Legislation to ban Planned Parenthood from providing sex education materials or instruction in public schools drew a spirited response Tuesday at the Capitol.
Supporters of the ban — contained in a bill by Sen. Ken Paxton, R-McKinney — accused Planned Parenthood of placing an inappropriate emphasis on sexual freedom, while opponents accused Paxton of attempting to force school districts to abide by unneeded restrictions that would limit local control on instruction.
During Tuesday’s hearing on Paxton’s bill, Renate Sims of Round Rock told the Senate Education Committee she strives to teach her five children that “married sex and only married sex is appropriate.”
“Abortion providers like Planned Parenthood and their affiliates can’t possibly communicate this message effectively because of their inherent conflict of interest. If teenagers consistently viewed sex as something to be saved for marriage, Planned Parenthood would lose abortion business,” Sims said.
Although several speakers criticized the way sex education is handled in specific districts, no supporter of Paxton’s bill provided examples of Planned Parenthood materials or information that has actually been used in schools.
Sarah Wheat, with Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas, said in an interview that her organization does not offer a sex education curriculum. “If there’s a program where Planned Parenthood helps educators, it’s one where they were specifically invited by the school district or the school,” Wheat said. “It’s the school district that sets the guidelines for what materials are approved.”
Anne Newman with the Women’s Wellness Coalition of Texas testified that Planned Parenthood’s website contains proof that it disseminates information that is not appropriate for schools.
“I’m concerned about not only Planned Parenthood getting into the schools, but their materials getting into schools. Just from the Internet on ‘safer sex,’ one of the questions is: How can I have safer sex with my sex toys? Now, I ask you, do you want your children doing that?” Newman said.
Public school districts that opt to provide sex education must make all course materials available for public review and allow parents to exempt children from any portion of the course without penalty. Paxton’s bill, and an identical House measure by Rep. Jeff Leach, R-Plano, would place two additional requirements on public schools:
• Individuals could not provide sex education instruction if they belong to, or are affiliated with, an organization that performs abortions. Materials from abortion providers also could not be used in the classroom.
• If materials or instruction is provided by somebody who is not a school district employee, parents must sign a waiver allowing their children to participate in the class.
Opponents of Paxton’s bill said the opt-in requirement would unfairly penalize students and school districts.
Kathy Miller with the Texas Freedom Network noted that a state survey found half of 677 school districts used outside instructors or materials for sex ed classes. “This would put serious hurdles in the way of sex education,” said Miller, whose organization has criticized Paxton’s bill as a misguided attempt to drag schools into the political fight over abortion.
Other speakers criticized the bill for forcing a one-size-fits-all solution on school districts that already exercise discretion, with input from parents and community leaders, on what instruction to provide students.