Oklahoma Has a Plan to Make Sexual Education Even More Useless

May 19th 2016

Lucy Tiven

On Thursday, the Oklahoma state senate passed a bill that made performing an abortion a felony and would punish doctors with up to three years in prison, Politico reported. The bill — however unsettling — is likely to be overturned, if signed into law. Yet, it sheds light on the state's larger efforts to create a climate that criminalizes abortion. Along with the abortion ban, the state passed another bill that would further impact abortion and sex education.

How this bill impacts schools.

On Thursday, the Oklahoma House also passed "the Humanity of the Unborn Child Act" — legislation that would allow the state's Department of Health to create a public campaign "for the purpose of achieving an abortion-free society." It has yet to be passed by the Oklahoma State Senate.

This bill, which was introduced in February, would direct the State Department of Education "to establish, operate and maintain a public information program to educate the public about the humanity of a child in utero." It would do this by developing a required 9-12 curriculum, creating a public information campaign, and requiring doctors to inform pregnant patients about anti-abortion education programs within five days of determining pregnancy.

Tony Lauinger, the Tulsa director of Oklahomans for Life presented the bill to the House in February. He said that parents would be able to "opt out" of the courses, according to a Tulsa World report — but this is not specified in the most recent summary of the bill, which leaves the decision to implement the courses up to local school boards, rather than individual students or their parents.

In February, Oklahoma State Rep. Ann Coody (R), who sponsored the bill — House Bill 2797 — said it aimed "to instruct teenagers that life begins at conception," the Tulsa World reported.

“There is only one sure prevention of pregnancy, and that’s not to cause it in the first place,” Coody stated. “The killing of a human being is murder, plain and simple.”

Opponents of the bill, Oklahoma State Representatives Emily Virgin (D) and Jason Dunnington (D) expressed concern that it did not include sex education. “If this is really to lower the number of abortions, why would sex education and contraception not be part of it?” Dunnington inquired in February.

Sex ed in Oklahoma.

In Oklahoma, there is no state law that mandates students receive sex education, Fusion reported in February.

In 2007, the state's Department of Health along with community-based organizations were granted $1,289,869 in federal funding for abstinence-only sex education programs. However, the state maintained staggering rates of teen pregnancy in the following years. In 2013, Oklahoma had the third highest teen birth rate in the country — teen pregnancies in the state cost the public $169 million in 2010 alone, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

In the fall of 2013, the city of Tusla's school board approved a pregnancy prevention program, ThinkProgress reported — answering the states high teen birth rates and lack of sex ed requirements in public schools with a curriculum that reportedly prioritized abstinence and provided information about safe sex.

Still, a 2014 investigation done by the organization Oklahoma Watch found that sex-ed curriculums didn't stack up equally across the state, and that its largest school district in Oklahoma City offered no sex education classes.

These legislative efforts cultivate an anti-abortion environment — and access to abortion is already extremely limited in Oklahoma.

Currently, women seeking abortions in Oklahoma must undergo counseling "that is designed to discourage them from terminating the pregnancy," Fusion reported, also noting that there are only two abortion providers in the state. The new legislation passed on Thursday — which is awaiting signature or veto by Oklahoma's governor — would outlaw abortions with no exceptions for rape or incest.

Oklahoma State Senator Nathan Dahm (R), who sponsored of the bill making abortion doctors subject to felony charges, "said he hopes the bill leads to the overturning Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion in 1974," the Cut reported.

[h/t Politico]