Sex education for high school students is back in the news as Wisconsin legislators push to repeal state requirements on teaching about birth control.
State Sen. Mary Lazich, R-Muskego, and other Republican leaders want to undo a law passed in 2010 that requires Wisconsin high schools to teach about abstinence birth control, or notify parents they are not offering sex education.
On Friday, Republicans used Gov. Scott Walker's special legislative session on jobs to work on repealing the Healthy Youth Law passed in 2010. The repeal (Senate Bill 237) passed on a 4-3 party-line vote.
Lazich said the proposal was about returning control over sex education to school districts. But she also noted the Republican proposal would require schools to teach abstinence. She wrote in the Wisconsin State Journal:
While the Strong Communities/Healthy Kids Act removes some curriculum mandates, some requirements remain. Abstinence is the only 100 percent effective method to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases (STD). While the Strong Communities/Healthy Kids Act does not require abstinence-only education, it does require adolescents be informed that abstinence is the only reliable method to prevent pregnancy and STDs.
Planned Parenthood calls Republican efforts a "costly attack" on teen pregnancy prevention programs. The advocacy group said teen moms are 9 times more likely to live in poverty and their children are more likely to have lower cognitive development and to end up incarcerated.
For Representative Cory Mason (D-Racine), he wants kids to have comprehensive, age-appropriate information, but he also doesn't think this is the time for Madison to address sex-ed when there are more pressing issues.
"I have two daughters, and when the time comes for them to participate in a sex-ed class, I want to know that the information given to them is complete so they can make decisions that will keep them safe and healthy," he said. "Before the Healthy Youth Law even gets a chance to work, we're tearing it down and turning our attention to yet another bill that does nothing to help create jobs in our state."
Sarah Finger, of the Wisconsin Alliance for Women's Health, said the Healthy Youth Law creates a minimum requirement for schools to follow. In a Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel editorial, she said teen births cost state taxpayers $158 million per year. She writes:
Continuing teen pregnancy prevention programs is not just common sense; it is an economic and moral imperative that demands lawmakers' attention.