Monday, October 26, 2009

Abstinence-only education not right for Wisconsin schools

The state of Wisconsin is poised to pass legislation that would require schools statewide to provide students with a complete education on sexual health, including information on contraception and other methods for birth control.

Currently, schools in Wisconsin determine for themselves how far they want to teach their students about the "birds and the bees." Many school districts opt for "abstinence-only" education, which severely limits a student's ability to understand how to prevent a pregnancy or contracting a sexually transmitted disease.

Under the proposed bill, titled the Healthy Youth Act, Wisconsin schools would be required to teach a comprehensive sex ed class, complete with alternative pregnancy prevention methods. Abstinence would also be included as the best way to prevent a pregnancy or an STD.

Critics of the bill have called it an unwarranted attack upon the rights of local governments and school boards. Matt Sande, director of legislation for Pro-Life Wisconsin, told the Wisconsin State Journal that the bill would be a "violation of the principle of local control."

While local autonomy is an important thing to preserve, ensuring that Wisconsin teens get the sexual knowledge they need is also essential. Abstinence-only education gives students one option -- don't have sex -- and while we should encourage students to choose this option more than any others, we should also be realistic: some of these kids are going to have sex.

There are countless studies that show abstinence-only education doesn't work. Teens either have sex anyway or end up having an STD that complicates their health further down the road.

We should encourage schools to teach an age-appropriate, comprehensive sexual education program that includes information about contraceptive devices, as well as methods on how to prevent spreading sexually transmittable diseases. This program should also include abstinence as a primary method to prevent both -- in fact, the only method proven to do so -- but not the ONLY method mentioned.

Students deserve to know the facts on sex -- hiding these from them isn't going to make the problem of teen pregnancy go away, but may instead exacerbate the problem.

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