May 2, 2010 / Politics, Unity

Setting the Record Straight – Sarah Palin and Sex Education


The opinions expressed herein are those of the author, and not necessarily those of The New Agenda

Sarah Palin and her daughter Bristol seem to be on the same wave length when it comes to sex education. Both support abstinence education. And both support birth control education. Sounds like a contradiction, right? Actually, it is not. abstinence education in conjunction with birth control education are the main components of comprehensive sex education, which most Americans support.

sarah-palin-judges-robesBut the media has been getting this story wrong for some time now and  it is widely believed even today that Sarah Palin supports abstinence-only education. NPR got it wrong back in 2008. As did the The Washington Post, MSNBC, ABC News and  The Wallstreet Journal .

Unfortunately, many feminists have followed the misinformation of the mainstream media. Jessica Valenti claimed Sarah Palin to be against sex education in 2008 as did Eve Ensler and Gloria Jacobs of the Feminist Press. More recently, Amanda Hess got Palin’s position wrong in her column “The Sexist” in the Washington City Paper. During the Letterman scandal, Amanda Marcotte of Pandagon criticized Sarah and Bristol Palin for supporting abstinence education but failed to acknowledge that they also supports birth control education. In 2009 Feministing confused Sarah Palin’s abstinence advocacy as support for abstinence-only programs while a recent article about Bristol Palin muddies the definition of comprehensive sex education.

But I must admit, the confusion makes sense since sex ed terminology can be confusing. We often hear the following sex ed buzz words thrown around: abstinence education, abstinence-only, comprehensive sex education and explicit sex education. But understandably most Americans do not know the difference.

So I thought a primer in sex education terminology would be helpful:

  • Abstinence education is simply abstinence education and does not necessarily mean abstinence-only education.
  • Abstinence-only education is a sex education approach that advocates abstinence as the only way to avoid unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. The topic of birth control is only mentioned in terms of their failure and risk.
  • Comprehensive sex education is supported by most Americans and takes the approach that while abstinence is preferable it is important for teens to understand birth control including condom use, birth control pills, etc.
  • Explicit sex education is a sex education program that is more explicit then comprehensive sex education. An explicit sex education program might include discussions on sexual fantasies, teaching middle school students how to unroll condoms in class and sex education for elementary students. Most Americans are against explicit sex education.

Another reason for the confusion is the lazy reporting by most of the mainstream media. Back in 2008 major news sources sited Palin’s answer to an awkwardly worded question prepared by an Eagle Forum Alaska Questionnaire in 2006. The leading question (which only offered two choices) and Palin’s answer were:

“Will you support funding for abstinence-until-marriage education instead of for explicit sex-education programs, school-based clinics, and the distribution of contraceptives in schools?” Palin: “Yes, the explicit sex-ed programs will not find my support.”

Due to this Q&A most media sources mistakenly took Palin’s strong rejection of explicit sex-education as proof that she is a proponent of abstinence-only education. Too bad the media didn’t dig a little deeper because they would have discovered that Palin had spoken openly in support of comprehensive sex education during this time.

In fact, weeks later  Palin clarified her position on sex education. During a KTOO radio debate Palin spoke further about her support of both abstinence and contraception education:

” I’m pro-contraception, and I think kids who may not hear about it at home should hear about it in other avenues. So I am not anti-contraception. But, yeah, abstinence is another alternative that should be discussed with kids. I don’t have a problem with that. That doesn’t scare me, so it’s something I would support also.”

And during the 2008 Presidential campaign Palin spoke again about her support of comprehensive sex education in an interview with People Magazine:

Has this changed how you talk about sex with your other children?

SP: I’ve always been a proponent of making sure kids understand – even in schools – they’d better take preventative measures so that they don’t find themselves in these less than ideal circumstances. Perhaps Bristol could be a good example to other young women that live happens and preventative measures are, first and foremost, the option that should be considered –

Do you mean abstinence or contraception?

SP: Well, both. Ideally abstinence. But we have not been one to say that students, should not know what preventative measures are all about. I’ve been taken aback by some criticism that mainstream media has thrown my way saying, Oh, what a hypocrite she is and she’s now learned her lesson because she’s been against sex education in the schools. And I’m like, when? Where? When have I ever said that there should be no sex education taught in our homes or even in our schools?

Also during the presidential election Palin’s spokeswoman Maria Comella said that Governor Palin stands by her 2006 position and supports a sex education curriculum that covers both abstinence and contraception education.

I know, I know. This was news back in 2008 and the topic of Palin’s sex education stance more often comes up now due to the activism of  her daughter Bristol. But it is a rumor that has traction and due to her family circumstances  their is a sexist element to this rumor as well. By claiming Palin to be an abstinence-only advocate it becomes fun to mock Palin as the clueless mother of a teenage mom.

We must also correct this rumor in order to make the media culpable. If we do not take them to task are we not giving them the green light to partake in dangerously inaccurate reporting with future women candidates? I’m afraid to find out.

