Sex Ed in the Era of Roe V. Wade

Among its mournful fruits, Roe v. Wade has advanced the debasement of sex instruction in our schools. A quarter-century after the legalization of abortion, institutionalized “sex ed,” like a caustic agent, has eroded the innocence of our youth. Hence the dark coeval of our time: the murder of unborn children alongside the murder of the spirit of children who are allowed to live.

Roe v. Wade legitimized further government involvement in the sexual realm. Its support of sexual education in particular led to increased sexual activity among teens, and the horrific consequences of the latter fueled the need for government involvement. This was a stupendous victory for bureaucrats, social engineers, and radical feminists.

To comprehend the breadth of their triumph, recall that the American sex ed movement sprang from the Swedish “comprehensive” sex ed models propagated by UNESCO (an agency of the United Nations), which advocated that all sex-related issues be dealt with in the schools. The Sex Information and Education Council of the U.S. (SIECUS), cofounded in 1964 by Mary Calderon, a former executive director of Planned Parenthood, became the movement’s primary source in recommending sex ed programs to the government for use in all schools. SIECUS, which received an initial grant from the Playboy Foundation, has since been on the dole of at least two major U.S. government agencies—although an open accounting of the federal funds it has received is difficult to obtain. The organization has strong philosophical ties to Dr. Alfred Kinsey, who used prisoners as well as infants in what many claim was a fraudulent and abusive attempt to show that humans from infancy can engage in and enjoy sexual activity. An example of a government-funded SIECUS project for the classroom is a booklet titled Alone No More, which encourages high school teachers to create “positive learning” about homosexuality in the classroom.

This vast, synergistic network has transformed the values system of millions of children and established a new secular humanist, sex-oriented culture. Belief in the sacredness of human life made in the image and likeness of God was the first target of their efforts. To this end, Humanist Manifesto II, a creed endorsed by prominent apparatchiks of the sex ed movement in 1973, inveighed against “intolerant attitudes, often cultivated by orthodox religion and puritanical cultures, [that] unduly repress sexual conduct.” These sex radicals thoroughly understood that the victory of the sexual revolution depended on targeting children, and above all inuring them to abortion.

Thus, when Dr. Alan Guttmacher, former president of Planned Parenthood and a signatory of Humanist Manifesto H, was asked after Roe v. Wade how the decision could be irreversibly secured, he replied summarily: “sex education.” In 1993, as sex ed critic Lawrence Griner observes, this same design was expressed in the papers of the secretive White House Health Task Force, which sought to nationalize the healthcare system. These papers, recently brought to light, describe the public schools as a “captive audience of children and youth for school-based clinic initiatives.” Among all manner of “health services” to be provided by the nanny state, these initiatives would tend to students’ sex-related problems. Hardly by coincidence, David Satcher, a Clinton insider who ran the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (which has a “partners” agreement with SIECUS) was a member of the task force.

A vigorous sex ed industry has arisen to implement the sex radicals’ vision. Abortion itself has been a lucrative source of funds for providers like Planned Parenthood. Drug companies have prospered as a result of health problems arising from increased sexual activity, and the merchants of sex within the popular culture have enriched themselves tremendously. Human sexuality programs, designed to turn out sex ed teachers for schools, have created new jobs in teachers’ colleges and women’s studies departments.

As state-imposed therapy of every kind became increasingly acceptable, federal funding for sex ed books, manuals, and films was made available. Large bureaucracies sprang up to implement the sex ed mandates adopted by state legislatures. The apogee of governmental intervention in intimate family affairs was reached when former Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders advocated masturbation, or “outercourse,” and the establishment of condom-distributing health clinics in schools as solutions to teenage pregnancy.

State-of-the-art sex ed texts can be astonishingly crass and graphic. They overtly aim to desensitize children to sex and to sexual perversion, disabusing them of moral restraints and their natural sense of modesty at an ever earlier age.

To focus primarily on one example, consider It’s Perfectly Normal, a Penguin-distributed book for children aged ten and up. Endorsed and promoted by Planned Parenthood, it was written by Roble H. Harris, a member of Planned Parenthood’s national board of advocates.

It’s Perfectly Normal features colorful cartoon-like illustrations of nudes: heterosexual couples having intercourse in different positions; a hirsute youth expertly donning a condom; a girl bending over while holding a mirror between her legs, so as to examine her outer sex organs and anus; a mop-haired boy on the edge of a bed rigorously masturbating; a youth with an erection; and a supine girl contentedly masturbating.

