Utah legislators could have outlawed premarital sex. Instead, they did something even loopier and more dangerous. They passed a bill that would ban public schools from teaching about the use of contraception. Instruction would stress only abstinence before marriage. Or, schools could drop sex education entirely. Gov. Gary Herbert should veto this bill, HB363.
Why dangerous? Because most teenagers have sex outside of marriage, and it is morally irresponsible for Utah legislators to deny them the knowledge about intercourse and contraception that is critical to sexual responsibility. When young people have sex in a bubble of ignorance, the consequences can be devastating: unintended pregnancy, disease, broken hearts, even violence.
To suggest, as some legislators do, that all children need to know about sex is not to do it until they are married is absurd. Humans are genetically selected to have sex. It's nature's prime directive. Have the puritans in the Legislature walked the halls of high schools? Have they never heard of raging hormones?
Of course they have. But they insist that sexual education is parents' job. What they will not admit, however, is what everyone knows. Parents often are ignorant about aspects of sex themselves, or they are uncomfortable talking to their own children about it. So the kids are left to experiment and gather information on their own.
By the way, it may come as a shock to many lawmakers, but an increasing number of Utahns will never marry. They do not, however, abstain from sex.
Perhaps the strangest part of this whole circus is that there is no demand for this bill beyond a few socially conservative pressure groups. Under existing Utah law, parents have to sign permission slips for their children to attend sex education classes in public schools. Almost all parents opt into sex education for their kids. The clear implication is that they want students to get the facts, and they trust Utah teachers to provide that knowledge.
The Legislature has overreached by a mile with this bill. A growing online petition drive asking the governor to veto it shows this. Unregulated online petitions cannot be verified, so they aren't reliable. But Utah lawmakers refuse to set up a secure website and a process for official online petitions. They fear what the public might tell them.
Because legislators didn't have the guts to stand against this return to the dark ages of sexual ignorance, the job falls to Gov. Herbert. If he vetos HB363, as he clearly should, Utah parents will thank him.