- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 17, 2003

Virginia state Delegate Robert G. Marshall believes colleges and universities should pursue the truth, not promote sex education.

That’s why this summer Mr. Marshall, Manassas Republican, is taking it upon himself to change the way Virginia institutions handle the subject. And he’s not wasting any time.

Mr. Marshall recently asked to meet with James Madison University President Linwood Rose, whose students last month held a so-called “SexFest” that included a demonstration of how to put on a condom. Mr. Marshall also filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with officials at the University of Virginia to determine the school’s policy on emergency contraception (EC).

Mr. Marshall, 59, said he’s dismayed that public universities are dispensing EC and holding “sex fests.” He partly blames what he sees as a moral decline in America on the institutions because he says they have strayed from their primary purpose of pursuing truth.

“They can’t even think straight when it comes to sex, some of these people,” said Mr. Marshall, who is the state legislature’s most prolific author of anti-abortion bills. “They’re really skating on thin ice.”

Mr. Marshall said the recent string of incidents at some state universities raises the question about the role of today’s institutions.

“For a university to first not try to discover the truth is so profound. The university is not pursuing its first mission: discovery, cultivation and protection of the truth,” he said. “They want to cover up the truth so you can engage in behavior you wouldn’t otherwise.”

So last spring, Mr. Marshall decided to try to change how colleges handle sex education policies and practices.

In March, Mr. Marshall sent letters to 10 state-supported universities, asking officials to explain why their schools were giving EC, also known as the “morning-after” pill, to students.

Last month, Mr. Marshall sent a letter to University of Virginia President John T. Casteen, accusing the school of distributing EC since 1995, three years before the drug was approved by the Food and Drug Administration. He also filed a FOIA request with the school to determine whether officials keep any medical records of students who receive the contraception.

“A woman could go in six times for these pills, and they wouldn’t know,” he said.

In his letters, Mr. Marshall argued that EC is a form of abortion because it prevents implantation of a fertilized egg. He also claimed that its distribution violates state law, which requires that women seeking abortions receive information about the procedure and other alternatives and wait 24 hours before undergoing the procedure.

The board of trustees at James Madison University quickly responded to Mr. Marshall’s letter. Last month, it banned the distribution of the morning-after pill on campus.

Mr. Marshall’s efforts didn’t get very far, however. Earlier this month, state Attorney General Jerry W. Kilgore, a Republican, ruled that the morning-after pill was not a form of abortion because it doesn’t terminate an existing pregnancy. Mr. Kilgore’s memo said each college’s board of visitors should be responsible for deciding EC dispensation in campus clinics.

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