Several States Take Aim at Comprehensive Sex Education

May 1, 2013 — Lawmakers in several states this year are backing legislation to curtail comprehensive sex education in favor of antiabortion and abstinence-focused programs, The Week reports.

Although provisions promoting abstinence-only sex education peaked during the George W. Bush administration, the approach -- which espouses avoiding sex outside of marriage and forbids discussions on contraception and safer sex -- remains popular today among many conservatives.

Part of the recent interest in abstinence-only measures is "backlash from state legislators" over an Obama administration initiative supporting states that use "evidence-based" approaches to teaching sex ed, according to Debra Hauser, president of Advocates for Youth, which supports comprehensive sex education.

Details of State Legislation

Some state lawmakers who oppose comprehensive sex ed have singled out Planned Parenthood, which runs prevention and education programs in many states.

For example, a Texas bill (HR 1057) would make it illegal for organizations affiliated with abortion providers to provide sex education or related materials to public schools. Kansas recently enacted legislation (HR 2253) that bars Planned Parenthood from providing sex education in public schools, while Arkansas lawmakers have advanced a bill (SB 818) that would prohibit the state from awarding grants to organizations affiliated with abortion providers.

Meanwhile, North Carolina lawmakers proposed a bill (SB 132) that would require teachers to tell their students that abortions increase the likelihood of subsequent premature births. According to The Week, "virtually all major U.S. health organizations haven't endorsed the link."

Separately, measures to restrict funding for comprehensive sex education recently failed in Ohio and North Dakota (Liebelson, The Week, 4/29).