Abstinence only, rebranded: Failed right-wing sex-ed policy returns as “sexual risk avoidance”

Jun 13, 2017

By Amanda Marcotte

Thrice-married libertine Donald Trump got himself elected president by rallying the religious right vote behind him. The devil’s bargain that Christian conservatives made with Trump is easy enough to understand: They ignore his history of sexual incontinence, including rumors of a literal “pee tape,” and he gives them more power over the sex lives of private individuals, especially young people and women. In office, President Trump has done just that, launching a multitude of attacks on legal abortion and contraception access.

Now it seems as if a third front is opening in the Trumpian war on other people’s sex lives: The return of abstinence-only education, which many Americans believe had died off after President George W. Bush left office. Well, abstinence-only ed is coming back, but this time around, its proponents hope that voters, especially parents, don’t notice the return to the classroom of religious anti-sex propaganda.

The first sign that the Trump administration hoped to ease into the classroom more just-say-no-to-sex messages came in late May, when the White House proposed a budget that would slash nearly every government expenditure but would increase by $277 million spending on abstinence-until-marriage programs. Last week news surfaced that Valerie Huber, the head of a pro-abstinence organization called Ascend, will join the Department of Health and Human Services as chief of staff to the assistant secretary for adolescent health; the position will allow her to push for more support for abstinence-until-marriage programs in schools.

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15 comments on “Abstinence only, rebranded: Failed right-wing sex-ed policy returns as “sexual risk avoidance”

  • ‘OP- Last week news surfaced that Valerie Huber, the head of a pro-abstinence organization called Ascend, will join the Department of Health and Human Services as chief of staff to the assistant secretary for adolescent health; the position will allow her to push for more support for abstinence-until-marriage programs in schools.

    Trump really is very consistent!

    Only the backward, deluded, ignorant, uneducated, scientifically illiterate, and stupid, will be considered qualified for chief administrator or cabinet appointments!



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  • I see that in Tanzania’s chief bigot has come up with his own “abstinence only education system”!

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-40379113

    Tanzania’s President John Magufuli has been condemned for comments that girls who give birth should not be allowed to return to school.

    An online petition has been set up and a pan-African women’s organisation is mobilising to get the president to apologise and reverse his comments.

    Mr Magufuli warned schoolgirls at a rally on Monday that: “After getting pregnant, you are done.”

    A law passed in 2002 allows for the expulsion of pregnant schoolgirls.

    The law says the girls can be expelled and excluded from school for “offences against morality” and “wedlock”.

    Women’s rights groups have recently been urging the government to change the law.

    At least 8,000 Tanzanian girls drop out of school every year due to pregnancy, according to a Human Rights Watch report.



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  • Meanwhile in the UK, doctors are recommending that the victims of “abstinence only” dogmas, have remedies available to them without undue harassment!

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-40418986

    Doctors have backed decriminalising abortion, as momentum gathers to overhaul the 1967 Abortion Act.

    Currently women in England and Wales have to prove to a doctor that carrying on with the pregnancy is detrimental to health or wellbeing to get permission for a termination.

    Without permission, abortion is a criminal offence.

    But medics at the British Medical Association’s annual conference voted to scrap that rule.

    The organisation wants abortion to be treated like any other medical procedure and therefore to be regulated and subject to certain standards and will now look to lobby government to change the law.

    Dr John Chisholm, who chairs the BMA medical ethics committee, said: “This is clearly a sensitive and complex issue, on which doctors voiced a broad range of views during an informed and considered debate.

    “Abortion is currently a crime, with exceptions, throughout the UK.

    “Following the debate, the majority of doctors were clear that abortion should be treated as a medical issue rather than a criminal one.

    “What must be clear is that decriminalisation does not mean deregulation.

    Speaking after the debate, Dr Clare Gerada, former chairwoman of the Royal College of GPs, who is also a trustee of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), said: “Abortion is never an easy thing to do for any woman or for any man.

    “But for abortion to be governed by criminal law rather than governed by healthcare regulation is nonsense.



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  • quote from Alan’s comment 3

    “Abortion is never an easy thing to do for any woman or for any man.

