Recently, the Parental Bill of Rights, also known as the “Bill of Wrongs” among activist circles, has been discussed in committee hearings. Why does this Bill threaten LGBTQIA+ youth?
by Sarah Hoffman
While the state of Florida has never taken pride in being some liberal paradise, it seems legislators are just pushing the state even farther to the right. Recently, the Parental Bill of Rights, also known as the “Bill of Wrongs” among activist circles, has been discussed in committee hearings. This bill not only threatens LGBTQIA+ youth, but it also threatens access to basic sexual health education and reproductive healthcare.
This incredibly broad bill disrupts the already fragile balance between students’ constitutional rights within the Florida public school system and parents’ rights. The Parental Bill of Rights specifically targets LGBTQIA+ youth who already are at risk of discrimination inside and outside the home, and will give power to anti-LGBTQIA+ parents who will use their bigoted behavior to abuse their child.
Mental Health for LBGTQIA+ Youth
Implementing the Parental Bill of Rights could mean a child being kicked out of their home for being a member of the LGBTQIA+ community, conversion therapy, or even worse. Coming out to your family is very personal; it should be on the child’s decision, not a school official’s. Many LGBTQIA+ individuals are still struggling to accept themselves, and may find school a safe space to confide in counselors or teachers. Taking this away from students strips them of their right to privacy as a free agent. According to The Center for American Progress and Advancement, 40% of homeless youth identify as members of the LGBTQ+ community.
Th bill could also make access counseling services for LBGTQIA+ youth even more difficult than it already is. Not all youth have access to high quality mental health-care. Youth who experience the greatest disparities in mental health are those in poverty, of color, and are a LGBTQIA+ individual. A recent study shows that around 54% of LGBTQIA+ youth expressed wanting mental healthcare in the past year but did not receive it. Around 40% seriously considered suicide in the past year. With a lack of access to appropriate mental health counseling the implementation of the Parental Bill of Rights could lead to serious, irreversible, and life-threatening consequences.
Sex Education for LGBTQIA+
This bill also permits opting out from anything realted to sex education and vaccines. It allows parents to explicitly opt out from education regarding HIV and AIDS. LGBTQIA+ youth have a right to access safe, comprehensive sexual education. According to Jennifer Driver Vice President of Policy and strategic Partnetaship at SIECUS: Sex Ed for Social Change, “Research shows that when young people cannot receive high quality, inclusive sex education, they are more likely to experience negative sexual health outcomes, including sexually transmitted infections, unintended pregnancies, and sexual violence.”
When LGBTQIA+ youth see themselves represented in sex education, it affirms that who they are as individuals is valid. This can be lifesaving. Ironically enough, according to SIECUS, Florida is one of two states that mandates sex-ed curriculums to highlight the benfit of heterosexual marriage.
LGBTQIA+ youth do experience more sexual health risk because of a lack of diverse and inclusive sex education. This includes not only an increased risk of STIs, but sexual violence as well. Inclusive sex-ed not only helps LGBTQIA+ learn how to practice safe sex, but it allows their cis heterosexual classmates to accept them.
A 2019 research study showed that districts with inclusive sex-ed policies, LGBTQIA+ children faced less bullying and lower risk of suicidal tendencies.
Sex education in Florida, which already caters to hetero-normative ideals, cannot advocate for access to contraceptives. The state of Florida leaves it up to the school boards to decide whether schools should or should not educate children on sexual health. However, many lectures end in advocating for abstinence rather than comprehensive education.
When I reached adulthood, there were many things I was not prepared for. For example, I did not know how to access safe reproductive healthcare because this learning about this was never an option during sex-ed in high school. Resources like Planned Parenthood helped me navigate through something I should have had some basic knowledge on when I was younger.
To infringe on a child’s rights to access safe reproductive healthcare is dangerous. Contraceptives have helped to drastically reduce teen pregnancy by 86%. It helps reduce unintended pregnancies, which means that not having to access even more expensive versions of reproductive healthcare such as an abortion, can have an adverse effect. Birth control prevents close to 2.2 million pregnancies each year.
Contraceptives help young women, transgender, and gender expansive individuals to take control of their sexual health. It advances economic empowerment and education opportunities when young people have proper education on how to manage their sexual interactions. This does not just mean abstinence.
Preventing a child from accessing safe contraceptives will not will stop them from having sex. In fact, it will increase their risk of having an unwanted pregnancy and being forced to follow through with it. This is because parental consent laws on abortion are also present in Florida.
Florida is continuing to roll out legislation that will threaten the little rights youth legally already have. By not allowing them to have any agency or control over their life, this legislation could cause lasting damaging effects on children as they move into adulthood. But, the unfortunate truth of the matter is this bill has already been passed.