Open Mic talked about the bullying bill that passed here in North Carolina last week, and I wanted to share some more great news. HB 88, the Healthy Youth Act of North Carolina, passed it final hurdle last week at the state legislature and Gov. Purdue signed it into law today! The NC legislature website has all the versions of the bill, all the vote history, and other legislative info for those who are interested. Also, the News and Observer had a nice front-page story about the Healthy Youth Act, they were so kind as to ask me for a quote. You can check that out here.
I have been writing about this bill all year, and I am so happy to say that we have finally achieved what we set out to do-which was bring comprehensive sex education to North Carolina! There are some drawbacks to the version of the bill that passed, and there were some significant changes that were made by the senate. The Healthy Youth Act was originally going to set up a two-track system for sex education. One track would offer abstinence-only programs, while the other track would offer abstinence-based comprehensive sex education programs. Parents would select which track their child is enrolled in. This comprehensive sex education is desperately needed, seeing as NC has the 9th highest teen pregnancy rate and every 26 minutes a teen becomes pregnant in our state. Amplify says:
Failing to prevent teen pregnancy, HIV, and STIs is costly (for society and for individuals), is associated with higher drop-out rates, perpetuates a growing poverty rate (especially among children), and can lead to infertility and even death.
For more information on North Carolina's youth, check out Advocates For Youth's publication.
The senate made the change to only offer one track for sex ed., and it will include medically accurate, peer reviewed information on the benefits of abstinence as well as complete information on condoms and contraception. It will also include information on healthy relationships and ways to avoid violence and abusive relationships. Parents can have their kids opt-out of the comprehensive part, but not the abstinence-only part.
There are lots of questions around how comprehensive it will really be once it is implemented. I really don’t know what the classes will be like once they are put into schools, but do think that the passing of the Healthy Youth Act will bring essential and long overdue comprehensive sex education to young people in NC. Young people deserve complete and accurate information about sexual health, and it looks like we will finally be getting that.
At the beginning of the legislative session, many people thought that the Healthy Youth Act would never pass. But thanks to great organizing by groups like the Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Campaign (partners with Advocates for Youth), Planned Parenthood of Central NC, ACLU of NC, NARAL, and Equality NC, we were able to overcome many obstacles (such as loads of bullshit from the NC Family Policy Council) and finally achieve success. I am so grateful for all of those organizations for devoting so much time and energy into all of this.
It goes without saying that youth activists across the state and Amplify users who sent in countless letters to their NC legislators played a hugely important role in this accomplishment as well, and it is so exciting to be a young person advocating for this. We can share a unique perspective with legislators-that of teens facing these issues every day. We know firsthand how much of a joke abstinence-only programs really are, and talking about that really made a difference.
With the passage of the Healthy Youth Act in North Carolina, we proved that if young people demand to be heard, that people WILL listen.