by Rev. Dr. Beverly Dale
General Minister and President, Christian Association at the University of Pennsylvania
In a time when incivility is all too present in public discourse and lawmaking gets bogged down in divisiveness, some Republican and Democratic representatives in Harrisburg are finding common ground on a difficult topic – how to protect the sexual health of our young people. We believe as a clergy that our society has a moral imperative to provide medically accurate information to our young adults in order to keep them safe. House Bill 1163, the Healthy Youth Act, holds great promise in that it will not only teach them to abstain from premature sexual behavior, but will also dispel misleading stereotypes and correct the misinformation that harms our young people. With one in four teen girls already infected with sexually transmitted infections, this education is sorely needed.
We minister to families, oftentimes through their times of struggle, and we know firsthand the difficulties some young people have face growing up, especially through the teen years. Passage of this bill will help reduce the ignorance that contributes to the 23,000 teen pregnancies annually in this state and potentially reduce the number of abortions in rate. Moreover, the immediate passage of HB 1163 will help families and young adults in their decision-making processes by giving them the necessary tools.
With bipartisan support, the legislators have developed a bill to maximize the freedom of school boards and parents by allowing local school boards to determine their own sex education curriculum, as long as it is grounded in scientific and evidence based data. In addition, it allows parents to opt out should they choose to provide the sex education to their children themselves. In our view this develops a win-win legislative package without compromising our youth.
At no cost to the state and little cost to local schools, our legislators have found a way to do the right thing for Pennsylvania families. This is something all of us can support. It sends a message that in this state, we care about our young people enough to protect them. And that is what family values are all about.