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New Bill Would Scrap Utah's Abstinence-Only Mandate

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At least one lawmaker thinks it's a good time for lawmakers to talk about Utah's sex education curriculum again.

A state lawmaker says it’s time for the Utah Legislature to reopen the discussion about reproductive health.

Minority Leader Brian King is a Democrat representing Salt Lake City, and he's is also the father of four daughters. With them in mind, he wants age-appropriate facts about sex to be available to students. His new bill calls for comprehensive sex education in Utah junior high and high schools.

”I want those girls to know what the consequences are when they engage in certain behaviors,” he says, “and I want them to understand things like the importance of setting boundaries in their relationships with their peers.”

King’s bill would change current Utah law, which mandates an “abstinence-only” curriculum and makes teaching about contraception a crime. He says the legislation would also help the parents who chose to allow their children to be taught the curriculum, which would include up-to-date information on trends like the rise of STS’s like chlamydia and gonorrhea.

“When we see increasing rates of sexually transmitted disease, it makes me very concerned,” he says. “It’s a public health issue not just for our kids but for other people too.”

King’s bill also would leverage federal matching funds to provide people in the Medicaid coverage gap with family planning services like birth control and reproductive cancer screening. He hasn’t chosen a Senate sponsor yet. He’s focused first on getting what he calls a “necessary and important” conversation going in the House.

Judy Fahys has reported in Utah for two decades, covering politics, government and business before taking on environmental issues. She loves covering Utah, where petroleum-pipeline spills, the nation’s radioactive legacy and other types of pollution provide endless fodder for stories. Previously, she worked for the Salt Lake Tribune in Utah, and reported on the nation’s capital for States News Service and the Scripps League newspaper chain. She is a longtime member of the Society of Environmental Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors. She also spent an academic year as a research fellow in the Knight Science Journalism program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In her spare time, she enjoys being out in the environment, especially hiking, gardening and watercolor painting.
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