On Thursday, the House Public Education Committee voted 7-3 to approve HB 1057 by Rep. Jeff Leach, R-Plano, making it eligible soon for consideration by the full House.
But the version of the bill the committee passed bears almost no resemblance to the bill as originally filed, or its Senate companion (SB 521) that passed out of the Senate Education committee in early March. Supporters of the bills, as well as the lawmakers promoting them, have repeatedly made their intentions clear: first, create an onerous parental “opt-in” requirement for any student who wishes to participate in sex education instruction (thereby ensuring lots of students would be excluded); and second, ban any entities affiliated with an abortion provider (i.e. Planned Parenthood) from providing sex education instruction in Texas schools.
Strangely, both those problematic proposals had disappeared in the committee substitute for HB 1057 that turned up in the Public Education Committee yesterday. And all that was left, after an amendment by Rep. Mike Villarreal, D-San Antonio, was this rather simple addition to Texas’ statute governing sex education:
“(6) [course materials and instruction] may not teach or present information relating to abortion, including referrals for abortion.”
You can see the version of the bill the committee approved here.
We checked in with a few experts on sex education and confirmed that, while a good sex education program might include an explanation of abortion, most schools in Texas currently avoid this subject because of the controversy it would generate. And there are almost certainly no Texas schools that provide “referrals for abortion” as a part of their sex education instruction. So the practical effect of this new statutory language, should it pass, is likely to be extremely minimal.
It certainly would NOT put up any additional barriers to effective sex education programs and providers in Texas schools. And since that has been the key motivation behind these legislative efforts from the start, this might now be a bill without a constituency.