With Republican support and Democratic opposition, the Ohio House Finance Committee approved a budget bill today that would ban comprehensive sex education, defund Planned Parenthood and fund crisis pregnancy centers that pro-choice groups call “anti-choice.”
Citing the possibility of “gateway sexual activity,” the bill would make it so teachers can be fined up to $5,000 if they explain the use of condoms and other forms of birth control to high school students. It would also prohibit individuals and groups from distributing birth control on school grounds.
The bill pushes abstinence-only education to curtail any promotion, implicit or explicit, of gateway sexual activity. To define such activity, the bill cites Ohio’s criminal code definition for “sexual contact,” which is defined as “any touching of an erogenous zone of another, including without limitation the thigh, genitals, buttock, pubic region, or, if the person is a female, a breast.”
The bill would also redirect federal funding to defund Planned Parenthood and shift funds to crisis pregnancy centers, which CityBeat covered in further detail here.
“Today the Ohio House Finance Committee voted to send our state back to the 1950s,” said Kellie Copeland, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, in a statement.
Researchers have found abstinence-only programs to be generally ineffective. A 2007 study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health found abstinence-only programs have no impact on rates for teenage pregnancy or vaginal intercourse, while comprehensive programs that include birth control education reduce rates.
A 2011 study from researchers at the University of Georgia that looked at data from 48 states concurred abstinence-only programs do not reduce the rate of teenage pregnancy. The study indicated states with the lowest teenage pregnancy rates tend to have the most comprehensive sex and HIV education programs.
When looking at three ways to prevent unintended pregnancies for a 2012 study, the Brookings Center on Children and Families found the most cost-effective policy was to increase funding for family planning services through the Medicaid program. In other words, if governments increased spending on birth control programs, they would eventually save money.
Still, a 2010 study from a University of Pennsylvania researcher found abstinence-only education programs may delay sexual activity. The study, which tracked black middle school students over two years, found students in an abstinence-only program had lower rates of sexual activity than students in the comprehensive program.
At hearings on April 12, anti-abortion groups praised abstinence-only education for promoting chastity.