California Governor Rejects Free Condoms for High School Students

California Governor Gavin Newsom has vetoed a bill that would have made free condoms available to all public high school students, citing budget constraints and the need for fiscal discipline.

Newsom says the bill would create an unfunded mandate

The bill, known as Senate Bill 541, was introduced by Democratic Senator Caroline Menjivar and co-authored by fellow Democrats Susan Rubio and Scott Wiener. It would have required all public schools that have grades nine through 12 to make condoms available for free to all students. It would have also prohibited retailers from refusing to sell condoms to youth.

Free Condoms

Newsom rejected the bill on Sunday, saying that it would create an unfunded mandate to public schools that should be considered in the annual budget process. He said that the state is facing a budget deficit of more than $30 billion and that it is important to remain disciplined when considering bills with significant fiscal implications.

“While evidence-based strategies, like increasing access to condoms, are important to supporting improved adolescent sexual health, this bill would create an unfunded mandate to public schools that should be considered in the annual budget process,” Newsom wrote in a two-page letter addressed to members of the California State Senate1.

Menjivar says bill would help prevent STIs and unwanted pregnancies

Menjivar, who represents Los Angeles, said that the bill would have helped “youth who decide to become sexually active to protect themselves and their partners from (sexually transmitted infections), while also removing barriers that potentially shame them and lead to unsafe sex.”

She said that the bill was supported by various health and education organizations, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, the California School Nurses Organization, and the California Teachers Association. She also said that the bill was based on research that shows that condom availability programs do not increase sexual activity among youth, but rather increase condom use and reduce STIs and unwanted pregnancies.

“I am disappointed that Governor Newsom vetoed SB 541, a common-sense measure that would have improved the health and well-being of our young people,” Menjivar said in a statement. “I will continue to fight for policies that empower our youth to make informed decisions about their sexual health and reproductive rights.”

Newsom vetoes other bills on health and social issues

The condom bill was one of several bills that Newsom vetoed over the weekend. He also vetoed bills that would have:

  • Decriminalized possession and use of certain hallucinogens, such as psychedelic mushrooms.
  • Limited the price of insulin to $50 per month for insured patients.
  • Banned caste-based discrimination in workplaces and educational institutions.

Newsom said that he vetoed these bills because they either had fiscal impacts that were not accounted for in the budget, or because they required further analysis and stakeholder input.

Newsom did sign some bills into law, such as one that requires any new school bus purchased or contracted by school districts after 2035 to be zero-emission.

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