Archive for category Contraception

Are We Doing Young Persons a Disservice by Teaching them No Means No?

I’ve been teaching sexuality education to teens for a decade now.  In that time, I’ve seen a huge shift in the way young women respond to the issue of date rape, although almost no change in the way young men respond.

The date rape lesson in Our Whole Lives for high school students takes the form of the story of a date told from the perspective of each person.  Participants divide into two groups, each with one version of the story, which they read aloud.  The basic facts of the date are the same in each account – they go to dinner, drink a bottle of wine, go back to his room at the frat house, drink some more, play music, dance, get partly undressed, make out.  It’s at this point the stories diverge radically – his version ends with them having sex, her version with her being raped.  After reading the story, participants answer a series of questions which include “What could he/she have done to change the outcome of the evening?”

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College Life, Rape and Public Discourse

There’s a major discussion happening right now about sexual assault on college campuses (i.e. it’s made the NY Times; some other posts and articles here, here, here and here).  The basic shape of the conversation can be described fairly simply:

Rape and sexual assault are already underreported crimes.  Students on college campuses are victims of rape and sexual assault on a regular basis; college campuses nationwide engage in efforts to minimize reporting of sexual assault on campus and take minimal actions against perpetrators.  New regulations are shining a light on the situation.

The consensus seems to be that colleges aren’t doing enough to protect students from sexual assault and aren’t doing enough with regard to punishing perpetrators; it seems to me the worst a college can do is expel a perpetrator and even then they run risks they may prefer to avoid.  As I think about this issue, it seems that colleges are trying to thread the needle with regard to legal liability – in the absence of specific knowledge about specific threats to a student from/by another student, they can’t take any action; they can’t expel a student because he might rape someone.  Without evidence, they can’t punish a student.  In many cases, victims can’t identify the perpetrators. Read the rest of this entry »

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DNC Blogging

Lily Ledbetter

We sought justice because equal pay for equal work is an American value. That fight took me ten years. It took me all the way to the Supreme Court. And, in a 5–4 decision, they stood on the side of those who shortchanged my pay, my overtime, and my retirement just because I am a woman…

…The first bill that President Obama signed into law was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. I think it says something about his priorities that the first bill he put his name on has my name on it too….

That was the first step but it can’t be the last. Because women still earn just 77 cents for every dollar men make. Those pennies add up to real money. It’s real money for the little things like being able to take your kids to the movies and for the big things like sending them to college. It’s paying your rent this month and paying the mortgage in the future. It’s having savings for the bill you didn’t expect and savings for the dignified retirement you’ve earned.

Maybe 23 cents doesn’t sound like a lot to someone with a Swiss bank account, Cayman Island Investments and an IRA worth tens of millions of dollars. But Governor Romney, when we lose 23 cents every hour, every day, every paycheck, every job, over our entire lives, what we lose can’t just be measured in dollars.

Three years ago, the house passed the paycheck Fairness Act to level the playing field for America’s women. Senate Republicans blocked it. Mitt Romney won’t even say if he supports it. President Obama does….

Rahm Emanuel

On that first day, I said, “Mr. President, which crisis do you want to tackle first?” He looked at me, with that look he usually reserved for his chief of staff, “Rahm, we were sent here to tackle all of them, not choose between them.” There was no blueprint or how-to manual for fixing a global financial meltdown, an auto crisis, two wars and a great recession, all at the same time. Believe me, if it existed, I would have found it. Each crisis was so deep and so dangerous; any one of them would have defined another presidency. We faced a once-in-a-generation moment in American history.

Stacey Lihn

Governor Romney says people like me were the most excited about President Obama the day we voted for him.

But that’s not true. Not even close.

For me, there was the day the Affordable Care Act passed and I no longer had to worry about Zoe getting the care she needed.

There was the day the letter arrived from the insurance company, saying that our daughter’s lifetime cap had been lifted.

There was the day the Supreme Court upheld Obamacare.

