Search This Blog

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Bizarre White House meeting undermines faith-based outreach

I recently experienced what was by far the most disturbing and bizarre of dozens of White House meetings and events that I've attended--the White House Forum for Faith Leaders in conjunction with the International AIDS Conference 2012.
I should have followed the example of Joshua DuBois, Executive Director of the Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, who welcomed the gathering of about 150 AIDS activists by bringing greetings from President Obama--and then quietly ducked out a side door. He missed the subsequent three-hour-long show, which included blaming the faith community for discouraging AIDS funding and spewing hatred, demonizing pharmaceutical companies and turning sacred hymns into secular mantras.
First, to be fair, some speakers at the event offered glimpses of sanity and civility.
Gayle Smith, Senior Director for Democracy and Development, National Security Staff at the White House, for example, allowed that "We've been very privileged to come into office with an extraordinary foundation built by President George Bush."
President Bush launched the effective and well-respected (if grudgingly by his opponents) President's Emergency Program for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). The Obama administration, however, has been slashing funding for the U.S.-run PEPFAR program in favor of the multinational Global Fund, which not long ago was wracked by scandal and mismanagement.
Dr. Ariel Pablos-Mendez, Assistant Administrator, USAID Bureau of Global Health, effectively encapsulated the mission of faith-based organizations by saying, "In the end it's about love. It's your core competency--your motor, your driver. You understand the communities, you lead, engage, care for these communities."
Other speakers, however, seemed scarcely able to disguise their disdain for faith-based organizations, even as they grudgingly acknowledged the unmatched reach of such organizations.
The World Health Organization, for example, has released a report that "estimates that between 30% and 70% of the health infrastructure in Africa is currently owned by faith-based organizations." The Gallup World Poll asked sub-Saharan Africans in 19 countries about their confidence in eight social and political institutions. Overall across the continent, they were most likely to say they were confident in the religious organizations (76%) in their countries. I know of many medical missionaries and faith-based medical institutions who make tremendous sacrifices to reach out in love and compassion to those afflicted with AIDS.
One speaker who seemed particularly wary of faith-based organizations was Anne-Birgitte Albrectsen, Deputy Executive Director of the UNFPA. In 2002, the U.S. State Department deemed the U.N. population agency ineligible for U.S. funding because of its involvement with the Chinese government's notorious one-child policy, which the Chinese enforce through coerced abortions. The Chinese government's policy of forcibly aborting babies considered undesirable by the state apparently comports with the dark side of the UNFPA slogan--"to ensure that every pregnancy is wanted."
Ms. Albrectsen first allowed that "the faith leaders in this room [the vast and vocal majority of whom seemed to enthusiastically toe the Obama party line] are critical agents of change," and conceded that "16,000 health centers on African continent are operated by Catholic Church."
Then, however, the UNFPA official darkly asserted, "Ignorance and corruption can assume the mantle of religion. They suppress accurate information and they whip up stigma and even violence."
She offered no specific examples.
Ms. Albrectsen also incredibly blamed faith-based organizations for discouraging donations to  AIDS work.
"The plain fact is that the funders with those resources ... if they perceive that dogma holds back our work, they'll find other places to put their funds. Some faith-based spokespeople have [advocated] a restrictive approach to condom distribution, [which] is unlikely to provoke sympathy among those who choose to spend their meager resources on the fight against HIV and AIDS."
Reinforcing a decidedly aggressive agenda of the Obama administration, Ms. Albrectsen admonished the audience to "work for empowerment of women…work for better information and services directed specifically to girls and women…and show zero tolerance for violence against women and girls."
Many people regardless of political or religious persuasion appreciate concerns related to women and girls. However, when it comes to AIDS--the supposed focus of this White House meeting--the CDC has estimated that roughly three of four adults and adolescents living with an AIDS diagnosis in the U.S. are men; worldwide, estimates of adults living with HIV/AIDS split the percentages roughly equally between men and women.
Other speakers amplified the content of their ideological screeds with a verbal volume unmatched in any White House meeting I've attended. This seemed to delight many in the audience, who seemed to think we were in the secular equivalent of a gospel revival meeting. Almost raucous shout-outs from the audience punctuated the often rhythmical pontifications of the speakers. The louder the speaker and the shriller the message, the more the audience seemed to respond with enthusiastic approval.
One speaker in particular illustrated the substitution of secular dogma for religious values. When the time came for his presentation, the Ugandan representative of an organization called the "International Network of Religious Leaders living with or personally affected by HIV (INERELA+), stood up and sang. Dressed in religious garb, he smiled as he replaced the refrain of a sacred hymn, "Nothing but the blood of Jesus," with the secular mantra, "Nothing but a comprehensive approach."
His song apparently delighted those who advocate a "comprehensive" approach to AIDS emphasize condom distribution and disdain the "ABc" policy that stresses sexual risk avoidance and faithfulness in marriage as a primary strategy and condom use as a secondary strategy. The offensiveness of perverting the message of the sacred hymn did not seem to occur to him or to many others in the audience, who laughed with approval.
A speaker from Bolivia launched her presentation first by chiding her hosts for not inviting more leaders from Latin America and then by railing against U.S. pharmaceutical companies--she named Merck and Johnson and Johnson--for not making their medicines available at little or no cost. She literally demonized pharmaceutical companies by joking--at least I hope she was joking--that pharmaceutical companies have "demons."
The idea that free-market profit encourages innovation and the development of new medicines, and that decreasing or eliminating that motivation would only serve to stifle pharmaceutical development, seems not to have crossed her mind.
Not to be outdone by the first singing act, the last speaker instructed all of us in the audience to stand up and hold hands. She then led everyone in a rendition of a song sung by Diana Ross, "Reach out and touch someone." When the song mercifully concluded, she instructed us all to give a "full-body hug" to those next to us.
I left the White House never so glad to leave it behind me. As I exited the building, I turned to face a horde of protestors from the AIDS 2012 conference marching down Pennsylvania Avenue. They chanted slogans and waved signs demanding that pharmaceutical companies give up their medicines.
I wanted to direct them right into the White House auditorium; they would have fit right in.

