JEFFERSON CITY - More than a dozen women from Boone County packed into Rep. Ed Robb's office to talk about sex education and abortion.
Columbia College student Kirstin Steitz, 23, said she was nervous about speaking face-to-face with Robb, R-Columbia, after years of writing letters to representatives.
"I think my generation feels very apathetic about the system," said Steitz, who is trying to start an abortion rights committee in Columbia.
Steitz descended on the Capitol along with more than a hundred participants from throughout the state who broke into groups to visit state legislators. The rally and lobbying groups were organized by about 17 various women's and abortion rights groups as part of an annual event that targets the reproductive health legislation of the year.
The list of sponsors included religious groups. Audience members carried signs with "Jesus said judge not lest ye be judged" and a worship service closed the event.
A few of the women who went to Robb's office said they were surprised after he answered, "I agree," to many of the women's statements about the necessity of sex education in schools. Robb said about his teenage years, "I know what I knew at that age and I didn't know much."
Robb also said he is against legislation to ban abortions.
"I'm against abortion, but that's a personal thing," he said.
Materials provided to participants listed Robb as "anti-choice."
The 11 bills targeted by the activists included legislation sponsored by Rep. Cynthia Davis, R-O'Fallon, that would remove a state requirement that sex education classes include lessons on contraception. Under the bill, schools teaching sex education would not be allowed to hire anyone from an organization that provides abortions, such as Planned Parenthood, to teach the classes.
Davis said she did not meet with any of the men and women who came to the capitol to talk about her bill. She looked at a handout passed out at the rally that called the proposal "sex miseducation." She said the bill does not prohibit teachers from talking to students about contraception, abortion or pregnancy and that it allows school boards more freedom and parents more say in what is taught in sex education classes.
Other legislation would ban abortion and allow pharmacists to refuse to fill prescriptions for emergency contraception.
Kevin Hawkins of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region said "Emergency contraception is not abortion." He added, "We want to inform our youth so they have all the information they need to make decisions for themselves."