Recently, Kansas voters adamantly rejected a referendum that would ensure more abortion restrictions in the red-hot state. The Supreme Court’s decision in the Women’s Health Organization in Dobbs v. Jackson, which nullified the above protections, has led to predictions that conservatives may pay the price in the next election. But while the abortion debate makes the headlines, for many women, especially poor women, the battle for reproductive justice begins in the classroom and the battle for comprehensive sex education begins.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, only 29 states (including Washington) and Washington, D.C. mandate sex education. Only 16 states require information taught in sex education to be medically accurate. Meanwhile, 39 states require that sex education must cover abstinence, and 28 of them require that abstinence be emphasized. In the post-Roe world, students’ options are increasingly limited when an unplanned pregnancy occurs. means.

The battle for sex education in Texas, which historically has one of the highest rates of teenage pregnancy in the country, is being fought by people like Abril Vazquez. I first met him while working on the 2018 documentary Reversing Roe. Vasquez grew up in a Texas community where public schools and local governments emphasized abstinence-only education over comprehensive sex education. Vasquez, who became his twice-unmarried mother as a teenager, has spent much of her adult life trying to provide a more complete sex education for Texas high school students.

Although the US teenage fertility rate has been declining since 1991, US fertility rates are still significantly higher than in other Western countries. Low-income girls are at greater risk of becoming young mothers, with data showing that nearly 20% of her teenage mothers will have multiple children before the age of 20. Rise beyond one’s financial situation.

Before the Roe Act, women with the means had better access to abortion. Without these options, poor women’s futures are at greater risk, often choosing between finding an unsafe provider or giving birth without the means to support them. I was. With access to abortion now greatly reduced and young people being provided with inconsistent and incomplete sex education to prevent unwanted pregnancies, poor women have no chance of escaping this vicious circle of poverty. lower.

Federal education policy can have a significant impact on teenage motherhood. Many studies have found that abstinence-only education has little effect, but federal funding for such education has increased under the Trump administration. This was expected, as it tends to vary depending on the president’s political party, rather than being determined based on research as to which is most effective and most helpful to young people.

As someone who has interviewed countless choice and life activists, I know that good people can disagree on abortion policy. It’s hard to understand why some would consider it humane to deprive young people of the tools and resources they need to avoid and limit their options when it comes to either.

At a bipartisan meeting of Southern women’s congressmen, I was once asked to address concerns that teaching comprehensive sex education would increase sexual activity, but I found the data consistently untrue. Teach your driver education to make sure they are ready and as safe as possible before they can legally get behind the wheel. Sex education is also a matter of life and death, so should not the same care and consideration be applied?

In light of Dobbs’ decisions, sex education should be seen as defining reproductive justice issues and should be a priority for candidates in the upcoming elections. can elevate the sexual health discourse in our country by prioritizing this important issue on our platform.

For those serious about reproductive rights, supporting comprehensive sex education in more schools needs to elicit as much activism, advocacy and funding as abortion policy and other reproductive health issues. I have. As Republicans, Democrats, evangelical leaders and secular activists battle over the future of abortion in America, they are all offering young people the tools to make abortion less likely. You should be able to find common ground around the idea that you should. Unplanned pregnancies to begin with—regardless of the environment or region of birth.

Kelly Goff received two Emmy nominations for her production of “Reversing Roe.” She is a contributor to her KCRW’s “Left, Right & Center.”

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