JUST SAY NO, From the editors of the New York Times
The administration of Donald Trump — who had a child out of wedlock after cheating on his first wife, and is in a legal battle with a porn star who says she had sex with him not long after his third wife gave birth — is promoting abstinence with a zeal perhaps never before seen from the federal government.
Mr. Trump’s Department of Health and Human Services is quietly advancing an anti-science, ideological agenda. The department last year prematurely ended grants to some teen pregnancy prevention programs, claiming weak evidence of success. More recently, it set new funding rules that favor an abstinence-only approach. In reality, programs that use creative ways to educate teenagers about contraception are one reason teen pregnancy in the United States has plummeted in recent years.
The administration is promoting a “just say no” approach to adults as well as to teenagers. It’s poised to shift Title X family planning dollars — funds largely intended to help poor adult women around the United States get birth control — toward programs that advocate abstinence outside of marriage, as well as unreliable forms of birth control like the rhythm method (though the health agency might have to reverse course if either of the lawsuits filed against it last week by Planned Parenthood and other women’s health advocates are successful).
ANor are its sights limited to the United States. As BuzzFeed News reported, administration officials who attended recent closed-door meetings at the United Nations were preoccupied with abstinence. Bethany Kozma, a senior adviser for gender equality and women’s empowerment at the United States Agency for International Development, called America a “pro-life nation,” stunning delegates from other countries.
The administration’s approach defies all common sense. There is no good evidence that abstinence-only education prevents or delays young people from having sex, leads them to have fewer sexual partners or reduces rates of teen pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections. And given that almost all Americans engage in premarital sex, this vision of an abstinent-outside-of-marriage world is simply at odds with reality.
Abstinence-only education also spreads misinformation. A 2004 government report found that many such curriculums undersold the effectiveness of condoms and made unscientific assertions, like a claim that a 43-day-old fetus is a “thinking person.” This kind of propaganda also promotes gender stereotypes. “Women gauge their happiness and judge their success by their relationships,” one curriculum taught students. “Men’s happiness and success hinge on their accomplishments.”
Public health experts strongly recommend a comprehensive approach to sex education, one that informs young people about abstinence as well as about various forms of contraception and other aspects of sexual health.
The Trump administration has lurched rightward, not just compared to the Obama administration, which funded some abstinence-only programs, but even compared to the Bill Clinton and George W. Bush eras, when federal funding for abstinence was much more robust than under Barack Obama.
Meanwhile, officials pushing these changes — including Valerie Huber, who once ran a national organization dedicated to promoting abstinence and now leads the Title X program at the health agency — have engaged in a savvy rebranding campaign. They use innocuous sounding terms like “sexual risk avoidance” and “healthy relationships” because they know “abstinence” can sound harsh and retrograde.
Disinformation is at the center of this agenda. It makes it more difficult for women to acquire the knowledge they need to control if and when they become pregnant — a problem that is exacerbated by the administration’s hostility toward abortion rights. Beyond that, abstinence-only education keeps all people who are subjected to it in the dark about critical aspects of their health, and treats a normal part of life — sexuality, and women’s sexuality in particular — as aberrant and shameful.
Why It Matters: Our Fight for Science, April 19th, 2018 By: Gina Desiderio
On April 18, 2018, Healthy Teen Network President & CEO, Dr. Pat Paluzzi, joined Baltimore City Mayor Catherine Pugh, City Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen, and City Solicitor Andre Davis in a press conference on the lawsuit we have joined to fight the Trump Administration’s unlawful cuts to the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program. You can view the recording of the press conference (forward to 18:30) on CharmTV, as well as the related press release, but here’s an excerpt of the commentary on why our fight for science, for evidence matters:
Dr. Leana Wen, Baltimore City Health Commissioner:
“This cut is shocking and unprecedented. Congress authorized the funding, which is available. The grant period is five years, and there’s no reason to terminate it early. The grant also comes at a time when we have made remarkable progress in reducing teen birth rates, with a 61% reduction in teen birth rates here in Baltimore City, between 2000 and 2016. This funding cut means that there are 20,000 students in Baltimore who will no longer have evidence-based teen pregnancy curriculum, creating a vacuum of critical health education for thousands of vulnerable teens. In addition to cutting evidence-based teen pregnancy curriculum, that includes education on physiology and STD and HIV prevention, the funding cut also removes supports to train teachers and build capacity for health education […].
The funding cut also jeopardizes our teen advisory council […] who act as peer health advocates who share information about reproductive health. Participants in the program have given feedback on how what they get out of this is much more than health education; they also get training on how to get control over their lives and are empowered to make the best choices for themselves and their families. One participant told us, “Without this education, I likely would have been a teen mom, and my future would have been very different.’
As a doctor and public health official, I’ve seen how much this evidence-based, science-based grant has helped us in Baltimore, and I’m deeply concerned about three areas. First, this cut will slash educational attainment and economic opportunities for youth. Many studies have shown us that reducing teen birth increases the ability of girls to graduate from high school and to have economic stability for themselves and their families. Second, this will increase costs for our city and for our country. There was a 2010 study that found that teen pregnancy and childbirth accounted for nearly 10 billion of costs nationwide. Third, this will adversely affect health outcomes for our most vulnerable mothers, children, and families. Teen mothers have a higher rate of giving birth to preterm, low birth weight babies who are more likely to have worse health outcomes. There are health consequences to the moms themselves […].
If we have a strategy that will improve health outcomes for our women and children, the last thing that we want to do is to hurt generations to come. So, for those of us on the front lines, we don’t see a number, we see the faces of our 20,000 students and 20,000 teen will not receive the education, we see the effect on them and on our city’s future.”
Dr. Pat Paluzzi, President & CEO, Healthy Teen Network:
“We were adapting an app that had been proven effective […] The loss of this funding means that we will not be able to test this app for the Spanish-speaking population, who in fact have the highest rate of teen pregnancy across this country. It also means the loss of a mechanism of delivery that is very much in concert with what young people are doing today in order to get their information. It also flies in the face of the reasons that were given in terms of the data-driven aspects of what we do in teen pregnancy prevention. Along with Dr. Wen, we promote using evidence to decide what to offer to young people, and stopping these grants, that are all evidence-based, that are building a base of evidence for this work, to promote an ideology that is not evidence-based, goes against the grain of all that we believe in and we think is very harmful to the young people in this country, and that is why we are joining in this suit.”
Violence and intimidation against abortion clinics are on the rise, a new report from the National Abortion Federation finds. While Republican politicians are looking to shut down clinics through government action, anti-abortion extremists are in the streets blockading clinics, threatening providers, and generally creating an atmosphere of fear for women exercising their right to choose:
The report found that there was an overall decrease in acts of vandalism against clinics but a significant increase in activities aimed at disrupting services and intimidating patients and providers. Acts of trespassing increased from 247 in 2016 to 823 in 2017, instances of obstruction tripled to 1,704 and threats of death or other harm nearly doubled to 62. […]
The one attempted bombing in 2017 involved a pipe bomb that did not explode after being placed in an abortion clinic in Champaign, Illinois, in November. The three men charged by federal authorities are allegedly part of a militia group called the “White Rabbits” who also have been charged in the bombing of a Minnesota mosque last year.
A clinic in Cleveland incurred more than $32,000 in damages because of repeated brick-throwing attacks on its windows.
And Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell are busy filling the federal courts with judges who will act with Republicans and vandals to shut down clinics.
At Nevada County Citizens for Choice, we strive to keep you informed.
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