ELECTION 08: Obama comments on kindergarten sex-ed stir controversy

by Michael Foust, posted Friday, July 20, 2007 (12 years ago)

EDITORS' NOTE: This story is part of a regular series of stories focusing on the most recent news about the presidential candidates' views on faith and morality.

WASHINGTON (BP)--Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama reaffirmed July 17 his belief that "age appropriate" sex-education should be taught in kindergarten, although exactly what that would entail is unclear.

Obama made his remarks during an appearance before Planned Parenthood, the nation's largest abortion provider. As an Illinois state legislator, Obama supported a bill that would have expanded "age appropriate" sex-education from grades 6-12 to kindergarten through 12th grade, the Associated Press reported. The bill also deleted language that said sex-ed courses should honor "monogamous heterosexual marriage." The bill never became law.

Asked at the Planned Parenthood conference his position on sex-education, Obama noted the issue came up during his 2004 U.S. Senate race against conservative Alan Keyes.

"'Barack Obama supports teaching sex education to kindergarteners,'" said Obama, mocking what Keyes said, ABCNews.com reported. "Which -- I didn’t know what to tell him (laughter).

"But it’s the right thing to do," Obama told Planned Parenthood, "to provide age-appropriate sex education, science-based sex education in schools."

Asked by ABC News what that meant, the Obama campaign provided a newspaper story from 2004 where Obama explained his position in slightly more detail.

"Nobody's suggesting that kindergartners are going to be getting information about sex in the way that we think about it," Obama told the Daily Herald in '04. "If they ask a teacher 'where do babies come from,' that providing information that the fact is that it's not a stork is probably not an unhealthy thing. Although again, that's going to be determined on a case by case basis by local communities and local school boards."

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who is appealing for conservative support, pounced on Obama's position.

"How much sex education is age appropriate for a 5-year-old?" Romney asked during a Colorado campaign stop, according to ABCNews.com. "In my view, zero is the right amount. Instead of teaching about sex education in kindergarten to 5-year-olds let's clean up the ocean of filth, the cesspool in which our children are swimming."

FREE ABORTIONS FOR EVERYONE? -- If either of them is elected president, Obama and Democrat John Edwards will push for publicly funded abortion as part of their respective health-care plans, attendees at the aforementioned Planned Parenthood conference were told July 17.

Edwards wife, Elizabeth Edwards, told the organization her husband's plan is a "true universal health-care plan" that would cover "all reproductive health services, including pregnancy termination," the Chicago Tribune reported.

Obama said his health care plan would cover "reproductive health services." An Obama spokesman said that included abortions, the Tribune reported.

Appearing before the conference, Obama and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton also blasted the Supreme Court's recent decision upholding a federal ban on partial-birth abortion -- a gruesome procedure in which a middle- or late-term fetus is partially delivered, feet-first, until its head remains in the birth canal. The baby's brains are then suctioned, allowing a dead delivery. A nurse who witnessed a partial-birth abortion once told Congress the "baby's little fingers were clasping and unclasping, and his little feet were kicking" before going "completely limp" after the skull was collapsed.

"At the top of [President Bush's] list was this effort to try to overturn Roe vs. Wade or at least try to chip away at it," Clinton was quoted as saying in Reuters, adding that the current administration "set out from day one to dismantle reproduction rights around the world."

Obama and Clinton voted against new Supreme Court Justices John Roberts and Samuel Alito during confirmation. Alito's confirmation made the difference in the partial-birth abortion case.

"I would appoint well-qualified judges who really respect the Constitution," Clinton said, according to Reuters.

RICHARDSON SUPPORTS LITMUS TEST -- Democratic presidential candidate and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson is viewed by some observers as more conservative than the other candidates in his own party, but that apparently isn't true on the issue of abortion. Appearing in New Hampshire July 16, Richardson said he would appoint only Supreme Court candidates who support the Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide.

"Some people call this a 'litmus test,'" he said, according to The Boston Globe. "I call it respecting precedent and putting women's lives above politics."

GILMORE DROPS OUT -- Republican presidential candidate and former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore dropped out of the race July 14, saying in a letter on his website that "the combination of my late start, and the front loaded nature of the primary schedule, have made it impractical to continue to pursue this path towards further public service."

Gilmore is pro-choice through the first eight to 12 weeks of pregnancy, although he does support the overturning of Roe v. Wade.


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