Missouri’s Sex Ed Follow Federal Government Guidelines

Lynda Waddington

In Missouri, the only sex education allowed is the inaccurate information that follows federal government guidelines.

It seems that whenever religious belief wrangles with education or public policy, the battle takes places either in Missouri or its western neighbor Kansas. It should come as no surprise to learn then that Missouri made headlines this summer with the passage of House Bill 1055.

The bill, signed by Gov. Matt Blunt in early July, makes several modifications to the state’s existing abortion laws and revises the state’s sex education guidelines to bring them in line with federal guidelines. Further, the law prohibits public school districts and charter schools from allowing anyone affiliated with any organization that provides abortion services from “offering, sponsoring or furnishing course materials related to human sexuality and sexually transmitted diseases.”

Sen. Jolie Justus, D-Jefferson City, Mo., describes the result of this bill as “havoc.”

“I worked the entire session with six other senators to mitigate the havoc caused by this bill,” she said at the time of the bill-signing. “In the end, the right-to-life gang put theocracy ahead of good public policy and women’s health, and the majority was unwilling to compromise with us on any of the issues.”

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As the bill was introduced and debated, Mathematica Policy Research Inc. released its findings on the national impact of Title V, Section 510 abstinence education programs. Justus says she thought that would create more resistance to the change in Missouri law.

“Needless to say, by creating a climate of abstinence-only education in this state, the net effect will be more unintended pregnancies and only one abortion clinic left in the state,” she said. “Anti-choice people cry victory, but we know from history that this will simply result in more abortions, but they will no longer be carried out in a safe and legal environment.”

Before passage of the legislation, Missouri law required students be presented with “the latest medically factual information regarding both the possible side effects and health benefits of all forms of contraception, including the success and failure rates for the prevention of pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.” An opt-out is now also on the books and it states that sex education “shall present students with information on contraceptives and pregnancy in a manner consistent with the provisions of the federal abstinence education law.”

This language, when combined with the banishment of entities providing abortion services, creates a monopoly. The only groups now allowed to teach sexual education in Missouri are those that subscribe to abstinence-only-until-marriage guidelines set forth in Title V, Section 510.

During the past fiscal year, Missouri received nearly $5 million in federal funds for abstinence education. Nearly $1 million administered by Missouri’s health department is distributed among 16 contractors that include crisis pregnancy centers, county health departments, school districts and community centers. The remainder of the state’s federal disbursements are granted through Community-Based Abstinence Education. The CBAE funds are shared by seven organizations. Each group is allowed to select its own curriculum so long as as the instructional content follows the federal guidelines.

Despite there being no sound scientific evidence linking abortion to subsequent mental health problems at least one of the CBAE grantees in Missouri uses the claim as part of its instruction. The Women’s Clinic of Kansas City/LifeGuard Youth Development, a crisis pregnancy center purposefully constructed next door to an existing Planned Parenthood site, calls itself a “nonprofit medical clinic.” On its website, the agency lists symptoms of “post-abortive stress syndrome” ranging from anxiety to low self-esteem to repeat abortions. Neither the American Psychological Association nor the American Psychiatric Association recognizes “post-abortion stress syndrome” as a legitimate medical condition.

Another grantee, LifeChoices of Joplin, also claims that an abortion causes negative feelings which, left untreated, “can progress into what is called Post-Abortion Syndrome.” Further, the group provides a false link between abortion and breast cancer, stating, “abortion is the most preventable risk factor for breast cancer.” In February 2003, the National Cancer Institute convened a group of 100 experts on pregnancy and breast cancer risk to review “existing population-based, clinical and animal studies on the relationship between pregnancy and breast cancer risk, including studies of induced and spontaneous abortion” and concluded that induced abortion is not linked to an increase in the risk of breast cancer.

The Future Leaders Outreach Network conducts an abstinence-only-until-marriage program called I CAN W.A.I.T. (Why Abstinence Is my Testimony) in schools, community groups and faith-based settings. The group publishes a magazine for youth that contains disparaging messages about condoms such as “With the popular slogan safe sex advocating condom use, STDs have increased at a phenomenal rate over the last 10 years.”

