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American Life League’s Questions on Facebook: They’re Not Asking “What Would Jesus Do”

11:27 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Andrea Grimes for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

I can’t remember when or why I initially friended the American Life League on Facebook, but here they are, popping up in my newsfeed periodically to tell me about the many and varied ways the premarital sex-having-sluts of America are murdering their young en masse, guided predominantly by the heathen-begloved hand of Planned Parenthood, which gleefully holds secret abortion parties behind closed doors.

Perhaps it’s rude or callous of me to admit that part of the reason I haven’t un-friended the American Life League is because I find their posts somewhat funny. Or quaint? Even comforting? I can’t put my finger on it–all I know is that I used to be a pro-life Republican, myself, and there’s something about the ALL Facebook page that’s a little bit like going back and reading your diary from junior high, even the pages with the awful angsty poetry.

But mainly the reason I can’t un-friend the American Life League is because I don’t want to miss another opportunity to comment on their periodic What Would You Do?-style posts that ask followers what they might do, personally, if horrific things happened to them–horrific things like a doctor who performs abortions living in their neighborhood, or Planned Parenthood having a booth at the county fair. Truly, nightmares abound:

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Playing With Teen Sex Statistics: A Lesson in Lies

8:27 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Amanda Marcotte for – News, commentary and community for reproductive health and justice.

There are many goofy aspects to this Life Site News story arguing that because a slim majority of teenagers don’t have sex, we don’t need to teach them about contraceptive methods. Perhaps the most puzzling is why they came out with the story on July 14th, since the report came out a month and a half ago. (In classic Life Site fashion, they don’t actually link the report, for fear that a stray reader may actually read it an clue into the fact that their spin is dishonest.) Did it take the American Life League this long to craft a response? If so, you’d expect them to come up with something less transparently silly than this:

ALL says that the CDC report, entitled “Teenagers in the United States: Sexual Activity, Contraceptive Use, and Child Bearing, National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG),” debunks Planned Parenthood’s constant mantra that most teens will not abstain. In particular the pro-life organization points to the words of Planned Parenthood Federation of America vice president of medical affairs, Vanessa Cullens, from a YouTube video directed toward teens: "Admit that you are a sexually active individual like most of us, and that you are going to have sex and that you need to take precautions in order to stay healthy."

The number of lies is this paragraph are astounding, a real feat in maximizing the dishonesty per syllable. As per their usual strategy, Life Site didn’t link so that you can verify their lies yourself, but I’ll happily link it so you can verify. There is nothing whatsoever to suggest this is a video aimed at adolescents specifically. In fact, this video is explicitly aimed at people who have already decided to have sex or are already having sex, regardless of age.

Then there’s the suggestion that because only 42 percent of girls and 43 percent of boys ages 15 to 19 have had sex, then there’s no need whatsoever for anything but abstinence-only education, because a majority don’t need to know about contraception. This argument only works if you believe that a group of people doesn’t count unless they’re majority. Let’s apply this argument to other contexts, to see if it holds as well as Life Site seems to think.

  • According to the Humane Society, only 39 percent of Americans are dog owners. Using ALL’s logic, this means that there is no need in the United States for dog food, leashes, dog parks, or veterinarians that work with dogs.
  • In 2008, the Republican candidate for President only got 46 percent of the vote. According to the logic laid out by ALL, this means there is no need for the RNC, Republican fund-raisers, or any Republican infrastructure at all.
  • Men only make up 48.9 percent of the U.S. population. Subsequently, ALL should argue that we have no need for male-specific medical care, clothing, sports teams, or literature. If you have prostate cancer or need Viagra, fellas, too bad. You have to get Pap smears like the majority.

Then there’s the deceit behind conflating abstaining with simply not having sex. That most teenagers are virgins doesn’t mean most teenagers are abstaining until marriage. In fact, like 95 percent of Americans before them, teenagers will probably have sex before marriage. And those who get married will still have a need for comprehensive sex education, and I worry about the health of the marriages of those who insist that married people don’t benefit from being educated about sex.

Life Site tries to shore up the dishonest conflation of abstinence and simply not getting laid yet (with some kids, not for lack of trying) by pointing out that the number one reason that the still-virgins claimed they weren’t having sex is religious or moral reasons. If you read the report, you’ll find that this is true of less than 30 percent of the virgins. That means that only about 12 percent of teenagers are interested in the moral arguments for abstinence. Even if you assume—and there’s really no reason to assume this—that all 12 percent of them will stay firm in their convictions, that means that 88 percent of kids have a current or future need to be educated in safe sexual practices for premarital sex. And that the 12 percent will still need this education should they want to use contraception in marriage, or in the likely event they change their minds about abstaining.

And sadly, this entire discussion leaves out the teenagers that are queer and disinterested in penis-in-vagina intercourse, which is what the CDC is mainly interested in.

The CDC certainly doesn’t conflate abstinence and simply not having had the opportunity/desire yet to have sex. That’s why they break down the survey respondents into two groups, basically high school and post-high school aged teenagers. And we find, if we look at that data, exactly how dishonest Life Site is being. Twenty-eight percent of girls ages 15 to 17 are having sex, according to the CDC, but 60 percent of having sex at ages 18 to 19. Not doing it now doesn’t mean avoiding sex forever, which should be a common sense observation, but sadly needs to be spelled out in our current environment.

Of course, the whole point of comprehensive sex education is not and has never been only to address itself to non-virgins. In an ideal world, you get good sex education before you start having sex, so that you’re better prepared to make healthy choices when you do start having sex. This common sense realization that time actually moves on, and what is true today (that someone is a virgin) may not be true tomorrow (when they fall in love and/or just get really horny and start having sex) should be underpinning our sex education, instead of these frantic, illogical missives from anti-choice organizations that put their loathing of human sexuality before public health needs. If most high school kids aren’t having sex yet, that means that it’s that much more important to get them good sex education, so when they start having sex—and statistics overwhelmingly show that they will—they know how to make healthy choices.

