Oklahoma House passes bill that would require anti-abortion lessons in all public high schools

Oklahoma House Passes Bill That Would Require Anti-Abortion Lessons in All Public High Schools

Oklahoma House Passes Bill That Would Require Anti-Abortion Lessons in All Public High Schools

The XX Factor
What Women Really Think
March 3 2016 5:58 PM

Oklahoma House Passes Bill That Would Require Anti-Abortion Lessons in All Public High Schools

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In an apparent bid to out-wacko the Floridas and Texases of the world, the Oklahoma House of Representatives passed a bill on Tuesday that would require the state’s public high schools to teach an anti-abortion curriculum. Through a new “Public Education on the Humanity of the Unborn Child Fund,” the bill’s stated purpose is to “teach that abortion kills a living human being and is against public policy.”

Christina Cauterucci Christina Cauterucci

Christina Cauterucci is a Slate staff writer.

Republican Rep. Ann Coody, the bill’s author, cites the Supreme Court case Maher v. Roe, which established that states have the right to “make a value judgment favoring childbirth over abortion” and spend public funds to advance that judgment. No state dollars would move into the fund until Oklahoma resolves its budget crisis, but if the bill becomes law, future state budgets could easily allocate funds to teach students in grades nine through 12 that abortion is wrong. The bill passed the House 64-12; a quarter of the representatives abstained.

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Proposed elements of the new high-school curriculum include “informational materials… for the purpose of achieving an abortion-free society,” the details of “the probable anatomical and physiological characteristics of the unborn child at two-week gestational intervals,” and cameos from recognizable role models like “entertainment personalities and athletes.” The bill, which coins the phrase “unborn child humanity education,” directs potential future curriculum-creators to the state-operated website awomansright.org—that’s a woman’s right “to know,” of course—for facts on fetal development. The site reminds users that, under an existing Oklahoma state law, “abortion shall terminate the life of a whole, separate, unique, living human being.” 

Tulsa World reports that Democratic Rep. Jason Dunnington took issue with the bill’s specific prohibition on using any of the new fund’s money for curriculum on human sexuality. “I hear you say this has nothing to do with sex education,” he said. “But children who are in the womb are there because people have sex. It doesn’t make sense not to include that.” Under the new law, parents would be allowed to take their teenagers out of the classroom during the anti-abortion unit. Dunnington proposed instating “contraception savings accounts” for those students, a tongue-in-cheek allusion to a separate bill in the state legislature that would authorize the use of public education funds for private schools.

If passed by the Oklahoma Senate and signed by anti-choice Republican Governor Mary Fallin, the bill will also require the state’s Department of Education to maintain a list on its website of organizations that will “assist a woman through pregnancy, upon childbirth and while the child is dependent,” along with this statement: “The State of Oklahoma strongly urges you to contact [these agencies] if you are pregnant.”

As Jezebel points out, Oklahoma does not currently require any sex education in its schools, which would make this “humanity of the unborn” curriculum the only introduction some students would get to sex and its upshots. Without comprehensive sex education, Oklahoma’s teens are more likely to end up pregnant. As outrageous as the new proposed law may be, it makes a certain kind of perverse sense for an anti-choice legislature: If you’re not going to teach students how to avoid needing an abortion in the first place, you’re going to have to train them to choose another option when the time comes.