Its an established fact that comprehensive sex education helps reduce the incidence of unplanned pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Nevertheless, such programs face resistance from many parents, communities, and educators. Now, two opposing bills have come forward in the Texas Legislature: one promoting the statewide adoption of comprehensive sex ed programs, and the other banning any program produced by an agency that provides abortion services or any affiliate of such agency.
In other words, it’s on.
Texas law currently does not mandate either sex education or HIV education. When provided, parents must be given notice and have the opportunity to opt out. Additionally, when provided, sex ed must
- be age-appropriate.
- stress abstinence.
- include information on the importance of sex only within marriage and the negative outcomes of sex.
- provide a negative view of same-sex relationships.
- cover life skills for avoiding coercion and healthy decision-making.
(Information from the Guttmacher Institute’s Sex and HIV Education Policy in Brief).
Texas’ Health and Safety Code also requires that the education department develop medically accurate model programs to educate the public about AIDS and HIV infections. However, it does not define whether or how these programs should be administered in schools. Lastly, in 2004, information on contraception and STI prevention was removed from the state’s high school biology textbooks.
This sets the scene for the current legislative battle. On one side, we have HB 78 which promotes mandated age-appropriate and medically accurate sex education. The bill not only defines age-appropriate and medically-accurate in strict terms, it also maintains the focus on abstinence while highlighting the impact of birth control, gives schools the freedom to distribute condoms, and requires that healthy relationships and communication skills are taught. The bill has a wide-reaching scope with one overarching message—sexuality is normal and should be presented as such, with all its risks and potential rewards taken into account.
On the opposing side is HB 205. This bill prohibits organizations providing abortions and their affiliates from providing any sex education in or sex-ed teaching materials to schools. To put it bluntly, it appears to be little more than a thinly veiled attempt to ban Planned Parenthood and clinics and non-profits like it from teaching in schools.
Based on Texas’ history with legislation around this topic and other sexual and reproductive health issues, HB 78 looks outnumbered and outgunned. That being said, it does not necessarily mean that HB 205 will carry the day, either. In recent years, we’ve seen small shifts in the Legislature’s bias, a result, at least in part, of Sen. Wendy Davis (D) and her allies. Davis’ 2013 filibuster of a Senate anti-abortion bill rallied fierce support from advocates and proponents of reproductive rights and, by extension, comprehensive sex education. As a result of this shift, then, the question becomes whether Davis’ camp has enough power to sway the Legislature in favor of HB 78—or, if not, face down supporters of HB 205.
Other Sexual Health News
Obama will Offer Paid Parental Leave to Federal Workers (The Miami Herald)
HIV/AIDS Patients in Deep South have Lower Survival Rates, Study Shows (Stanley News and Press)
Federal Judge: South Dakota Ban on Gay Marriage is Unconstitutional (Grand Forks Herald)
Breastfeeding, Sexual Orientation Could Soon Be Protected Under Utah Law (Fox 13 Salt Lake City)
Bill Introduced to Ban ‘Sexual Orientation Therapy’ (First Coast News)
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