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Michigan’s sex-ed hurts college students’ sexual well being

Like all education in the United States, individual states set their own standards for sex education. Many states have to reform these standards. Only 39 states and Washington, DC need sex education and / or HIV education, and things only get worse from then on.

Only 17 states require the information provided to be medically correct – five of which don’t even require sex education in classrooms. In addition, five states require that only negative information about homosexuality be provided, and 19 states require that Sex ed teach that it is important to wait until marriage to have sex.

The last time the state of Michigan updated its gender standards was in 2004, almost 20 years ago. It contains relics of the past such as the prohibition on teaching that abortion is reproductive health and the requirement to “emphasize abstinence from sex”. While Michigan requires HIV / AIDS education, it along with 19 other states does not require sex education. Medicines or family planning devices (e.g. condoms) cannot be distributed to students.

In fact, much of the content on contraception (referred to as “risk reduction” in the abstract) is at the discretion of the school districts, which means that many Michigan high school students are not educated about birth control options and are therefore prone to STD diseases and teenage pregnancy.

Sex education has positive effects on student health. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention evaluate that the benefits of providing high quality sex to students are to delay sex, have fewer experiences of unprotected sex, and avoid sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies. The CDC offers gender standards for fifth, eighth, and tenth grade students, culminating in tenth grade with discussions about contraceptive options (including condoms and abstinence), consensual sex, and sexual health.

With so much critical information left to school district judgment, the quality of gender in the state of Michigan varies greatly. The required emphasis on the importance of abstinence and the prohibition of discussions of abortion as reproductive health in all Michigan public schools only limits Michigan students’ knowledge of birth control, which affects their sexual health and safety in the future.

The sex education standards also do not mention any content on LGBTQ + issues or sexual orientation in general. Given that the percentage of Americans who identify as LGBTQ + is growing, especially among the younger generations, it is imperative that such information be taught in Michigan public schools, which have more than 1.5 million students to study.

While Republicans prefer to include abstinence and Democrats tend to prefer discussions about birth control, consent, and sexual orientation, both Republicans and Democrats want some form of sex taught in classrooms. However, because of the controversial nature of the issue, it is difficult to get state lawmakers to actively fight for sex education. Gender reform can be difficult even in advanced nations. In California, extensive sex wasn’t required until 2016.

In states with Republican-controlled branches like Michigan, implementing sex education reform can be even more difficult. Fifty-nine percent of Republicans consider premarital sex morally unacceptable, compared with 27 percent of Democrats, leading many to oppose material that could be viewed as encouraging students to have sex.

Not only does comprehensive sex education help lower the rate of pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases in teenagers, but preaching about abstinence does not help lower the rate of teenagers having sex either. Studies have shown that pure abstinence education does not delay sex, but makes students unsafe and at risk of pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.

Few issues are as important to the Republican Party as abortion. This is the second most important issue for Republicans in deciding which presidential candidate to vote for. States that emphasize abstinence in sex education have the highest rates of teenage pregnancies and births. Thirty-one percent of teenagers who get pregnant have an abortion; Having access to birth control dramatically reduces pregnancy and abortion in teenagers. While free and accessible birth control is a separate issue from sex education, it is possible that teenage abortion rates will fall if all states incorporate an open-minded discussion of contraception into their sex education and reduce the importance of abstinence. This could help lower abortion rates, which Republicans certainly support.

Sex education in Michigan needs updating. The emphasis on abstinence and the discussion about contraception at one’s own discretion only makes Michigan students unprepared for sex if they choose to. Given that sex is a natural and vital human function, it is ignorant to assume that abstinence is a helpful way to teach teenagers to have sex, especially since comprehensive sex education has been shown to reduce the incidence of accidental pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases. Michigan, along with the rest of the country, needs to update its sex education standards to educate its students about safe sexual health and experiences.

Lydia Storella is an opinion columnist and can be reached at storella@umich.edu.

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