Commentary Religion

Corpses Don’t Rebel: Former Quiverfull Mom Reacts to Death of Hana Williams by “Biblical Chastisement” via Corporal Punishment

Vyckie Garrison

Trigger Warning: This article contains graphic descriptions of infant and child abuse. The death toll from parents following Michael and Debi Pearl’s teachings continues to mount. Another child is has been “biblically chastened” to death via corporal punishment, and Michael Pearl is defending his teachings in the mainstream media while promoting his new book.

Please note: This article was written by No Longer Quivering member “ExPearlSwine” who understandably wishes to share her heartbreaking story anonymously.

Trigger Warning: This article contains graphic descriptions of infant and child abuse.

The death toll from parents following Michael and Debi Pearl’s teachings continues to mount. Another child is has been “biblically chastened” to death via corporal punishment, and Michael Pearl is defending his teachings in the mainstream media while promoting his new book.

CNN’s Gary Tuchman and Anderson Cooper both reported on the death of 13-year-old Hana Williams,whose adoptive parents Larry and Carri Williams subjected her to beatings and neglect while following the teachings of the Pearls.

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Michael Pearl defends himself and his teachings during his CNN interviews using two arguments:

First, the presence of his book, To Train Up a Child, and the presence of his other teaching materials on “biblical chastisement,” in the homes of homicidal parents, is purely circumstantial. It makes no more sense, Pearl argues, to blame To Train Up a Child for discipline-turned-abusive-turned-murderous than to blame Alcoholics Anonymous brochures in the home for deaths due to drunk driving, or weight-loss materials in the home for obesity. As Anderson Cooper pointed out, this defense is illogical. AA literature says not to drink, especially while driving. Pearl literature emphasizes inflicting physical pain on children in order to break their wills and achieve total obedience to parents. In the Cooper interview, Pearl talks about physically chastising to “get the child’s attention.” What if your child still isn’t paying attention?

Pearl’s second argument comes up every time his teachings are linked to children beaten to death: kids end up abused and killed because parents, despite owning copies of his teachings and trying to follow them, aren’t really following his teachings. They are missing the joy part, the reconciliation part, the praying part, the loving part, or whatever. They discipline in anger instead of in love.

Or—and I suspect this is what Pearl really thinks but can’t say without contradicting his own child-training directions—they should have known when to stop, when they were being cruel and abusive instead of loving, even if the child was still in rebellion and hadn’t budged an inch. At some point, a loving parent with some sense and a conscience will stop inflicting more pain. This is what Pearl believes, or at least one would hope this is what he believes. This isn’t what he teaches.

I followed the Pearls’ teachings for years, and the children I subjected to “biblical chastisement” are very much the worse off for it. I’m wondering which part of Michael Pearl’s teachings he’d say I was missing:

  1. Get Pearl’s teachings and read every single word and pray. Check.
  2. Start striking infants with objects on the hand or in the buttocks area as soon as they are able to reach for something you don’t want them to touch and ignore your “No.” Check.
  3. Hit them harder if they continue. Check.
  4. When they cry, lovingly console them and “reconcile” them to yourself and God. Check.
  5. Always use physical chastisement on them when they don’t respond to spoken correction. Check. If I didn’t strike them, my husband did.
  6. Believe that they will end up juvenile delinquents and go to hell if you slack off. Check.
  7. Pray and study the Bible some more. Check.
  8. Be joyful about chastising your baby all day. Praise God while you slap a three-month-old’s hand with a ruler and think about how godly he’ll turn out. Half a check. It was hard.
  9. The children will quit rebelling and be wonderful children who sweetly, quietly obey and love you to pieces. . . No check.

This is what I was missing: the part where the Pearls’ teaching worked. Only one child out of the oldest four quietly obeyed in response to chastisement, but she also had signs of severe emotional disturbance. She withdrew into herself and didn’t speak until she was two. The other three oldest children out of my Quiver Full of kids would rebel. And rebel. They would go to the wall rebelling. They would rebel until the cows came home and the bulls came home and calves were born. The more you hurt them, the more they rebelled.

Michael Pearl has only three methods to deal with continued rebellion in children, since his teachings are straight from the Bible, and therefore infallible:

  1. Blame yourself. You must not be getting my teaching right.
  2. Hit harder. Pain is of the essence.
  3. Blame the kid. What else is left? Other people’s kids give in and act godly.

