Sex and confusion: Tribune article is a puzzler


Selecting tidbits from the School Health Profiles 2010 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, The Salt Lake Tribune’s recent article, “Sex and chocolate: Utah kids know a lot about one, not the other,” laments the fact that “Utah schools have nearly barred the topic of safe sex. Utah had the lowest percentage of high schools in which students were taught these points: The efficacy of condoms, the importance of using condoms consistently and correctly, how to obtain condoms and how to use condoms correctly.”

The Tribune then explains why: “Utah law forbids the advocacy or encouragement of contraception in public schools.” The Tribune reporter does not, however, explain what Utah law does encourage with regards to sex education.

From the Utah code:

53A-13-101.   Instruction in health — Parental consent requirements — Conduct and speech of school employees and volunteers — Political and religious doctrine prohibited.
(1) (a) The State Board of Education shall establish curriculum requirements under Section 53A-1-402, that include instruction in:
(i) community and personal health;
(ii) physiology;
(iii) personal hygiene; and
(iv) prevention of communicable disease.
(b) (i) That instruction shall stress:
(A) the importance of abstinence from all sexual activity before marriage and fidelity after marriage as methods for preventing certain communicable diseases; and

(B) personal skills that encourage individual choice of abstinence and fidelity.

[emphasis added]

And the section “forbidding” contraception instruction:

(A) that the materials adopted by a local school board under Subsection (1)(c)(ii)(B) shall be based upon recommendations of the school district’s Curriculum Materials Review Committee that comply with state law and state board rules emphasizing abstinence before marriage and fidelity after marriage, and prohibiting instruction in:
(I) the intricacies of intercourse, sexual stimulation, or erotic behavior;
(II) the advocacy of homosexuality;
(III) the advocacy or encouragement of the use of contraceptive methods or devices; or
(IV) the advocacy of sexual activity outside of marriage;

[emphasis added]

So how are Utah schools doing in teaching abstinence? The School Health Profiles 2010 report shows teachers taught the benefits of being sexually abstinent in 94.6 percent of secondary schools in Utah. The U.S. median for all states is actually higher, at 95.1 percent. It appears abstinence education is not simply a Utah phenomenon.

More confusion from the Tribune article, as it quotes a Utah Department of Health official:

Among youth the health department teaches, many report they learned little about protection in school. “It’s very, very limited,” Meinor said. “The majority [of youth] cannot even talk about the four fluids that can transmit HIV [blood, semen, vaginal fluid and breast milk].”

Yet the School Health Profiles 2010 report seems to show otherwise, with 88.1 percent of Utah secondary schools having taught how to prevent HIV, other STDs and pregnancy. By the way, as of 2009, only three people under the age of 20 in the entire state of Utah were reported to have HIV/AIDS – hardly an indictment of what is currently happening in Utah schools.

With so much data contradicting this article, the question needs to be asked: Why was the article written this way, or written at all? Is it really newsworthy that Utah schools teach students how to use a condom less than schools in other states, considering that Utah law requires schools to stress abstinence? What is the Tribune trying to say?

Clearly, the Utah code, written and passed by the Utah Legislature (which is elected by the people of Utah to implement laws reflective of Utahns’ desires for how Utah society should function) emphasizes the teaching of abstinence from sexual activity before marriage and fidelity after marriage in lieu of advocating for contraceptive methods.

Is the Tribune concerned that not teaching kids how to use condoms is dangerous? Does the Tribune believe kids are increasingly having premarital sex and need to be taught how to do so safely, and that abstinence education isn’t effective? The data do not validate such concerns. Whatever the motivations, the article appears to have emphasized certain pieces of data while excluding others at the expense of objectivity.

The larger question still remains: Should sex education (abstinence, condom use, whatever) be taught in Utah public schools at all? Or is it the parents’ domain to teach their children what and when they will? Or is it some combination of the two?

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  • Dimitri

    Dave, there is no “data” about how many abortions are performed on young women from Utah because they have no conception of what a condom is.  We know it happens though.   I would rather teenagers knew they had access to condoms instead of thinking about those kids getting abortions.  Abstinence is a lofty goal, it is also pretty unrealistic.  While I believe it is a woman’s choice to get an abortion and will defend their right to do so, I think we need to do everything in our power to lower the number of abortions or reasons a woman may feel the need to get an abortion and condoms are a pretty good place to start.

    Also I don’t know that leaving sexual education solely up to parents is a great idea.  While it may have been a good idea in your life experiences, I can direct you to quite a few therapists who work in child sexual abuse who can give a litany of reasons why leaving sex eduction up to family members is a bad idea.

    Although there was a South Park episode which kind of argues your point so who knows.

    • Dimitri

      and your stupid disqus login is tweaking out.

    • David Buer

      Dimitri, with teachers like Mr. Mackey it might be best to just leave it to parents… Wow. But you’re right, some home environments certainly wouldn’t be the best place for some kids to get their sex ed. There’s always going to be hard home situations which definitely need to be provided for.

