Tag Archives: sex education

The Little Woman Speaks

Woman's ListIt’s really tempting to say “Please Proceed” every time a Republican politician speaks “to women.”  The latest wrinkle seems to be an effort to convince women that the GOP is just All For ‘Em, except when they have normal sexual drives and want to enjoy the intimacy of marriage without the possibility of having more children than the family finances can afford.   Unfortunately, the latest Republican adventure into the distaff side comes with a side of over-baked insinuation that masculinity is defined by the number of progeny a man can create.   The days ought to be  long gone when the boys in the backroom would marvel at the virility of a man who announced he fathered ___ number of children.

We had one of those characters in the hamlet once upon a time.  His prideful pronouncements were greeted politely, but in his absence there was more conversation about how the store-owner had to extend him credit every month, his employer had to provide more advances than with any other employee, and his neighbors were often called upon to literally put clothing on his children’s backs.   If the GOP would truly like to address issues of interest to women, then they’d be better served by speaking to the issues of importance to women and not to those burdened by irrational definitions of masculinity.  For example:

Paycheck Fairness Act – Filibustered by Senate Republicans in 2010 and 2012. [Roll call 115]  The House version (H.R. 377) was introduced on January 23, 2013 and sent to the Subcommittee on Workforce Protections, no action has been taken on the bill since.  The Senate version (S.84) was also introduced on January 23, 2013. It was referred to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.

Violence Against Women Act – Renewal died in the House in 2012, eventually renewed in 2013 in spite of 138 “no” votes by Republicans in the House of Representatives and 22 “no” votes cast by Republicans in the U.S. Senate.

Legislation to mandate pre-abortion ultrasound examinations  – (2011) legislators in 13 states have introduced 22 bills seeking to mandate that a woman obtain an ultrasound procedure before having an abortion. Bills in seven states (AL, IN, KY, MT, OH, RI and TX) are very similar to a law enacted last year in Oklahoma that requires a woman to undergo an ultrasound procedure, view the image and receive a verbal description of the fetus

Revision of sex education laws to require school districts provide abstinence-only sex education, while allowing a discussion of contraception only with prior approval from state authorities – MS

Limit abortion coverage in all private health care insurance plans – (2011) Legislators in 11 states (AL, IN, KS, MI, NE, OK, OR, SC, TX, UT and WV) have introduced 18 measures that would restrict abortion coverage under all private health insurance plans. So far this year, one measure has been adopted by a legislative chamber in South Carolina and one has been enacted in Utah.

Require state health departments to develop new and restrictive regulations of women’s clinics – UT, VA

Place gestational limits on legal abortions – NE, KS, introduced in AL, AR, FL, GA, ID, IN, IA, KY, MD, MS, NJ, NM, OK, OR, SC.  The “20 week limit” was a popular idea in 35 measures patterned after the restrictive Nebraska bill.

Re-introduce child labor into the American workforce – Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah said that Congressional laws banning child labor are forbidden by the US Constitution despite the fact that the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 was unanimously upheld by the Supreme Court in 1941 (United States v. Darby Lumber). (A similar movement is underway in Missouri where State Sen. Jane Cunningham (R) has introduced a bill [S.B. 222] to minimize child labor laws) The governor of Maine has recently expressed his interest in rolling back that state’s child labor laws.

Cuts to SNAP (food stamp) benefits. Without the Recovery Act’s boost, SNAP benefits will average less than $1.40 per person per meal in 2014.

Cuts to Headstart funding – “about 57,000 children will be denied a place in Head Start and Early Head Start as fallout from sequestration. [link]

Cuts to funding for Meals on Wheels for the elderly – Federal funding for Meals on Wheels and related nutrition services accounted for 0.02% of the U.S. budget last year. This year, the programs will have to do with roughly $38.7 million less because of the so-called sequester, which requires uniform cuts across programs regardless of cost-effectiveness. (Sequester)  New estimates about the automatic budget cuts were released Monday by the federal government. The cuts have slashed over $400 million from the federal program’s $8 billion budget.” (Sequester) [CNN]

For more on  anti-woman legislation see Guttmacher.Org and Politicususa. See also, CBPP. On the Paycheck Fairness Act, see Berkeley DP, Huffington Post.

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Filed under Politics, Republicans, women, Women's Issues, Womens' Rights

SEX and the Single Issue: AB 230 in the Nevada Legislature

Nevada LegislatureNevada’s legislature has taken up the Big Topic — sex education, and of course all the denizens of the belfry have taken flight.  Surely, if we give our progeny information about how they came into this world we’ll have kindergarteners watching sex tapes, fifth graders talking about abortions, and parents excluded from the moral education of their offspring and relegated to the sidelines while Planned Parenthood (the successor to ACORN as the prime target for the tin foil hatted) propagandizes their little angels.  Not. So. Fast.

The Las Vegas Sun sets the record straight on the actual contents of the bill under consideration — for those who are actually interested in what the bill would really do, and not primarily fascinated by projecting their fears on the canvas of someone else’s proposal for addressing the fact that Nevada has the 4th largest teen pregnancy rate in the country.

