Applaud governor- Letters to the editor
I am writing to publicly thank Governor Gary Herbert for listening and supporting the people of Utah by taking a stand against an ultra-conservative legislature and vetoing HB363. This allows our schools the ability to continue to educate our children about sex and sexuality in the classroom with our current opt in/out system. I have not been a supporter of Governor Herbert in the past and did not expect him to veto this bill and go against many of his supporters during an election year. I applaud him for listening to the population and taking a stand.
HB363 passed the legislative session and was awaiting a signature from Governor Herbert. Many people expected him to sign the bill and that ignited many protests around the state. The bill proposed that all Utah schools would teach an "abstinence only" sex education that would not allow teenagers to learn about contraceptives, intercourse or homosexuality in the classroom. Sixty-four legislators voted in favor of this bill while 40,000 concerned citizens signed an online petition and over eight thousand called the Governor's office to express the concerns and displeasure they had with this bill. Signing this bill would have been a huge step backwards in my opinion and would have put our children at risk in the future as well as caused our teen pregnancy rate to sky rocket!
According to the Guttmacher Institute pregnancy rates in the United States steadily rose from the 1970's to the 1990's by 21 percent in women under the age of twenty. In 1990 the nation peaked at the highest teen pregnancy rate of 117 per 1000 women. Since that time we have seen a decline in teen pregnancy rates dropping 41 percent by 2005 to 70 per 1000 women. This reduction in teen pregnancy has been attributed to increased contraception use and education.
Why the state legislature feels that not providing education to teenagers about safe sex will stop our children from having sex baffles me. This problem will not go away with ignorance. Sex is all around us in marketing, television and movies. Sex and the marketing of sex to our teenagers will not go away. Popular media outlets like the MTV reality show "Teen Mom" and other television shows like "Secret life of the American Teenager" have made reality stars of teenagers that had their lives filmed during and after giving birth to children. These shows glamorize the lifestyle to the youth of today that getting pregnant to be a reality star is a quick, easy way to be famous. Popular movies from the American Pie series to the Twilight books and films portray sex and sexuality as a rite of passage and expectation in relationships. Why with the constant attack of sexuality in the media our legislators feel that ducking our heads in the sand and pretending that these problems will simply go away if we "just say no" baffles and confuses me. Sexual behaviors are not going to disappear because our schools teach an abstinence only program. What it would do is lead more teens to have less education about sexuality and that will lead to more teens having unprotected sex bringing us back to the high teen pregnancy rates of the 1990's. Is this what our legislator's feel is best for our youth? I hope not.
Governor Herbert has made the right choice in letting the parents decide what is best for their children and not having the state make that choice for us. In the current program parents can choose if their child is educated in this area and I feel that this continues to be the best solution for everyone on both sides of this issue. Education and understanding helps us all make better decisions in our lives. Why would we want to live in ignorance and denial when it comes to the safety and health of our children?