Thursday, February 8, 2007

Death before having to mention sex to kids, say religious conservatives

Perhaps I'm being a little bit melodramatic with this topic, but I really do want to know if religious conservatives find it preferable to keep life-saving vaccines away from people rather than run the risk that kids might get the idea in their heads that sex exists.

From liberal conspiracymongers People for the American Way:

Following a recommendation by the Centers for Disease Control, a number of states have implemented or are considering vaccinating girls attending public school against HPV, a virus that causes 70 percent of cervical cancer cases. While vaccinations against measles, mumps, and tetanus are not controversial, the Religious Right sees HPV differently: It is sexually transmitted. The Family Research Council’s Bridget Maher warned that young women may see vaccination “as a licence to engage in premarital sex,” and former Focus on the Family advisor Reginald Finger said that marketing the vaccine “would undermine the abstinence-only message.”

...

[T]he Religious Right’s strong reaction against “forc[ing] little girls to be shot with a sex virus vaccine” leaves little room in the debate for details about which form parents have to fill out to preserve so-called “parents’ rights.” Instead, the Right’s abstinence-only refrain makes it sound like Texas is requiring girls to carry condoms, as one right-wing group put it. The emphasis on abstinence to the point of excluding other information is already dangerous policy when it comes to sex ed, but it’s doubly so when it comes at the direct cost of passing up a life-saving cure – especially when many on the Right acknowledge that abstinence might not be enough. Vaccination would protect not only the 94 percent of women who have sex before marriage, but also those who “practice[] abstinence and fidelity” yet “could
be exposed
to HPV through sexual assault or marriage to an infected partner,” as FRC’s Sprigg admitted.

First of all, can anyone maintain a straight face while arguing that the "94 percent of women who have sex before marriage" do so because they learned about sex in public school? Actually, I'm sure some people can. They're wrong. I'm happy to argue that point further, but I'll move on.

The position seems to be thus:
  1. We should not teach sex ed in schools.
  2. We should not educate kids about, nor distribute the means of, protection against STD's or pregnancy.

I suppose the resulting assumption, then, is that people are endowed by God with all the necessary knowledge re: sexuality on their 18th birthday? Well, since our tax dollars are also being spent to encourage abstinence among adults, maybe that is not the case.

Some say it is a slippery slope (yes, I'm talkin' to you, CK)...okay, where would said slope lead? If we have to give sixth-grade girls shots of yet another vaccine is the slope that we would have to tell them more and more about sex, or that we would have to start giving them more and more vaccinations? Today, an HPV vaccine...tomorrow, a vaccine against, uh, herpes...by next year, we will be vaccinating our children against livestock-based STD's. I don't see it happening.

If the concern is about having to explain it to kids, a few questions:

  1. How many sixth-grade girls really listen to their parents? Seriously, I have no idea, but I doubt it's a huge number.
  2. How is vaccinating someone against a virus that renders its victims infertile and/or kills them a bad thing? Why not play up the aspect of "this will protect you from an unpleasant bug" rather than "now you can shag little Johnny from down the street with reckless abandon"? It's the religious conservatives who are constantly cataloguing the omnipresence of sexuality in our culture--a catalog I would totally want to see, BTW.

My point is this: kids aren't taught sex ed, kids aren't taught about contraception, kids aren't protected against preventable STD's, kids develop hormones, nature takes its course in secret because the 'rents would totally freak, and then adults act surprised and horrified when teens turn up pregnant or with STD's or cancer.

Sure it's a slippery slope--I just have not been convinced that it's a slope leading anywhere particularly bad.

And no, I don't have kids. Anyone who thinks I lack the right/ability to opine on this subject because I am not a parent probably has kids who will grow up to join a Sataninc cult and/or lesbian commune to spite your haughty sense of morality. Or maybe I'm wrong.

BTW, WWJD? He seemed to have a thing for helping the sick. Preventing disease in the first place would have freed him up for even more miracles.

1 comment:

tODD said...

Fine, I'll bite. I'm a religious conservative (self-defined; some may disagree based on this comment), and I think that it's goofy for people to oppose the HPV vaccine, plain and simple.

The Bible makes clear that as a result of sin entering the world (note to non-Christians: this happens pretty early on in the book), there would be problems with creation, most notably, that people would die. So anyone you know who gets sick or dies, it turns out, is a sinner (the percentage of sinners, it turns out, is even greater than the 94% of people having premarital sex, though the numbers are not uncorrelated!).

And yet, Christians (I am NOT looking at you, so-called Christian so-called Scientists) don't oppose medicine in general, even though sick people can ultimately chock up their afflictions to living in (and contributing to) a fallen world. (N.B. I'm not saying every bodily affliction is due to a particular sin. Just saying.) So why single out just this one disease not to heal? I have no idea.

As to the notion that abstinence isn't sufficient, to paraphrase a pithy saying, it's not that abstinence has been tried and found lacking, it's that it's been found difficult and largely left untried. But you can't say it doesn't work when applied conscientiously! (Now, some might say, "But who can do that perfectly, time after time?" To which I would reply, well, for condoms to work, they have to be applied perfectly time after time as well.) Point being that if abstinence isn't part of a campaign on STD prevention, then the campaign isn't very serious. I mean, you wouldn't teach a lesson on healthy eating by focusing on stomach stapling and liposuction. You start off by telling kids that they really should eat fruits and vegetables. You don't give up because very few of them will actually eat healthily enough.

As to the possibly tangential topic of public school sex ed, I definitely understand some (religious) people's troubles with the idea. I have no more problem with my kids understanding how their genitals work than I do their learning about the endocrine system. But there are many issues in sex ed that aren't purely scientific, that touch on moral issues. For instance "is this sex?" Some people (including former presidents) say no, some say yes. I'd rather be the one who teaches my kids about that.

By the way, "Preventing disease in the first place would have freed him up for even more miracles." Is that argument even half-baked? And Jesus "seemed to have a thing for helping the sick"? Was it me, or did he also have things to say about going and sinning no more? I've never met anyone who read the Bible that came away with the impression that Jesus' main mission on earth was mainly a medical one.