DENVER, Colo. (BP) — A bill working its way through the Colorado legislature would make it illegal for schools to teach sexual education programs that encourage abstinence and instead mandate programs that include information on LGBT relationships and sex.
Despite pushback from parents and pro-family groups who argue the law threatens local control and parental rights, the measure is expected to pass this session.
The law would require school districts to adhere to set sex education standards or not teach any sex ed at all. The standards prohibit “shame-based or stigmatizing language,” “religious ideology or sectarian doctrine,” and “gender norms and stereotypes.” They also require an introduction to all Food and Drug Administration–approved forms of contraception and ban schools from endorsing sexual abstinence as the primary or sole acceptable option for teens. Regarding teen pregnancy, the standards say parenting, abortion and adoption must be presented as choices in an “objective, unbiased manner and must not endorse or favor one or more pregnancy outcome options.”
The law would build on a measure passed by the state legislature in 2013 that said every Colorado student has a right to “comprehensive sexuality education.” The bill’s sponsors argue the new law is needed because schools have sidestepped the 2013 measure and continued to promote abstinence and exclude information on the sexual experiences of LGBT students.
But critics of the new law claim it pushes a sexual ideology, exposes kids to information about risky sexual behavior and deprives school districts of local control.
Debbie Chaves, executive director of Colorado Family Action, said that testimony in favor of the bill during legislative hearings pigeonholed anyone who endorsed abstinence as a member of an oppressive religion. And yet, she argued, the bill takes a moral stand by promoting homosexuality and abortion as acceptable choices. “It just doesn’t add up when you say, ‘You can’t have a moral stand here, but you must take a moral stand here,'” Chaves said.
The bill is awaiting a hearing by the Senate Appropriations Committee.
The Colorado measure is just one part of a push to normalize teen sex despite a growing body of social science that shows sexual delay leads to the best long-term health in teens, said Mary Anne Mosack, the president of Ascend, an advocacy organization that encourages Sexual Risk Avoidance education — an approach that the proposed Colorado law would ban.
California is also in the process of liberalizing its health education framework, and Washington state will likely pass a comprehensive sex education law this year.
The organizations backing the bills, including Planned Parenthood, describe themselves as “sex positive” and encourage teen sexual experimentation as a healthy part of growing up. Ascend instead encourages schools to use programs that affirm what social science has found: Avoiding sex as a teen leads to better life outcomes, and the best place for sex is within the context of marriage.