Roundup: Masturbation as Natural as Breathing….Let’s Ban That, Too

Jodi Jacobson

The far right continues to use the "sex boogeyman" as a scare tactic to undermine comprehensive sex ed, here and abroad. Agence-France Press reports that guidelines originally drafted by the UN cultural organisation Unesco will promote.....(gasp!)....masturbation.

Shades of Jocelyn Elders: Far right has its knickers in a twist on masturbation as part of sex ed curriculum

The far right continues to use the "sex boogeyman" as a scare tactic to undermine comprehensive sex ed, here and abroad. 

Agence-France Press reports that guidelines originally drafted by the UN cultural organisation Unesco will promote…..(gasp!)….masturbation.

First of all, as a mother of two, I can tell you that children begin touching their bodies, including their genitalia, when they are infants.  It is natural and there is nothing wrong with it.  The thing that is wrong is the horrified reaction of adults to this natural behavior.  Second, if we want teens to delay sexual activity as long as possible, then masturbation is a good tool to promote that.  Finally, making masturbation dirty makes a natural act dirty, and can lead to lifelong sexual hangups.  No matter whether you are "abstinent until marriage" or not, there is nothing wrong with masturbation.

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Tell that to the far right.  (I know none of these folks masturbates……).

The draft guidelines now under review, the International Guidelines on Sexual Education, are intended to improve the sexual education of the world’s
children by creating a platform that can be adapted by national governments in creating curricula and guiding policy discussions.  Shockingly, these guidelines are based on evidence, human rights, and best practices. 

But they have come under attack from parts of the American right, which
has accused UNESCO of "promoting masturbation" and, of course, no surprise….abortion.

The AFP story states:

Last week, the UN cultural organisation Unesco released the draft International Guidelines on Sexual Education intended for discussion among experts in the coming months before a final version is sent to national authorities.

guidelines are meant as a "global template" of ideas to help young
people make safe and responsible sexual choices, avoid sexually
transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancy and escape prostitution or
other abuses.

But one section of the draft in particular appears
to have caught the eye of American headline writers. "UN report
advocates teaching masturbation to five-year-olds," ran one story on
the Fox News website.

AFP at least gets it right by noting that the Fox report and "many more like it from
mainly right-wing US media and internet outlets," focused on the Unesco
report’s suggested syllabus for school children aged between five and
eight years old.

What do the guidelines say on this issue?

"It is natural to explore and touch
parts of one’s own body. Bodies can feel good when touched. Touching
and rubbing one’s genitals is called masturbating. Some people
masturbate and some do not.

"Masturbation is not harmful, but should be done in private," it adds.

It’s kind of like saying "it is natural to breathe."  But if that was "pleasurable," or otherwise political, the far right would also be after banning breathing (except for themselves, of course).

Liliana Segura of Alternet, citing Tampa Bay Online, writes about efforts to pass an "egg-as-person" law in Florida:

"Yes, the state that brought you Bush v. Gore, the sex offender colony under the bridge, and the shoot-first-ask-questions-later legislation known as the "Stand Your Ground Law" has another idea up its sleeve. And this one’s for the ladies."

Tampa Bay Online reports:

TALLAHASSEE – Anti-abortion conservatives are proposing a
new constitutional amendment that critics claim would make it a crime
to take birth control pills in Florida.

"Personhood Amendment" that conservative activists are filing today in
Tallahassee would add language to the state constitution that defines
someone as a "person," regardless of age or health status, "from the
beginning of the biological development of that human being."

Segura continues:

"This, of course, is just another twist on the conventional argument
by anti-choice groups that birth control pills are basically murder

The pill will irritate the lining of the uterus so that the
newly formed human being cannot attach to his/her mother’s womb and
dies," reads an explanation on the website of the American Life League, which is supporting similar efforts in other states. "This is called a chemical abortion.

This is the same group that runs, a site that "focuses on blood clots and other health risks that birth control pills pose to women."


Even if these people manage to collect the 676,811 signatures
they need to get by Feb. 1 in order for this idea to be considered by
Florida residents, even anti-choice politicians seem to be a bit
ambivalent about the idea of criminalizing birth control.


Other news:


Tri-State News: Arizona abortion law faces court challenges

Catholic Exchange: Spanish Doctors Will Choose Jail over Committing Abortion

Chicago Tribune: Illinois gets funding for increasing adoptions

WaPo: Voices of Power: Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius

National Post: Incivility hurts the pro-life cause

WaPo: When It Comes to Pollution, Less (Kids) May Be More

ABC News Australia: Ethiopian children exploited by US adoption agencies

News 24: UN ‘promoting masturbation’


AlterNet: Anti-Choice Floridians Peddling Constitutional Amendment to Criminalize Birth Control Pill

Niagara Gazette: CONFER: Health care reform and abortions

HuffPo: When Planning a Pregnancy Can Save a Woman’s Life

Chicago Daily Observer: A Clear Statement on Healthcare Bill: Abortion Will Not Be Funded

