Sex education is taught differently depending on where you are in the world, whether you are a boy or a girl, living in a religious environment or secular one, and whether having a choice is seen as a right or as a sin.
Although the topic is universally awkward for all young children (thanks to us adults making it so in the first place), a holistic approach to sex education is incredibly important in order to have informed sexual practices. This is what Abigail McElroy has been fighting for in her high school in Pennsylvania, where abstinence is the only creed about sex that is being inculcated into students’ heads.
Abigail wrote her story for CNN beginning with the statement, “I am not a piece of tape.” It is a response to what representatives from Amnion Pregnancy Center have preached in their annual visits to the school “informing” students about safe sexual practices. They have used tape as a metaphor to tell girls what happens to their worth if they have premarital sex — they lose a “critical feature” as women, just like “stickiness” is lost after a piece of tape has been used.
The Amnion Pregnancy Center is one of the many pro-life organizations in the United States that offer help to women with unplanned pregnancies, but actually have very strong anti-abortion agendas, counselling women against having abortions despite personal circumstances.
Even though Abigail’s school has a choice-based curriculum Amnion’s choice-less presentations have not been challenged until Abigail decided to speak up. She took her concerns to the school’s principal first. When that didn’t work, she spoke to the school board publicly and explained the contradictions in Amnion’s presentations. She was heard. Amnion is now banned from teaching sex education in her school.
“But this is only the beginning,” Abigail writes. “I am reaching out to friends across the state to expand my model of speaking at school board meetings with the goal of removing Amnion and similar crisis pregnancy centres from public high schools.” She is also working on campaigns to encourage the passing of a bill mandating to teach “medically accurate sex education in all public schools.”
Abigail is an inspiration to young people about standing up to the status quo. Her achievements are proof that perseverance can pay off.
Tackling the issue of sexual and reproductive health and rights is not only important in high schools but across the world. It is a crucial factor in determining good health and well-being.
Simavi is an organisation that provides education and health services on the subject in impoverished areas in Africa and Asia. Donate below to support them in their efforts of saving and improving lives.