Oh, and don’t forget to be loving and joyful and kind and patient just like Jesus (only I can’t see Jesus removing the diaper of a baby to inflict any degree of pain on her whatsoever using any object or even his hand, by any stretch of my imagination). But don’t give in. Don’t stop chastising, and make sure it hurts. Don’t let the kid (and the devil in the kid) win.

When the Pearls’ methods failed, I got stuck on method a. Blame yourself. I re-read To Train Up a Child. When I knew I had it right, I hit harder. Prayed harder. Did the whole disciplinary routine smiling from ear to ear and cooing like a dove. My babies acted freaked out by my grin (it was a lot like Debi Pearl’s vacuous, huge grin in theTuchman interview) and were enraged by my efforts to “lovingly reconcile” with them after spankings. They kept up the fight. At this point, I think I would have admitted to myself that something was wrong with this whole child-training method and stopped torturing the toddlers all day to no avail. If you have to be cruel to get the Pearl method to work on some kids, it’s wrong. I had a husband, however, who was firmly convinced that Pearl was right. He went right for the b. and c. options: hit harder and blame the kid.

Options b. and c. are hard to do without getting angry. They are hard to do without leaving bruises, especially since Pearl discipline is cumulative: faced with entrenched rebellion, you are supposed to hit repeatedly and in the same areas. My ex-husband got angry with the kids for thwarting the Pearl method, but he remained coldly self-controlled. He also left bruises. A lot of bruises.

Why didn’t I stop him? I finally did, but early in my marriage I was paralyzed by fear and brainwashed by bad teaching. We both feared raising ungodly kids. We were looking for confirmation that some part of this system worked, and my ex-husband began to get results. The children flinched when he even moved. Cowered when he reached for a spanking implement. Had semi-seizures on the carpet following “biblical correction.” We got compliance with our wishes. Eventually, there was immediate and unquestioning compliance. My ex-husband had quelled the rebellion in three kids. He had created unfocused, freaked-out little robots who obeyed. The joy and the peace that was supposed to suffuse our home according to Pearl, we thought we could dispense with. Maybe it would come later; the Pearls are a little vague on where the peace and love should come into the process, just as they are a little vague on how you can keep “chastising” repeatedly with progressively increased force in the same places without leaving bruises.

To Train Up a Child is a manual of progressive violence against children. Not only are there no stopgaps to prevent child abuse, the book is a mandate to use implements to inflict increasingly intense pain in the face of continued disobedience. The part about not causing injury is vague and open to interpretation, but the part about never backing down or shirking your parental duty to spank harder and harder is crystal clear. The Pearls’ teachings will lead, inescapably, to extremely strong-willed kids being abused and sometimes murdered by fundamentalist parents who are determined to “break” those children.  The Pearls’ defenders will say, “Oh, they took it to an extreme and should have known better.” If anyone knows better than to keep inflicting more severe discipline on an intractable child, they can only apply that knowledge by scuttling the Pearls’ sadistic teaching and being more reasonable.

I think Hana Williams was a lot like my oldest three kids, only stronger. I think Lydia Shatz, the other recent Pearl casualty, was a lot like them too. Maybe their iron wills and endurance came from being born in Africa and living under harsh conditions. Perhaps, like some of my children, they had some innate sense that their parents were screwed up and that all their parents’ so-called “Christian love” did not cancel out or justify their own physical suffering. They resented being classified with the demons for daring to disagree, for wanting a relationship with their parents that wasn’t based on changing their behavior, personality, or identity. The pain only stiffened their resistance. They were not going to be broken by people who continually inflicted pain on them. The only way to break the wills of children like this is to kill them.

 

The 911 call that Carri Williams made to the police dispatcher says it all:

Operator: What’s the emergency?

Carri Williams: Um, I think my daughter just killed herself.

Operator:  Why do you say that?

Carri Williams: Um, she’s really rebellious, and she’s been outside refusing to come in, and she’s been throwing herself all around, and then she collapsed.”

What’s wrong with Hana? “Um, she’s really rebellious.” She won’t do what we say.

No, she’s not, she’s dead. She can’t rebel any more. And you’re blaming her, saying she did it to herself.

