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State Round-Up: Alaska, Arkansas, Iowa, Indiana, and Maryland

Rachel Hart,
Reproductive Freedom Project
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January 12, 2007

Alaska: The Kodiak Daily Mirror reports that in the second year following cuts to sex education programs, teen pregnancies are on the rise at the local high school. One teacher reports that students are unsure of where to go and how to get tested for HIV. A group called Postponing Sexual Involvement is currently working on bringing an abstinence speaker to the school.Arkansas: The abstinence-only-until-marriage curriculum Choosing the Best is coming to the Watson Chapel school district in Arkansas. Approved this week by the school board, the program will be taught in grades sixth through twelve. The school board is bringing Choosing the Best into the schools after the school nurse reported last month that 36 girls in grades seven through twelve were currently pregnant or had already given birth. Jefferson County, where Watson Chapel is located, leads the state in cases of chlamydia and gonorrhea and is fourth among the state’s 75 counties in the total number of births among girls 17 and younger.A recent study on premarital sex in the U.S. continues to spark debate. In Iowa, a letter-to-the-editor in the Quad City Times questions the government’s focus on abstinence-only-until-marriage programs in light of a recent study that found 9 out 10 Americans have premarital sex in this country. The author says that teens need information on how to protect themselves from unintended pregnancy and disease and notes,

When sex is depicted as something mysterious and dangerous, yet ultimately fun for adults to do, it’s like telling teenagers, “You can probably physically operate this really, really cool motorcycle, and it’d be totally fun to do. But only adults are allowed to ride totally awesome motorcycles.”

And in Indiana, another letter-to-the-editor in The Exponent says “preaching to 15-29 year olds about abstinence is illogical and impractical” when the vast majority of Americans have sex before marriage. The author goes on to note that, “[e]ncouraging students to practice safe sex does not encourage promiscuity, it simply recognizes the reality that people will have sex whether you tell them it is moral or not.”Maryland: On Tuesday night, Montgomery County Public Schools officials unanimously approved the new sex ed curriculum. Some LGBT references, including “that most health professionals agree that homosexuality is not an illness, and that gays can live happy and successful lives” were omitted at the last minute. The curriculum, titled “Respect for Differences in Human Sexuality,” attempts to explain concepts like sexual identity and orientation using nonjudgmental language. The curriculum will be piloted this spring in three yet-to-be-determined middle and high schools.

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