The S.C. House of Representatives' vote to update the way sex education is provided in public schools is a win for students and for the state.
The bill, which squeaked by (51-49) on the final vote Wednesday, would ensure that students receive medically accurate information regarding reproductive health and pregnancy prevention - at appropriate ages.
The Senate should follow the House's lead.
Better informed students will be able to make better choices for themselves regarding sex. That's important in light of the fact that, even though the numbers have dropped significantly, the state Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) reported that in 2012, 107 South Carolina 10-14-year-olds got pregnant, as did 1,891 14-17-year-olds and 1,813 15-17-year-olds.
The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy Tuesday revealed that teen births in the state cost taxpayers at least $166 million in 2010.
As for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), numbers and rates of reported chlamydia and gonorrhea cases are highest in Americans between the ages of 15 and 24, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Further, teens who get pregnant often drop out of school and lose upward economic mobility.
Some opponents, like Rep. Wendy Nanney, R-Greenville, fear that providing teen-agers with information about contraceptives will undermine the push for abstinence. But abstinence still can be stressed in classrooms and by parents. And when parents do take up the subject, their children would have a medically accurate base of information to build on.
The current law has not changed since 1976. Comprehensive health education has been handled better in some school districts than others. Reports are that some school districts avoid the subject of reproductive health altogether.
The House bill gives the law more teeth. It requires every school district to report how it has complied with the state law.
The S.C. Department of Education will withhold 1 percent of funding due any district that fails to report its compliance.
Too bad legislators struck a provision of the bill requiring that teachers be certified in those subjects.
It would be nice if teen-agers all abstained from sex.
But it won't happen. It never has.
This bill is not radical. It simply calls for students to be taught accurate information about reproductive science, and to be taught pregnancy prevention at appropriate ages.
The Legislature wouldn't like it if schools taught American history without mentioning the Civil War.
They shouldn't teach reproductive health without information about contraceptives.
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