OPINION: “It’s long past time we taught our kids the facts of life.”

Me on the porch 2

The conservative tilt of the Supreme Court and the cruel new laws restricting access to reproductive healthcare in states like Georgia and Alabama are making many of us here in Mass take a look at our own laws to see how we would fare if Roe were overturned. This review has brought good and necessary attention to the ROE Act (S. 1209, H. 3320) a common sense bill which would increase access to reproductive healthcare in this state. Only one of Hingham’s legislators, Rep. Joan Meschino, is a public supporter of the bill. Representative Jamie Murphy and Senator Patrick O’Connor, despite being on the record as pro-choice, have so far declined to make any statements about it. As a result, many locals spent the weekend phoning and postcarding the Hingham delegation on Beacon Hill to express their support of ROE. This is really important if we’re going to protect the health and well-being of women and girls in the Commonwealth, but it’s not enough just to expand access to reproductive healthcare. Given current political climate, we need to make sure everyone understands how reproduction works, including how to prevent unwanted pregnancies, and that everyone learns these things from a medically-accurate and comprehensive health curriculum.

In Massachusetts, as in Georgia and Alabama, we do not currently require public schools to teach a science-based, medically-accurate sexual education course to our students, which means that right now, public schools in Massachusetts can teach from any kind of sex ed curriculum they like, including abstinence-only, if they choose to teach a health class at all.  Abstinence-only sex ed is widespread down south. So, too, are chlamydia and gonorrhea among the region’s adolescents. The incidence of teen pregnancy actually increases when kids are taught to wait until marriage.

The Healthy Youth Act (H. 410, S. 263) would fix this by requiring that public schools in MA teach from a  medically-accurate curriculum if they choose to teach sex ed. Joan Meschino is again the lone local supporter of this common sense bill.

Passage of the Healthy Youth Act takes on added urgency now given that the MA Department of Public Health accepted an $808,000 grant from the Federal Government last year to teach abstinence-only at Boys and Girls Clubs and YWCAs in the state. At school, our kids may not be getting the education they need to keep themselves safe, and they certainly won’t be getting it through these abstinence-only youth programs. As a parent of a Hingham second-grader, it's early yet for me to worry about this, but I am deeply invested in ensuring not only that my son gains an accurate understanding of sex at the appropriate age, but that his peers do as well.

Increasing access to reproductive healthcare is obviously incredibly important. But when you make your calls in favor of ROE, please ask your legislators to support the Healthy Youth Act as well. It’s long past time we taught our kids the facts of life.

Melissa Smith

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