Thank God I escaped from thinking like you, Carri Williams. Thank God some of my babies were mothered without pain, once I got away from their father and all the right-wing fundamentalist teachings that had ruined my life, Pearl’s teachings included. Will I ever forget the confusion and pain in the wide baby eyes of the oldest ones, when I first swatted their tiny hands? They were startled, bewildered. And then they opened their mouths and cried the cry of the completely betrayed, the absolutely alone in the world. I was the only person they even recognized yet, and I had hurt them. To this day, it haunts me, as you will be haunted by your last glimpse of Hana alive, just before she collapsed. Hana’s last stand.

Commentary Religion

Secret Keeper Girl: An Inside Look at Evangelical Cognitive Dissonance

Dianna Anderson

For all its affirmation of little girls’ intelligence and humor, it's hard to get past the mixed messages in Secret Keeper Girl's modesty doctrine: We shouldn’t care about how the world perceives us, unless we're talking about our clothing, in which case that's the only thing that matters.

High-heeled shoes for 10-year-olds. String bikinis for children who’ve not yet hit puberty. Shirts with slogans that promote “sexiness” to young children.

Dannah Gresh and Suzy Weibel, founders of Secret Keeper Girl, point to these as signs of our culture’s modesty and sexualization crisis, and they believe a mother’s relationship with her daughter is of utmost importance in fixing it.

Secret Keeper Girl (SKG), an evangelical Christian ministry aimed at girls ages 8 to 12, publishes and hosts books, devotions, trips, and tours. The group believes in Christian purity and modesty—women need to save their “secrets” (their bodies) for their husbands at marriage. To accomplish this, they promote loving Jesus, being close to one’s mothers, and dressing modestly.

SKG’s recent Crazy Hair Tour came to my town on November 7. It was being hosted at my old church, and was sponsored by the local Christian music station. I decided to go.

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The night kicked off as one would expect, with fun, energetic games and songs, before diving into the kid-oriented lessons and memorized Bible verses. The Virginia-based all-woman group One Girl Nation sang and helped out with the event throughout the night.

The first thing I noticed was the pink. It was everywhere—absolutely everywhere. The stage was covered by a large set featuring the SKG logo in bright shades of pink, and many of the girls in attendance, most of them skewing younger than 10, were wearing the color.

The second thing I noticed was the ableism. The theme of the evening was “choosing to be crazy for God,” based on a verse from 2 Corinthians (translation from The Message):

If I acted crazy, I did it for God; if I acted overly serious, I did it for you. Christ’s love has moved me to such extremes. His love has the first and last word in everything we do.

The idea is a common one in Christianity—separating yourself from people in the rest of the world by not going along with their sinful ways and being willing to be called a “freak” or “crazy.” However, the entire evening was based around the idea that being “crazy” was a choice that religious people made. Such an ethic contributes to the erasure of people who struggle with mental illness and the idea that they are genuinely “crazy.” This use of “crazy” erases people like me, who has found much solace and normality in finally treating an ongoing anxiety and depressive disorder and who took a Xanax shortly before attending the event.

Beauty is a hot topic in evangelicalism, and the Secret Keeper Girl show was no exception. The one bright spot within their discussion of beauty was an affirmation of non-feminine gender presentation. Suzy Weibel told a story of how she was a softball player and an athlete for many years; she loved it and was good at it. But she gave it up in her mid-teens because she was told that it wasn’t attractive to boys. She didn’t play again until she was in her 20s. Weibel has short curly brown hair and wears clothing that, while modest, doesn’t align with traditionally feminine clothes—no skirts, very little makeup, and almost no jewelry. It is helpful and good for little girls in the church to see a model of feminine expression that is not all dresses and pink. However, as the evening ended, there was a “fashion show” that undercut any good that may have come from Weibel’s speech in the first half. In seeking to be “not of this world,” in Christian-speak, the speakers discussed 1 Timothy 2:9-10 (NIV):

I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.

There’s a certain irony in this verse being used at an event where young girls were encouraged to show up with elaborate hairstyles.

What’s more, many Biblical scholars have read these verses to be about inordinate displays of class and wealth—fine jewelry and hair being ways to say “I have money!” in Biblical times. As such, “modesty” in that context isn’t so much about not showing skin, but rather preventing division because of classism.

This isn’t how Secret Keeper Girl read it, though. Jordan Smith, one of the evening’s hosts, suggested that these verses mean that we need to be beautiful from the inside out, that chasing after Jesus and working on the “fruits of the Spirit” will make us more beautiful and attractive. The verse, Smith said, was meant to “push us into goodness, not into making a bunch of rules. But, the verse does mention clothing.”

