A Louisiana legislative committee passed a bill Wednesday that would ban abortion providers and organizations with direct ties to clinics from providing sex education materials, or speaking about sexual health, to students in the state’s public schools. Supporters of the bill claim the purpose of such a policy is to prevent the promotion of abortion in schools. However, opponents say that it would prevent students from receiving medically accurate information about sexual health.
HB 305, sponsored by Rep. Frank Hoffmann (R-West Monroe), would prohibit organizations like Planned Parenthood from guiding discussions on sexuality in classrooms in the state. The ban would apply to all public schools and charter schools that receive state funding. Hospitals would be exempt from the proposed law.
In its original draft, the bill would have prevented such organizations
from providing instructional materials on any topic, but an amendment submitted by Hoffmann narrowed the language of the bill to ban only materials about “human sexuality or family planning.”
During a press conference announcing the bill, Hoffmann, standing next to Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal, who supports the bill, said that if Roe v. Wade were to be overturned Louisiana already has a law in place that would immediately outlaw abortion. “But until then, we want to make it as difficult as possible for the people doing that. This bill takes another step in that by not allowing these in-services in schools,” said Hoffmann.
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The bill is supported by Louisiana Right to Life and the Bioethics Defense Fund. Dorinda Bordlee, senior counsel in the New Orleans office of Bioethics Defense Fund, assisted Hoffmann in drafting the bill.
Benjamin Clapper, executive director of Louisiana Right to Life, said in a statement that the bill is needed “to reassure Louisiana families that their children in state-funded elementary and secondary schools are not being targeted by individuals and organizations who have financial incentives to sell abortion.”
Raegan Carter, director of public affairs at Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, told Rewire that her organization opposes the bill because state law already prohibits sex education in public schools from including information about abortion or contraception. “We are already in compliance with that law,” said Carter. “All of our health education material when we go into the schools are compliant.”
Carter also noted that Louisiana has some of the highest rates of sexually transmitted infections, HIV, and teen pregnancies in the country. “Planned Parenthood is one of the leading national providers of comprehensive sex education, and if we are eliminated from schools then our youth who need this information the most will not be able to receive the information,” said Carter.
According to the federal Office of Adolescent Health, Louisiana has the sixth highest rate of teenage births in the nation and the eighth highest rate of teenage pregnancies. A 2012 annual report by the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals found that from 2008 until 2012, the state ranked in the top five each year for cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis. One-third of sexual transmitted diseases in the state were reported among those from the ages of 15 to 19.
Under current state law, each individual school district has control over the sex education curriculum provided to students. There are no standardized requirements, but schools must emphasize abstinence
as part of the sex education curriculum. Carter says that if Planned Parenthood and other organizations are prohibited from providing sex education, some schools may not have the resources to provide sex education at all.
“Planned Parenthood does not promote abortion in any of our health education materials,” said Carter. “Our sex education programs are age appropriate and medically accurate. We implement programs that are proven effective by the Centers for Disease Control and the federal Office of Adolescent Health.”