What a DA’s Actions Reveal About The War on Contraception

Amanda Marcotte

The war on contraception may not go mainstream any time soon, but current efforts point toward the creation of sexual Haves and Have Nots, those who “deserve” contraception and those who don’t.

Those of us monitoring the right wing War on Contraception (otherwise known as the War to Make Sure Sex for Fun Is Available Only to the Highly Privileged, a term usually rejected because, while it’s accurate, it’s also unwieldy), know this is an issue widely neglected in the media.  But recently things seemed to be heating up on a number of fronts. Witness this item, forwarded to me by more people than I technically think I know:

A Wisconsin prosecutor  is warning that teachers who teach the state’s new sex education curriculum could be arrested and charged with contributing to the delinquency of children.

Many things jump out at the average person when considering this item, including the fact that way too many prosecutors are perverts who spend time thinking of ways to get teenage girls into handcuffs.

I personally thought about how weird it is to think that not getting pregnant is the sort of thing that might be considered “delinquent behavior” in a minor. When I was a teenager, I think my mother would have thought it way more delinquent to come home pregnant than not pregnant. But what really jumped out at me was that Juneau County District Attorney Scott Southworth has a very poor understanding of the law for someone who claims to be and is working as a lawyer. He appears to think having sex for pleasure is automatically illegal in the state of Wisconsin, or at least that it is if you’re under the age of 18. But in reality, it’s only illegal if one person is a minor and the other is an adult. Contraception works pretty well for 16-year-old lovebirds in the reality-based world.

Like This Story?

Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

Donate Now

Alarmingly, Southworth also conflates “sex-for-pleasure” with sexual assault on minors, and suggests that knowing how to use contraception is the basis for both. Most rape victims would not agree with Southworth’s suggestion that the sex forced upon them was the same thing as sex for pleasure, at least not theirs. But I also hesitated at the suggestion that contraception is a major factor in sexual assault. I worry that Southworth doesn’t think it’s rape if the rapist doesn’t use a condom. Consider the recently reopened Roman Polanski case in light of this information. Polanski didn’t use a condom while raping his victim, after all. Let’s all be grateful that the prosecutor in that case wasn’t Scott Southworth, who is more worried that someone might avoid pregnancy and have fun in a fully consensual situation than the reality of child rape, which has very little to do with contraception education.

But what’s interesting about this story is the audacity of it. Usually, anti-choicers try to micromanage public awareness of their hostility to contraception, because if the public at large knew that the movement opposed all non-procreative forms of sexual expression, we the public would probably not be too happy with them. Instead, there’s this familiar if facetious story about fetal life, one I’m sure you’ve heard. But here Southworth is blowing their cover, and putting it right there in writing, that “sex-for-pleasure” is an evil that needs to be stomped out.

This story is no anomaly. The War on Contraception, which is usually fought under cover for fear that the anti-sex agenda of the anti-choice movement might make them less popular, is going mainstream in the U.S. Seems like some members of Congress are experimenting with putting forward arguments that assume that contraception funding can be presumed immoral and disgusting. Minority Leader John Boehner made these statements in an attempt to use female sexuality to derail healthcare reform:

Now we learn that Washington Democrats’ government takeover of health care dramatically expands taxpayer funding of contraceptives and the abortion industry. First Democrats removed this controversial provision from the ‘stimulus’ and then they hid it in their government takeover of health care, hoping the American people wouldn’t notice. That’s why Republicans are fighting to repeal this health care law and replace it with common-sense reforms that respect taxpayer dollars and protect life.

“Protect life” is now an unambiguous euphemism for “punish female sexuality with forced childbirth.”  Boehner doesn’t even try to pretend that he’s using fetal life as a foil, since he’s objecting to funding for services that would prevent conception in the first place. The word “abortion” is slapped on to make the language more hysterical, but if you strip away the randomly inserted alarmist language, what Boehner is objecting to is a health care system that includes education and provision of contraception, from the condom box at Planned Parenthood to a woman with health insurance going to a doctor and having her birth control prescription covered.

In other words, Boehner is asking his audience to believe that use of contraception, methods to prevent unintended pregnancy used by 98 percent of women at some point in their fertile years, is so controversial that an entire health care bill should be repealed to curtail the behavior. This wouldn’t be so remarkable if the anti-contraception sentiment wasn’t coming from the House Minority Leader. Boehner isn’t doing what the Bush administration did with emergency contraception blockages or abstinence-only education, which is hide the anti-contraception agenda behind a facade of merely wanting to control teenage girls’ sexuality. This is an assault on the right of women of all ages to have sex for pleasure without fear of pregnancy, except for those who are wealthy enough to pay for family planning services out of pocket.

Which is where I think things could be heading. We’re probably not going to see the anti-choice movement’s across-the-board war on contraception go mainstream any time soon, but I fear we’ll see more folks like Boehner and Southworth, who try to create sexual groups of Haves and Have Nots, i.e. those who “deserve” contraception and those who don’t, because their sexuality is wrong and icky. The Have Nots will include young women, women who aren’t wealthy, and women of color. The Haves — women entitled to have sex for pleasure — will be the wealthy women they deem deserving. Women that just so happen to look like their wives, which is just a coincidence I’m sure.

