Pro-life groups must reconsider tactics

by Caitlin Donovon – Staff Writer – cadonova@unca.edu

Now is the time to implement comprehensive sex education to help pregnant teenagers and prevent further abortions rather than shaming them.

Last week, Nevada State Representative Lucy Flores spoke about her own history with abortion while advocating for Assembly Bill 230, which proposed requiring public schools in Nevada to offer more comprehensive sex education. Flores said she decided to have an abortion as a teenager and did not regret it because she saw the effects teen pregnancy had on her sisters. She stated that she wanted other young women in Nevada to have better resources and education than she had, so they could prevent having to ask their fathers for money for an abortion.

Flores was rewarded for her honesty with death threats and libel.  Not only did conservative websites like Life News misquote her in their headlines, but Flores received death threats that caused her to cancel her appearance with reporter Jon Ralston.

The fact that those advocating for more comprehensive sex education are being targeted by death threats from those who consider themselves “pro-life” exposes contradictions and hypocrisy within the pro-life movement which need to be addressed.

Flores was right to campaign for more comprehensive sex education in Nevada. The most recent data available on teen pregnancy rates from the Guttmacher Institute shows Nevada to have one of the highest rates of teen pregnancy in the country.

More than 79 out of every 1,000 women age 15-19 have been pregnant. Lack of comprehensive sex education in schools and low use of contraceptives was a commonality found in all the states with the highest rates of teen pregnancy, which, in addition to Nevada, included New Mexico, Mississippi, Texas, Arkansas and Arizona. Obviously, abstinence-only education is not working for these states. Flores was being honest in saying lack of comprehensive sex education and resources leads to teen pregnancy and, subsequently, abortions.

It raises the question of why life is only sacred and valuable to certain pro-life advocates when it is inside the womb. According to the National Organization for Women, there have been 59,000 acts of violence against U.S. abortion clinics since 1977, including seven murders and 41 bombings in addition to death threats and acts of vandalism. How are murders and bombings a method of protest respecting the value of life?

The fact is violence, silencing women who have had abortions and even passing anti-abortion legislation is not keeping the abortion rate down. According to the Guttmancher Institute’s 2011 report, at least one in 10 women will have an abortion by age 20, and one in three will have one by age 45.  Flores is by no means alone and she has every right to seek a solution for the problem her state faces.

If the pro-life movement was really concerned with keeping abortion rates down, the leaders of the movement would advocate for the same comprehensive sex education Flores is advocating, since abstinence-only education has been proven to be ineffective on keeping the teen pregnancy and abortion rates down in Nevada and other states.

Women should be encouraged to share their stories about their experiences with abortion. The stigma, silencing and scare tactics coming from these anti-abortion advocates are helping no one. It is only by allowing those directly affected by the issue to speak honestly and without fear that a real solution can be reached.

After all, Flores is obviously working to prevent teen pregnancy and to prevent the amount of abortions that happen. Working with her toward that goal, regardless of whether or not one agrees with her past decisions, is the most productive and positive thing to do.

Abstinence only education is correlated with high teen pregnancy rates. Preaching is not getting the job done and neither are threats. One cannot claim to value life and then preach death, and pro-life advocates need to reject the violence, threats and fear mongering within their movement and consider the facts instead.

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