March 7, 2012 — On Tuesday, the Utah Senate voted 19-10 to approve a bill (HB 363) that would allow public schools to opt out of sexual education instruction but require those that include it to teach an abstinence until marriage curricula, the Daily Herald reports (Hesterman, Daily Herald, 3/7).
Under current state law, school districts may set their own standards for sex education programs within state limits. According to the Utah Office of Education website, the law allows instruction about contraception and preventing sexually transmitted infection but requires teachers to "present a strong abstinence message." In addition, parents must sign "opt in" permission slips for their children to participate.
The bill, which the House approved last month, states that curricula must stress abstinence before marriage and fidelity within marriage as the only reliable methods of preventing STIs (Women's Health Policy Report, 2/24). It would prohibit instruction related to sexual intercourse, LGBT relationships, sex outside of marriage or contraception.
The bill now proceeds to Gov. Gary Herbert (R) for consideration. A spokesperson for the governor's office declined to say whether Herbert plans to sign the measure (Wood, Deseret News, 3/6).
Repro Health Watch — an exciting new edition of the Women’s Health Policy Report — compiles and distributes media coverage of proposed and enacted state laws and ballot initiatives affecting women's access to comprehensive reproductive health care, as well as litigation in response to those provisions.