Topeka — A Senate committee today approved a bill sponsored by Rep. Sandy Praeger, R-Lawrence, that would establish community-based teen-age pregnancy prevention programs.
Moments later, the Senate Judiciary Committee killed a similar bill sponsored by Sen. Wint Winter Jr., R-Lawrence. Winter, committee chair, asked the panel to eliminate his bill.
"The need for these programs is obvious," Praeger told legislators. "What we are doing now is not working. Nationally, over 1.2 million teen-age pregnancies occur every year."
She said the program, modeled after a South Carolina project, would educate young people about the consequences of sexual activity and reduce "the flow of new participants into our welfare system."
Michael Brown, a nurse at Haskell Indian Junior College, supported the bill. He said each $1 invested in contraception programs saves taxpayers $4.40 on social service programs in each child's first two years of life.
THE HOUSE already passed the bill. In addition, Gov. Joan Finney has on her desk a bill that would provide $100,000 for the new pregnancy prevention program, Winter said.
The program would focus on 10- to 17-year-old boys and girls. It would encourage them to postpone sexual involvement, but sexually active teen-agers would be taught about contraception.
Two groups Right to Life of Kansas, and Concerned Women for America of Kansas expressed opposition to the bill. Both organizations were concerned about the teaching of contraception to Kansas teen-agers.
"Abstinence seems to be the key to this bill, but the teaching of birth control nullifies the abstinence message," said Kenda Bartlett, legislative liaison of Concerned Women for America, a Kansas City, Kan., group.
PAT TURNER, a lobbyist for Right to Life of Kansas, said the notion that easier access to contraceptives and abortions will reduce pregnancy "is like expecting people who are given free gasoline to reduce their driving."
Sen. Richard Rock, D-Arkansas City, questioned Turner about her opposition to the bill. He asked her if she thought the "solution to this thing (teen-age pregnancy) is ignorance?"
"No," Turner responded. "But I think it's foolish to throw money down the drain."
"But this is an education program. Are you opposed to education?" Rock asked.
Turner then said government-sponsored education programs haven't been shown to reduce the incidence of teen-age pregnancy.
Sen. Eric Yost, R-Wichita, was the only committee member to vote against the bill. After the committee meeting, Yost said he was concerned the program would encourage sexual activity.