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Tennessee has the tenth highest rate of teenage births in the United States.

At Planned Parenthood Greater Memphis Region, we hear every day from young people who say they were never taught the facts about sex and pregnancy prevention. That’s why we were especially disappointed today to hear that Governor Bill Haslam had signed a bill that guts the state’s “family life” sexuality education program.

HB 3621/SB 3310, signed by Governor Haslam today, will change Tennessee’s family life curriculums to “exclusively and emphatically promote sexual risk avoidance through abstinence, regardless of a student’s current or prior sexual experience”—effectively denying students valuable and even life-saving information about contraception and the prevention of sexually transmitted infections.

This new law also allows teachers or outside contractors to be sued for “encouraging” or “condoning” nonspecific “gateway sexual behavior.” Some critics have speculated that teachers could even be held liable if students hold hands or kiss in their presence.

Tennessee students need more information about puberty, their own bodies and proven methods that prevent pregnancy and the spread of disease. Denying them this prevention information in order to exclusively promote abstinence until marriage does our students a serious disservice.

Studies show that young people who are knowledgeable about contraceptive methods are less likely to take part in risky behavior and more likely to use a highly effective method of birth control when they do become sexually active. (See “Young Adults’ Contraceptive Knowledge, Norms and Attitudes: Associations with Risk of Unintended Pregnancy,” by Jennifer Frost, et al. of the Guttmacher Institute.)

Polls show that parents overwhelmingly support comprehensive and medically accurate sex education programs.  In fact, a recent 2011 poll from the University of Memphis shows that vast majority of Shelby County residents wish that teenagers were provided more comprehensive information about sex.  

“HB 3621/SB 3310, the abstinence-only sex education bill signed into law by Governor Haslam today is a step backward for the young people of Tennessee,” said Barry Chase, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood Greater Memphis Region. “Most parents in Tennessee want students to get comprehensive sexuality education that includes messages about prevention as well as abstinence. They expect that the schools will equip their young people with the information they need to protect themselves. This bill ties the hands of educators in Tennessee and will prevent them from providing the comprehensive education that students want and need and their parents expect.”

To find out more about Planned Parenthood’s education programs, visit our website: www.ppgmr.org.


Planned Parenthood Greater Memphis Region (PPGMR), founded in 1938, is an affiliate of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. PPGMR’s mission is to ensure broad public access to reproductive and related health care through clinic services, education, advocacy and community partnerships in serving 42 counties in West Tennessee, North Mississippi and East Arkansas.


Planned Parenthood Greater Memphis Region


Joan Carr
Director of Community Affairs
(901) 725-3008


May 11, 2012