Blog of Rights

State Round-Up: California, Florida, Rhode Island and APHA

By Rachel Hart, Reproductive Freedom Project at 11:53am
And the abstinence-only-until-marriage/comprehensive sex ed debate rages on in 2007.... California: An article in the Los Angeles Daily News profiles the abstinence-only-until-marriage program Positively Waiting and the ACLU's successful efforts to remove the program from William S. Hart Union High School District and Los Angeles public schools. California state law does not require schools to teach sexuality education; however, if a school chooses to do so it must provide age-appropriate, medically accurate information that includes information on contraception. Florida: A letter-to-the-editor in the Florida Times-Union out of Jacksonville draws attention to a recent study that appeared in Public Health Reports, a peer-reviewed journal of the U.S. Public Health Service. The study, which uses data from the federal National Survey of Family Growth to trace trends in premarital sex dating back to the 1950s, found that premarital sex is nearly universal among Americans and has been for decades. By age 44, 99% of respondents had had sex, and 95% had done so before marriage. The letter points out that the results of the study are in obvious contrast to federal programs pushing abstinence-until-marriage and it calls for support for comprehensive sexuality education. Rhode Island: An Op-Ed published in the Providence Journal today brings attention to the ongoing debate in that state about an abstinence-only-until-marriage curriculum developed by Heritage of Rhode Island. The piece says that schools, like physicians, have a duty to provide accurate information. Written by two local doctors, the op-ed notes that many teens in the state do not have the information they need to prevent unintended pregnancy or STDs and that letting Heritage back in the schools endangers teens:
Letting Heritage back in the schools has consequences far beyond a couple of incorrect facts. Teens need accurate information to help them make healthy lifelong decisions. Good research shows that sexuality education that includes both abstinence and information on contraception leads to delay of onset of sexual activity among those not yet active as well as improved responsible use rates of condoms and contraception among those who are or who choose to become sexually active. If the Department of Education cares about the health and safety of teens it should more carefully scrutinize the programs taught in our schools and once again remove Heritage from our classrooms. Teens and parents in Rhode Island deserve better.
And finally, the American Public Health Association has issued a new policy on abstinence-only-until-marriage programs. The policy notes that "[r]ecent emphasis on abstinence-only programs and policies appears to be undermining critical public health programs in the United States and abroad including comprehensive sexuality education" and that "the current U.S. government approach focusing on AOE [abstinence-only education] or abstinence-until-marriage raises serious ethical and human rights concerns." Accordingly, APHA urges, among other things, that adolescents are provided with complete and accurate information about sexual health and that Congress should repeal current federal funding for abstinence-only-until-marriage programs.
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