Mark Hillman’s guest opinion on HB 1032 misrepresents the content of the bill and the facts surrounding the need for comprehensive sex education. As an expert in sexual health, birth control and pregnancy, I have taken the time to read the bill in its entirety and would like to set the record straight.
The need for age-appropriate comprehensive sex education from early childhood and continuing through a person’s lifespan is supported by both the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). Both organizations use evidence, not politics, to form their opinions, citing research studies finding comprehensive sex education including abstinence as well as birth control, effectively delays initiation of intercourse and promotes other protective behaviors, such as condom use.
There is no evidence that abstinence-only education effectively delays the initiation of sexual intercourse or that comprehensive sex education increases sexual activity. A 2005 study reviewed teenagers who took the “virginity pledge” and intended to remain abstinent until heterosexual marriage. It found that 88 percent of teenagers who took the pledge initiated intercourse before marriage, compared with 99 percent who did not take the pledge. They also found the teenagers who took the pledge were less likely to use contraception, or seek STI screening after initiating sexual intercourse.
Healthy Kids Colorado 2017 found 22.9 percent of Colorado teens had been sexually active in the past three months, 19.3 percent of sexual encounters involved drugs or alcohol and 9.2 percent did not use birth control. Evidence shows Colorado teenagers are having sex!
HB 1032 addresses the need for age-appropriate sex education as defined by the AAP and ACOG. It includes abstinence, medically accurate STI prevention, birth control, parental notification and the opportunity for parents to opt out without penalty. If pregnancy options are taught, it must include all options (raise the child, adoption and abortion), but this is not required in the curriculum.
Healthy Kids Colorado 2017 found 14.9 percent of Colorado teens were LGB, or unsure of their sexual orientation. These teens were twice as likely to be electronically bullied. All Colorado teens reported a 22.3 percent (female) and 15.0 percent (male) rate of being bullied at school. Seven percent of Colorado teens had attempted suicide in the past 12 months. Studies have shown that education in self-acceptance, respect for others and their lifestyle choices, safe and healthy relationships, and consent are effective in decreasing bullying, sexual assault and unhealthy relationships.
Many Colorado students will move on to college, where it is estimated that the incidence of sexual assault is between 20-25 percent in four years of university with the highest in the first two years. A 2015 study showed that women who received resistance training in their freshman year had a relative risk reduction of rape of 43 percent. By providing consent training to our high school students, we reduce their risk of being victims or accused of sexual assault.
Studies prove that by educating our youth in a way that is sensitive to all cultures, sexual orientations and ethnicities, we decrease the risk of unsafe relationships, bullying and self-harm. HB 1032 does not mandate that consent be taught in elementary school, only that age-appropriate comprehensive sex education occurs. Non-political experts agree, that consent, LGBTQ lifestyles and safe-relationships are important topics for today’s teenagers.
As an OB-gyn, it is my job to present facts as supported by research and expert opinion. Studies have proven that comprehensive sex education will help decrease STI rate and teen pregnancy rate. Talking points on HB 1032 have been taken over by politicians. Colorado children will pay the consequences.
Tiffany Rhodes, MD
OB-gyn and adolescent gynecology expert