which indicates that births to teen girls aged 15-19 years increased by 3%. This is the first increase noted in the previous 14 years of decline.
Abstinence-only education is not something new to the education system and neither is comprehensive sex-education. This “comprehensive” program is simply the repackaging of the failed “safe-sex” messages promoted since the 1980’s.
In Pennsylvania, many schools have different sex education curricula. To say abstinence-only education is the problem for the increase in births to teen girls is untrue and unproven. In response to the question of the reason behind the increase in this statistic, Dr. Rollyn Ornstein, pediatrician and Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at Penn State College, said at the hearing, “there is no evidence.”
Pennsylvania’s teen pregnancy rate in 2006 of 3.1% was lower than all but 11 states in the US. The teen pregnancy rate across the country has fallen by more than 1/3 during the previous 15 years, according to CDC.
Randy Wenger, chief council of the Independence Law Center, points to parents as the benchmark for this issue:
“Parental desires should be honored because we have long respected parental rights in education. Parents are in the best position to guide their children regarding sexual activity. What parents are trying to teach their children at home should not be undermined through what is being taught in the schools.”