SEX EDUCATION: Bill Requiring Medical Accuracy ‘Stirs Furor’
A bill headed to the California Assembly floor this week that would require that all information presented by schools in sex education programs be medically accurate has conservatives up in arms, calling it an effort to undermine abstinence education. Current state law dictates that localities may choose whether to offer sex ed (which most do), that any education must emphasize abstinence and that parents may opt their children out of the curriculum. AB 246, sponsored by Assemblyman Jim Cunneen (R) and the "brain-child of Planned Parenthood," is designed to eliminate so-called "scare tactics" from curricula, such as telling students that "people may be able to get AIDS from tears," or that condoms fail one-third of the time in preventing HIV. In 1997, a critical report by two liberal policy organizations spurred several school districts to stop using "one of the most extreme abstinence programs -- Sex Respect." But supporters of Cunneen's bill say such "fear-based" approaches are still common. Opponents of the bill, however, portray it as an attack on abstinence education that is the "brainchild of Planned Parenthood." The California Right to Life Education Fund, in a letter to Cunneen, said Planned Parenthood has financial motivations for the legislation because teen contraceptive use is on the decline. But Nancy Sasaki, president of Planned Parenthood's Los Angeles chapter, noting that contraceptive use is actually up, said, "If Planned Parenthood has any kind of incentive in doing this it's because our whole mission is about prevention." A similar bill by Assemblyman Mike Honda (D) was approved by the Legislature last year, but former Gov. Pete Wilson (R) vetoed it. Gov. Gray Davis (D) " has not taken a stand on the new bill but said in last year's campaign that he supported sex education that covered the full spectrum of issues" (Pyle, Los Angeles Times, 6/2).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.