Controversial plan to remove abortion from science book stalls

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By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey

GILBERT, Ariz. -- A controversial plan to redact abortion references from science textbooks in Gilbert Public Schools has stalled -- at least for now.

Discussions about the plan broke down at the GPS Governing Board meeting Tuesday night and legal concerns kept the board from moving forward.

The first 40 minutes of the meeting involved frustrated discussions over an agenda item that would have allowed the board to clarify exactly what is to be removed from which books.  Eventually the board decided to toss out that agenda item entirely.

Next, Gilbert Superintendent Christina Kishimoto was supposed to present a plan for implementing the redaction already passed by the board.  That presentation was halted by the board's own lawyer because it wasn’t expressly stated in the meeting agenda and therefore potentially violated open meeting laws.

The issue surrounds a widely circulated textbook used for high school honors biology.  The book in question has a chapter that discusses birth control and one of the methods it mentions is a drug that induces abortion.

At its last meeting in October, the five school board members decided by a vote of 3 – 2 to remove the abortion language from the science book.  The board stated that it made the decision based on a two year old Arizona state law that requires public schools to present childbirth and adoption as preferred options to elective abortion.

The topic has earned Gilbert a lot of outside attention. 

The idea of redacting the book was originally pushed by the conservative religious group Alliance Defending Freedom.  The American Civil Liberties Union has also weighed in against the plan and even liberal talk host Rachel Maddow has discussed it on her MSNBC show.

It is still unclear is how the district would actually remove the unwanted language.  Board members have mentioned blacking out the passages with Sharpie markers or simply ripping out the page.