Students walk to their classrooms at a public school in Los Angeles on Sept. 10, 2021. (Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images)
California Gov. Gavin Newsom vetoed Oct. 8 a bill that would have required schools to provide free condoms to public middle and high school students.
In his veto message, he said the bill would be too expensive for the state, which is already carrying a deficit of $30 billion.
“This bill would create an unfunded mandate to public schools that should be considered in the annual budget process,” Mr. Newsom wrote in the letter.
Legislators estimated the bill would have cost the state several million dollars annually.
The bill would have required all public schools to make internal and external condoms available to students in grades 7–12 for free and to ensure students are aware of the availability.
It would also have banned retailers from refusing to sell contraception based on age—and prevent them from requiring identification to purchase.
State Sen. Caroline Menjivar (D-Van Nuys), who introduced the bill, said it aimed to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections among youth.
During a March hearing in the Senate Education Committee, Ms. Menjivar also said she hoped the bill would instill “safe” sexual habits for teens.
“While abstinence is, as we know, the only 100 percent effective way to prevent a [sexually transmitted infection], we know some teens are still engaging in sexual activity,” she said during the hearing. “We want to make sure when that teenager makes that personal decision, they have the resources to stay safe.”
Ms. Menjivar said teens often face barriers to accessing condoms—such as cost, accessibility, an age identification requirement, or “shame when they’re looking to purchase.”
“Youth are often denied and turned away [when purchasing condoms], and it’s not deterring them from engaging in sexual behavior, it’s just promoting unsafe sexual behavior,” she said. “Providing condoms in school ensures we are meeting youth where they are at.”
Several representatives from health and youth advocacy organizations spoke at the hearing in support of the bill—including members of the AIDs Healthcare Foundation, the California Coalition for Youth, the California Federation of Teachers, and the California Teachers Association.
A opened locker at a high school in Calif., on July 28, 2020. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)
Others, however, spoke at the hearing to oppose it.
Greg Burt, with the California Family Council, a public policy advocacy group, said during the hearing that he thought the state’s sexual health policies in recent years have inadvertently caused a rise in sexually transmitted infections.
“For the last decade or more this legislative body has been pushing condoms as the solution to sexually transmitted infections spreading among our youth,” he said. “And each time the infection rate rose, [legislators] insisted kids just need easier access to condoms and information about safe sex at younger and younger ages.”
Mr. Burt urged the committee to rethink the issue, advocating instead for the state to uphold the ideal of abstinence until marriage.
“It is time to tell young people the truth, that those with the most fulfilling and healthy sex lives are those who treat sex as a special and intimate act to be shared in a monogamous, committed marriage,” he said. “I’m not encouraging you to shame people. But hold up abstinence until marriage as a noble ideal. [Sexually transmitted infections] can’t thrive in a culture that idealizes marriage.”