Roundup: Disproves Claims in McCain Sex Ed Ad

Brady Swenson says "Don't believe it" about McCain sex education ad; Teen pregnancy rises in Arizona and around the country; AIDS infection rate doubles for Michigan youth; Demonstrators oppose Colorado's personhood amendment; Check out a selective roundup of recent coverage on Sarah Palin. Says "Don’t Believe It" About McCain Sex Education Ad … Yesterday the independent web site published its review of the recent McCain-Palin ad attacking Obama for supporting "legislation to teach ‘comprehensive sex education’ to kindergartners." The ad insinuates that Obama supports teaching explicitly about sex to kindergarten aged students.  FactCheck reports that the bill Obama supported in the Illinois legislature included provisions to teach an "age-appropriate" curriculum starting in kindergarten to address issues such as "inappropriate touching"  to help students recognize sexual assault and rape.  Obama explained his understanding of "age-appropriate" sex education in 2004 when asked about it by Alan Keyes, his opponent for the U.S. Senate:

We have a existing law that mandates sex education in the schools. We want to make sure that it’s medically accurate and age-appropriate. Now, I’ll give you an example, because I have a six-year-old daughter and a three-year-old daughter, and one of the things my wife and I talked to our daughter about is the possibility of somebody touching them inappropriately, and what that might mean. And that was included specifically in the law, so that kindergartners are able to exercise some possible protection against abuse, because I have family members as well as friends who suffered abuse at that age. So, that’s the kind of stuff that I was talking about in that piece of legislation. 

The FactCheck piece goes on to list several other education bills that Obama supported and even co-sponsored to dispute the ad’s claim that the sex education bill was Obama’s "one accomplishment."  FactCheck concludes by noting several quotes shown in the ad that were taken out of context and includes a quote from a blog response by Steve Chapman, the author of one of the quotes taken out of context:

… the ad itself doesn’t bother explaining how the candidates differ on school vouchers, the subject of my column. Instead, it insults our intelligence by expecting us to believe that Obama thinks kindergartners should be taught how to use condoms before they’re taught to read. Right. And Joe Biden eats puppies for breakfast.

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Teen Pregnancy Rises After a Decade of Decline … Arizona newspaper the East Valley Tribune reports that teen pregnancy in the state of Arizona has risen dramatically in recent years after a decade of steady decline:

From 1996 to 2006, the overall teen pregnancy rate in Arizona fell by
31 percent, but increased 4.7 percent from 2005 to 2006. Over the same
decade, the birth rate for 18- and 19-year-olds increased by an
unprecedented 13.3 percent.

At least one professional working in the field blames a lack of education on the troublesome rise:

"They don’t really understand how their bodies work," said Bronwyn
Paes, director of the pregnancy and parenting program. "They’re not
protecting themselves from sexually transmitted infections. They aren’t
using condoms."

Of course the rise in teen pregnancy is a national phenomenon not limited to Arizona.  A great piece in the student newspaper of the University of Maryland reminds us that the nation’s highest profile teen pregnancy should compel us to discuss the problem of rising rates of unplanned teen pregnancy:

With the revelation that Sarah Palin’s underage, unwed daughter is
pregnant, both political parties are clamoring to pronounce that her
family is off limits to the political debate.

While on its own this is a noble notion, we as a nation are missing
an opportunity to have a real discussion on the high rate of unplanned
teenage pregnancies in this country. The latest surveys show that the
united States led the industrialized world in unplanned teenage

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC),
the rate for those ages 15-to-19 was 41.9 births per 1,000 in 2006. The
estimated annual cost just for 1996 can be broken down as follows:

mothers cost the country an additional $2.2 billion annually in welfare
and food stamp benefits, medical care costs are an added $1.5 billion,
foster care expenses are increased by $900 million. In addition, the
government loses about $1.3 billion a year in tax revenues from the
reduced productivity of women who bear children as teens. Exactly how
effective our government response has been to this crisis is debatable.

The major debate currently dealing with this issue is exactly how
effective the $10 billion spent by the federal government on
abstinence-only education over the last ten years was. Long term
studies have shown that abstinence-only education will not prevent kids
from experimenting with sex any later than other more traditional forms
of sex education.


AIDS Rate Doubles for Michigan Youth … Rising unplanned pregnancy is not the only reproductive health problem facing teens in America today.  New numbers from better tracking methodology recently released by the CDC show that teens in Michigan and around the country are increasingly contracting HIV:

The epidemic is much worse nationwide than the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention previously estimated and it’s growing at a
troubling rate among youth and young adults in Metro Detroit.

