Lawmakers propose changes to sex education in Utah


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SALT LAKE CITY -- Lawmakers have proposed changing how sex education is taught in Utah's public schools.

Conservative Sen. Steve Urquhart of St. George is taking this bill on. One main reason: His own surprise at skyrocketing rates of sexually-transmitted diseases among Utah's youth, especially because they are preventable.

"We can encourage abstinence, but the fact is we're going to have some kids that are going to engage in risky behavior," Urquhart said. "We need to arm the kids and the parents with information they can share with their children."

Urquhart is calling to update and clarify sex education policy in the state, which includes the issue of contraception -- a touchy subject among some lawmakers.

Senate Bill 54 calls for

  • Clear talk about contraception starting in 7th grade
  • Teachers to be trained to provide 'age appropriate' discussions
  • Parents/Districts have power to control programs
  • Abstinence presented as ultimate way to prevent both disease and pregnancy

Lynn Hemingway, D-Salt Lake City, tried a different version last year.

Chlamydia Rates in Utah
  • #1 sexually transmitted disease
  • Five new cases every day
  • 5,000 new cases every year
    • 60% under age 24
    • 30% under age 19
- Planned Parenthood of Utah

"There are just all these reasons not to [use contraception], and I'm trying to give them a reason to do it, because it's a health problem, it truly is a health problem," Hemingway said.

Studies from Planned Parenthood of Utah show that Chlamydia is the No. 1 communicable disease in the state. There are new teenage cases reported every day and 5,000 new teenage cases every year. Of those, 60 percent happen to people under the age of 24 and 30 percent of new cases are in those under the age of 19.

Missy Bird of Planned Parenthood said, "What we know is that contraceptives can prevent the spread of sexually-transmitted diseases, including Chlamydia."

Right now, the bill is being fine-tuned.

The conservative Eagle Forum has been in on the changes that have been made so far, but there is no indication of how the bill will do when it gets a hearing.

E-mail: rpiatt@ksl.com

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