By Kathleen Gilbert
MADISON, Wisconsin, October 30, 2009 (LifeSiteNews.com) - A law set for consideration in the Wisconsin state legislature aims to replace the abstinence-only curriculum used in the state's public schools with one that educates students on the use of condoms and contraceptives.
The Healthy Youth Act (AB-458 and SB-324), introduced by Democrat state Rep. Tamara Grigsby and Sen. Lena Taylor last month, aims to establish a contraceptive-promoting state curriculum for all schools that have a Human Growth and Development Program. The curriculum is billed as giving "age-appropriate, medically accurate information" on how to prevent unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease.
Under current Wisconsin law, public school sex ed classes are abstinence-based. The new law would most immediately affect the approximately six in ten public schools currently using a sex education program, according to the Pierce County Herald.
The Assembly Education Committee on Tuesday voted to recommend the Healthy Youth Act on an 8-5 party-line vote, and is now set to be scheduled for debate on the Assembly floor. The Senate Education Committee held a hearing on the bill on Thursday. Both chambers are controlled by Democrats.
Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin lauded the bill.
"Abstinence just does not work to change teen behavior. Studies have concluded that," said Chris Taylor, public policy director for Planned Parenthood Advocates of Wisconsin.
But local pro-life groups, including Pro-life Wisconsin, Wisconsin Family Action, and Wisconsin Right to Life, argue that the legislation would not stem the state's rising pregnancy and STD rates, but only increase the number of unwanted pregnancies and abortions.
Wisconsin Right to Life legislative director Susan Armacost told legislators in a memo that the bill "would require that students be taught about a number of activities that could endanger their health and could result in a growing number of teen sexually transmitted diseases, pregnancies and abortions."
"It's going to be an uphill battle," Matt Sande, the legislative director of Pro-Life Wisconsin, told LifeSiteNews.com (LSN). "We're hopeful that some of the more moderate Senate Democrats will see that this is overkill, it's a one-size-fits-all mandate that violates the principle of local control."
Said Sande: "It's not just talking about [contraception], it's actually very precise instruction on how to use it. Make no mistake, there are going to be nurses up there demonstrating how to use this contraception. It'll be graphic."
The Assembly bill also stresses that the program must not "promote bias against pupils of any race, gender, sexual orientation ... or against sexually active pupils."
In testimony against the Senate bill at a public hearing Thursday, Sande pointed out that the measure would allow physicians and nurses visiting schools under the Volunteer Health Provider Program to discuss reproductive health - a topic that was previously disallowed. This, he said, would leave children vulnerable to Planned Parenthood employees advocating contraception and abortion in schools.