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  • Karen

    I love the article! It is about time the record gets straightened out over Sarah Palin. Down with the misinformation!

  • yttik

    Yes! Set the record straight!

    What bothers me about all the resistance to abstinence information is that it starts to imply that girls have no choice or right to say no. Given our culture of sex in your face 24/7 and advertising, clearly informing girls that they exist solely as sexual beings who will be valued for nothing else, we really do have to counter act that. It’s okay for girls to pursue other interests, to put off having sex, to not make boys the center of their world.

    I watched Oprah grill Bristol Palin and I found it disturbing. Oprah was blasting her, telling her it was unrealistic for her to even consider abstinence as a goal. She was only setting herself up for failure. There was no way she could avoid having sex, even if she wanted to. Bristol kept saying this is my personal choice and Oprah kept implying, no, you do not have the right to make that choice.

    Well, if abstinence is not viewed as one legitimate choice, then consent no longer exists.

  • jenniferintexas

    As a radical feminist who has fought her entire life for equal rights for all, I am 100% in support of abstinence and I think promoting condoms to children (i.e. anyone under 18) is child abuse. Yes, CHILD ABUSE. The last thing young girls need if they want to be strong, smart and successful is to have sex at an early age or become boy crazy. I work with young girls and the message is not only what we say but what we do. If having many sexual partners is bad for grown ups, than it is worse for children. My god people do you realize what awful double message we are sending to kids–not only are we saying they can’t control themselves but we are saying sex without love is a great thing and just do it. MANY studies have been done comparing all girls schools to mixed gender and without a doubt the years 8 to 18 young girls are stronger, healthier, and do better without boys. Go figure….

    Oprah is absolutely part of the problem and the fact that she was raped as a child by her own relatives (male, of course) and has embraced the rape mentality culture and president is proof positive that less sex is best ESPECIALLY during the formative years.

    We must teach our children not only what we aspire to be but also try to protect them from the mistakes we made. Having 100 sexual partners before you are 18, or 38 is not a good thing no matter what the pro-sex, anti-women pornographic culture tries to tell us.

    Sarah Palin is a heroine. And with God’s grace and enough people finally doing the right thing perhaps she will be our president…..

  • Swannie

    Thank you so much …. I am shocked at how many feminists believe every rumor and innuendo regarding Sarah Palin, and never question the larger implications for women .. Someone I highly respect for doing research into WOMENS SUPPRESSED HISTORIES recently asked me if I had heard about Sarahs anti- witchcraft agenda …….

  • JR

    Great article. It is funny how liberals never care to research or discover the facts! Run Sarah run!!!!!

  • Swannie

    Abstinence is always an option… but I also emphatically do believe that teaching the use of condoms is absolutely essential in this day of rampant and lethal STDS . Our children need every option at their disposal , and I am an RN who has worked extensively, and for years with abused children . Children who have sex as an act of impulsively seeking nurturing are not completely in control of their actions . They need protection and information. They absolutely need to know they can say no, but until they have the maturity and ability to control their actions .. protection is essential.

  • jenniferintexas


    Children need to know they MUST say no. NO OPTIONS ALLOWED. Jeezus christ.

    Children need role models and STRONG ONES at that, and they need firm guidelines. It is like training an animal, you must be firm and consistent. Wishy washy does not cut it. Telling children no to sex, but if you have to do it use a condom is idiotic, inconsistent and has resulted in disaster.

    Condoms do not truly protect girls. Aids, teen pregnancy, STDS, and the moral and psychological break down of young girls can only be stopped with the word NO. NO. It is really quite simple.

    Adults have to be able to face the music if kids are going to have a chance….

  • Kathleen Wynne


    Remember how those of us who supported Hillary, also supported Sarah, when she is unfairly treated the next time a progressive woman is being attacked in the same manner. I hope you and those conservatives who are in favor of facts over opinion and fair treatment, will come to her aid with the same consistency as we have for Sarah!

  • Douglass Holmes

    It seems that both the Eagle Forum and the Main Stream Media want to shoe-horn Palin’s opinions into the pigeon hole that fits their preconcieved notion of what she believes or should believe. Too bad. Real journalism should encourage thought. Henrietta’s article is more like real journalism.

  • Bes

    I would like to see an explanation and even an apology from these corporate media sources regarding their lies about Palin. They could even act like they were making a correction but I believe they need to be held accountable or they can no longer be seen as legitimate sources. The same goes for Democrat old school “feminists”, I can’t take them seriously until they stand up for women candidates and correct their lies and mockery regarding Palin. I think part of the problem is they had almost a religious belief that Democrats would nominate and elect the first woman President or Vice President and it just set off overwhelming cognitive dissonance when Republicans nominated Palin. Now that the Dems have screwed women on reproductive choice in the Obamacare bill, maybe, just maybe they will see the light.

