News & Politics

Texans to Perry: If We Can't Get Abortions, Can We at Least Get Sex Ed?

More than 5,000 have signed petition pointing out hypocrisy of anti-abortion push.

Thousands of Texans are asking their governor to focus on implementing comprehensive sex education resources as an effective method of reducing the number of abortions in the state. Over 5,000 people have signed onto a petition from the Texas Freedom Network urging Gov. Rick Perry (R) to add sex ed to the issues currently being considered in a special legislative session.

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Perry has called two different special sessions to give lawmakers more time to push through a controversial package of abortion restrictions, including measures that would ban abortion after 20 weeks and shut down the vast majority of the abortion clinics in Texas. The proposed abortion bills have inspired weeks of protest, but the outgoing Texas governor has relentlessly pressed on with his anti-choice agenda anyway. “In Texas, we’re going to support protecting life,” Perry said in a recent appearance on Fox News, promising that the legislature will pass the abortion restrictions.

The Texans who added their names to Texas Freedom Network’s petition, however, would prefer their governor took a different approach to achieve his goal of “protecting life.”

“Given your stated intention of reducing abortion in Texas, you should support policies that give women and teens the information they need to avoid unplanned pregnancies,” the petitionstates. “That means ending the state’s promotion of failed abstinence-only sex education and installing policies that ensure teaching about birth control, along with abstinence, in high school sex education classes.”

Texas does not currently have any state-mandated requirements for sex ed classes in public schools. Instead, Republican lawmakers in the state have repeatedly endorsed abstinence-only education that doesn’t provide teens with medically accurate information about how to prevent pregnancy or STDs. When schools do opt to provide some sort of sexual health instruction, they are required to stress abstinence and the importance of sex only within marriage.

“In a state with one of the highest teen birth rates in the nation, replacing failed abstinence-only policies with more effective sex education makes a lot more sense than pushing divisive abortion legislation just to boost the careers of cynical politicians,” the Texas Freedom Network’s communications director, Dan Quinn, pointed out in a press release.

National trends have confirmed that the states that don’t provide adequate sex ed, like Texas, consistently have the highest rates of teen pregnancies and STDs in the country. In other states, teen births are plummeting, a success that experts largely credit to more teens learning about and correctly using birth control.

Recent polling has found that 80 percent of Texans don’t want abortion restrictions to be up for consideration in the special sessions. On the other hand, expanding teens’ access to sexual health resources has broad support in the Lone Star State. Eighty four percent of Texans support teaching information about prevention methods, like birth control and condoms, in sex ed classes.

Tara Culp-Ressler is the Health Editor for ThinkProgress. Before joining the ThinkProgress team, Tara deepened her interest in progressive politics from a faith-based perspective at several religious nonprofits, including Faith in Public Life, the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, and Interfaith Voices.