Category Archives: Reproductive Justice
When I attended school in Manhattan, I received what I considered good, comprehensive sex education. Sex ed started in 5th grade: the boys went to one room, the girls to another, and we learned how bodies worked. (Okay, by that point we’d picked up enough through the playground, parents, or TV programs that we had the basics down already.) I don’t remember what precisely was covered, or how useful it was, but I have a clearer memory of 7th and 8th grade. I’ve mentioned the assembly on flavored condoms before; condoms could be procured for free in the bathroom at the nurse’s office.
I moved to New Jersey for high school, so I missed out on a continuing New York City sex education. But I always assumed–well, it’s New York City! Where would you expect to find better sex education?
So imagine my surprise when I read a letter, “Sex Ed in the City,” to the New York Times a few days ago from the president of Planned Parenthood of New York City. Joan Malin points out in that the city actually does not require sex education, a fact I find shocking. With the current budget cuts being made in New York schools, as a program legally considered non-essential, sex education is often a target. This puts youth at danger by not educating them on making healthy sexual decisions–and those young people grow up to adults who still don’t know how to make the best decisions.
I’ve realized, considering my own New York education, that the best sex ed I received was in 7th and 8th grade, when I attend a school that, though not private, was affiliated with Hunter College, not the Board of Education, and it had chosen to prioritize the subject where the city administration had not. While some public schools now also do an admirable job of providing comprehensive sex ed, it shouldn’t be left up to the discretion of individual school administrators.
If you’re a New Yorker and want to see sex ed secure, sign up with the Planned Parenthood “We’re Going to the Principal’s Office” campaign.
One of the beauties of New York is that once you leave your apartment and start walking, there’s a good chance that within a few blocks you’ll stumble across something cool. My intention for this morning was to scurry over to an appointment not quite a mile away, then return home to catch up on Mad Men before tomorrow’s season premiere. Along the way, I ended up ambling through a street fair (1 free shampoo sample now tucked in my bag), crossing a bike tour that had closed down 4th Avenue to cars (good riddance), and spotted row upon row of full bookshelves on the sidewalk outside the Strand: a one dollar sale. Swoon.
So, instead of heading back to my couch, I spent an hour browsing the shelves, pleased with what I found. These are three of my fav politically-bent purchases:
The Purity Myth: How America’s Obsession with Virginity is Hurting Young Women, Jessica Valenti
I’ve been dying to read this book by Feministing.com founder Jessica Valenti ever since a “Shameless Self-Promotion” popped up on that most awesome of feminist blogs in March. (And now that I’ve graduated college, I occasionally have free time for non-required reading!) Despite my very tight intern-on-a-stipend-soon-to-be-unemployed budget, I even felt a touch guilty about picking it up for only a dollar, since the book deserves full-price support. In any case, from the flowers on the cover to the concept of a “Post-Virgin World” (the title of the final chapter), I’m utterly taken with my loot. I’d like to share the first paragraph of the introduction, which makes half-a-dozen fantastic points in four sentences:
There is a moral panic in America over young women’s sexuality–and it’s entirely misplaced. Girls “going wild” isn’t damaging a generation of women, the myth of sexual purity is. The lie of virginity–the idea that such a thing even exists–is ensuring that young women’s perception of themselves is inextricable from their bodies, and that their ability to be moral actors is absolutely dependent on their sexuality. It’s time to teach our daughters that their ability to be good people depends on them being good people, and not on whether or not they’re sexually active.
Dispatches from the Abortion Wars: The Costs of Fanaticism to Doctors, Patients, and the Rest of Us, Carole Joffe
A swift trip to Amazon advises me that this slim volume has yet to be released; what I’m holding is an uncorrected proof (which, in all honesty, makes me feel special).
A postscript discusses the murder of abortion provider Dr. George Tiller, gunned down in his own church, making the publication of this book tragically good timing. (Need to vent tangent: I may be a staunch atheist, but I still have far more respect for places of worship as sanctuaries than the so-called Christian who confessed to killing Tiller.) I’m particularly concerned with this subject after having interned at a think tank that monitors the right-wing, Political Research Associates (an enlightening/scary/depressing learning experience), under Chip Berlet, who has authored a number of excellent pieces on the Tiller murder. (And the timely report Toxic to Democracy: Conspiracy Theories, Demonization, & Scapegoating.) I’m sure I’ll be talking more about this topic in the future.
You Don’t Know Me: A Citizen’s Guide to Republican Family Values, Win McCormack
I figured I needed a light-hearted read after that last one–so why not a book that “details over 100 cases of sexual misconduct by Republican officials, office holders, and ideological supporters.” Okay, so it’s still a little depressing; after all, these are the “family values” politicians who are destroying our country. But, hey, at least we’re laughing through the pain.
“No matter what your views are on abortion, you shouldn’t ask people to use their tax dollars if they think that abortion is taking a life,” Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H. claimed in reference to the current debate over covering abortion in the new health care bill.
What a strange concept, being voiced by a Senator (*cough hypocrite*) who supported the Iraq War and is pro-death penalty, both of which are, oh yeah, tax payer funded (to the tune of $86 billion for military spending in Iraq and Afghanistan, to name one 2003 vote). And I think it’d be hard to deny that war and capital punishment take lives.
Do I hate that my taxes fund killing? Yes. Do I wish the death penalty was illegal and that the U.S. didn’t go around invading other countries? Yes. Do I support protesting these policies? Yes. Do I think civil disobedience in the form of not paying taxes is a legitimate tactic? Yes.
I strongly disagree with abortion rights opponents, but not with their right to engage in activism around their beliefs (when it doesn’t involve violent rhetoric and “taking the life” of people like Dr. George Tiller). On an individual level, that could mean acts of civil disobedience like refusing to pay taxes.
I support the taxation system as whole (despite flaws), so I consider it important to pay up and utilize other means toward social change. However, I understand the motivation for this form of protest, if anti-abortion rights activist chose to pursue it: I personally am disturbed by a sense of complicity in the war and criminal justice system because my (meager) taxes in part head that way, and civil disobedience has an honorable history around the world.
But this idea that abortion shouldn’t be funded because some–not even all–people think it’s taking a life, when we don’t say, “Whoops, can’t fund this war, even those there’s no controversy over the fact that we are indeed taking lives,” is not an argument any of our legislators should be listening to, much less voicing. I don’t agree with a lot of decisions elected representative make about my tax dollar; nonetheless, I accept it because that’s how our system works.
Not to mention, even if you see abortion as “taking a life” (which I don’t), many people still realize (as they ought) it’s a woman’s right, and it deserves to be an economically viable, insurance-covered, right. Due to this, I don’t like comparing funding abortion with funding capital punishment or the Iraq War, both of which I consider massive injustices that we have no right to engage in–but as I’m not arguing in this post why the right to an abortion is just, I’ve tried to restrict myself to examples that align with an anti-reproductive rights frame of mind.
Or–and perhaps more importantly–the frame of mind of pro-rights legislators who might be swayed by this argument and sacrifice women’s body in the health care bill. Democrats have an unfortunate tendency not to stand firm for abortion rights, treating it with kid gloves as a delicate issue people have strong feelings about. Buck up, Democrats! Abortion is a human right and a legal medical procedure in this country, and it deserves its place in federally funded health insurance. Sensitivity to other people’s beliefs does not require you to abandon your own.