      I don’t think abstinence is too lofty. It certainly is getting more and more challenging, which is all the more reason for responsible parents, churches, schools, whatever the combination (I don’t know the answer to the “optimal” sex ed set up) to be a part of the solution. I don’t think we’re at the point of just giving in and saying it’s unrealistic so let’s pass out the condoms.

      The latest CDC figures on abortions (for adolescents) in Utah, that I could find, are from 2007:

      Age No.
      <15 17 
      15    33
      16    54
      17    87
      18    220
      19    252
      Total: 663

      In 2008 (the closest year to 2007 I could quickly find the data for), there were 426,731 females aged 10-19 in Utah. So 663 of 426,731 is 0.15% of that population. Some would argue a state-enforced education program for all 426,731 females would be a bit of an overreach when trying to help prevent a situation that has happened to 0.15% of the female 10-19 population. Granted, government sex ed programs do more than try to stop girls from having to face the choice of abortion. But those numbers would seem to support someone who would say the government sex ed program is too far-reaching in its scope.

      • David Buer
      • Dimitri Moumoulidis

        I get what you are saying but personally I feel those girls 17 or younger who had 191 abortions is 191 too many except in cases of rape or incest.   However, thanks to HIPPA laws we will never know how many of those cases were rape or incest.  We also will never know what the circumstances were as to why they ended up having sex in the first place.  We don’t know if those girls were aware of condoms or not.  Maybe they have no idea how to use them?  I did some reading of a couple studies  but the John Hopkins and the Santelli seem to be the most cited since they are the most comprehensive studies.

        This section below is from here  .  Notice in particular the last line, I put it in quotations. 
        Among all respondents, 7.3% reported a pregnancy, al-
        though this was more common among females (10.2%) than
        males (4.7%) (p ? .001). In univariate analyses, increased
        odds for teen pregnancy were signi?cantly associated with
        older age, black race, lower household income, noncentral
        city metropolitan residence, and nonintact family unit status
        (p ? .05) (Table 3).
        In multivariate analyses adjusting for age, gender, race,
        income, residence, and family intactness, abstinence-only
        sex education was not signi?cantly associated with reported
        teen pregnancy when compared with no sex education (OR-
        adj ? .7, 95% CI ? .38 –1.45, p ? .38). However adoles-
        cents who reported having received comprehensive sex ed-
        ucation were signi?cantly less likely to report a teen
        pregnancy compared with those who received no sex edu-
        cation at all (ORad j ? .4, 95% CI ? .22–.69, p ? .001). The
        causal pathway intermediary of birth control use at last
        sexual intercourse was also associated with a decreased
        likelihood for reported pregnancy (ORadj ? .3, 95% CI ?
        .13–.48, p ? .001), adjusted for the same characteristics as
        teen pregnancy.

        “Finally, when comparing adolescents who
        reported receiving a comprehensive sex education with
        those who received an abstinence-only education, compre-
        hensive sex education was associated with a 50% lower risk
        of teen pregnancy.”

        That would mean 95 abortions in Utah in 2007 could have been prevented Dave.  Since 1847 the state of Utah has executed 51 people who were convicted in our Justice System.  In 2007 alone we allowed the execution of 191 children who did nothing except having parents who didn’t use a condom.    I know you don’t hate children Dave, none of you guys do.  You are all very family oriented.  However, this idea of abstinence only education, or even worse statistically with zero public sexual education, is causing abortions to happen.  You are coddling the problem instead of getting honest about what is happening.  I know you are not for abortions in ideology and faith, but you are causing abortions to happen through policy.

        Being a Democrat, I joke with Paul about how we give out abortions for party favors or want to pass laws to put abortion-o-matics in 7/11 parking lots.  The general conception of Democrats is that we just love abortion.  It’s not true though.   My faith (although not LDS) is very clear in defining that the first precept of living a moral life is to “refrain from destroying living creatures”.  Human life is defined to begin at conception by my faith.  Therefore getting an abortion or even advising someone to get an abortion is out of the question.  As my wife will tell you, I don’t even kill the errant spider or bug that makes it into the house, catch and release only.

        However, this poses a dilemma.  Our reality is dictated by many factors, not just faith alone.  I am willing to accept that there is often times more harm done when a child is conceived unwillingly such as with rape or incest.  That is a reality and while I would never consult someone to get an abortion, I would understand their reason for doing it.  For all other instances I feel as though we are the problem. This all or none strategy with abstinence is causing a loss of life because parents are not being honest about the reality that teenagers have sex.  There are two major indicators in those studies of what makes someone more likely to have have sex and ultimately to have an abortion.  The biggest factor is a lack of sexual education, and the second biggest factor seems to be the income level of the parents.   Of the two sex ed is much easier thing to fix as opposed to solving poverty.

        How many children have to die Dave before we start getting real that this policy is bad?  What is so wrong with accepting that while we may not be able to save every child, at least we can promote not killing them?

  • Robert

    Male Formula Pills can also be a good pointer towards the parallel ratio of abortion being subjugated into oblivion. 

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