    This statement must be recognize for what it is; emotional blackmail. Plenty of women have abortions without one single molecule of guilt and anguish. Plenty of women walk out of those clinics with a profound sense of relief and an optimistic view of their own future and a renewed devotion to the children that they already have.

    Guilt and anguish over the elimination of a problem pregnancy must be worse for the unfortunate women who have been raised in religious families. Guilt and sin have an insidious far reaching bad influence on women that is very difficult to overcome. These are the teens and women who need counseling to deal with the psychological after effects of an abortion. When I say counseling I mean secular professional counseling with licensed mental health psychologists – NOT clergy who just want to drag women in deeper for more indoctrination!

    Some women agonize over this decision and plenty walk out of the clinic whistling a happy tune. Don’t like it? Too bad, sometimes human behavior isn’t the pretty picture we want it to be. Abortion is a medical procedure and we have the right to access that medical procedure in a safe, legal environment. If psychological counseling is desired then that is already available in a secular setting as well but to attach any mention of mental anguish to the medical procedure is unacceptable and it’s a dirty trick played by guilt ridden shame based brainwashed religious control freaks.



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  • Laurie

    but to attach any mention of mental anguish to the medical procedure is unacceptable and it’s a dirty trick played by guilt ridden shame

    Mostly I try to excuse myself from these arguments. Like Hitchens I am adamant that it is a woman’s own body over which she has the final say and just to be clear, there is not the least scintilla of moral qualm to be had in terminating a pregnancy. Women (and men!) should be counselled accordingly. BUT

    Bodies and hormones are treacherous. The pregnancy may be wanted. That dreadful second trimester test shows a child with a life of misery and ill health in prospect, most likely. Oxytocin has been rising through this time and you have got into that rather dangerous modern habit of naming “her” and painting her room. Even unintentionally bonding happens. And you must make that most selfless of decisions to terminate even though it may be one of your last chances.

    The morning after pill is as good as contraception, psychologically, but the late termination for whatever reason, a test result, an insight into your own motives and wishes, capacities, or responsibilities to a full planet will hurt even the most rational of folk, even though there truly isn’t another person involved other than your partner.

    We must counsel with compassion and know when not to be blithe and dismissive.

    Hitchens didn’t speak much of his lack of enthusiasm for abortion beyond the affirmation of a woman’s right to choose, and I think for the same reason that I find it difficult. Even among the most rational, months of rising oxytocin, suddenly turned off, can haunt you, your partner, for a fair old while.

    Delaying decision making with red tape, or, horrendously, personifying mere tissue by insisting on formal burial, are some of the cruelest things the religious have ever conceived.



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  • 6
    maria melo says:

    Laurie B on comment #4

    Considering the poetic sentence you´ve made in comments before:”abortion is the new form of
    child Infanticide/abandonment” if I can remember it well, just reminding.

    Plenty of women have abortions without one single molecule of guilt
    and anguish

    I don´t know, but I believe it´s real



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  • Phil

    The pregnancy may be wanted.

    Yes, ok, there must be a number of these cases and based on your example, these are examples of intended pregnancy that have gone medically wrong somehow. Do I have that right? If so then these are tragic and heartbreaking, as are miscarriages and labor and delivery gone awry. I do think that these mid/late term abortions must be psychologically excruciating but they are the minority of cases. 1.5% of abortions after twenty weeks gestation – Guttmacher Institute. These are not the abortions that the religious right target with the mental anguish tactic. Not that they excuse abortion of fetuses with physical defects; God doesn’t give us anything we can’t handle! Always said with a dreamy sanctimonious smile. In fact, they seek to frighten women with mental instability and physical consequences with every abortion no matter how early or how late but what is known is that the medical risks are minor and also, the psychological risks are minor as well. This is why pro-choicers must push back against inclusion of sentences like the one I objected to above.

    https://www.guttmacher.org/gpr/2006/08/abortion-and-mental-health-myths-and-realities



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  • LaurieB #4
    Jun 28, 2017 at 10:53 am

    Guilt and anguish over the elimination of a problem pregnancy must be worse for the unfortunate women who have been raised in religious families.

