Local News

Rule Change Could Force Nonprofits to Teach Comprehensive Sex Ed

Posted December 17, 2007 7:39 p.m. EST
Updated December 17, 2007 9:23 p.m. EST

— A change to a state rule regarding grants given to nonprofit groups focused on teenage pregnancy prevention could force some groups to change their programs.

Under the proposed rule change by the state Department of Health and Human Services, abstinence-only groups that operate outside of schools must teach teenagers complete and medically accurate information about sex education and contraceptive methods.

Otherwise, the nonprofits risk losing state funding.

The proposed change has angered some groups, such as the North Carolina Family Policy Council, which push abstinence-focused programs.

"Basically, these new rule changes would defund abstinence," said Tami Fitzgerald, an attorney with the group, said Monday after a hearing on the matter.

The rule change would require any grant applicants to submit a plan to provide comprehensive sex education and information about contraceptive methods, including abstinence. Groups would be required to accommodate requests for things that fall beyond the scope of the program, such as family planning and access to contraceptives.

State officials argued that programs receiving state money should offer teenagers any option that will work best for them.

"These projects have to serve all kids," said Dr. Joe Holiday with the North Carolina Division of Public Health. "If they focus on abstinence, (they should) make sure kids can have other information if they ask for it or want it or need it."

Fitzgerald defended the abstinence-only approach to sex education.

"It is really trying to give them power over their own bodies, rather than just giving in and saying: 'We know you are going to have sex, so here is a condom,'" Fitzgerald said.

Rep. Paul Stam, R-Wake County, expressed his opposition to the rule change at Monday's hearing.

A bill before the state Legislature would encourage similar changes to sex education in public schools.

The public comment period on the proposed rule changes will end Jan. 14, and state leaders will consider the proposal in February.