updated 5/24/2006 3:29:48 AM ET 2006-05-24T07:29:48

Sex education teachers must present abstinence as the preferred behavior for unmarried people under a bill signed Tuesday by Gov. Jim Doyle.

The legislation means teachers must emphasize that refraining from sex before marriage is the most effective way to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. A spokesman for the governor, a Democrat, said most Wisconsin school districts already take that approach.

"The governor thinks that abstinence should be an important part of the message that kids hear from adults as part of their classes," spokesman Dan Leistikow said.

Republican Sen. Mary Lazich, a bill's sponsor, said sex education teachers can still teach about birth control but must emphasize that abstinence is the only 100 percent effective method to avoid health risks.

Kelda Helen Roys, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Wisconsin, called the bill, which takes effect July 1, shortsighted.

"They ignored the overwhelming public testimony, support and expert information about the importance of comprehensive sex education that talks about abstinence as well as contraceptive use," she said. "Abstinence is an important part but it is not the only part."

The birth rate among Wisconsin teens ages 15-19 decreased by 27 percent between 1993 and 2004, from 41 to 30 births per 1,000 females, according to the most recent government survey.

But the overall infection rate of the four top sexually transmitted diseases increased by 3 percent among teens during that time.

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