Roundup: Common Sense on Contraception, Sex Ed, Women, Catholicism, and Palin’s Liberal Fundraising Boon

Scott Swenson

Editorials around the country call for common sense on both contraception and sex ed; policies for women are explored; advocacy groups enjoy Palin fundraising bounce; Joe Biden's Catholicism and the inconsistent Bishops.

Contraception Is the Middle Ground

Cynthia Tucker writes an outstanding editorial in the Atlanta Journal Constitution that should be read in full, arguing for serious engagement by voters on the issue of supporting contraception. Citing declining abortion rates, and the need for reality-based approaches, she writes:

The flip side of the news about declining abortion rates is this:
Nearly half of all pregnancies to American women are still unintended,
and about 40 percent of those pregnancies will end in abortions, the
Guttmacher Institute says. Unintended pregnancies have been decreasing
among higher-income women, those with the resources to readily obtain
contraceptives. But unplanned pregnancies have increased among poor

So let’s make this simple: We can concentrate on working-class and
poor women. Since conservatives are reluctant to provide a comfortable
social safety net to help those women support children born outside
marriage, they ought to sign on quickly. And for those social
conservatives who still insist that teenagers ought to be taught
abstinence only (although research shows that approach a miserable
failure), there is still room for you under the big tent — supporting a
broad public campaign for contraception that focuses on adults.

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Of course, the ultraconservative fringe — those who insist that sex
is intended only for procreation — will not want to get with the
program. They’re the ones who distort the science about condoms,
insisting that they don’t protect against pregnancy or disease. They’re
the ones who push legislation to allow pharmacists to refuse to fill
prescriptions for birth control. But those fringe rightwingers don’t
represent the values of the broad American middle.


Women Need Reality More Than Symbols

Writing for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Roberta Bliely argues that on matters of public policy for women, having a woman on a national ticket doesn’t actually represent change from the current administration.

American teens suffer high pregnancy and chlamydia rates, yet McCain
and Bush oppose medically accurate sex education. Instead, McCain
panders to the far right, vowing to continue the Bush tradition of
doling out hundreds of millions of tax dollars to fundamentalists who
preach “abstinence only” and don’t want young people to know about

Medical science recognizes contraception is central to women’s
health. Without it, the average woman would bear a dozen or more
pregnancies. It’s strange that Bush and McCain oppose all efforts to
make contraception affordable, whether in health plans, programs for
the uninsured, drug pricing, drug approval, international assistance,
etc. But they don’t want sensible folks to know about it….

Our next president’s views really do matter because contraception, which most of us take for granted, is at risk.

That lipstick crew has been working behind the scenes. Some would
turn the clock back half a century to when contraception was a crime.
Take, for example, Dr. Susan Orr, author of “Real Women Stay Married.”
She equates contraception with “a culture of death.” Bush appointed her
to lead Title X, the program that subsidizes contraception and cancer
screening for the uninsured. Orr brought the program to its knees.
McCain earlier voted to abolish Title X altogether. Today 17 million
uninsured women need these services.

Even women with health insurance may lose their contraception
because a Bush appeals court judge issued a precedent-setting ruling
last year against female workers who sought contraceptive coverage.
Their health plan covers all other preventive care, drugs and even
Viagra and Rogaine for men. The decision erases hard-fought gains women
won just a few years ago. McCain voted against contraceptive coverage

Before leaving office, Bush will issue rules to boost a trend among
pharmacists who refuse to dispense contraception because of religious
objections. Some Montana women must drive 80 miles to find a pharmacy
willing to sell the pill. By blurring the line between contraception
and abortion, Bush’s proposed rules will thwart state laws meant to
assure proper care for sexual assault survivors.

Don’t believe for a second that McCain and Palin will “change”
anything. Palin’s group, Feminists for Life, not only opposes all
abortion, even for rape victims, it fosters this bizarre, unfounded
notion of birth control pills as murder weapons. The group’s Web site
refers to contraception as an “abortofacient,” a favorite code word of
the far right. It means they’re gunning for your birth control.

