The Governor's Task Force on Teenage Pregnancy Prevention was given lots of advice during a recent public hearing. Some residents said Utah schools should provide students with contraceptives. Others maintained that sex education should be abolished because it promotes promiscuity.
The task force, initiated to address a variety of problems, may be concentrating on the role schools play in teaching sex education. That seems to be what's on patrons' minds.Wayne LeBaron, director of the Central Utah District Health Department, said Utah students should to be required to take a life-skills course in schools that shows the emotional scars that teenage pregnancy leaves.
"We must give our kids reasons for not getting pregnant," he said. While some might find it morally unpalatable, students need to receive both counseling and contraceptives in schools.
"Sex needs to be de-dramatized and de-mystified," LeBaron said.
Stephen Rosenblatt, of Apparent, said that churches and parents alone can't deter teenage pregnancy.
"Locally the churches have preached chastity for years. Statistics show that this has little affect," Rosen-blatt said, noting that Utah's teen pregnancy rate is similar to the national average.
He also said that surveys show that only 20 percent of parents speak to their children about sexuality. Public opinion polls conducted by the Deseret News and Salt Lake Tribune show that more than 80 percent of Utahns want the schools to teach more than abstinence.
"Kids need not only to understand the anatomy, but the whole spectrum of information," he said.
Burk Despain told the panel that parents should to maintain control over the information the schools give children. He also wants governmental help in controlling objectional television programs and concerts, and giving tax support for mothers who stay at home.
Carolyn Ross echoed the idea of parental control, saying that government has wrongly changed the term "fornication" to being "sexually active." She said that immorality is condoned in the schools.
"I don't know how we can turn our responsibility over to anyone else," Ross said.
Lucille F. Ulrich said that public sex education is wrong - it breaks down personal privacy and causes children to unlearn moral reactions. The only real solution, she said, is to conform the lives of teenagers to God's first commandment given to Moses - to have no other Gods before him.
DeAnn Fisher cited research that indicates in states that spend large amounts of money for teen pregnancy prevention, there are larger rates of teen pregnancy. She said Utah was among the lowest in the survey.
But she added that Utah's law requiring parental consent for dispensing contraceptives helps curb teenage pregnancy. When teenagers know they will have to confront their parents about contraception it helps prevent sexual activity, she said.