Star Beacon: Brown aide: Health reforms won’t pay abortions costs

The Lariat Online: Mike Huckabee to visit Waco, speak on life

NYTimes: New Objections to Baucus Health Care Proposal

State News: Bill calls for insurance-backed birth control

Naples News: VIDEOS/PHOTOS: Protesters remain peaceful on first day of abortions at Planned Parenthood

Dominican Today: Amnesty International joins Dominican abortion fray

Catholic News Agency: Murder of Michigan pro-lifer a ‘non-story’ for Obama Catholics

LifeNews: Arizona Planned Parenthood Sues to Overturn New Pro-Life Laws Limiting Abortions

Baptist Press: Slain pro-life activist is martyr, some say

San Antonio Business Journal: Texas receives $5 million in incentive money for increasing adoptions

Opposing Views: Using Abortion to Choose Baby’s Gender-Is it Right?

U.S. News & World Report: Abortion Debate Could Make or Break Healthcare Reform

ABC News: Low-Dose Birth Control Pills May Weaken Bones

Catholic Exchange: Pro-Abortion Groups Silent in Wake of Pro-Life Activist’s Slaying

U.S. News & World Report: The Liberal, Pro-Life Case Against Healthcare Reform’s Foes

Phoenix Business Journal: Planned Parenthood sues over new abortion restrictions

Atlantic: Beware Of Decoys In The Abortion Wars

LifeNews: Obama Won’t Meet With Pro-Life Democrat to Discuss Abortion, Health Care

LifeNews: Catholic Bishops Differ From Pro-Life Response to Obama Abortion Funding Claim

LifeNews: White House Will Meet With Skeptical Pro-Life Leader on Abortion, Health Care

Washington Times: Pro-lifers pray for Obama’s conversion Abortion Double Standard

Palm Beach Post: (Letter) Rhetoric neglects to take stand on abortion issue

Denver Post: Health care’s hot topic: funding for abortions

Boston Herald: Pro-choice group supports Martha Coakley


NewsBusters: ABC Thinks ObamaCare MIGHT Cover Abortions


News Politics

Missouri ‘Witch Hunt Hearings’ Modeled on Anti-Choice Congressional Crusade

Christine Grimaldi

Missouri state Rep. Stacey Newman (D) said the Missouri General Assembly's "witch hunt hearings" were "closely modeled" on those in the U.S. Congress. Specifically, she drew parallels between Republicans' special investigative bodies—the U.S. House of Representatives’ Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives and the Missouri Senate’s Committee on the Sanctity of Life.

Congressional Republicans are responsible for perpetuating widely discredited and often inflammatory allegations about fetal tissue and abortion care practices for a year and counting. Their actions may have charted the course for at least one Republican-controlled state legislature to advance an anti-choice agenda based on a fabricated market in aborted “baby body parts.”

“They say that a lot in Missouri,” state Rep. Stacey Newman (D) told Rewire in an interview at the Democratic National Convention last month.

Newman is a longtime abortion rights advocate who proposed legislation that would subject firearms purchases to the same types of restrictions, including mandatory waiting periods, as abortion care.

Newman said the Missouri General Assembly’s “witch hunt hearings” were “closely modeled” on those in the U.S. Congress. Specifically, she drew parallels between Republicans’ special investigative bodies—the U.S. House of Representatives’ Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives and the Missouri Senate’s Committee on the Sanctity of Life. Both formed last year in response to videos from the anti-choice front group the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) accusing Planned Parenthood of profiting from fetal tissue donations. Both released reports last month condemning the reproductive health-care provider even though Missouri’s attorney general, among officials in 13 states to date, and three congressional investigations all previously found no evidence of wrongdoing.

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Missouri state Sen. Kurt Schaefer (R), the chair of the committee, and his colleagues alleged that the report potentially contradicted the attorney general’s findings. Schaefer’s district includes the University of Missouri, which ended a 26-year relationship with Planned Parenthood as anti-choice state lawmakers ramped up their inquiries in the legislature. Schaefer’s refusal to confront evidence to the contrary aligned with how Newman described his leadership of the committee.

“It was based on what was going on in Congress, but then Kurt Schaefer took it a step further,” Newman said.

As Schaefer waged an ultimately unsuccessful campaign in the Missouri Republican attorney general primary, the once moderate Republican “felt he needed to jump on the extreme [anti-choice] bandwagon,” she said.

Schaefer in April sought to punish the head of Planned Parenthood’s St. Louis affiliate with fines and jail time for protecting patient documents he had subpoenaed. The state senate suspended contempt proceedings against Mary Kogut, the CEO of Planned Parenthood of St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri, reaching an agreement before the end of the month, according to news reports.

Newman speculated that Schaefer’s threats thwarted an omnibus abortion bill (HB 1953, SB 644) from proceeding before the end of the 2016 legislative session in May, despite Republican majorities in the Missouri house and senate.

“I think it was part of the compromise that they came up with Planned Parenthood, when they realized their backs [were] against the wall, because she was not, obviously, going to illegally turn over medical records.” Newman said of her Republican colleagues.

