My Turn: SB 89 is not the protection youth need

  • Wednesday, March 2, 2016 1:05am
  • Opinion

Perhaps I’m naïve, but I expect the phrase “let’s be straight” to be followed by statements that are thoughtful and at least mostly grounded in truth. Apparently, Sen. Mike Dunleavy, R-Wasilla, does not hold this phrase in the same regard. In defending Senate Bill 89, which would bar Planned Parenthood from providing sex education in Alaska’s schools, Dunleavy recently opined “Let’s be straight, the abortion providers are a business. They’re in our schools to recruit our kids as agents of their business and … for potential clients later on down the road”.

Let’s look critically at this justification for SB 89 and the target at which this bill is squarely aimed — Planned Parenthood.

Contrary to what Dunleavy appears to believe, Planned Parenthood is objectively not a “business.” It is a nonprofit organization whose primary mission is to provide reproductive health care for women and family planning services. The vast majority of these services (97 percent) are not abortion-related and about 90 percent of patients who visit Planned Parenthood do not receive abortions.

Dunleavy’s next claim — that sexual education instructors from Planned Parenthood are recruiting our children as clients — is outrageous on its face. How would he even know this? Has he attended a Planned Parenthood sex education class? Does he have data showing that states with higher levels of Planned Parenthood-delivered sex education have higher abortion rates? Or, more likely, is this ominous claim something he just made up? If Planned Parenthood was really in the abortion “business” as Dunleavy asserts, why would the organization devote the vast majority of its budget to services such as contraception and reproductive health and education that are well known to reduce demand for abortions? This would be like McDonald’s spending its advertising budget on a campaign to convince people that eating beef is unhealthy and bad for the environment.

Sadly, the language that Dunleavy uses to justify SB 89 echoes that regularly employed to discriminate against the gay community. Like gays, those who espouse the abortion “agenda” are trying to “indoctrinate” innocent children who can only be saved by government-mandated “parental choice.” As a parent of three girls, I am not exactly clear on the choice Dunleavy is offering me — is it to choose to pretend that abortions don’t exist and hope young people never find out about them, or is it to choose to believe that somehow decreasing access to sex education will keep teenagers from having sex? The “indoctrination” line of reasoning is even more ironic when you consider that roughly 1 in 3 American women have an abortion by the age of 45, making it overwhelmingly likely that many teachers who work with our children on a daily basis have (gasp!) actually had abortions themselves.

The debate around abortion is emotionally charged and, despite what Senator Dunleavy would have you believe, groups on both sides of the argument want to reduce unintended pregnancies that lead to the majority of abortions. However, feeling passionate about curtailing abortion is no excuse for being willfully ignorant about the benefits of sex education, which include reducing unintended pregnancies and the occurrence of sexually transmitted diseases. Given that Alaska currently has the highest rate of chlamydia and gonorrhea infections of any state, SB 89 is not the kind of protection Alaska’s adolescents need.

• Eran Hood lives in Juneau.

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