There's no question that we all want our children to make healthy, responsible decisions. For many that means teaching our children to abstain from sexual activity until marriage, or at least until they are mature enough to make the right choices to keep themselves safe.
But a host of shocking statistics on sexually-transmitted disease infection and teenage pregnancy rates prove that we canóand indeed mustódo more to protect our children from the harmful consequences of uneducated sex should they choose to engage in it. Otherwise, we'll be putting the long-term health of our children and our families at risk.
What's the problem?
Research suggests that a clear majority of Utah's high school students will become sexually active before their graduation day. Yet most of Utah's children do not have all the knowledge they need to make healthy and responsible decisions should they decide to engage in sexual activity.
This creates a preventable public health problem in Utah. The rate of new infections of several dangerous sexually-transmitted diseases is skyrocketing, and we've seen an increase in the rate of teenage pregnancy for the first time in at least ten years.
A recent non-partisan study released by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that an average of 1 in 4 teenage girls (age 14-19) are currently infected with a sexually-transmitted disease in this country. 1 in 4!
In addition, a number of non-partisan studies have found an inability of abstinence-only education programs to significantly alter the sexual practices of the students involved. The most recent federally-funded, non-partisan study found no difference in the sexual practices of students who received abstinence-only education versus those who received no sex education at all.
Another study found that children who are enrolled in comprehensive sex education programs have a lower rate of teenage pregnancy (and are not any more likely to engage in sexual activity) compared to those who received abstinence-only or no sex education.
What else can we do?
Comprehensive sex education means comprehensive. Abstinence from sexual activity is the best choice for our children for many reasons, and we believe that message should remain in Utah's sex education. But our children also need to know all the facts when it comes to contraceptive options for preventing pregnancy and barrier methods for preventing STDs.
We also believe young people would benefit from a better understanding of human sexuality, human relationships, relationship maturity, healthy communication, and communication techniques. These would all be a part of an expanded, comprehensive sex education curriculum in Utah.
Utah needs to expand on its current system and make sure all our young people are receiving the same clear, concise, accurate information on how to protect their health and make responsible choices. Our current system does not go far enough; we need to take the next step in protecting our families' health and preventing the consequences of uneducated, unsafe sex.