Haslam signs 'gateway sexual activity' bill

7:50 PM, May 11, 2012   |    comments
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By Chas Sisk / The Tennessean

Gov. Bill Haslam's office said Friday that he has signed legislation that adds the concept of "gateway sexual activity" to the state's abstinence-first sex education curriculum.

Haslam signed Senate Bill 3310 over calls to veto the measure from the American Civil Liberties Union and others. The measure says that sex ed teachers cannot encourage "gateway" activities that stop short of sexual intercourse.

Opponents argued that the law contains murky definitions that would make it difficult for teachers to discuss subjects frankly. Proponents said the measure was needed to clarify the meaning of abstinence.

The law also lets parents sue outside sex ed instructors, such as Planned Parenthood, if they run afoul of the state curriculum. Instructors employed by school districts are exempt from legal penalties.

Haslam also signed a pair of bills sought by anti-abortion groups.

House Bill 3808, known as the Life Defense Act of 2012, will require abortion providers to have admitting privileges at a hospital in the county where they perform an abortion or in a neighboring county.

The measure originally also would have required the state to release more data about abortion providers and the women who receive them. But that provision was dropped amid privacy concerns.

House Bill 3517 will let prosecutors charge alleged assailants with a second count of assaulting or murdering an embryo following an attack on a pregnant woman. State law currently had allowed a second charge only at the fetal stage, typically defined as beginning eight weeks after conception.

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