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'Baby Olivia' video — or similar fetal development clip — could be shown in schools under Kentucky bill

A screenshot from Live Action's video "Baby Olivia," which is being used as an example of the kind of video some Kentucky lawmakers want shown in school health curricula.
Live Action YouTube Channel
A screenshot from Live Action's video "Baby Olivia," which is being used as an example of the kind of video some Kentucky lawmakers want shown in school health curricula.

Kentucky public schools would be required to include in their health curricula for students 6th grade and above a video presentation showing fetal development. But the video example shown in committee — called "Baby Olivia" — is being criticized by opponents who see it as smuggling in religious and political messaging and assumptions.

Backers of House Bill 346 characterize the push as one meant to "start a conversation" and introduce young students to the subject in a compelling way. Republican Rep. Kim Moser noted the bill doesn't specifically require the Baby Olivia clip, produced by anti-abortion-rights group Live Action, be shown — though the bill is named after the video.

"This is an example of a video that could be shown. It doesn't have to be this one. It could be more heavily on science, and it just depends on the age of the child that you're building this curriculum for."

Watch the Baby Olivia video below.

Critics, including Planned Parenthood and medical professionals who testified in Thursday's hearing, view the video as using loaded language to imply certain beliefs about a developing fetus. The animated figure is said to be “playing” and “exploring” — language opponents say assign human traits and properties to a fetus that are more sophisticated than medicine can prove, according to the Associated Press.

"It's banking on a lack of education in a general audience," says Dr. Miranda Bencomo, a resident physician studying pediatrics. "You are seeing a being reacting to stimulus in the same way in the same way leaves on a tree turn toward sunlight. There are certain things that are trying to make an emotional pull that are not appropriately explained."

Lawmakers on the House Standing Committee on Health Services debate also referenced last year's controversial Senate Bill 150, which prohibits "instruction on human sexuality or sexually transmitted diseases for children in grades five or below."

While skeptics of HB 346 questioned whether the state was working as cross-purposes by barring sex education below grade six, leaving students unprepared for changes in their own bodies while actively promoting depictions of developing fetuses, proponents did not see a conflict.

"It doesn't say in this language when in the curriculum this particular type of video would be shown," Moser said. "You build your curriculum, you incorporate some sort of video that is a visual, and kids hang on to that."

That said, HB 346 would give parents at least two weeks notice ahead of any showing of the materials and require their approval to opt in. Alternate assignments would be given to students who do not view the video.

Kentucky is one several states either considering or implementing so-called "Baby Olivia" bills. One is already on the books in North Dakota, while similar measures are being debated in Iowa, Missouri, and West Virginia

Josh James fell in love with college radio at Western Kentucky University's student station, New Rock 92 (now Revolution 91.7). After working as a DJ and program director, he knew he wanted to come home to Lexington and try his hand in public radio.