Abstinence would be the emphasis of sex education courses in Missouri schools under a bill passing the House and moving to the Senate.

HCS HB 1055 actually has three components. It would allow local school boards to offer sex education courses consistent with the federal abstinence program. It would place abortion clinics under the same regulations as ambulatory surgical clinics and it would create an Alternatives to Abortion program.

All caused some passionate debate on the House floor, both when the bill was up for amendments and when it came back for final passage. The emphasis on abstinence, however, became a focal point of debate. Rep. Beth Low (D-Kansas City) says the approach is naïve and denies students the wide range of information they need to stay healthy and avoid unintended pregnancy. Rep. Cynthia Davis (R-O’Fallon), though, counters that critics haven’t portrayed abstinence programs accurately. Davis contends abstinence teaches schoolchildren more, not less. She says the abstinence programs advocated by the federal government are comprehensive.

The bill also keeps out of the classroom instructors who work for an agency that performs abortions. That section is aimed directly at Planned Parenthood, which has come under harsh criticism from supporters of the legislation.