Free condoms fashioned to resemble roses greeted UT students walking down the Drag Monday.
The student chapter of the Texas Freedom Network stood in the rain to equip students for safe sex on Valentine’s Day and to register support for comprehensive sex education, which includes information about safe-sex methods and abstinence.
TFN collected signatures for a petition addressed to state lawmakers that advocates comprehensive sex education. Bills that would implement comprehensive sex education have been introduced into the Texas Legislature, but have failed to pass, said Carisa Lopez, a TFN member and government junior.
Lopez said comprehensive sex education would improve the financial and sexual health of Texas.
“Texas spends more than a billion dollars every year in welfare to support mothers and their children,” she said. “Comprehensive sex-ed would not teach kids to have sex. It would just teach them how to be more safe from STIs, HIV and unintended pregnancy if they do choose to have sex.”
The current abstinence-only education policy has failed, said Katherine Eyberg, a TFN member and Spanish senior.
“STI and pregnancy rates show that the current sex education in high schools is not working,” she said.
The current policy also misinforms high school students about the risks of contraception, Eyberg said.
“There’s false information out about condom ineffectiveness,” she said. “Students are told that condoms fail 15 percent of the time, but when used correctly and consistently condoms only fail 2 percent of the time.”
Eyberg said she feels betrayed by the abstinence-only education she received at her high school.
“I graduated from a public school where sex education consisted of an abstinence speaker that came in one day and told us that if we had sex we would die and we were encouraged to sign purity pledges,” Eyberg said. “When I came to UT, I found that there was a better way of teaching sexual health concepts that’s more inclusive, more informative. I felt robbed because of the discrepancy between what I learned in high school and what I learned in college.”
Gulielma Fager, health education coordinator for University Health Services, said UHS shares TFN’s goal of providing information and condoms.
“University Health Services works to empower all students to make the sexual choices that are right for them, including the choice not to have sex,” Fager said. “For those students who do choose to have sex, we help them reduce the risk of unintended pregnancy and STIs by offering free condoms both at UHS and through our campus distribution and offering classes and workshops about contraception and safer sex.”
Fager said making condoms readily available is especially important for students’ sexual health.
“Not having a condom when they want one is the main reason college students don’t use condoms consistently,” she said. “If you choose to have sex, the best way to decrease the risk of unplanned pregnancy and STIs is to use a condom.”
Providing contraception at universities has become a major national issue recently as religious institutions have protested President Barack Obama’s requirement that employers provide insurance coverage for contraceptives, but Eyberg said sex education reform should not create a political divide.
“Human sexuality is a universal behavior,” Eyberg said. “Whether you’re a Republican or Democrat, you need to figure out what sex is, whether you’re going to have it and how you’re going to protect yourself.”
Printed on, Tuesday February 14, 2012 as: Signatures collected for sex ed petition