SALT LAKE CITY (CN) - Utah's Legislature approved a law that prohibits instruction on "contraceptive methods or devices" in public schools, requires abstinence-only education, and lets schools drop sex education altogether.
The state Senate approved House Bill 363 on Tuesday, 19-10. The state House approved it last week. It goes now to Gov. Gary Herbert, a Republican, for signature. He has not commented publicly on the new law.
House Bill 363 allows school districts to drop sex education courses for grades 8 through 12, but if they do teach it, they must use abstinence-only instruction.
The bill states, in part: "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."
Supporters of the bill said parents, not teachers, should educate children about morality.
According to the bill: "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."
House Democrats called the bill "disturbing" and "a mandate against reality."
"We talked about, in this body, all the time, about government intruding on people's lives, and this bill will now take that option away from parents, to have their kids opt into a comprehensive sex education system," said state Sen. Luz Robles, D-Salt Lake County, from the Senate floor. "It's disturbing."
State Sen. Patricia Jones, D-Salt Lake County, added: "What this bill is, is a mandate against reality."
Twenty-one states, including Utah and the District of Columbia, require sex education, according to a March 1 study from the Guttmacher Institute.
Thirty-seven states "require that information on abstinence be provided," and 18 states and the District of Columbia require information on contraception, the institute found.
"Why would you as a parent ask someone or expect someone to do something that you can't do yourself?," asked the bill's chief sponsor, Rep. Bill Wright, R-Holden, from the House floor last week. "What is the harm in teaching your child abstinence? I see no harm with that."
The Legislature is scheduled to go into recess today.