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Weekly News Round-Up: Florida, Iowa, Kentucky, and Oklahoma

Rachel Hart,
Reproductive Freedom Project
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August 1, 2006

Florida: Two articles out of Florida say that abstinence-only-until-marriage programs are about making sure teens are informed when it comes to sex. The first article features the Orange County abstinence-only-until-marriage group Think Smart. It says, “Abstinence education recognizes that young people can – and will – make intelligent decisions if properly informed.” The second article is about an abstinence-only-until-marriage program called POWER (Peers Offer Witness to Encourage Respect). The article says the group’s premise is “that teens are smart enough to make good decisions when empowered with the truth.” The POWER team moderator goes further to say, “I’m all about giving them information… I’ve found that when you give (teens) the correct information (and) you give them the truth, they grab on to the truth and they realize it’s the best way to go.” Of course, we know that a main component of abstinence-only programs, as mandated by the federal government, is to withhold information about contraceptives from teens.Meanwhile an Op-Ed in the Florida Times Union calls for comprehensive sex ed.Iowa: The Associated Press reports that syphilis is on the rise in Iowa. A spokesman for the state department of public health says that safe sex can reduce the chances of transmission, although it would be interesting to know whether teens in that state are getting the same message in their health classes.Kentucky: The Winchester Sun has an in-depth article about an ongoing debate in Clark County over two sex ed curricula. The first, called Postponing Sexual Involvement, is offered to sixth and seventh-graders in that county and is an abstinence-only course that focuses on developing assertive behavior in teens to help them say “no.” The second, called Reducing the Risk, is offered to eighth graders in Clark County. Reducing the Risk emphasizes abstinence as the only 100 percent effective barrier to pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, but it also introduces the students to contraceptives and explains how they are used. Parents are able to opt their children out of the classes, but the means by which this happens (opt-out versus opt-in) is part of what is at issue. A quote from the article really sums up part of the problem:

Sometimes, students will ask questions based on something they have seen in commercials, on television or have heard from friends, and it creates a dilemma: Does the instructor answer the question then, or tell them to go home to their parents? And sometimes, if the teacher does the latter, the student has come back the next day with the message: ‘Go ask your teacher.’

Oklahoma: There is a great article in The Oklahoma about a program called Teen emPower that emphasizes the importance of abstinence and self-esteem, but that also provides information on how to prevent pregnancy and STDs. And an editorial in the Tulsa World says that teens in that state are in need of better information about pregnancy prevention.

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