Illinois state Sen. Linda Holmes (D) on Thursday trumpeted the passage of HB 2675 -- a bill to mandate that state public schools offering sex education include information on contraception and STDs -- claiming that the current emphasis on an abstinence-only curriculum doesn't comport with reality.
“In fantasy land, we teach our kids abstinence –- and they listen," Holmes, a co-sponsor of the bill, told WUIS Radio. "But we know they don’t necessarily follow that advice. They are going to be confronted with the issue of sex before they’re 21 years old, or 25, or whenever they decide to get married.”
The Illinois state Senate passed HB 2675 on Wednesday by a vote of 37-21, sending it to Gov. Pat Quinn (D), who is expected to sign it.
The bill is designed to break the stranglehold that abstinence-only education has had on the state. Current state law requires teaching abstinence as the norm, and schools are permitted to opt out of offering sex ed entirely.
While the new bill still allows teachings that stress abstinence as the only guaranteed way to prevent pregnancy and disease, it also emphasizes an "age-appropriate, medically accurate, evidence-based" education on issues of sex and contraception. Districts can still not teach sex ed, and parents can take their children out of the classes if they object, the Associated Press reports.
As Think Progress reports, abstinence-only education has proven to be ineffective and even harmful for American youth:
By their 19th birthday, seven in ten American teens will have had sex. And even the Americans who grow up in socially conservative communities aren’t delaying sex until marriage -- by some estimates, 80 percent of unmarried evangelical Christians have had sex at least once. But when those young people become sexually active, they often don’t understand how to effectively protect themselves. Since abstinence-only classes often mislead students about the facts about contraception, 60 percent of young adults underestimate birth control’s effectiveness and are more likely to skip it because they don’t believe it will make a difference.
Opponents to the Illinois bill have argued that these trends should encourage people not to "give up" on trying to keep kids from having sex, rather than to prompting a change in approach.
"There are a lot of things that happen in America that we don't agree with that used to not happen, but we sort of give up on it," state Sen. Dave Luechtefeld (R) said, according to the Chicago Tribune. "And in the meantime our standards get lower and lower and our culture has more problems."