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GOP senator proposes dropping bill’s reference to ‘Meet Baby Olivia’ video


GOP senator proposes dropping bill’s reference to ‘Meet Baby Olivia’ video

Mar 12, 2024 | 7:18 pm ET
By Robin Opsahl
GOP senator proposes dropping bill’s reference to ‘Meet Baby Olivia’ video
Sen. Jeff Taylor, R-Sioux Center, spoke about a bill that would require Iowa schools to show fetal development videos and graphics in human growth and development and health classes. (Photo by Robin Opsahl/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

Senate lawmakers moved forward Tuesday with a bill that would require fetal development videos and graphics to be shown in Iowa schools’ human growth and development and health classes.

Sen. Jeff Taylor, R-Sioux Center, presented a planned amendment to House File 2617 that removes a specific reference to the “Meet Baby Olivia” video, produced by the anti-abortion group Live Action.

His proposal instead outlines requirements on what schools must include in their curriculum for students in grades 7 through 12 related to stages of human development from fertilization to birth during a pregnancy. The requirements include showing ultrasound videos showing development of brain and organs during pregnancy as well as including computer-generated renderings or animations that depict “the humanity of the unborn child.”

Many conservative and anti-abortion advocates spoke in support of the measure, advocating for more educational requirements on fetal development. As critics said the “Baby Olivia” video and the legislation was “anti-abortion propaganda,” Amber Williams, a member of the public supporting of the bill, asked “why that’s a bad thing.”

“Because the reality is, abortion is painful and it’s a barbaric procedure that ends a human life,” Williams said. “And it also destroys our lives, whether that be through shame or regret or depression or just broken relationships. So if this education can prevent that from happening to our young generation, and that’s a good thing.”

Mazie Stilwell, director of public affairs for Planned Parenthood Advocates of Iowa, said comments from the bill’s supporters show that the measure “is the propaganda that we have been saying (it is) from the beginning.” Stilwell said that while she appreciated the amendments introduced by the Senate, the changes do not go “far enough.”

“We do believe that our young people deserve access to age-appropriate and medically accurate sex education,” Stilwell said. “And unfortunately, the prescriptive nature that remains within the bill leaves our students subject to the anti-abortion propaganda, that we have heard by those in favor of the bill. … So, students deserve better than what school districts would be allowed to put forth even after the amendment.”

Speakers with school organizations took issue with legislation requiring certain curriculum to be adopted by all Iowa schools, instead of following the current procedure of having the State Board of Education adopt educational standards and allowing local school districts to choose their own curriculum to meet those standards.

Melissa Peterson with the Iowa State Education Association encouraged lawmakers to follow the current process for setting educational standards, but also said that the ISEA was opposed to “the politicization of any curriculum.”

“It is really hard to believe this is not about politics,” Peterson said. “When you look at the registrations and the fact that, from folks that we have heard who are actually in support of this bill, some of them said that it’s about abortion, some of them said it’s not about abortion. I would encourage the legislative body to take the appropriate way out of this conversation, and leave standards and adjustments to the experts — the education professionals.”

Sen. Herman Quirmbach, D-Ames, warned lawmakers about passing measures mandating specific curriculum, pointing to existing Iowa Code that states the state Board of Education or Department of Education should not require schools to adopt specific textbooks or “specific instructional methodology” to meet core curriculum requirements, saying the bill violates this standard. Quirmbach also said that while he understands some people want particular types of content to be mandatory for schools, he said lawmakers should avoid curriculum mandates.

“Beware when you cross that line,” Quirmbach said. “Next group that comes along and wants to push particular content, may be pushing in a direction that you don’t like. I think it’s better that we withhold ourselves from that temptation, and we allow local school districts to develop their own curriculum and make their own choices about their curriculum materials.”

Taylor said he believes there is “flexibility” built into the legislation on allowing school districts to make their own decisions on what specific ultrasounds, videos and other material they want to show in classes, and the requirements are not “unduly burdensome or restrictive.” He also said that while he understands concerns about the “political” nature of the legislation, he believes students learning about pregnancy and fetal development is important.

“We’ve seen advances in medical science … in terms of ultrasound, and even in utero topography, where we’re able to see what’s actually happening in terms of the miracle of life is taking place within the woman — and I think that’s not something that’s propaganda,” Taylor said. “That’s reality, and we need to educate our children in reality.”

The bill moves to the Senate Education Committee for consideration, with Taylor and Sen. Sandy Salmon signing on in support with recommendation for an amendment.