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. Over 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.

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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 II, 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 Criner observes, this same design was expressed in the papers of the secretive Clinton-era White House Health Task Force, which sought to nationalize the healthcare system. These papers 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 former 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.

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 offspring, 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. Another capitulation is the American bishops’ past 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.


This column originally appeared in the January 1998 issue of Crisis Magazine.


  • 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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