Massachusetts Senate Approves ‘Comprehensive’ Sex Education Bill

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The Massachusetts Senate voted 33-2 on Thursday to approve a bill that would require all public school districts in Massachusetts that teach sex education to use state-approved curriculums that include detailed descriptions of non-procreative sex acts.

Two of the Senate’s four Republicans voted against the bill, which sponsors call the “Healthy Youth Act.” The other two voted for it, as did 31 Democrats.

Supporters say it’s important to provide what they call “medically accurate” information about a wide range of sexual practices, including those common among homosexuals and transgender people.

“If we do not teach this in our schools, our kids still learn about this in an inaccurate way,” said state Senator Sal DiDomenico (D-Everett), who was the bill’s lead sponsor, according to State House News Service. “They’re learning from their friends, from their peers, and learning information that is not inaccurate and could be dangerous for their health.”

Opponents note that the state-approved curriculums include graphic and positive presentations of anal sex, oral sex, masturbation, and using condoms and dental dams, with some material intended for students as young as sixth grade, which opponents say is inappropriate.

“The bill the Senate passed just gave authority over sex ed to a state Department of Education that is on record approving the teaching of anal sex with grave-flavored dental dams to middle schoolers. That’s not education, it’s grooming,” said Andrew Beckwith, president of the Massachusetts Family Institute, in a written statement.

A late amendment to the bill would require that parents have at least 30 days’ notice before sex instruction begins. The bill would continue the current practice of allowing parents to opt out of school presentations on sex, but the default position would have all students presented the material.

Planned Parenthood is the publisher of one of the state-approved curriculums. Jim Lyons, chairman of the Massachusetts Republican Party, suggested the curriculum is a publicly subsidized gift to the abortion provider.

“The so-called ‘Act Relative to Healthy Youth’ is nothing more than a cash-grab designed to increase both Planned Parenthood’s bottom line and their influence,” Lyons said in a written statement. “Their number-one source of revenue comes from abortions, and with those numbers dropping, this maneuver achieves two things:  It allows Planned Parenthood to syphon more taxpayer dollars, and at the same time promotes a reckless curriculum encouraging children to participate in dangerous sexual activity, all under the mask of progressivism.”

Abortion supporters in Massachusetts expressed support for the bill Thursday, including the heads of the state chapters of Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America.

Jen Childs-Roshak, president of Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts, suggested the bill would promote what she called “healthy relationships.”

Rebecca Hart Holder, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts, celebrated the bill’s passage and suggested it has national implications:

Hart Holder also linked the sex education bill with a proposed abortion-expansion bill called the ROE Act, which so far has stalled on Beacon Hill.

“This is a great day for the students of Massachusetts, and an important step toward expanding reproductive freedom for our citizens. It’s encouraging to see our leaders make policy decisions in the name of science, reproductive freedom, and sexual health. Our hope is that this momentum will carry over to the ROE Act and that our legislators will continue the work of expanding reproductive freedom,” Hart Holder said in a press release Thursday.

The bill’s future is unclear.

A similar bill passed the state Senate 31-6 in July 2017, but was never taken up by the state House of Representatives during that legislative session.

Massachusetts House Speaker Robert DeLeo said in June 2019 that the sex education bill “will be on our radar to take a look at,” according to State House News Service, but he has never publicly committed to have a floor vote on it.

A sponsor of the bill in the House, state Representative Jim O’Day (D-West Boylston), told State House News Service in July 2018 that some of his fellow legislators at the time were “still skittish about this issue” because they were afraid the bill would encourage young people to be sexually active.

On Thursday, O’Day expressed satisfaction that the bill passed the state Senate again:

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Roll Call

Massachusetts Senate Bill 2459

“An Act Relative to Healthy Youth”

 

There are 40 seats in the Massachusetts Senate. Two are currently vacant. They were most recently filled by Vinny deMacedo (R-Plymouth) and Don Humason (R-Westfield). The Senate president, who is currently Karen Spilka (D-Ashland), in common practice often does not vote on bills. Spilka is a supporter of the sex education bill.

 

Massachusetts Senate Roll Call # 157

Floor vote on Thursday, January 16, 2020

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“Yea” is in favor of the sex education bill.  “Nay” is against it.

 

Yeas

 

Michael Barrett (D-Cambridge)

Anne Gobi (D-Spencer)

Joseph Boncore (D-Winthrop)

Adam Hinds (D-Pittsfield)

Michael Brady (D-Brockton)

John Keenan (D-Quincy)

William Brownsberger (D-Belmont)

Edward J. Kennedy (D-Lowell)

Harriette Chandler (D-Worcester)

Eric Lesser (D-Longmeadow)

Sonia Chang-Diaz (D-Jamaica Plain)

Jason Lewis (D-Winchester)

Nick Collins (D-South Boston)

Joan Lovely (D-Somerville)

Joanne Comerford (D-Northampton)

Mark Montigny (D-New Bedford)

Cynthia Creem (D-Newton)

Michael Moore (D-Millbury)

Brendan Crighton (D-Lynn)

Patrick O’Connor (R-Weymouth)

Julian Cyr (D-Truro)

Marc Pacheco (D-Taunton)

Sal DiDomenico (D-Everett)

Rebecca Rausch (D-Needham)

Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen)

Michael Rodrigues (D-Westport)

Jamie Eldridge (D-Acton)

Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester)

Paul Feeney (D-Foxborough)

Walter Timilty (D-Milton)

Barry Finegold (D-Andover)

James Welch (D-West Springfield)

Cindy Friedman (D-Arlington)

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Nays

 

Ryan Fattman (R-Sutton)

Dean Tran (R-Fitchburg)

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Absent or Not Voting

 

Patricia Jehlen (D-Somerville)

Michael Rush (D-West Roxbury)

 

Source: Massachusetts Legislature web site

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