Tuesday, November 29, 2005
Abortion and Sexual Education . . . Oh My!
When you sit down to write something about abortion – you immediately take a metaphoric step back and watch your words carefully. It is not that I am worried about offending someone—you can’t write about your opinion on abortion or sexual education without offending someone. No, the issue is the ambiguity of words and phrases which might somehow cloud your meaning and some subjects are just more poignant than others. Although this topic deserves a much, much, longer post, I will limit my observations. Unfortunately, this means that I will not touch on all the major issues that deserve to be looked at. Consider this a jumping off place for you to pick up the debate and discuss the issues involved. Tomorrow the Supreme Court will meet and hear its first case on abortion in five years. This case, from New Hampshire, will look at a low that requires doctors to notify the parents of an underage girl if that girl is seeking an abortion. The New Hampshire law requires a 48 hour waiting period after the parent(s) are notified except if there is an immediate health issue. It does not have an exception for “non-life-threatening medical emergencies” the New York Times said today, and was overturned by a lower federal courts as unconstitutional. There is more to the case than this and if you are interested, take a moment to read the article by Linda Greenhouse. There is a problem in this country. A problem of private vs public. John Stuart Mill, in his theories on the formation of government, believed that the government had no place in the private lives of its citizens unless their actions in private hurt the greater public. The trouble with his assessment, however, is that he did not define private very well. When, for example, does the private become public? I may privately drink myself silly in my own home and that, it seems, would harm no one. However, what if my drinking causes me to be late for work everyday? What if my drinking sends me to the hospital and I don’t have insurance? Both these examples suggest that my private behavior becomes a public concern. We have the same issue with abortion. So, it is now time for me to come right out and admit that I support abortion. I do. A woman should have the right to decide what she is going to do with her body and I have seen and read enough in my life to admit to myself that there are times when some people should just not become parents. I also have seen enough and read enough to know that our present system of adoption and state care of children without a legal guardian of some type is horrible. Foster care is especially a problem in the United States. I cannot speak for every situation or any other country and I am not trying to make a blanked either/or statement here—I am sure there are exceptions to the rule. I should also state that I have a problem with abortion being used as a form of birth control. And here, my dear reader is the rub. Just 7 years ago, when I was on yet a different health care HMO plan, my insurance would cover an abortion but not birth control. Our present government approved policy of abstinence is a joke. Planned Parenthood has been on several occasions kicked out of schools for demonstrating how to use a condom by placing it over a banana—I saw this myself while doing touring theatre in Idaho. In many areas, pharmacists can now refuse to fill a prescription for birth control because it is against their beliefs. And, here is the cultural kicker, we allow an obscene amount of violence on TV and in the movies, giving it a PG or PG 13 rating, yet we fear sex, giving it an R rating. It is amazing to me how quickly we run to play the abortion card, as well as make abortion laws and how slowly we bother to address the real issues at hand. Real sex education, not just abstinence, is the solution. I am not saying that you should go and tell your young kids to have sex. What I am saying is that many kids will have sex regardless and when they do, whether we want them to or not, it is better that they are educated on the topic. When we deny access to information, we are handing our children a sentence. STD’s have increased among teens and so has the dreaded HIV virus. Teen pregnancy is also a huge problem, because if it wasn’t, we wouldn’t have to enact laws such as the one mentioned above. The more we educate our youth, and society at large, the more likely people will think twice about having unprotected sex. This educational program should, ideally, start in the home but, again referring to the private vs. public issue, should also be addressed in the schools. Unprotected sex that leads to increased STD transmissions as well as unwanted pregnancies becomes a public issue. Furthermore, by addressing issues about sex and sexual education in the home, you encourage your kids to communicate with you. There are several commercials out there encouraging parents to talk to their kids about not smoking and not taking drugs, but not one service announcement encouraging parents to speak to their kids about sex. Why is this? Because, as a nation, we are a bit prudish and, for some reason, scared to speak to our children about sex. Again, I am not saying that every parent fails in this category. My mom was very honest with me about sex and sexual education and because of her I did not engage in sex until much later compared to all of my friends. But if she hadn’t been open and honest with me, I might have been in trouble because the only sexual education I got in school was a tacky film with animated sperms and eggs telling me how babies were made! Next, we need to address how we view sex as a society. Why do we easily (again not everyone) embrace violence in our movies, TV and music but squirm and get embarrassed when it comes to sex? I hate to break it to ya, but sex is natural and it isn’t going away. Making sex public, and I am not suggesting having folks “do it” in the middle of the town square, is a wise thing to do. We have so many hang-ups its absurd. Frank discussions about sex, its beautiful nature, its complex nature, the dangers and the joys, is needed. Instead of using bandages to ‘fix’ the problem and avoid the issue, I suggest we deal with the problem, if you will excuse the pun, head on. As for the law in New Hampshire, I can’t help but wonder if the need for such laws would decrease if we really just dealt with sex instead of brushing it under the carpet and hoping it would just go away.