Measure would drop requirement to teach about contraception

Thursday, February 23, 2006

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Eighteen-year-old Sarah Barasch says she has a friend who is sexually active and worries her peer doesn't think about potential results, such as disease.

Sharing those concerns, she told legislators Wednesday that school is the place students need to learn about contraception and that it's dangerous not to teach them.

Her testimony came as a House panel considered legislation that would drop a requirement that schools include information on contraception in their human sexuality courses. Although schools could still teach about contraception, they would only be required to tell students they could seek information about contraception, abortion and pregnancy from their doctors.

"All of us as teens want good, factual information, and we want it to be complete," Barasch, a senior at Parkway North High School in the St. Louis area, told the House Children and Families Committee. "Teens participate in sexual behavior unaware of the consequences."

Supporters said the proposed change in law would set minimum standards but would not prevent any school from still teaching contraception. Some critics, however, expressed concerns about how far a school could go.

Sponsoring Rep. Cynthia Davis said medical providers are a more appropriate place for teens to get information on contraceptives.

"We're not expecting the public school to do everything," said Davis, R-O'Fallon. Under the state's current policy, "we're letting non-medical professionals talk about medical events."

But other lawmakers raised concerns, including where the proposal would leave teens who lack access to or money for a doctor.

"We're making information about pregnancy and contraception available only for those who can afford it," said Rep. Beth Low, D-Kansas City.

The bill also would prohibit abortion providers such as Planned Parenthood from giving sexual education materials to public schools and would require school districts to share instructors' names and affiliations before they teach sex education classes.

Davis said she was trying to prevent those with a conflict of interest from teaching the material.

Both concepts were included in sweeping anti-abortion legislation considered last year that fell apart in the session's final days.

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