In a clear attempt at further demystifying sex, these pictures are casually mixed in with others of a nonsexual, or non-graphically sexual, nature. This montage of sex-in-life, life-in-sex images is pointedly matter of fact: A humorous bird and bee duo engage in naive repartee about life and sex; families congregate cozily; happy-go-lucky, androgynous figures strut about in unisex garb; and cheerful homosexual couples strike affectionate poses. The centerfold, as it were, is an extraordinarily crude gallery of twenty-one singularly unprepossessing nudes in every size, shape, and shade of skin color.

Like most sex ed texts, It’s Perfectly Normal acquaints students with every conceivable contraceptive foam, cream, or jelly; instructs them that a female might choose to have an abortion when she “did not intend or want to become pregnant”; and states that homosexuality is biologically or socially determined and thus, “perfectly normal.” No rationale, of course, is provided for why most people and religions throughout history have viewed abortion and homosexuality as intrinsically wrong.

When it comes to masturbation, such materials adopt a reassuring, enthusiastic, even gleeful tone. It’s Perfectly Normal, for instance, assures students that masturbating “cannot hurt you” and that even “the elderly and babies” masturbate. Similarly, Learning About Family Life, a fairly typical textbook used in grades kindergarten through three, tells young children that “[When you touch your genitals], you can give yourself pleasure . . . and that’s OK.” Regarding masturbation, another text, What’s Happening To Me?, exults: “It’s a great feeling . . . even some animals do it.”

While sex ed materials like It’s Perfectly Normal brainwash children in the normalcy of any and all sex at any stage of life, hardly a day goes by without reports of unspeakably brazen or violent sex-related incidents in schools, often involving the very young. It is widely believed that administrators, fearful of adverse publicity, downplay such acts of sexual violence.

Among the reported cases:

  • In a New York City schoolyard, a gang of eight and nine year old boys forced a nine year old girl to perform oral sex.
  • At a school in Washington, D.C., several nine to twelve year olds disrobed and practiced what was later labeled “consensual and voluntary sexual exercises.”
  • In Illinois, a thirteen year old girl was repeatedly molested by her thirty-seven year old teacher who, tired of condoms, had her injected with Depo-Provera, a powerful drug used to chemically castrate sexual predators.
  • At a school in Manhattan, youngsters are provided with mint-flavored lubricated condoms labeled “only for oral sex.”
  • At a west coast conference devoted to “gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender issues in education,” handouts from a group called “Young Tongues,” described as “girls who like girls twenty-three and younger,” were distributed.
  • In Pennsylvania, fifty-nine eleven year old girls were given a genital examination, without parental notification, and in spite of some girls’ requests to opt out or call a parent.

Sex ed in most of its current forms, like the sexual mayhem in many schools, violates the innocence of children. Stated in psychoanalytic terms by Dr. Melvin Anchell among others, it violates the latency period, a time of natural, necessary repression in the lives of the young. Sex ed also violates the natural right of parents to oversee the education of their children, including instruction about sex, which the Holy Father reaffirmed in Familiaris Consortio. Finally, it violates the prerogatives of religious institutions and subjects people of faith to corrosive secular forces within the very heart of their families.

The Roe v. Wade generation has failed to protect this country and the world against the assault by sex ed upon the chastity of children. Even many Catholic parents, and parents of other faiths, surrendered their role in the moral development of their children, failing to protest and remove their children from offensive sex programs in public and parochial schools. Too many teachers, especially Catholic teachers, have marched in lockstep as the government has institutionalized sex ed in schools in the name of therapy.

Indeed, the Church itself has poorly defended her prerogatives, largely capitulating to government and allowing the new sexual catechesis to dominate. In 1968, Human Life In Our Day sanctioned dissent by theologians, thereby facilitating contraception, abortion, and sex ed as ways of life. The latest capitulation is the American bishops’ directive Always Our Children, which fails to challenge the secular received wisdom that early signs of homosexuality necessarily point to a fixed orientation, as opposed to a transient attraction that can be remedied or rejected by an act of moral will.

A luminous exception to the bishops’ stupefying weakness, in addition to Familiaris Consortio, was The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality, promulgated by the Pontifical Council for the Family, which reasserts the primacy of the family as the fundamental unit of human society and calls for the need for sensitivity to timing, delicacy, and privacy in sexual instruction.

Upon whom or what might we then rely to lead us out of the fetid sexual swamp to which Roe v. Wade and sex ed have given rise? Remoralizing our children and our culture will require, first and foremost, strengthening our faith. The contemporary obsession with genital behavior cannot coexist with faith in Christ.


  • Candace de Russy

    Candace de Russy is a nationally recognized scholar on education and cultural issues and an Adjunct Fellow at Hudson Institute.

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