In the barrage of bad bills introduced at the legislature in recent days, there is one that would result in great harm to sexual health education but that has thus far drawn little attention. House Bill 596 would rewrite the current requirements for sex education in schools, making an already flawed law even worse. The current law requires students to be taught mostly about abstinence but at least includes some discussion of contraception methods and safe sex practices. However, the new law, if passed, would forbid schools from teaching students about emergency contraceptive measures like Plan B, commonly known as the morning-after-pill.
Plan B and other methods of emergency contraception allow women to take a pill within five days of unprotected sex in order to prevent pregnancy. Based on approval by the FDA, these pills are currently available at pharmacies over-the-counter. Easier access to the pill has resulted in a lower rate of teenage pregnancy in the state (not to mention, been vital in cases of rape). Currently, all FDA-approved contraceptive methods in preventing pregnancy can be taught in the classroom.
Representative Chris Whitmire, sponsor of HB 596, however, believes that the schools should not be teaching students about such products, even if they are FDA-approved. According to Whitmire’s logic, which doesn’t appear to be based on medical training of any kind, Plan B can cause spontaneous abortions and, therefore, schools should not teach students about it. However, according to doctors with actual medical training, Plan B “works like other birth control pills to prevent pregnancy. The drug acts primarily by stopping the release of an egg from the ovary.” In fact, Plan B does not even have the ability to cause an abortion. In cases where the fertilized egg has been implanted, the drug is ineffective and the pregnancy proceeds as normal.
Not only would this bill prevent students from learning accurate information about emergency contraception methods, it would also do away with the requirement that information taught in the programs must be approved by experts in the field of sexual health education. Instead, school districts will be able to design their own sex education curricula (and we all know what an abstinence-based curriculum would look like).
As it stands, sex education programs in North Carolina are already failing to teach students truthful and helpful information. We should be working to make changes to the statutes so that, for example, we are no longer required to teach students that to avoid disease they should be in a “mutually faithful monogamous heterosexual relationship,” implying that a homosexual relationship is unhealthy. But instead of being able to make progress, we are once again stuck fighting a bad bill–one that would make sex education programs even more inaccurate and out-of-touch.