Friday, February 17, 2006

The Republican Crusade Against Teenage Naughtiness

It's getting pretty tough to be a teenaged girl here in Wisconsin, given that you have an entire political party and the Christian fundamentalist organizations that underwrite it insatiably curious about your sex life. Their latest effort to pry into the secret lives of our daughters is being spearheaded by Senator Glen Grothman, who seems to have made control of women's sex lives the mission statement of his public life. He is currently shopping around for co-sponsors on his re-tread of a bill designed to end family planning support for girls between the ages of 15-17.

From Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin:

Under the Waiver program, low-income women have access to preventive family planning health care like cervical cancer screenings, sexually transmitted infection testing and treatment and contraceptive counseling. It is important to note that currently no state or federal funds may be used for the promotion or performance of abortion. Wis. Stat. § 253.07(1)(b).

Sen. Grothman's back-door attack on women's access to birth control and other health care services is couched in terms of removing 15-17 year olds from the program. It is imperative to understand that any changes in the eligibility for the program will nullify the entire program. Removing 15-17 year-olds will make the state noncompliant with its agreement to reduce teen pregnancy rates as promised in the Waiver agreement with the federal government.

Given that Grothman's chance to defend his bill on WPR yesterday centered around the issues of teen sexual habits, that's the issue I choose to address. Planned Parenthood has rightly identified that the passage of Grothman's bill will actually invalidate the entire program, something I'm sure the Senator from West Bend is aware of and supports. Grothman has a very consistent track record of sponsoring and/or supporting any bill which limits women's reproductive rights or access to birth control.

This type of bill is a direct corollary of the "abstinence only" garbage that has infected the minds of the Right, both in Wisconsin and elsewhere. It's predicated on a ridiculous set of baseless assumptions and outright lies, all of which keep getting recycled every time another of these bills moves into the media spotlight.

The main assumption is that teenage girls are so empty-headed that even teaching them about sex will make them promiscuous. I wonder if this applies to other areas of education. For example, does Grothman think that we should stop teaching gun safety to teenage hunters because it will make them go shoot somebody? Of course not. The problem isn't education, it's the baseless value judgments people like Grothman make about girls who have sex. Somehow they're immoral or unclean. It's funny also that this sort of mentality doesn't seem to extend to boys. In the grossly sexist moral view of conservatives like Senator Grossman, sexual activity somehow "belongs" to boys. I mean, how can Adam possibly resist the wicked charms of sinful Eve?

Teenagers have been having sex since teenagers were invented. It's not a moral issue, it's a biological issue. Humans are programmed to have sex. That's what puberty does. Pretending that by forcefully trying to keep teenage girls ignorant about sex will somehow turn them off to it is just plain stupid. Some teenage kids are going to have sex regardless of their education level about venereal diseases and the burdens of pregnancy. That's the reality that people like Grothman refuse to acknowledge. In their magical conservative world, no one has sex unless they're married, except for women of loose morals and the poor, hapless men they evilly seduce.

Get a clue, Senator! Your view of human sexuality seems informed more by "Leave It To Beaver" than actual human experience. Teenage girls are going to have sex no matter what you say about it. No study ever done has ever concluded that sex education prevents teenagers from having sex. But what studies have shown is that sex education and access to birth control reduce unwanted pregnancies, venereal diseases and abortions; something that "abstinence-only" wishful thinking simply cannot do. Besides, I find it very hard to believe that many teenage girls are basing their personal sex decisions on which current government programs are in effect.

Finally, it is far past time for the Republicans to stop prying their way into the personal lives of individuals. Leave us alone, already! Our sex lives and the sex lives of our daughters are none of your damn business. If you believe that women having sex is the great evil of our time, then feel free not to engage in any with them. Furthermore, stop trying to tell me what I "deserve" to know about my children. While I certainly would like my daughters (and my son, for that matter) to make good, healthy choices about sex in their teenage years, I also respect that they have a right to their own privacy as well. You don't get to decide, Senator Grothman, what my children ought to be informing of concerning their personal lives. That's between myself, my wife and my children, not the Republican party and the various busybody groups that fund your campaigns.

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