Summertime and the Opposition’s Uneasy

10:12 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Amanda Marcotte for – News, commentary and community for reproductive health and justice.

Ah, summer is finally here.  School is out and blockbuster movies are in.  Barbeque pits and ice cream stands are opening.  Women are revealing shoulders, knees, thighs, and cleavage.  Suggestive dance music fills the air, emanating from dance parties and car windows. Young couples walk down the street holding hands, or canoodle in the park.  Ripe, delicious, tempting homegrown tomatoes are beginning to show up at markets indoor and out.  The world is bursting with signs of life, so naturally, America’s oxymoronically named “pro-life” forces are haunted even more by the "fear that someone, somewhere may be happy."  And sometimes outside of the field of vision, where they can’t be properly harrumphed at!

With this much unapologetic, unpunished, joyful sexual energy in the air, what’s a puritan to do?  Well, while the rest of us kick off the season with barbeques, sports, concerts, and dance parties, the anti-choicers kick into high gear with their annual campaign of trying to raise hysteria about the birth control pill, with the final goal of banning it forever.  The American Life League leads the annual charge with their “Pill Kills” campaign, a snappy motto that certainly sounds better than what I imagine was the original one, “Fewer smiles, more unwanted babies.”  ALL’s theme this year is exaggerating claims that the pill is filling our seas with clouds of estrogen, which turns dude fish into "lady fish."  In other words, they’re claiming that their symbolic fear that the pill is emasculating is actually a literal truth.

Believe me, as a real environmentalist, and not a fair weather one who only worries about pollution as a tool in the war against sex, I can tell you that real environmentalists think reliable contraception is the greatest technological invention to save our planet since basically ever.  Since the main source of pollution is people using resources and creating waste, the one thing that gives environmentalists hope is the worldwide embrace of limited family size, which could keep population levels low enough that we can believe we will find earth-friendly ways to take care of us all.  But without contraception, that goal would be hopeless—there would simply be too many people to provide for them all.

Not that estrogen mimickers in the water don’t worry environmentalists, but the reality-based concerns have to do with chemicals that ALL doesn’t care one whit about—pesticides and industrial by-products that far out-swamp women peeing out both real and synthetic estrogen. 

The timing of this campaign couldn’t be worse for anti-choicers, of course, because while they’re fixating on misleading claims about water pollution from the birth control pill, a blown out oil well 5,000 feet under water in the Gulf of Mexico is gushing 12,000 to 19,000 barrels of oil a day, and it’s become apparent that no one in the drilling process ever seriously considered how to fix an accident like this.  Interspersed with pictures of dour-looking women wearing their scold faces at the “Pill Kills” site are pictures of the fish we’re supposed to believe they’re worried about, but it’s hard to imagine they give two hoots about water pollution when they’re too busy protesting Planned Parenthood (every day helping people not make babies that create even more demands for oil that lead to offshore drilling!) to do something like, oh, protest British Petroleum or the Minerals and Management Services that issued their drilling license.  If you want to have fun with fake environmentalists, though, I suppose you could go to their protests and count how many of them drove themselves over in gas-guzzling SUVs.

Not that you can blame anti-contraception activists for trying on a new tactic, since the usual tactic of making frowny faces every time someone seems like they’re having too much fun doesn’t endear them to the public.  Check out, for instance, Kathryn Jean Lopez of the National Review attacking non-procreative sex and women who have too much fun at blockbuster movies.  In the same vein, you have Rita Diller, the head of the “Pill Kills” project, writing editorial screeds condemning women for having sex before marriage, getting divorced, having sex while living together, having children out of wedlock (which the pill technically prevents, but she’s on a roll, you know), having sex while being black, and having a job so you can pay for the children you do have instead of pumping out more while trying to figure out how you can pay for all of them.

And just in case you didn’t pick up on the theme, which was, “The pill is evil because people—women especially—have too much liberty to pursue happiness,” you get this awesome section:

To date we have had an estimated 52.7 million abortions, and — combined with more “efficient” birth control — the under-45 generation is more than 100 million people smaller than it would have been without them.

I’ve thought of their slogan for next year.  “Ban the pill, because traffic jams in this country aren’t bad enough.”  Sure, it makes it more obvious they’re in this because they’re morbid, sadistic people who are suspicious of freedom and pleasure, but the upside to being honest is that you don’t get egg on your face when your dishonesty is exposed by an inconveniently timed oil spill.

You might think it’s a waste of time to pick on people that seem to be on the political fringe.  Unfortunately, anti-contraception activists aren’t as fringe as we’d hope, since they are one and the same with the “pro-life” movement that wields so much power in this country, as  Cristina Page has documented here. Anti-contraception activists got abstinence-only education into American high schools, and contraception funding out of the economic stimulus package.  (Mainstream publication Politico implied that government funding for contraception was somehow paying people to have sex.)  House Minority Leader John Boehner is in the pocket of the 31 percent of Republican voters who want contraception outlawed.

Since contraception is basically ubiquitous, it’s hard to wrap one’s mind around the existence and the scope of anti-contraception activism.  After all, many and probably most of the people out there fighting against access to contraception probably are using or have used it.  But as the endless drumbeat of sex scandals shows, hypocrisy is no obstacle when social conservatives have an agenda.  And so we cannot simply brush these folks off, or assume  that because they’re fringe, they’re powerless.