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Free Condom Bill Introduced as Mistaken Solution to STD Epidemic

In a controversial move that has reignited debates on sexual education and public health, Senator Caroline Menjivar (D-Van Nuys) has reintroduced the Youth Health Equity and Safety Act, mandating California schools to distribute free condoms to students in grades 9 through 12. Amidst rising Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD) rates, including a nearly 80% increase in syphilis cases as reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), critics argue that the bill, SB 954, offers a false sense of invulnerability among teens. 

They point out the limitations of condoms in preventing the spread of diseases such as herpes, genital warts, syphilis, and monkeypox, which are transmitted through skin-to-skin contact. This skepticism is underscored by concerns that the easy availability of condoms could inadvertently promote sexual activity among teenagers, potentially exacerbating the public health crisis rather than alleviating it.

California Family Council Vice President Greg Burt believes handing out free condoms gives kids a false sense of security, making them believe a thin layer of latex can protect them from the consequences of sexual promiscuity. “That just isn’t true,” he said. 

“Don’t you think it is time to tell young people the truth, that those with the most fulfilling and healthy sex lives are those who treat sex as a special and intimate act to be shared in an opposite-sex, monogamous marriage?” said Burt. “STDs can only thrive in a hook-up culture where sex is meaningless and done for fun with multiple partners. Handing out free condoms perpetuates such a culture.”

Senate Bill 954 mandates that public schools must notify students at the start of every academic year about the availability of free condoms and their locations on school campuses. Additionally, the bill stipulates that schools must display at least one notice detailing these provisions, which includes information such as how to use condoms, among other things. It would even force high schools to allow community health partners to distribute condoms during sex education classes. Lastly, it would prohibit stores and pharmacies from requiring proof of age for condom purchases.

Senator Menjivar is presenting this bill for the second time after it was vetoed by Governor Gavin Newsom last year. The revised version of the bill seeks approximately $5 million in state funds over three years to enable high schools to offer free condoms. Currently, SB 954 is pending assignment to a subcommittee for voting.

Proponents of this bill argue that children should be encouraged to use condoms to prevent the spread of STDs. A 2021 report from the CDC reveals that 30% of high school students across the nation reported being sexually active. Furthermore, the report highlights that over half of the almost 20 million new STD cases in 2020 occurred in individuals aged 15 to 24.

However, condoms provide only limited protection from diseases such as herpes, genital warts, syphilis, and monkeypox, which can spread by skin-to-skin contact. Meanwhile, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, syphilis cases have increased by nearly 80% between 2018 and 2022. Rates increased among all age groups, including newborns. 

Furthermore, this approach undermines the authority and influence of parents who wish to instill in their children a respect for the sanctity of marriage as the appropriate context for sexual relations. Education should promote virtue, self-discipline, and the moral courage to resist societal pressures. While it is important to reduce the spread of STDs, the best defense against such risks is the cultivation of virtue and the strong moral guidance that comes from family and faith communities. Parents should be empowered to be the primary educators of their children in matters of sexual ethics, aligning with a worldview that sees sex as a profound union meant for the secure confines of marriage. This ultimately promotes the health and well-being of children and society as a whole.


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