Capitol Daily Memo: Forcing STDs on children? Really?

Photo Credit: Scott Catron

The House floor debate on HB 363 last week took an unfortunate turn toward fear-mongering and hyperbole. The bill, run by Representative Bill Wright, R-Holden, would allow school districts to either teach abstinence-only sex education or completely forego sex ed in schools.

The unfortunate remarks by Representative Brian King, D-Salt Lake City, deserve special attention. Representative King stated that teaching abstinence-only sex education to Utah students is “forcing our ignorance or our fear, and our future unintended pregnancies, and our future sexually transmitted diseases, onto the children of the state of Utah– and that’s what we’re doing if we vote for this bill.”

Is it ignorant to tell kids that abstinence is the only guaranteed, 100 percent fail-safe method for not getting STDs or becoming pregnant? Is it fear? Or is it reality? 

He believes most of Utah’s children will engage in premarital sex:

Look, why don’t we quit fooling ourselves. Why don’t we face up to reality. Here’s the truth, my colleagues. Despite the fervent desires of most of us – that our sons and daughters live chaste lives until they get married – we know that many of them, maybe even most of them, are going to engage in sexual relationships before they get married. Those are the facts.

Most Utah teens will engage in premarital sex? If most Utah teens were engaging in premarital sex, it would seem the following numbers would be nearly impossible to achieve, especially given that four Utah school districts are already teaching abstinence-only sex education:

  • In 2010, out of 100 Utah teens, 99 had no STDs or pregnancy
  • Utah teens rank 50th lowest among the states in gonorrhea,1 48th in chlamydia,2 and 43rd in unmarried teen pregnancy3
  • Just 0.45 percent (less than one half of 1 percent) of Utahns ages 10-19 had an STD in 20104
  • 1.0 percent of Utah girls had a child out of wedlock in 2010

Representative King compares belief in the value and pre-eminence of an abstinence-only education to a hoax.

We engage in a lot of reality denial sometimes at the Legislature. Things like saying with a straight face that decreasing taxes increases revenue or that global warning is a hoax and a conspiracy. They’re the kinds of things that make reasonable people think we have lost it up here on the Hill. This bill belongs in that category.

Rep. King also shows an utter lack of faith in Utah parents. In what does he have more faith? In government. He prefers to empower government to fill the role of sex educator and counselor because he believes parents cannot do it: children won’t learn sex ed properly unless government teaches it to them.

Well, truth be told, we never really get around to doing a very good job with this stuff, do we? After all, it’s pretty uncomfortable and, with my girls, they’re smart girls, they’ll pick it up from … somewhere! Not from me.

We owe it to our kids, we owe it to their current and future partners, to not stick our heads in the sand. We’ve heard talk about honesty in this debate. We’ve heard talk about being forthright. Well, we owe it to ourselves to be honest because, in truth, few of us are up to the task effectively teaching our kids ourselves the things they need to know about sex. So we owe it to them to authorize that information to be provided as part of a comprehensive sex education program in our public schools.

So why give, on the floor of the Utah House of Representatives, an insulting, fear-based speech utterly devoid of fact? It’s a disservice to the work the Legislature is trying to do and to the people of Utah.

The full text of Representative King’s comments is below.

——————————–

Rep. Brian King

Remarks during HB 363 debate, 2-22-12

We engage in a lot of reality denial sometimes at the Legislature. Things like saying with a straight face that decreasing taxes increases revenue or that global warning is a hoax and a conspiracy. They’re the kinds of things that make reasonable people think we have lost it up here on the Hill. This bill belongs in that category.

I have four daughters ages 24 through 14, so I think I’ve got some experience talking to them about the birds and the bees. Apparently supporters of this bill think that parents do a good job of talking about sex with their children in the state of Utah currently. Really? Every supporter of this bill in this chamber can honestly say they have thoroughly, specifically and accurately discussed the mechanics of sex with their 8-, or their 10-, or 12-, or 14-, or 16-year-old. Really? Because you know it’s quite a different discussion with your 8-year-old girl than it is with your 14-year-old girl than it is with your 17-year-old girl. But we’ve all done that, right? Really?

I know I had an in-depth discussion with each of my girls at different stages of their maturity about a variety of sexual matters that were appropriate for their age and circumstances. Not. I did not do that. I’d be very surprised if anyone in this chamber did that. They may believe they did that. They may claim they did that. I’d be surprised if they did that.

Of course, the bill’s supporters have the knowledge to comfortably and intelligently talk about such things as sexually transmitted diseases, the different methods of contraception, and the mental and emotional aspects of being sexually involved with someone at 13 years old, or 15 years old or 18 years old. Right? Really? Because they’ve done that with their kids. Really?

