Wis. Senate Approves GOP-Backed Sex Ed Bill

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The Wisconsin Senate approved a Republican-backed bill late Wednesday that would require sex education teachers to stress abstinence over contraception, despite complaints that the measure would leave children ill-informed and do little to curtail teen pregnancy and sexual diseases.

The legislation dramatically rewrites a Democratic-backed law known as the Healthy Youth Act. Passed two years ago, the law requires schools that offer sex education to use a multi-faceted curriculum that includes instruction on the proper use of contraceptives.

Under the bill, school districts choosing to teach sex education must emphasize that abstinence is the only reliable way to prevent pregnancy and disease. It also allows teachers to ignore contraception completely.

Democrats called the legislation foolish and unrealistic, but Republicans forced the measure through Wednesday night on a 17-15 party-line vote. It now goes to the state Assembly, though it’s unclear whether the chamber will consider the bill this year.

The bill’s author, Sen. Mary Lazich, R-New Berlin, one of the most conservative members of the GOP caucus, stressed that the measure doesn’t impose an outright ban on contraception instruction. Instead, she said, it gives school districts more control over their sex education curriculums — even though the measure contains its own list of mandates.

“This is about small government at its best. This is about local control,” Lazich said.

But Democrats said the plan was an attempt to force conservative ideology into the state’s schools. They insisted that children deserved more than talk about abstinence in an age where they’re constantly pressured to have sex through Internet images and texting.

“To pretend (children aren’t having sex) is absolutely foolish,” Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Middleton, said. “This is such a 19th-century mentality piece of legislation … you’d think we’d want to get out in front of this and make sure they learn properly there are consequences to their choices.”

Republicans have bristled over the Healthy Youth Act since it became law. Juneau County District Attorney Scott Southworth, a Republican and evangelical Christian, made headlines last year when he said he was so convinced that teaching contraception would lead to more teen sex that he would charge teachers who taught it with contributing to the delinquency of minors.

But now Republicans have control of state government, and have an opportunity to alter the law.

Major changes to the law are included in Lazich’s bill, which is backed by Pro-Life Wisconsin and the Wisconsin Catholic Conference. In addition to emphasizing abstinence, the plan would require sex education teachers to teach parental responsibilities and the “socioeconomic” benefits of marriage. It also dictates the makeup of parent-teacher-clergy boards that advise school districts on sexual education and loosens the definition of medically accurate information.

“So much for science,” lamented Sen. Dave Hansen, D-Green Bay.

Democrats successfully convinced Republicans to amend the bill Wednesday to require that curriculums provide information about HIV, but they still labeled the bill a head-in-the-sand approach to sex education. Sen. Chris Larson, D-Milwaukee, likened the bill to urging children to avoid car accidents without teaching driver’s education.

Lazich shot back, saying Democrats were misconstruing the bill. But Republicans offered little more in the way of a defense.

It’s unclear whether majority Republicans in the Assembly will have enough time to consider the bill this year. Thursday is the last scheduled floor session before lawmakers adjourn until January.

The bill is not on the Assembly’s calendar, but Republican leaders there could take it up anyway. A spokesman for Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald, R-Horicon, said late Wednesday that he was unsure if the chamber would take up the bill this year.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

  • G Dog

    Again the Republicans keep a laser focus on creating jobs.

  • Citizen

    @G Dog. And boosting the economy.

  • Pete

    Someone has to have a moral stance in this country and it’s not soon looking like the democrats will head that cause up. When are we going to stop relying on the government and schools to provide education on condom use and talk to our own kids about such things? I do not want my kids taught morality at school which includes showing ways to use birth control and then it quickly delves into sexual choices and deviancy from what God intended it to be. If parents themselves would start taking responsibility and keep their family intact by making initial good choices on a spouse, then many of our problems would diminish greatly.

    • markH

      ” from what God intended it to be.”

      I knew such a claim would be found somewhere in your rant. Listen, Abstinence Only programs have been shown to be a complete and utter failure in every school district where it is taught. We know the solution to unwanted pregnancy and STD’s-it is and always will be EDUCATION. Christianity (and most religions for that matter) do not encourage critical thinking and autonomy of thought; this is why the term “blind faith” holds such sway over those who hold to its doctrines and beliefs.

      We all know that NOT having sex will eliminate the risks of pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease. However, what Pete is suggesting is moral cowardice-the equivalent of sticking our heads in the sand and pretending that teens will not have sex simply because they know the risks. Not only is this idea foolish, it is dangerous. To make matters worse, Pete is suggesting that his “deity of choice” is somehow dissatisfied with certain sexual choices and that it may be the cause of “many of our problems.” Now if this isn’t ignorant and childish, it is certainly inaccurate and misguided. Peace.

