Mississippi Republicans have engaged in an unethical war on abortion in their state, and have succeeded in thinking up a way to make it impossible even though it isn’t illegal. They have succeeded in creating regulations that are impossible to comply with for the one remaining clinic; without intervention it will be closing on January 11, making Mississippi a completely abortion-free state. Here’s Rachel Maddow weighing in on the situation in the video below:
We’ve all been guilty of exasperatedly calling conservatives — or Republicans — “stupid” at one point or another, but sneaky lawmaking like this should give us pause. We can’t underestimate the lengths these people will go in pushing their agendas that have nothing to do with reflecting the will of the people. Isn’t that the job of legislators in a democratic republic? To be trusted to vote in representation of the people they represent?
Limiting abortion isn’t going to cause less abortions. It’s simply going to cause less safe ones. All the available data shows that the key to limiting abortion is better sex and contraception education. And in Mississippi, the majority of districts choose abstinence-only educational programs. Mississippi state law requires sexual education courses of some sort, but allows districts to choose whether to teach abstinence only or abstinence-plus, as reported by Huffington Post in July:
A 2011 state law mandates some sort of sex education in all school systems beginning this academic year, but the local districts decide whether to adopt an abstinence-only or an abstinence-plus policy for sex education. Abstinence-plus teaches safe-sex practices, contraception and causes and effects of sexually transmitted diseases in addition to abstinence.
“We are pleased and excited that so many districts decided to go with abstinence-plus,” Jamie H. Bardwell, program director for the Women’s Fund, told the Associated Press. “It definitely shows a need and a desire for more than just abstinence-only. It reflects the reality that 76 percent of Mississippi 12th-graders have already had sex.”
More than 80 of the state’s 151 districts opted for abstinence-only curriculums, according to The Clarion Ledger, while three chose to adopt split policies, teaching abstinence-only to younger students and abstinence-plus to older grades. Students must receive parental permission to take the courses, according to WLBT, and boys and girls take the classes separately.
Abstinence only sexual education programs have been shown to increase the incidences of teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV. In August, I interviewed Dr. Mark Alain Déry on the subject. Dr. Déry is an expert on infectious diseases and conducted a study in New Orleans regarding the connections between abstinence only sex education and infectious disease rates:
Addicting Info: Would you say that the data that was collected in the studies in New Orleans (regarding the higher risk of HIV when adolescents are given abstinence-only education) could probably be extrapolated to any part of the country?
Dr. Mark Alain Déry: Without question. The data has not been peer reviewed as of yet, and I’m saying that because of ethical and scientific considerations, but I have complete confidence in it. These are country-wide numbers.
We went on to discuss the pointlessness of abstinence education:
AI: In your opinion, does abstinence-only education represent a relatively pointless danger with regard to infectious diseases? That is, an entirely preventable one?
Dr. Déry: I would agree wholeheartedly with that statement. Abstinence-only sexual education is, you know, just a relic of the Reagan and Bush administrations, because they had these three policies in place that gave monetary incentive for states, counties and, here in Louisiana, parishes, to put in place abstinence-only legislation that is, in the end, based on “morality.” And I use morality in an air-quoted sense. It’s not morality. It’s religious morality.
I should note that the policies of monetary incentive have been removed by Barack Obama as of 2010, and organizations like Dr. Déry’s (NOSIDA) are out to show that abstinence education is dangerous (as per the data).
More to the point, abstinence education in Mississippi hasn’t done them any favors with regard to pregnancy rates among teens. Huffington Post reports:
“For every 1,000 15- to 19-year-old girls in Mississippi, there are 55 births — compared to a national average of 34.3, according to data from the National Center for Health Statistics. That high birth rate is expected to have cost the state $154.9 million in 2009.”
If they expect to keep abortion rates down, this isn’t the way to do it. All this is going to do is hurt women.