Gloucester Schools OK Contraceptives
The Gloucester, Massachusetts School Committee voted unanimously last night to dispense, with parental consent, birth control pills and condoms to students from the school health clinic. Gloucester High School made national headlines in June when Time reported on a possible ‘pregnancy pact’ among 16 pregnant students that turned out the be unsubstantiated. The dubious exposure and the high number of pregnant students did, however, prompt discussions about the merits of providing contraceptives at the school’s health clinic.
School Superintendent Christopher Farmer agreed with last night’s decision.
“People are increasingly realizing the lives of adolescents now are very complex,” he said. “We have a significant number of teenagers who are sexually active.”
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After some debate, the seven School Committee members agreed on the importance of health and sexual education and an informed student and parent population.
“The parents need to be mindful of their obligation to their children,” said Val Gilman, secretary of the committee.
A Question for Sarah Palin
Amy Schalet of the Washington Post, if given the chance at last week’s debate, would have asked Gov. Sarah Palin: “Should public school students be taught that contraception and condoms can prevent unintended pregnancy and disease?” Schalet continues with a must-read explanation of why she thinks this question is of particular significance, but here is the central argument:
American teenagers grow up in environments that inhibit them from making conscious choices about sex and using contraception effectively. Sarah Palin supports programs that contribute to that environment, favoring policies that prohibit teachers from explaining the benefits of contraception and condoms and that require teaching that sex outside of marriage is unacceptable.
Such “abstinence-until-marriage” policies are built on the myth of a past when people did not have sex until they were married and, this thinking goes, prevented many of the troubles that plague society today. But for more than half a century, the majority of Americans have been having premarital sex. In the 1950s, one in three teenage mothers conceived out of wedlock. And many “shotgun” marriages ended in divorce.
Teenage parents face an even taller order today; it is no longer as easy for a man without a college degree to get a well-paying job to provide for a family, and young women rightly expect to pursue their talents both inside and outside the home, a challenge to pull off without higher education.
Simply put, the circumstances and aspirations of young people have changed since the 1950s, but our society’s narratives about the place of sexuality and the nature of relationships do not reflect these changes. And we pay a price for that inability to talk realistically about teenage sexuality and love.
So very right you are Amy, and it is time to take the muzzle that is abstinence-only education off of our nation’s teachers and start encouraging parents to talk more openly to their children about healthy sex and relationships.
Is Bush Really ‘Pro-Life’?
In the New York Times today Nicholas Kristof asks is the Bush administration’s decision to cut off birth control supplies to some of the world’s poorest women in Africa could really be considered a ‘pro-life’ policy considering that it will result in “tens of thousands of additional abortions each year — along with more women dying in childbirth.” Kristof goes on the highlight the stark difference between Senators John McCain and Barack Obama on this, and related, issues. Obama would seek to implement and fund social support policies that would reduce unintended pregnancies and make choosing life a viable option for poor women and families. McCain would continue the policies of the Bush administration that seek to limit the availability of family planning services, contraception and choice.
European Court of Human Rights May Pass on Abortion Again
The Wall Street Journal reports on an Irish abortion case pending in the European Court of Human Rights that may, or may not, be heard. The court has had several opportunities to rule on a woman’s right to choose but has so far danced carefully around a ruling.
The European Court of Human Rights was established to uphold rights to life, privacy, freedom of speech, religion and the like. The court has one justice from each of the 47 nations that signed the European Convention on Human Rights. It rules on cases that applicants bring when they feel they cannot get adequate legal redress in their home countries.
But for years the court has essentially turned a blind eye to Ireland’s abortion laws, considered among the most restrictive in Europe. Critics say that helps perpetuate an inequitable patchwork of rules across the region.
The current case, A.B. and C. v. Ireland, was brought by three Irish women who received abortions in England for health reasons — one had cancer — and suffered medical complications upon their return to Ireland. The women say they were uncomfortable seeking medical treatment, both before and after the abortions, because of Ireland’s laws, including a 1995 statute that applies criminal penalties to anyone giving information or assistance that promotes the procedure.
The European Court could rule that Ireland’s ban on abortion is a violation of a woman’s human rights but if history is any guide the court will demur on the fundamental issue of choice.
Speaking Out From South Dakota
Feministing has the very powerful personal story of Tiffany Campbell, who is serving as spokeswoman for the South Dakota Campaign for Healthy Families. The campaign is currently focusing on defeating a very rigid and restrictive abortion ban on the ballot in South Dakota and Tiffany explains why she was grateful to have a legal choice when she had a terrible problem with her third pregnancy, Twin-to-Twin Transfusion Syndrome.
Candidates for U.S. Senate in Maine Speak Out on Roe
Incumbent Senator from Maine Susan Collins challenger Representative from Maine Tom Allen answered a question about Roe vs. Wade for the local media: “The Supreme Court may be one appointee away from overturning Roe v. Wade. Where do you stand on Roe v. Wade, and what kind of judge would you want on the court?”
Allen said he would support justices likely to uphold Roe and noted that Collins had”voted for all but two of George Bush’s 200 judicial appointees, and I think some people are now on the Circuit Courts of Appeal who, frankly, are not qualified and are not the right people to be there.”
Collins claimed that she supports Roe and went further to say that:
I do not believe it will be overturned. It is part of the bedrock law of this country at this point. It would be an overwhelming act for the Supreme Court to overturn a decision that has been precedent for as many years as Roe v. Wade has been.