Opinion

September 7, 2011 (CatholicAnchor.com) – The Aug. 12 radio debate on 750 KFQD’s Dave Stieren Show hinged on the question of whether values should be a part of sex education for Alaska’s youth.

The debaters couldn’t have had more different positions.

Clover Simon is vice president for Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, a branch of the national organization that provides the lion’s share of abortions across the nation and is also one of the largest distributors of condoms and contraception to teens. Her debate partner, Jim Minnery, is president of the pro-family, pro-life advocacy group Alaska Family Council, which supports, among other issues, abstinence education and limits on abortion.

At the start of the one-hour debate Simon stated that sex education classes should not talk about when it is appropriate to have sex or whether you should be married or not. Those are values for families and churches to address, she said.

The real job of sex educators, Simon argued, is to provide “non-value based, age appropriate, medically accurate sex education that includes all of the skills that a young person would need to make good decisions.”

According to Simon, sex education shouldn’t wade into the controversial area of values.

“I don’t believe that those values have a place in our public education system,” she said.

But values — whatever they may be — are not so easily removed.

In fact, earlier in the debate, Simon argued that sex education should help teens forge “good relationships,” be a “good friend” and feel “good about yourself as a person so you can move forward with whatever decisions you have made.”

What exactly constitutes a “good relationship” or a “good friend” in Planned Parenthood’s view? Deciding whether something is good or bad is a value judgment.

In fact, Simon undercut her claims of a values-free sex education when she highlighted the “Teen Outreach Program” that Planned Parenthood aims to teach in three Alaska communities, including to students at Mt. Edgecumbe High School in Sitka. The Alaska programs are part of a national campaign funded by new federal grants from the Obama administration.

According to Planned Parenthood’s online job description for the course, the upcoming program aims to prevent unintended teen pregnancy by covering “topics such as healthy relationships, sexual health, goal setting, and values.”

There are those “values” again.

The job description also adds that the overall goal of the program is to provide “accurate sexual health information in a safe, non-judgmental manner.”

In reality, Planned Parenthood does make judgments about what is and is not healthy and beneficial for the human person. On a fundamental level the organization believes that access to abortion, contraception and information on how to have so-called “safe-sex” — even for underage teens without their parent’s consent — is a fundamental right of every person.

So the question is not so much whether Planned Parenthood teaches its values, but whether we want those values instilled in our children.

This was the very point Minnery raised during the debate.

“The value that is promoted more so in the comprehensive sex education setting is that sex as a teenager, before marriage, is not a bad thing – we can’t make that judgment. And that very statement is counter to a good percentage, if not the majority of parents out there,” he said.

Authentic abstinence education, on the other hand, upholds sex as “the most intimate, amazing” expression of love between a married man and a woman, Minnery added.

He said sex education must come from the perspective that men and women are amazing individuals and as such, should be given “higher expectations” and “virtuous standards” to attain.

But Simon argued that abstinence educators too often paint sex in a negative light when it “can be a really wonderful part of people’s lives.”

“The whole point of people having good accurate information that is age appropriate for wherever they’re at, is so that they can enjoy sex and avoid the negative consequences of sex,” Simon argued.

But again, Simon’s statement is laden with values, namely that people should be able to have sex in a variety of different contexts and relationships without having to experience what she deems to be “negative consequences.”

It is highly questionable whether that is even possible, especially when one way to avoid negative consequences, according to Planned Parenthood, is by killing the unborn baby in the womb. That is viewed as pretty negative by most Americans.

Towards the close of the debate Simon unwittingly illustrated another fundamental problem with Planned Parenthood’s approach to sex education.

“Birth control” she admitted “does fail for many, many people because people aren’t perfect and we don’t take it perfectly. And so people experience failures.”

If we are going to allow sex education in our schools, it should certainly be scientifically based and medically accurate — namely, that the surest way to avoid teen pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases is to abstain from sex until marriage.

This approach, unlike Planned Parenthood’s, does not subtly undercut the fundamental values of parents regarding human sexuality.

This column originally appeared in Alaska’s Catholic Anchor newspaper. It is reprinted where with permission.

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