Like so many moms with sick children, I shed tears and I could breathe easier knowing we have that net below us to catch us if we fall, or if, God forbid, Zoe needs a heart transplant…

MAJ Tammy Duckworth

When it comes to our men and women in harm’s way, we have a clear choice on November 6th. Last week, Mitt Romney had a chance to show his support for the brave men and women he is seeking to command. But he chose to criticize President Obama instead of even uttering the word “Afghanistan.”

…On November 12th, 2004, I was co-piloting my Blackhawk north of Baghdad when we started taking enemy fire. A rocket-propelled grenade hit our helicopter, exploding in my lap, ripping off one leg, crushing the other and tearing my right arm apart. But I kept trying to fly until I passed out. In that moment, my survival and the survival of my entire crew depended on all of us pulling together. And even though they were wounded themselves and insurgents were nearby, they refused to leave a fallen comrade behind. Their heroism is why I’m alive today.

Ultimately, that’s what this election is about. Yes, it’s about the issues that matter to us: building an economy that will create jobs here at home and out-compete countries around the world. But it’s also about something else. It’s about whether we will do for our fellow Americans what my crew did for me; whether we’ll look out for the hardest hit and the disabled; whether we’ll pull together in a time of need; whether we’ll refuse to give up until the job is done….

USA! USA! USA!

Maria Ciano

My name is Maria Ciano. I grew up in a conservative Republican family in Aurora, Colorado. Many of my relatives can’t believe I’m doing this. I guess I can’t either. I still believe in small government, but I no longer believe in the Republican Party.

…The America I love respects the dignity of women. The America I love is a place where, when we say “freedom,” we mean my freedom to make decisions about my life, not someone else’s freedom to make them for me. And that’s the America President Obama is fighting for…

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The Return of the Yuppie Abortion Slut

Props to Amanda Marcotte for the title and basic concepts:

After conceding that the middle-class, liberal model in which women are permitted to marry later and have egalitarian careers is also a model that creates more stable families, he implies that these women only achieve this impossible goal with the heavy use of abortion. That childless yuppies and sorority girls are the main clients of abortion clinics is an article of faith in the anti-choice community. If you ever want to see the Internet version of a feeding frenzy, for instance, check out anti-choice blog comments when the blogger holds up a white, middle-class feminist as a hate object. The speculation about the frequency of said woman’s abortions competes only with disingenuous calls to pray for her wicked feminist soul.

The problem with this stereotype of the yuppie slut with her abortionist on speed dial is that it has no basis in reality.

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Gov Vetoes “Keep Your Knees Together and Pray” Bill

So, in a move that surprised me, Gov. Herbert vetoed the legislature’s regressive, ignorant, fear based sex education bill.

The issue of sex education – especially abstinence only – is going to come back.  The pig-ignorant fool who sponsored the original bill had this to say:

Rep. Bill Wright, R-Holden, who sponsored HB363, said the issue is not about starting a conversation, but about stopping a movement. He said he is concerned that proponents of teaching contraception in schools are part of a national movement to include standardized sex education as part of the core curriculum.

“National groups are pushing a national core on sex education,” Wright said. “This is not a Utah topic. This is far beyond Utah.” [snip]

Wright said it is “intellectually dishonest” to teach teenagers about contraception at all, because abstinence, not contraception, is the only sure way to prevent STDs or pregnancy before marriage, he said.

“When they are ready to get married, they can be taught how to use contraceptives,” Wright said.

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The Micro Reflects the Macro: Utah’s No Sex Ed Bill and Conservatives Fit About Contraception

It’s incredibly simple.  At a national level, conservatives are doing everything they can to whip up fear of sex to drive voters to the polls this year.  Utah’s unbelievably bad sex ed bill is a reflection of that drive.

Venal political motives aren’t the only thing at work, however.  These conservative politicians and activists are genuinely afraid of the consequences should they fail to act.  I know it sounds nutty, but when Utah’s troglodyte Rep. Ed Wright had a hissy fit about the materials, he was being entirely genuine.  He was probably shocked at medically accurate no nonsense information about sexuality.

