DURHAM – The state House voted Thursday to pass a bill that would make it part of state sex education classes to inform students of the causes of premature birth. Along with drug use and alcohol, the bill includes abortion as one of the causes, based on a study by the state Child Fatality Task Force.
The American Academy of Pediatrics, American Health Association, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, and the World Health Organization do not recognize the science behind a link between abortion resulting in future premature births.
In a pamphlet on abortion, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says that, “most experts agree that one abortion does not affect future pregnancies.”
Director of public affairs for Planned Parenthood of Central North Carolina, Alison Kiser, says that this bill will make it less likely for students to receive necessary sex education information.
“This bill forces teachers to lie to teenagers and does nothing to provide them with the medically accurate information that they need to make healthy, lifelong decisions,” Kiser says.
The bill, Senate Bill 132, is an extension of the Healthy Youth Act of 2009, a law that lays out sex education in North Carolina schools.
Among the items required are that classes must teach, “the positive benefits of abstinence until marriage and the risks of premarital sexual activity.”
Director of strategic communications for the Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Campaign of North Carolina, Elizabeth Finley, says that sex education that focuses on abstinence until marriage is not only ineffective, but it leaves students worse off than students who receive no sex education in school.
“They’re less likely to use condoms, they’re more likely to engage in relationships that have some risky characteristics,” Finley says. “For example, relationships where there’s a greater age disparity between partners.”
The Healthy Youth Act does include guidelines for teaching FDA-approved birth control methods, which would still be in effect, even in SB132 becomes law. However, Finley says that these birth control methods are not taught at all of the required schools.
“There are some school districts across the state that have pushed back at implementing the Healthy Youth Act,” Finley says. “So we know that in many school systems, that information, although it’s required by law, doesn’t actually get to students.”
The Healthy Youth Act also says that sex education curricula must include that “a mutually faithful monogamous heterosexual relationship in the context of marriage is the best lifelong means of avoiding sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS,” which Kiser describes as bad advice for students.
“You certainly can’t expect that later on, as adults, teenagers will grow up to only have heterosexual relationships if, in fact, they are not heterosexual,” Kiser says.
In North Carolina schools, instruction on sexually transmitted infections and contraception is optional for students, but the provision in SB132 that students be taught that abortion is a potential cause of premature birth is required for all.