JUNEAU — Two Wasilla Republicans are working to limit special interest groups like Planned Parenthood from teaching in Alaska’s public schools.
Republican Rep. Lynn Gattis introduced her bill — the third of its type heard by lawmakers this session — during a House Education Committee meeting on Wednesday. She said her intent is to crack down on such groups gaining access to children.
Gattis specified during a later interview that her bill was geared specifically to affect Planned Parenthood, calling the organization the “elephant in the room.”
However, she said she would like to see other special interest groups have limited access to public school students. “I am pro-life. But even the Right to Life folks should not have carte blanche to be in our schools and provide their agenda,” Gattis said.
She said she did not broaden the language in her bill to include all special interest groups, fearing that such a measure could have unintended consequences.
Gattis’ bill is a companion to one Republican Sen. Mike Dunleavy has been working to get passed.
The bills include penalties for those who violate the measure. A teacher who knowingly uses banned curriculum or invites a Planned Parenthood representative into the classroom could be fired; a doctor who violates the provisions could face sanctions from the State Medical Board; and abortion services providers could be liable for civil penalties and damages.
Education committee chair Rep. Wes Keller, R-Wasilla, asked Gattis to rewrite her bill to include language amendments made to Dunleavy’s bill in the Senate. Those amendments include language clarifying that in order to run afoul of the law a representative or employee of Planned Parenthood must be teaching on a health topic including human sexuality or family planning.
Another similar bill from Dunleavy, SB 89, passed the Senate and advanced from Keller’s committee in the House. House Speaker Mike Chenault, R-Nikiski, also referred it to the House Health and Social Services Committee, which will hear Dunleavy’s bill on Thursday.
It is substantively similar to Gattis’ bill in that it would also prohibit schools from contracting with abortion services providers. Both contain a prohibition against district employees or volunteers using curriculum provided by abortion services providers. Additionally, the legislation, SB 89, mandates that parents be able to withdraw their children from any school activity to which they object.
Gattis said that at some point her bill and one of Dunleavy’s bills would likely be combined. “At this late date, it’s about the only way that this could get through,” she said.