How ignorant do conservatives think American girls are? Michelle Bachmann recently re-ran this old chestnut on Jay Leno. She’s concerned (and no doubt wringing her hands and clutching her pearls) that if we give girls HPV vaccinations:
“The concern is that there’s, you know, potentially side effects that can come with something like that. But it gives a false sense of assurance to a young woman when she has that that if she’s sexually active that she doesn’t have to worry about sexually transmitted diseases.”
Let’s be fair. Teens and pre-teens operate under a staggering amount of misinformation. They also lack the life experience that can help improve one’s judgment in maturity. So, maybe in thinking teenage girls would misunderstand the point of the vaccine, conservatives aren’t completely out in left field. I’m sure some girls might misunderstand – a small minority.
Or am I wrong about it being a small minority? After all, when I was 13 or 14, YOU WERE GOING TO DIE OF AIDS FROM KISSING OR USING PUBLIC TOILETS. No vaccine could possibly have made my friends and I think sex was safe.
In any case, surely these vaccinations could come with some instruction. Surely the practitioners administering them could be required to explain that the shot does not protect them from herpes, HIV and all the other STDs out there. Are conservatives really arguing that teenage girls told “This shot will not prevent STDs” are going to assume the shot will prevent STDs anyway? Or are they arguing that doctors and other medical practitioners might not be so bothered to inform every patient about this, even if it is legally required? Perhaps they’re concerned that, say, doctors might look at girls who aren’t virgins or girls of color or girls from whatever groups they find icky, and assume “Well, she’s going to catch something sooner or later?”
If only. Prejudice in the medical community does harm patients, but I don’t think for a minute conservatives care about that. And while teenage girls can be very ignorant, I have trouble believing that some part of the phrase, “This shot does not protect you from STDs, so you will still need to use a condom to be safe” would escape very many of them.
Oh, wait, that’s right. We mustn’t inform youngsters about safe sex.
See, I keep asking myself: if teenage girls really are that confused, whose fault might that be? Perhaps George W. Bush, and his “Ignorance Only” sex education? “Glamour” magazine reports that young women are more ignorant today than my generation was at that age:
“I’ve traveled the country talking to college-age women and am shocked at how uninformed they were,” says Lissa Rankin, M.D., an ob-gyn and author of What’s Up Down There? “There’d be 60 people in the room, and I’d get 300 cards with queries on them – and these were not advanced questions.” Orli Etingin, M.D., medical director of the Iris Cantor Women’s Health Center in New York City, agrees: “Young women don’t know as much as they used to about their sexual health. The problem is, women now believe that because they can go to the Web, it eliminates the need for them to have a base of knowledge about their body.”
I sort of agree with Etingin, but suspect it’s more a case of them not having any resources but the web. Loads of American parents just won’t discuss this stuff with kids – that’s for schools to do, they say. And we all know what happened to sex education in schools under Bush. Here’s an article about what happened when he, as governor, implemented that policy in Texas alone:
Unfortunately, despite spending more than $10 million on abstinence-only programs in Texas alone, this strategy has not been shown to be effective at curbing teen pregnancies or halting the spread of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. During President Bush’s tenure as governor of Texas from 1995 to 2000, for instance, with abstinence-only programs in place, the state ranked last in the nation in the decline of teen birth rates among 15- to 17-year-old females. Overall, the teen pregnancy rate in Texas was exceeded by only four other states.
And you can read more about what it’s done to the nation and even the world here from Melissa McEwan (follow her links for even more information).
“Abstinence Only” would be considered a success if its goal was to increase teen pregnancies and the spread of STDs, particularly among the poor and minorities – the girls most likely to suffer from this dearth of information. So if teenage girls are too ignorant to understand that a vaccine against the sexual transmission of a particular cancer does not prevent other STDs, the conservatives have only themselves to blame.
Or, you know, maybe this whole rather tenuous slippery slope argument is part of a larger agenda to saddle certain people with unwanted babies and STDs… and cancer. Once again, I have to wonder: do conservatives just want women to die of cancer? Are they just wannabe serial killers looking for clever ways to, um, oops, accidentally help ensure that women die?