Wright said he began looking into changing the law after he saw materials developed by Planned Parenthood being used as part of maturation programs at some schools in the state. He also disagreed with a slideshow that the State Office of Education developed about contraception because it showed pictures and brands of condoms.

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Wait, you mean some women have something to say about birth control?

And Madam Secretary brings some reality to the table:

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: Well, the cost is financial, the cost is in women’s lives, the cost is to undermine what many of the very same opponents claim is their priority, namely to prevent abortions [wry grin] because—you know, we want to stay focused on improving maternal and child health, and there is no doubt at all that family planning services are absolutely essential to improving both maternal and child health.

Working through our government—with other governments, with NGOs with expertise, capacity, proven track records—we have made a big difference in women’s health. You know, global estimates, Senator, indicate that, by helping women space births and avoid unintended pregnancies, family planning has the potential of preventing twenty-five percent of the maternal and child deaths in the developing world.

Family planning is the best way we have to prevent unintended pregnancies and abortion [wry grin] so I—I know that it—it is, um, a very, um, controversial issue [she seems barely able to spit the words out through her disdain and casts her eyes down then lifts them back up as she continues] but numerous studies have shown that the incidence of abortions decreases when women have access to contraception.

And therefore I strongly support what this administration is doing in trying to provide the means to improve the health of women and children around the world.

It is pretty much this simple. The argument is about as basic as it can be. It isn’t a matter of religion, or opinion, or collecting a bunch of white male virgins to testify as to how peachy keen no birth control would be. The case is very, very simple.

1. Women are people
2. They can make their own choices
3. Birth control and family planning make them better off
4. Birth control and family planning make kids better off
5. Birth control and family planning mean less abortions

At this point anyone who is under the mistaken impression the catholic church has any morality in their position at all is simply not aware of the terms of the discussion. If the catholic church had any respect for human life at all they would be campaigning for birth control, not against it.

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“Pro-Life”, also with Bunny Ears

The Koman for the Cure charity has given up on Planned Parenthood.

The Koman charity says that the primary reason they are leaving Planned Parenthood twisting in the wind is because a woman hating republican asshole a conservative republican has launched an investigation/audit into Planned Parenthood. Unless you read the official version, which spits out a great deal of useless ink about “evolving” and “changing missions” and “serving women.” As one blogger pointed out, tell me how not supporting breast cancer screenings for people who have no other healthcare access is “best meeting the needs of the women we serve,” because I need a good laugh right now.

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The Kind of Change Women Can Believe In

Announced today:

Most healthcare plans will be required to cover birth control without charging co-pays or deductibles starting Aug. 1, the Obama administration announced Friday.

The final regulation retains the approach federal health officials proposed last summer, despite the deluge of complaints from religious groups and congressional Republicans that has poured in since then. Churches, synagogues and other houses of worship are exempt from the requirement, but religious-affiliated hospitals and universities only get a one-year delay and must comply by Aug. 1, 2013.

This is an important regulatory change.  It includes some other important changes:

According to Health and Human Services, insurers would be required to cover not only contraception, but also HPV testing, breastfeeding support and supplies, and domestic violence screening and counseling.

This qualifies as good news.  It may not sound like much, but covering contraception as a preventive service has the potential to save lots of money.  Look at this way – in a house with a mom and two daughters all on contraception, they could easily be paying $50 apiece per month.  That’s a $150 a month they’re saving.  The cost to insurers is minimal compared to one pregnancy – which can easily cost $10,000 (which I’m told is the low end); fwiw, that works out to 66 months of birth control before you have spent more on it than on a pregnancy and birth.  That doesn’t count the added insurance costs of an additional child.

