Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell Endangers Children’s Health for Political Posturing
Alaska is a land of extremes, both good and bad. We have the most coastline, the most islands, the best fishing, the most park land, and I can confidently say the most natural wild beauty of any state in the nation. On the flip side, we have the most earthquakes, the most infant botulism, the most alcoholism, the most mosquitoes, and the worst rate of chlamydia of any state. We’re second in the nation for gonorrhea.
The state has been first or second in reported rates of chlamydia every year since 2000, state public health officials said. Alaska’s rate was again highest in the country in 2010, with 6,026 reported cases. That’s 849 cases per 100,000 people, up 13 percent from 2009 and more than double the national rate for 2010, according to the state.
Also on the rise is gonorrhea, with 1,273 reported cases last year. The infection rate is up 23 percent from 2009, when Alaska was ninth. That year, public health officials began calling attention to a rapid increase in new cases in much of Alaska.
You can’t do much about earthquakes. You can’t do much about mosquitoes. (We tried the whole DDT thing, but that didn’t work out too well) But fortunately “Acts of God” (and yes, I include mosquitoes in that designation) do not extend to the realm of the sexually transmitted disease. That would be called an “Act of a Human” and there most definitely is something that can be done about that. Actually, two things come to mind right off the bat. One is abstinence, and the other is a condom. One works and one doesn’t.
Of course abstinence works in theory, but you have to actually follow through and do it. For teens, that means not just promising mom and dad, and not just believing that you’ll actually be able to do it. Sometimes situations happen and things don’t follow the plan. Just ask abstinence spokesdaughter Bristol Palin.
Even when parents do their best, and say all the right things, stuff happens. Frankly, Bristol Palin could just as easily have gotten an STD as a baby.
Try telling a teenager, whose poor addled brain is swimming in a potent hormone soup so powerful it is rooted in perpetuation of the human species itself to “just say no.” Easier said than done. And scientific study after study shows just how much money we are willing to spend to learn the shocking news that teenagers don’t always listen to their parents or their preachers. Imagine that. Abstinence may be the best way when it works, but in the vast majority of cases, it doesn’t. And it’s even been shown that those who vow to remain abstinent until marriage have additional risks than those who don’t take a pledge.
The new analysis of data [December, 2008] from a large federal survey found that more than half of youths became sexually active before marriage regardless of whether they had taken a “virginity pledge,” but that the percentage who took precautions against pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases was 10 points lower for pledgers than for non-pledgers.
“Taking a pledge doesn’t seem to make any difference at all in any sexual behavior,” said Janet E. Rosenbaum of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, whose report appears in the January issue of the journal Pediatrics. “But it does seem to make a difference in condom use and other forms of birth control that is quite striking.” (emphasis mine)
Given that, the next best plan (and one that actually does seem to work, not only in preventing STDs but also unwanted pregnancies) is the condom.
So, if we know that Plan A (abstinence) doesn’t work, Plan B seems like a natural… Plan B. It ensures that if on that crazy wild off-chance our teens don’t take our advice, at least they won’t get gonorrhea, or herpes, or chlamydia or syphilis, or AIDS, or a host of other nasty things that result in pain and discomfort, loss of fertility, and in the worst case scenario – loss of life.
And they also won’t be forced to make a difficult choice about an unwanted pregnancy which may significantly affect their educational achievements, their domestic partnerships, their income, their reliance on government assistance, and their ability to be a prepared healthy functioning parent who is ready to bring a child into the world and give them a loving stable home, and the best chance for a good productive life. No teen should have to choose between a pregnancy and a baby they didn’t want, and are completely unprepared for, and having an abortion. Regardless of where you fall in the Pro-life v. Pro-choice debate, we can all agree on that. If there were no unwanted pregnancies, there would be no abortions. Win win.
So, it would seem natural to promote the use of condoms when our kids do decide to have sex. Few parents I know believe that their child deserves an unwanted pregnancy, infertility, or worse, as a punishment for anything.
Comprehensive sex education, including the use of condoms will keep our kids healthy, and un-pregnant. Abstinence will work occasionally, but will leave many kids unhealthy, and either with a child they are ill-suited to care for, a dependency on the state for aid, or the decision to have an abortion.
Fortunately for Alaska, help arrived in the form of a grant to the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services in the amount of $600,000 over a five year period. The grant was to be used to help kids in five correctional or behavioral institutions in the state, targeting those in their early teen years – the exact population who is least prepared to make sound decisions and healthy life choices, or if the situation arose, to responsibly care for another human being they brought into the world. The grant targeted not only the problem, but aimed aid where it would be most needed and useful.
Terrific news! What could go wrong?
Enter Governor Sean Parnell. His nickname (given him by Republican Congressman from Alaska Don Young) is Captain Zero, but we may need to start calling him Captain Chlamydia. Here’s why.
Even though the state applied for the grant to the program “Making Proud Choices,” apparently they didn’t realize (or the governor didn’t realize) that its point was to encourage the use of condoms – the plan that actually works. So, what did the governor do? He took all six hundred thousand dollars the state asked for and received, and said “thanks but no thanks.” That’s right – he gave the money back. All $600,000.
So every kid who would have been helped by this program – every kid who would have used a condom because of it; every kid who would have insisted her partner use a condom because of it; every kid who now, through lack of education, will get an STD that could render them infertile; every girl who has an unwanted pregnancy that results in an unwanted baby, or in an abortion – ALL of these things can be hung squarely around the neck of this administration and the governor who runs it.
But fear not, next year the state is thinking about applying for another grant. This time the program they’ll ask for the money is one that emphasizes abstinence – you know… the plan that doesn’t work.
The differences are “subtle” [Alaska's Department of Health and Social Services Commissioner William] Streur said, but more in keeping with the administration’s philosophy. “This is an abstinence based administration,” Streur said.
That’s right, folks. Don’t be confused. This is an administration based on what doesn’t work. Remember that.
In any case, Streur doesn’t know if the program will be funded in the future. The grant period is over. For now, he said, “the money is gone.” Nor does he know if the new curriculum will match federal guidelines for such programs. Under Obama’s administration, the focus on sex education is a shift from abstinence-only to teen pregnancy prevention.
And let’s be equally clear that the Obama administration is focused on a shift from what doesn’t work, to what does work to prevent disease, unwanted pregnancy and abortion.
So, what do you call it when the chief executive of the state takes money in hand that could help prevent disease, unwanted pregnancy, infertility and abortion and flushes it down the toilet in favor of waiting for uncertain potential future money that will be dedicated to a program that promotes as its key strategy a plan that doesn’t work and may not even be eligible for federal funding? What do you call it when the governor’s plan of choice will result in more STDs, more unplanned pregnancies, and more abortions than the rejected plan?
Reckless endangerment of our children.
The governor is willing to allow his state’s at-risk children to engage in unsafe sex, pass along disease, get pregnant, and have abortions without using his ability to help stop it. And by taking money the state already had in its pocket and giving it back, it isn’t just that he’s not trying to stop it, he is actually complicit in encouraging those very things. But that’s OK. The governor obviously has his priorities. He’s earned some good conservative Christian cred with his conservative Christian buddies who want everyone to believe that abstinence education actually results in abstinence. The irony that their position ultimately results in more abortions is obviously lost on them. And Alaska’s children will pay the price.