Petition calls for veto of abstinence-only sex ed bill

Posted at 5:06 PM, Mar 08, 2012
and last updated 2012-03-09 00:55:10-05

A bill that would require abstinence-only sex education in Utah public schools  passed both houses of the legislature and is waiting for Governor Herbert to sign it into law, but the governor is under intense pressure from the public to veto the bill.

House Bill 363, sponsored by Rep. Bill Wright, R-Holden, would require sex education teachers to promote abstinence and fidelity in marriage and would prohibit discussion of contraception and homosexuality. Currently, parents can opt-in to have their kids get education about birth control.

Governor Herbert hasn't decided whether he'll sign the controversial bill, but says his office has received more than 800 phone calls to his office about the legislation.

"Right now, we're getting more calls that are against the bill," said Ally Isom, Governor Herbert's spokesperson. "Most of what we're getting in terms of public input is laced with emotion and rumor and we have to sort out what's factual and what's not."

FOX 13 spoke with the governor Thursday night and he spoke about the bill specifically saying he was going to "take time to analyze the bill" before making his decision.

"I want to make sure I understand what the bill actually does do, what the intended consequences are, as well as what may be the unintended consequences are going to be. So I'm going to take some time to analyze it, to look at the health data, those kinds of things before I make decision on what I will do," Governor Herbert said.

[Scroll down to see full interview]

The bill passed the Senate on Wednesday with a 19-10 vote. All 7 Senate Democrats and 3 Senate Republicans voted against the bill. Democrats worry that the new sex education policy will hurt Utah's teens.

"I think it's something that will lead to increased pregancies, STDs and increased deficiencies in our curriculum," said Sen. Ross Romero, D-Salt Lake City.

Since the bill passed Wednesday, an online petition has emerged on asking Governor Herbert to veto the legislation.

Isom says Governor Herbert will consider both sides of the debate and will decide what is best for the state's students.

"He'll do his due diligence. He'll take the time to listen to both sides and understand what they're saying about the current curriculum versus what they're proposing," said Isom. "On principle the governor supports parents owning the responsibility to educate their children on this topic in particular. But he understands some abdicate that role so we have to weigh what government's role is."

The Utah Parent Teacher Association strongly opposes the bill.