Some state lawmakers hope that last gift will be a little more difficult to come by in the future, and have introduced legislation aimed at reducing the prevalence of sexually transmitted diseases and teen pregnancy.
Both pieces of legislation, House Bill 1195 by Rep. Jeannie McDaniel, D-Tulsa, and Senate Bill 37 by Jim Wilson, D-Tahlequah, look to change standards for sexual education in Oklahoma schools by requiring medically and scientifically accurate information as part of sex-ed curriculum.
Both bills state “the deliberate withholding of information that is needed to protect life and health and that is therefore relevant to informed decision-making shall not be considered medically accurate.”
When contacted by the Oklahoma Gazette, neither lawmaker said they were aware of the other’s bill, but both said the goal is to reduce sexually transmitted diseases and teen pregnancies in the state and that current sex education requirements are too broad.
Wilson said his legislation is a new version of a bill by former Sen. Mary Easley, D-Tulsa, that did not get out of committee in the last legislative session.
“That’s one thing that people don’t want to talk about, is sex,” Wilson said.
That’s one thing that people don’t want to talk about, is sex.
Wilson cited Taft Middle School as an example of the benefits of teaching medically accurate sex education. After the classes began, the school, which had been experiencing problems with teen pregnancies, saw the number of pregnancies go down to zero, Wilson said.
“It’s pretty impressive. We know there is something going on there. This is just something we probably ought to look at in a reasonable way.”
Wilson said abstinence-only sex education is not effective, and by creating an objective standard governing sex education, it would help discredit the school-yard myths about sex and pregnancy.
“(Abstinence-only) doesn’t seem to be working,” Wilson said. “If kids have the facts, they seem to do fairly well.”
In addition, if there are fewer unwanted pregnancies, it would help cut down on a subject of several bills that have been filed in the Legislature in recent sessions, including the current one — abortion.
“The Legislature is spending all this time talking about abortion,” Wilson said. “So, if people don’t get pregnant, we wouldn’t have the issue.”
McDaniel’s bill places an emphasis on abstinence, and requires teaching students about legal issues and dating and sexual violence.
“There are a lot of kids who don’t know what the laws are regarding parenthood and custody,” McDaniel said.
“A lot of those things fly above their head, and can stay with them the rest of their lives.”
McDaniel said she was approached by state obstetricians and gynecologists who support Texas’ Worth the Wait program, which combines abstinence education with sex education.
“Ultimately, abstinence would be the ideal direction we would want to take at certain grade levels, but we should also equip them with the facts they need to make good decisions,” McDaniel said. “You can never discount adding to factual information.”
Abstinence information is important to teach as well, McDaniel said, because some students do choose to abstain from sex and need encouragement.
“The purpose is to have all the factual information,” McDaniel said. “There is a place for that conversation. I don’t think it’s all or nothing. That may be the ideal world, but there are kids out there trying to make decisions looking for someone to back them up. If abstinence works for some, we want to support that effort.”