Iowa Joins Wave of States Trying to Force Schools to Show Kids Anti-Abortion Propaganda

These bills would require schools to show high-definition ultrasounds and videos of sperm to teach kids that “life begins at conception.”

Iowa Joins Wave of States Trying to Force Schools to Show Kids Anti-Abortion Propaganda

As if sex ed isn’t already terrible, Iowa legislators on Tuesday advanced a bill to make things even worse. HF 2031 would require public schools to show a computer-generated, anti-abortion propaganda video modeled after the anti-abortion organization Live Action’s “Meet Baby Olivia” video—and it’s as deranged as it sounds. The video, which would be shown in health classes from first grade through high school, features computer-generated images of every stage of pregnancy and, at one point, depicts sperm swimming to an egg while the video’s narrator declares, “This is the moment that life begins. A new human being has come into existence.” The video also lies that “at three weeks and one day, just 22 days after fertilization, Olivia’s heartbeat can be detected.” HF 2031 would also require teachers to show students a high-definition ultrasound video at an unspecified gestational period for literally no reason.

Introduced earlier this month, HF 2031 advanced out of the subcommittee this week with two Republicans voting in favor and one Democrat opposed. If only this were an isolated incident: As the Des Moines Register points out, a similar bill passed in North Dakota in the spring, and similar bills requiring schools to show these Baby-Olivia-inspired videos are being considered in Kentucky and West Virginia. Kentucky’s bill—literally named the “Baby Olivia Act”—is especially disturbing, as the Star Beacon notes it “would allow the attorney general to bring civil action against any district that refuses to incorporate the video into health curriculum.” If there’s one thing anti-abortion lawmakers are going to do, it’s try to get someone sued for not adhering to their increasingly terrifying laws.

Returning to “Meet Baby Olivia,” one of the video’s most egregious claims—that you can hear an embryo’s heartbeat at just three weeks—is very much disputed by actual doctors and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. While laws across the country prohibit abortion at six weeks because they claim this is when a heartbeat can be detected, ACOG has pointed out that this is actually just “electrically induced flickering of a portion of the fetal tissue that will become the heart as the embryo develops.” So, the idea that you can hear an embryo’s heartbeat at three weeks—and that life begins at conception—is just a bold-faced lie that Iowa, Kentucky, and West Virginia are trying to impose on kids.

Just 29 states and the District of Columbia mandate sex education, while 35 states require schools to stress abstinence, and only 18 states require sex ed to be medically accurate. But it turns out this could still, somehow, get worse: States could inject anti-abortion propaganda and lies that a fertilized egg is a person into schools. Luckily, young people, or at least voters under 30, overwhelmingly support abortion rights more so than any other age demographic. But that, of course, could be why anti-abortion lawmakers are so desperate to shove “Meet Baby Olivia” down children’s throats in the first place.

HF 2031 was understandably met with resistance ahead of Tuesday. Mazie Stilwell, director of public affairs for Planned Parenthood Advocates of Iowa, called Live Action’s “Meet Baby Olivia” video “anti-abortion propaganda,” and said that “as a parent of a kindergartener, the idea of showing this propaganda video next year really boggles my mind.”

“House File 2031 is nothing but a political and religious agenda—forced indoctrination of Iowa’s children and youth,” Connie Ryan, the executive director of Interfaith Alliance of Iowa, said. “You have every right to your religious beliefs and to teach your children whatever you like. You do not have the right to force your religious ideology onto all Iowa children and families, taking away choice for all other parents in Iowa.”

Last year, Iowa Republicans passed a bill to ban abortion at six weeks, but the law is currently blocked by courts pending a final ruling. Maybe instead of trying to indoctrinate school children, Iowa lawmakers should pass something to help the rape victims the state’s attorney general is denying Plan B assistance to. But that’s a story for another time, I’m sure.

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