MILWAUKEE Wisconsin could join 26 U.S. states in requiring sex education in public schools to stress abstinence under legislation that has cleared the state Senate and may be taken up by representatives early next year.
The measure would require public school teachers to instruct that abstaining from sex is the only reliable way to prevent pregnancy. It also would require promotion of parental responsibility and the socioeconomic benefits of marriage.
Republican state Senator Mary Lazich said the proposal takes "the emphasis of human growth and development away from special interests and government mandates and places it on ensuring students receive the necessary education to become healthy and productive members of society."
The legislation would strip requirements that students receive instruction on the health benefits, side effects and proper use of federally approved contraceptives, drawing criticism from reproductive rights groups.
"This extreme anti-prevention, anti-science, and hence pro-teen pregnancy, pro-poverty and pro-abortion bill is completely out of touch with Wisconsin voters and values," said Sara Finger of the Wisconsin Alliance for Women's Health.
Wisconsin is one of 13 states that do not require sex education programs to teach abstinence, according to the Guttmacher Institute, which tracks reproductive public health policy. Another 26 states require abstinence to be stressed in sex education programs.
Julaine Appling, president of the Wisconsin Family Action political action committee that supports anti-abortion legislation as well as promoting abstinence, applauded the Senate vote on Wednesday to advance the proposal.
"We're one step closer to getting the heavy foot of Madison removed from the necks of Wisconsin's school districts when it comes to sex-ed programs," Appling said.
Wisconsin's Republican-majority state Senate voted 17-15 along party lines to advance the measure. The state Assembly returns to session in January.
(Editing by David Bailey and Cynthia Johnston)