Texas Parental Control Accountability Act

by Maggie Jo Buchanan

Buchanan is currently a legal intern with NARAL, a volunteer for Jane’s Due Process, and a 3L at The University of Texas School of Law. She has previously worked for the Texas Democratic Party and as a law clerk in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate.

On February 7, state Representative Jeff Leach filed the Texas Parental Control Accountability Act (H.B. 1057). The Act bans any person or entity from providing instruction or even preparing instructional materials for sex ed programs in public school if that person is at all affiliated with an abortion provider. It also gives parents stronger ability to opt their child out of sex ed.

Thank you, Rep. Leach. You are working to save us from Planned Parenthood’s horrifying and controversial community education programs built around encouraging:

  • teens to postpone sexual activity and abstinence;
  • teens to talk to their parents about sex;
  • the prevention of teen pregnancy through safe sex.

In a press release issued last Thursday fawning over the Act’s powerful restraints on such damaging family planning education programs, Rep. Leach’s office explained how the bill would stop the “abortion industry” from recruiting new clients.

Right. Because nothing causes an abortion like knowing about safe and effective birth control.

What does cause abortions? Texas’ woefully inadequate, abstinence-focused sex education policies—policies that Leach’s bill is designed to support and strengthen.

In fact, Texas promotes one of the most restrictive and least comprehensive education policies in the country. If taught at all, abstinence must be the central tenet of any sex ed program, and more time must be spent discussing abstinence (and the “emotional trauma” that sex will bring) than any other aspect of human sexuality.

In 2009, the Texas Freedom Network (TFN) released a comprehensive report that demonstrated how Texas’s “conspiracy of silence” about sex and sex education in our schools had resulted in Texas’s consistently ranking in the top five for states with the highest teen birth rate.

Texas isn’t alone in its alarming statistics; we recently swapped places with Mississippi for the highest rate of teen pregnancy in the nation. Mississippi’s policies also strongly support abstinence-only “education.” The states that so have comprehensive sex ed? Well—you probably know where I’m going with this—those states consistently have the lowest rates of teen pregnancy. New Hampshire, a state that requires comprehensive sex education which must include details on hormonal and barrier birth control methods (and abstinence) in all of its schools, has the lowest rate.

In case reality isn’t clear enough, a federal report in 2007 detailed how and why abstinence-only states were failing their teens. One thing abstinence-only sex education does stop? The use of birth control when teens inevitably do have sex. Rep. Leach’s bill does nothing to improve Texas’ sex ed policy, but instead operates to reinforce the most ineffective aspects of the status quo.

According to his campaign website, Rep. Leach is a lawyer—the overwhelming evidence on the ineffectiveness of Texas’s sex education policies cannot escape him. While Rep. Leach may claim he is supporting families in Texas, what he is really doing is supporting policies that are clearly hurting Texas’s young people.

The “abortion industry” doesn’t need to recruit new clients, so the conservative right can just put that ridiculous talking point away—Rep. Leach and those that support him are doing all the work needed to ensure teen pregnancy continues to plague Texas.

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