A new bill passed last week requiring Illinois public schools to include medically accurate information about birth control in their sex education classes, according to ThinkProgress. The legislation, HB 2675, was spearheaded by State Senator Linda Holmes (D), and it is expected that Governor Pat Quinn (D) will sign the bill into law, prohibiting schools from teaching abstinence-only curricula.
Currently, Illinois requires sex education courses to teach abstinence as “the expected norm” and mandates that “course material and instruction shall stress that pupils should abstain from sexual intercourse until they are ready for marriage,” the article states. With the new legislation, schools will no longer be allowed to teach an abstinence-only curriculum; they must include “developmentally and age-appropriate, medically accurate, evidence-based, and complete sex education curriculum.”
While the bill is a good start, schools may still choose not to teach any sex education at all, and, if they choose to teach sex education, must also “emphasize that abstinence from sexual intercourse is a responsible and positive decision and is the only protection that is 100% effective against unwanted teenage pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, and acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) when transmitted sexually.”
Despite this step forward in Illinois, many states are still trying to repress intelligent sex education. Just last month, Ohio Republicans pushed through a budget bill preventing any sex education that “condones gateway sexual activity,” and allowing parents to sue teachers who “promote” gateway sexual activity, essentially asserting that anyone who tries to teach students straightforward, accurate sex education is advocating promiscuity.
The problem with abstinence-only censorship is that it prevents students from learning medically accurate, uncontrived information and preventative measures, and leaves them unprepared to deal with the results of having sex, which seven out of ten (male and female) teens will do by their 19th birthday, regardless of whether they have received any sex education or not.
As unplanned pregnancies and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases prove time and again, ignorance and avoidance of an issue are not the solution, they are the problem. And, after all, abstinence-only “sex education” is not sex education. It’s abstinence education.
Alisha Mims is a writer and researcher for Ring of Fire.