Baby Olivia Video Made By Anti-Abortion Group Could Be Screened in Schools


Plus, Iowa does not require schools to offer comprehensive sex ed, so students may not learn anything about human reproduction beyond what they see in “Baby Olivia,” Buck said. 

“When we talk about indoctrination of kids, we have to be mindful of both sides,” she said. “We don’t want the ‘liberal left’ indoctrinating our kids, and we don’t want the right side indoctrinating our kids either. So our kids need factual health information, not fictional.”

Heather Corinna, author of “S.E.X.: The All-You-Need-To-Know Progressive Sexuality Guide to Get You Through High School and College,” said that the silver lining may be that many young people get their information about sex through digital means, making them likely to stumble across online resources that counter any factual inaccuracies about reproduction they come across in class.

“Young people know the internet exists,” said Corinna, founder and director of Scarleteen, a sex education support organization and website. “We have millions of young people that come to Scarleteen all the time, and coming to fact check [what] they heard in sex ed is a common reason.”

Sex ed has been terrible for years, but students aren’t stupid, Corinna said. Many of them expect it to be rooted in propaganda, which Corinna considers “Baby Olivia” to be. “That’s what it is,” they said. “It’s produced like political propaganda.”

Corinna, who once worked in an abortion clinic, takes issue with how Live Action stages fetal development and describes fetuses. “They say they can recognize lullabies and stories,” they said. “No one can do a test on someone in utero to find out if they recognize something; that’s not a thing. It’s sheer projection.”

Sarah Dean, an English teacher at a public charter school in the Nashville area, objects to the video and to the fact that the sponsor of the Tennessee bill, State Rep. Gino Bulso, is a lawyer, not an educator. She pointed out that Bulso has sponsored legislation that supports censorship in schools and targets transgender students, gender-affirming care and drag performers, among other controversial policies. Bulso also sponsored the bill to expel three Democrats for protesting gun violence after a school shooting in Nashville last year. A representative for Bulso told The 19th he was not available for an interview.

Dean characterized his pattern of legislation as a systematic effort to promote a specific ideology and discriminate against individuals “who don’t fit within that,” she said.

The Baby Olivia Act, Dean continued, devalues the expertise of teaching professionals. “We don’t do that to other professionals,” she said. “But when it comes to teachers, people think, ‘Well, I went to school, so I must know.’ But there’s a lot more pedagogy that goes into teaching and being an educator, so it’s somewhat like arrogance and also just out of touch, impractical, for these people to be making bills about education because they don’t honestly know what the impact is going to be for students and for teachers.”

The goal of “Baby Olivia,” Behn said, is to emotionally manipulate young people who are or may fall pregnant into ruling out abortion. Since Tennessee has a number of health care gaps — including a lack of access to reproductive health care, high rates of parental mortality and a large number of crisis pregnancy centers, Behn said, she considers the undertones of the video to be “nefarious.” In addition to “Baby Olivia,” Tennessee also recently introduced legislation that would make it a crime for an adult to help a minor obtain an abortion without parental consent. Given the state’s political climate, Behn is particularly concerned about youth in the state’s rural areas who may not only lack resources but also have information gaps about pregnancy and reproduction.

“The intention of this video is to show any kids who might be pregnant in the school system that the fetus is living and breathing, and that they’re better off keeping the baby,” Behn said.

But Corinna is not convinced that anti-abortion materials keep people from ending unwanted pregnancies. If they have the opportunity to do so, they typically terminate their pregnancies anyway, Corinna said, because they’re in an unhealthy romantic relationship, financially ill-equipped to raise a child, or have a medical issue, among myriad other reasons.

“More times than not, in my experience, that person, if they need an abortion, they still go have one. They just feel awful about it,” Corinna said. “What keeps people from having abortions is an inability to go get one.”

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