Category Archives: Sex education

A farewell of sorts

As you may have noticed, recently I’ve been involved with an exciting new project. I’ve teamed up with Marysia of the Nonviolent Choice Directory to start All Our Lives. This project has been a long time coming. It started back in 2008, when Marysia and I shared our frustration that there was no longer any organization that advocated for contraception, sex education, and other vital needs without advocating for abortion as well.

Others, like LAMom and Cecilia Brown of PLAGAL gave their support, and we launched in March of this year.

We call ourselves a “reproductive peace” organization, which combines principles of the reproductive justice movement and the consistent life ethic. We reject the violence of abortion, and instead work for all women to have the power to make all nonviolent choices about their sexual and reproductive lives.

If that sounds interesting, please visit our web site and get involved. In particular, we’d love to have help getting the Nonviolent Choice Directory ported over to the new site.

This blog will stay up indefinitely — I have the server space, and it’s easy enough to maintain — but I have no plans to add to it. Thank you to everyone who has read and commented over the years; it’s meant a lot to me to know that there are other people out there who share some of my beliefs and frustrations. :) I hope to see you on the new site!

Shared Sacrifice podcast shout-out

I got a shout-out on the February 5 episode of the Shared Sacrifice podcast. Much of the content of the podcast is drawn from a blog post Matt made last summer after the murder of George Tiller. He also referred to my first Shared Sacrifice article from last year, “A Primer on Pro-Life Progressivism”. Matt’s a self-identified pro-choicer, but he sees a lot of common ground with progressive pro-lifers and considers us to be vital to the future of the abortion debate:

“The only reasonable ground to have a debate about abortion is a progressive ground, where both those who are ardently in favor of reproductive rights and those who are concerned about the status of the unborn can come together and help — together — build a world that is truly, and universally, pro-life.”

Thanks, Matt!

Secular, pro-life, sex ed

Secular Prolife has a new project under way: a secular, pro-life sex ed program. For more information or to participate, probably the best thing to do is to join their Facebook group.

I keep meaning to post about Secular Prolife. It’s an organization open to nonbelievers, as well as to religious believers who see the value in arguing against abortion from a secular point of view. It’s explicitly pro-sex-ed (obviously) and pro-contraception. The group doesn’t take an official stance on LGBT rights, but its founder, Kelsey Hazzard, is strongly in favor and it’s certainly an LGBT-friendly environment. It’s come a long way in a short time and has a lot more in store.

Waldman does it again

Who gains from the constant equation of opposition to abortion with opposition to family planning? Two groups come immediately to mind:

* The minority who are anti-family planning, because it increases their stature and influence (Jill Stanek must love being considered THE voice of pro-lifers).
* Abortion advocates who want to paint their opposition as extreme and out of touch.

Who are the biggest losers? The people who would benefit the most if the broadest possible coalition of pro-lifers and pro-choicers came together to support family planning and sex education.

Just something to keep in mind.

Maybe we need a movement to find common ground among people looking for common ground

Speaking of common ground, Marysia has braved the intensely hostile waters of RHRealityCheck with a post titled, What the First Wave of Feminism Can Teach the First Wave of Common Ground.

What I love about Marysia’s writing is that without compromising her own views, she takes the arguments of pro-choice feminists very seriously. She doesn’t dismiss them or lie about them. She doesn’t have to, because her convictions are solid. And frankly, pro-choice feminists are right about a lot of injustices facing women, and failing to understand that will be the downfall of the pro-life establishment.

And why DO birds suddenly appear every time you are near?

If I were to interview, oh, say, Amanda Marcotte and then pose the question, “Why do pro-choicers think all pro-lifers are misogynists and reject any notion of finding common ground with them?”, I think pro-choicers like Steven Waldman might get a bit miffed. He might protest that Marcotte doesn’t represent the views of most pro-choicers, no matter how loudly and how often she and her fans repeat those views. He might even take the opportunity to remind us how much he personally respects people on “both sides”* of the abortion debate.

