The XX Factor

Meet the Republican Man Who Is Trying to Get Real Sex Education Into South Carolina Schools

South Carolina’s House of Representatives narrowly passed a sex ed bill this week.

Photo by Davis Turner/Getty Images

Today’s lesson in allowing yourself to believe in impossible things: The Republican-led South Carolina statehouse voted this week to update the law regarding sex education to include instruction on the use of contraception. Abstinence will still be stressed, even though 95 percent of Americans have premarital sex, so it’s not like the curriculum will be venturing too far off into the darkness of reality. But the bill would require teachers to teach medically accurate information, including information about contraception.

More amazing yet, the sponsor of the bill is a Republican man, Rep. B.R. Skelton. He told the Associated Press that he wants to reduce teen pregnancy, STI transmission, abortion rates, and high school dropout rates in his state. “This is not a panacea for solving all of those problems,” he said. “But if it solves it a little bit and decreases teen pregnancies a little bit and decreases STDs a little bit, then we are all a whole lot better off.” 

Don’t expect pigs to start flying and cats to start barking quite yet. There are still plenty of South Carolina Republicans who continue to stick to the fantastical claim that you can squelch teen curiosity about sex by pretending condoms don’t exist. The bill barely squeaked by in the House and may not get past the Senate or the governor’s desk.

Still, it may have been real world results within their state that caused lawmakers to rethink the current law that allows schools to teach abstinence-only classes. As NPR reported, the small town of Denmark, South Carolina, recently cut its teen pregnancy rate by two-thirds by introducing comprehensive sex education and getting the entire town involved in distributing free condoms and information on birth control in places like barber shops. While this bill doesn’t go nearly as far as Denmark has—schools will still be banned from distributing condoms, for instance—it’s a step in the right direction. Considering that South Carolina has one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the country, every little move forward should be applauded.