Vermont will soon be the first state in the country to require all of its public middle and high schools to provide students with free access to condoms.
Republican Rep. Topper McFaun introduced the legislation and told Vermont Public Radio that if teenagers have more access to condoms and sex education, it could lead to a reduction in the number of abortions.
“I’m talking about allowing people to be in the position where they don’t have to make the decision, that crucial decision, to have an abortion or not — that’s what I’m trying to prevent,” McFaun told the outlet. “And the way to do that is to provide ways to allow people to protect themselves.”
"In order to prevent or reduce unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases, each school district shall make condoms available to all students in its secondary schools, free of charge," the bill states. The free condoms "shall be placed in locations that are safe and readily accessible to students, including the school nurse’s office."
According to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, despite support from health experts, only 7.2% of high schools and 2.3% of middle schools in the U.S. make condoms available to students.
The National Coalition of STD Directors told Vermont Public Radio that Vermont will be the first state to require its secondary schools to have free condom access.
Not everyone in Vermont is convinced making condoms easily accessible to middle school students is a good idea. The Vermont Right to Life Committee spoke out against the proposal earlier this year, calling it one of the "dangerous new proposals" that has the "potential to increase abortion rates" in the state.
"There should be concern when there is evidence that a child is engaged in a sexual relationship - such as when a 12-year old seeks out condoms," Sharon Toborg with the Vermont Right to Life Committee said in opposition to the legislation. "Yet instead of strengthening efforts to identify children who are potentially being abused, [the bill] weakens the mandatory reporting laws."
Vermont Gov. Phil Scott signed the bill into law on Oct. 5 and it takes effect July 1, 2021.