Roundups Sexual Health

This Week in Sex: The Sexually Transmitted Infections Edition

Martha Kempner

A new Zika case suggests the virus can be transmitted from an infected woman to a male partner. And, in other news, HPV-related cancers are on the rise, and an experimental chlamydia vaccine shows signs of promise.

This Week in Sex is a weekly summary of news and research related to sexual behavior, sexuality education, contraception, STIs, and more.

Zika May Have Been Sexually Transmitted From a Woman to Her Male Partner

A new case suggests that males may be infected with the Zika virus through unprotected sex with female partners. Researchers have known for a while that men can infect their partners through penetrative sexual intercourse, but this is the first suspected case of sexual transmission from a woman.

The case involves a New York City woman who is in her early 20s and traveled to a country with high rates of the mosquito-borne virus (her name and the specific country where she traveled have not been released). The woman, who experienced stomach cramps and a headache while waiting for her flight back to New York, reported one act of sexual intercourse without a condom the day she returned from her trip. The following day, her symptoms became worse and included fever, fatigue, a rash, and tingling in her hands and feet. Two days later, she visited her primary-care provider and tests confirmed she had the Zika virus.

Like This Story?

Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

Donate Now

A few days after that (seven days after intercourse), her male partner, also in his 20s, began feeling similar symptoms. He had a rash, a fever, and also conjunctivitis (pink eye). He, too, was diagnosed with Zika. After meeting with him, public health officials in the New York City confirmed that he had not traveled out of the country nor had he been recently bit by a mosquito. This leaves sexual transmission from his partner as the most likely cause of his infection, though further tests are being done.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s recommendations for preventing Zika have been based on the assumption that virus was spread from a male to a receptive partner. Therefore the recommendations had been that pregnant women whose male partners had traveled or lived in a place where Zika virus is spreading use condoms or abstain from sex during the pregnancy. For those couples for whom pregnancy is not an issue, the CDC recommended that men who had traveled to countries with Zika outbreaks and had symptoms of the virus, use condoms or abstain from sex for six months after their trip. It also suggested that men who traveled but don’t have symptoms use condoms for at least eight weeks.

Based on this case—the first to suggest female-to-male transmission—the CDC may extend these recommendations to couples in which a female traveled to a country with an outbreak.

More Signs of Gonorrhea’s Growing Antibiotic Resistance

Last week, the CDC released new data on gonorrhea and warned once again that the bacteria that causes this common sexually transmitted infection (STI) is becoming resistant to the antibiotics used to treat it.

There are about 350,000 cases of gonorrhea reported each year, but it is estimated that 800,000 cases really occur with many going undiagnosed and untreated. Once easily treatable with antibiotics, the bacteria Neisseria gonorrhoeae has steadily gained resistance to whole classes of antibiotics over the decades. By the 1980s, penicillin no longer worked to treat it, and in 2007 the CDC stopped recommending the use of fluoroquinolones. Now, cephalosporins are the only class of drugs that work. The recommended treatment involves a combination of ceftriaxone (an injectable cephalosporin) and azithromycin (an oral antibiotic).

Unfortunately, the data released last week—which comes from analysis of more than 5,000 samples of gonorrhea (called isolates) collected from STI clinics across the country—shows that the bacteria is developing resistance to these drugs as well. In fact, the percentage of gonorrhea isolates with decreased susceptibility to azithromycin increased more than 300 percent between 2013 and 2014 (from 0.6 percent to 2.5 percent).

Though no cases of treatment failure has been reported in the United States, this is a troubling sign of what may be coming. Dr. Gail Bolan, director of CDC’s Division of STD Prevention, said in a press release: “It is unclear how long the combination therapy of azithromycin and ceftriaxone will be effective if the increases in resistance persists. We need to push forward on multiple fronts to ensure we can continue offering successful treatment to those who need it.”

HPV-Related Cancers Up Despite Vaccine 

The CDC also released new data this month showing an increase in HPV-associated cancers between 2008 and 2012 compared with the previous five-year period. HPV or human papillomavirus is an extremely common sexually transmitted infection. In fact, HPV is so common that the CDC believes most sexually active adults will get it at some point in their lives. Many cases of HPV clear spontaneously with no medical intervention, but certain types of the virus cause cancer of the cervix, vulva, penis, anus, mouth, and neck.

The CDC’s new data suggests that an average of 38,793 HPV-associated cancers were diagnosed each year between 2008 and 2012. This is a 17 percent increase from about 33,000 each year between 2004 and 2008. This is a particularly unfortunate trend given that the newest available vaccine—Gardasil 9—can prevent the types of HPV most often linked to cancer. In fact, researchers estimated that the majority of cancers found in the recent data (about 28,000 each year) were caused by types of the virus that could be prevented by the vaccine.

Unfortunately, as Rewire has reported, the vaccine is often mired in controversy and far fewer young people have received it than get most other recommended vaccines. In 2014, only 40 percent of girls and 22 percent of boys ages 13 to 17 had received all three recommended doses of the vaccine. In comparison, nearly 80 percent of young people in this age group had received the vaccine that protects against meningitis.

