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“Talking In The Bathroom”: Abstinence-Only Education May Well Come To Wisconsin And Utah

Here’s a way to save time debating women’s health. Rather than allow people to fight and debate the issues around birth control and access to healthcare, simply don’t tell them key facts about contraception and sexual health. That way, rather than fighting, kids will be blissfully ignorant. Or, you know, rely on the wisdom of my sister’s best friend’s cousin who says you definitely can’t get pregnant if it’s a full moon.

Legislatures in both Wisconsin and Utah have passed abstinence-only education bills. It’s now up to governors in both states to determine whether or not to make the measures law.

Utah’s proposal is significantly more stringent. It would actually ban schools from teaching about contraceptives—and, for that matter, homosexuality. The Deseret News reports that hundreds of protesters have flooded the capitol, asking Governor Gary Herbert to veto the bill. The governor has said the public efforts against the measure won’t sway him; according to the News, a survey at Brigham Young University showed 58 percent of Utah residents believe contraceptives should be part of the curriculum in sexual education. Herbert is expected to decide on the bill next week. In the meantime, parents may want to stock up some Judy Blume books.

Meanwhile, in Wisconsin, Governor Scott Walker is already a fan of the measure, and is expected to sign it into law. The Green Bay Gazette explains that the bill, passed, 60-34 in the GOP-dominated House this week, would require schools “to teach abstinence as the only reliable way to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.” Abstinence-only education has been banned since 2010, but if this measure passes, schools won’t have to mention contraception, though according to HuffPo, they do have to get into “the socioeconomic benefits of marriage.” (Presumably LGBT kids can sit out that day, since the party isn’t big on letting them get married.)

Last year, the New York Times Magazine featured a fascinating story on what would happen if we actually taught children sex-positive education, dealing with questions not only about sexual health but also about sexual pleasure. The article made a key point—that many of today’s adolescents rely on internet pornography for much of their knowledge around sex. Kids get exposed to sex at younger and younger ages. Regardless of one’s opinions on that, it’s disturbing that those same kids will lose potential adult mentors who could have offered accurate information to counter the many falsehoods that come, either from the porn industry or simply talking in the school bathroom.

By: Abby Rapoport, The American Prospect, March 15, 2012

March 16, 2012 Posted by | Women's Health | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Utah House Passes Bill To Allow Schools To Skip Sex Education

A bill to allow Utah schools to drop sex education classes — and prohibit instruction in the use of contraception in those that keep the courses — moved significantly closer to becoming law Wednesday. The House passed HB363 by a 45-28 vote after a late-afternoon debate that centered largely on lawmakers’ differing definitions of morality.

“We’ve been culturally watered down to think we have to teach about sex, about having sex and how to get away with it, which is intellectually dishonest,” said bill sponsor Rep. Bill Wright, R-Holden. “Why don’t we just be honest with them upfront that sex outside marriage is devastating?”

It was a viewpoint that met with equal conviction from those opposed to the bill.

“You cannot speak of abstinence without talking to students about methods of birth control that are not certain, about protecting oneself from [sexually transmitted diseases] and all the things that can happen in a negative sense to a young person who engages in sex ,” said Rep. Carol Spackman Moss, D-Holladay. “It’s really immoral not to teach kids about what the consequences are.”

Over the course of nearly an hour, lawmakers took turns trying to change the bill. Ultimately, the version the House passed would allow school districts to forgo teaching about sex altogether.

Lawmakers also, however, changed the bill on the House floor to prohibit schools that continue to teach sex education from instructing students in “the use of contraceptive methods or devices.” It was a change from the version that passed out of committee earlier this month that would have prohibited “instruction in the advocacy or encouragement of the use of contraceptive methods or devices.”

Wright said the version of the bill that passed Wednesday would prohibit instruction in contraception, although teachers could respond to student questions about the matter.

It would be a big shift from current law, which prohibits only the advocacy of contraceptive use. Current law requires high schools to teach sex education, allowing them to choose whether to simply stress abstinence or teach abstinence-only.

 

By: Lisa Schencker, The Salt Lake Tribune, February 22, 2012

February 25, 2012 Posted by | Women's Health | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Hostility To Reason And Fact: At The Intersection Of Science And Politics

I’m one of many observers who’s made a fuss about Rick Perry’s hostility towards science, so let’s take a moment to consider Kevin Williamson’s argument that the issue is largely irrelevant. The National Review piece touches on a variety of points, but here’s the crux of the position:

Why would anybody ask a politician about his views on a scientific question? Nobody ever asks what Sarah Palin thinks about dark matter, or what John Boehner thinks about quantum entanglement. (For that matter, I’ve never heard Keith Ellison pressed for his views on evolution.)

There are lots of good reasons not to wonder what Rick Perry thinks about scientific questions, foremost amongst them that there are probably fewer than 10,000 people in the United States whose views on disputed questions regarding evolution are worth consulting, and they are not politicians; they are scientists. In reality, of course, the progressive types who want to know politicians’ views on evolution are not asking a scientific question; they are asking a religious and political question, demanding a profession of faith in a particular materialist-secularist worldview.

At a certain level, I can appreciate why this may seem compelling. The president, no matter who he or she is, has an enormous amount of responsibilities, but writing public school science curricula isn’t on the list.

But I think this misses the point. Put it this way: what are a president’s principal tasks in office? Aside from setting agendas, giving speeches, attending countless meetings, ceremonial responsibilities, fundraising, etc., a president is tasked with making a lot of decisions. Invariably, they’re tough calls — they have to be, since easier decisions are made elsewhere in the executive branch bureaucracy.