The gradual re-criminalization of abortion has, of course, begun.
The new Supreme Court, in yet another 5-4 ruling, recently upheld an
abortion restriction that McCain approved and Bush signed. As though
high-risk pregnancy is a walk in the park, the ruling eviscerates the
women’s health protections of Roe. McCain promises to appoint judges
who will overturn Roe entirely. As the far right blurs contraception
with abortion, who knows where it will end?

McCain may have a woman on the ticket, but he does not have the interests of women at heart.


Common Sense Sex Education

An editorial in Oklahoma City’s The Black Chronicle talks about common sense when it comes to sex ed:

In an ideal world, abstinence education and purity balls would be sufficient.

In the real world, the one of raging hormones and a highly sexualized pop culture, they dissuade woefully few teens.

for the non-partisan Mathematica Policy Research Corp. tracked four
abstinence-only programs for four to six years. Their definitive
164-page report can be summed up in four words: These programs aren’t

Numerous studies show that the most successful approach is a combination of sex education and abstinence counseling.

Sen. Barack Obama (Dem., Ill.) supports this balanced policy. Yet, U.S.
Sen. John McCain (Rep., Ariz.) and his running mate, Gov. Palin, both
come down on the opposite side of the research.

McCain has expressed support for President George W. Bush’s policy and
Palin, running for governor in 2006, wrote in a questionnaire: “The
explicit sex-ed programs will not find my support.” The Republican
Platform, approved at last week’s party convention, calls for
“replacing ‘family planning’ programs for teens with increased funding
for abstinence education.”

the $1.5 billion spent since 2000 on abstinence education, however, the
Centers for Disease Control & Prevention reported earlier this year
that a decade-long decline in the teen birth rate was reversed in 2006.

“explicit” sex-ed programs, better known as comprehensive sex
education, generally promote abstinence or postponing sex but also
provide information about contraception and safe sex. Think of it this
way: You tell your children not to drink, but you also teach them that
if they do, they shouldn’t drive.


Advocacy Groups on Both Sides Enjoy Fundraising Bounce

Politico.com is reporting that both anti-choice and pro-choice advocacy organizations have seen dramatic increases in fundraising since Sarah Palin was announced as the GOP candidate for Vice President.  The spontaneous flood of cash and enthusiasm is welcome by both sides though even anti-choice advocates acknowledge Palin will be good for progressive fundraising because she is so polarizing and divisive. “She will be the feature story in every direct mail piece that goes
out,” says [Marjorie] Dannenfelser. “She’s going to raise a lot of money for them,

NARAL Pro-Choice American reported an impressive $120,000 income from just two email alerts. But some of the efforts are grassroots. For example, an email has been circulating for about a week in pro-choice circles, that encourages donations be made to Planned Parenthood as a gift in Sarah Palin’s name, sending the gift card to the McCain campaign headquarters. Officials at Planned Parenthood told Rewire that our inquiry was the first they’d heard about the email campaign.


Biden’s Catholic “Problem”?

Time Magazine asks and answers a question about Sen. Joe Biden’s Catholic faith, and recent attacks by Bishops on Biden and Speaker Nancy Pelosi for expressing views the majority of Catholics in America support, that it is possible to separate private faith from public duty, even as Biden and Pelosi were criticized for their theological comments.  The article also points out that the most vocal Bishops have a consistency problem:

As much as these missteps have made them groan, Catholic Democrats
like Korzen complain that there is an inconsistency in the bishops’
actions. In a recent interview with Religion News Service, Archbishop
Chaput was asked why he has not also denounced the conflict between John McCain‘s
support for
embryonic stem-cell research and his statement that life begins at
conception. Chaput responded by denying that McCain held that position.
When reminded by the interviewer that McCain has made public statements
of support for embryonic stem-cell research on numerous occasions,
Chaput switched gears, arguing that he would only have reason to
express criticism if McCain had vocal Catholic support, “if a group
came out [called] Catholics for McCain.'”

There is in fact a “Catholics for McCain” organization. But
contesting the fairness of criticism won’t help Democrats this fall.
They are already poised to improve on Kerry’s support from Catholic
voters, whose top issues this year have been the economy and national
security instead of hot-button moral issues. In a TIME poll of Catholic
voters conducted this summer, a
full 80% said that they could vote for a candidate whose position on
abortion differed from theirs.


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