In response to a complaint from the Religious Right group Alliance Defending Freedom, a school board in Arizona has voted to remove pages of an honors high school biology book that ADF contends don’t show “an affirmative preference to childbirth and adoption as options to abortion” in describing various forms of contraception.
ADF based its complaint to the Gilbert, Arizona, school board on a 2012 state law that bans schools from providing instruction “that does not give preference, encouragement and support to childbirth and adoption as preferred options to elective abortion.” Although the school board’s lawyers and the state department of education both argued that the pages in question — one of which you can view here — didn’t violate the law, conservatives on the board went ahead with the page removal.
The textbook states that “Complete abstinence (avoiding intercourse) is the only totally effective method of birth control,” before launching into a straight-forward explanation of the workings of several methods of birth control, including emergency contraception.
One board member told Phoenix’s 12 News that “by redacting, we are not censoring”:
Board member Julie Smith said the school district was breaking state law by using the book ” Campbell Biology: Concepts and Connections .”
The 2-year-old state law, signed by Gov. Jan Brewer, bars school districts and charter schools from making presentations or providing instructional materials to pupils “that does not give preference, encouragement and support to childbirth and adoption as preferred options to elective abortion.”
Smith said she raised questions about the text in January after a comment from a constituent. The Alliance Defending Freedom, a faith-based legal organization that recently defended Arizona’s ban on same-sex marriage, raised the issue in a letter to Gilbert Superintendent Christina Kishimoto in August.
The focus is two pages in the book, titled “Contraception can prevent unwanted pregnancy.”
The text says, “Complete abstinence (avoiding intercourse) is the only totally effective method of birth control.” It also describes how the “morning after pill” works as a contraception method.
Board member Lily Tram said the board’s decision to remove pages from the book, which has been used by the district since 2006, amounted to censorship.
Smith disagreed. “By redacting, we are not censoring,” she said. “This school district does offer sexual education classes. If we were censoring we would not offer anything on this topic whatsoever.”
Board President Stacy Burk said some parents had said they were ready to help remove or redact the pages in the textbook.