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Archive for Wednesday, May 3, 2006

Abortion measure tacked onto schools bill; sex ed bill stalled

May 3, 2006

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— A proposal requiring sex education courses to discuss abortion methods and fetal development became part of a school finance bill Tuesday, but a bill to keep school districts from canceling sex ed classes remained stuck in committee.

The House voted 74-49 to add the abortion-related amendment to the school finance bill. Teachers would have to show photos or drawings of fetuses, discuss the medical risks associated with abortion procedures and provide information about whether the fetus feels pain.

Abortion opponents have pushed for such a provision, saying girls should know the risks involved in abortion.

They're also suspicious of a bill requiring school districts to offer sex education courses that not only promote abstinence but also give students information about AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases and how to avoid them. The measure is backed by parents, teachers and public health advocates, but supporters also include the American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri.

The Senate passed the bill in February, but the House Federal and State Affairs Committee hasn't voted on it. On Tuesday, the House voted 73-48 against pulling the measure out of committee.

Advocates of the measure decried both votes.

"It is disheartening that legislators would put political opportunism above our children's best interests," said Gregory Mansfield, director of education and prevention for the Douglas County AIDS Project.

But Rep. Peggy Mast, R-Emporia, said a concern about teenagers' health drove her to propose the abortion-related measure.

"Young women who go in for an abortion procedure aren't really educated as far as the development of their baby," she said. "They're going to find out eventually, somehow, and then they're going to be traumatized."

The vote on the other bill, known as "Abstinence Plus," came as the State Board of Education is considering a proposal to require sex education to include nine consecutive weeks of abstinence-only instruction.

For almost two decades, the board required comprehensive sex education classes. But as it revised rules for accrediting schools, it allowed the regulation to lapse.

Chairman John Edmonds said he isn't planning to have the committee vote on the measure.

"I don't want to get into the business of making education policy. We've got a State Board of Education," said Edmonds, R-Great Bend. "I'm willing to let them do their work."

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