Deliberate Distortion on HIV

Greetings from England, where a woman named Sarah Jane Porter has just been sentenced to over two and a half years in prison for “deliberately” infecting her lover with HIV. The backstory is clearly more complex than the media coverage has allowed, but, in a nutshell: Porter knew she was HIV-positive, and in possession of this knowledge, she “encouraged” her boyfriend, as well as some other men, to have unprotected sex with her. Her boyfriend is now HIV-positive.

I’m not particularly interested in adding my judgment of Porter to the pile—plenty of others are taking care of that. But I have been ruminating on the story quite a bit, and on the issues of “deliberate” infection that it raises, particularly in light of another article that made its way into my inbox this month. That article, entitled “Breaking the HIV/AIDS spell in Africa,” was by Salma Maoulidi of Sahiba Sisters Foundation, based in Tanzania. Here’s the part that caught my eye:

Numbers to Think About

89% believe that information about birth control should be more accessible

81% believe that providing access to birth control is a good way to prevent abortions

73% believe that a person's access to birth control should not be limited by someone's ability to pay for it

58% believe that emergency contraception should be easily available in all pharmacies

46% believe teens should be allowed access to contraception without their parents' knowledge

33% approve of the job President Bush is doing.

All numbers but the last one from Wall Street Journal/Harris Interactive, (2,689 adults surveyed) the final from CBS News via The Polling Report.

The Bush Policy of Jailing Doctors

Jailing doctors who work within the law is a recurring theme in the Bush Administration. So far their efforts in this regard have wasted tax payer's time and money on these crusades, and put some compassionate doctors in jail disrupting their families, professions and their patient's care. Karl Zinsmeister, newly appointed Chief of Domestic Policy to President Bush, said last week that he supported policies that would throw doctors who preform abortions in jail, as reported on The Raw Story and originally on PBS.

Its no surprise that the Bush Adminstration would go to such extremes, they have a clearly stated policy opposing safe and legal abortions and have chosen prohibition as the path, as opposed to prevention.

Judicial Activism Bush Style

Time and again, the battle cry of “judicial activism” has rallied the conservative troops. These words have been used to motivate the right-wing base to turn out for votes, and they have been used to demean an entire branch of government. President Bush and his staff have often raised concerns about “activist courts”.

Meanwhile, in some alternate universe... The new make up of the Supreme Court had led the Bush Administration to push for some judicial activism of its own. The Administration doesn’t like an earlier Supreme Court decision – or the decisions from two different appeals courts – on cases related to what they call “partial-birth abortion” (though that term has no medical definition…but that is another story for another time). In the past the Supreme Court said that women have a right to have an abortion to protect their own health. But now that the Administration has gotten some of its own nominees on the Supreme Court, it seems that the time is ripe for one more attempt to get their kind of judicial activism – that is, to overturn a precedent.

The Unintended Pregnancy Prevention Act(ions)

We just posted a new Policy Watch piece on the Unintended Pregnancy Prevention Act, sponsored by Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY). Our hope is that that article and others in our Policy Watch archive can be helpful references for tracking Congressional activity and understanding what is happening on reproductive health issues in government.

The Unintended Pregnancy Prevention act, introduced a month ago, would expand Medicaid coverage for contraception and family planning services. It represents a trend in Sen. Clinton’s policymaking and messaging of late.

Overcoming Religiophobia

The Rev. Debra W. Haffner is the Director of the Religious Institute on Sexual Morality, Justice, and Healing.

I went into the ministry following a 25-year career as a sexologist. People are often surprised when I introduce myself as a minister and as a sexologist. But I believe that our sexuality and our spirituality are intimately connected, and that at its foundation, my work in the sexual and reproductive health field, and now my work as a minister, share a common moral vision - to teach people how to treat each other with love, dignity, and respect.

People in the SRH field come to work each day because of our values and because we want to make a difference. In theological terms, we are called to tikkun olam, to save the world - to heal the brokenness that so many suffer around unintended pregnancies, coerced and exploitive sexual experiences, attacks on bodily integrity, soul-numbing denial of one's sexual or gender identity, violence against women and sexual minorities, and children who are not loved or wanted. We believe that injustice and suffering in the world are intolerable and that the work we do empowering people to make and live healthy decisions about their sexuality and reproductive health makes a difference.

C-FAM Continues to Miss an Opportunity to Fight Trafficking

After writing last week about a seemingly dishonest attempt from C-FAM to campaign against human trafficking, their follow-up email for that campaign this week appears to confirm my suspicions.

It is the same email from last week, recycled in its entirety, with two small changes: a list of “progress” items at the front, and a change in the number of signatures needed at the bottom. But Austin Ruse didn’t spend too much time on even those changes – he updated how many signatures they had received, but he forgot to update how many they needed. Or did he?

It still says they need “50,000 more and we need it fast," same as last week. Do they need those signatures for the campaign, or do they just need some more email addresses for their mailing list? Considering that C-FAM has been on a “serious” fundraising kick for the past month, every email they can get on that list might translate into another person opening their pocketbooks, either now or in the future.

Catholic Bishops Do the Right Thing by Not Denying Communion to Politicians

At Rewire, we’re willing to give credit where credit is due, and I think credit is due to the US Catholic bishops for their recent decision, reported yesterday, to not invoke a communion ban for politicians who do not support the Catholic Church’s perspective on abortion in their public life.

The possibility of bishops denying communion to such public officials made major news in the 2004 election cycle, when Sen. John Kerry, a Roman Catholic who supports reproductive rights, was targeted by critics for his views. The American Life League has led the efforts to pressure Catholic bishops to deny communion to Sen. Kerry and other politicians, and some in this camp have even called for the excommunication of such politicians. ALL started a campaign, the “Crusade for the Defense of our Catholic Church,” that produced ads demonizing a group they call the “Deadly Dozen” – the “most influential” pro-choice Catholic politicians, which has included Gov. George Pataki (R-NY), Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-CA), Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK). There was even a blog – Catholic Kerry Watch – dedicated to defaming John Kerry on account of this issue during the 2004 campaign.

Louisiana, Mississippi and South Dakota Should Follow South Africa

The South African Health Department released some encouraging, but not necessarily surprising, statistics on Thursday: since 1997, when abortion was legalized under broad circumstances in South Africa, deaths from unsafe abortion have gone down an encouraging 91.1 percent. It’s a fitting reminder that making abortion illegal doesn’t make it stop, it just makes it unsafe. The South African Health Department should send the study to Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco, South Dakota Governor Mike Rounds, and Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, who have all signed or pledged to sign bills that would all but outlaw safe and legal abortion in their states.

Encouraging Progressive Faith Leaders on Issues of Sexuality and Reproductive Health

Common Sense suggests that most people want their government to do the sorts of scientific research and make sound public health policies to inform the public's behavior. It is maddening when ideology trumps science, and narrow belief wins out over common sense solutions as has been the case at the FDA on Plan B emergency contracpetion, abstinence-only policies, the war on contraception, comprehensive sexuality education, and efforts to deny women's rights by turning the clock back on abortion by outlawing choice and making it unsafe.

It is easy to dismiss ideological and faith-based efforts from social conservatives because they are so completely lacking in sound science, public health data, and compassion.

But what about progresive faith-based efforts? The Rev. Debra Haffner leads the Religious Institute on Sexual Morality, Justice and Healing. Her goal is to help progressive faith leaders challenge social conservatives on issues of sexuality and reproductive health.