Activists emphasize sex education
, Staff Writer
RALEIGH - A dozen abortion rights supporters formed a line across the street from the Capitol on Thursday on the 36th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion.
But the demonstrators were not there to convince passers-by of the virtues of legalized abortion. Instead, they held placards calling for comprehensive sex education in the schools.
"We want to shift the discussion away from things we can't agree on and more to things we can agree on," said Paige Johnson, vice president of public affairs for Planned Parenthood of Central North Carolina.
With a new president in the White House and calls for a politics of unity and bipartisanship, the small rally (called a "visibility event") was intended to avoid high-pitched rhetoric and harsh denunciations.
The raspberry-colored placards avoided any mention of abortion. "Real Sex Ed Saves Lives," they read.
In Washington on Thursday, abortion opponents held a far larger rally that has now become an annual Jan. 22 tradition. That rally drew thousands of North Carolinians concerned that President Barack Obama may roll back rules signed by former President George W. Bush that limited abortions.
Obama supports abortion rights and is expected to restore government funding for family planning to the U.N. Population Fund and allow nongovernmental organizations to receive taxpayer funding for abortion. He is also expected to lift the ban on federal funds for stem-cell research.
But Obama has also made clear he wants to find middle ground on abortion-related issues and has called for policies that reduce the number of abortions.
Demonstrators on Thursday said they supported such measures. "It's just critical that we have sex ed in the schools," said Senseney Marshall, an administrative assistant who took time off on her lunch break to attend the one-hour rally.
The abstinence-based approach, which was backed by Bush, is taught in most North Carolina counties, including Wake. Increasingly, some more moderate religious groups say they would favor more comprehensive sex education so long as the program also taught abstinence as an option.
About 20,000 teenage girls get pregnant in North Carolina annually.
For that reason, several of the demonstrators came together to hold a hand-painted sign that read, "Education: 1st Choice."