Last night, Utah Governor Gary Herbert vetoed an abstinence-only-until-marriage law that would have required that schools replace comprehensive sexual health education with discredited abstinence-only-until-marriage instruction.
According to the Salt Lake Tribune, the governor made his decision based on a huge public outcry against the bill.
Utahns flooded the governor’s office with thousands of letters; more than 40,000 people signed an online petition against it; hundreds rallied against it at the Capitol this week; and a variety of groups took public stands.
In rejecting the bill Friday, Herbert said that sex education is an emotional topic and instruction should stress the importance of abstinence, but not interfere with parents’ ability to determine how their children are instructed.
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“After careful review of existing law and following extensive discussions with stakeholders on both sides of the issue,” Herbert said, “I am convinced the existing statutory framework respects these two principles, while HB363 simply goes too far by constricting parental options.”
According to SLT: Herbert made the announcement on his Twitter account: “I just vetoed HB363,” he wrote. “I cannot sign a bill that deprives parents of their choice.”
Needless to say, supporters of abstinence-only-until-marriage programs–which leaves sexually active teens and young adults without the skills to protect themselves from unintended pregnancy and disease–were not happy. SLT reports that Gayle Ruzicka, president of the Utah Eagle Forum, which supported the bill, called the governor’s action a “sad day for the children of Utah.”
Sen. Margaret Dayton, a co-sponsor of the bill, said teaching children about contraception is comparable to telling kids not to do drugs, then showing them how to “mainline” heroin.
But if you look at this decision from the perspective of public health, science, and evidence, Governor Herbert made the right for the teens and young adults of his state.
Next up is a bill mandating a 72-hour waiting period for women seeking abortion, another restriction on women’s health and rights based solely on ideology and the desire of far right actors to shame women facing unintneded pregnancy.