Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

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Fieldbinder – Abstinence-only education lacking

A new sex-education bill advocating abstinence as the preferred approach to pre-marital sex in Wisconsin is expected to reach the assembly in the coming weeks. It passed in the Senate by a 24-9 vote and is expected to pass in the Assembly as well. However, Gov. Doyle refuses to take a position on the bill until it reaches his desk.

The bill was created in hopes of lowering the rates of teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, however, it seems that it has the potential to worsen these problems. Abstinence-only approaches do not guarantee that those students receiving this type of sex education will indeed decide to abstain from sex until marriage. By denying students information about contraceptives, it seems that many will be left in the dark or confused when they're in a situation where they need to make safe and smart decisions about what contraceptives will keep them protected from both pregnancy and STDs. Many fear that this bill is just the beginning of what could eventually become an abstinence-only sex-education program in schools throughout Wisconsin.

It seems irresponsible to deny that there is a great deal of sexual activity among teens today and that this bill is furthering the interests of those who see abstinence as the only approach to pre-marital sex. Denying the needs of those who do not agree with this view could result in more pregnancy and STDs.

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Similar bills that seem to take a step back in sexual freedom have been controversial here in Wisconsin in the recent past. In September of this year, the Senate approved a bill allowing health-care providers to refuse to perform certain procedures based on their moral or religious beliefs without the risk of dismissal. For example, if a woman decides to have a tubal ligation after she is done having children, her doctor can choose not to perform this procedure for her if it is against his or her beliefs. This means that this woman will have to search elsewhere for a doctor who will perform the procedure — a doctor she probably knows nothing about and with whom she may not be as comfortable.

In June, the Assembly voted to pass Bill 343 also known as "The UW Birth Control Ban" which prohibits UW schools from distributing emergency contraception. This bill came about after UW-Madison's University Health Services ran ads around spring break time reminding female students not to forget to fill a prescription for the morning-after pill before they left. Many legislators thought that these ads advocated irresponsible sexual conduct and felt that something needed to be done. It seems that by specifically targeting these ads and their intended audience, the bill stereotypes those who use this pill as promiscuous and overlooks many other women who need it.

Nationwide, there are reports of pharmacists refusing to fill prescriptions for birth-control pills and emergency contraception based on their morals or religious beliefs. Patients cannot obtain these pills directly from their doctors and they depend on pharmacies for this. If more pharmacists are allowed to refuse based on their beliefs, what could this mean for the future of birth control or health care in general?

It seems that the abstinence-only approach is making its way into many areas from sex education in high schools to pharmacies. There is nothing wrong with seeing abstinence as the only answer to pre-marital sex. However, those who do not hold that view also need to be respected. It is an individual decision and it should stay that way. Those who are sexually active have a right to be provided with the information they need to make safe and smart decisions about contraceptives, as well as access to the prescriptions recommended by their doctors.

Julia Fieldbinder ([email protected]) is a senior majoring in communication arts.

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