NARAL’s ‘Screw Abstinence’ party – update

Remember the NARAL Screw Abstinence Party? To give you a refresher, here was NARAL’s statement on the "party" (back from 7/14/2005):

The Screw Abstinence Party is an outreach event that aims to reach twenty-five to thirty-five year old adults. This event is being held in a bar; you must be 21 to attend. It is meant to be educational, but mostly fun. The party’s program aims to give adults accurate information and skills to make safe and informed decisions about their bodies.

Well that makes sense.  Holding an educational event about sexual freedom — in a bar.  Oh wait, it gets better.  More from the NARAL statement:

The party’s promotional materials make clear that what we are opposing is federal funding for abstinence-only until marriage sex education programs, which are receiving millions of dollars every year under the Bush Administration. These programs often contain inaccurate information about health, sexuality and gender roles. For more information on the scientific inaccuracies contained in programs currently receiving federal dollars see the Waxman Report released by Rep. Waxman of California in December 2004.

NARAL Pro-Choice Washington supports responsible, comprehensive sex education that includes information about abstinence as well as accurate information about contraception and prevention of sexually transmitted diseases and unintended pregnancy. NARAL Pro-Choice Washington has supported bills in our state legislature for the past three years that would have required sex education taught in schools to be medically and scientifically accurate. During the 2005 session NARAL Pro-Choice Washington strongly supported the Healthy Youth Act which called for accurate comprehensive sex education that includes information about abstinence.

Yeah.  That must have been why they chose to call this "outreach event" Screw Abstinence – because they support sex education for young people that includes information about abstinence and wanted to educate 25-35 y/o’s about it — in a bar.   

Anyway, turns out that not everyone involved in NARAL was pleased with this campaign:

However, for a couple of recently resigned NARAL board members, the sexed-up event actually raised a red flag, highlighting the political ineptitude of the statewide women’s rights organization.

Michele Cotner, 60, a former board member from Vancouver, resigned this spring because, she says, "I wasn’t comfortable with the messaging." In general, Cotner thinks NARAL’s focus needs to be on preventing unwanted pregnancy rather than on abortion. For her, the "Screw Abstinence" event was a sign that the organization has become "flippant" about the serious issue of unwanted pregnancy.

"If they tried to pull something like that in Vancouver," Cotner says, "no one would show up. Except maybe people who would picket. Behaving that way in Seattle makes the rest of the state wonder, ‘Hey, what’s going on?’ And this is supposed to be a statewide organization."

Indeed, including Cotner—a longtime activist—three board members resigned this spring. The other two, Karen Freeman (who works in County Executive Ron Sims’s office) and D. J. Wilson (a political science instructor at Edmonds Community College) also left because "they were disappointed about the strategic vision and direction of the organization," according to a source very close to the board.

The disagreements that colored the board discussions have now gone public thanks to last week’s "Screw Abstinence" event. The debate is exactly as Cotner described it: Are "flippant" or sexually cavalier events—sexual liberation–style events that seem like they were hatched in the 1970s—going to help NARAL get anything accomplished politically today? After all, what were the women at the "Screw Abstinence" event rallying around? For example, there are no Republican lawmakers in Washington, D.C. trying to pass legislation that prevents 25-year-old women from having sex. So, if the event actually was about sex education in public high schools, it seems ill conceived to be hollering "screw abstinence."

Indeed! My hat is off to these three women who wouldn’t compromise their principles and said "no" to  NARAL’s duplicitous nature. 

Note to NARAL: If you want people to believe you are interested in sex education for our young people that includes discussion of abstinence, perhaps holding "outreach events" titled Screw Abstinence — especially in a bar — aren’t such a smart idea.

(Wink: Southern Appeal)

Linking up with Mudville Gazette’s open post.

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