INDIANAPOLIS — In less than one month, most abortions will be illegal in Indiana. Now, there's a renewed push to teach more sex education in schools.
Around 480,000 Hoosiers are in need of publicly-funded contraception, according to the latest data from the Indiana Family Health Council. The president and CEO acknowledged that her team won't be able to help all these men and women. She said that's why more education early on would help in preventing unwanted pregnancy.
The Indiana Family Health Council uses federal funding to provide family planning services and education for families and school systems. Their services focus on those at or below the poverty level.
Following Indiana's abortion ban, CEO and President Dr. Kristin Adams said they're already starting to see more people wanting long-acting, reversible contraceptives.
However, Adams said education will be even more crucial following Sept. 15, when most abortions won't be allowed in the state. She said schools should be teaching sexual education longer than a semester and beyond what is required by Indiana law. However, to her knowledge, schools aren't considering changing their rubric.
"The only thing that must be taught is HIV education and basic embryology. So, there is nothing that says sex ed must be taught and if it is, then it must be done at the abstinence focus," Adams said. "While the legislature did put a lot of language in there about rape and incest, at the end of the day, sometimes kids don't know what those words mean, and they don't know what happened to them. So, with a time limit, it may be too late."
Adams said while it's not a requirement, students should be knowledgeable about contraception.
"Some school systems choose not to address the issue, and then when you think about health education and when kids get that, it's usually at ninth or tenth grade, and it's only for a semester. So, it's not lifelong learning," Adams said. "I used to teach at the university level. By the time I got them at 18,19, 22, 23 and sometimes in their 30s, they didn't have a basic understanding of their own bodies."
Adams said conversations should be happening at home as well. Age-appropriate conversations should happen early and often, she said.
"This is human nature. This is who we are, and no matter your belief on abortion or not, we need to be having open and honest conversations and not making it feel like we need to be ashamed of this. So, let's keep the dialogue open, let's keep the medical information flowing. Let's be factual about it," Adams said.
Next fall, Indiana will be getting a mobile unit to deliver contraceptives, pap smears and STD testing to help with access. Indiana Family Health Council expects to start offering these services late next year.
Adams said she knows these conversations about sex can be uncomfortable. For assistance, she recommends visiting ifhc.org or emailing email@example.com.