Roundup: Common Ground, Michelle Obama and the Mommy Stamp, Television & Teen Sex

Amie Newman

What do anti-choice leaders actually mean by "finding common ground" on prevention abortion? What kind of First Lady will Michelle Obama be? Does television cause teen sex?

The Common Ground Myth?

Cristina Page, at, has a great post up written by Reverend Debra Haffner. If you’re interested in the concentric circles of religion and sexuality, you really should read Reverend Haffner’s blog. In the post, Haffner discusses the rash of anti-choice advocates pushing for what some say is a "new way" of discussing abortion – by focusing on the common ground between anti and pro-choice movements.

And while those common ground conversations have included discussion of expanding adoption services, increasing support for pregnant and parenting women by providing more health care and child care services (all worthy goals that the pro-choice movement consistently advocates strongly for), there is virtually no reference to what most reproductive health advocates understand is the critical component:

Preventing unintended pregnancies in the first place. Writes Haffner,

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Missing from every one of these calls was a call to work to prevent unintended pregnancies in the first place through sexuality education and contraceptive services.

These leaders use the Guttmacher Institute’s research that shows that women often choose abortion for financial reasons and that poverty impacts the abortion rate. But what they fail to mention, is that it first affects the unintended pregnancy rate: that poor women are at least five times more likely to become pregnant unintentionally.

Haffner quotes Guttmacher’s assessment of how (if at all) expanding adoption services and increasing social services for pregnant women impacts the overall abortion rate. It’s a worthy, quick read

The Mommy Stamp

Anyone who is a mother, or who has a mother, or who hasn’t lived in a cave on a mountain for the last thirty years can likely relate to the discussion surrounding Michelle Obama as of late. On blogs, listservs, in newspapers and magazines, the buzz around Obama has been related to what "role" she’ll play as First Lady. Will she continue to work? Or won’t she? Will she take an active role in government goings-on or stick primarily to her role as family caretaker?

While the debate has raged over what she should do or over what some want her to do, Michelle Obama is clearly doing what she believes is the right thing to do: "mom-in-chief".  Marcus, however, notes that she feels somewhat frustrated that Obama has labeled herself this way:

Is it really good for the team — the team here being working women —
to have the "mommy" stamp so firmly imprinted on her identity?

Marcus examines whether or not Michelle Obama’s consistent concessions for her husband’s career is really a good example of female autonomy and concludes:

The brutal reality is that, like our president-elect, most men do not wrestle quite so strenuously with these competing desires. So when the needs of our families collide with the demands of our jobs, it is usually the woman’s career that yields.

I may have a more optimistic take. As has been the case with all things "Obama", this is a new age. Michelle Obama is neither Jackie Kennedy nor Hillary Clinton. Regardless of what Michelle Obama chooses to do in her new role or how she chooses to identify herself to the outside world, I am certain that she will embody the position of First Lady such as we have not seen before – an amalgam of professional woman, mother and wife that reflects back to all of us our own complex lives.

Television Causes Teen Sex?

Elizabeth Schroeder, director of Answer, pens an opinion piece in the New York Daily News today taking on the recently released study by Pediatrics that concludes teens who watch television with sexual content are more likely to become pregnant or cause a pregnancy, than teens who do not. 

Schroeder isn’t buying it:

We should all raise a skeptical eyebrow whenever any research claims that there’s a direct cause-and-effect relationship between one thing, such as television viewing, and something as complex as teenage pregnancy. Doing so betrays an inherent ignorance of the world in which young people are living today.

Schroeder notes that teens are certainly affected by the media but that sexuality educators, like herself, understand that there are a lot of factors that affect teen’s choices. And, while Tyra Banks was "shocked" on a recent show to discover that  young women are having sex at 15 years old and "having sex on school grounds", Schroeder writes,

What is shocking, however, is that we continue to survey girls, not girls and boys – once again holding girls responsible for setting the limits in sexual relationships and blaming them when these limits are not maintained. It is also shocking that with nearly 20 years of failed abstinence-until-marriage sex education programming in schools, the federal government continues to fritter away money to support these plans – nearly $1.5 billion between 1996 and 2006, according to figures compiled by the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States – despite the lack of research showing the effectiveness of the programs.

Nothing new to those of us who have been writing about this for years. Abstinence-only programs are not educational programs. They are ideological sermons. If we want to prepare our young people for a lifetime of healthy sexuality and healthy relationships, comprehensive sex-ed that includes information on abstinence, family planning, sexuality, anatomy, healthy relationships and self-esteem is the only education they need. 

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