AP: NC House passes abortion education bill 68-42
A bill requiring North Carolina schools to teach that abortions and other activities put women at risk of later premature births passed the state House on Thursday.
Lawmakers approved the bill mostly along party lines after Republicans agreed to an amendment calling abortion and other dangers "risks" rather than "causes" of premature birth. The two parties dispute the scientific basis for linking abortion to later preterm birth, which can lead to developmental complications and even the death of the infant.
The bill already passed the Senate, which will have to approve the House's changes. The bill won some Democratic support in the Senate after Republicans agreed to broaden the list of risk factors from induced abortion to include smoking, alcohol consumption, drug use and inadequate prenatal care.
Schools would have to add the risk factors to their mandatory health curriculum starting with the seventh grade. Lawmakers narrowly approved an additional comprehensive sex education program in 2009 that is optional for students.
Republican lawmakers base their support of the bill on a study from the state's Child Fatality Task Force, which found more than 120 reports linking abortion to preterm birth. The group recommended teaching that abortion puts women at risk of later premature births, though some members noted that many health organizations don't recognize any link between the two and premature birth is often better explained as a phenomenon of poverty and other factors.
Democrats have made similar arguments, noting the lack of support for the conclusion among groups such as the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They also said the word "cause" was medically inaccurate and the bill is an attempt to inject a political agenda into classrooms.
Rep. Rick Glazier, D-Cumberland, said few other states have taken this step, and neither teachers nor children are equipped to handle the issue.
"It may be fair if there was a consensus on the medical science, but there's not," he said. "It may be fair if this was at least age-appropriate information, but it's not."
Rep. Paul Stam, R-Wake, said middle-school students already have the opportunity to learn about sexually transmitted diseases and contraception. Glazier noted that students can opt out of that section of instruction, but the premature birth program would apply to all students.
Republicans tabled an amendment from Rep. Marvin Lucas, D-Cumberland, that would have gutted the bill. The amendment would have required schools only to "make available sample educational materials relating to the avoidance of preterm birth."