Thursday, December 18, 2008

Younger Women’s Task Force-NYC Metro Chapter hosts monthly book club meetings. See the end of this post for more information.

Let’s begin with some statistics and facts:

  • After implementing changes in their sexual education programs (removing abstinence and supporting contraception), Sweden managed to significantly reduce their teenage birthrate. (They now have half the teen abortion rate that that of the United States) (80-81).

  • The Netherlands reduced their teenage birthrate by 72% using similar methods to Sweden. They also maintain the lowest teenage abortion rates in the industrialized world (80).

  • In a 2001 survey conducted by UNICEF, the United States had the highest number of teenage pregnancy compared to the rest of the industrialized world (60% higher than the rate in the United Kingdom, which placed second) (79).

Summary: The United States, a country that is and has been on the forefront of so much progress and improvement the past few decades, is profoundly terrible at sexual education. The reason for this is the premise for Cristina Page’s book, How the Pro-Choice Movement Saved America.

In it, she analyzes the pro-life movement and brings to light much of the rhetoric that they use to further their agenda. And what exactly is their agenda? Well, anti-abortion, of course! Scratch under the surface a bit, and you will see differently. As Page writes, “In recent years, [the pro-life movement] has turned itself into the anti-birth control movement – and indeed, the antisex movement-whether it avows it or not” (xii). But that really isn’t logical at all, is it? Why, or more importantly how, could a movement against abortion also be against birth control, something that is an extremely successful method of preventing abortions? The answer is because the pro-life movement is ultimately against our modern day sex lives: “Indeed to be pro-life today means to be inside a movement that finds fault with every kind of birth control, from the Pill…to the condom…To be pro-life means to favor abstinence until marriage, in part because they believe that sex is supposed to be for one purpose only: to procreate” (3).

It is the small elite of the pro-life movement that is furthering this agenda, and it is incredibly astounding how much influence they have exerted in this country thus far. Page recounts the chain of events in 2004 that resulted in the Bush Administration pulling funding for an essential UN program called UNFPA. This program provides “life-saving interventions in the reproductive field: delivering babies, creating healthy births…dispensing emergency contraception to women who have been raped during military conflicts” and much more to the people in many third world countries (124). Also important to note, this organization does not perform abortions. However, one pro-life group, Population Research Institute, took up issue with the emergency contraception UNFPA provides, and through fact-spinning, rhetoric, and sympathy from other pro-life lawmakers in Washington, they were able to see President Bush pull the plug on United State funding for UNFPA. This made “the United States the only donor country to deny funding to UNFPA for non-budgetary reasons” (128). Yet another reason why the world has not been too thrilled with America all these years.

Additionally, the reason Plan B took so long to become available over-the-counter was because of well-placed pro-lifers within the Reproductive Health Drugs Committee, a division of the FDA, who stalled the approval process with objections that ignored science and that were comprised of fabricated consequences. The list of these types of incidents goes on and on.

But we are now about to begin a new age in the United States, an age that once again involves a pro-choice president. Cristina Page herself has said that had McCain won, we would most certainly be preparing for an overturn of the keystone that our modern day women’s reproductive rights rest on: Roe v. Wade. Luckily, that bleak future is not so near anymore, but that still does not mean we can sit back and relax. There is still much more work to be done on this front. If this book has taught me anything, it is how much goes on behind the scenes in Washington, how much we as citizens do have at stake, and thus, how important it is to be active, involved, and educated.

To get more involved in the pro-choice movement, please visit:
Naral Pro-Choice America:
Planned Parenthood Federation of America:
The Pro-Choice Public Education Project:

For more information about the book and Cristina Page:
Birth Control Watch and Cristina Page’s Blog:

Pro-Choice Movement:

YWTF-NYC’s December book club meeting will be feature Birds of America by Lorrie Moore. Check out our Meetup site for more info on upcoming meetings.

Jessica Perl is an active member of YWTF-NYC.

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