Alaska Students at Risk of Being Denied Necessary Sexual and Reproductive Health Education
Legislators Target Planned Parenthood with Extreme Proposal to End Certain Sexual Health Education Programs
Juneau — This week, the State Senate Education Committee voted to approve an amendment that would prohibit Planned Parenthood from providing any sexual health education in Alaska public schools. This extreme proposal is specifically targeted at Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and Hawaii (PPGNH), the largest nonprofit organization in the state of Alaska focused on sexual and reproductive health education.
The amendment is to Senate Bill 89, legislation that was already harmful and would likely have had dangerous unintended consequences like limiting students’ access to reproductive health education and sexual assault awareness and prevention information. Now, with this amendment, the consequences have become intentional. If SB 89 is signed into law as it currently stands, students across Alaska could go without the education they need.
“Planned Parenthood has been a trusted provider of sexual health education in Alaska for over 20 years. Countless women, men, and teens have turned to us to provide nonjudgmental, unbiased, medically accurate information and education on reproductive health and relationships,” said Jessica Cler, Alaska Public Affairs Manager at Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest.
“Those facts are apparently irrelevant to certain legislators who are so blinded by their hatred of Planned Parenthood that they will put the health of Alaska youth at risk. We fill an important gap left by the state’s inaction on ensuring students have access to the information they need to make educated decisions about relationships and sex. Until the state steps up in providing medically accurate sexual health education to all students, communities rely on us to provide that information. Legislators are playing politics and putting Alaska students at risk.”
Alaska continually leads the nation on rates of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including being the first for rates of chlamydia infection. 15-19 year olds contract chlamydia at a rate three times higher than other people in the state. Additionally, Alaska’s teen pregnancy rate is higher than the national average, and child sexual abuse rates in Alaska are six times higher than the national average. These and other figures underscore the true need for comprehensive sexual health education like the programs provided by PPGNH.
PPGNH provides unbiased, medically accurate, comprehensive sexual health education across Alaska. When invited, educators work closely with some schools, community organizations, and other social service agencies to provide a variety of education opportunities tailored for the needs of each individual community. Educators focus on healthy relationships, consent, and pregnancy and STI prevention, and all programs are thoroughly vetted and reviewed for medical accuracy.
Planned Parenthood education programs are not only accepted and solicited in Alaska and states across the country, but they are proven to be effective as well. A 2014 study in the Journal of School Health examined one of Planned Parenthood’s three-year middle school prevention programs. The results showed that 16 percent fewer boys and 15 percent fewer girls had sex in the schools that used Planned Parenthood education programs versus schools that did not.
PPGNH also facilitates a Juneau chapter of Teen Council, the peer education program where teens learn about sexual health and how to deliver accurate, appropriate and engaging educational presentations within their community. In March, members of Teen Council received a Spirit of Youth Award for “Service to Peers” after making a video “promoting healthy relationships, healthy sexuality, and nonviolence.”
The award was covered by KTOO, where one of the Juneau teens spoke about PPGNH’s Teen Council: “Talking about sex or just sexuality topics is really taboo for teenagers. It’s something that growing up we’re taught we shouldn’t be comfortable talking about. So if teenagers see their peers openly talking about healthy relationships and boundaries and stuff, it might show them that it’s not weird to be comfortable with it.”
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