The Reverend Debra W. Haffner is the director of the Religious Institute on Sexual Morality, Justice, and Healing. She is an ordained Unitarian Universalist minister.
Rev. Haffner was the chief executive officer of SIECUS, the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States, from 1988 through May 2000. During Rev. Haffner's tenure at SIECUS, she created the Religious Declaration on Sexual Morality, Justice, and Healing; the National Coalition to Support Sexuality Education; the Commission on Adolescent Sexual Health; and the Guidelines for Comprehensive Sexuality Education, Kindergarten – Grade Twelve.
Religious freedom means that the government should not privilege the teachings of one religion over another or deny individual religious freedom. Individuals must have the right to accept or reject the principles of their own faith without legal restrictions.
The newly released sexuality education standards set a minimum for school-based sexuality education. Yet even these leave out essential terms, information, and values. Because so many schools are still so far from adopting even minimal standards, I increasingly feel technology and social media will replace schools as the major source of sexuality education for children and young people.
The real moral challenge we face is how to ensure access to the means to prevent unintended pregnancies - specifically comprehensive sexuality education, universal access to contraceptive services, including emergency contraception, and education and employment opportunities for young women.
It's not about reducing abortion. The advocates for a new common ground correctly note the correlation between poverty and abortion rates. But they fail to mention how poverty first contributes to unintended pregnancies.
The John McCain campaign says this is a just a private family matter. Sen. Barack Obama says candidates' families, especially children, are off limits. But when family matters relate directly to policy matters, they are fair for discussion.
Rev. Rick Warren promises to engage Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama in a dialogue dedicated to "civil discourse and the common good of all" at the Saddleback Civil Forum on Saturday. Will those who advocate for sexual and reproductive justice be included in that "all?"
Rev. Wallis, I will do everything I can to work with you on assuring adoption services and high quality prenatal care and parenting support -- when will we see you working to ensure women can prevent pregnancies in the first place?
Rev. Howard Moody organized clergy across the country to provide support for women with unintended pregnancies when abortion was illegal. He and the Clergy Consultation Service on Abortion were honored last weekend.
The United States may be raising some of the most sexually confused adolescents in the world. Movies, advertising, web sites, music, and television shows give teens the message that “everyone is doing it,” while the official policy of the federal government and 46 states is abstinence-only until marriage. And most parents, schools, and religious institutions say little to nothing to adolescents about their sexual behaviors, sexual orientation, and sexual health, even though one recent report revealed that the vast majority of Americans have been having sex before marriage for decades.
Caught between “just do it” and “just say no,” with little moral guidance for making healthy decisions, more than six in 10 adolescents engage in sexual intercourse by the time they leave high school. Each year, about 800,000 of them become pregnant and approximately 25 percent contract a sexually transmitted disease.
The House of Representatives this week is scheduled to vote on a bill titled the "Unborn Child Pain Awareness Act of 2006." Republicans are hurrying to have this bill considered before the new Congress takes over.
The bill requires that every woman in America who is having an abortion after 20 weeks receive a pamphlet that says that abortion causes pain to the fetus and that they have been offered fetal anesthesia.
The problem? Well according to a review article by the American Medical Association, "Evidence regarding the capacity for fetal pain is limited but indicates that fetal perception of pain is unlikely before the third trimester," and there is "little or no evidence" of the effectiveness of fetal anesthesia and "limited or no data" on the safety of administering it.
I've just read a new article titled "Legislating Against Arousal" in the latest copy of the Guttmacher Institute's journal.
Cythnia Dailard reports that the federal government, nearly ten years since the start of the abstinence-only-until-marriage program has finally defined what they mean by abstinence. The new guidelines say that abstinence is "voluntarily choosing not to engage in sexual activity until marriage." They define sexual activity as "any type of genital activity or sexual stimulation between two persons."Sexual stimulation? Let's see, that could include flirting, hand holding, kissing, french kissing...watching someone in tight jeans bend over and pick up a fork on the floor of the middle school cafeteria. Come on...were these people ever teenagers?
I went into the ministry following a 25-year career as a sexologist. People are often surprised when I introduce myself as a minister and as a sexologist. But I believe that our sexuality and our spirituality are intimately connected, and that at its foundation, my work in the sexual and reproductive health field, and now my work as a minister, share a common moral vision - to teach people how to treat each other with love, dignity, and respect.
People in the SRH field come to work each day because of our values and because we want to make a difference. In theological terms, we are called to tikkun olam, to save the world - to heal the brokenness that so many suffer around unintended pregnancies, coerced and exploitive sexual experiences, attacks on bodily integrity, soul-numbing denial of one's sexual or gender identity, violence against women and sexual minorities, and children who are not loved or wanted. We believe that injustice and suffering in the world are intolerable and that the work we do empowering people to make and live healthy decisions about their sexuality and reproductive health makes a difference.
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