What followed was a rapidfire round of “Truth or Bare” tests for whether or not one’s clothing is showing too much skin. “God wants nothing of how we dress to distract from the good things we are doing for Him,” Smith said.

Instead of wearing short skirts like the “mean girls” at school, the Christian girl puts on leggings or wears pants. In the “raise and praise” test, the young girl’s belly should not show when she raises her hands above her head to praise God; if it does, she needs to go to the boys’ clothing section and get a long tank top to layer. And if you put your hand palm down on your chest under your collarbone, you should only have shirt showing below your pinky finger.

When Smith asked the crowd, “Is it ever OK for a Secret Keeper Girl to wear a low-cut top?” the crowd said “NO!”

The organizers then trotted out girls ranging in age from 6 to 12 for a “modesty fashion show,” meant to demonstrate that you can look good while being modest.

For all its affirmation of little girls’ intelligence and humor, it’s hard to get past the cognitive dissonance inherent in Secret Keeper Girl’s modesty doctrine: We shouldn’t care about how the world perceives us, unless we’re talking about our clothing, in which case that’s the only thing that matters.

At 6 years old, children don’t need to be worrying about whether or not their shirt shows “cleavage.” And they shouldn’t be taught that wearing a short skirt is a sign of being “ungodly.” This marriage of spirituality and misogynistic social mores is a dangerous cocktail that teaches women to fear their own bodies and fear each other. It teaches these young girls that the clothing they wear is just as important as who they are as a person. In spite of the earlier messages about “accepting who you are,” the resounding lesson of the evening is that how you present yourself physically matters much more than your attitude or beliefs.

Much of the problem with these modesty rules is not only the mixed messages it gives Christian women, but how it sets up white, thin, able-bodied women as the ideal. The physical tests of clothing challenges—raising your arms, bending over, sitting down cross-legged—are dependent upon the girl being able-bodied. Other tests—the palm on chest, for example—are dependent on the person being thin and flat-chested. God help the girls who grow up to have 36DDs.

Such teaching is also based on classism. The sold-out event, which cost $15 per person, contained advice to “just go buy some leggings or pants or a new tank top.” It seems to have not occurred to these leaders that their modesty teachings can only be put in practice by those who can afford to go shopping frequently.

The group also does Christian charity, and one of its charitable acts is taking the Secret Keeper Girl tour into “inner-city New York”—the Bronx and Brooklyn—for free. It’s hard to see a campaign led by suburban white women to teach “inner-city” kids not to wear short skirts as anything but condescending.

The Secret Keeper Girl campaign has some good intentions—the organizers want young girls to realize their worth and to affirm girls as they are. But they fall into a trap that plagues many gendered evangelical charities; trying not to sexualize while emphasizing a modesty perspective ends up promoting superficial rules at the cost of a Godly perspective. And by targeting women, the group itself feeds into the legacy of patriarchal rules and oppression.

Analysis Sexual Health

If You Give It, They’ll Be Tramps: An Offensive, False, But Oft-Repeated Argument About Reproductive Health Technologies

Martha Kempner

The argument that access to sexual health care or information causes promiscuity is offensive to women and has been proven false time and again. Yet it seems unlikely that it we will end anytime soon.

This week we learned that the HPV vaccine does not cause young women to have sex. A study looked at the medical records of 1,400 women under the age of 16 to determine sexual behavior based on pregnancy tests, contraceptive counseling, and STI screenings and diagnoses. It found no difference in behavior between those who had received the HPV vaccine and those who had not.

As Marianne Møllman points out in her piece, this fear—that their daughters would be become “sluts” —is the number-one reason that parents do not vaccinate their daughters against HPV.  Apparently, this fear is even greater than the fear of cervical cancer, a potentially deadly but completely preventable disease.

You would think that this study would allay such fears. The truth is, we’ve seen this argument made repeatedly—whether it’s about making condoms available in schools, providing sex education, or allowing Emergency Contraception (EC) to be sold over the counter. The idea that access to protection will cause young women to run wild is deeply ingrained in our culture. Think of how fast Rush Limbaugh connected Sandra Fluke’s request for contraceptive coverage to her own clearly “slutty” sexual behavior.  And it doesn’t seem to matter that the notion has been debunked by research time and time again.

