Thursday, March 15, 2012

Wisconsin to ban some abortion coverage, re-focus sex education

MADISON, Wisconsin | Thu Mar 15, 2012 11:03am EDT

MADISON, Wisconsin (Reuters) - Wisconsin lawmakers have approved controversial measures to block the state's new health insurance exchange from covering abortions and require sex education classes to emphasize abstinence as the preferred method of birth control.

Both bills, which were voted through the Republican-controlled Assembly by 61-34 late Tuesday, now head to the desk of Republican Governor Scott Walker, who is widely expected to sign them.

The laws ban private insurers from offering abortion coverage in the plans they offer through the state-run exchange where thousands of Wisconsin residents will buy subsidized coverage under President Obama's healthcare overhaul.

Two Democrats, Peggy Krusick and Tony Staskunas, and one independent, Bob Ziegelbauer, joined Republicans in supporting the abortion bill, which opponents said would necessarily impair women's health by limiting access to abortions for those who require them.

A handful of Democratic representatives wore Planned Parenthood T-shirts as they voted unsuccessfully against the measure.

Also late Tuesday, the Assembly passed a bill that repeals the so-called "Healthy Youth Act" passed last session by Democrats that provided "comprehensive sex education."

Once Walker signs the measure, it will require schools that offer a human development and growth curriculum to emphasize abstinence as the preferred method of birth control and emphasize the role and “socioeconomic benefits" of marriage.

The measure would also remove information on contraceptive methods approved by the Food and Drug Administration from the required curriculum.

Democrats argued the bill would neglect science-based teaching and put children at risk from sexually transmitted diseases and teen pregnancy.

Last week, lawmakers in Utah passed a measure that would ban public schools from teaching contraception as a way of preventing pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases.

Supporters of the measure in both Utah and Wisconsin argued that sex education was best left up to parents.

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