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House passes HB71, which clarifies the teaching of contraception in public schools

FILE - Republican Rep. Ray Ward speaks during a hearing at the Utah State Capitol, Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2018, in Salt Lake City. The Utah House of Representatives unanimously approved HB71 Tuesday, which clarifies that public school educators can teach abo
FILE - Republican Rep. Ray Ward speaks during a hearing at the Utah State Capitol, Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2018, in Salt Lake City. The Utah House of Representatives unanimously approved HB71 Tuesday, which clarifies that public school educators can teach about contraceptive methods and devices as well as their effectiveness, limitations and risks but may not advocate their use.
Rick Bowmer, Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah House of Representatives gave unanimous approval to HB71on Tuesday, a bill that clarifies that public school educators can teach about contraceptive methods and devices as well as their effectiveness, limitations and risks, but may not advocate for their use.

However, HB71, sponsored by Rep. Ray Ward, R-Bountiful, also says the Utah State Board of Education may not require a school district or charter school board to teach or adopt instructional materials that include information on contraceptive methods or devices.

While the State School Board establishes standards for sex education, local school boards and charter school boards select curriculum. Most opt for curriculum that is abstinence-based but others prefer an abstinence-only curriculum. It is a local decision.

While the state board permits contraception instruction and prohibits advocacy of contraception use, Ward said there is a need for clarity because some educators won’t teach about contraception even when it is permitted by their local school boards for fear that their instruction could be misconstrued as inappropriate or beyond the scope of what is allowed.

"It leaves for some uncertainty to an individual teacher knowing where the line is when you're advocating and where you're just teaching about it," he said.

If a school or district allows instruction on contraception, HB71 says "these are some basic things that are allowed," Ward said.

"Hopefully, having both prohibition (of advocacy) in place but a line of code that balances that will help make it clear," Ward said.

Ward said the bill was amended to satisfy concerns of "pro-family" organizations.

Rep. Jeffrey Stenquist, R-Draper, spoke in support of the bill.

In the context of other policy questions the Legislature is considering this session such as "viability of life and those kind of issues, this kind of education can help prevent unwanted pregnancies and I see it as a preventative measure," Stenquist said.

Following the 72-0 vote, HB71 moves to the Senate for further consideration.