So when he asks Jill Stanek why pro-lifers oppose contraception, he might first want to take a step back and question whether, in general, they do.

Several commenters pointed out that Stanek’s views are extreme and don’t represent most pro-lifers, but apparently Waldman either didn’t read the comments or ignored them, because he was beating the same drum again few days later.

Surely one of the first principles of “common ground”, which Waldman so endlessly claims to seek, is that one must honestly engage the people with whom one is trying to find commonality, and not resort to stereotypes and holding up extremists as examples.

* Scare quotes because I think the notion that there are two neat sides is preposterous.

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.)

Falling down on the job

I’ve been writing up a list of ideas about abortion reduction to send to the Obama transition team, and unfortunately there are a few holes in my list.

I want to write “Work with pro-life, pro-contraception groups to maximize support for your prevention policies,” but I can’t. There essentially aren’t any.

I want to write “There are people who agree with your agenda for reproductive justice in every way except that we view abortion as violence against a human being. Talk to them; they have ideas that people in your circle might not think of,” — it’s true, but who can I point to?

This came to mind again when I read all the hand-flapping about Planned Parenthood of Indiana offering gift certificates.

The network of 35 clinics across the state announced it is offering holiday vouchers for basic health care services “or the recipient’s choice of birth control method.”

The organization decided to offer the vouchers because so many people are uninsured or are putting off health care because of prohibitive costs, said Betty Cockrum, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Indiana. Nearly 800,000 Indiana residents don’t have health insurance, she said.

A few thoughts:

  • They’re not “gift certificates for abortions”, the way that many abortion opponents are breathlessly characterizing them. If you look at PP’s page, they’re not being marketed that way at all. They’re clearly meant for basic health care services and contraception. I actually agree with the PP spokesperson who says that although the vouchers can be used for abortions, she doesn’t think anyone would give them for that purpose. Whatever people’s political views might be, there aren’t a lot of people out there who celebrate abortion and would think of it as a fine holiday gift.
  • That said, someone will take a voucher that was given to them in the hope that they’d get necessary preventive health care, and use it to get an abortion. There’s no point telling ourselves otherwise.
  • All the blog posts I’ve seen about this (from “Planned Parenthood is selling gift certificates for abortions!” to “those Planned Parenthood-haters don’t want women to get health care!”) seem to be missing the bigger picture: that there are women for whom this might be the only way they can get a mammogram or a Pap smear. If I’m going to get outraged about something, I think it’ll be that, thanks.

I cordially invite pro-lifers who are outraged about this story to band together and start up their own clinics that provide reproductive health care and contraception, but not abortion. We have utterly, utterly fallen down on the job here.

“Is it November yet?” — Bristol Palin edition

I’m getting really tired of all the blog comments I’m seeing to the effect that people feel sorry for Bristol Palin because her mother obviously is forcing her to have that child, or that somehow this is what Sarah Palin gets for opposing abortion (because if she didn’t, Bristol would have “taken care of it” in secret, apparently). If you call yourself pro-choice, acknowledge the possibility that people who are not you might not actually want abortions, even when you think they should.

Also, I’m seeing a lot of crowing about the teenage daughter of a sex-ed opponent becoming pregnant. I’m about as pro-sex-ed as they get, but I have a lot of problems with that. First of all, I’d like to think we’re above scoring political points on the back of a 17-year-old who’s going through the hardest time of her life. Barack Obama agrees. Second, we have no idea what the Palins taught their kids about sex. We know that Sarah Palin doesn’t want kids to get “explicit” sex ed in public schools. She may believe that kids shouldn’t learn anything about sex except “save it for marriage”, or she may believe that the most appropriate place for discussions of sex and contraception is the home. We don’t know.

Besides, nobody ever claimed that either abstinence-only or comprehensive sex ed was a foolproof method of preventing teen pregnancy. Kids who’ve had comprehensive sex ed sometimes make babies too, and I wouldn’t want abstinence-only advocates using every one of them as a club to promote their agenda.