There is just about as much misinformation as any sentient human being could every aspire to amassing in the comments on AB 230 at the Legislature’s input site.

Those against the bill seem to track along various lines: Sex is icky and should not be discussed; Sex is sacred and should be theologically framed and not discussed as a biological feature associated with human behavior; and it’s OK to talk about sex and we’re doing enough already.  The last argument is at least a point we could discuss in rational terms.  The first two are essentially religious in nature, and emotional in character.

The unavoidable and uncomfortable fact that we have the fourth highest rate of teen pregnancy in the United States of America ought to be enough to convince the public we’re not doing something  effectively.

Those who advocate for total parental control over the content of sex education may want to remember that not all parents (or other family members) have accurate information.

For example, during a quiet conversation with an adolescent female a few years back, the youngster about floored me with the fervent assertion that “You can’t get pregnant if he’s drunk.”  That would be only if “he” were intoxicated to the point of dead to the world unconsciousness….

Or, there was the young lady who assured me her grandmother was correct when she said, “You can’t get pregnant if you do it standing up.”   Uh, that would be a “no.”  It doesn’t matter if the position you’ve assumed is the most uncomfortable imaginable — all the two little bits have to do is to get together and then the impossible becomes possible.   The NCBI did a study published in 2009 regarding the sources teens use to find information about sex. The results really shouldn’t be surprising:

“Consistent with previous research, adolescents in this sample rely heavily on friends, parents, teachers, and the media for sexual information. There were several differences in source use by race/ethnicity and gender, but the only difference by age group was with regards to media. The older the adolescents, the more they relied on media as a source of information. Among those who cited the media as an information source, television was the medium from which adolescents reported learning the most about sex, which is not surprising in light of research showing that 70% of television programs in 2005 contained some form of sexual content.” [NCBI]

There’s a reason for the order given in that summary paragraph.  Teens reported their sources of information as 74.9% from friends, 62.2% from teachers, 60.9% from mothers, 57% from the media, 41.4% from doctors, 32.8% from fathers, 29.3% from cousins, 18.1% from brothers, 17.7% from sisters, 13.5% from grandparents, and 12% from religious leaders.

If we adopt the policy that parents should be the only ones doing the sex education spiels with their youngsters then we’re accepting that the mothers are generally the ones doing the talking (at 60.9%) and only 32.8% of the fathers are involved in the “teachable moments.”  However, we still have to deal with the fact that nearly 75% of the information the kids are getting comes from outside the home — from friends who may be as informed or misinformed as the sources of their information.

One of the controversial provisions of AB 230 is the matter of passive or active parental consent — does the parent have to actively permit the child’s instruction, or does non-action constitute tacit approval?  Given the data indicating that 75% of the sexual information is passed along by friends — of possibly dubious veracity — if we truly want to educate children and empower them with the most accurate information possible then the tacit approval route would include more young people in the process.

If parents want control over the content of their child’s collection of information about human sexuality then the bill allows for that, parents can always opt out — and hope that the 75% outsourcing of education to “friends” works for them.  Fathers may wish to note that they are responsible for an average of only 32.8% of the information the child receives?

Religious leaders, no matter how well intended, aren’t getting their message across if only 12% of our teens are reporting that those leaders are the source of their sex education.

If parents are fearful about the intrusion of the right wing bogey of the day — Planned Parenthood — inserting its messages about contraception (and horror of horrors “abortion”) into public school instruction, then they ought to be assuaged by the bill’s language giving local districts control over curriculum content.  However much some parents may believe that Planned Parenthood and other health care providers are salivating at the prospect of propagandizing the progeny the statistics still indicate that information about the subject of contraception among teens who participated in sex education classes  tends to be “superficial and often limited to condoms.” [Guttmacher pdf]  This doesn’t speak well for the current curriculum or the level of instruction, whether parents opt in or out.  Or, as one 17 year old participant in the study told researchers, “My Dad said turn the lights out and use a condom.” In short, what teenagers may know about contraception, either to avoid impregnation or to minimize the prospects of a sexually transmitted disease, is limited to “safe sex sound bites.”  We could be doing better than this.

Further, if we truly want to prevent the possibility of abortions then the rate of teen abortions in Nevada could be reduced with more and better information about contraception.  Recent statistics show Teenage abortion rates were highest in New York (41 per 1,000), New Jersey, Nevada, Delaware and Connecticut. [Guttmacher 2010 pdf]  Someone isn’t “Just Saying No.”

Contraception, one the best ways to avoid unintended pregnancies, may not be on the educational agenda at all — only 14% of U.S. schools as late as 2002 had truly comprehensive sex education, 86% had policies on sex education curricula calling for the promotion of abstinence as a primary focus, 51% allowed the discussion of contraception as a way to avoid STDs, 35% required that abstinence be the only option.  [UC SF pdf]  The abstinence-only approach was effective in limited environments (religious schools, small groups) but there is little evidence that success rates can be replicated in larger, more diverse, groups such as public schools.  The 2002 report concluded that most of the abstinence-only research was not peer reviewed, and tended to be isolated.

