In May of 2010, Governor Jan Brewer signed into law SB1309, the so-called “Parental Bill of Rights.” This bill requires parental consent before a child or teen can receive sex education in school. This law also requires Arizona schools to notify parents when material regarding “sexuality” is presented in non-sex education classes, such as biology. Proponents of the law say this bill will ensure that the government does not intrude on parents’ child rearing. The Arizona Board of Education says that it will be up to the local school governing boards to implement the law.
Before the passage of SB 1309, Arizona did not require sex education. Local school boards decided which subjects this education would cover and the grade level in which topics are introduced. If sex education was taught, it had to be age appropriate. Abstinence had to be covered and stressed as the only effective protection against unplanned pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections and HIV/AIDS, and abstinence from sexual intercourse outside of lawful marriage was the expected social standard for unmarried school-age person. This is from the 1996 Welfare Reform Act that had provisions added for abstinence education. The federal government then began to divert tens of millions of dollars to abstinence education programs. Most programs were tied to religious programs, rather than traditional public health organizations.
Arizona is one of three states that now require parental consent for sex education. The other two states are Utah and Nevada. The Guttmacher Institute says 35 states – including the District of Columbia – mandate that students learn about sexually transmitted infections including HIV/AIDS. Arizona is also ranked last in the nation in education funding.
The result? Arizona is ranked fourth in the nation for teen pregnancy rates, with 70 pregnancies per 1,000 girls and women ages 15 to 19 according to the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States. The council also says that Arizona also ranks 16th in the nation for reported cases of primary and secondary syphilis among Arizonans ages 15 to 19. Arizona does not spend on education, and that is the key. Children should have information available to make informed decisions. The 2010 midterm elections could prove the most dangerous to women and children in Arizona. This will be the first time since the Roe V. Wade decision that every state office could be held by a person allied with anti-choice and anti sex-ed groups. This would deeply affect women’s health care choices and everyone’s choices regarding sexuality education and information.
We all need to vote and show our support for accurate sexuality education and information. Please look over the listing of candidates for office and use the Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona website to view where they stand with regards to sex education. To volunteer, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.