The Difference Between Contraception and Mainlining Heroin

Last week, I mentioned two state legislatures had passed abstinence-only sex education bills. While Wisconsin's governor was already supportive of the measure, in Utah, Governor Gary Herbert was less certain. The measure would have banned any discussion of contraception, or for that matter, homosexuality. The current law in Utah already requires parents to "opt-in" if the course includes discussion of contraceptives, but this measure would have actually removed even the option for students to learn about more than simply abstinence. It had passed overwhelmingly in both chambers, despite protests and opposition from the state PTA and teachers' groups. 

Late Friday, after protests, phone calls, and significant pressure from both sides, Herbert announced he had vetoed the measure. In his statement, he said he was unwilling to say "the State knows better than Utah's parents," noting a majority of parents choose to have their children learn about contraception. Herbert described himself as pushing "the reset button" on the conversation around sex-ed in the state.

But given the national rhetoric around sex right now, I'm not so sure a simply flourish of his pen will put the genie back in the bottle. Senate co-sponsor Margaret Dayton told the Salt Lake Tribune that "teaching children about contraception is comparable to telling kids not to do drugs, then showing them how to 'mainline' heroin."
 
The national conversation around sex has shifted radically. Dayton is not alone in seeing sex as akin to one of the most dangerous street drugs around. A dangerous and corrupting activity that puts our youth at risk. Meanwhile, non-radical conservatives generally see sex as a healthy and normal activity, at least among adults, and teaching teenagers to use contraception means teaching them to be responsible. There's such a major rift between the two sides right now, it's hard to see what kind of conversation can be had. 
 
Of course, a poll in Utah showed 58 percent of residents favored sex-ed that included contraceptives. So maybe they don't need to have a conversation in the first place.

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