Sex Ed in Ohio is Under Attack by Anti-Abortion Lawmakers

Legislation pending in the Ohio House would require public school teachers to preach the human qualities of a fetus during gestation, without sourcing any classroom materials from organizations that provide abortions. Teachers would also face consequences for referring students to clinics where abortions are provided, for care or further education.

“It’s just another piece of ridiculous legislation, and it’s another example of Ohio pushing misinformation on its citizens,” Chrisse France, Executive Director of the Cleveland abortion clinic Preterm, told Ms. “Rather than pandering to a conservative base, it certainly would make more sense to have sexual health education that’s based in science, not misinformation, and that have clear standards that people have to follow. What they’re trying to do is prove the humanity of the unborn, and that’s not the goal of health education.”

( Steve Rhodes / Creative Commons )

Ohio House Bill 90, also known as the “Humanity of the Unborn Child” bill, mandates that educators become part of the state’s mission to “achieve an abortion-free society” and declares that the Ohio Department of Health “shall clearly and consistently state that abortion kills a living human being.”

Such laws regulating sex education aren’t new—Ohio mandates that educators address STDs and HIV in public school sexual education, and encourages abstinence until marriage—but classroom discussion on abortion has previously not been regulated. However, anti-abortion bills are common in the Buckeye State, which passed an abortion ban criminalizing the procedure late last year.

HB 90 would “force us to teach things about the sanctity of the fetus without mandating sex education about human growth and development, which we already have little time for,” Toledo Public Schools Board Member Polly Taylor-Gerken explained to the Toledo Blade.

ACLU Ohio Chief Lobbyist Gary Daniels also called out the bill’s political undertones during testimony before the House Committee in early June. “[HB 90] is not meant to legitimately accomplish anything productive in Ohio but is, instead, only useful to satisfy a small segment of voters in our politically gerrymandered state,” he declared. “They want to commandeer multiple state agencies and all public schools to deliver slanted, incorrect, harmful and unscientific information across the state with zero additional funding.”

Lauren Blauvelt-Copelin, Regional Field Manager of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Ohio, echoed the sentiment in an interview with HuffPost. “Extremist politicians want to bring their anti-abortion agenda into our schools,” she said. “House Bill 90 is another destructive measure masked as an educational curriculum. Our young people deserve inclusive education about their health, which includes the choice to access safe and legal abortion.”

The bill also raises concerns about abortion safety and access in the state for advocates like France. “The reality is that 20-some thousand people in Ohio have abortions every year,” she explained to Ms. “It’s not going to stop. My fear with that is: Are they going to give them correct information on how to prevent pregnancy, on birth control, on respectful relationships?”

In anticipation of HB 90 passing from the Health Committee to a House vote, activists are calling on Ohio residents and their allies across the country to reach out to state representatives and urge them to oppose the bill.

“You’ve got to talk to people,” France asserted. “You’ve got to look at what their lives are like. If you keep cutting funding for public programs and childcare, they’re forcing people into an untenable situation.”


Sophie Dorf-Kamienny is a junior at Tufts University studying sociology and community health. She is a Ms. contributing writer, and was formerly an editorial fellow, research fellow and assistant editor of social media. You can find her on Twitter at @sophie_dk_.