Until Congress returns from its August recess and resumes debate of abstinence-only education funding, it is unknown if Missouri legislators will need to go back to the drawing board for HB 1055. Their law now calls for all state programs to fall in line with federal guidelines that are poised to expire Sept. 30. Congress could do nothing and allow the entire program to expire. It also could re-authorize the program with no significant changes. A third option — and the one that most pundits believe likely — is that the guidelines will be rewritten to a less-strict and more fact-based sex education policy.

News Law and Policy

Anti-Choice Group: End Clinic ‘Bubble Zones’ for Chicago Abortion Patients

Michelle D. Anderson

Chicago officials in October 2009 passed the "bubble zone" ordinance with nearly two-thirds of the city aldermen in support.

An anti-choice group has announced plans to file a lawsuit and launch a public protest over Chicago’s nearly seven-year-old “bubble zone” ordinance for patients seeking care at local abortion clinics.

The Pro-Life Action League, an anti-choice group based in Chicago, announced on its website that its lawyers at the Thomas More Society would file the lawsuit this week.

City officials in October 2009 passed the ordinance with nearly two-thirds of the city aldermen in support. The law makes it illegal to come within eight feet of someone walking toward an abortion clinic once that person is within 50 feet of the entrance, if the person did not give their consent.

Those found violating the ordinance could be fined up to $500.

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Harassment of people seeking abortion care has been well documented. A 2013 survey from the National Abortion Federation found that 92 percent of providers had a patient entering their facility express personal safety concerns.

The ordinance targets people seeking to pass a leaflet or handbill or engaging in “oral protest, education, or counseling with such other person in the public way.” The regulation bans the use of force, threat of force and physical obstruction to intentionally injure, intimidate or interfere any person entering or leaving any hospital, medical clinic or health-care facility.

The Pro-Life Action League lamented on its website that the law makes it difficult for anti-choice sidewalk counselors “to reach abortion-bound mothers.” The group suggested that lawmakers created the ordinance to create confusion and that police have repeatedly violated counselors’ First Amendment rights.

“Chicago police have been misapplying it from Day One, and it’s caused endless problems for our faithful sidewalk counselors,” the group said.

The League said it would protest and hold a press conference outside of the Planned Parenthood clinic in the city’s Old Town neighborhood.

Julie Lynn, a Planned Parenthood of Illinois spokesperson, told Rewire in an email that the health-care provider is preparing for the protest.

“We plan to have volunteer escorts at the health center to make sure all patients have safe access to the entrance,” Lynn said.

The anti-choice group has suggested that its lawsuit would be successful because of a 2014 U.S. Supreme Court decision that ruled a similar law in Massachusetts unconstitutional.

Pam Sutherland, vice president of public policy and education for Planned Parenthood of Illinois, told the Chicago Tribune back then that the health-care provider expected the city’s bubble zone to be challenged following the 2014 decision.

But in an effort to avoid legal challenges, Chicago city officials had based its bubble zone law on a Colorado law that created an eight-foot no-approach zone within 100 feet of all health-care facilities, according to the Tribune. Sidewalk counselor Leila Hill and others challenged that Colorado law, but the U.S. Supreme Court upheld it in 2000.

News Human Rights

What’s Driving Women’s Skyrocketing Incarceration Rates?

Michelle D. Anderson

Eighty-two percent of the women in jails nationwide find themselves there for nonviolent offenses, including property, drug, and public order offenses.

Local court and law enforcement systems in small counties throughout the United States are increasingly using jails to warehouse underserved Black and Latina women.

The Vera Institute of Justice, a national policy and research organization, and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s Safety and Justice Challenge initiative, released a study last week showing that the number of women in jails based in communities with 250,000 residents or fewer in 2014 had grown 31-fold since 1970, when most county jails lacked a single woman resident.

By comparison, the number of women in jails nationwide had jumped 14-fold since 1970. Historically, jails were designed to hold people not yet convicted of a crime or people serving terms of one year or less, but they are increasingly housing poor women who can’t afford bail.

Eighty-two percent of the women in jails nationwide find themselves there for nonviolent offenses, including property, drug, and public order offenses.

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Overlooked: Women and Jails in an Era of Reform,” calls attention to jail incarceration rates for women in small counties, where rates increased from 79 per 100,000 women to 140 per 100,000 women, compared to large counties, where rates dropped from 76 to 71 per 100,000 women.

