COLUMBIA - A bill that would have updated South Carolina's sex education law will likely not be heard by the General Assembly because of a tie vote at the subcommittee level.
Rep. Robert Brown, D-Charleston: Yes
Rep. Jerry Govan, D-Orangeburg: Yes
Rep. Harold Mitchell, D-Spartanburg: Yes
Rep. Andy Patrick, R-Beaufort: Yes
Rep. Joshua Putnam, R-Anderson: No
Rep. Samuel Rivers, R-Berkeley: No
Rep. Bill Taylor, R-Aiken: No
Rep. Don Wells, R-Aiken: No
An amendment introduced by Rep. Andy Patrick, R-Beaufort, that made several changes to the bill on Tuesday before the subcommittee meeting was not met favorably by its members. Several members made calls to delay voting on the bill to allow for review of the amendment.
But Patrick, chairman of the subcommittee, pushed through a vote for the bill, which ended up in a tie, 4-4. He could not be reached for comment after the meeting.
"We do need it to be updated," said Rep. Robert Brown, D-Charleston, of the law. "What about the kids with no parents? They need to be taught sexual education."
The Tell Them advocacy network was pushing for the bill that would have updated South Carolina's 26-year-old sex education law. It would have required students to receive medically accurate information on how to prevent teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. The measure would have also required teachers be certified to teach the course.
"It's unfortunate that the bill dies because there was so much hard work put into it," said Ashley Hunter, with the South Carolina Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. "Unfortunately at the end of the day it's all politics."
Rep. Joshua Putnam, R-Anderson, argued against the passing of the bill because he felt it encouraged teenagers who already feel "invincible" to believe they can have sex with a condom without ramifications.
"You can get pregnant by having sex," argued Putnam during the meeting. "But if you use condoms and stuff like that, you're going to be OK. What happens when they don't do that, when they get a little gutsy?"
Putnam also argued the state should not dictate what schools teach at a local level.
"I believe education should be centered to the communities," he added. Putnam was among the four dissenting votes. Brown said he disagreed; that he believed sexual education should be taught uniformly across the state.
Brown added that he believes abstinence should be strongly encouraged in schools, but that statistics concerning sexually transmitted diseases were concerning, which is why he voted in favor of the bill. He said the bill did all of the right things for the right reasons.
The bill was introduced during the 2013 legislative session by Rep. B.R. Skelton, R-Six Mile, and Rep. Jenny Horne, R-Summerville. The law would have required reproductive health education to stress the importance of abstinence, without limiting the discussion on contraceptives to "future family planning."
The tie vote gives the bill a status of "unfavorable report;" That means the full education committee can still request it be taken up for debate until the end of the 2014 legislative session, though it is unlikely.
Editor's note: Earlier versions of this story incorrectly listed Ashley Hunter's affiliation. She is with the South Carolina Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. Also, Tell Them does not consider Wednesday's vote to be a blow to their efforts.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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