Promiscuity Police

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Though the false arguments about women’s barely controlled promiscuity likely began with the introduction of short skirts or bathing suits that showed some knee, they were prominent during the 1960s, as the birth-control pill became a medical and cultural phenomenon. In a 1966 article on birth control and morality, U.S. News and World Report asked: “Is the Pill regarded as a license for promiscuity? Can its availability to all women of childbearing age lead to sexual anarchy?” Two years later, author Pearl Buck warned iin Reader’s Digest:

“Everyone knows what The Pill is. It is a small object—yet its potential effect upon our society may be even more devastating than the nuclear bomb.”

The introduction of the pill did coincide with a change in social values and norms around sexuality, and women’s sexuality in particular. Some believe that by separating sex from procreation and giving women control of their own fertility (thereby allowing them to pursue education and employment), the pill is, in fact, responsible for the sexual revolution. Others believe it was a convenient scapegoat for a societal change that was already in the works. What we know for sure is that 45 years later, we are still debating the impact of contraception on women’s sexual behavior.

During his recent run for the Republican presidential nomination, former Senator Rick Santorum called contraception a problem:

“It’s not okay because it’s a license to do things in the sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be. They’re supposed to be within marriage, they are supposed to be for purposes that are, yes, conjugal, but also [inaudible], but also procreative. “

The idea of a license to have sex came up quite often this summer when the country was debating provisions of the Affordable Care Act that required contraceptive coverage. Sandy Rios, vice president of Family PAC Federal, which describes itself as “the leading pro-family conservative political action committee in Illinois,” said on Fox News:

“Why in the world would you encourage your daughters, and your granddaughters, and whoever else comes behind you to have unrestricted, unlimited sex anytime, anywhere and that, somehow if you prevent pregnancy, that somehow you’ve helped them. I would submit to you that uncontrolled sexual behavior is what is harming our girls, not our lack of birth control—which by the way they don’t seem interested in taking anyway.”

We heard this same idea back in 1998 when the FDA was first considering approval for EC and then over and over as the agency decided whether EC should be available without a prescription. During one of these debates, the Family Research Council (FRC), a conservative not-for-profit organization, said this:

“… one might expect the medical profession to speak out against promiscuity, if only to prevent the disease and destruction it causes. Instead, public health professionals have not only made peace with sexual license (against society’s practical interests), but now virtually advocate it. The campaign for the morning after pill is just one case in point.”

We hear it practically every time a school district considers distributing condoms, and even when condoms are handed out on college campuses. Last year, for example, a state Representative chastised Wisconsin University’s Health Center for giving out condoms along with sunscreen and lip balm as part of a campaign for a safer spring break. According to a spokesperson, the lawmaker objected to the university’s role in “encouraging sexual activity.”

We’ve heard it for decades when it comes to sexuality education. Teaching kids about sex, the argument goes, will give them ideas, encourage experimentation, and undermine any message about abstinence they might have received. In a 1986 newspaper article, conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly derides a sexuality education textbook as far too liberal, saying:

 “It’s no wonder that our country has a high rate of teenage promiscuity and the unhappy consequences it causes, including out-of-wedlock pregnancy, abortion and venereal diseases. Those things are the result of the sexual liberation that students are taught in required courses in ‘health’ and ‘sex education.’”

And, of course, we heard it as soon as the HPV vaccine became a scientific possibility. In 2005, Bridget Maher told the British Magazine, The New Scientist, that: “giving the HPV vaccine to young women could be potentially harmful, because they may see it as a license to engage in premarital sex.” Her warnings were echoed by Reginald Finger, a former medical advisor to Focus on the Family, who told The Hill that: “…if people begin to market the vaccine or tout the vaccine that this makes adolescent sex safer, then that would undermine the abstinence-only message.”

Though sociologists may continue to argue the precise role of the pill in the sexual revolution for at least four more decades, we now have research that directly counters the notion that recent advances in women’s sexual health have paved the way for a generation of tramps.

What the Research Says

For every argument that says a new advance—be it EC or comprehensive sexuality education—will turn women into whores, there is a stack of peer-reviewed research that proves otherwise.