What parents could hope for from the Nevada Legislature is a bill that expands the scope of comprehensive sex education for all Nevada youngsters, with instruction appropriate to the age level of the students, and with a curriculum which emphasizes information over exhortation.

If we truly don’t wish to have students dropping out then we need to have the parents opt in.

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Filed under abortion, education, health, Nevada legislature, Nevada politics

Turkey Time: DB’s Nominations

It’s holiday time, and here are DB’s nominations for the Birds of the Season.  The Turkeys are (in no particular order):

Presidential candidate Mitt “47%” Romney, who managed to insult ethnic minority groups, women, moderates, independent thinkers, elders on Social Security, students getting Pell Grants, advocates of clean energy, conservationists, women’s health care proponents, Medicare enrollees, consumer advocates, social safety net supporters, and then wondered why he didn’t win the 2012 election.

Senator John McCain (R-AZ), who having defended the nomination of Condoleeza Rice to be Secretary of State (Anyone remember that Mushroom Cloud reference?) attacked U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice for being “stupid” and “deceitful.”   This state of affairs shouldn’t be surprising because a quick search of DB would soon demonstrate that Senator McCain was quite often the recipient of the unwanted and un-complimentary Deck Bass award of recent memory.

Senator Harry Reid’s (D-NV) nemesis Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Leader, gets a Turkey for his statement that revenue increases are maybe kind of sort of could be OK, IF we fix the Real Problem.  The Real Problem for Senator McConnell appears to be that Social Security exists.   There’s no reason to raise the retirement age in the United States, because the Social Security system adds ZIP ZERO ZILCH to the national debt.  However, if we want to make the system more secure — how about lifting the cap on taxable earnings above the current $110,000?

Republican members of the Ohio state legislature who decided not to consider a sex education bill in favor of advancing bills to strip funding from Planned Parenthood, and to enact a “heartbeat” anti-abortion bill. [TP] Because, hey, there’s nothing like preventing kids from getting medically accurate, scientifically valid, information on human sexuality to keep unwanted pregnancies from occurring?

Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) whose definition of “compromise” means that the GOP would consider cuts to military spending and all other spending cuts to reduce the national debt — but would not consider any proposals to pay for the Bush Tax Cuts and the two wars launched during the Bush Administration.  [TP] It seems obvious that Senator Paul would like to balance the national budget on the backs of the elderly, the sick, and the poor.   There’s a real Turkey.

Energy company backed climate change deniers whose opposition to any measures to conserve our planet by reducing our dependence on fossil fuels may be precipitating a situation which the UN Environment Program, the World Bank, PriceWaterhouseCooper, World Meteorological Organization, and the International Energy Agency say is dire now and could become life threatening sooner rather than later.  [HuffPo]

Hostess/Wonder Bread, which having been sold and bought three times since the 1980s and selling off valuable company assets all along the way, piled up so much debt that it first declared bankruptcy in 2004 — after management gave themselves handsome bonuses for creating the dismal financial situation.   During the 2004 bankruptcy process the union gave back $110 million in concessions, which they were told would be spent on new technology and machinery.  The promises were never kept by the two hedge funds and a private equity firm who own the company.  Instead the management saddled the corporation with about $800 million in debts, and then asked labor for 27% to 32% in additional give-backs.  [Counter] [Forbes]  This, while senior management asked the current bankruptcy court to give them a 75% bonus for sticking around to liquidate the company. [Reuters] Somehow, “gobble gobble” sounds entirely too polite.

Faux News commentator Bill O’Reilly who is quick to tell us that single women, ethnic minorities, and African Americans aren’t “traditional” Americans, i.e. “real Americans.”   O’Reilly joins Andrea Tantaros who opined that Food Stamps could be a wonderful “diet plan.” [MMA]

The Security and Exchange Commission, which is supposed to be the nation’s watchdog agency on Wall Street, seems to have been spending an inordinate amount of time on “extra-curricular” activities. [C&L] There’s more from Rolling Stone magazine.  The article is an antidote to the tryptophan in the turkey.

Don’t take House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) too seriously when he says the Affordable Care Act is now the Law of the Land, he walked that statement back in land speed record time.  He and his conservative allies are supporting law suits to attack the bill’s provisions, delaying the implementation of the insurance exchanges, and rejecting Medicaid expansion.   [TPM]

The GOP operatives, legislators, and strategists who are promoting Vote Suppression.  [Nation]  Phony voter identification law proposals are still on the horizon, there’s a conservative backed case headed to the Supreme Court to gut the Voting Rights Act, and last year House Republicans tried to eliminate the US Election Assistance Commission.  Voting is a RIGHT, not a privilege.  Turkey.

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Filed under abortion, ecology, labor, McCain, Politics, Romney, Securities Exchange Commission, Vote Suppression, Voting, Women's Issues