A controversial bill that would prohibit Alaskan school districts from contracting with abortion providers such as Planned Parenthood for sexual education classes has passed the Senate in a 12 to 7 vote.
Supporters of SB 89 say the bill promotes parental control through new school procedures that allow parents to take their children out of any activity, test, or program they feel is too sexual in nature. Sponsored by state Sen. Mike Dunleavy, the bill will no longer allow abortion providers to give sexual education course materials to schools or to teach the subject to students. In addition, parents would be required to give their permission for students in K-12 to enroll in the courses, reports Austin Baird for KTUU.
Due to provisions included in the bill that single out abortion providers, it could possibly be unconstitutional and be subject to legal challenges as soon as its approved, according to a recent analysis by the Alaska Legislative Affairs Agency.
It has yet to be decided how the state will offer sex education if the bill ends up becoming a law. Planned Parenthood has said that it is the largest nonprofit provider of the course materials in the state.
Jessica Cler, Alaska public affairs manager with Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest and Hawaii, referred to the passage of the bill by the Senate as "awful news" for the state.
"SB 89 and its even-more-extreme companion legislation SB 191 are unconstitutional restrictions on the education available to communities across the state, and today's vote didn't change that," Cler said in a statement. "Senator Mike Dunleavy is an increasingly desperate demagogue who clearly doesn't care whether his ideas are based in science, medicine, or even the law."
This is the second attempt by Dunleavy at removing the abortion provider's involvement with sex ed in Alaska. He previously brought forth SB 191, which introduced penalties for teachers, including termination or the loss of their teaching certificate, should they use sex education course materials made available to them by abortion providers. The bill is currently scheduled for a hearing next week in the Education Committee.
Minority leader Berta Gardner called the bill an overreach on the part of the legislature in a state with a high rate of sexual health issues. Alaska currently leads the nation in its rate of chlamydia and child sex abuse and is one of the highest in teen pregnancy, writes Nicole Knight Shine for RHRealityCheck.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted that Alaska reported 808 cases of chlamydia per 100,000 people in 2011 in its Surveillance Survey that year.
Meanwhile, a 2014 study in the Journal of School Health, which looked at Planned Parenthood sex ed programs in Massachusetts, found 16% fewer boys and 15% fewer girls in the 6th through 8th grades were having sex in schools that had such programs in comparison to schools that did not have them.
The issue of sexual education has become a frequent target for anti-choice lawmakers across Alaska. Texas tried to pass similar legislation in both 2013 and 2014 that would have banned abortion care providers from giving course materials to schools. In both instances, the bills failed to pass.