SALT LAKE CITY— Gov. Gary Herbert vetoed a controversial bill late Friday that would have prohibited teachers from instructing students about contraceptives, premarital sex or homosexuality.
Herbert issued the veto on the abstinence-only proposal despite pressure from the Utah Legislature.
The governor said the bill went too far in depriving parents the right to choose how their children learn about sexual activity. Herbert said public school instruction should supplement, not replace, lessons taught in the home.
"In order for parents to take on more responsibility, they need more information, more involvement, and more choice — not less," Herbert said.
Utah Democrats applauded Herbert’s decision but criticized him for announcing the veto after business hours.
"The veto was the right choice, and Utah Democrats support it," said Utah State Democratic Party Chairman Jim Dabakis. "But the attempt to hush up the veto by doing it late on a Friday night was not the way to handle this."
House Bill 363 passed the Senate 19-10 earlier this month. Some lawmakers argued students should be taught that abstinence is the only way to prevent sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy.
The governor also received mounting pressure, including an online petition with thousands of signatures, against the bill. Opponents of the bill say the existing state law should be preserved, because it encourages abstinence but allows students to learn about contraception and its risks.
The Legislature could go into session and attempt to override Herbert’s veto with a two-thirds vote.
The veto of the bill also means that high school students can continue taking college courses that delve into the reproductive process. A Weber State University spokesman said earlier this week that about 1,000 high school students take classes that earn credits for a degree in the health care field.
“Based on our preliminary research, two child and family studies courses and one health professions course could be affected by House Bill 363,” said WSU spokesman John Kowalewski.
“Based on enrollment figures from 2011-2012, Weber State University estimates approximately 1,000 high school students take these courses annually.”
The courses, available to concurrently enrolled high school students and identified as having curriculums with some sexual or reproductive content, are Child and Family Studies 1500: Human Development; Child and Family Studies 2400: Family Relations; and Health Sciences 1106: Technology Enhanced Anatomy and Physiology.
Kowalewski said the Health Sciences course is a prerequisite for students hoping to pursue study for careers in nursing, radiological science or other health care fields.
The Standard-Examiner contributed to this article.