SALT LAKE CITY (CN) - The Utah House approved a bill that would bar discussion of "contraceptive methods or devices" in sex education classes, and allow public schools to end sex education entirely.
House Bill 363 requires schools that do teach sex education to teach "abstinence only." The state House approved HB 363 last week by 45-28 vote.
Sponsored by Rep. Bill Wright, R-Holden, the measure allows school districts the option to drop sex education courses for grades 8 through 12, but if they to teach it, to abstinence-only instruction.
The bill states: "Human sexuality instruction or instructional programs shall teach and stress: the importance of abstinence from all sexual activity before marriage and fidelity after marriage as the only sure methods for preventing certain communicable diseases; and personal skills that encourage individual choice of abstinence and fidelity.
"Human sexuality instruction or instructional programs may not include instruction or the advocacy of the intricacies of intercourse, sexual stimulation, or erotic behavior; homosexuality; contraceptive methods or devices; or sexual activity outside of marriage."
Though the bill prohibits instruction on contraception, teachers would be allowed to answer questions on the topic if posed by students.
Utah's public schools today use abstinence-based, not abstinence-only, education and are prohibited from encouraging the use of contraceptives to promote safe sex.
"At no time may instruction be provided, including responses to spontaneous questions raised by students, regarding any means or methods that facilitate or encourage the violation of any state or federal criminal law by a minor or an adult.
"An instructor may respond to a spontaneous question as long as the response is consistent with the [bill's] provisions," the bill states.
Rep. Ronda Menlove, R-Garland, supported the bill on the House floor.
"I believe it's the responsibility of parents to talk with their children about intimacy, about relationships, about physical relationships. I believe that's the important role that a parent plays," she said.
Rep. Brad Davis, R-Salt Lake City, countered: "Despite the fervent desires of most of us that our sons and daughters live chaste lives until they get married, we know that many of them - maybe even most of them - are going to engage in sexual relationship before they get married. Those are the facts. We owe it to our kids, we owe it to their current and future partners, to not stick our heads in the sand."
All 17 House Democrats voted against the bill.
After the vote, the Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault quickly expressed its distaste via Twitter.
"Very disappointed that debate on HB 363 was cut short and a vote pushed through for convenience sake. Huge disservice to Utah students," the group stated, referring to the session's less than 2-hour span.
The ACLU of Utah posted on its home page: "At a time when, according to newly released national and Utah data, Utah teens are much more likely than other teen moms to say that they thought they couldn't get pregnant or that they believed they or their partner were sterile, we should not be further limiting young people's access to vital health information."
Rep. Wright, the bill's sponsor, a dairyman, said, "Why would you as a parent ask someone or expect someone to do something that you can't do yourself? What is the harm in teaching your child abstinence? I see no harm with that."
The measure now goes to the state Senate, which is scheduled to go into recess on March 8.
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