By Bob Katzen

Several bills affecting public schools and education were sent to a study committee where bills are rarely actually studied and are essentially defeated. It is a way to kill a proposal without holding a vote on the bill itself. Here are some of the education bills that were sent off to a study committee:

SEX ED IN SCHOOLS (H 662) – Would require grades 7, 8 or 9 in all public schools to offer a required course to educate students about the development of the child in utero. Each school would be required to inform at least one parent or guardian of each student at least one week prior to the beginning of the course. The parent or guardian would have the right to exempt a student from the course.

The course would be designed to educate students of the anatomical and physiological characteristics of unborn children at increments of four weeks from fertilization to full term. It would include visual images, including ultrasound images of fetal development at eight, 12, 18 and 24 weeks, and include the basics of prenatal and postnatal care for the purpose of educating students about the real expectations and responsibilities of parenthood.

“As expanding sex-ed continues to be a priority agenda item, I feel it is important to have equal education and focus on a very real possible outcome of sex—pregnancy and children,” said Sponsor Rep. Joseph McKenna (R-Webster). “I believe that it’s critical to ensure that the health and wellness curriculum includes the development of a fetus into a baby and ultimately through birth. This should include [how] a pregnant mother’s decisions and lifestyle, including nutrition and substance use, impact fetal development and baby health.”

“I am not surprised, nor discouraged, that this bill did not pass this session,” continued McKenna. Nearly every bill, especially when addressing potentially controversial items such as sex-ed and pregnancy, take many years and multiple sessions to get passed. As such, I will happily re-file this bill next session.”

“Rep. McKenna’s bill is timely, warranted and appropriate, and would be a useful addition to any health or biology curriculum,” said C.J. Doyle, Catholic Action League executive director. “McKenna’s bill would be more suitable for secondary school students than for junior high school students, who could be as young as eleven years old. Advances in the science of embryology have given us new insights into fetal development, including the capacity of the unborn child to experience pain. Meanwhile, improvements in health care and medical technology have expanded the gestational parameters of viability for a child outside the womb.”

“McKenna’s idea would probably find, however, a more receptive environment in private and religious schools and among home schoolers,” continued Doyle. “In public education, it would face unrelenting opposition from an administrative class, and from a teaching profession, ideologically hostile to any curriculum which affirmed, or even implied, the humanity of the unborn child.”

Several pro-choice organizations and state representatives and senators did not respond to repeated requests by Beacon Hill to comment on this legislation, including the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, Planned Parenthood Advocacy Fund of Massachusetts, Reproductive Equity Now, Sens. Cindy Friedman (D-Arlington) and Harriette Chandler (D-Worcester) and Rep. Ruth Balser (D-Newton).

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