Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin (R) last week signed a bill into law mandating public school students are taught abstinence from sexual activity is “desirable goal for all school-age children,” while GOP lawmakers barred parents from opting out of the abstinence-based education.
Kentucky has the fifth-highest teen birth rate in the United States, with four out of every ten high school students in the state having had sexual intercourse. Meanwhile, 46 percent of students reported not using a condom the last time they had sex, and the vast majority reported not using other forms of contraception, including birth control pills or an intrauterine device.
Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky (PPINK), said in a statement that it was stunning Bevin and Republican legislators would mandate “shame-based” abstinence-only sex education that doesn’t prevent unintended pregnancies.
“At PPINK, we continuously work to educate people about their bodies, and to let them know that they have choices when it comes to their reproductive health care,” said Christie Gillespie, president and CEO of PPINK.
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While Kentucky public schools today are required to provide sex education, the Kentucky Department of Education is reviewing guidelines for sex education in public schools, reported the Louisville Courier-Journal.
SB 71, sponsored by state Sen. Stephen Meredith (R-Leitchfield), requires schools offer curriculum for human sexuality that instructs students that abstinence from sexual activity is the “only certain way to avoid out-of-wedlock pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, and other associated health problems.”
Meredith claimed that the “intent of this bill is not to limit sex education to abstinence-only education.” Lawmakers in the state house rejected an amendment to allow parents to opt out of any portion of the sex education curriculum “relating to abstinence.”
There are 24 states that mandate sex education. Thirteen states require that the instruction be medically accurate. Thirty-seven states require that information on abstinence be provided in sex education, while 26 states require that abstinence be stressed, according to the Guttmacher Institute.
Rep. Tom Burch (D-Louisville) introduced legislation that would have required the state Board of Education to create standards to regulate sex education curriculum taught in public schools, and set minimum instructional requirements for the fourth grade through the 12th grade. Burch’s bill never received a public hearing.
Legislation that requires sex education taught in public schools include medically accurate information has been introduced in Arizona, Idaho, Louisiana, but none of the bills have received committee hearings or votes.
“Our students should have access to comprehensive, medically accurate, and age-appropriate sex education, not curriculum based on one politician’s religious beliefs,” Gillespie said. “Comprehensive sex education is scientifically proven to be an effective way to prevent unintended pregnancies and allow people to plan their families when they are ready.”