Gavin Newsom vetoes bill to make condoms free for high school students

The Governor insisted the bill was vetoed for financial reasons

Martha McHardy
Tuesday 10 October 2023 16:57 BST
Gavin Newsom moves California towards opening up

California Governor Gavin Newsom has vetoed a bill to provide high school students with free condoms.

The bill, written by state Senator Caroline Menjivar, would have required all public schools in California to make condoms free for high school pupils. The legislation would have also prohibited retailers from asking for proof of age or identification when minors buy condoms or nonprescription contraception.

The governor insisted the bill was vetoed for financial reasons to make up for a $30bn shortfall in the state’s budget.

In a statement, Mr Newsom said that while providing condoms is “important to supporting improved adolescent sexual health,” he claimed the bill would have created an unfunded program that was not supported by the state’s budget.

“With our state facing continuing economic risk and revenue uncertainty, it is important to remain disciplined when considering bills with significant fiscal implications, such as this measure,” he said.

However, Mr Newsom said the state legislature has approved multiple pieces of legislation that, if enacted, would result in nearly $19bn of unaccounted costs for the state of California.

Senator Menjivar said the veto was a “setback” in the fight to reduce the spread of sexually transmitted diseases and curb teen pregnancy rates in California, the Los Angeles Times reported.

“We spend millions of dollars on [sexually transmitted infection] health care every year when prevention costs far less than treatment,” she said. “This is a youth-led bill, and we need to meet high school students where they are to properly address the STI crisis in California.”

The bill prompted scepticism from some conservative groups. The California Policy Council argued that “handing out free condoms perpetuates” a hook-up culture in which “sex is meaningless and done for fun with multiple partners.”

However, others have argued that the legislation would have served an important purpose in helping to reduce the prevalence of sexually transmitted diseases amongst young people in California, particularly people of colour.

According to the bill’s analysis, five in 10 chlamydia cases in California are young people, disproportionately affecting people of colour.

In 2016, the California Healthy Youth Act was passed, requiring that students in grades 7-12 receive comprehensive sexual health education and HIV prevention education at least once in middle school and once in high school.

Mr Newsom has led somewhat of a social revolution in California with his progressive policy agenda.

In September last year, Mr Newsom signed into law a bill to stop other states from punishing children who come to California for transgender surgeries and other gender-affirming care.

California Governor Gavin Newsom has vetoed a bill to provide high school students with free condoms
California Governor Gavin Newsom has vetoed a bill to provide high school students with free condoms

The legislation, which will take effect in January, will include hormone therapy to suppress secondary sex characteristics and other treatments “to align the patient’s appearance or physical body with the patient’s gender identity.”

However, it is not clear if the bill will survive a challenge in court.

Meanwhile, last year, Mr Newsom signed laws to make California a sanctuary for women in other states seeking abortions now that the US Supreme Court has overturned Roe v Wade.

In September, Mr Newsom signed several bills into law aimed at bolstering California’s protections for LGBT+ people.

The governor also signed legislation that requires schools serving first through 12th grade to have at least one gender-neutral bathroom available for students by 2026.

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