Groups urge House leaders to vote on conscience bill

Conscience-supporting organizations have sent the letter below to the leadership of the U.S. House of Representatives urging a vote on a strong conscience-protecting bill, the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act (H.R. 1179). Nebraska Rep. Jeff Fortenberry introduced the bill, which has already garnered 223 co-sponsors in the House. To add your voice and urge a vote on this bill, click here for an easy-to-use form.

July 23, 2012
The Honorable John A. Boehner
Speaker of the House H-232, The Capitol Washington DC 20515
The Honorable Eric Cantor Majority Leader
H-329, The Capitol
Washington DC 20515
Dear Speaker Boehner and Leader Cantor:
We strongly support enactment of the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act (H.R. 1179) to support religious liberty and freedom of conscience. We strongly urge House leadership to take whatever steps are necessary to work toward the enactment of Congressman Fortenberry’s bill.
A vital First Amendment right is threatened by the HHS mandate. In addition, those likely to suffer the most are the poorest and neediest.
A large portion of the nation’s social services is provided by religious organizations which are not recognized as “religious” under the terms of the mandate. The mandate contains no exemption for these organizations with moral and religious objections. Either such charities will shut down altogether rather than violate their moral principles, or they will be compelled to use scarce resources to pay punitive fines, thus diverting funds intended to serve the poor.
The shutdown of religious organizations and services could also, both directly and indirectly, lead to job loss.
We urge you to exercise your leadership in working for the passage of the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act as soon as possible to add conscience protections to PPACA.
Julaine K. Appling                                                        Joan Bell
President, Wisconsin Family Action                              Apostles of Dei Gloriam
Christopher Bell                                                           Father Shenan J. Boquet
Good Counsel Homes                                                   President , Human Life International
Dr. John F. Brehany                                                     Joseph A. Brinck
Executive Director, Catholic Medical Association          President, Sanctity of Life Foundation

