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Comprehensive Sex Ed One Step Closer in PA

April 29, 2010

HARRISBURG, Penn. - Comprehensive sex education in Pennsylvania may be headed for a vote in the full House soon, for the first time ever. A House committee this week passed the Healthy Youth Act, which would require that schools give students age-appropriate information about pregnancy prevention and contraception, in addition to abstinence-only instruction.

Democratic Rep. Chelsa Wagner of Allegheny County (D-Dist. 22) is the bill's primary sponsor.

"A number of our students are sexually active. So we want to make sure that they are equipped with accurate information so they are able to make informed decisions."

Some who oppose sex education in public schools say it's a topic best addressed at home by parents. Others claim teaching anything except abstinence-only encourages children to become sexually active.

Wagner says the "birds and bees" chat with mom or dad might have eased past generations into sex, but it's not good enough any more - and many times, that talk doesn't happen at all.

"You can only imagine what it is like for a student who doesn't come from a supportive household, trying to figure out, 'What is right, what is wrong?'"

Wagner recognizes why sex education is an uncomfortable topic, but says kids are having sex at younger and younger ages and that's making for a crisis situation.

"We have, nationally, one in four teenage girls who are infected with an STD (sexually transmitted disease), and that number goes up to roughly one in two when we're talking about African-American girls. So, this is a major, major problem."

Wagner says the measure moves next to the desks of House leaders, who'll decide if it will come up for a full House vote.

More information is available from Planned Parenthood Pennsylvania Advocates, 717-234-3024.

Tom Joseph, Public News Service - PA