The argument for comprehensive sex ed is that people deserve complete and accurate information about their bodies, and that information will help (not compel) them to make healthy decisions. That’s true no matter what kind of instruction the unfortunate daughter of a high-profile politician may have received.

Pro-life Dems should be proud

Forget about what we didn’t get, for a second. (Though I do want to talk about that in another post.) Look at what we did get. Look at what we did.

Here’s the Democratic platform statement on abortion from 2004:

Because we believe in the privacy and equality of women, we stand proudly for a woman’s right to choose, consistent with Roe v. Wade, and regardless of her ability to pay. We stand firmly against Republican efforts to undermine that right. At the same time, we strongly support family planning and adoption incentives. Abortion should be safe, legal, and rare.

Absent any pressure from pro-lifers, absent any push for abortion reduction, what would have changed about that statement? What would have been the motivation for change? I’d have expected a stronger statement of support for birth control, given the recent attacks on contraception, but that’s about it.

Here’s the statement from the draft platform for 2008:

The Democratic Party strongly and unequivocally supports Roe v Wade and a woman’s right to choose a safe and legal abortion, regardless of ability to pay, and we oppose any and all efforts to weaken or undermine that right.The Democratic Party also strongly supports access to affordable family planning services and comprehensive age-appropriate sex education which empower people to make informed choices and live healthy lives. We also recognize that such health care and education help reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and thereby also reduce the need for abortions. The Democratic Party also strongly supports a woman’s decision to have a child by ensuring access to and availability of programs for pre and post natal health care, parenting skills, income support, and caring adoption programs.

So, as you’d expect, there’s expanded language about contraception and sex ed, and that’s great. But that’s not all — look at what else has been added.

Yes, the support for abortion is still there. But because of pressure from pro-lifers, there’s far more support for nonviolent options. Because of pressure from pro-lifers, the Democratic Party explicitly committed itself to supporting women’s decision to choose life. Because of pressure from pro-lifers, the platform is stronger on reproductive justice for women. Want to just mull that over for a second? I know I do.

We did this, and we should shout it from the rooftops. I’m not saying that pro-choicers don’t want to support women who carry to term, or that pro-lifers were the only ones who pushed for it. But that language wasn’t there in 2004, was it? We made the difference. There’s a lot more to do, and I don’t want to gloss over that, but let’s be proud for a moment.

Platform meeting

I went to our local Democratic Platform meeting today. I didn’t get a chance to talk about the proposed abortion reduction plank, unfortunately. The way that the meetings are set up, everybody lists the issues they want to talk about, and then the issues are grouped into more general topics. Then, they pick the five or so topics that the most people want to talk about and split up into small groups to hash out the details. Abortion and related subjects fell under “women’s issues and LGBT issues”, but that topic didn’t make the cut. I ended up in the “restoring democracy and the rule of law” small group instead, which was the other subject I’d come to talk about anyway.

Participants were encouraged to submit a write-up of subjects that were important to them but that we didn’t have a chance to discuss in the meeting. The write-ups had to be handed in by the end of the meeting in order to be sent on to the campaign, so I quickly filled up the back of a flyer with ideas on abortion reduction. (I might wish in retrospect that I’d brought something to write with besides a purple pen, but that’s OK.) I wrote that all Democrats, pro-life and pro-choice, should be able to agree on reducing abortion not only by reducing unplanned pregnancies, but also by working to ensure that no woman feels compelled by financial and social pressures to have an abortion. I set out several concrete proposals, including:

* improved access to contraception, and funding for comprehensive sex education;
* direct financial aid for low-income mothers;
* improved parental leave; paid leave; encouraging fathers to take leave;
* subsidized child care for low-income women and students;
* guaranteed health care for pregnant women and children, including unborn children (to cover things like prenatal surgery);
* a public education program aimed at partners, parents, and peers of pregnant women, urging them to be supportive and not abandon the women in their lives;
* passage of the Kennedy-Brownback bill that would provide accurate information and support to families whose unborn child has been diagnosed with a genetic disease;
* passage of FFL’s bill which would establish a pilot program for initiatives aimed at supporting pregnant and parenting students on college campuses. Unfortunately, I couldn’t really remember the details of this.