James C. Capretta                                                         Samuel B. Casey
Fellow, Ethics and Public Policy Center                         Managing Director
Jubilee Campaign, Law of Life Project
Larry Cirignano
Director, Faithful Catholic Citizens                               Victoria Cobb
President, The Family Foundation, Virginia
Dana Cody
Life Legal Defense Foundation                                      Thomas Cronquist
Vitae Caring Foundation
Carroll L. Conley, Jr.
Executive Director                                                        Len Deo
Christian Civic League of Maine                                   Founder & President
New Jersey Family Policy Council
Deryl Edwards
President, Liberty Counsel Action                                 Maureen Ferguson
Senior Policy Advisor, The Catholic Association
David Fowler, Esq.
President, Family Action of Tennessee                          Tom D. Freier
President & Executive Director
Dr. Jim Garlow                                                             North Dakota Family Alliance Action
Renewing American Leadership Action
Michael Geer
Millie Lace, SE, LPC                                                    President, Pennsylvania Family Policy Council
Director, Concepts of Truth
Colin Hanna
Thomas A. Glessner                                                      President, Let Freedom Ring
President, National Institute of Family & Life Advocates
John Helmberger
Cathi Herrod                                                                 CEO, Minnesota Family Council & Institute
President, Center for Arizona Policy
Dr. Charles Kenny
Kathleen Gilbert                                                           President, The Right Brain People
Kristan Hawkins                                                           Yuval Levin
Executive Director                                                        Hartog Fellow, Ethics and Public Policy Center
Medical Students for Life/Students for Life of America
Julie Lynde                                                                   Gary Marx
Executive Director, Cornerstone Family Council Idaho Executive Director, Faith and Freedom Coalition
Dr. Patricia McEwen                                                     Tom McClusky
President, Doctors for Life International                        Senior Vice President
Family Research Council Action
Rev. Jason J. McGuire
Executive Director                                                        Gene Mills
New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms                     Louisiana Family Forum

Dr. Richard Land                                                          Edward Whelan
President                                                                      President, Ethics and Public Policy Center*
Southern Baptist Ethics
and Religious Liberty Commission                                Penny Nance
President, Concerned Women for America
Jim Minnery
President, Alaska Family Council                                  Kent Ostrander
The Family Foundation, Kentucky
Michael O'Dea
Executive Director, Christus Medicus Foundation          Ron Prentice
California Family Council
Fr. Frank Pavone
CEO, Priests for Life                                                     Paul S. Rondeau
Executive Director, American Life League
Won Kyu Rim
Executive Director, New Jersey Family First                  Curt Smith
Indiana Family Institute
Matt Smith
President, Catholic Advocate                                         David E. Smith
President, Illinois Family Institute
Kris Mineau
Massachusetts Family Institute                                     John Stemberger
President, Florida Family Policy Council
Matthew Staver
Founder & Chairman, Liberty Counsel                          Nicole Theis
President, Delaware Family Policy Council
Dr. David Stevens
CEO, Christian Medical Association                              Christen M. Varley
Executive Director, Conscience Cause
P. George Tryfiates
Director, Government Affairs                                        Dr. Keith Wiebe
Association of Christian Schools International               President
American Association of Christian Schools
Randall Wenger,Esq.
Chief Counsel, Independence Law Center                      Bill Donohue
Peter Wolfgang                                                             Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights
President, Family Institute of Connecticut Action
The Honorable Kevin McCarthy, Majority Whip
The Honorable Fred Upton, Chairman, House Energy and Commerce Committee
To add your voice and urge a vote on this bill, click here for an easy-to-use form.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Penn State, hypocrisy and grace

Regarding the Wall Street Journal editorial "What Penn State Should Tear Down," B8, July 16: As a Penn State alumnus who worked for Joe Paterno as an academic counselor for players and knew of Jerry Sandusky through my roommate who played linebacker under his tutelage, I've listened to the condemnation of the university with sympathy and sadness. Sympathy because an internal investigation indicates that leaders at my alma mater protected football over children. Sadness, because decades of laudable goals and achievements are being swept away by personal failures and by hypocritical critics.
The laudable goals and achievements of Penn State's football program over the past half-century are chronicled in an impressive graduation rate and more importantly, in the character built in players who by their own testimonies learned lessons of life through the program.
The hypocrisy of Penn State leaders who violated their own standards is indisputable and merits censure and correction. Yet we expose our own hypocrisy by too eagerly condemning others while subtly approving ourselves by comparison. None of us is without moral lapse; we each violate either external moral standards or our own consciences. The main difference between our own hypocrisy and that of the accused Penn State officials is national media exposure.
The Penn State community is acknowledging its deep moral failure and undoubtedly will be attempting to re-establish its goals with authenticity and humility. Rather than casting stones, we should support that effort, since we ourselves can testify to the need for grace and redemption. 

