Palin Tells People Mag: Students Should Learn About “Preventive Measures” in Sex Ed

Emily Douglas

"We have not been ones to say that students should not know what preventive measures are all about," says Sarah Palin. Abstinence or contraception? "Both," she says.

In 2006, running for governor of Alaska, when asked whether
she would support funding for "abstinence-until-marriage education instead of for
explicit sex-education programs," Sarah
Palin wrote
, "the explicit sex-ed programs will not find my support."

In 2008, at the tail end of a vice-presidential campaign and
now the mother of a pregnant 18-year-old: Palin tells
People magazine
, "[W]e have not been ones to say that students, should not
know what preventive measures are all about…When have I ever said that there
should be no sex education taught in our homes or even in our schools?"

When asked by interviewer Sandra Sobieraj Westfall, "Abstinence or contraception?" Palin responds, "Well, both."

Palin even says, "I’ve been taken aback by some criticism
that mainstream media has thrown my way saying, Oh, what a hypocrite she is and
she’s now learned her lesson because she’s been against sex education in the
schools. And I’m like, when? Where?"

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Well,
Sarah Palin, tell it to the Republican Party – and tell your running mate, too.
John McCain has said "I think I support
the President’s policy" on sex ed.  The President’s
policy has been to shovel over $1 billion federal dollars at abstinence-only
programs.  The Republican Party,
meanwhile, recently "renew[ed]
our call
for replacing family planning programs for teens with increased
funding for abstinence education."  They
also, in case you thought there was an ambiguity, stated that they "oppose
school-based clinics that provide referrals, counseling, and relative services for
abortion and contraception."
VIDEO: Comprehensive Sex Ed vs. Abstinence-OnlyVIDEO: Comprehensive Sex Ed vs. Abstinence-Only

And maybe Palin’s religious right base should get a heads up, too – after all, commenting on Bristol Palin’s pregnancy, President of the National Abstinence Clearinghouse Leslee Unruh said, "Abstinence
works. It works every single time…Blaming sex education for the failures of
people who make a mistake is not fair."

Here’s
the relevant portion of the People interview:

Has this changed how you talk about sex with your other
children?

SP: I’ve always been a proponent of making sure kids understand – even
in schools – they’d better take preventative measures so that they don’t find
themselves in these less than ideal circumstances. Perhaps Bristol could be a good example to other
young women that life happens and preventative measures are, first and
foremost, the option that should be considered –

Do you mean abstinence or contraception?
SP: Well, both. Ideally abstinence. But we have not been ones to say
that students, should not know what preventive measures are all about. I’ve
been taken aback by some criticism that mainstream media has thrown my way
saying, Oh, what a hypocrite she is and she’s now learned her lesson because
she’s been against sex education in the schools. And I’m like, when? Where?
When have I ever said that there should be no sex education taught in our homes
or even in our schools?

Palin also credits a "flexible schedule" for her ability
to balance demanding public service jobs and a growing family.  But Palin’s running mate opposes expansion of
the Family Medical Leave Act, which enables workers to take sick leave to care for family members, and doesn’t think FMLA leave should be paid
leave.

As a new Grandma, it’s going to be hard if you’re in
Washington and the new baby is going to be so far away-

SP: We’ve always had very flexible schedules –
TP: Very flexible schedules –
SP: – and probably quite unconventional, but it’s always worked and our
family and our faith and those things that we so believe in comes first and
we’ve always made this all work.

For the magazine spread, visit Mediabistro. The complete interview is here.

News Sexual Health

State With Nation’s Highest Chlamydia Rate Enacts New Restrictions on Sex Ed

Nicole Knight

By requiring sexual education instructors to be certified teachers, the Alaska legislature is targeting Planned Parenthood, which is the largest nonprofit provider of such educational services in the state.

Alaska is imposing a new hurdle on comprehensive sexual health education with a law restricting schools to only hiring certificated school teachers to teach or supervise sex ed classes.

The broad and controversial education bill, HB 156, became law Thursday night without the signature of Gov. Bill Walker, a former Republican who switched his party affiliation to Independent in 2014. HB 156 requires school boards to vet and approve sex ed materials and instructors, making sex ed the “most scrutinized subject in the state,” according to reproductive health advocates.

Republicans hold large majorities in both chambers of Alaska’s legislature.

Championing the restrictions was state Sen. Mike Dunleavy (R-Wasilla), who called sexuality a “new concept” during a Senate Education Committee meeting in April. Dunleavy added the restrictions to HB 156 after the failure of an earlier measure that barred abortion providers—meaning Planned Parenthood—from teaching sex ed.

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Dunleavy has long targeted Planned Parenthood, the state’s largest nonprofit provider of sexual health education, calling its instruction “indoctrination.”

Meanwhile, advocates argue that evidence-based health education is sorely needed in a state that reported 787.5 cases of chlamydia per 100,000 people in 2014—the nation’s highest rate, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Surveillance Survey for that year.

Alaska’s teen pregnancy rate is higher than the national average.

The governor in a statement described his decision as a “very close call.”

“Given that this bill will have a broad and wide-ranging effect on education statewide, I have decided to allow HB 156 to become law without my signature,” Walker said.