In response to the newest data, Dr. Electra Paskett, co-director of the Cancer Control Research Program at the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center, told HealthDay:

In order to increase HPV vaccination rates, we must change the perception of the HPV vaccine from something that prevents a sexually transmitted disease to a vaccine that prevents cancer. Every parent should ask the question: If there was a vaccine I could give my child that would prevent them from developing six different cancers, would I give it to them? The answer would be a resounding yes—and we would have a dramatic decrease in HPV-related cancers across the globe.

Making Inroads Toward a Chlamydia Vaccine

An article published in the journal Vaccine shows that researchers have made progress with a new vaccine to prevent chlamydia. According to lead researcher David Bulir of the M. G. DeGroote Institute for Infectious Disease Research at Canada’s McMaster University, efforts to create a vaccine have been underway for decades, but this is the first formulation to show success.

In 2014, there were 1.4 million reported cases of chlamydia in the United States. While this bacterial infection can be easily treated with antibiotics, it often goes undiagnosed because many people show no symptoms. Untreated chlamydia can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease, which can leave scar tissue in the fallopian tubes or uterus and ultimately result in infertility.

The experimental vaccine was created by Canadian researchers who used pieces of the bacteria that causes chlamydia to form an antigen they called BD584. The hope was that the antigen could prompt the body’s immune system to fight the chlamydia bacteria if exposed to it.

Researchers gave BD584 to mice using a nasal spray, and then exposed them to chlamydia. The results were very promising. The mice who received the spray cleared the infection faster than the mice who did not. Moreover, the mice given the nasal spray were less likely to show symptoms of infection, such as bacterial shedding from the vagina or fluid blockages of the fallopian tubes.

There are many steps to go before this vaccine could become available. The researchers need to test it on other strains of the bacteria and in other animals before testing it in humans. And, of course, experience with the HPV vaccine shows that there’s work to be done to make sure people get vaccines that prevent STIs even after they’re invented. Nonetheless, a vaccine to prevent chlamydia would be a great victory in our ongoing fight against STIs and their health consequences, and we here at This Week in Sex are happy to end on a bit of a positive note.

News Politics

Former Klan Leader on Senate Run: My Views Are Now the ‘GOP Mainstream’

Teddy Wilson

David Duke has been a fervent support of the Trump campaign, and has posted dozens of messages in support of Trump on Twitter. Duke has often used the hashtag #TrumpWasRight.

David Duke, convicted felon, white supremacist, and former leader of the Ku Klux Klan, announced Friday that he will run for U.S. Senate in Louisiana, Roll Call reported.

Duke said that after a “great outpouring of overwhelming support,” he will campaign for the open Senate seat vacated by former Republican Sen. David Vitter, who lost a bid for Louisiana governor in a runoff election.

Duke’s announcement comes the day after Donald Trump accepted the GOP nomination in the midst of growing tensions over race relations across the country. Trump has been criticized during the campaign for his rhetoric, which, his critics say, mainstreams white nationalism and provokes anxiety and fear among students of color.

His statements about crime and immigration, particularly about immigrants from Mexico and predominantly Muslim countries, have been interpreted by outlets such as the New York Times as speaking to some white supporters’ “deeper and more elaborate bigotry.”

Like This Story?

Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

Donate Now

Duke said in his campaign announcement that he was the first candidate to promote the policy of “America first,” echoing a line from Trump’s nomination acceptance speech on Thursday night.

“The most important difference between our plan and that of our opponents, is that our plan will put America First,” Trump said Thursday night. “As long as we are led by politicians who will not put America First, then we can be assured that other nations will not treat America with respect.”

Duke said his platform has become “the GOP mainstream” and claimed credit for propelling Republicans to control of Congress in 2010. He said he is “overjoyed to see Donald Trump … embrace most of the issues I’ve championed for years.”

Trump in February declined to disavow the support of a white supremacist group and Duke, saying he knew “nothing about David Duke” and knew “nothing about white supremacists.” He later clarified that he rejected their support, and blamed his initial failure to disavow Duke on a “bad earpiece.”

Trump’s candidacy has also brought to light brought many incidents of anti-Semitism, much of which has been directed at journalists and commentators covering the presidential campaign.

Conservative commentator Ben Shapiro wrote in the National Review that Trump’s nomination has “drawn anti-Semites from the woodwork,” and that the Republican nominee has been willing to “channel the support of anti-Semites to his own ends.”

Duke took to Twitter after Trump’s acceptance speech Thursday to express his support for the Republican nominee’s vision for America.

“Great Trump Speech, America First! Stop Wars! Defeat the Corrupt elites! Protect our Borders!, Fair Trade! Couldn’t have said it better!” Duke tweeted.

Duke has been a fervent Trump supporter, and has posted dozens of messages in support of Trump on Twitter. Duke has often used the hashtag #TrumpWasRight.

Duke was elected to the Louisiana house in 1989, serving one term. Duke was the Republican nominee for governor in 1991, and was defeated by Democrat Edwin Edwards.

Duke, who plead guilty in 2002 to mail fraud and tax fraud, has served a year in federal prison.