Abstinence-Only Bill of the Day: With the nation’s attention trained on the media’s breathless coverage of Super Tuesday, Utah’s legislature this evening quietly passed a bill requiring schools to teach abstinence-only sex education, or else skip the classes altogether.
Additionally, both teachers and students would be prohibited from discussing contraception and homosexuality in the classroom.
HB363 passed in the state Senate by a vote of 19 to 10. Utah’s House approved the bill last month.
Senator Stuart Reid (R-Ogden) said the legislation takes sex ed out of the hands of teachers “who we have no idea what their morals are” and turns it over to parents.
But Democrats countered that parents already had control over their children’s sex education, as they were given a choice whether to keep their child enrolled in sex ed classes or pull them out.
Under the new legislation, sex ed classes — if they are offered at all — must teach abstinence only, and parents are required to opt in if they want their child to attend.
“It’s concerning when now we’re trying to dictate morality,” said Sen. Ross Romero (D-SLC). “We’ve been discussing this as if every child has the benefit of two loving and caring parents who are ready to have a conversation about appropriate sexual activity, and I’m here to tell you that’s just not the case.”
The Utah PTA expressed vehement opposition to the bill. “I just can’t believe they did this,” said the association’s president-elect, Liz Zentner. “I think they’re going to have to revisit it in a couple years when the teen pregnancy rates and teen [sexually transmitted disease] rates shoot through the roof.”
It remained unclear if Gov. Gary Herbert would sign the bill into law or veto it. Speaking ahead of a House Education Committee hearing on HB363 last month, Herbert said he felt the existing curriculum “works pretty well,” but also said he personally supports abstinence as a form of pre-marital contraception.