South Carolina’s Abstinence-Only Education Hangs In The Balance

| by Sarah Fruchtnicht

A South Carolina Senate education panel passed a bill Thursday that would amend the state’s 26-year-old health education law, which is abstinence-only.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. B.R. Skelton, R-Six Mile, requires schools to teach “medically accurate” health information as part of the sex ed curriculum.

Skelton says students need to learn better ways to avoid teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. He says unwanted pregnancy is costing taxpayers $197 million each year.

The Senate vote passed the bill 10-6, with opponents arguing that abstinence is the best way to prevent pregnancy.

Critics and abstinence groups argue the bill will make teachers promote abortion, but Forrest Alton, chief executive of the S.C. Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, says that’s a scare tactic.

Alton told The State there is “absolutely nothing about abortion” in the bill “other than to reiterate that that is not a topic that should be talked about in schools.”

The bill also requires public school to report to the state what they teach about health or lose 1 percent of state funding. Districts are already required to report to the Department of Education on health curriculums, but many do not.

Skelton says teachers have distorted or taught inappropriate information of sexual health.

He said he heard of a sports coach telling students, “‘The only thing better than sex is macaroni and cheese.’ We certainly don’t need that kind of thing going on in our classrooms.”

The bill was formerly OK’d by the House of Representatives. After the committee, it goes to the full Senate for a vote.

Sources: The State, South Carolina Radio Network