  • Condom Availability Programs: The first major study of condom availability programs was done in 1997 by researchers who compared New York City public high schools that provided condoms to students to similar public high schools in Chicago that did not. The study found that condom availability does not increase rates of sexual activity but does increase the rate at which sexually active young people use condoms. A similar study done a few years later in Massachusetts found that sexually active students in schools that had a condom-availability program were more likely to use contraception at last intercourse than sexually active students in schools without one.
  • Sexuality Education: Numerous evaluations of sexuality-education programs have found the very same thing. These programs do not increase sexual behavior among teens, they do not cause teens to have sex at a younger age, they do not increase the number of partners young people have, and they do not increase the frequency with which young people have sex. In fact, they tend to do just the opposite. Young people who have gone through highly effective sex education and HIV-prevention programs tend to delay sex and have fewer partners. When these young people do become sexually active they are more likely to use condoms and other contraceptive methods.
  • Emergency Contraception:  In 2008, the Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health at the University of California San Francisco conducted a review of 16 studies on the impact of providing EC to adult and adolescent women. The review found no evidence that access increased sexual risk taking. It found that women did not abandon their regular method of contraception when they had access to EC; did not use EC repeatedly just because it was available; did not engage in increased sexual activity; and did not have increased incidences of STIs. It also found that adolescent women are no more likely than are adults to engage in sexual risk taking when they have access to EC.
  • HPV Vaccine: Research released this week examined the medical records of young women under age 16 for indications of sexual activity and found no difference between those who had been vaccinated and those who had not. This adds to an earlier study of young women ages 15 to 24, which also found no association between the HPV vaccine and risky sexual behavior. A study released in January 2012 also put to rest fears that young girls would consider themselves fully protected once they received the HPV vaccine. It found that “Few adolescents perceived less need for safer sexual behaviors after the first HPV vaccination”

Changing the Conversation 

Still, years of research showing that access to information about sexual health and contraception does not increase sexual activity have not stopped right-wing pundits from warning parents that each new advance is a step toward the death of their daughters’ virtue. hy am I still surprised when science and facts lose in a showdown with judgment and fear? The question becomes, what will convince opponents to stop crying “slut” from the rooftops?

The debate over the HPV vaccine provides a piece of the answer. Earlier, I quoted a 2005 article in which Bridget Maher of FRC warned that the HPV vaccine was a dangerous license for premarital sex. Here’s what FRC says about the HPV vaccine today:

“FRC believes that Gardasil and other HPV vaccines represent a tremendous advance in preventative medicine. FRC advocates for widespread availability and distribution of the vaccine to both girls and young women. Forms of primary prevention and medical advances in this area hold potential for helping to protect the health of millions of Americans and helping to preserve the lives of thousands of American women who currently die of cervical cancer each year as a result of HPV infection.”

The truth is, many right-wing organizations that rail against school-based sex education or making condoms available to kids have only positive things to say about the HPV vaccine. As early as 2006, Linda Klepacki, an analyst for sexual health at Focus on the Family, told Time magazine:

“This is an awesome vaccine. It could prevent millions of deaths around the world. We support this vaccine. We see it as an extremely important medical breakthrough.”

While reproductive-rights experts expected these groups to opose FDA approval, and folks like Maher seemed to be gearing up to do just that, it never happened. Instead, these groups agreed that the vaccine was a leap forward in health care and reserved their opposition to attempts to make it mandatory for school children. We have not yet had that debate on the national level, though we all watched it play out in Texas under Rick Perry.

This doesn’t mean that there has been no controversy over the HPV vaccine or that we’ve seen widespread acceptance. And it doesn’t mean that no one has bought into the vaccination-will-cause-copulation argument that’s out there in the ethos.

What it does mean is that on some level these organizations—made up of people who hold extremely conservative values on sexuality—realized that they could not oppose the development and distribution of a cancer-prevention vaccine because of their own objections to premarital sex. Whether these decisions were made out of genuine concern for the public health or a superficial concern for their own public image we may never know. The take away? When the stakes are high (cancer and death) the conversation changes—at least a little.

The best way to change the conversation is to continually remind people that the stakes are always high when it comes to reproductive health.

We also have to change the conversation at a more fundamental level by attacking the “logic” that underlies the access-causes-action argument. This argument suggests that women’s sexual behavior is a problem to be controlled and that the only way to do it is to ensure negative consequences at every turn. This argument says that women can’t be trusted to make good decisions unless they’re scared to death of bad ones. I can think of no worse message to send our daughters.

I am very sure that there are no worse message than this one lurking in a package of pills or a vial of vaccine.