Bill requiring 8th graders to watch fetal development video is put on pause

A bill that would require eighth grade viewings of a specific video showing insemination and fetal development by a particular national group involved in abortion politics has been parked for now.

The bill had been on track for passage in the state Senate this Monday. But senators on Friday referred Senate Bill 468 to the Rules Committee, which is often a holdover spot where bills may remain in purgatory or reemerge after further consideration.

A section of the bill called the “Baby Olivia Act” would require public school viewings of “Meet Baby Olivia,” by Live Action, a nonprofit organization that has been active in national anti-abortion campaigns.

The video begins with an image of a fetus called Olivia and then goes on to show sperm fertilizing an egg. “This is the moment that life begins.” After that, the video shows weeks of development.

During a Senate Education Committee meeting last week, some senators asked questions about the bill. Senator Charles Trump, R-Morgan, asked for examples in state law where specific vendors are required. Senator Charles Clements, R-Wetzel, asked questions related to judicial scrutiny.

West Virginia Free, which advocates for reproductive rights including abortion access, has expressed several concerns about the bill.

Margaret Chapman Pomponio

“Senate Bill 468 would force our educators to teach content to our young people that includes scientifically inaccurate claims about fetal development. It’s propaganda, plain and simple. Reasonable lawmakers agree that we should not push lies in our classrooms, but that’s what Senate Bill 468 would do,” said Margaret Chapman Pomponio, executive director of West Virginia Free.

“The organization pushing this bill, Live Action, has an extreme ideological agenda. They want themselves named in our state code. This is a group that is widely known for pushing outright lies, and they’ve been discredited multiple times for their heavily edited and misrepresentative videos including by public health officials and in testimony on state and federal legislation.”

The bill does not explicitly grant an opt-out for parents. An early version would have given the state Attorney General the power for legal action against entities out of line with the mandated viewing of the video, but that was removed in committee. Pomponio said that as she watched the video her jaw dropped and she reflected on children being forced to watch it.

“There’s a copycat bill introduced the House, and we’re urging our leaders to reject the extremes, and to focus truly on the health and well-being of our children,” she said. “Let’s give our Department of Education and teachers the respect they deserve to vet and implement factually accurate and appropriate curriculum.”

Patricia Rucker

Senator Patricia Rucker, the main sponsor of the bill, said it represents a goal of teaching students about human development.

“It’s just amazing, with the technology that we now have to basically look into the womb,” Rucker, R-Jefferson, said last week on MetroNews’ “Talkline.” “We now know when eyelashes are first present, when the baby first starts blinking, swallowing. So it’s a beautifully done video that illustrates how that miraculous event happens in the mother’s womb.

“And it’s not political. It doesn’t mention anything about politics. It doesn’t mention anything about abortion. All it is is human development. That is the part that we want children to be able to see so that they have that understanding and can inform their decision.”

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