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Concern Over Ariz. Antiabortion-Rights Law Prompts School District To Remove 'Abortion' Section From Textbook

Concern Over Ariz. Antiabortion-Rights Law Prompts School District To Remove 'Abortion' Section From Textbook

November 3, 2014 — A school district in Arizona voted last week to modify a textbook used in honors biology classes because of concern that the book presents abortion in a way that violates a state law, the Arizona Republic reports.

Gilbert Public Schools board members voted 3-2 to approve the change, which was framed as a way to comply with a two-year-old Arizona law (SB 1009) that states that public schools must "present childbirth and adoption as preferred options to elective abortion."

The district uses the textbook "Campbell Biology: Concepts & Connections (Seventh Edition)," which includes a chapter discussing abstinence, birth control, tubal ligation and vasectomies, and abortion-inducing drugs. According the Republic, "the book is considered mainstream" and available from major sellers, such as Barnes & Noble and Amazon.

Need for Change Disputed

After reviewing the book at board members' request, Chris Kotterman -- deputy associate superintendent for policy development and government relations at the Arizona Department of Education -- wrote in an email to them that it "does not appear on its face to violate the statute." He added, "In general, the mere mention of a means of medically inducing abortion does not automatically signal a lack of preference for childbirth and adoption" and that "the responsibility lies with the teacher to provide context for the student."

The conservative religious group Alliance Defending Freedom brought the issue to the board's attention. Natalie Decker, an attorney with the group, argued that the law "applies any time a mention of abortion is included in instruction," adding the law "is not ... ambiguous."

American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona Executive Director Alessandra Soler opposed the move to change the book, saying that such a decision would violate students' First Amendment rights. "Suppressing facts that some people or organizations find disagreeable sets a terrible precedent," she said.

The board did not specify how it would change the book.

"The cheapest, least disruptive way to solve the problem is to remove the page," suggested board member Daryl Colvin (Creno, Arizona Republic, 10/30).