As Tracy Clark-Flory has reported, the epic failures that comprise abstinence-only sex education in Florida and Texas would be funny if they weren't also disgustingly harmful to students in those states. So it's nice to see one state that is actually moving toward educating adolescents about sex in a comprehensive and responsible way. On Wednesday, the Washington state Senate approved a measure eliminating the requirement that the state Department of Health apply for abstinence-only sex-ed grants. The bill is now headed for the House.
Under the new legislation, the DoH would be allowed to seek funding for programs that are "medically and scientifically accurate, which can include programs advocating abstinence, prevention of sexually transmitted diseases and the prevention of unintended pregnancies." State Senator Rosa Franklin (D-Tacoma) told the Associated Press that, while she advocates abstinence until marriage, "this is the real world. So let's deal with reality. Our youth should and must know that ... what they are being taught... is scientifically and medically accurate."
Now, as exciting as this is, we shouldn't get our hopes up quite yet. Last year, a similar bill was approved by the Washington state Senate only to get nixed in the House. But it's possible that the new, left-leaning zeitgeist that has taken hold since the November elections will inspire some positive change. Since the grants the DoH applies for are federal, and the Bush administration expected applicants for sex-ed funding to emphasize abstinence in their proposals, this could have affected lawmakers' attitudes regarding the legislation. Now that we have a president who favors comprehensive sex ed, we can hope to see some major changes in the way this country educates adolescents about sexuality. And let's hope that progress extends from Washington state to Washington, D.C.