Teachers, parents, and advocates had urged Walker to veto HB 156. Alaska’s 2016 Teacher of the Year, Amy Jo Meiners, took to Twitter following Walker’s announcement, writing, as reported by Juneau Empire, “This will cause such a burden on teachers [and] our partners in health education, including parents [and] health [professionals].”

An Anchorage parent and grandparent described her opposition to the bill in an op-ed, writing, “There is no doubt that HB 156 is designed to make it harder to access real sexual health education …. Although our state faces its largest budget crisis in history, certain members of the Legislature spent a lot of time worrying that teenagers are receiving information about their own bodies.”

Jessica Cler, Alaska public affairs manager with Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest and Hawaii, called Walker’s decision a “crushing blow for comprehensive and medically accurate sexual health education” in a statement.

She added that Walker’s “lack of action today has put the education of thousands of teens in Alaska at risk. This is designed to do one thing: Block students from accessing the sex education they need on safe sex and healthy relationships.”

The law follows the 2016 Legislative Round-up released this week by advocacy group Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States. The report found that 63 percent of bills this year sought to improve sex ed, but more than a quarter undermined student rights or the quality of instruction by various means, including “promoting misinformation and an anti-abortion agenda.”

Commentary Politics

Why Political Platforms Must Center the Most Marginalized People

Monica Simpson

"To ensure that all people and all families have the opportunity to thrive, our political platforms must be intersectional, so that the most marginalized are centered and our whole lives are honored," said SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective Executive Director Monica Simpson in a recent speech.

Editor’s note: This speech was given by SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective Executive Director Monica Simpson before the Democratic National Convention Platform Drafting Committee on June 17. The hearing was held as part of a process to determine “what should be included in the party’s platform for the July 2016 convention in Philadelphia.” A version of the statement will be sent to the Republican National Committee. We are reprinting it here with permission from SisterSong.

So for identification purposes, thank you for saying who I am. I’m really excited to be here as a volunteer and advocate to provide information to the drafting committee about the importance of reproductive justice and to highlight how the platform might address the priorities, experiences, and struggles of women of color.

So I grew up in the rural South, in a town with only one stoplight, in a town where racial divide was blatantly drawn by railroad tracks that split the town from the haves and the have-nots. I remember being forced to sign the prom promise that locked us into abstinence-only sex education, where we were given that [information about sexual health] only over one course period. And unfortunately, this is still the case.

Also in my church, the place where most Black people in my Southern community received political education, every young woman except three of us were pregnant before graduating high school. The nearest abortion clinic for those who were strong enough to endure the shame of their community and the church was 30 miles away. There were no sidewalks, or public transportation system, to get a person there, even if they wanted to have one.

Most felt stuck within the town limits, where the jobs were basically nonexistent. The then-newly built private prison that needed to be filled was a constant reminder of the criminal justice system that separated so many young mothers from the fathers of their children.

In this story, you can see how the overlapping issues like race, economic barriers, faith, and criminal justice can make it difficult and sometimes impossible for marginalized communities to access the services that they need. This is what intersectionality looks like. And it’s because of these types of stories like mine that Black women came together to establish the reproductive justice movement, now 20 years ago.

Reproductive justice, distinct from reproductive health and rights, is a movement-building framework that envisions liberation for the most marginalized. We believe that reproductive justice will be achieved when all people have the economic, social, and political power and means to make decisions about their bodies, sexuality, faith, and family with dignity and self-determination. As you can imagine, we have a long way to go.

To ensure the health and safety of women of color, I urge you to address the formidable barriers that prevent us from getting the care we need, deny our decisions, and lead to shameful disparities. [Together], we must complete the work to ensure health care for all by expanding Medicaid nationally and passing the Health Equity and Accountability Act. This act eliminates health disparities, and the one issue [to] address most importantly to us and our work right now is the issue of maternal mortality.

Black women are dying during pregnancy, childbirth, and the postpartum period at [rates] nearly four times higher than white women. This is a public health crisis and a national shame. We must stop it in its tracks and the avalanche of state laws that push access to safe and legal abortion out of reach for people of color by those struggling to make ends meet. This isthis will be helped by ending the Hyde Amendment that puts a ban on insurance coverage for abortion, and passing the Women’s Health Protection Act which removes barriers to access.

Of course, our ability to make real decisions about pregnancy cannot be separated from the economic realities in our lives. And furthermore, everyone needs to feel safe, especially mothers and pregnant women. But unfortunately, pregnant women dealing with substance abuse are being overly criminalized in states like Tennessee. Women like Marissa Alexander in Florida [were] imprisoned for protecting [their] family and women like Purvi Patel and Kenlissia Jones were criminalized for ending their pregnancies.

The intersection of criminal justice and our reproductive lives is real and something that we cannot ignore.

Now more than ever, women of color are standing up for the issues that matter to us and demanding change, and we are voting. Change in policies, change in the political discourse, and change in leadership are needed to ensure that our communities are no longer ignored. Like the platform as a whole, this is not a one-note plan. One of my sheroes, Audre Lorde, said we cannot have single-issue movements because we do not live single-issue lives. To ensure that all people and all families have the opportunity to thrive, our political platforms must be intersectional, so that the most marginalized are centered and that our whole lives are honored.

This speech has been lightly edited for clarity.

***

Watch the full video, including the Q&A following Simpson’s speech, here:

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