- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 18, 2006

A group of 18 politically diverse organizations yesterday called for a common vision — and more dialogue — on sexual health and public policy.

Divergent views about sexual health and sexual behavior have led to polarization and silence, even though untold numbers of people suffer because of sex-related issues such as violence, disease and hurtful relationships, former Surgeon General Dr. David Satcher said at a press conference yesterday.

“We feel that America needs to talk more about sex and sexual health, especially in a mature, respectful and honest fashion,” said Dr. Satcher, the interim president of the Morehouse School of Medicine.

He and the 18 groups released a National Consensus Process (NCP) report on Sexual Health and Responsible Sexual Behavior that outlines areas of agreement on sexual health issues. The report, hammered out over nearly two years, identifies the “best” ways to conduct research on sexual matters and defines sexual health and core elements of sex education.

Left unresolved were agreements over what constitutes sexual abstinence, responsible sexual behavior, sexual orientation and “medical accuracy,” such as condom efficacy.

The 18 groups, all of which were personally invited by Dr. Satcher, were drawn from across the political spectrum and included the Guttmacher Institute, Medical Institute for Sexual Health, Institute for Youth Development, National Minority AIDS Council, Black Women’s Health Imperative, National Organization for Women, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States.

Originally, seven more organizations were represented — Advocates for Youth; National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy; Concerned Women for America; Traditional Values Coalition; Focus on the Family; Lambda Legal; and Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network — but they withdrew after a year’s worth of meetings for reasons such as personal health and “being fed up” with the process, Dr. Satcher said.

Three more conservative groups — the Heritage Foundation, Abstinence Clearinghouse and Family Research Council — declined to attend any NCP meetings.

Several NCP leaders said yesterday that they were very pleased with the report, because of its unprecedented content and because it required them to regularly talk with people who have different, strongly held views.

“Instead of talking at each other, people were talking with each other,” said the Rev. Father Michael Place of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, adding that he attended the meetings to “bring a Catholic voice” to the mix.

In June 2001, when Dr. Satcher was part of the Bush administration, he issued a “call to action” on sexuality. The report asked Americans to address high rates of sexual disease, abortion, rape, AIDS and child sexual abuse. However, it riled conservatives because it didn’t support abstinence until marriage and said sexual orientation appears to be unchangeable.

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