It’s never too late for a little pro-choice jubilation. I’m still tickled that this is my state we’re talking about here. I sometimes forget that much of it is not like my teeny, conservative little red county. Back in April, the Pennsylvania House Education Committee passed Bill 1163, the Healthy Youth Act.
This act mandates that comprehensive sexual education be taught in public schools around the state. Some people (but not you, of course!) don’t realize that choice is about so much more than The Right to Choose. It’s about access to birth control and family planning, and also about the right to comprehensive sex ed–which includes not just information on contraception, but also abstinence, which is something many people don’t realize or choose to overlook.
It was only a few years ago when I realized that I had been subjected to abstinence-only education. At the time, I wasn’t into politics, didn’t know the difference between abstinence-only and comprehensive sex ed, and was basically just totally embarrassed to have to ask my mom to sign a paper saying I could be in the three-day “class.” I was in eighth grade. It was “taught” by two nurses from the local hospital and was your run-of-the-mill abstinence-only class. We were shown countless graphic photos of STDs, played ridiculous games to illustrate how we could contract them, and told that anal sex was dangerous and could land us in a diaper before we’re 50. To borrow Jessica Valenti’s oft-used phrase: I shit you not. At one point, one of the women made a brief mention of condoms, but quickly said, “I’m not allowed to talk about that.” In what universe should this be the kind of environment in which a teen learns about sex?
We all know that abstinence-only education is ineffective, that teens who receive it are less likely to use contraception because they were never taught how, and that teens who take “virginity pledges” are more likely to engage in (unprotected) oral and anal sex. So it’s a relief that, according to Lancaster Online, PA HB 1163 would “make it a state mandate! and require that all instruction be ‘age appropriate’ and ‘medically accurate’ — endorsed by such groups as the American Medical Association and state Department of Health [ . . . ]. Parents could choose to have their children opt out of the instruction, which is designed to reduce STIs and pregnancies among teens.” Furthermore, the curriculum will educate students on contraceptive use and STIs.
It’s a victory for Pennsylvania, although it is not clear when the bill will come up for a vote in the House. Organizations like the Pennsylvania Family Institute are already working against it, but polls have shown that 85% of parents in the state would like for their students to have some sort of! sex ed in school. To read PA House Bill 1163, click here. To support comprehensive sex ed in PA, visit PARSE!. And also feel free to use this tiny piece of pro-choice news to brighten your day.