Preventive services, regular exams and tests, pay for themselves many times over.  I’ve used this example before but a flu shot costs $2o or $25.  Get the flu and you’ll spend that much on tissues alone, not counting the cost of time off work, cold medicine, orange juice and a possible trip to the doctor.  Including whiskey for hot toddies and the flu is an expensive ailment.  The possible complications of the flu make it, to my mind, well worth avoiding.  When providing contraceptive coverage, insurance plans are saving themselves money, but they’re also having the positive effect of empowering women around their own fertility and that is an unalloyed good.

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A Strawberry Flavored Lube Too Far

In an “Are you kidding me?” moment:

When some parents learned about the distribution of the kits, they complained to the school administration, school board and AIDS Services.

“The biggest issue among parents and some staff is that AIDS Services for the Monadnock Region distributed sexually enticing products,” said parent Brandie Roof.

Roof said she was also offended that as a parent, she was not notified of the visit from AIDS Services, the distribution of the kits, or given a chance to have her children “opt out” of the day’s events.

Let’s review: we’re talking about high school students here – we’re not talking about children, we’re talking about adolescents, and anywhere from 2/3 to 3/4 of them will be sexually active by the time they graduate high school.  The parents were upset because a regional AIDS service came in to educate students on how to avoid AIDS and distributed to the students “safe sex kits” which included flavored lube.  Parents were outraged and lodged complaints.  I suppose they’d rather their kids have unsafe sex than know how to have safe sex?

I’m out of patience with these nonsense controversies.  We’re not talking about a couple of kids groping each other in the back seat of a car – we’re talking about massively life altering and potentially life threatening illness here and kids have to know how to protect themselves.  Keep your knees together and think of Jesus has never worked and isn’t going to start working no matter how magically we think about it.  Kids already know condoms exist and they’ve heard about flavored lube but they know lots of things that are wrong and if giving them correct information makes adults uncomfortable, adults need to get over it. 

Teaching kids how to protect themselves from HIV and AIDS is a human rights issue.

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Do adults form families or do families form adults?

A thought provoking book I’m going to have to read is Red Families v. Blue Families: Legal Polarization and the Creation of Culture by Naomi Cahn and June Carbone.  Their essential thesis states that the cultural divide in the US exists in a  paradox:

The paradox is this: Cultural conservatives revel in condemning the loose moral values and louche lifestyles of “San Francisco liberals.” But if you want to find two-parent families with stable marriages and coddled kids, your best bet is to bypass Sarah Palin country and go to Nancy Pelosi territory: the liberal, bicoastal, predominantly Democratic places that cultural conservatives love to hate.[snip]

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Utah Legislators Discuss Non-Existent Sex Education Bill – and get fed misinformation and pass a ludicrous motion

The Keystone Kops were a silent film series about a group of bumbling, incompetent police officers who were more likely to blow up the police station than arrest criminals. They were apparently the inspiration for yesterday’s hearing on Capitol Hill in Salt Lake.

Lawmakers spent two hours debating sex education in schools Wednesday despite the fact that they didn’t have a new bill to debate.

Chris Buttars demonstrating his usual insight said on the record he didn’t know the bill was not ready and decided to hold the hearing anyway. Why? Well, he brought in Miriam Grossman – on his own dime – to argue against medically accurate, effective sexuality education.

Grossman spent about a half hour talking about how not enough scientific facts are included in sex education and how the national Planned Parenthood promotes what she considers to be high-risk sexual behavior among teens.

“The primary goals of these organizations is not to fight disease,” Grossman said. “It is to create a society that tolerates, indeed celebrates, any kind of sexual activity.”

Trust me, it gets better:

Ultimately, Sen. David Hinkins, R-Orangeville, proposed a motion to urge the legislature “to consider any person or organizations that promotes, recommends or teaches high-risk sexual behavior, Web sites, examples or talks” as not appropriate in public schools.

I have to be honest about my extreme frustration here – it’s not just that our legislators are by all appearances completely uninformed about sexuality education, how it works and what kinds of programs work, but they seem proud of their ignorance and wish to advertise it to the world.

Here’s the thing: abstinence only education programs do not produce behavioral changes in adolescents. Read the rest of this entry »

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