March 8, 2012
Under a bill that won final approval by the Legislature this week, Utah would become the first state to ban public schools from teaching contraception as a way to prevent STDs or pregnancy. In addition, the measure would bar discussion about homosexuality and other aspects human sexuality, except for materials that promote abstinence until marriage. Under the legislation, public schools could offer an abstinence-only curriculum or no sex education at all.
The bill passed mainly along party lines in both Republican-controlled chambers, with the Senate approving it in a 19-10 vote on Tuesday. The measure now advances to Gov. Gary Herbert. He is widely expected to sign it into law, though he has not taken a public stand on it. Herbert is running for re-election this year and faces a conservative nominating convention ahead of a possible primary vote in June.
The Utah Parents and Teacher Association opposes the bill, while conservative groups, including the Utah Eagle Forum, support it.
"There are no other states that ... don't allow birth control discussion at all, in the way that the Utah legislation does," said Rebecca Wind, spokesperson for the Guttmacher Institute, a sexual and reproductive health advocacy group. "So it is unique in that respect."