A bill seeking to grant $350,000 to educating Utahns about chlamydia and gonorrhea has been amended to prohibit private entities from being involved.
Citing concerns that Planned Parenthood could become involved in Utah’s public schools, Sen. Chris Buttars, R-West Jordan, proposed the amendment to HB 15 Control and Prevention of Sexually Transmitted Diseases on Feb. 7.
“I’m very much for the concept of this bill, but some years ago we passed bill that outside organizations can’t come into schools and discuss these kinds of things, and make presentations of their view points,” Buttars told the Senate. “If we don’t make this amendment – in fact, Planned Parenthood came and testified at the [bill’s] hearing that they’re so glad to be back involved. Well, they’re not to be involved, there’s a statue against that kind of thing, and this would open the door for them to argue to get back in.”
The bill’s Senate sponsor Sen. Allen M. Christensen, R-North Ogden, accepted the amendment.
Sen. Scott McCoy, D-Salt Lake City, however, did not.
McCoy told the Senate that taking out private organizations removes “a whole host of folks who could essentially be avenues of delivery for this important information” – including private doctors’ offices where a majority of STD cases are diagnosed.
“By cutting out private in the bill we have significantly narrowed avenues of dissemination for this critically important information,” said McCoy, adding that he agreed with Buttars’ point about public schools. “Often times we include private entities in disseminating this kind of information. I don’t know why we’re going to single this out when we have such a significant problem with STDs.”
Christensen moved that HB 15 be added to the senate calendar for a third reading, which means that it will be discussed again before the final vote.
In an email, Melissa Larsen, Executive Director of Utah’s Planned Parenthood, said that HB 15 was not about letting Planned Parenthood into public schools.
“It is about educating the community about these devastating diseases,” she wrote. “In some places, private providers are the only ones providing STD testing and treatment.”
Larsen said that Buttars’ amendment would also prevent the Utah Department of Health from giving out information about private providers “in areas where public health departments don’t provide service.”
Planned Parenthood is the largest provider of reproductive health services in Utah.
HB 15 comes at a particularly crucial time for Utah. In the past 11 years, newly diagnosed cases of chlamydia have jumped from 1,563 in 1996 to 5,627 in 2007. Diagnosed cases of gonorrhea have also skyrocketed from 303 in 1995 to 888 in 2007. Occurrences of these diseases in Utah teenagers is also on the rise.