Censoring Abortion Data [bad.hack]

This topic begins with abortion in the secular sphere and ends with sex education in the church setting. Seriously, we can get there! Let's go...

Hundreds of medical schools and databases have applied for federal funding. And several of them are interpreting federal funding to mean that they no longer should offer medical information and data on abortion.

Wired's blog reports that John Hopkins University, a recent recipient of federal dollars, had removed "abortion" from their search index. Why? Exactly as I told you:

Yes we did make a change...We recently made all abortion terms stop words. As a federally funded project, we decided this was best for now. In addition to the terms you’re already using, you could try using ‘Fertility Control, Postconception’. This is the broader term to our ‘Abortion’ terms and most records have both in the keyword fields.
While this blogger tried it out today, I found several entries, which then multiplied over the next few hours. Obviously, the blog's comments and readers had an effect to the point that JHU opted to re-index the search term (yet another example of bottom-up pressure causing top-down change).

Regardless, this is a bad.hack of a system. Knowledge is not coercive. A lack of knowledge kills women, not protects them. A lack of knowledge of options (and lack of support) is what causes women to take coat hangers to back alleys.

And it is the same top-down censoring of knowledge that permeates Sex Education in the church today.

I noted yesterday in the links (which I will do often...send you the link then blog about it as several topics coalesce together), sex education must be comprehensive. From Common Dreams:
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported March 12 that one in four teen girls (approximately 3 million) is infected with a sexually transmitted disease. This study came on the heels of the CDC’s December announcement that teen birth rates rose in 2006 for the first time in 14 years.

It isn’t altogether surprising, given the prevalence of abstinence-only education programs across the country. These new findings indicate that nationwide, teens are not receiving the sex education they need to protect themselves from STDs and unintended pregnancy. The situation, while disturbing, is not without remedy. Honest and complete sex education is essential to reducing STD and unintended pregnancy rates.

The problem is, yes, the teens and their personal choices. But the problem is also top-down systems and authorities that censor information. Like, say, churches that promote abstinence.

Some people would rather teens learn about abstinence only; they believe that giving them information about sex will encourage them to have sex. There has been no recognized correlation between comprehensive sex education programs and an increase in sexual activity. Further, studies have shown that many teens become sexually active before leaving high school; giving them medically accurate sex education will only help them to be safer.

There is, however, an increase in STDs and unintended pregnancy following a $1.5 billion effort to promote abstinence-only education in the U.S. The University of Washington recently released a study on the failure of abstinence-only education: It results in a higher teen pregnancy rate than does comprehensive sex education. And there is recent evidence of the failure of incomplete sex education programs in Washington.

Churches that endorse or promote abstinence-only sex education are hacking the system of values in the worst way: by removing information. They are also going against the social principles of the United Methodist Church:
We recognize the continuing need for full, positive, age-appropriate and factual sex education opportunities for children, young people, and adults. The Church offers a unique opportunity to give quality guidance and education in this area.
We have an opportunity for a christ.hack here: to show teens that by showing light on all aspects of human sexuality, there is no need to be afraid to ask questions about the "dark areas" that your parents or even schools won't talk about. That the Christian life embraces all of you; you don't need to cut off your genitals at the door.

But there is discipline behind the information: an expectation that if the top-down authorities are frank with you and offer all the information that you will be able to make informed decisions. It is an empowering and discipline-expecting move to offer comprehensive sex education.

Empowerment. Education. Allowing for Bottom-Up consideration of Top-Down authority. Sounds like a hack to me!

May we not censor the education of our youth to teach them the moral use of sexuality;
May we rather educate our youth to allow them to teach us the moral use of power.


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