Washington State Lawmakers Consider Bill Requiring ‘Medically Accurate’ Sex Education
Washington state lawmakers are considering legislation that would require all schools with sex education programs to provide only "medically accurate" information, the Associated Press reports. The bill (HB 1178), sponsored by Rep. Shay Schual-Berke (D), would require all state-funded sex education classes to provide information "supported by scientific research and experts in the sexual health field," according to the Associated Press. At a House Health Care Committee hearing on Thursday, students testified that they had been given inaccurate information in sex education classes. Lindsay Scola, who attended Skyline High School in Sammamish, testified that in sex education classes that were conducted by Sexuality, Health, and Relationship Education -- an abstinence-only sex education program used in approximately 100 schools statewide -- she was told that women who have abortions "will probably die or become sterile" and that condoms are "not very effective" in preventing pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases, according to the Associated Press. She said that such information was "not only inaccurate" but also "dangerous," adding that many students chose not to use condoms because of the information they received about their effectiveness, the Associated Press reports. Scola added that SHARE was not the only sex education program in the state that offers incorrect information.
Kathy Taylor, SHARE executive director, said that the claims made by Scola and other students were "absolute lies." She added, "If those things were true, teachers, principals would be all over us." Robert Harkins, executive director of Planned Parenthood Affiliates of Washington, who supports the legislation, indicated that he was disappointed that the bill did not "go further" and require all state schools to provide comprehensive sex education, according to the Associated Press. Washington state schools are currently not required to provide sex education at all. Harkins added, "The legislation falls short ... but it does set an important standard for medical accuracy in whatever information is presented in the classroom." LeAnna Benn, national director of Teen-Aid, a program that promotes abstinence-only sex education, said she opposed the bill, adding that the cost of reviewing all the sex education materials would be "enormous," according to the Associated Press. Judith Billings, chair of the Governor's Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS, said, "It's totally beyond my comprehension that anybody would object to providing medically accurate information to our young people." A similar Senate bill has been referred to the Education Committee for review (Gelineau, Associated Press, 1/30).