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SB 101 Permits French Teachers to Talk about Abortion, Birth Control…

The anti-abortionist fervor to fight their fetus crusade on every battlefield leads to really bad legislation. Consider Senate Bill 101, an effort by Senator Jeff Monroe (R-24/Pierre) to wedge more of the culture war into our schools:

No school board or school administrator may prohibit a teacher in a public or nonpublic school from providing instruction on personhood before birth or other related topics.

Senator Monroe apparently was so busy thinking, "Love babies! Take over the schools!" that he didn't pay attention to the meaning of the words in his bill. An objective and literal reading of SB 101 opens this possibility:

A high school French teacher walks into his classroom. He begins a lesson on French food. Oo la la, les crêpes, le croque-monsiuer.... Suddenly he stops, jumps on a desk, and shouts, "Students! Fetuses are not people! They are not citizens under the Constitution! The only person in a position to decide whether a pregnancy should continue and whether a fetus should be allowed to be born and become a person is the woman who is pregnant!" All of those statements constitute instruction on personhood before birth.

But the French teacher reads SB 101 closely. (French teachers are smart like that.) He recognizes that sex is a precondition to fetuses and birth. Sex is thus a related topic under SB 101. The French teacher thus begins to converse with the students about their sexual activity and discusses the pros and cons of various forms of birth control so they can avoid having to confront the quandary of embryonic personhood.

The principal walks in and is aghast. "You can't talk about fetuses!" the principal shouts. "You're supposed to be teaching French! Stop that!"

"Mais non!" tuts the French teacher, handing the principal his copy of SB 101. "You cannot prohibit a teacher, any teacher, from teaching such things."

The principal remembers SB 101, sighs, and hurries away to a meeting on Common Core data-mining and mind control, leaving the French teacher to continue the conversation with a group of surprised but unusually attentive students.

Senator Monroe, thank you. Please do pass this bill, exactly as written. I can't wait to get back to teaching in South Dakota.


  1. Becca Pivonka 2014.01.29

    Now, why couldn't we have a bill like that when you were teaching in Madison? I would have taken your class just for that!

  2. Nick Nemec 2014.01.29

    "public or nonpublic school" Does this mean a teacher in a Catholic school could advocate abortion without any fear of loosing their job? Interesting?

  3. Roger Elgersma 2014.01.29

    When I was in high school we could discuss the Vietnam war, abortion, or any topic that was a concern to us. Our history teacher told us that we could stop whatever the lecture of the day was if these or any other issues were a concern to us. We did not actually do that very often but we could and we did. Now the public schools teach tolerance of others ideas and thinking skills but do not allow talking about the war or abortion in Sioux Falls. But I did not go to school in Sioux Falls, I attended Southwest Minnesota Christian High School in the seventies. We were not required to have a Christian opinion to speak.

  4. Loren 2014.01.29

    Why are Republicans so consumed with SEX? Premarital, teen, birth control, abortion, vaginal probes, gay sex,…
    On and on. For a party that seems to abhor government involvement, they sure want to get into your love life!

  5. Roger Cornelius 2014.01.29


    It is because Republicans believe they have an inherent right to control women based ancient Biblical beliefs and current religious dogma.

    Republicans want to control anything and everything that does not personally benefit them.

  6. Fred Deutsch 2014.01.29

    Nick, the bill is silent in regard to teacher termination.

  7. Nick Nemec 2014.01.29

    Maybe Fred, but I think that threats of termination unless you change your tune would amount to a de facto prohibition. And I'd be willing to bet that Catholic school administrators would tell a teacher in their school to stop advocating for abortion or be terminated. I bet the Bishop would demand they take that course of action.

    And as a private school they have more rights to do that than a public school. Senator Monroe's bill as written applies equally to public and private schools. That's a bridge too far for me.

  8. Joan Brown 2014.01.29

    That would be interesting to see. Actually when I was attending college in Madison, in the early 60s, I can't picture any of the professors doing that.

  9. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.01.30

    Fred, Nick catches exactly why this bill is hilariously, thoughtlessly, disastrously written. On a strict literal reading of SB 101, I could walk into O'Gorman, stand on a table in the commons, wave my teaching certificate, and start making a speech on the value and methods of safe sex to avoid creating fertilized eggs that some people think are persons. Even generously granted some legislative intent, Sen. Monroe is protecting teachers from termination for expressing views in the classroom on in utero personhood that offend the political sensibilities of the school board or parents. Sen. Monroe is granting teachers of all subjects and all grades carte blanche to go off topic and discuss the Constitutional rights of fetuses. Under SB 101, such irresponsible in-class conversation could never be cited as a reason for termination. Sen. Monroe appears not to have put any thought into the practical implementation of his bill.

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