Kentucky state senator Stephen Meredith has introduced a bill mandating “abstinence from sexual activity outside of marriage” as “the expected standard” for students all the way from fourth to 12th grade.
Sex ed policies have long been a politically contentious issue, and one that states have been debating and legislating individually since the 1960s.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, some 47 percent of high school students report having had sex, and roughly one in four girls will become pregnant at least once by their twentieth birthday. The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) has found that “abstinence-only until marriage” (AOUM) education is ineffective in delaying sexual activity or preventing disease, and that comprehensive sex ed that includes condom and contraceptive use is — Surprise! — super effective at increasing condom and contraceptive use and decreasing pregnancy rates.
Despite this overwhelming — and some would say pesky — body of scientific evidence, Republican senator Stephen Meredith of Kentucky recently introduced a bill that would make abstinence education the standard across the state. As Mother Jones reports, there is currently no law in Kentucky dictating how sex ed should be taught.
The Kentucky Senate Education Committee approved Senate Bill 71 last Thursday in a 7-2 vote, reports the Louisville Courier-Journal. All those in favor were white males. Of those against, one was a woman and the other an African American man.
“As a society, if we don’t set some baselines for our children, there are going to be no limits,” said Republican Senator Danny Carroll, who voted in favor of the bill.
Several women spoke out against the bill prior to the vote, including Rev. Lauren Jones Mayfield, a pastor at Highland Baptist Church in Louisville.
“As four women sitting here saying shame is very much a part of this, you as men are so confident saying that’s not the intent,” Mayfield told the male senators.”I feel like our realities are different from yours because that hasn’t been your experience.”
According to the NCBI, 25 states currently require abstinence information to be emphasized in sex ed, while only 18 states require that HIV and contraception information be the focus of sex ed.
If Bill 71 becomes law, Kentucky will become the 26th state mandating a sex ed curriculum grossly out of step with the scientifically proven realities of high school sexual health.
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(Illustration by Sarah Tate/Brit + Co)