There are other things I wish I’d remembered, such as health care for postpartum moms (but then, universal health care should be a Democratic position anyway) and economic incentives for job-sharing, flex time, and other family-friendly employment arrangements.

Finally, I urged whoever might be reading to recognize the diversity of opinions on abortion within the Democratic Party, and not to make the mistake of stereotyping opponents of abortion as conservative, anti-woman, religious zealots.

I don’t know if it’ll do any good, but I look at it this way; we may not make any progress with grassroots efforts (at least, not right away), but we’ll never make any progress without them.

(Sorry about the incomplete version of this post that hit the feeds; I hit “Publish” instead of “Save”.)

Abortion literacy

Dave Andrusko of NRLC has been asking for examples of abortion illiteracy — things many people don’t know, but should if we’re to have a meaningful public debate. As he puts it:

But how can people participate in the abortion debate without a more-than-passing acquaintance with the basics? Indeed, if people know next to nothing about abortion–what it is, its impact on the wider culture, what led us to where we are today, to name just three– how can they meaningfully participate in the public square?

My question to you is this: what precisely are those basics? Put another way, if you were able, what fundamentals would you weave into the intellectual warp and woof of our culture in order to raise the public’s literacy on abortion, infanticide, and euthanasia?

I figured that his readers would cover the more usual topics such as the facts about fetal development, so here’s what I sent in:

* I’ve run into people who believe that Roe v. Wade ruled that the right to privacy is so broad as to include the killing of a person in the case of abortion. That is not what the Supreme Court ruled. They specifically stated that if the unborn child were considered a legal person, that the right to privacy would not apply. They then decided that the unborn child is not considered a legal person with human rights.

* Most prominent “right-to-life” politicians aren’t actually running on a “right to life” platform. They’re instead running on a “pass laws against abortion” platform. On the national level, they propose to overturn Roe vs. Wade by appointing “originalist” or “strict constructionist” justices who will rule that since the right to abortion (and/or the right to privacy) is not specifically spelled out in the Constitution, that it’s up to states to decide. This would then allow states to pass laws against abortion even without declaring the unborn child a legal person with human rights. Of course, it would also allow states to keep unrestricted abortion.

No major presidential candidate in either party ran on a platform of getting the unborn child declared a legal person with human rights. [I later amended this to note that Mike Huckabee did.]

* The abortion issue is not a battle of the sexes. There is no statistically significant difference between the views of men and women on abortion.

* Most people oppose the legality of most abortions. The cases in which a majority of people believe abortion should be legal account for fewer than 10% of abortions. When they claim to have a “pro-choice majority”, abortion advocates are counting people who believe that abortion should be legal in some circumstance as “pro-choice”. When people with the same beliefs run for office, they are “anti-choice extremists”.

* About 80% of self-identified pro-lifers are pro-contraception.

* Countries in Western Europe where children receive comprehensive sex education, and where responsible use of contraception is encouraged and expected, have achieved much lower rates of abortion and teenage pregnancy than the United States.

* Pro-life is not strictly a conservative, Republican, Christian, or religious position.

He hasn’t written the follow-up column yet, so he might still be taking submissions. You can reach him at daveandrusko@hotmail.com if you have any suggestions.

speaking of Intelligent Design

I thought this was a nice try:

TALLAHASSEE – If teachers need free speech protection in science classrooms, why not extend it to sex education classes?

The same First Amendment protection should be offered to both, argued local Democratic Sens. Ted Deutch of Boca Raton and Nan Rich of Weston, as the Senate Thursday began debating whether teachers need a law that would allow them to present “scientific evidence” critical of evolution.

[...]

“We’re talking about academic freedom,” said Deutch. “In an abstinence-only sex education program, a teacher may wish to answer a student’s question and provide additional information that may protect a life or stop an unwanted pregnancy.” But the Republican-led Senate wouldn’t buy it.