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Political Ad Distorts Illinois Sex Education Bill

On September 9, Republican Presidential Nominee John McCain (R-AZ) released a campaign ad denouncing Democratic Presidential Nominee Barack Obama’s (D-IL) support for a sex education bill while he was a state senator. [i] The ad asks sarcastically, “Obama’s one accomplishment?…Legislation to teach ‘comprehensive sex education’ to kindergartners.”

The ad is referring to Senate Bill 99 (SB99), which was assigned to the Health and Human Services Committee in the Illinois Senate in 2003. At the time, State Senator Barack Obama was Chairperson of the committee. He did not sponsor the bill, but he did vote in favor of it.

SB99 proposed to make changes to Illinois’ existing sex education law which requires instruction in grades six through 12 that includes teaching about the prevention, transmission, and spread of AIDS. [ii] Illinois law also states that schools much teach “honor and respect for monogamous heterosexual marriage.” SB99 would have eliminated all references to marriage in the Illinois sex education code, and required that all material used in classrooms be age- and developmentally appropriate and medically accurate. It would also have expanded sexuality education to students in kindergarten through fifth grade and mandated that students be taught the age of consent, positive communication skills, and that they [the pupil] have the power to control behavior. In addition, SB99 greatly expanded language around instruction on preventing sexual violence. [iii] SB99 passed the Health and Human Services Committee but failed to be voted on by the full State Senate.

Planned Parenthood Federation of America responded to the ad (www.plannedparenthoodaction.org) by explaining “Every eight minutes a child is sexually abused. That’s why Barack Obama supported legislation to teach children how to protect themselves. Now John McCain is twisting the facts and attacking Senator Obama.” [iv]

Joseph DiNorcia, President and CEO of the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS) commented on the campaign ad on RH Reality Check’s site saying: “The truth about Obama’s record in the Illinois legislature is that he supported a bill that would have amended the state’s sex education law by allowing more students access to age-appropriate instruction and requiring that all materials be ‘medically accurate.’ Of course students should receive instruction on all subjects that is age appropriate, and I have yet to meet anyone with the chutzpah to say they are against medically accurate information.” DiNorcia’s full blog post can be found here: http://www.rhrealitycheck.org/blog/2008/09/10/mccain-ad-misrepresents-comprehensive-sex-ed

 

[i] Brian Montopoli, “New McCain Ad: Obama Favors Sex-Ed For Kindergartners,” CBS News, 9 September 2009, accessed 15 September 2008, <http://www.cbsnews.com/blogs/2008/09/09/politics/horserace/entry4433099.shtml>.
[ii] See Illinois Code: 105 ILCS 110/2, 105 ILCS 110/3, 105 ILCS 5/27-9.1, 105 ILCS 5/27-9.2, 105 ILCS 27-11, Public Act 92-0023, and Illinois School Code.
[iii] Illinois Senate Bill 99, <http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/BillStatus.asp?DocNum=0099&GAID=3&DocTypeID=SB&LegID=734&SessionID=3&GA=93&SpecSess=0>.
[iv] ‘Planned Parenthood Federation of America,” Setting the Record Straight, accessed 15 September 2008, < http://www.plannedparenthoodaction.org/campaigns/282.htm>.

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