February 12, 2014 9:51:37 AM
JACKSON -- Mississippi lawmakers could require community colleges and public universities to study ways to prevent unplanned pregnancies among unmarried 18- and 19-year-olds.
Senate Bill 2563 passed the Senate 34-11 on Tuesday and eventually will move to the House for more work.
It would require the two- and four-year colleges, by this November, to propose pregnancy prevention programs. Information could be provided during student orientation, for example.
The bill's sponsor, Republican Sen. Sally Doty of Brookhaven, said Mississippi had 5,644 teen pregnancies in 2012. Most of those -- 3,913 -- were to 18- and 19-year-old women.
Democratic Sen. Hob Bryan of Amory said that unwanted teen pregnancy is a serious problem, but that the bill doesn't offer a serious solution. He said funding public education and making health care more readily available through Medicaid expansion would be more effective.
"It is amazing how little some children know about reproduction," Bryan said.
Sen. Angela Hill, R-Picayune, proposed an amendment to specify that abortion could not be mentioned during the colleges' pregnancy prevention programs.
"We need to make it clear that it's our intent that we don't want abortion counseling as part of this plan," Hill said.
Doty said the amendment was unnecessary because the bill is about prevention, not about dealing with pregnancy after it has already occurred.
Hill's proposal was defeated -- 22 votes in favor and 23 against -- after a fellow Republican, Sen. Briggs Hopson of Vicksburg, questioned whether the amendment would prevent people from sharing information that would discourage abortion.
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