COLUMBUS — A bill that would require Ohio public schools to teach students about fetal development, pregnancy and abortion is drawing fire from critics who say some Republican lawmakers are trying to push their anti-abortion beliefs onto children.
House Bill 90, introduced by Rep. Niraj Antini, R-Miamisburg, would require third- through 12th-grade students to be taught in science and health classes about "the humanity of the unborn child" and given information about prenatal health. Instructional materials would be developed by the Ohio Department of Health.
Calling the proposal "counterproductive and harmful," Gary Daniels, a lobbyist for the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio, told the House Health Committee on Tuesday, "It is not meant to legitimately accomplish anything productive in Ohio but is, instead, only useful to satisfy a small segment of voters."
Supporters "want to commandeer multiple state agencies and all public schools to deliver slanted, incorrect, harmful and unscientific information across the state," Daniels said.
The proposal also would prohibit teachers and other school employees from referring a student to an abortion provider.
Antani said students would receive "scientifically accurate and verifiable information" that he hopes will lead to fewer abortions.
"When you learn that a baby's heart beats at six to eight weeks, the fingernails form at 22 weeks, at 20 weeks pain is felt, that will help create a culture of life," he said.
Ohio is the only state in the nation without health education standards.
Jennifer McNally, chairman of Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio's board of trustees, said the legislation would impose "standards that are blatantly inaccurate and ideologically motivated."
"This legislation will ultimately fail to equip our children with the knowledge and tools they need to make informed health and medical decisions that could affect their futures."
Sexual health curriculum, she testified, needs to be fact based and reflect the needs and values of the community.
"State legislators, like those who sit on this committee, need to listen to trained educators and medical professionals who are experts in this field and the parents who are responsible for the well being of their children rather than wasting resources creating programing that is dangerous for Ohio's young people."
In response to complaints that instruction would not be fact-based, Antani said he purposely left it to the Department of Health to decide what students are taught.
Antani dropped a widely criticized provision that would have required certain public facilities, including schools and health-care facilities, to post signs in their public restrooms with informational material “for the purpose of achieving an abortion-free society," saying it was "a mistake" to include that in the bill.
Consideration of the bill follows the General Assembly's approval of legislation banning abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected, generally around six weeks into pregnancy. Opponents have filed a lawsuit to overturn the law scheduled to take effect July 11.