Issue 82, Summer 2001

Political scandals aside, Washington lawmakers are shy about sex—at least when it comes to education and public policy. So shy, as a matter of fact, that in 1996 they sneaked into law, with no discussion, a half-billion dollars of state and federal money for school districts that teach that the only acceptable sexual behavior outside marriage is abstinence. Banned from curriculum is health and life-saving information about contraception, sexually-transmitted diseases and sexual orientation, even though most parents want their children to receive comprehensive sexuality education.

A long-awaited report from Surgeon General David Satcher on promoting responsible sexual behaviors has called into question the wisdom and efficacy of suppressing information about sexuality. It is unclear what its impact will be.

Indications are that some in Congress intend to try to renew and expand funding for abstinence-only this summer. But this time people will be looking: at a press conference in the nation’s capitol on June 12, a national campaign was launched by NCAC and 38 groups to champion the right of young people to learn more about sexuality than “just say no” and to oppose censorship.