Texas: You Work for a Pro-Choice Employer? Then You Can’t Teach Sex Ed!

By Isabella Joslin, SIECUS Program Research Intern

On February 7, Texas State Representative Jeff Leach filed the Texas Parental Control Accountability Act (House Bill 1057). The bill would prohibit any pro-choice individuals or organizations from providing sex education in Texas public schools. In addition, parental consent would be required for students to participate in any sexuality education or family planning program provided in the classroom.

Here’s an excerpt from HB 1057: “An entity or individual that performs abortions or an affiliate of an entity or individual that performs abortions may not provide human sexuality or family planning instruction or instructional materials for use in human sexuality or family planning instruction in a public school.”[1]

Texas’ current policy does not require any form of sexuality education in schools, but districts that choose to provide such instruction must create councils to review curricula and allow parents to preview materials.[2] Texas presently has the fourth highest teen birth rate in the nation, and opinions differ about the best way to address the problem.[3]

Supporters of HB 1057 accuse comprehensive sexuality education providers of being purely interested in financial gains. Leach, the author of the bill, said, “I believe Texas public schools should not be a marketplace for the abortion industry and taxpayers should not be funding abortion providers’ recruiting efforts.”[4] His remarks were echoed by Jonathan Saenz, President of Texas Values, a group which opposes comprehensive sexuality education: “This legislation goes a long way to respect parental authority in public schools and protect students from the ineffective sex education methods used by abortion providers.”[5]

Leach and Saenz ignore evidence from a number of studies showing that more comprehensive sexuality education programs “reduce sexual risk-taking by delaying the initiation of sex, reducing the frequency of sex, reducing the number of sexual partners, or increasing the use of condoms,” while “well-designed studies of abstinence-until-marriage programs have consistently found no significant impact on sexual behavior.”[6] In addition, more comprehensive approaches teach the topic of contraception with the intention of reducing pregnancy among already sexually-active youth, thus reducing the need for abortions.

Dan Quinn, Communications Director of Texas Freedom Network and a supporter of more comprehensive programs, believes that HB 1057 is the wrong answer: “This bill simply imposes new and completely unnecessary bureaucratic burdens on school districts at a time when the Legislature has already been cutting billions of dollars from public education… If Rep. Leach really wants to improve sex education in Texas, he’ll support legislation that requires information in such classes be medically accurate. The Legislature has repeatedly refused to pass such a requirement because it would bar abstinence-only programs that teach myths, exaggerations and outright false information about contraception.”[7]

[1]Andrea Grimes, “Texas Lawmaker Seeks to Ban Planned Parenthood From Providing Sex Ed in Public Schools,” RH Reality Check, 7 February 2013, accessed 20 February 2013, <http://www.rhrealitycheck.org/article/2013/02/07/tk-texas-sex-ed-bill/>.

[2]Grimes, “Texas Lawmaker Seeks to Ban Planned Parenthood…”

[3]Grimes, “Texas Lawmaker Seeks to Ban Planned Parenthood…”

[4]Jeff Leach, “State Representative Jeff Leach Authors the Texas Parental Control Accountability Act,” Texas House of Representatives, 7 February 2013, accessed 20 February 2013, <http://www.house.state.tx.us/news/member/press-releases/?id=4275&session=83&district=67&bill_code=2475>.

[5]David Walls, “Legislation Gives Parental Control Over Sex Education, Bans Abortion Providers,” Texas Values, 11 February 2013, accessed 20 February 2013, <http://txvalues.org/2013/02/11/legislation-gives-parental-control-over-sex-education-bans-abortion-providers/>.

[6]Douglas Kirby, “Emerging Answers: Research Findings on Programs to Reduce Teen Pregnancy and Sexually Transmitted Diseases,” The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, November 2007, accessed 20 February 2013, <http://www.thenationalcampaign.org/EA2007/EA2007_full.pdf>.

[7]Texas Freedom Network, “Proposed Legislation Adds News and Unnecessary Obstacles for Effective Sex Education in Texas Schools; State Law Already Requires Informing Parents on Sex Ed, Right to Opt Out,” 7 February 2013, accessed 20 February 2013, <http://www.tfn.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=7223>.

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