Arizona Author Objects to Abstinence Stickers on Son’s Biology Textbooks, Gets Hounded Off the Internet

Arizona school board members considered ripping a controversial page out of a high school biology textbook.

Sfio Cracho/Shutterstock

Just in case the Donald Trump phenom hadn’t convinced you that the country has gone completely off the rails: In a suburban Phoenix school district, the inside back cover of high school biology textbooks now must be emblazoned with a sticker that discourages kids from getting abortions. Huh? That’s right, in the Gilbert Unified School District, biology textbooks now contain a sticker with this indelible message:

The Gilbert Public School District supports the state of Arizona’s strong interest in promoting childbirth and adoption over elective abortion. The District is also in support of promoting abstinence as the most effective way to eliminate the potential for unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. If you have questions concerning sexual intercourse, contraceptives, pregnancy, adoption or abortion, we encourage you to speak with your parents.

As the text indicates, the message is in keeping with an actual 2012 Arizona law, part of former Gov. Jan Brewer’s far-right legacy, stating that “no school district or charter school in this state may endorse or provide financial or instructional program support to any program that does not present childbirth and adoption as preferred options to elective abortion.” Because teaching sex education in Arizona is not mandatory, some districts may choose to deal with this stricture by ignoring the subject altogether. Those that do teach sex ed are required by law to stress abstinence.

The Gilbert School Board—under the leadership of three Tea Partiers who consider Common Core to be a “pile of dog poo,” and with the encouragement of the Alliance Defending Freedom, the same organization that engineered the notorious anti-gay discrimination law in Indiana—had spent a great deal of time debating a section in the biology textbook that contains extremely “controversial” material about contraception preventing unwanted pregnancies. According to a local news report, some board members wanted to black out the lines that mention various birth-control methods, vasectomies, and—wait for it—drugs that can induce abortion; others wanted to rip out the whole offending page. Instead, the school board compromised on the instructive sticker.

The only reason news of this outrage traveled beyond the borders of Gilbert is because a parent in the district happens to be a New York Times­–best-selling young-adult novelist with a sizable Twitter following. Suzanne Young, author of the The Program series, tweeted an image of the sticker to her nearly 12,000 followers last week, with the line, “This. THIS is a sticker my son’s public high school just forced all students to put in their science books,” followed by a snapshot of the sticker:  

Screenshot via Twitter

Later, in response to the flurry of criticism (to the tune of “@suzanne_young would prefer abortion over adoption, apparently!”), Young tweeted, “I don’t care what your religion is or if you think abstinence education works, that sticker crosses the line for public school.”

Young did not respond to my request for comment, and over the weekend she deactivated her Twitter page and her Facebook page. Her author page is now “open to invited readers only.”

Arizona’s teen pregnancy rate is far above the national average.*

*Correction, Aug. 25, 2015: This post originally misstated that Arizona has the second-highest teenage pregnancy rate in the country. That figure was outdated.