    Guilt and anguish are at the very core of delusional religious beliefs and the mind control of sheeples!

    Religions can generate delusional guilt about almost any human activity, instil it in their followers, and project it on to other people.

    Sex, relationships, dress, and foods, come to mind as some areas where they insist on irrational dogmas intruding!

    https://www.richarddawkins.net/2016/11/from-hate-to-deep-respect/#li-comment-223129



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  • Right Alan, saw that one. Along similar lines, the NY Times yesterday reported that Erdogan, while praying with his bum up in the air, apparently tipped over due to low blood sugar and low blood pressure. No shortage of ridiculous medical situations brought on by guilt/shame ridden true believers coerced into participation in dangerous rituals whether they like it or not. Let’s see how many frail elderly die at the next Haj stampede. Pushing and shoving in brutal heat for no good reason. Makes me sick to think about it.



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  • Here’s the thing. 90% of adults (if they are not inhibited to tell the truth) will admit that they lost their virginity at around age 17. It’s scary when you “grow up” and want to “protect” the “children” of today from “making the same mistakes” i did…. and all that simple minded horseshit.

    Kids do NOT listen to adults who are full of shit. It’s like what a huge disservice we’ve done to a generation of kids by literally lying to them about drugs. Concerned adults tell them how horrible weed is. How dangerous it is. the a kid smokes some and has a nice time. What’s next for the kid? Well, they certainly won’t believe the “source adult” about any other drug “advice” they give. Same with this type of dumbassery.

    Sex feels fucking great. Trying to keep kids away from it with doom and gloom and hypocrisy and lies is so backwards that I’d bet dollars to donuts that it actually boosts the number of sexually active kids.



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  • Crooked

    Kids with no reasonable, realistic adult to talk to about all of these things leaves them so vulnerable to idiots who intend to take advantage of them. Good information is power in this world.

    Kids do NOT listen to adults who are full of shit.

    Yup, heh, interesting how they seem to have a radar up for adults like that.



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  • Phil

    Mostly I try to excuse myself from these arguments. Like Hitchens…

    I was thinking about this situation of men keeping quiet about abortion. I was in a discussion a while back with my daughters and a friend here and one of them growled ferociously, “Men need to shut the fuck up about abortion!” and everyone laughed at that and indicated agreement. (Ok, I admit that I laughed too.) I suppose that this is the standard third wave feminist statement on the matter. Maybe second wave too? Not sure. But now when I think about this conversation I’m not sure I agree with the statement anymore.

    With my daughters, I know that they will come to me directly with this issue if it comes up. Sons and nephews are different though. I handled those conversations differently in the past because the women that they are involved with are not in my domain. I can’t influence those young women and can’t step over the line into their private reproductive decisions. The young guys know my views on the topic but advising them on this was uncharted territory for me. I was afraid they’d have no say in a pregnancy that they’d helped create because – “Men need to stfu…” you know, all that. All I could do is advise them to use condoms every single time as a way to control their own fertility and not hand over control of that to another person and if an unplanned pregnancy was made known to them then I advised them to be honest about their feelings immediately, whether those feelings are positive or negative.

    I think that is important because from a female perspective. I know that in those first few days and weeks of a pregnancy, women are inundated with strong feelings up and down, good and bad, excited, confused and fearful of the future. Who will help me? Who is on my team through this big responsibility? I told them that if they are not ready for a baby that they should say so immediately. It’s information that she needs to come to a very important decision – commit to the pregnancy or not? Yes, it’s her body and ultimately her decision to make but his feelings and thoughts need to be heard too. That’s where I am with that at this point.

    Sorry for the long ramble here but it’s part of the background that came to mind today on this topic. I also thought about this from another direction. I don’t believe that the righteous religious men keep their mouths shut on the topic of abortion. They’re right out there with their opinions on the matter, aren’t they? They’re proud of their so called right to life opinions and spew hate and judgement on the pro-choice women at every opportunity. (V.P. Pence couldn’t wait to get out there at an anti-choice rally to do just that in front of the whole country!)

