Now that the election’s over…
…let’s start thinking seriously about reproductive health policy in this country. Two stories in the news have shaken me out of my first-semester-teaching isolation and reminded me that though the Dems have retaken Congress (finally!), important battles need to be fought to ensure that Federal agencies cease disseminating Bush administration nonsense about women’s reproductive health.
Bush has just nominated Dr. Eric Keroak to head the Department of Health and Human Services’ Family-Planning programs office. Dr. Keroack currently heads the Dorchester, MA-based Christian pregnancy-counseling service “A Woman’s Concern” finds contraception “demeaning to women.”
Yes, if you just did a head-swivel on that one, you’re not alone. How can a man who represents an organization that is basically anti-contraception and who believes that contraception is demeaning possibly head a federal agency that advocates contraception for poor women?
Following on that point, I’d love to know how controlling one’s own reproduction and gaining the ability to have children only when childbearing is financially and emotionally feasible is demeaning. I’m not sure anyone can explain that to my satisfaction. This is just a reminder that not only is this administration anti-legal abortion, it is also anti-contraception.
In other news: the Government Accountability Office has announced that the Department of Health and Human Services routinely distributes inaccurate information about human sexuality, contraception, and sexually-transmitted infections to teenagers. The Department’s response? No one has sufficiently defined what “scientifically accurate” means, so it has no way of judging the information it produces.
This would be laughable if it weren’t so dangerous: among the information distributed is the assertion that latex condoms do not block HIV (they do).
What makes the situation worse is that the Department is spending millions preaching the same dangerously inaccurate information to adults. If you haven’t heard of it yet, you’ve heard of it now: the Bush administration’s abstinence-only message for twenty-and thirty-somethings. I guess this is what Andrew Sullivan refers to as big-government conservatism–the movement that enjoys peering into the bedrooms of adult Americans. (If you didn’t vote Democratic in the recent election, I hope you voted Libertarian.)
**UPDATE** The NRO’s Kathryn Jean-Lopez attempts to explain Keroack’s position:
“Passing out contraception without any deeper context or conversation is degrading and disrespectful — to men and women…”
Um, I‘ll second Andrew Sullivan on this. I don’t see how it can’t be degrading and disrespectful of adult men and women to accompany contraceptives with government-provided information about the immorality of their contraceptive decisions. I sure as heck don’t look to the government for deeper context or conversation about anything that has to do with my own personal intimate relationships. The idea that government does/should have that role is patently offensive. Andrew’s right: these folks are NUTS.