Nearly two years ago, Concerned Women for America (CWA) joined a National Consensus Process to seek common ground about sexual health among policy groups across a broad ideological spectrum.
CWA entered the process with the hope that there would, indeed, be common ground regarding sexual health. We made participation a priority; as CWA’s representative to the process, I adjusted my schedule to accommodate the commitment and I attended all the meetings. The stated goal of the NCP delineating principles that maximize sexual health is needed at the national level in order to provide clear direction for young people who are, increasingly, floundering on their way to maturity and adulthood.
Even with the differences in perspective among the participating organizations, CWA hoped that the stated goal could be achieved for the well-being of the nation’s young people. However, great deviations from that goal developed as the meetings ensued. Over time, it became clear that the National Consensus Process would not and could not reach that goal.
At the most recent meeting, it was suggested that we seek “higher ground” rather than “common ground.” This was a broad hint that “compromise” is desirable in order to achieve “higher” goals. To me, this was an example of the group floundering in its purpose and commitment to find areas where the participants could agree. In addition, pressure continued to be exerted to try to force compromises from the group’s few conservative members something that was never a possibility from the Left any more than from the Right.
In particular, CWA hoped for agreement on the recommendation that teens abstain from sex until marriage. With record high incidences of sexually transmitted diseases and the problem of teen pregnancy, as well as the recent studies confirming that depression and even suicide among teens are linked to sexual activity, the need for clear communication regarding maximum sexual health is great. CWA is also concerned about the loss of innocence among the nation’s children and the fact that many of the problems facing children today stem from sexual promiscuity; there is an immediate and crying need for adult leaders to be courageous in taking a stand for sexual values based on optimum health and primary prevention, not ideology.
Yet, it is obvious that consensus is impossible regarding abstinence or the other fundamental requirements for sexual health and well-being. In fact, several incidents have taken place lately where liberal participants in the NCP publicly have opposed federal policies promoting abstinence. Not only is there active opposition and discrimination against input based on Judeo-Christian ethics and values, there is an adversarial tone and disdain for those who hold traditional values.
Even as a cynic with wide experience in trying to reach common ground, I had high hopes at the beginning of the National Consensus Process. The social problems in our culture are having such a detrimental impact on our teens, I thought, that we surely can agree on a solution. I was convinced that we could agree that casual sex which destroys the family, the foundation of society, and carries with it many emotional and physical risks, especially for women is unacceptable behavior. But the only two requirements for sex that some Leftists were willing to grant were “honesty” and “safety” several other qualities, such as “relationship” and “commitment,” were soundly nixed.
Lady Margaret Thatcher once remarked that she was a conviction politician, not a consensus politician. “Consensus?” she said. “Consensus is the negation of leadership!” She also stated that consensus was the “process of abandoning all beliefs, principles, values and policies in search of something in which no one believes, but to which no one objects; the process of avoiding the very issues that have to be solved.”
My experience with the National Consensus Process fit Lady Thatcher’s description. Though I formed friendships and had good camaraderie with people in the group over the two years that we met, it seemed, finally, that I would have to abandon all beliefs, principles, values and policies and, in the process, avoid confronting the issues that needed to be solved in order to produce a vacuous document stating principles that no one could possibly believe and that had no hope ultimately of making a difference.
What a sad disappointment that the process would end in failure when the potential was so great and the possibilities so positive for the nation’s children and future.
Janice Shaw Crouse represented Concerned Women for America in the National Consensus Process for Sexual Health, which was convened by former Surgeon General, Dr. David Satcher, now president of Morehouse School of Medicine.