The near 50-page report further highlights that families of color, who are already disproportionately affected by economic injustice, poor access to health care, and lack of access to affordable housing, were most negatively affected by the epidemic.

An overwhelming percentage of women in jail, the study showed, were more likely to be survivors of violence and trauma, and have alarming rates of mental illness and substance use problems.

“Overlooked” concluded that jails should be used a last resort to manage women deemed dangerous to others or considered a flight risk.

Elizabeth Swavola, a co-author of “Overlooked” and a senior program associate at the Vera Institute, told Rewire that smaller regions tend to lack resources to address underlying societal factors that often lead women into the jail system.

County officials often draft budgets mainly dedicated to running local jails and law enforcement and can’t or don’t allocate funds for behavioral, employment, and educational programs that could strengthen underserved women and their families.

“Smaller counties become dependent on the jail to deal with the issues,” Swavola said, adding that current trends among women deserves far more inquiry than it has received.

Fred Patrick, director of the Center on Sentencing and Corrections at the Vera Institute, said in “Overlooked” that the study underscored the need for more data that could contribute to “evidence-based analysis and policymaking.”

“Overlooked” relies on several studies and reports, including a previous Vera Institute study on jail misuse, FBI statistics, and Rewire’s investigation on incarcerated women, which examined addiction, parental rights, and reproductive issues.

“Overlooked” authors highlight the “unique” challenges and disadvantages women face in jails.

Women-specific issues include strained access to menstrual hygiene products, abortion care, and contraceptive care, postpartum separation, and shackling, which can harm the pregnant person and fetus by applying “dangerous levels of pressure, and restriction of circulation and fetal movement.”

And while women are more likely to fare better in pre-trail proceedings and receive low bail amounts, the study authors said they are more likely to leave the jail system in worse condition because they are more economically disadvantaged.

The report noted that 60 percent of women housed in jails lacked full-time employment prior to their arrest compared to 40 percent of men. Nearly half of all single Black and Latina women have zero or negative net wealth, “Overlooked” authors said.

This means that costs associated with their arrest and release—such as nonrefundable fees charged by bail bond companies and electronic monitoring fees incurred by women released on pretrial supervision—coupled with cash bail, can devastate women and their families, trapping them in jail or even leading them back to correctional institutions following their release.

For example, the authors noted that 36 percent of women detained in a pretrial unit in Massachusetts in 2012 were there because they could not afford bail amounts of less than $500.

The “Overlooked” report highlighted that women in jails are more likely to be mothers, usually leading single-parent households and ultimately facing serious threats to their parental rights.

“That stress affects the entire family and community,” Swavola said.

Citing a Corrections Today study focused on Cook County, Illinois, the authors said incarcerated women with children in foster care were less likely to be reunited with their children than non-incarcerated women with children in foster care.

The sexual abuse and mental health issues faced by women in jails often contribute to further trauma, the authors noted, because women are subjected to body searches and supervision from male prison employees.

“Their experience hurts their prospects of recovering from that,” Swavola said.

And the way survivors might respond to perceived sexual threats—by fighting or attempting to escape—can lead to punishment, especially when jail leaders cannot detect or properly respond to trauma, Swavola and her peers said.

The authors recommend jurisdictions develop gender-responsive policies and other solutions that can help keep women out of jails.

In New York City, police take people arrested for certain non-felony offenses to a precinct, where they receive a desk appearance ticket, or DAT, along with instructions “to appear in court at a later date rather than remaining in custody.”

Andrea James, founder of Families for Justice As Healing and a leader within the National Council For Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls, said in an interview with Rewire that solutions must go beyond allowing women to escape police custody and return home to communities that are often fragmented, unhealthy, and dangerous.

Underserved women, James said, need access to healing, transformative environments. She cited as an example the Brookview House, which helps women overcome addiction, untreated trauma, and homelessness.

James, who has advocated against the criminalization of drug use and prostitution, as well as the injustices faced by those in poverty, said the problem of jail misuse could benefit from the insight of real experts on the issue: women and girls who have been incarcerated.

These women and youth, she said, could help researchers better understand the “experiences that brought them to the bunk.”

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