Republicans and independents heavily favor contraception, sex ed

Opposition to contraception and support for abstinence-only sex ed are extreme minority positions, even among Republicans and Independents, according to a new survey by the National Women’s Law Center and the YWCA USA.* A couple of points:

* Nearly three-quarters (72%) of Republicans and Independents favor legislation that would make it easier for people at all income levels to obtain contraception, and 70 percent favor legislation that would help make birth control more affordable. More than 60 percent of fundamentalist/evangelical Protestants favor these proposals.

* Only 8 percent of Republicans and Independents think the government should support abstinence-only education. A strong majority of Independents (76%) and Republicans (62%) believe the government should support comprehensive sex education programs that include information about abstinence, as well as information about contraception and sexually transmitted diseases.

And yet for some reason, we’re still pretending in this country that pro-contraception and comprehensive sex ed policies are radical liberalism. If you’re a Republican who favors them, consider writing to your party’s leadership to ask them to represent you and the majority who believe as you do.

*The usual cautions about study design and sampling do apply, of course. I’ve written to ask for more information. These results are consistent with other polls I’ve seen, though.

“Abstain, or else no one will believe you if you’re raped”

Via Feministing, an abstinence education horror story.

A group called “Abstinence ‘Till Marriage Education” is receiving $600,000 to provide abstinence-only “education” in Ohio. Now, I’m used to hearing stories about abstinence-only programs calling young people (especially young female people) who have sex impure and possessed of low moral character, or comparing them to chewed gum or used duct tape. ATM’s “Abstain, or else no one will believe you if you’re raped” approach may be a new low, though.

You can see the whole sordid mess at their website, Miss the Mess.com – Party Rooms. (ETA: not anymore — see below)

To summarize briefly: the site tells the story of four teenagers who were at a party. Two of them leave, and then one (Rochelle) accuses the other (Jason) of having raped her. The four tell their accounts of what happened.

According to Jason’s ex-girlfriend, Jason “expected sex to be part of any relationship he was in” while “Rochelle was considered a slut.” The viewer is asked whose story is considered the least credible. I assume you won’t be surprised when the answer is “Rochelle.” She’s had sex, you see — or at least, rumor has it that she’s had sex, and having rumors going around about you is risky behavior! (You’re wondering why having had actual, non-rumored sex doesn’t destroy Jason’s credibility, aren’t you? What are you, some kind of feminist?) She also made “questionable decisions” — like driving her drunk friend home from a party when there was a boy who offered to drive him instead.

Interestingly, I’m looking through the page several hours after I first viewed it, and it appears that ATM have made some quick changes to the public face of their program. The quiz no longer answers the question of who is considered least credible. There’s also now a giant disclaimer at the beginning stating that “any crime occurring as a result of risky decision [sic] is still a crime and ATM Education strongly encourages teens to seek a trusted adult or notify the proper authorities in such cases.”

Good luck getting anyone to believe you though, slut.

(You can contact the White House to ask President Obama to remove funding for programs like this when he submits his proposed budget to Congress.)

I don’t want to sound ungrateful, but …

Last week, the White House announced its new plan to reduce the perceived need for abortion — as part of the expanded White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

I’m pleased to see President Obama following through on this campaign promise. All the same, I couldn’t help being disappointed. The word “women” was used exactly once in the announcement. Three out of the fifteen named council members are women.

I had hoped that the abortion-reduction program would be under Health and Human Services, or possibly a revived White House Office of Women’s Initiatives and Outreach. Basing the program there would have shown that President Obama understands that the problems driving women to abortion are not just personal, but systemic. A woman-centric abortion reduction program also would have made partners of women’s advocates and abortion opponents — two groups who should have so many of the same goals, but often end up in opposite camps due to our toxic abortion politics.

I worry that this move is more about placating religious people who are distressed by abortion than it is about actually ending it. I also worry about abortion reduction being stereotyped as solely a religious concern — like that isn’t enough of a problem already.