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Illinois Sex Ed Law Requiring Teachers To Talk Contraception Passes Senate

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A bill eked its way to a victory by the narrowest possible margin in the Illinois Senate Wednesday, mandating that sex-ed teachers educate students on contraception as well as abstinence.

House Bill 3027, which was rewritten in the Senate to be a bill about sex education, passed that chamber with 30 "yeas," the lowest number possible to advance legislation. It mandates that teachers use "age-appropriate" and "medically accurate" materials to teach students how to protect themselves and their partners during sex, the Associated Press reports. Currently, teachers are only required to teach abstinence as a means of preventing unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases.

The bill does not mandate that districts teach sex-ed, however; it only applies to those that already do, and parents can review course materials beforehand to determine if they want their child enrolled.

Advocates were steadfast in their defense of the measure, despite opposition from some family groups and other conservatives. "There's been some suggestion that perhaps this isn't needed, that there's not a problem," said Senator Heather Steans, a Democrat from Chicago who sponsored the legislation, according to the Carmi Times. "Well, I'd like to give you the facts that suggest very much why this bill is needed."

One Republican, Sen. Dan Duffy, pointed to California's comprehensive sex education policy, which he argues has not helped the situation in that state. "Why do you want to duplicate a failed policy?" the Chicago Tribune quotes Duffy asking. "This policy would do the opposite of what we want -- increase pregnancies and increase the frequency of STDs."

Still, Steans was able to navigate the measure through the choppy waters of the Senate, an improvement over her previous attempt. Three weeks ago, the measure only got 29 votes; Steans brought it back up this time with some modifications intended to assuage the concerns of her more conservative colleagues.