State Rep. Jenny Horne, R-Summerville, urged her fellow lawmakers Thursday to move forward a “medically accurate” sex education bill in the Statehouse. The bill stalled in subcommittee last year.
“We can do better. And by updating our 25-year-old comprehensive health education act to make sure that the information that children are receiving in public schools is medically accurate is not too much to act,” she told reporters and supporters gathered at the Statehouse. “In fact, I’m very surprised we were not able to get the bill out of subcommittee. But I know we will continue to work hard and hopefully before we end this legislative session we will be bold enough to do something to help the children who cannot help themselves.”
Horne was joined by the South Carolina Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. The state- and privately-funded advocacy group gathered to announce that South Carolina’s teen birth rate has dropped by 47 percent in 20 years. The most recent data available shows that there are 36.5 births per 1,000 girls ages 15-19.
Horne told South Carolina Radio Network that the House bill got bogged down with “unnecessary” amendments — items like giving parents the ability to act against a school district if it objected to health education — and never made it out of the subcommittee. Horne said the original bill already allowed parents to opt out of the sex ed if they object.
She hoped the bill would be revived in the coming weeks.
Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy CEO Forrest Alton said lawmakers must be emboldened to pass legislation to allow the best information possible to be passed to teens around the state.
“There are still too many groups of young people that remain at high risk of becoming pregnant as teenagers,” Alton said. “Twenty-six years ago, our legislative body was bold enough to enact a comprehensive health education act that governed sex education delivery in South Carolina schools, and yet today we can’t seem to update that law to make sure that it includes medically accurate information in the modern times.”
Horne said the sex ed bill goes beyond abstinence education.
“Abstinence is good, but abstinence-only, the data shows it doesn’t really help… You’ve taught them to say no but you haven’t told them why,” Horne said. “We got beyond that 25 years ago, that’s not what we’re about.”
Horne said the sex ed bill doesn’t require any state funding of programs, but added that teen pregnancies cost $200 million annually in Medicaid costs. According to Horne, the state’s investment in teen pregnancy programs has been drastically reduced in recent years since the Great Recession, however.