    • smb

      School is for learning facts.
      Home and church are for learning morality.

      Why shouldn’t schools teach kids the facts about sex, birth control and STDs? Once they get home you can teach them how to apply those facts to fit into your moral lifestyle.

    • Citizen

      @Pete. Great, idealistic viewpoint, and I can agree. However, it is no longer the 19th century, and your viewpoint wasn’t the majority’s choice even then. The planet already has 7 billion people and counting. Abstinence is only one choice, and kids need all the choices they can get. We don’t need more teen pregnancies, we don’t need more STD’s, and, yes, these things can happen even without intercourse! The Republicans preach against abortion, against welfare, against health care (Medicaid/Medicare), and the solution is to make more needy human beings and then not support them when they’re alive?! The hypocrisy of this position is stunning, to say the least.

  • Bill Clinton

    Let’s see, failure rate of abstinence resulting in pregnacy, 0.00%. Failure rate of condoms resulting in pregnancy, 2%. Yep, 2% is better than 0%! Lets push that option.

    • Sam

      Let’s see, in the top ten states for teen pregnancy, the number of states that offer abstinence-based education: 9. The number of states that offer comprehensive education: 1.
      Yep, 9 is bigger than 1. Let’s go with that one.

    • smb

      So, Bill, did you abstain until you were married?

    • Kilgore Trout

      Hey Bill…what’s the pregnancy rate when no birth control is used after ill-informed kids continue to have sex.

      • to much

        LMAO — that’s the side they avoiding.
        This is a recipe for the back yard abortion butchers to sharpen their scapels and ready the hoses. I remember back in the Nixon era when the flights were full to Mexico to get to a clinic and in MPLS where they dared here – abstinence , like taking away the booze during Prohibition, is nothing but a knee jerk reaction to suck in the people that you are doing something.
        Man – these 2 parties need to rot in hell with their kind

  • Kilgore Trout

    Looks like there will be a lot of young adults having sex without contraception or using contraception improperly. A multi-faceted option that includes discussing the benefits of abstinence is the best but that seems a little too complicated for simple minds to understand.

  • deoxyribonucleicanais

    With pushing Abstinence in schools, the youth will not get the proper knowledge of how to be careful. Yes, abstinence is good, but when the time comes to when they want to experiment and have sex, they will be absolutely clueless. If I had children (and actually when I was in high school) I wish contraception would be taught. It saves a lot of heart ache down the road.
    I think the Republicans forgot what it’s like to be a teenager with raging hormones.

  • Chuck

    Another case of Republicans saying ” let’s keep government out of our lives, oh, except for the things I do not agree with.” How about being consistant here? Are we to have less government control and or regulations or not????

  • max

    Nostalgia has it’s place, but I am beginning to think the Republicans really want to take us back to the 1950s!

    Why don’t the Republicans ask Bristol Palin how that abstinence training she probably got from Sarah worked out for her??

  • Justin Bieber

    Wish someone had explained to me how to use one of them things.

  • Pavel

    Let’s face it folks: There are always going to be kids from families that don’t share the same values you do. Those young people need information about sex, sexually transmitted diseases and birth control. They don’t need to hear about religion or the moral values they don’t share with you! Think back to when you were a teenager. Where did your sex educatioin come from? Like mine it was from the other kids, not from parents. Schools are the best choice for these subjects, where a qualified teacher can impart sex education, which is not dictated by an individual school board. If churches want to sponsor programs on “abstinence only” let them do so!

  • worryfree

    Watch for the number of teen mothers/unplanned births to grow significantly in Wisconsin. Now they need to come up with a way to support all the unplanned babies. (ya right) Abstinence education is a total failure- it just feels good to our dear evangelicals..you know the ones we can’t criticize for their beliefs but it’s OK for them to tell the rest of society how to act.

  • Murph

    Maybe they can have Newt and Cain give lessons in abstinence and control of sexual urges too! What a bunch of clowns,recall all of them along with Walker! The daily threats of economic disaster and threatening another black day for investors,savers , workers and even employers is not the right way.By the time the economy recovers from what they have done already,if it can at all is already years around a very long corner! Slave labor is not the answer and nobody will tolerate it! It should be clear to everyone that is the GOP goal.Put them all into those REX 84 concentration camps they built to house you and me! The President can and hopefully will dissolve Congress the day after the nation goes broke for a second time via the same dirty players!

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