How Palin's Policies Will Promote Terrorism

Strictly speaking, McCain's and Palin's policies, but Palin's got the alliteration thing going there. Plus, let's face it, she's just more interesting.

In an earlier post, I wrote about how Palin presents an un-scary, Nice Feminist face to the average voter, which facilitates the sense that one is being all progressive and modern and supportive of women, without actually having to change anything. The liberals want you to support reproductive health policies for women that will actually facilitate their independence from men and give them control over their own bodies. This, of course, threatens to destroy the social order. Palin tells you no need! Traditional family values is where it's at! She gives a mom's reassuring face to the patriarchy.

This would be bad enough if it were just women in the U.S. whose human rights were at risk. But it's not limited to that.

Some background: Both McCain and Palin support abstinence-only education programs. Ruth Marcus notes

...Sarah Palin opposes programs that teach teenagers anything about contraception. "The explicit sex-ed programs will not find my support," she said in answering a questionnaire from the conservative Eagle Forum during her 2006 gubernatorial race.

McCain has voted to increase abstinence-only funding, voted to terminate the federal family planning program and voted against funding teen pregnancy prevention programs. He voted to require teens seeking birth control at federally funded family planning clinics to obtain parental consent.

And both McCain and Palin are well known to be extremely anti-abortion. There's that famous bit about Palin opposing abortion even if her own daughter were raped; her only exception is if the mother's life is in danger. Regarding McCain:

While Palin's positions have drawn the ire and concern of the pro-choice and progressive community, they are largely -- save abortions in the case of rape -- in line with John McCain's own stances. The Senator is against federal funding of birth control and sex education. He has called for the overturning of Roe v. Wade and received a zero rating from NARAL. Once, aboard the Straight Talk Express, McCain was asked if he supported the use of contraception or President Bush's abstinence-only education program to stem the spreading of AIDS.

After a long pause, he said, 'I think I support the president's policy.' Does he believe that contraceptives help stop the spread of HIV? After another long pause, he replied, "You've stumped me."

It seems completely reasonable to expect that a President McCain and a Vice-President Palin (eh, I feel mildly nauseated just typing that) would continue Bush's disastrous policies regarding women's reproductive health: the Global Gag Rule, withholding funding from UNFPA, insisting that "AIDS relief" funds for Africa be spent on useless abstinence-only programs.

(video courtesy of Population Action International and their YouTube channel)

From the video, we learn this about PEPFAR (President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief):

PEPFAR comes with a major restriction. At least $665 million must go exclusively to programs that promote "abstinence till marriage". Condoms cannot be promoted or advertised to the general public, especially not to young people.

Oh yeah, I think an education program sans condom information and distribution will be totally effective against Africa's AIDS epidemic!

What are the consequences of withholding funding from family planning programs, prohibiting the discussion and distribution of condoms, and preventing women's access to safe abortions? Plan B 3.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization by Lester R. Brown provides a lot of very scary answers for us.

At the most fundamental level, dealing with the HIV threat requires roughly 13.1 billion condoms a year in the developing world and Eastern Europe. Including those needed for contraception adds another 4.4 billion. But of the 17.5 billion condoms needed, only 1.8 billion are being distributed, leaving a shortfall of 15.7 billion. At only 3.5 cents each, or $550 million, the cost of saved lives by supplying condoms is miniscule. (p. 145)

Imagine if that $665 million for abstinence-only education were put to some truly useful purpose - like buying condoms. Brown says we need an additional $17 billion to provide reproductive health and family planning services to all women in developing countries. These services are desperately needed - countries faced with rapid population growth are suffering from "demographic fatigue", unable to feed or educate their swelling populations, unable even to keep up with the demand for fresh water. Brown describes these countries as caught in a "demographic trap". They've developed enough economically and socially to reduce mortality, but not fertility. Their population pressure leads to breakdown of central governments because of the inability to meet basic needs. Brown notes

Governments that fail to effectively manage emerging issues and provide basic services are seen as useless. This often causes segments of the population to shift their allegiance to warlords, tribal chieftains, or religious leaders. A loss of political legitimacy is an early sign of state decline. (p. 124)

Sudan, where women on average have five children, is given as a classic case.

Brown tells us that increasing globalization means that the welfare of individual states depends on cooperation between a network of nation states. International terrorism cannot be controlled if individual states do not have functional governments. Refusing to help women obtain access to reproductive health and family planning resources - real resource, not the platitudes of saving one's self for marriage - feeds the swelling populations in developing countries that create unstable conditions and foster the growth of terrorists. A real war on terror would start with educating women, giving them information about birth control and safe abortions, and making sure they had access to both.

But that reality doesn't conform with the religious right's worldview, which Palin represents and McCain has been so eager to embrace. From them, we can expect more abstinence-only moralizing and restrictions on women's reproductive choices, while the vise of demographic pressure clamps ever tighter on the developing world.

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On the one hand, the abstinence-only set aside is a small portion of the total we are spending.
But putting the budget in terms of the numbers of condoms needed... that makes it hard to argue with.

I'm sorry to be so lazy, but what do the data look like? What's the best study in supports efficacy of abstinenence-only and what's the best study that rejects it? I know which side I want to believe, but I want to look at all the data.

Great post. Disturbing. Though I suspect that's the point.

How dare they make a ten-fold increase in US annual dollars to fight global AIDS and use 10% of one year's funding in a manner you disapprove of! I agree with Becca that the data is the important thing. Leaving out the total US contribution and the massive rise under Bush just makes me feel as though you're also cherry-picking other info. After all, the alternative is not $661M for condoms, the alternative is decreasing the abstinence-only funding as well as decreasing a proportional amount of the $6B that is not abstinence-only. That $661M was a tax to get political support for what was a mammoth increase.

But of course, no "God bless Bush for increasing funding from a few hundred million to $6B". Honestly, the guy hasn't done that much that's great, but this is pretty much an unalloyed positive action that still earns him and the Republicans a thorough dumping-on.

Don't fuss at me, Mike. Take your argument about how great it all is to the people in Africa who are offering up their complaints about how the abstinence-only education restrictions are harming people and impeding health care delivery for women.

A recent Radio Times show on WHYY
had U Penn social policy professor Rebecca Maynard discussing abstinence-only education (albeit in the U.S., not in Africa). She says the studies show it is completely ineffective in preventing sexual activity among teens.

However, another part that you don't usually hear is another kind of harm this type of "education" may be doing. Many of these programs attempt to teach teens that girls get their satisfaction and happiness in life from relationships, while boys get it from careers. Is this really the kind of gender-role stereotyping we want tax dollars reinforcing????

Terrorism has no universally agreed, legally binding, criminal law definition. Common definitions of terrorism refer only to those violent acts which are intended to create fear (terror), are perpetrated for a religious, political or ideological goal, and deliberately target or disregard the safety of non-combatants (civilians). Some definitions now exclude acts of state terrorism and some also include acts of unlawful violence and war.