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SALT LAKE CITY — A conservative action group in Utah says the online petition urging Gov. Gary Herbert to veto an abstinence-only sex education bill is "bogus."
Utah Eagle Forum president Gayle Ruzicka says she has several problems with the petition hosted by signon.org, but one of the most pressing is credibility. She believes it's too easy to make up a name and sign the petition.
Her organization, which supports HB363, is urging its followers, instead, to contact the governor directly.
We want the governor to know that these are people out there that are concerned citizens who also have a very strong opinion about House Bill 363.
–Gayle Ruzicka, Utah Eagle Forum
Ruzicka said she imagines the governor's phone is ringing off the hook, but she's getting lots of phone calls too.
"It's probably been a great thing for getting new people involved in Eagle Forum, because I've been getting more calls than ever," Ruzicka said.
She supports the legislation, which she says should not be described as abstinence-only.
"This is a course about human sexuality," Ruzicka said. "They will be teaching all kinds of things, like human reproduction or reproductive anatomy and reproductive physiology, marriage, childbirth, parenthood, abstinence before marriage and fidelity after marriage."
Under current Utah law, school districts decide whether to include information about contraception in their sex education curriculum. Several districts, as a result, already do not teach about contraceptive methods.
Many people speaking out against HB363 say it amounts to a step backward in the state, pointing to ignorance among teens who become pregnant. A recent survey found 25 percent of younger teen moms in Utah thought either they or their partner was sterile; half thought they couldn't get pregnant when they conceived.
The petition Ruzicka calls "bogus" has over 37,000 signatures as of noon on Tuesday.
One woman identifying herself only as Martha wrote the following on the petition site: "It is obvious that abstaining isn't working in preventing pregnancy or diseases."
Another signer, identifying himself as Howard Tayler, wrote this bill "will not promote moral behavior, nor will it reduce teen pregnancy. It will very likely have the opposite effect, while paralyzing our education institutions and preventing them from helping in any way."
The petition is also attracting attention outside of Utah. There are signers from New York, California, Virginia and Pennsylvania.
Ruzicka stands by her position that abstinence is best. She says teaching kids abstinence but then telling them about contraception is like teaching kids to say no to drugs, and then advising them to seek out clean needles to do the drugs.