Michigan, where an estimated 18,000 are living with HIV/AIDS, the rate
for those ages 13-24 has almost doubled from 5.7 to 9.7 cases per
100,000 residents from 2002-2006, based on Michigan Department of
Community Health data.

The CDC previously estimated about
40,000 new HIV cases each year. But better tracking technology has
raised that by 40 percent to 56,300 new cases in 2006, according to a
recent report by the Journal of the American Medical Association. More
than a third of new infections are people ages 13-29.


Demonstrators Oppose Colorado Personhood Amendment Saying it "Goes Too Far" … Protestors objecting to Colorado’s proposed Amendment 48, that would define personhood as beginning at conception, demonstrated yesterday:

Opponents of Amendment 48 gathered inside the Tivoli Center at the
Auraria campus Wednesday to kick off their campaign and blast the
measure as going "too far" in its attempt to legally define personhood.

Waving signs echoing that sentiment, about 80 people cheered when
Ryan Osmond arrived with his wife and young daughter to speak on behalf
of those who used in-vitro fertilization to conceive.

Osmond said that by defining an egg at the moment of fertilization
as a person and by giving it full protections under the state
Constitution, the proposed amendment could "open the door to prevent
in-vitro pregnancies."

"It creates legal uncertainty," he said.


The Day’s Sarah Palin Coverage … The nomination of Gov. Sarah
Palin for Vice President has caused quite a stir.  Everyday since her
nomination the media coverage of the election has been dominated by
journalists and Opinionators trying to find out more about and define
the public’s perception of this new arrival on the national political
scene.  The past 24 hours have been no different. Carla Marinucci asks
in SFGate asks "In a presidential race in which unexpected factors like
lipsticks and
pigs have driven questions about sexism and feminism, a central
question remains: What do women want?
Rosemary Compesano of remains confident that women want
a debate on the issues they care about, not made up controversies:

Camposano said women need to stay with issues and not get distracted by such media-created controversies.

"We’re going to quickly grow weary of the accusations of sexism,"
she said. "Women know when they’ve been attacked … and when it was
questioned if (Palin) could be a good mother, that was sexism.

"But is it sexism to use these kinds of stupid phrases? It’s
troubling we’re talking about ‘lipstick on a pig’ over whether Sarah
Palin has any capability to bring wage equality and in ensuring health
care for children and child care programs for women who work.

"It’s about where she stands on the issues," said Camposano. "There, we have a real opportunity to debate."

David Crary, writing for The Associated Press, notes that the selection of Palin has re-energized the abortion debate, especially for those who oppose the right:

Veteran leaders in the anti-abortion camp say they have never before
seen the degree of enthusiasm that greeted Palin’s selection as John
McCain’s Republican running mate. She opposes abortion even in cases of
rape or incest, and lived out her convictions by bearing an infant son
she knew had Down syndrome.

Madeleine Kunin, in the Huffington Post, reminds voters that the McCain-Palin ticket would likely threaten Roe v. Wade
considering McCain’s promise to select justices "in the mold of
Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas" and Palin’s opposition to
abortion even in cases of rape and incest. 

The Editorial Board of the New York Times published a word of warning about Palin’s "pro-family" posturing yesterday afternoon saying that her political rollout has successfully portrayed her as "the country’s new No. 1 mom":

The explicit, implicit, and unavoidable message from all the oratory
and the family stagecraft was that Governor Palin understands and cares
deeply about the issues that moms care about, like children, health
care, and education.

But the Editorial Board warns that "people who follow such issues
closely in Alaska say her record as governor suggests otherwise,"
including the failure to expand funding for a successful program that
provides health insurance to pregnant women and children.

Palin’s selection has also generated debate about the amorphous idea
of Feminism and how she does or does not fit into it.  Today Rebecca
Traister of Salon wrote about her personal emotional reaction to the
selection of Palin and explains her belief that the election of McCain-Palin would ultimately be a detriment to the advancement of women and her idea of feminism.  

Real Clear Politics published a piece this morning by Victor Davis
Hanson, a historian from Stanford University, in which Hanson claims
that Sarah Palin has challenged what he believes to be a limited idea
of feminism that has emerged in recent years and believes that Palin’s story is one that should be celebrated according to the "old" idea of feminism that "in its essence feminism still was about equality of opportunity."


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