Bush and Sex Education

The latest in a long line of anti-woman decisions by the Bush administration is, for once, getting some attention — in part because of the sheer cheapness of the move.

President Bush has decided not to send the $34 million approved by both houses of Congress for the United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA).

The fund provides contraception, family planning and safe births, and works against the spread of HIV and against female genital mutilation in the poorest countries of the world. Thirty-four million dollars goes a long way in the parts of the world where more than 600,000 women die every year from pregnancy and childbirth, many of them children themselves.

Of course, our poor government is so broke that it can’t afford to waste $34 million on women in poor countries. It has more important things to do, like spending $100 million on “promoting marriage.”

Two women — Jane Roberts, a retired teacher in California, and Lois Abraham, a lawyer in New Mexico — have started a splendid symbolic protest, and it is spreading by e-mail, fax, newsletters and all kinds of women’s groups. The organizers are looking for “34 million Friends of UNFPA” to send $1 each to the United Nations (FPA) at 220 E. 42nd St., New York, NY 10017.

Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, director of the UNFPA, said the $34 million U.S. contribution would have helped prevent 2 million unwanted pregnancies, 800,000 induced abortions, 4,700 maternal deaths and 77,000 infant and child deaths.

We don’t have $34 million to save the lives of poor women, but Bush wants to spend $135 million on abstinence education, which doesn’t work. According to that fountain of misinformation, the Rev. Jerry Falwell: “This announcement angered school sex educators, who concentrate on teaching our nation’s students that they should explore their sexuality and ignore the consequences. But Mr. Bush said government can teach children how to exhibit sexual control.”

Actually, sex education is entirely about the consequences of “exploring sexuality,” and it works. The Guttmacher Institute published a report last week showing that the abortion rate is down by 11 percent precisely because young people are getting more education about sex. One would think the anti-abortion forces would be grateful.

Instead, there is every indication that in addition to taking away a woman’s right to choose whether to have an abortion, the Bush administration is going after contraception.

Bush now wants to make W. David Hager chairman of the Food and Drug Administration’s Reproductive Health Drugs Advisory Committee. Hager is an ob-gyn from Kentucky who wants the FDA to reverse its approval of RU-486, the “abortion pill.”

Although Hager is the editor of a book that includes the essay “Using the Birth Control Pill is Ethically Unacceptable,” he told Maureen Dowd of The New York Times that he does not agree with the essay. Then why include it? He does not prescribe contraceptives for single women, does not do abortions, will not prescribe RU-486 and will not insert IUDs. Hager believes that headaches, PMS and eating disorders can be cured by reading Scripture. I do not want this man in charge of my health policy.

It took almost all of human history for the population of the globe to reach 1 billion people in 1800. It took only from 1987 to 1999 for world population to grow from 5 billion to 6 billion. At current rates, we will reach 13 billion by the middle of the 21st century. Ninety-five percent of this growth will be in Africa, Latin America and Asia. Studies estimate that by 2025, two out of every three people on Earth will live in water-stressed conditions. The stress on global resources is already apparent.

While we spend trillions of dollars on weapons, the military and homeland security, the real threats — water scarcity, climate change and population growth — advance unchecked.

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