The nation’s largest abortion provider will soon teach more public school students about sex, thanks to federal funding in the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. For five years, the law allocates $75 million for Personal Responsibility Education Programs, and Planned Parenthood Federation of America will receive much of that money, according to the Washington Times.
Planned Parenthood’s national office declined comment, and many local offices did not return calls or would not comment, but Erin Zabel explained the ninth grade program Planned Parenthood runs at schools in Newport News, Virginia. Zabel oversees education and external affairs for Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Virginia.
The federal grant will permit her branch to hire additional educators.
“We feel really fortunate to finally have a grant to significantly expand our department,” Zabel said. “You can’t ask young people to make smart choices about their lives if they don’t have all the information.”
Sex Positions in Kindergarten
Planned Parenthood curricula vary, but programs “ideally” begin as early as kindergarten, according to the federation’s website.
Zabel said the ninth grade program is comprehensive and begins by emphasizing abstinence as the most effective way to prevent pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections. The bulk of the program discusses contraception, diseases, and risks of sexual behavior.
“Once kids understand what they’re up against, they’re less likely to engage in [risky sexual] activity,” Zabel said.
However, some information is inappropriate to give earlier or ever in schools, said Abby Johnson, a former Planned Parenthood clinic director.
“We saw in a couple different states last year that part of Planned Parenthood’s curriculum is to demonstrate different sexual positions with stuffed animals to children in kindergarten,” she said.
At least one program linked on the federation’s website suggests children ages 5 to 8 learn that “vaginal intercourse—when a penis is placed inside a vagina—is the most common way for a sperm and egg to join.”
Early Sex and Abortions
Planned Parenthood has a vested interest in promoting early sexual activity, however, because it loses “a tremendous piece of its revenue base” if young people wait for sex until they are older or married, said Paul Rondeau, executive director of the American Life League.
Approximately a third of Planned Parenthood’s revenue comes from taxpayers, according to its latest annual report. Abortions contributed 14.4 percent of its $1 billion annual revenue. Twenty-three percent of its revenue comes from non-abortion services such as contraception.
“We should be talking about contraception,” Johnson said, “but we should be giving the real statistics on contraception. Planned Parenthood talks about perfect use rates only. We should be giving the real consequences and side effects of these medications … and not act like being on birth control is a normal thing, especially at this age.”
About half of women who have abortions were using contraception when they got pregnant, she said.
“In the long run, [Planned Parenthood’s] goal is to make money off these young people,” she said.
Parents and guardians are “their children’s primary sexuality educators,” but often feel they need support, according to Planned Parenthood’s website. It says “the nature of our education system in America puts schools in the ideal position to take the lead in this process.”
Zabel compares Planned Parenthood’s role to that of math teachers.
“We’re the experts on the medical aspects of this.… We don’t ask parents to teach their kids geometry or algebra; we let the experts teach that,” she said.
Planned Parenthood educators encourage children to communicate with parents, she said, noting “it’s not up to us to tell kids what your values should be.”
The organizations’ actions contradict such statements, Johnson said.
“They fight very hard against opt-in programs and opt-out programs [in schools], because chances are the parents won’t even know what’s going on” without those options, Johnson said.
Planned Parenthood aims to develop a rapport with children so they will trust it instead of their parents, she said.
Zabel says parent involvement is key to the curriculum, which includes students taking home questionnaires to discuss. The clinic also puts on caregiver classes to help spark family conversations.
Biology and Morality
Planned Parenthood sex ed includes detailed information about STIs, including HIV, and how to test for them, Zaber said.
Students are not told whether to use contraception or which kind, but instead are given information on effectiveness of various methods.
“Obviously, once people have that comprehensive information, they can decide ‘for myself, for my lifestyle, this is the form of birth control that works for me,'” she said. “Most birth control has pretty minimal side effects or risks.”
But sex education should be more comprehensive than how-tos and disease charts, Johnson and Rondeau say.
“Sex education is not just about biology and pleasure,… and its connection to human welfare, the family, the child, culture, is something that is best shaped by the families and their faith and their traditions, not by an organization that makes a profit by getting people involved in sex,” Rondeau said.
Parents should be given a look at the curriculum and an opportunity to decide whether they want their children in sex ed, Johnson said.
“Saying ‘don’t have sex’ doesn’t work,” she said. “Let [children] know why their bodies are so valuable, and why their sexuality is so valuable.”
Image by Timothy Krause.