Weekly Pulse: Rhythm Method Madness

by Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium blogger

Seventeen percent of sexually active teenage girls said they used the rhythm method as a means of birth control in 2008, up from just 11% in 2002, according to the latest report from the CDC. For most of these girls “rhythm method” means guessing the least risky day to have unprotected sex. You and I both know that one in five teenage girls isn’t taking her temperature every day and charting the consistency of her cervical mucus on the calendar.

Not so ab-fab

Amanda Marcotte of RH Reality Check blames abstinence-only propaganda for the trend. She points out that abstinence-based curricula rely heavily on shame to discourage kids from having sex. Teens who are ashamed don’t necessarily abstain, but they are less likely to use birth control when they do have sex. Claiming to use the rhythm method is an excuse not to use real birth control. Marcotte points out that abstinence-only curricula also promotes stereotypes of female passivity and male dominance, which makes it even harder for girls to negotiate condom use.

There is a glimmer of hope, Robin Marty of RH Reality Check reports that the Obama administration is shifting gears on sex ed. For the first time in many years, school districts will be eligible for federal funds to teach evidence-based, comprehensive sex ed. Abstinence-only funding hasn’t gone away, but at least districts will have the option.

Recession-based bedroom blues

Interestingly, teens are having slightly less sex overall, according to the CDC. The abstinence-only crowd is trying to take credit, but as Stephanie Mencimer of Mother Jones notes, the recession seems to be putting a damper on the sex lives Americans of all ages. The latest sex survey by the AARP showed that Americans over 45 are having less sex than they were in 2004 and enjoying it less as well.

Looking at the same study, Wendy Strgar of Care2 notes that that teen motherhood has become much more socially acceptable among adolescents, perhaps due to highly publicized teen moms like Bristol Palin and Jamie Spears.

The war on choice

Michelle Chen of RaceWire reports that hundreds of anti-choice bills have been introduced in state legislatures around the country since the passage of national health care reform. Missouri’s new Abortion Restriction Act requires abortion clinics to post signs offering state assistance if she has the baby. Too bad the Missouri legislature slashed the funds that would have provided most of those services.

Two moms = healthy kids

In other health news, a new study forthcoming in the journal Pediatrics shows that lesbian couples raise healthier children than straight couples. Gabriel Arana of TAPPED suggests that maybe lesbians do better on average because they are a self-selected group of highly motivated parents that had to overcome obstacles in order to raise their kids. Or maybe two moms are better than one.

As Arana notes, the politically important thing about this study is the finding that same-sex parents are doing at least as well as opposite sex parents. Conservatives opposed to gay rights have often justified second-class citizenship for gays in terms of protecting children from allegedly harmful same-sex parents. Now, science is showing that same-sex families are at least as healthy as more traditional family units.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about health care by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Pulse for a complete list of articles on health care reform, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, health care and immigration issues, check out The Audit, The Mulch, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.



Republican St. Rep. picks fight on House Floor

[cross-posted at DLCC.org]

Republican State Rep. Denny Hoskins of Missouri has had a bad few months. He ran for office touting his experience as a Certified Public Accountant, but once he got to the legislature, it turned out that he had more than 20 grand in late, unpaid taxes. The stress has clearly gotten to Denny, as he’s now getting into fights on the House Floor:


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Mo.Voter ID Debate is Down to the Wire: Early Voting Provision Rejected by Advocates

Cross-posted at Project Vote's blog, Voting Matters

The Missouri legislature is once again pushing a controversial measure to combat a mythical problem in the state—registration and voter fraud. The costly measure that critics say is "based on a lie and emotional fear" would essentially amend the state constitution to enact a 2006 photo voter ID law that was declared unconstitutional by the state Supreme Court.  In the last days of the legislative session, tension mounts over the potential to disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of voters to prevent a crime that has never occurred in the state.

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Complying with the NVRA: States Learn that Voter Registration through Public Agencies Works

Cross-Posted to Project Vote's blog,Voting Matters

After 15 years of declining compliance, several states are being brought into line with the National Voter Registration Act, a key federal election law that could help hundreds of thousands of citizens register to vote every year. Though some states are coming around due to lawsuits filed by voting rights organizations, others are voluntarily beginning to adhere to the NVRA. This week Project Vote released two new publications that explain what states are doing wrong and offer best practices for improvement.

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Voter ID Debate Weathers Storm: Bill Passes in S.C., another Brews in Missouri

Cross-posted to Project Vote's blog, Voting Matters

After the state Supreme Court shut down Indiana’s contentious photo voter ID law as unconstitutional last September for unfairly exempting absentee voters, this year’s crop of voter ID bills appeared to be tweaked just enough to avoid major public scrutiny. This month, however, policymakers have returned to debating over traditional photo ID bills that pertain to voters who cast a ballot in person, and unfortunately, they are picking up in several states.

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