In the dead of night, the Wisconsin Assembly passed SB 237, a bill that restricts teenagers’ access to medically accurate information about human sexuality. The bill would destroy what some characterize as the “gold standard” for human sexuality education in public schools by eliminating all references to contraception, and requires schools to teach that abstinence is the only reliable way to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.
The extreme religious agenda underlying this proposal is revealed by an analysis of lobbying groups weighing in on the issue. Out of twenty-six groups registered, only four were in favor.
The four groups are the usual Christian theocratic suspects pushing public policy initiatives that curtail women’s rights and reproductive freedom: Wisconsin Catholic Conference, Pro-Life Wisconsin, Wisconsin Family Action and Wisconsin Right to Life. These same groups also promoted and lobbied for SB 92 which allows insurance companies to deny coverage for abortions, and SB 306 which makes it more difficult for women to get an abortion and threatens doctors who provide abortions with criminal charges if they don’t follow procedures to ensure the abortion is not coerced.
Organizations including the Wisconsin Medical Society, the Wisconsin Public Health Association, the League of Women Voters, the City of Milwaukee and many other professional public education and social work groups registered against the bill.
During a public hearing on the bill last October, these extremes were illustrated by the testimonies given by opponents and advocates. The following two videos are the best representations of each side of the issue:
Dr. Kathy Hartke Testifies Against Repeal of Healthy Youth Act
Nobody Else Knows Better About SEX Than Me!
During debate on the floor, Rep. Chris Danou (D-Trempeleau) said, “This bill is a flight from reality. You will not let reality interfere with your ideology, and I’m sorry about that.”
Rep. Gordon Hintz (D-Oshkosh) made a similar point saying, “we’re trying to pass laws for the world we want to live in, not the real world.” He highlighted another logical inconsistency with the bill: “This question should bring us together: How can we prevent unwanted pregnancies that lead to abortion?”
Rep. Jeremy Thiesfeldt (R-Fond du Lac), who earlier in the evening talked about having spent twenty years teaching in Catholic Schools, laid the ideological versus scientific nature of the question bare. “Some parents are not comfortable with comprehensive human growth and development being taught in school.” He argued that those families should not have comprehensive sex education foisted upon their children.
In one of the more bizarre moments of the evening, Rep. Joel Kleefisch (R-Oconomowoc) said, “Sexuality amongst youth isn’t a right, it’s a crime in the state of Wisconsin.”
Kleefisch: “Underage Sex is a Crime”
Rep. Sandy Pasch (D-Whitefish Bay) responded, “That is a strange, strange comment so out of touch with reality.” Rep. Fred Kessler (D-Milwaukee) later set the record straight, reading from the statutes that only sex in public is illegal.
Rep. Chris Taylor (D-Madison) closed her remarks with a harsh dose of reality, predicting the dire consequences of the bill. “As the result of this, some teen is going to die because you told them that abstinence is the only reliable way to prevent disease.”