Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (R) Monday signed into law a bill authorizing the state’s health department and local schools to provide “educational materials” to the public that “clearly and consistently teach that abortion kills a living human being.”
HB 2797 directs the Oklahoma State Department of Health to develop materials that “provide public information through public service announcements, media and otherwise for the purpose of achieving an abortion-free society.”
The so-called Humanity of the Unborn Child Act, which was sponsored by Rep. Ann Coody (R-Lawton), also creates an optional instructional program for school students. Coody said the intent of the bill is to instruct teenagers that life begins at conception, reported the Tulsa World.
Joe Thai, who teaches constitutional law at the University of Oklahoma Law School, told the local NBC affiliate there are significant concerns about HB 2797.
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“There certainly would be a question whether or not mandating that teaching from one point of view of a hot political button issue is really where state public schools should be going rather than teaching math reading and writing and leaving abortion and other hot button issues to parents and to the pulpit,” Thai said.
Democrats also criticized proponents of the bill for their focus on abortion without any focus on sex education.
“You’re starting a book at the end,” Rep. Jason Dunnington (D-Oklahoma City) said, reported the Tulsa World. “A student in Oklahoma would learn about abortion and gestational cycles, but there would be no guarantee that they would learn about sex and pregnancy.”
House Democrats attempted to amend the bill during the house floor debate in March.
Rep. Emily Virgin (D-Norman) offered an amendment to the bill that would include a requirement that comprehensive sex education also be taught as part of the anti-choice curriculum. Dunnington also offered an amendment to “provide family planning services, including all forms of contraceptives.”
Both amendments were voted down by the Republican majority.
The GOP-dominated state legislature, in which Republicans hold a 70-31 majority in the house and a 39-9 majority in the senate, easily passed the measure. The house voted in May to pass the bill with a 69-15 vote, and it was then passed by the senate with a 42-1 vote.
The new law will take effect on November 1; however, the bill’s implementation is “contingent on the provision of appropriated funds or revolving funds designated for the State Board of Education for such purpose.”