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Tennessee Implements New School Curriculum Mandating Fetal Development Video

The Tennessean reports Tennessee Governor Bill Lee has signed a bill requiring school children in most Tennessee counties to view a three-minute animated video depicting fetal development. This directive, part of the family life curricula starting the 2024-25 school year, aims to influence perspectives on human development and abortion.

The law, identified as HB 2435/SB 2767 or the Baby Olivia Act, mandates the inclusion of a computer-generated or high-definition ultrasound video in the educational program. It highlights “Meet Baby Olivia,” a video produced by the political advocacy group Live Action, known for its anti-abortion stance. This video, although not exclusively mandated, is recommended as a model for meeting the law’s requirements.

“Meet Baby Olivia” details fetal development from conception, a method that deviates from the U.S. medical standard which calculates gestational age from a woman’s last menstrual period. This shift in measuring developmental stages is touted as a feature by proponents of the video, who argue that it reinforces the view of human life beginning at conception.

Critics, however, raise concerns about the video’s neutrality and medical accuracy. They argue that its approach may confuse or mislead young viewers and suggest that the video’s use in schools is a strategic move to frame fetuses as persons and to critique abortion care. This educational mandate has sparked a significant debate about the intersection of education, politics, and reproductive rights.

Similar legislation referencing the “Baby Olivia” video has been enacted or is under consideration in several other states, including Missouri, North Dakota, West Virginia, Kentucky, and Iowa. Tennessee’s new requirement affects 78 of the state’s 95 counties, all of which have a teen birth rate exceeding 19.5 per 1,000 females aged 15 to 19.