    So given that, why should pro-choice men shut up about their views on the matter? Honestly, I’d be happy to hear more male pro-choice viewpoints loud and clear. I don’t want men to keep quiet anymore. Our (women’s) repro choices affect men every day! Let’s not forget the days of shotgun weddings, right?

    Something else that Hitch said once (would love to give a reference here but just don’t have one) is that he appreciates women who try to understand how guys think. (paraphrase of course). So I guess that’s what I’m trying to do here.

    Right now in the US we are up against some formidable opponents and we need our liberal men to NOT stfu!



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  • LaurieB #12
    Jun 28, 2017 at 9:46 pm

    So given that, why should pro-choice men shut up about their views on the matter? Honestly, I’d be happy to hear more male pro-choice viewpoints loud and clear. I don’t want men to keep quiet anymore.

    While ignoramus busy-bodies would do well to shut up, (they rarely do) potential fathers, clearly have an involvement – particularly those who take a responsible attitude.

    Given that rational abortion (and contraception) decisions, are made on the basis of the future prospects for the mother and bringing up a child, the father’s contribution in committing to financial or other support, is a key factor.
    Fathers and potential fathers, therefore need to be consulted on this.

    It is only in the realms of bigots and reckless dogmatic faith-heads, where there are denials of the predominant primary decision of the single mother, or joint decisions with a partner when in stable relationships; – or various less clear situations in between.



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  • There is still a UK problem with anti-abortionists and repressive restrictions in Northern Ireland, but there are some progressive moves in the Westminster parliament!

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-40438390

    Women from Northern Ireland will be able to get abortions on the NHS in England, the chancellor has announced.

    More than 50 MPs from the major parties had backed a call for Northern Irish women to have abortions for free in England – they currently have to pay.

    In Northern Ireland abortions are only allowed if a woman’s life is at risk or there is a permanent or serious risk to her physical or mental health.

    The government has been under pressure since agreeing a deal with the DUP.

    The concession came ahead of a vote in the Commons after an amendment on the issue was selected for debate on the Queen’s Speech.

    Northern Ireland’s abortion law is much stricter than the rest of the UK – rape, incest and fatal foetal abnormalities are not circumstances in which they can be performed legally.
    Women in Northern Ireland seeking an abortion can travel to England to have one privately, but had not been allowed to do so free on the NHS – a position that was backed by the Supreme Court earlier this month.

    In a debate on the Queen’s Speech on Thursday, Chancellor Philip Hammond was asked by the Conservative Sir Peter Bottomley, why, in the case of women from Northern Ireland, “only the poor should be denied lawful abortions”.

    Sir Peter was among MPs from various parties to sign an amendment, co-ordinated by Labour’s Stella Creasy, calling on the government to allow women in Northern Ireland to have abortions for free in England, instead of being charged as they are now.

    It was one of three amendments to the Queen’s Speech selected for a vote by the Speaker.

    Mr Hammond told him that Justine Greening, the minister for women and equalities, “either has made or is just about to make an announcement by way of a letter to members of this house explaining that she intends to intervene to fund abortions in England for women arriving here from Northern Ireland”.



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  • Laurie

    Right now in the US we are up against some formidable opponents and we need our liberal men to NOT stfu!

    True, but nor did I.

    Kind of like Crooked’s plea for honest information about sex (I would add drugs/alcohol) we need full disclosure on abortion too. And it needs to come from our side first and used in the service of our concerns. So-

    There is simply no moral argument against terminating a preconscious foetus. Nor is there blame for realising your pregnancy is a mistake within that span. Rather the reverse.

    Women pre-bond with the foetus through simple physiology and, generally, rising oxytocin levels, though there is also huge individual variability here.

    The pro-choice use of this latter information is to argue for the expeditious availability of of on demand abortions to minimise harms and the condemnation as entirely harmful the behaviours (and probably intentions) of fake abortion advice clinics and the like to hamper and confound the process caring nothing for the pregnant woman. Further, counselling and support is needed for the women subjected to such harassing tactics.



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