Roundup: The Global War on Sex Education

Brady Swenson

The far right has been waging a war against sex education, contraception and family planning for decades, More than 100 members of congress write Bush on HHS proposal, New gag rule for Indian Health Services, Family planning in the Phillipines, HIV/AIDS in the US South.

The Global War on Sex Education … In a must read piece today Sarah Wildman of The Guardian lays out the history of the far right’s battle against sex education, contraception and family planning starting with the Reagan administration’s "global gag rule" and proceeding through to the Bush administration’s funding of abstinence-only sex education and on to the recent HHS proposal that would restrict women’s access to contraception and would establish a more permanent funding mechanism for failed abstinece-only education.

All of these positions combine to form a war against basic freedoms and the dissemination of critical information needed to make healthy choices about our own lives. We have seen a staggering increase in traffic to Rewire with this latest HHS proposal as a vast majority of American women and families rely on open access to affordable birth control. What is important to realize is that all these important services, access to contraception, comprehensive sex education and access to abortion care are all intimately intertwined and all must be freely, or at least affordably, available to society in order for any of them to work individually. The far right certainly understands this, and as Sarah Wildman makes clear in her article, they committed long ago to making a concerted effort to hinder society’s access to all of these important reproductive health services.

More Than 100 Members of Congress Write Bush on HHS Proposal … ABC news is reporting that more than 100 members of congress sent a joint letter to the White House yesterday "urging him to "halt all action" on a proposal they argue would change
the definition of abortion, and drastically limit women’s access to
birth control." 

Poison Pill Slipped into Indian Health Bill … Michelle Chen of In These Times reports on yet another attempt by the far right to restrict access to reproductive health services, this time in an amendment slipped into a bill seeking to improve the ailing Indian Health Service. Sen. David Vitter’s amendment further entrenches the infamous Hyde Amendment’s gag rule by tethering "crucial health programs to an anti-abortion agenda and brazenly targeted Native women’s reproductive rights."

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“It’s a race-based amendment, because it’s trying to reduce our
right to access abortion more than any other race of women in this
country,” says Charon Asetoyer of the Native American Women’s Health
Education Resource Center (NAWHERC), a research and advocacy

Critics point to slight differences in the wording of the Vitter
amendment that could tighten existing restrictions — for instance, the
limitation of the incest exception to women under 18.

“Native women are so much more vulnerable on so many levels,” says
Sarah Deer, a Minnesota-based victim advocacy legal specialist with the
Tribal Law & Policy Institute, “from health problems, to being
victims of violence, to housing. We’re the ones suffering the most on a
lot of different issues.”

Family Planning Push in the Phillipines … President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, historically a staunch opponent of contraception, launched an unexpected campaign to improve Phillipino’s access to family planning services as a reponse to the country’s growing over-population problems including famine. While abortion is legal in the country access to contraception is just being established and the lack of access to sex education and birth control to prevent unwanted pregnancy is forcing women to resort to abortion services.

US South Hit Hard by HIV/AIDS … A report titled “Southern States Manifesto Update 2008: HIV/AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Diseases in the South” produced by the nonprofit Southern AIDS Coalition makes it clear that the US South has been hit harder by HIV/AIDS than any other region of the country.

Some data from the report:

deaths declined or were steady in other parts of the country from 2001
to 2005, but increased almost 14 percent in the South. Deaths in the
South decreased in 2006, however.

The South accounted for half of all U.S. AIDS deaths in 2005, and more than half of persons living with HIV (not AIDS) in 2006.

the 15 states with the highest new HIV diagnosis rates, nine are
Southern. More than 40 percent of new infections are in the South.

Infant Mortality: Many Women in Poor Health … Carol Brady, executive director, Northeast Florida Healthy Start Coalition Inc., in Jacksonville, Florida wrote an OpEd published today that highlights the poor state of health for many women becoming pregnant in her community.

In Jacksonville, a significant number of women
are uninsured prior to and between pregnancies. They enter pregnancy in
poor health, which impacts the health of their babies, even if they
receive prenatal care.

infections, late or no prenatal care, preterm labor and previous poor
birth outcomes are other common factors identified in the case reviews.

Like maternal health prior to pregnancy, the root causes of many of these individual risk factors are found in the community.

Poverty, lack of
education, racism, access to health insurance, availability of healthy
foods and life course issues influence the choices available to
individuals in our city.

These sound like issues that are problems in many communities around the country, not just in Jackonville.

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