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Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
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Monday, July 22

Gapers Block

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(First in an occasional series.)

Education is such a simple solution to so many problems, isn't it? Access to information, although not a cure-all, has so often in history been the simple and empowering remedy to so many social and economic ills.

And yet Republicans, beholden as they are to special interests, would refuse that simple access in order to assuage their rabid primary voters.

The feminization of poverty in the United States is an echo of a world-wide pattern of poverty that fundamentally attacks the productivity of one-half of our population. One of the main causes of this pattern of poverty is the increase in extra-marital and teenage pregnancies, a problem that obviously more adversely effects women than men. Teenage pregnancy is the surest way to lock women into the cycle of poverty and hardship that hangs on our society an economic and social cost that is not easily broken.

But it would seem the surest way to break it is to, first, make sure young women know how to avoid getting pregnant. Obviously, parents should be giving young women the confidence and interpersonal tools to abstain from sex. That is the part parents must play. Where this is lacking, youth in this country also need to understand the biology behind what is happening to them in the difficult time when they transition to adulthood. They need to be taught how they get pregnant, how they can keep themselves from getting pregnant, and how having a child can adversely affect them for the rest of their lives.

To that end, State Senator Carol Ronen (D-Chicago) has introduced SB475, a piece of legislation that will provide funding for age-appropriate sex education to Illinois schools. You'll note the phrase age-appropriate; Sen. Ronen is aware, as are most thinking people, that parents should be given right of first opportunity in the sexual education of children. It seems a pretty obvious thing, doesn't it? If parents are teaching their kids abstinence properly — whether it be for reasons of faith or otherwise — it is doubtful that a sex-education course, which also teaches abstinence as one component, would have any adverse effect on that kid?

Nope! Say our good friends at the Illinois Family Institute, who break out in hives at the word "sex." The IFI bristles at what they call "condom-first" education, which they feel asks kids to please, have sex, but be careful! This is nonsense, of course, but never mind the facts, ma'am. IFI and their stooges in the Republican Party are ready to stamp out the legislation.

Never mind that in states where sex-education is abstinence only — primarily Bible Belt and Red states — teenage pregnancy is uniformly higher. And also that poverty is higher in these states. And poverty among women is astronomically higher. And that divorce is an epidemic in these states.

Early pregnancies and unhealthy attitudes toward sex are contributing causes to high divorce rates, which often leave women alone as heads of households — which in turn increases the probability that they will be living in poverty, especially in rural areas, the prime constituency of the party that thrills in institutionalizing the feminine poverty cycle.

Give people the chance to be educated about their choices. Don't leave it to the government to dole out morality — that is the role of families. If a parent is strong and able to communicate their faith well to their children, more power to them. But why should we turn a blind eye to this real problem that is contributing to the 17 percent poverty rate among women (nearly 58 percent of people in poverty are women) if we have the chance to fix it? There is no greater sin than flunking a duty when you have the tools to meet it. Special interests be damned.

Please contact your representatives, especially if they serve on the Health and Human Services Committee, and express your support for SB475. (Find your representatives here).

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About the Author(s)

Ramsin Canon covers and works in politics in Chicago. If you have a tip, a borderline illegal leak, or a story that needs to be told, contact him at .

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