Well, truth be told, we never really get around to doing a very good job with this stuff, do we? After all, it’s pretty uncomfortable and, with my girls, they’re smart girls, they’ll pick it up from … somewhere! Not from me.

Hard for me to think of anything that makes me more comfortable than the thought of sitting down and talking to those girls about contraception or sexually transmitted diseases. Anyway, if they don’t know anything about contraception it’ll just make ’em more unlikely to engage in sexual behavior in the first place. Really? Really?

Look, why don’t we quit fooling ourselves. Why don’t we face up to reality. Here’s the truth, my colleagues. Despite the fervent desires of most of us – that our sons and daughters live chaste lives until they get married – we know that many of them, maybe even most of them, are going to engage in sexual relationships before they get married. Those are the facts.

We owe it to our kids, we owe it to their current and future partners, to not stick our heads in the sand. We’ve heard talk about honesty in this debate. We’ve heard talk about being forthright. Well, we owe it to ourselves to be honest because, in truth, few of us are up to the task effectively teaching our kids ourselves the things they need to know about sex. So we owe it to them to authorize that information to be provided as part of a comprehensive sex education program in our public schools.

I don’t think that’s asking for too much. And I think we ought to be honest with ourselves about what this bill does. This bill deprives parents of the opportunity to have the public education system in the state of Utah teach their children about those things that they either don’t want to, don’t know about or just won’t, for whatever reason, teach their children.

Under current law, parents have to opt in to these programs. If they don’t opt in, the public education system, under current law, will not, does not, teach them any of these things that the bill sponsor and the supporters of the bill are concerned about.

Now, I recognize, I heard the bill sponsor – and I have great respect for our good representative from Holden – I heard him say that children need to know that sex outside of marriage is devastating. You know what? I believe that. But there are a lot of my constituents who don’t believe that. There are a lot of my constituents who believe that the most promising way to have a good relationship in the future is to have experience sexually with people before they get married.

Now, is it my belief that that’s true? No. Is it my prerogative, is it our prerogative as legislators to force our beliefs, the belief that was voiced by the bill sponsor, down the throats of the individuals in this state who happen to believe that maybe it’s a good idea to have an opportunity to experience different partners before they get married?

I don’t think it’s asking too much to allow current law to stay the same. That we give parents and their children the opportunity to opt into an accurate, comprehensive teaching of sex education in our schools. That’s all we’ve got currently, and there’s nothing wrong with it. There’s nothing that needs to be changed.

We should not be forcing our ignorance or our fear, and our future unintended pregnancies, and our future sexually transmitted diseases, onto the children of the state ofUtah– and that’s what we’re doing if we vote for this bill. Thank you.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Sexually Transmitted Diseases – Interactive Data 1996-2009: Selected STDs by Age, Race/Ethnicity, and Gender, 1996-2009.

2 Ibid.

3 Calculated using data from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Data Access, VitalStats – Births, Birth Tables, Characteristics of Mother.

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4 Responses to Capitol Daily Memo: Forcing STDs on children? Really?

  1. Jan44felt says:

    Those Utah STD numbers are good! Quite an argument there for NOT changing current education

    • David Buer says:

      Actually, they’re a very strong argument for giving 1-on-1 help to those Utah teens who need it. Clearly, the vast majority of Utah teens are not struggling with STDs, making a broad mandate to teach it to everyone unnecessary.

      Also, is it possible to attribute those STD numbers directly to the current sex ed curriculum? What about parents’ roles? What about the four districts that already teach abstinence-only? What about the impact that religion and moral teachings outside the school have had?

  2.  Where I grew up we started sex-ed in the fourth grade.By high schooling we were putting condoms on bananas. We could also get condoms free from the school nurse and PP a mile away from the high school. Guess what? It didn’t help. STD’s and unwanted pregnancies continued to grow in number, not decrease.More than half of the high school friends that I kept in touch with have been divorced. All this curriculum did was promote promiscuity. I am 100% for this new bill.

    Another good reason for this is it protects Utah students from Planned Parenthood programs,The new national sexuality program http://www.newjerseynewsroom.com/healthquest/njs-new-sexual-education-standards-make-history and at the international leve, thel CRC http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Convention_on_the_Rights_of_the_Child.

    Maybe legislatures promoting more sex education do not know about these, but maybe this is what they want to promote. It is nice to have the Utah House stand up and protect the children of Utah. I hope the Senate will too.

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