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State Round-Up: Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, and Texas

Rachel Hart,
Reproductive Freedom Project
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January 9, 2007

Georgia: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has an interesting pro-con piece on whether the federal government should fund abstinence-only-until-marriage programs. The con piece notes that marriage is not a guarantee for protection against STDs:

The institution of marriage is a risk factor for contracting AIDs in other countries. “In sub-Saharan Africa, the majority of newly HIV-positive women are contracting the virus within marriage from their husbands,” says Steven Sinding, in a 2005 issue of International Family Planning Perspectives. American parallels to international statistics aren’t hard to find. Marital infidelity is rampant. Around 50 percent of married women and men will be unfaithful, according to a 2002 study in the Journal of Couple and Relationship Therapy.

Maryland: Back in 2005, a battle began in Montgomery County over the content of a proposed sex education curriculum. One lawsuit, and almost two years later, school officials have released the new lesson plans, the result of four months of consultation with physicians from the Maryland Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Condom demonstrations will continue to be part of the curriculum despite objections by some groups that they promote promiscuity, and students will be required to have written, parental consent to take the lessons. There is a public meeting tonight about the curriculum.Massachusetts: The Cambridge Chronicle reports on the introduction of two bills in the state legislature: one would require sex education as part of the core curriculum for primary and secondary schools in the state, and the other would ban any state agency from applying for federal grants to teach abstinence-only-until-marriage programs. Massachusetts received about $800,000 in federal funding last fiscal year to teach such programs. A group called CARE (Coalition Advocating Responsible Education) is cited as helping to build momentum and support for both billsNew Jersey: has an article about an abstinence summit that was held in the state this past November. The article mentions a program called Free Teens that promotes abstinence-only-until-marriage. The program appears to be far reaching as the article notes that Free Teens presentations have been made in several middle and high schools. Has anyone seen a Free Teens presentation?New York: The Legislative Gazette reports that passage of the Healthy Teens Act, a bill designed to promote comprehensive sexuality education for children and teens, is a priority for groups such as Family Planning Advocates of New York State. (The bill passed the Assembly last year, but failed to pass the Senate.)Texas: The Texas Legislature is considering a bill that would change the state’s current “opt-out” requirement for parents who don’t want their children to be taught sex education in school to an “opt-in” requirement. Essentially, students would only learn about sex education if their parents expressly tell the district they’d like their children to be included.And finally, Newsday has an op-ed about the hypocrisy of the federal government and its funding of abstinence-only-until-marriage programs in light of a recent study that found that almost all Americans (95 percent) engage in sex before marriage — a figure that has been true for decades.

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