It’s Monday morning, and I am standing on a corner of Colfax, waiting for the 15L to whisk me away to another day in paradise. Swinging open the pale blue dispenser door, I grab a free Denver Daily News. Immediately I am intrigued by the front page headline: “Unwanted Pregnancy Plan.” Hhmmm. Which is unwanted, the pregnancy or the plan?
Further reading reveals a mild, unassuming article discussing a piece of legislation, called the Prevention First Act, that has been recently introduced for consideration in the Senate and House of Representatives. It seems pretty harmless: better sex education in the classroom, contraception education and availability for low income women, emergency contraceptive availability to rape victims, and more funding all around. And then I reach the last paragraph which includes a quote by Kristi Burton. She states that this new act is ”another attempt by the liberal agenda to appear like they are riding in on white horses to save the people when in reality, this is a means to fund their pet organizations, including Planned Parenthood, the largest abortion mill in the nation.”
WOAH! Who is this broad?
I scan back and there it is … Kristi Burton is a leader behind the Amendment 48 movement in Colorado that attempted, unsuccessfully, last year to redefine a fertilized egg as a person, and succeeded in shocking every single person in my circle. She continues by saying she hopes that “the medically accurate facts about the humanity of an unborn child are included here if it is really designed to ensure that federal programs give accurate medical information to women.” Thanks Kristi, we can see that you have chosen the “accuracy high-road” in favor of propaganda.
Of course I can understand the concern. Change can be hard to swallow, especially when we will have to wait years in order to realize the effects these changes have. Such was the case with many of the changes the Bush Administration initiated and maintained regarding contraception and sex education. It has taken nearly a decade for those results to come to fruition, and let me tell you, it ain’t pretty.
During the Bush years, ideology and theology were emphasized over the medical and statistical facts resultant of scientific research. Comprehensive sex education was abandoned for abstinence-based principles that focused more on the moral concepts of the church than the statistical realities of this day and age. And the southern states – a region loyal to Bush’s mission—show the greatest effects.
In a report, “Births: Final Data for 2006” published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it is established that birth rates for teens rose in 2006, the first time in fourteen years. This report, based on data from the National Vital Statistics System, shows the highest increases in the South and Southwest. Mississippi, New Mexico and Texas rank as the top three states, respectively, with the highest increases. Mississippi has a teen birth rate of 6.84 percent for girls aged fifteen to nineteen years of age. After doing a little rough math using statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau, I found that percentage means over 5,000 young girls within that age bracket gave birth to children in Mississippi in 2006 alone. New Mexico and Texas trail close behind with 6.41 percent and 6.31 percent. The lowest teen birth rate increases in the nation registered in the Northeastern region, one known for supporting pro-choice, comprehensive sex education. New Hampshire, Vermont and Massachusetts boast percentages of 1.87, 2.08 and 2.13. That is a tremendous difference.
In a separate report released by the CDC, “Sexually Transmitted Disease Surveillance 2007” sexually transmitted infections are increasing as well, with more than half of the affected being fifteen to twenty-four years old. Syphilis is on the rise again, with a 15.2 percent increase between 2006 and 2007, and STD’s cost the U.S. health care system $15.3 billion annually. It would appear to be in our best interests, both physically and fiscally, to support more education and prevention efforts within the women’s reproductive healthcare arena.
Bush’s Federal Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 removed student health centers from the discount drug pricing program. This maneuver raised birth control costs as much as 900% in some regions, making it nearly impossible for college students, an age demographic with the highest unwanted pregnancy and abortion rates, to get affordable birth control. During his first term in office, the number of women in need of publicly funded reproductive services increased 6 percent—well over one million individuals. Imagine how the declining economy and escalating unemployment, seen in his second term, has affected that number. I’m sure we won’t have to imagine much longer, as reports and statistics are being compiled as you read this.
In one last ditch effort at the end of his presidential tenure, Bush introduced a new rule to the Department of Health and Human Services. I absolutely agree with the basic premise behind this proposed addition which serves to preserve the rights and employment of healthcare workers whose moral or theological ideals contradict with the performance of an abortion. But do they really have to try and slip by with their conservative, anti-choice agenda? Unfortunately, this rule included a vague definition of abortion as “any of the various procedures—including the prescription, dispensing and administration of any drug or the performance of any procedure or any other action— that results in the termination of the life of a human being in utero between conception and natural birth, whether before or after implantation.” Nice try, Bush! After eight years, we have become accustomed to reading the fine print. I don’t think I have ever seen so many words used to be so utterly obtuse. That definition puts to much license over human liberties in the hands of individuals by allowing those in a position of medical authority to choose opinion and belief over scientifically proven fact. These individuals would be given the right to refuse providing medically accurate information or presenting all options to those trusting them with the truth regarding their health and well being.
The Prevention First Act is an attempt to reverse some of the national trends seen in the last several years. It will ensure that college healthcare centers are placed back in to the discount program and contraceptives are included in all health plans covering prescription drugs. It will reestablish all-inclusive, scientifically based sex education as the standard in an attempt to lower teen pregnancy and STD rates. It works to fund emergency contraception and education programs for victims of sexual assault. It will allow for the much need funding of Title X, the nation’s contraceptive program for low income individuals. As Congresswoman Louise Slaughter has demonstrated, “for every dollar spent on family planning services, almost 4 dollars is saved in public health spending.” And yes, Kristi, this act helps ensure that “medically accurate facts” are included in information regarding a woman’s reproductive health.
You see, most people understand that doing the same thing over and over again in the hopes of getting a different result is insane. As is Kristi’s negative, obsessive, deceptive focus on just one aspect of this program. The current state of health and health education of our nation’s children is in jeopardy. I think it’s time to change it up a bit and see if this can’t make things better.