  • lisa

    It is like training an animal, you must be firm and consistent. Wishy washy does not cut it. Telling children no to sex, but if you have to do it use a condom is idiotic, inconsistent and has resulted in disaster

    Yes I check these blogs to see what TNA gals are reporting on these days.

    I sincerely liked the article – nice explanation.

    Jennifer – you and me will never see eye to eye. My kids are not animals but I get your point.

    I agree with Swannie on condoms. It depends on the age of the child but certainly once a child is over the age of 10 – when you are having the discussion about sex – more information is better than less. You can still send a message, be a strong role model and discuss condoms.

    Just what “disaster” as resulted by condom use: its usually the lack of condom or control (birth or otherwise) that cause life changing circumstances. Life is not black and white – but rather shades of grey. Every child and parental relationship is different and maturity varies greatly so saying “NO” does not prevent immature choices. Swannie’s comment is right on.

  • lisa


    I am an second generation old school femnist that actually got critique here because I disagree with the Palin idoltry and am educated. I was accused of being an elitist -remember.

    You know gals – you have a problem with Obama. You have a problem with the Dems (who come in all shapes and sizes politically); you have a problem with old femnists; you have a problem with anyone that disagrees with you.

    Case in point: when asked by pro-choice is a dealbreaker for me, I responded because the attacks on choice never end> Witness the new ultra transvaginal requiring OK abortion obstacle law; How about NE new law? And Florida? In the past 6 weeks there have been put on the books new state laws that are sexists, intrusive and impact only women.

    Case in point: Drill Baby Drill Sarah – yes there is a cognitive dissoanance between old fems like me and TNA gals: how do you expect to be taken seriously when you do not offer any balance and attack those who disagree with your POV.
    Sarah Palin does not represent all women and never will – your allegiance to this vagina is quite noticeable to the point where Sarah does it all right and everyone else is wrong.

    Drill baby Drill – talk about karma.
    I was me before Clinton, Bush and Obama got elected – I had the same philsophical underpinnings for 30 plus years – its not that I am a Dem or a liberal but rather a humanists. Humanism trumps sexism anyday.

  • yttik

    “..your allegiance to this vagina..”

    It makes no difference to me how much one claims they are educated or what political party they favor, anybody who refers to a woman as nothing more then a sexual organ is no friend of mine.

  • jenniferintexas


    I trained animals as a child (dogs and horses) and was very good. I read about 100 books on both and they talk about training children too so I read books on child rearing or child raising. Maybe bad choice of words by using the word “train” in regards to children, but I didn’t know I would be attacked for trying to be down to earth. However, my point is still very valid. Children, like animals, come into this world knowing nothing and they mimic what they see and they do what they are told (yes free will etc., etc., but I am not getting esoteric but rather talking nuts and bolts here). If we want children to be safe we have to teach them to be safe, and condoms are not safe. Young girls should not be having sex. Period. End of story. And if you think that my premise regarding their physical, emotional, psychological and other aspects of their life expectancy do not have everything to do with this decision than you should read the last 100 books I have read on what is going on with young girls.

    And, for the record, your comment regarding Ms. Palin as a vagina is misogyny perfected and proof positive that not all women are helpful to the cause….

  • BevWKY

    I am an second generation old school femnist that actually got critique here because I disagree with the Palin idoltry and am educated. I was accused of being an elitist -remember.

    Hmmm. Ever considered that the perception of elitism might not be about how much education someone has or what they believe? It might be about what they wave around as their references and/or credentials.

    All. The. Time.

    Particularly when other people might have some credentials of their own and so get tired of hearing it?

    For instance, my great grand-mother was a mid-wife in the coal region of western Kentucky. This was also a woman whose entire family, male and female, acknowledged that no one crossed swords with once she’d made up her mind. Because they would lose. I shudder to think of the choices she was confronted with concerning life and death for both mothers and their babies on a routine basis.

    I wonder what generation that makes me?

    What generation that makes a heck of lot of us if we go back far enough into any of our family trees because I suspect we’d share some interesting female histories. Doesn’t mean we’re going to change each other’s minds about anything but it definitely tends to level the playing field somewhat. No more elitist problem at all if we’re all equals again. 😉

  • Bes

    By the way Lisa I think the word “cunt” is the preferred sexist slight against Palin used by liberal ditto heads. Although I guess calling a woman, any woman a vagina accomplishes the same thing in a more elite manner.

  • Juliette

    Leftists Obama media had to slander and and attempt to distroy Sarah Palin because they are whores and are in bed with big oil and Marxist-Islamofacist idelology that only people who spent their lives in the shelter of Academia or totally sound out to Saudi money could support. Shame on Carl Rove and the “neo-conservatives” which simple means progressives of the republican party. They are also in strong opposition to her for similar reasons.
    Palin needs to form a new party for real conservatives. The republican party marches to Obama’s drum except for a precious few. I will not support a RINO candidate again. Let the republican party know they most support a non-corruptable true conservative like Palin or we conservatives will just stay home.