know about CT should mandate sex education in wake of Dobbs ruling
The recent decision of the Supreme Court in Dobbs V. Jackson Women’s Health Organization — the ruling that overturned Roe v. Wade — violates our inherent right to bodily autonomy. As a 20-year-old woman, this new reality is completely terrifying.
Despite this tragic change in federal policy, Connecticut has been at the forefront of this issue, ensuring abortion is still legal and supported by the state. In May, Governor Ned Lamont signed Public Act 22-19 that protects women who travel to Connecticut for an abortion, and also protects health care professionals who perform abortions.
The state has established itself as a leader in reproductive freedom. However, Connecticut has yet to use one essential strategy: comprehensive sex education.
According to a very respected study published in the American Journal of Preventive MedicineComprehensive sexuality education has been shown to reduce rates of teen pregnancy, risky sexual behavior, and sexually transmitted infections. However, despite these compelling medical findings, Connecticut does not require comprehensive sex education in public schools.
Instead, local school boards decide what is taught. The evidence shows that local control produces mixed results. For example, poorer school districts are at a disadvantage as their budgets may not allow for an additional program. Additionally, some school districts may choose to teach abstinence-only sex education, that has not been shown to reduce teen pregnancy.
As a result of local control, as of 2020, only 54% of Connecticut high schools teach students all critical sexual health topics recommended by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Without a state mandate, individual schools can set specific policies about what is taught. Essentially, schools are not bound by the guidelines set forth by the CDC, although these guidelines cover all essential aspects of comprehensive sexuality education.
As a result, many students lack the information they need to make smart, healthy decisions about sex, disease prevention, and birth control. Importantly, the skills taught in sex education are lifelong ways to protect women from unwanted pregnancies.
Once people learn information about boundaries, healthy relationships, sexual health, and birth control, they can consistently make informed decisions about their bodies. These skills are not only important for pregnancy prevention but also for an individual’s sense of autonomy. All students benefit from sexuality education as the information they are taught allows them to make informed and safe decisions about their sexual health.
Connecticut has a relatively low level adolescent pregnancy rate of 7.6 births per thousand women aged 15 to 19 years. However, this rate is higher than the neighboring states of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire. Both Rhode Island Y new hampshire require that sex education be taught in school. This means that all students who attend public schools are exposed to and taught the essential skills of sex education.
These data point to a clear correlation between compulsory sex education and reduced teen pregnancy rates. Weather Massachusetts does not require sex education, research shows that 61.6% of high schools teach the 20 topics suggested by the CDC for comprehensive sex education, compared to 54% of schools in Connecticut. While there is no mandate, the correlation between access and reduced birth rates is clear.
Importantly, compliance with CDC guidelines is even more prevalent in Rhode Island and New Hampshire, where 68.1% and 64.4% of schools teach all 20 core subjects. The data suggested that a state mandate equates to more schools teaching all of the essential components of comprehensive sexuality education. Greater access to sex education is imperative to lower teen pregnancy rates.
Studies confirm that 60% of comprehensive sex education programs have been shown to reduce unprotected sex among teens. Education is a critical component in mitigating teen pregnancy; however, Connecticut has yet to fully utilize this valuable resource.
The way out of ConnecticutmeterThe Department of Education has developed guidelines on Comprehensive Sex Education; however, these guidelines are only suggestions and not mandates.
The guidelines include important concepts such as human development, communication, decision-making skills, and extensive information on contraception. Still, without a comprehensive sex education requirement, the Department of Education cannot ensure that this essential information is provided to all students.
Sexual health, consent and relationship education increases an individual’s power over their body by enabling them to make informed decisions. By requiring access to comprehensive sex education, the state can give all students the power to make decisions about their bodies.
The time has come for Connecticut to take proactive and decisive action. With the hearts and minds of the nation focused on reproductive rights and personal autonomy, state politicians have a unique opportunity to effect positive change. By expanding comprehensive sex education to all Connecticut students, young people will be better equipped to make informed decisions about sexual intimacy and reproductive health at a time when the Supreme Court is intent on reining in their bodies. Currently, there is a formidable threat to legal access to abortion. Top Republicans have already called for federal bans on abortions.. Duke University projects that a total abortion ban would increase pregnancy-related deaths by twenty-one%. With the uncertain future of reproductive freedom everywhere, it is critical that Connecticut invest in proactive pregnancy prevention strategies. Without safe and legal abortions, these measures could be the difference between life and death.
Lillian Ryan is a student at Trinity College.