If an individual decides to have premarital sex and becomes pregnant it is likely that they will be shamed by someone no matter what decision they make. If they decide to keep the baby they will be shamed. If they decided to put the baby up for adoption they will be shamed. If they decide to get an abortion they will be shamed. Although the United States of America was founded on the ideas of freedom of religion and the separation of church and state, it is no question that these lines get blurred or many times straight up ignored when it comes to sexual rights and freedoms. Is there a non religious reason as to why premarital sex is bad? Why abortion is wrong? No. Therefore, it should not be an issue, right? However it is an issue, because of blatant disrespect of an woman’s decision to choose how to live her life and complete disregard of the morals that this country was constructed around, which leads directly to the lack of unbiased sex education classes in the U.S.
I am very thankful to have grown up in a household with parents who are pretty liberal and feminists to the best of their abilities, however they are still strict Christians who do not believe in premarital sex. I was never given “the sex talk” from them because it was assumed that I would not need it until marriage. In addition, I was not allowed to have a phone or computer until my freshman year of high school, therefore I had no access to information and was pretty clueless and impressionable for a very long time. In eighth grade my Sunday school class had an assembly. We were told it was going to be about how to be a good Christian and how to ensure that we go to heaven. Although, in reality it was a very obviously biased, abstinence only sex education class. This woman stood in front of a room full of middle schoolers and preached the pro life, anti choice standpoint. Her mother was raped. She almost had an abortion, a word I was unfamiliar with up until this point. However, by some miraculous turn of events her mother decided to keep her. It’s a good thing too because according to the bible and god himself, if she had gone through with the abortion there is no chance she would be allowed to step foot in heaven. If a woman has premarital sex, with the only exception being rape, she goes to hell. If a woman has an abortion, even in the case of rape, she goes to hell. These are the morals I, along with every other child in that room, and many others in similar situations across the country, was taught and believed for a very long time.
In high school I was lucky enough to have an amazing health teacher who reversed the damage that the abstinence only standpoint did that disrupted my view of the world and even the level of respect I sometimes had for people. However, many people do not have the opportunity to edit the faulty lessons ingrained in them as young children and better themselves for it. This is the reason why the pro life debate exists and why the horrible movement is able to grow, spread, and consume our country. Even though Roe v. Wade legalized first trimester abortions 45 years ago in 1973, this issue is still disputed on a daily basis.
Health class, specifically sex education is one of the only classes that affects individuals safety and overall well being, however it is one of the only classes not regulated on a countrywide or even statewide level. In the age of common core, which regulates subjects deemed important by the government such as English and Math to ensure that all students in the country are on the same intellectual level, there should be a specific, accurate, and monitored curriculum for sex education. It should be a requirement. However, according to University of Southern California’s nursing department, “only thirteen states in the nation required sex education to be medically accurate”. This means that teachers are legally allowed to lie and manipulate students, as well as leave out information that is crucial to an adolescent’s health and well-being.
In the majority of states across the country, including New York, teachers are allowed to interpret unclear and unspecific guidelines to how they see fit, which essentially means that they can teach whatever they want to and call is sex education. This is the main reason why so many schools can get away with spinning the information to be taught from a Christian viewpoint.
A prime example of this is abstinence only sex education. It is true that abstinence is the only proven 100% guaranteed method of birth control, ergo schools take this fact and twist it enough to support their anti premarital sex beliefs. It is perfectly fine to hold these beliefs personally, however it is proven that the majority of young adults will engage in sexual activity anyway, even when taught abstinence only. The big difference is that these individuals are now uninformed causing the United States of America to have more people suffering from sexually transmitted diseases and a higher rate of teen pregnancies than almost all other developed countries.
This directly relates back to abortion policies because it is proven by almost every developed nation that by creating national guidelines for sex education classes, teen pregnancy will be severely lowered. Therefore if pro lifers really do believe in lowering the rate of abortions they would be protesting the government of the country that spends billions of dollars annually on further developing abstinence only curriculum, instead of harassing pregnant teen girls who do not know any better because of the corrupt sex education system that has failed them.
In 1965 access to birth control pills became legalized for women. However, over fifty years later many young girls and women still do not have the knowledge required to use contraceptives properly. Even if they educated themselves elsewhere it is a very real probability that they do not fully understand their options and rights in the case that they do get pregnant, whether they took precautions or not.
However, another issue can be found in the lack of medical research as a whole. Medical research is commonly conducted on only white men, rather than an varying group of people. Even if studies do include women, it is only white women. This lack of representation of women of color and many times women as a whole seriously reduces the chances of having accurate information. The combination of health teachers picking and choosing what they deem important out of an already extremely small pool information and the detrimental lack of research on the topic of women’s health causes each generation to be consistently uninformed, destroying this countries chances of lowering the rate of STIs, teen pregnancies, and in turn abortions.
This issue is even more prevalent in African American, Hispanic, and Asian communities. Especially when those communities are lower income, with less access to equal, unbiased sex education classes. While many upper middle class white women, have access to knowledge and opportunities regarding sexual health and safe abortions, woman of color are demonized for searching for those same resources. Dorothy Roberts writes in “Radical Reproductive Justice” that there have even been billboards created, depicting women of color as monstrous perpetrators of genocide, simply for wanting access to safe and legal abortions.
This is extremely similar to the all too common, abstinence only programs because it is disgustingly biased and obviously constructed from a Christian standpoint rather than a medical standpoint. Loretta Ross makes this very clear in her introduction to “Radical Reproductive Justice”. She states that women who are personally pro life, but have been educated and understand what reproductive justice is in full, “generally assert that while they would never choose an abortion for themselves, they would not interfere with people’s choices. Instead they support them as people making the choices that make sense for them.” This proves that education is key in all cases regarding unbiased knowledge and equal opportunities to safe and legal abortions.
So, how can the United States improve the corrupt sex education system? First and foremost keeping church and state separate is essential to an unbiased curriculum. Eliminating the churches influences will completely take away the abstinence only mindset as well as replacing it with a curriculum that ensures that classes put an individual’s safety and well being above all else. In addition to this, common core should consider health an important subject. Since the entire goal of common core is to keep students across the nation on the same intellectual level, it only makes sense that the same should be applied when it comes to their health. However, creating nationwide guidelines and programs that teachers have to follow will not only increase students knowledge, but it will also lower the rate of abortions as well as improve millions of women’s lives. Lastly, sex education should be taught from a feminist standpoint. This standpoint would allow equal learning opportunities to all people. It would cover every method of contraception, explain what works best for cis straight people, but also include methods for queer people. The feminist standpoint would also provide information on the rights and options an individual has if the contraception fails and they get pregnant anyway. The feminist standpoint is not just about access to abortions. It is about providing the knowledge and opportunities for people to become educated and make whatever choice is right for them in a safe and legal environment.