Republicans on the select panel in Washington have frequently made similar complaints, and threats, in their pursuit of subpoenas.

Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), the chair of the select panel, in May pledged “to pursue all means necessary” to obtain documents from the tissue procurement company targeted in the CMP videos. In June, she told a conservative crowd at the faith-based Road to Majority conference that she planned to start contempt of Congress proceedings after little cooperation from “middle men” and their suppliers—“big abortion.” By July, Blackburn seemingly walked back that pledge in front of reporters at a press conference where she unveiled the select panel’s interim report.

The investigations share another common denominator: a lack of transparency about how much money they have cost taxpayers.

“The excuse that’s come back from leadership, both [in the] House and the Senate, is that not everybody has turned in their expense reports,” Newman said. Republicans have used “every stalling tactic” to rebuff inquiries from her and reporters in the state, she said.

Congressional Republicans with varying degrees of oversight over the select panel—Blackburn, House Speaker Paul Ryan (WI), and House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Fred Upton (MI)—all declined to answer Rewire’s funding questions. Rewire confirmed with a high-ranking GOP aide that Republicans budgeted $1.2 million for the investigation through the end of the year.

Blackburn is expected to resume the panel’s activities after Congress returns from recess in early September. Schaeffer and his fellow Republicans on the committee indicated in their report that an investigation could continue in the 2017 legislative session, which begins in January.

News Law and Policy

Pastors Fight Illinois’ Ban on ‘Gay Conversion Therapy’

Imani Gandy

Illinois is one of a handful of states that ban so-called gay conversion therapy. Lawmakers in four states—California, Oregon, Vermont, and New Jersey—along with Washington, D.C. have passed such bans.

A group of pastors filed a lawsuit last week arguing an Illinois law that bans mental health providers from engaging in so-called gay conversion therapy unconstitutionally infringes on rights to free speech and freedom of religion.

The Illinois legislature passed the Youth Mental Health Protection Act, which went into effect on January 1. The measure bans mental health providers from engaging in sexual orientation change efforts or so-called conversion therapy with a minor.

The pastors in their lawsuit argue the enactment of the law means they are “deprived of the right to further minister to those who seek their help.”

While the pastors do not qualify as mental health providers since they are neither licensed counselors nor social workers, the pastors allege that they may be liable for consumer fraud under Section 25 of the law, which states that “no person or entity” may advertise or otherwise offer “conversion therapy” services “in a manner that represents homosexuality as a mental disease, disorder, or illness.”

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The pastors’ lawsuit seeks an order from a federal court in Illinois exempting pastoral counseling from the law. The pastors believe that “the law should not apply to pastoral counseling which informs counselees that homosexuality conduct is a sin and disorder from God’s plan for humanity,” according to a press release issued by the pastors’ attorneys.

Illinois is one of a handful of states that ban gay “conversion therapy.” Lawmakers in four states—California, Oregon, Vermont, and New Jersey—along with Washington, D.C. have passed such bans. None have been struck down as unconstitutional. The Supreme Court this year declined to take up a case challenging New Jersey’s “gay conversion therapy” ban on First Amendment grounds.

The pastors say the Illinois law is different. The complaint alleges that the Illinois statute is broader than those like it in other states because the prohibitions in the law is not limited to licensed counselors, but also apply to “any person or entity in the conduct of any trade or commerce,” which they claim affects clergy.

The pastors allege that the law is not limited to counseling minors but “prohibits offering such counseling services to any person, regardless of age.”

Aside from demanding protection for their own rights, the group of pastors asked the court for an order “protecting the rights of counselees in their congregations and others to receive pastoral counseling and teaching on the matters of homosexuality.”

“We are most concerned about young people who are seeking the right to choose their own identity,” the pastors’ attorney, John W. Mauck, said in a statement.

“This is an essential human right. However, this law undermines the dignity and integrity of those who choose a different path for their lives than politicians and activists prefer,” he continued.

“Gay conversion therapy” bans have gained traction after Leelah Alcorn, a transgender teenager, committed suicide following her experience with so-called conversion therapy.

Before taking her own life, Alcorn posted on Reddit that her parents had refused her request to transition to a woman.

“The[y] would only let me see biased Christian therapists, who instead of listening to my feelings would try to change me into a straight male who loved God, and I would cry after every session because I felt like it was hopeless and there was no way I would ever become a girl,” she wrote of her experience with conversion therapy.

The American Psychological Association, along with a coalition of health advocacy groups including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Counseling Association, and the National Association of Social Workers, have condemned “gay conversion therapy” as potentially harmful to young people “because they present the view that the sexual orientation of lesbian, gay and bisexual youth is a mental illness or disorder, and they often frame the inability to change one’s sexual orientation as a personal and moral failure.”

The White House in 2015 took a stance against so-called conversion therapy for LGBTQ youth.

Attorneys for the State of Illinois have not yet responded to the pastors’ lawsuit.


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