Today marks the first release of the Legislature’s pre-filed bills for the 31st legislative session and there are plenty of head-turning proposals among the 38 bills and five proposed constitutional amendments, but none are quite as head-turning as the slate proposed by a legislator who was denied consideration for a Senate appointment for apparently making light of intimate partner violence by a former legislator.
Rep. George Rauscher, R-Sutton, proposed nine bills and a constitutional amendment in today’s release of pre-filed bills. His proposals include bills to relocate the legislative session to Anchorage, to broaden Alaskans’ ability to openly carry and wield firearms and to ban state funds for gender reassignment procedures.
Each of those would merit a deep dive, but let’s take a look specifically at his proposed House Bill 7, with the short title of “Sex Education” that proposes abstinence-only sexual education that bars any mention of sexual orientation, gender identity, contraceptives or “the intricacies of sexual intercourse.”
It starts off relatively innocuous enough: The sex education programs must, under this proposal, be “age-appropriate and medically accurate” and they should talk about sexually transmitted diseases, puberty and discuss parenting and pregnancy.
Any semblance to a reasonable, modern sex ed program ends when House Bill 7 then outlines what else should be in Alaska’s sex ed programs.
The proposed curriculum must teach the “skills necessary for a student to remain abstinent and maintain good sexual and reproductive health” and “abstinence from sexual activity as the preferred choice for unmarried students because it is the only 100 percent effective way to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases and it is effective in preventing the emotional trauma associated with adolescent sexual activity.”
Also, for the record, child marriage in Alaska is still legal. Children as young as 14 can get married with the approval of a Superior Court Judge (There were four such cases of a child under 15 getting married in Alaska between 2006 and 2015).
Rauscher also posits that a “preadolescent or adolescent who engages in sexual activity may suffer emotional or psychological consequences because of the sexual activity, that sexual activity out of wedlock is likely to have harmful psychological or physical effects, and that there may be social, psychological, or health benefits to abstaining from sexual activity.”
It’s probably also worth reminding readers now that Rauscher was one of the three names initially proposed by Senate District E Republicans as a replacement for the senate seat vacated by Michael J. Dunleavy to run for governor. Former Gov. Bill Walker initially went off list before skipping Rauscher in favor of a man who said on social media that providers of abortion should have their hearts cut out with scissors.
When asked why Walker skipped over Rauscher for consideration entirely, Walker’s spokesman Austin Baird said that a sticker declaring the Republican’s office a “BDSM FREE ZONE” in the wake of another legislator’s violent assault on a woman disqualified him from consideration (for the record, he said he was misunderstood and compared the sticker to gun-free zones).
The bill falls into the realm of the parental rights crowd, which includes Gov. Michael J. Dunleavy, with further rules requiring the teaching of “the importance of communication between a student and parent about sexuality and abstinence; and becoming self-sufficient before engaging in sexual activity.”
The bill also proposes a healthy dose of fear when it comes to premarital sex. It requires students to be taught “that sexual activity increases the likelihood that a student will drop out of school because of a sexually transmitted disease or unplanned pregnancy” and that “abstinence from sexual activity as the expected standard for an unmarried student and a mutually faithful and monogamous relationship within a marriage as the expected standard for sexual activity.”
And if that didn’t set off enough alarm bells, here’s what Rauscher would like to see banned from being taught in schools altogether:
- The intricacies of sexual intercourse, sexual stimulation, or erotic behavior
- Gender identity or expression
- The use of contraceptive methods or devices
- Sexual activity out of wedlock
- Means or methods that encourage the violation of criminal law (Which, huh?)
By the way, Sen. Berta Gardner attempted to end child marriage with a bill in the 2018 session. It never got a hearing.
And, in case you’re living under a rock, there’s loads of evidence that abstinence-only education does a poor job at preparing students for anything. Other states, even like the conservative Oklahoma, have found much more success in a comprehensive approach realizing that students are going to engage in sexual activity regardless of what they learn in school.