ABC News' Teddy Davis and Lindsey Ellerson Report (Watch the video (04:20):): Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., told Planned Parenthood Tuesday that sex education for kindergarteners, as long as it is "age-appropriate," is "the right thing to do."
"I remember Alan Keyes . . . I remember him using this in his campaign against me," Obama said in reference to the conservative firebrand who ran against him for the U.S. Senate in 2004. Sex education for kindergarteners had become an issue in his race against Keyes because of Obama’s work on the issue as chairman of the health committee in the Illinois state Senate.
"'Barack Obama supports teaching sex education to kindergarteners,'" said Obama mimicking Keyes' distinctive style of speech. "Which -- I didn’t know what to tell him (laughter)."
"But it’s the right thing to do," Obama continued, "to provide age-appropriate sex education, science-based sex education in schools."
Speaking to a young woman who asked a question about sex education, Obama said, "You, as a peer, can have enormous power over your age cohort but you’ve got to have some support from the schools. You certainly should not have to be fighting each and every instance by providing accurate information outside of the classroom because inside the classroom the only thing that can be talked about is abstinence."
"Keep in mind: I honor and respect young people who choose to delay sexual activity," Obama continued. "I’ve got two daughters, and I want them to understand that sex is not something casual. That's something that we definitely want to communicate and should be part of any curriculum. But we also know that when the statistics tell us that nearly half of 15 to 19 year olds are engaging in sexual activity, that for us to leave them in ignorance is potentially consigning them to illness, pregnancy, poverty, and in some cases, death."
When Obama's campaign was asked by ABC News to explain what kind of sex education Obama considers "age appropriate" for kindergarteners, the Obama campaign pointed to an Oct. 6, 2004 story from the Daily Herald in which Obama had "moved to clarify" in his Senate campaign that he "does not support teaching explicit sex education to children in kindergarten. . . The legislation in question was a state Senate measure last year that aimed to update Illinois' sex education standards with 'medically accurate' information . . . 'Nobody's suggesting that kindergartners are going to be getting information about sex in the way that we think about it,' Obama said. '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.'"
In addition to local schools informing kindergarteners that babies do not come from the stork, the state legislation Obama supported in Illinois, which contained an "opt out" provision for parents, also envisioned teaching kindergarteners about "inappropriate touching," according to Obama's presidential campaign. Despite Obama's support, the legislation was not enacted.