Quietly, and very strategically, the ultra-right is making its way into classrooms across the country—and many here in Central Ohio. The “pro-family” mission to promote “community values” sounds innocent enough, but beneath the plastic smiles and glossy brochures is an anti-choice, anti-sexuality education agenda that seeks to dismantle and eventually ban basic sex education.

These small, but well-organized groups have big budgets and big buddies in state legislatures and on school boards. Locally, right-wing groups have spearheaded several attempts at discrediting the Ohio Department of Education’s comprehensive sexuality education curriculum and cutting off unrelated federal funding for health education. These moralist, fundamentalist leaning groups have denounced sex-ed curricula as “better suited for Hustler than for health class” which fuels their fervor for spreading abstinence-only curricula and “born again virgin” programs.

Abstinence-only education witholds from students scientific, objective, factual, and potentially life-saving information. Abstinence-only programs often rely on scare tactics and biased, medically inaccurate information. The fact remains that, according to the 1999 Ohio Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 63% of Ohio high school students are sexually active by the time they graduate. Without going into grim details about the number of sexually transmitted diseases and unplanned pregnancies, its safe to say that Ohio is not without educational opportunities. Withholding information on pregnancy, STD and AIDS prevention from Ohio teens is not in the best interest of students. Yet, this is what the ultra-right proposes to do -- alleging that somehow sex-ed promotes sex. However, numerous studies by organizations such as the World Health Organization and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services have found quite the opposite. Their studies have shown that comprehensive sexuality education programs do not increase sexual activity in teens; they have been proven to effectively delay the onset of sexual activity and can decrease overall sexual activity.

Abstinence-only programs, however, have yet to produce any credible, statistically significant evidence that they are effective.

Abstinence is a critically important component of any comprehensive sexuality education program. But it must not be the only lesson taught. To teach health education without including comprehensive sexuality education is like teaching an American History class which skips the chapters on the Revolutionary War. Comprehensive sexuality education promotes and emphasizes abstinence in conjunction with age-appropriate information to prevent pregnancy and disease. Students have a right to know how to effectively prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. Teens need the information, tools and resources to make educated decisions, but these need to be fact-based, NOT fear-based.

The Birds and the Bees (according to the right wing)

Some schools are moving away from comprehensive sexuality education and substituting it with abstinence-only curricula. Consider what some fear-based abstinence-only curricula teach teenagers:

“What if I want to have sex before I get married?…Well I guess you just have to be prepared to die. And you’ll probably take with you your spouse and one or more of your children with you.” —from No Second Chance video

A popular fear-based curriculum also used in Central Ohio repeatedly asserts that “sexuality is inseparable from personality.” The curriculum includes lists of harmful consequences of premarital sexual activity which include: “pregnancy, fear of pregnancy, AIDS, guilt, herpes, disappointing parents, chlamydia, inability to concentrate on school, syphilis, embarrassment, abortion, shotgun wedding, gonorrhea, selfishness, pelvic inflammatory disease, heartbreak, infertility, loneliness, cervical cancer, poverty, loss of self-esteem, loss of reputation, being used, suicide substance abuse, melancholy, loss of faith, possessiveness, diminished ability to communicate, isolation, fewer friendships formed, rebellion against other familial standards, alien objects, difficulty with long-term commitments, various other sexually-transmitted diseases, aggressions toward women, ectopic pregnancy, sexual violence, loss of a sense of responsibility toward others, loss of honesty, jealousy, depression, death.” —from Facing Reality Parent/Teacher Guide

“If premarital sex came in a bottle, it would probably have to carry a Surgeon General’s warning, something like the one on a package of cigarettes. There’s no way to have premarital sex without hurting someone.” —from Sex Respec


Susan Studer is the Membership and Community Outreach Coordinator of the Ohio Environmental Council. Contact her at:

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