Prevention Now campaign calls for common sense sex ed
A coalition of advocates for reproductive health will come together on Feb. 8 at the Statehouse to petition the Indiana General Assembly for a legislative package aimed at improving access to birth control for women throughout the state and improving the sex ed curriculum Indiana students are currently taught.
The Prevention Now rally is part of a new political approach to the women’s health debate that many consider a viable and valuable alternative to the shrill stalemate that is the abortion battle.
Moderates in both the pro-choice and pro-life camps have found a common ground from which to proceed. Both sides agree they would like to see unintended pregnancy decrease; both agree they would specifically like to see the teen pregnancy rate decrease; and both sides would like to see the number of abortions decrease.
Both sides also agree that the best way to prevent unintended pregnancy is to abstain from sex. And though there are a significant number of parents who do not want their child taught anything but abstinence in the human sexuality portion of their health classes, an overwhelming number of parents want their children taught what is known as abstinence plus education — curriculum that stresses abstaining from sex by emphasizing the emotional, physical and social ramifications of being sexually active, but also teaches students how to prevent pregnancy and prevent the transmission of sexually transmitted disease when they do have sex.
The Get Real, Indiana! coalition recently sponsored a survey that found that Indiana’s public middle and high schools are leaving crucial topics like contraception, STDs, and sexual assault out of the conversation in their sex ed programs. In fact, the survey revealed that less than half of the state’s high schools surveyed were providing state-mandated HIV/AIDS prevention information.
Prevention Now advocates stress that education is the key to equipping young people with the ability to delay sexual intercourse or use contraception for disease and pregnancy prevention, if and when they become sexually active. While there is great value in teaching young people how to delay intercourse, Prevention Now advocates believe it is in the best interest of all Hoosiers to ensure that only medically accurate and factual information is provided by the state, whether it be in schools, after school programs or through organizations offering programs on behalf of the state.
The purpose of Prevention Now is to motivate state lawmakers to pass measures ensuring all Indiana residents receive accurate and responsible education about how to prevent pregnancy and prevent the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases through abstinence-plus curriculum and access to affordable reproductive health care. Advocates believe legislation that supports these goals will produce a decrease in the number of unwanted pregnancies and the number of abortions.
This common sense approach to achieving the common good may be a tremendous waste of time in Indiana, however. No matter how noble or bi-partisan the Prevention Now plan is, it must still make its way past those who have made a political career out of stonewalling any type of legislation that even hints at a compromise in the abortion battle.
Since the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, the Indiana state legislature has dealt with over 140 bills that would restrict access to abortion, including five this session, and less than a dozen that would help people prevent unintended pregnancy.
The biggest obstacle towards any type of reproductive health care reform for Indiana women is Sen. Patricia Miller of Indianapolis. With her seeming lifetime appointment as chair of the Health and Hospital Services Committee, the 30-year vet of the Indiana Senate single-handedly decides what bills referred to her committee for deliberation will ever be discussed, let alone brought to her peers for a vote.
In addition to squashing any reform legislation that comes her way, Sen. Miller keeps the abortion debate raging in the state by introducing a slew of bills herself every year that not only enflame her opponents, but are often outrageous for their medical inaccuracy.
This year, for example, Sen. Miller has authored Senate Bill 135, referred to as the “Abortion matters” legislation. In the bill, Sen. Miller seeks to require doctors performing an abortion to inform the pregnant woman that the fetus might feel pain during the procedure. Additionally, Sen. Miller would like all women receiving an abortion to be told by their physician that human life begins when a human ovum is fertilized by human sperm.
Sen. Brandt Hershman is perhaps Sen. Miller’s staunchest cohort in the anti-abortion delegation of our state legislature. Each year, Sen. Hershman joins Miller in introducing a number of his own bills that seek to make abortions unavailable until they are illegal.
Sen. Hershman favors legislation that makes performing an abortion illegal, unless the mother’s life is at stake. The laws were a little less strict on May 30, 1997 when Sen. Hershman reportedly drove his then wife Tracy Hershman to the Planned Parenthood clinic in Merrillville and, she claims, paid for her to abort their child.
Though the couple had been married for nearly eight years, Sen. Hershman asked his wife for a divorce a week later. He has since remarried. When asked about the abortion during his campaign in 2000, Sen. Hershman told reporters: “I will not discuss my ex-wife or my personal relationships with anyone.”
In Indiana, 121,890 of the 1,320,470 women of childbearing age become pregnant each year. 72% of these pregnancies result in live births, and 12% result in abortions; the remainder end in miscarriage.
Indiana has the 31st highest teenage pregnancy rate of any state. Of the 16,020 teenage pregnancies each year in Indiana, 68% result in live births and 17% result in abortions.
Take a stand
Prevention Now Rally at the Statehouse
Calling all Reproductive Health Advocates throughout Indiana! Prevention Now needs you at the Statehouse on February 8, 2007 to stand up for Hoosier women, men and families and ask lawmakers to vote for prevention, not punishment; birth control, not bans! The rally will be held from 11:15 a.m.-12:30 p.m. in the Statehouse as part of a full day of events. For more information go to www.advocates.ppin.org.