Talking about Sex (Ed) at the Capitol

Texas has the nation’s third-highest teen birth rate yet receives more federal abstinence-only funding than any other state in the country. What’s wrong with this picture?

We just finished a briefing for Capitol reporters about two very important bills under consideration by the Texas House Public Education Committee this afternoon. House Bill 741 by Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, would require that Texas public schools teach comprehensive, “abstinence-plus,” sex education. HB 1567 by Rep. Michael Villarreal, D-San Antonio, would require that all information taught about condoms and other forms of contraception and disease prevention be medically accurate.

A Texas Freedom Network Education Fund report about sexuality education in public schools shows why these bills are so important. More than 9 in 10 Texas school districts teach nothing about responsible pregnancy and disease prevention, taking instead an abstinence-only approach. And most abstinence-only programs are plagued with errors and misinformation and rely on fear, shame and stereotypes to teach teens about sexuality and health. Moreover, public polling shows that support for comprehensive sexuality education is overwhelming.

So what’s the problem? Need you ask?

The abstinence-only pressure groups are out in force. Kyleen Wright of Texans for Life Coalition, for example, has been giving media interviews before her committee testimony. Wright helped lead successful efforts in 2004 to keep any medically accurate information about contraception and disease prevention out of new Texas high school health textbooks. Boiled down, Wright’s message is “ignorance works.” Well, no, it doesn’t. The state’s high teen birth rates are testament to that.

We will keep you updated about today’s hearing. Meanwhile, you can read a press release from TFN here.tF

Update: KVUE-TV News has more on TFN’s Capitol press briefing here.