Abstinence-only education bill passes House Committee

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A bill supporting abstinence-only education and banning the advocacy of contraception and homosexuality passed the House Education Committee in a 8-7 vote. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Bill Wright, R-Holden, also allows schools to opt out of sex education and not offer courses.

The measure originally banned discussion of condoms and homosexuality in all courses. However, it was amended late in the hearing and strongly mirrors existing sex education laws. The “advocacy” of homosexuality was already banned as was the use of contraception.

Wright said the proposed measure was inspired after he saw a maturation program for elementary school students that cited information from Planned Parenthood. The bill was designed to stop any endorsement or advocacy of Planned Parenthood, Wright said.

“What we’re trying to do is draw a clear bright line,” Wright said. “Our public schools should not be a venue for private organizations and institutions. Planned Parenthood provides abortions. They have a $300 billion a year budget and throughout the United States nine out of 10 women who walk into Planned Parenthood come out with an abortion.”

Wright’s outrageous, and false, claims about how many women receive abortions were reflective of the impassioned testimonies of legislators, community leaders and parents.

During the hearing, Wright appeared confused about current sex-education laws which already require a parent’s consent to teach about reproductive health. Wright said he was not aware of this requirement and thought the process to remove children from sex-education classes was much more difficult.

Rep. LaVar Christensen, R-Draper, spoke in favor of barring sex education from schools and said there is no right for children and teens to learn about reproductive health.

“To suggest that there’s a right to publicly funded sex education, I disagree with that,” Christensen said. “Are we going to buy into the sexual revolution and the whole idea that there was one? I would respectfully submit that going back in time is exactly what we have to do.”

Liz Zentner, Utah PTA president-elect, said she worried about the affects of allowing schools to opt out of sex-education courses. Special interests that do not reflect the overall attitude of most parents could lobby schools to remove it, which would deny an important part of education for many students.

While Wright argued students would be better off reading books instead of learning about sexual health, Cougar Hall, a BYU assistant professor who also trains health teachers, said health education is an important part of a balanced education.

“It’s immoral to withhold life-saving information from a segment of our population because it doesn’t fit our value system,” Hall said.

Representatives from the conservative Utah Eagle Forum and Sutherland Institute voiced their support for an abstinence-only education and encouraged lawmakers to ban teachers from even discussing condoms or other forms of contraception.

“Just say no to sex outside of marriage,” Gayle Ruzicka, head of the Utah Eagle Forum, said. “I think it’s a good message.”

After the meeting, Wright admitted that he didn’t know how the amendments to his bill would change its impact and while he supported abstinence-only education or no education at all, he said he would consider the new measure.

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