The Senate sent to the governor another anti-abortion bill yesterday, HB 1592 by Rep. Mark Lowery to prevent anyone associated with a medical clinic that provides abortion from even volunteering in a public school.

The aim of the bill is to keep Planned Parenthood’s sex education instruction out of public schools, where it might prevent unwanted pregnancy.

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It was another pro forma rubberstamp of Republican dogma, all part of the campaign to make abortion de facto illegal in Arkansas, though nominally legal in the United States.

Since the legislature doesn’t hear the rest of the story, I provide it from Planned Parenthood’s Gloria Pedro, who notes that the Internet has been invented. There ARE ways to get valuable sex education to people who need it without the Arkansas legislature interfering. And, as the statistics show, Arkansas students are badly in need of the information.

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HB 1592 is designed to create more barriers to accessing comprehensive and medically accurate sex education. It also discriminates against Planned Parenthood Great Plains and Little Rock Family Planning without naming these organizations outright. The sole intent of this bill is to keep entities that provide abortion from teaching sex ed. Our students’ basic education should not be jeopardized because of the Legislature’s misguided political agenda.

“Young people deserve to have the information, resources, and skills they’ll need to have healthy and fulfilling sex and relationships throughout their lives — without shame or judgment. Given that Arkansas has the highest teen birth rate in the nation, our legislators should be expanding access to sex education, not restricting it. In their attempts to punish Planned Parenthood, they continue to do a disservice to young people in their state, and Arkansans continue to experience some of the worst sexual health outcomes for young people in the country.”

Background information:

  • Arkansas has the highest teen birth rate and the second highest teen pregnancy rate in the United States.

  • Nearly half of all Arkansan young people 15–18 have reported ever having sex. Arkansas young people have low rates of condom use — with only 49% of sexually active young people reporting condom use the last time they had sex. Arkansas young people also report higher incidence of sexual violence than their peers across the country. This is particularly true for LGB young people in Arkansas, who report nearly two times higher rates of violence (physical and sexual) than their LGB peers across the country, at 26% and 36%, respectively. Sex education that helps young people to develop healthy, supportive, and safer relationships is desperately needed in Arkansas.

  • According to the CDC School Health Profiles, only 18% of Arkansas middle school and 38% of Arkansas high schools teach what the CDC designates “essential sexual health topics.” One of the reasons for this is lack of trained experts providing sex education. Only 27% of school staff who provided health education received any training or professional development on sexual health, and only 5% were trained as health educators.

  • Planned Parenthood is the largest provider of comprehensive and medically accurate sex education in the country. Each year, Planned Parenthood affiliates across the country reach more than one million people through in-person sex education programming, as well as millions more online.

    • A few COVID-safe sex ed resources: PPGP Pleasure and Protection Kits: a free safer sex kit that includes an optional HIV rapid test, all mailed to people’s homes. When we rolled this out in fall of 2020, we ran out in less than two weeks and send kits all over the country, not just in our four states.

    • Ask Roo: Roo is a free and private chat bot to answer all sexual health questions, 24 hours a day.

    • Chat/Text program: People can chat online or text “PPGP” to 774636 (PPINFO) to get answers from health educators.