NPR-Morning Edition (US), November
Texas Board of
Education may approve health textbooks which
teach abstinence from sex
STEVE INSKEEP, host:
The world may be focusing on this week's presidential
election, but the business of government goes
on. This week, the Texas Board of Education
is likely to approve four textbooks on health
for ninth- and 10th-graders. The books teach
abstinence from sex and do not mention the
benefits of contraceptives. That decision has
divided parents and teachers along culture
war lines, as NPR's Barbara Bradley Hagerty
BARBARA BRADLEY HAGERTY reporting:
Early in the school year, Susan Moffatt(ph) dropped
by her son's middle school in Austin to fill
out some last-minute paperwork. She walked
into the registrar's office.
Ms. SUSAN MOFFATT (Parent): There in the office
was a girl going into eighth grade, holding
her six-week-old infant. She was 13 years old.
She wasn't old enough to drive. She wasn't
even old enough to get a part-time job after
school. And, you know, I looked at the kid
and I thought, if she had had the information
she needed, would it have made a difference?
You can never really know, but we have to err
on the side of responsibility.
HAGERTY: But, Moffatt says, that is unlikely
to happen, because the next set of high school
books dealing with sexuality are likely to
say that abstinence is the only foolproof way
to avoid pregnancy. They say nothing about
the benefits of contraceptives and condoms.
Because of that, says Samantha Smoot of the
Texas Freedom Network, the books are actually
Ms. SAMANTHA SMOOT (Texas Freedom Network): For
instance, one book says that both protected
and unprotected sex are high-risk behaviors.
Well, what a dangerous message to be giving
to young people, that there's really no difference
between having protected sex and unprotected
HAGERTY: Smoot is president of a watchdog group
that monitors the religious right. She says
that the abstinence-only books, if approved
on Friday, put Texas teen-agers in ignorant
danger, and not just Texans, she says. The
state buys so many textbooks that they become
the national standard.
Which is fine by Kyleen Wright, president of
Texans for Life in Ft. Worth. She says kids
get all sorts of messages about sex from TV
and movies, and the main message is sex is
perfectly safe. She says teaching safe sex
is not information, it's indoctrination. Wright
notes that in the current curriculum, kids
spend two days on abstinence, then 13 days
on learning about contraceptives.
Ms. KYLEEN WRIGHT (Texans for Life): You've got
two days of abstinence and then, wink, wink,
we know you can't do that, so here's all this
other information, a smorgasbord of choices,
which are all presented in a value-neutral,
everything's-equal manner. And I do not know
how that plays in Washington, DC, but in Texas,
the buckle of the Bible Belt, that would be
considered extremely offensive to the vast
majority of parents.
HAGERTY: Marilyn Morris, who runs an abstinence
program in Dallas called Aim for Success, believes
encouraging kids to delay sex has already reaped
Ms. MARILYN MORRIS (Aim for Success): For 30
years, sexual activity was climbing, pregnancy
rates were climbing and now everything from
sexual activity rates, pregnancy rates, abortion
rates, they're all dropping over the past 10
years. And the only thing that has changed
is that in the past 10 years, we've started
HAGERTY: For example, President Bush supports
abstinence programs and has given them a lot
of federal funding, $130 million last year.
Sarah Brown, director of the National Campaign
to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, says a mixed approach
works. Teen pregnancy, for example, has plummeted
30 percent since 1992, and studies show it's
both because kids delay sex and because when
they try it, they know about contraceptives.
Ms. SARAH BROWN (Director, National Campaign
to Prevent Teen Pregnancy): And what that means,
in a way, is that people on all sides of this
issue can take some credit. Those who prefer
these rates to go down entirely by less sex,
they've got some evidence that's happening,
and those who see much more value in driving
the rates down by more contraception, they
have some good news to celebrate, too.
HAGERTY: But for now, it looks as if the abstinence
folks will be the only ones celebrating in
Barbara Bradley Hagerty, NPR News.
INSKEEP: It's 11 minutes before the hour.
<< NPR-Morning Edition -- 11/1/04 >>
to a friend
Us Newsletters News