Curriculum on pregnancy, abortion and fetal development could become a requirement for Ohio public school students under proposed Ohio legislation.
House Bill 90, introduced by state Rep. Niraj Antani, R-Miamisburg, would mandate that health and science students in grades three through 12 be educated on “the humanity of the unborn child.”
The bill was introduced on Feb. 20 and referred to committee on March 5.
According to HB 90’s text, the state board of education and Ohio Department of Health would be tasked with drawing up curriculum but barred from consulting with entities that provide abortions while doing so.
School district employees would also be forbidden from referring any student to an abortion clinic, even if the student requests a referral.
When the bill was introduced, it allowed school districts to choose whether they would implement the program, but the latest draft makes the curriculum a statewide requirement.
State Rep. Steve Hambley, R-Brunswick, said he stands behind a pro-life ideology but does not support HB 90 in its current form.
“I’m definitely a pro-life person in terms of the sanctity of human life and so forth,” he said Thursday. “But when you start talking about state mandates with something that approaches religious doctrine, as opposed to basic curriculum, it really ought to be a decision made at the local level.
“There’s a Latin term: The religion of the ruler is the religion of the state. That goes back to medieval times. We don’t want to go to that extreme. In the Unites States, we’ve followed a different approach. You had these nation states forming in the middle ages in Europe. If the ruler was Lutheran or Protestant or Catholic, so was the kingdom. That’s not what we need. This gets dangerously close to that.”
If passed, districts would be allowed to shape their own curriculum so long as it includes information on accessing prenatal health care and does not include components on human sexuality unless they’re in compliance with Ohio Revised Code. The Ohio Department of Health would be required to provide schools with information on fetal development in weeks one through 40.
Further text in the bill specifies an attendance policy that would require districts to “automatically withdraw a student from the school if the student without a legitimate excuse fails to participate in 72 consecutive hours of the learning opportunities offered to the student.”
Medina County Right to Life President Tammy Pryatel agreed with some aspects of the bill but said there is a fine line to walk when it comes to state requirements in a school district.
“Our young generation needs to know what their options are,” Pryatel said. “Abortion isn’t the first choice. It’s the worst choice. They need to know there are other choices out there. Abortion isn’t health care.
“There is a fine line between what should be mandated and what shouldn’t be mandated. I think some of this information is not given to a lot of students and they don’t get it at home. They’re not told things by their parents. I have some mixed feelings, but I feel like our young generation is getting information that’s very skewed in one direction and maybe the only place they could be able to get it is school.”
Gary Daniels, chief lobbyist for the Ohio American Civil Liberties Union, spoke on the bill June 4 before the Ohio House Health Committee.
“The ACLU of Ohio believes HB 90 is counterproductive, harmful, and ultimately unserious legislation,” his testimony reads. “It is not meant to legitimately accomplish anything productive in Ohio but is, instead, only useful to satisfy a small segment of voters in our politically gerrymandered state.
“The irony is the proponents of HB 90 are the same ones who purportedly believe government is too big and screws up anything it touches. Yet, they want to commandeer multiple state agencies and all public schools to deliver slanted, incorrect, harmful, and unscientific information across the state with zero additional funding.”
If passed, schools would be required to “provide learning opportunities to a minimum of 25 students for a minimum of 920 hours per school year.”
Earlier drafts of the bill included mandates for signage in public buildings, including schools, calling for “an abortion-free society.” The current version would require school buildings, health care facilities, and retail food establishments that house public restrooms to display signs that encourage pregnant women to contact public and private agencies willing to assist them in their pregnancies and in caring for their child after birth.
HB 619, a 2018 measure similar to HB 90, failed to make it through the House. HB 619 included text requiring educational materials to “clearly and consistently state that abortion kills a living human being.” Antani was the primary sponsor of HB 619 with Rep. Darrell Kick, R-Loudonville (District 70), signing on as one of seven co-sponsors.
Representatives John Becker, R- Union Township (District 65), and Craig Riedel, R-Defiance (District 82) are co-sponsoring HB 90. Both were also co-sponsors of HB 619. Rep. Kick did not respond to a request for comment.
“I believe that we need to educate people on the humanity of the unborn,” Hambley said.
“But imposing these kinds of requirements on schools and boards of education is going a bit too far. I’ll try to keep an open mind to the committee process and the sponsor but I have no reason to support the bill at this point.”