Date of Award

January 2022

Document Type

Open Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Public Health (MPH)


School of Public Health

First Advisor

Alice M. Miller


This thesis applies social science research, historical and cultural analysis, and legislative review to understand the relationship between Texas’s school-based sexuality education policies and public health and, in so doing, lay the groundwork for policy change that will better promote sexual and reproductive health, health equity, and health justice in Texas. The thesis first situates Texas state-level sexuality education policy within a larger US political, historical, and legal context, highlighting the key roles of race, class, gender, and sexuality stereotypes and of “morality politics.” It then examines the political history of Texas sexuality education debates within this national context, revealing that opposition to a redistributive school finance policy in Texas has fostered racialized Religious Right rhetoric and the election of increasingly conservative Republican policymakers. An analysis of quantitative political and social science research demonstrates that these variables—namely white perceptions of racial threat, economic threat, state representatives’ conservativism, Religious Right influence in the state Republican party, and Religious Right interest groups—fuel the adoption and maintenance of state-level abstinence-only sexuality education policies. A legislative review of Texas state-level laws governing sexuality education finds that Texas statutory laws severely limit equal access to full and complete sexual health information, openly discriminate against LGBTQ+ youth, and can be expected to result in poor sexual health outcomes with significant health disparities by race, gender, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic status. Religious Right values, state representatives, and interest groups retain a strong hold over Texas state-level sexuality education laws, even though the general population supports expanding access to medically accurate sexuality education; and morality politics push state-level law further to the right while limiting the potential for progressive headway. Public health professionals seeking to improve sexual and reproductive rights and health outcomes in Texas must attend to the complex interplay of morality politics, political actors, and legal structures operating in the state to guide activism and policy advocacy efforts.


This is an Open Access Thesis.

Open Access

This Article is Open Access