In order to make these tough calls, a president will be presented with a fair amount of information. If we’ve elected a capable person, he or she will evaluate that information well, exercise good judgment, and make a wise choice.

What does this have to do with science? Everything. Rick Perry is aware of the scientific consensus on modern biology, but he rejects it. He realizes what climate scientists have concluded about global warming, but he rejects them, too. What this tell us is that Perry, whatever his strengths may be, isn’t especially good at evaluating evidence. On the contrary, by choosing to believe nonsense after being confronted with reality, he’s apparently lousy at it.

And since most of what a president does all day is evaluate evidence and (hopefully) reach sensible conclusions, Perry’s hostility towards reason and facts offers a hint about what kind of leader he’d be if elected.

Consider another example. Perry was fielding questions from a Texas journalist who asked why Texas has abstinence-only education, despite the fact that the state has the third-highest teen-pregnancy rate in the country. Perry replied, “Abstinence works.” The journalist, perhaps wondering if Perry misunderstood the question, tried again, saying abstinence-only “doesn’t seem to be working.” The governor replied, “It — it works.”

This isn’t akin to flubbing a pop quiz on the basics of modern science. I don’t much care if a political figure has never seen a periodic table or struggles to understand how tides work. The point here is that Rick Perry seems unable to think empirically and weigh the value of evidence before reaching a conclusion.

Are these qualities relevant to a presidential candidate? I believe they are.

By: Steve Benen, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly, Political Animal, August 23, 2011

August 24, 2011 Posted by | Climate Change, Conservatives, Democracy, Education, Elections, Environment, Global Warming, GOP, Government, Governors, Ideologues, Ideology, Journalists, Politics, Republicans, Right Wing, States, Teaparty, Voters | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

President Rick Perry’s America: No Country For Women

Rick Perry has been governor of Texas since before I was old enough to vote. As a native Texan born in the millennial age, I put Rick Perry in the same category as a cassette player or an AOL subscription — something that has seemingly always been around, but has long since lost its purpose. Coming of age as a woman in Rick Perry’s Texas is sort of like living in the wild, wild west, like an Annie Ovary of women’s health, dodging old men wielding vaginal probes and vaccine mandates. With a governor who has a women’s health record that’s a bumpy country mile long possibly becoming our next president, what would it mean for women across America? Allow me.

First order of business in the Perry presidency would be the creation of the Department of Interior Contraception, or DIC. DIC would oversee approved contraceptive devices under Perry’s watchful eye, the top item on the list being the most widely accepted, reliable option available to God-fearing Americans these days: abstinence. Now, while it’s true Texas has the 3rd highest teen birth rate in the country and also true that a 2005 study found teens in Texas were actually having more sex after undergoing an abstinence-only program, Rick Perry still stands by the practice. Why? Not because there are actually any studies backing him up but “from my own personal life,” Perry told the Texas Tribune’s Evan Smith in an interview earlier this year. Comforting, isn’t it? Rather than President Perry making decisions based on studies and figures, the free world will instead hinge on the regularity of his wife’s cycles.

But don’t take Rick Perry’s word for it. Starting in 2012, women (and their partners — suddenly that cowboy vote doesn’t sound so good, does it gentlemen?) will get their very own chance to practice an abstinence-only approach when the recent law that requires health insurance companies to cover birth control will no doubt be rolled back by President Perry.

That brings us to the question of how Perry plans to punish women who don’t fall into line with his tried and true abstinence methods. After all, without threat of punishment, I think it’s safe to say Perry will probably be the only person in America abstaining from sex. For the sinners, Perry has already started a little pilot program right here in Texas.

The state now requires mandatory transvaginal sonograms for women who are 8 to 10 weeks pregnant and seeking abortions. The bill, which Perry declared a piece of “emergency legislation” during the last legislative session, requires the doctor to describe the fetus and play audio of the heartbeat prior to the abortion procedure. President Perry’s version of this bill will include an amendment to play Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the U.S.A.” during the procedure.

Alas, if all of this has you feeling down, ladies, don’t fret. Think of all those cute babies we’ll get to have. But in Rick Perry’s America, you may want to home school. Texas ranks first in the nation in adults without high school diplomas. The future also doesn’t look so bright for all those precious little ones when it comes to health insurance and potential jobs: Texas boasts another first in the nation in the percentage of children without health insurance and, in 2010, Texas tied with Mississippi for the highest percentage of workers employed in minimum-wage jobs. No wonder Governor Perry wants Texas to secede. It’d sure make us look less stupid.

At a speech given to the United for Life group in June, Perry bragged about Texas’s recently-passed sonogram law and told attendees, “In Texas we have pursued policies to protect unborn children whenever possible.” And you can bet your left Fallopian tube that, if elected, he’ll continue to do the same for the unborn children of America. I just hope there’s a Plan B pill for what happens when all these children grow up — because President Perry, just like Governor Perry, certainly doesn’t plan to care for them.

After all, where Rick Perry comes from, that’s women’s work.

By: Rachel Farris, AlterNet, August 19, 2011: This essay originally
appeared
at MeanRachel.com.

 

August 22, 2011 Posted by | Class Warfare, Conservatives, Education, Elections, Equal Rights, Freedom, GOP, Governors, Ideologues, Ideology, Insurance Companies, Jobs, Politics, Republicans, Right Wing, State Legislatures, States, Teaparty, Women, Women's Health, Womens Rights | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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