Intelligent Discontent

One More Attempt To Deny Health Education to Students

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Helena’s own Liz Bangerter is leading the charge once again to deny Montana’s young people access to medically necessary information about human sexuality, calling HB 239 a “mother’s dream bill.”

For once, Bangerter may be right, as passage of HB 239 will certainly increase the number of young mothers in Montana, along with cases of syphilis and abortions.

The reality-based community knows that comprehensive health education protects students from STIS, reduces unwanted pregnancies, and decreases abortion.  Laurie Abraham, writing for the New York Times Magazine makes the case that these ideologically-driven attacks on the health of our students are much worse than

“The campaign for abstinence in the schools and communities may seem trivial, an ideological nuisance,” Michelle Fine and Sara McClelland wrote in a 2006 study in The Harvard Educational Review, “but at its core it is . . . a betrayal of our next generation, which is desperately in need of knowledge, conversation and resources to negotiate the delicious and treacherous terrain of sexuality in the 21st century.”

This may be a radical notion for the hard right to accept, but health teachers work in the best interests of their students. They tackle a subject that is incredibly difficult to teach, not for some prurient interest or desire to corrupt innocent youth, but because they know that students desperately need accurate information about all aspects of health, including sexual health. I suspect almost every health teacher in the state would prefer not to talk about sex education, but they do it because it’s necessary, it’s right, and it’s effective when presented professionally.

A final, disastrous component of this bill is that it would prohibit any abortion service provider from offering education in schools, effectively removing Planned Parenthood from the schools, despite the fact that 97% of the work that Planned Parenthood does is prevention and education. As so many of the articulate teenagers noted, students desperately need medically-accurate information about sexual health to prevent disease, abuse, and pregnancy. Banning Planned Parenthood might make a good sound bite for the radical right, but it makes for incredibly poor policy for children.

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