UPDATE: BILL WAS RECOMMENDED FAVORABLY OUT OF COMMITTEE AND IS ON ITS WAY TO THE WAYS & MEANS COMMITTEE. New Bill number and new text: S2071.
CALL TO ACTION
Let’s make some noise and refute the LIES being spread by Massachusetts Family Institute. Write and call your legislators, and the committee members (a handy cut-n-paste list). Reach out to people you know throughout the state so we can make sure that accurate information is being communicated to the committee and our legislators.
Some additional talking points:
- As of 2015, New Mexico had the highest rate of teen pregnancy – closely followed by Mississippi, Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma. Massachusetts weighed in at #47, Minnesota at #48, Vermont at #49 and New Hampshire at #50. The states with the highest rates of teen pregnancy either don’t teach sex ed, or use an ‘abstinence only’ approach.
- Abstinence education has also been found to include misleading medical information and exclude potentially life-saving information about sexual risk reduction.
- Research conducted on 48 states of United States showed that “The level of abstinence education (no provision, covered, promoted, stressed) was positively correlated with both teen pregnancy and teen birth rates.
- In John S. Santelli’s research, the decline of teenage pregnancy rates during 1995–2002 were largely due to improved contraception, and the reduction in pregnancy risk among teenagers at age of 18 or 19 is entirely ascribed to more contraception.
- According to SIECUS, the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States, “[s]cientific evidence simply does not support an abstinence-only-until-marriage approach.” A 2010 report by the Guttmacher Institute pointed out that pregnancy rates for teens 15–19 reversed their decline in 2006, near the peak of the Abstinence Only campaign in the United States.
- Sex education has been linked to a delay in the first time having sex; however, abstinence-only programs specifically haven’t shown this link, and do not seem to have an impact on if or when young people begin having sex.
I spent the day at the State House last week, supporting Women’s Advocacy Day and lobbying for legislation that supports women, children and families in the Commonwealth. One particular bill, S234/H2053 – An Act Relative to Healthy Youth, has always seemed to me to be a no-brainer. That is, until I found out who is oppposed to the bill, and what types of misinformation they are spreading at the State House and to parents around Massachusetts.
The Health Youth Act would do two things according to the group MA Reproductive Rights:
- Public school districts with a STI rate higher than the state average would be required to offer medically accurate sexual education to students. (I have an inquiry into the Department of Health to get this information. I’ll update the post as soon as I have the numbers and towns/districts.)
- Public school districts that already offer sexual education must ensure the information provided is medically accurate, age-appropriate and inclusive.
This bill is NOT a mandate to provide sex education if a school district does not currently provide it UNLESS it meets criteria 1 above. According the Massachusetts STD, HIV/AIDS and Viral Hepatitis Surveillance Report for 2013, the five areas with the highest rate of infection are Provincetown, Boston, Chelsea, Brockton, and Springfield.
Additionally, and contrary to the misinformation being spread by the Massachusetts Family Institute, the Massachusetts Comprehensive Health Curriculum State Framework stresses the need for age appropriate, science-based information. It does not include graphic, explicit or age-inappropriate information. The curriculum already exists; it was not developed by Planned Parenthood. Below is a broad-stroke excerpt of the standards:
Pre-K–12 StandardsGrowth & DevelopmentStudents will learn the basic characteristics of physical growth and development,including body functions and systems throughout the life cycle, and will acquire skills to promote and maintain positive growth and development.Physical Activity & FitnessStudents will, by repeated practice, acquire and refine a variety of manipulative,locomotor, and non-locomotor movement skills, and will utilize principles of training and conditioning, will learn biomechanics and exercise physiology, and will apply the concept of wellness to their lives.NutritionStudents will gain the knowledge and skills to select a diet that supports health andreduces the risk of illness and future chronic diseases.Reproduction/SexualityStudents will acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to make effective personaldecisions that promote their emotional, sexual, and reproductive health.Mental HealthStudents will acquire knowledge about emotions and physical health, the management of emotions, personality and character development, and social awareness; and will learn skills to promote self-acceptance, make decisions, and cope with stress, including suicide prevention.Family LifeStudents will gain knowledge about the significance ofthe family on individuals and society, and will learn skills to support the family, balance work and family life, be an effective parent, and nurture the development of children.Interpersonal RelationshipsStudents will learn that relationships with others are an integral part of the human life experience and the factors that contribute to healthy interpersonal relationships, and will acquire skills to enhance and make many of these relationships more fulfilling through commitment and communication.Disease Prevention & ControlsStudents will learn the signs, symptoms, and treatment of chronic and communicable diseases, and will gain skills related to health promotion, disease prevention, and health maintenance.Safety & Injury PreventionStudents will gain the knowledge and skills to administer first aid and carry outemergency procedures, including cardiopulmonary resuscitation, will avoid, recognize, and report verbal, physical, and emotional abuse situations, and will assess the factors that contribute to intentional and unintentional injury, including motor vehicle accidents, fire safety, and weapons safety.Tobacco, Alcohol, & other SubstancesStudents will acquire the knowledge and skills to be competent in making health-enhancing decisions regarding the use of medications and avoidance of substances, and in communicating about substance use/abuse prevention for healthier homes, schools, and communities.Violence PreventionStudents will learn how their actions affect others, will understand the power that positive character traits can have in violence prevention, will gain skills to report incidents of violence and hurtful behavior to adults in the school and community, will avoid engaging in violence, and identify constructive alternatives to violence, including how to discourage others from engaging in violence.Consumer Health & Resource ManagementStudents will acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to obtain, manage, and evaluate resources to maintain physical and mental health and well being for themselves, their family, and the community.Ecological HealthStudents will gain knowledge of the interdependence between the environment andphysical health, and will acquire skills to care for the environment.Community & Public HealthStudents will learn the influence of social factors on health and contribution of public health, and will gain skills to promote health and to collaborate with others to facilitate healthy, safe, and supportive communities.