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

When faith compels resistance to governing authority

With many in the faith community today facing increasing disregard by the Government of their conscience and First Amendment rights, it is worth examining how our founders integrated their faith and revolutionary drive--especially in light of biblical injunctions to submit to governing authorities.
Rev. Jonathan Mayhew offers insight into this question with an essay written in 1750 entitled, "When is Resistance a Duty?" Rev. Mayhew examines biblical injunctions for citizens to submit to governing authority in the context of the extent of the governing authority's adherence to the divine purpose of "exercising a reasonable and just authority for the good of human society."
Mayhew's rationale for resisting a government that does not fulfill this good purpose helped lay the theological and rational groundwork for the American Revolution.
As former President John Adams wrote in 1818,
The Revolution was effected before the War commenced. The Revolution was in the minds and hearts of the people, a change in their religious sentiments of their duties and obligations.
Of Mayhew's particular contribution, Adams noted,
This divine had raised a great reputation both in Europe and America by the publication of a volume of seven sermons in the reign of King George II, 1749, and by many other writings, particularly a sermon in 1750 on January 30, on the subject of passive obedience and nonresistance, in which the saintship and martyrdom of King Charles I are considered, seasoned with wit and satire superior to any in Swift or Franklin. It was read by everybody, celebrated by friends, and abused by enemies.
During the reigns of King George I and King George II, the reigns of the Stuarts (the two Jameses and the two Charleses) were in general disgrace in England. In America they had always been held in abhorrence. The persecutions and cruelties suffered by their ancestors under those reigns had been transmitted by history and tradition, and Mayhew seemed to be raised up to revive all their animosity against tyranny in church and state, and at the same time to destroy their bigotry, fanacticism, and inconsistency.
To draw the character of Mayhew would be to transcribe a dozen volumes. This transcendent genius threw all the weight of his great fame into the scale of his country in 1761, and maintained it there with zeal and ardor till his death in 1766.
To elucidate the principles of submission and resistance to authority, Rev. Mayhew drew from the text of Romans 13:1-7 (in the King James Version he used):
  1. Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.
  2. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.
  3. For rulers are not a terror to good works but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? Do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same.
  4. For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain; for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doth evil.
  5. Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath but also for conscience sake.
  6. For, for this cause pay you tribute also; for they are God's ministers, attending continually upon this very thing.
  7. Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor.
 Some highlights of Mayhew's essay follow:
The apostle's [St. Paul] doctrine . . . may be summed up in the following observations, viz.: That the end of magistracy is the good of civil society, as such. That civil rulers, as such, are the ordinance and ministers of God; it being by His permission and providence that any bear rule and agreeable to His will that there should be some persons vested with authority in society, for the well-being of it. 
That the true ground and reason of our obligation to be subject to the higher powers is the usefulness of magistracy (when properly exercised) to human society and its subserviency to the general welfare. 
[I]f unlimited obedience and nonresistance be here required as a duty under any one form of government, it is also required as a duty under all other forms and as a duty to subordinate rulers as well as to the supreme. 
[S]ince it is certain that there were persons [during the time Paul wrote Romans] who vainly imagined that civil government in general was not to be regarded by them, it is most reasonable to suppose that the apostle designed his discourse only against them. And agreeably to this supposition we find that he argues the usefulness of civil magistracy in general, its agreeableness to the will and purpose of God who is over all, and so deduces from hence the obligation of submission to it. But it will not follow that because civil government is, in general, a good institution and necessary to the peace and happiness of human society, therefore, there be no supposable cases in which resistance to it can be innocent. 
And if we attend to the nature of the argument with which the apostle here enforces the duty of submission to the higher powers, we shall find it to be such a one as concludes not in favor of submission to all who bear the title of rulers in common but only to those who actually perform the duty of rulers by exercising a reasonable and just authority for the good of human society. 
This is a point which it will be proper to enlarge upon, because the question before us turns very much upon the truth or falsehood of this position. It is obvious then, in general, that the civil rulers whom the apostle here speaks of, and obedience to whom he presses upon Christians as a duty, are good rulers, such as are, in the exercise of their office and power, benefactors to society. 
"Render, therefore, to all their dues; tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor" (Rom. 13:7). Here the apostle sums up what he had been saying concerning the duty of subjects to rulers. And his argument stands thus: "Since magistrates who execute their office well are common benefactors to society and may, in that respect, be properly styled the ministers and ordinance of God, and since they are constantly employed in the service of the public, it becomes you to pay them tribute and custom and to reverence, honor, and submit to them in the execution of their respective offices." ---
It is to be hoped that those who have any regard to the apostle's character as an inspired writer, or even as a man of common understanding, will not represent him as reasoning in such a loose, incoherent manner and drawing conclusions which have not the least relation to his premises. For what can be more absurd than an argument thus framed? — "Rulers are, by their office, bound to consult the public welfare and the good of society; therefore, you are bound to pay them tribute, to honor and to submit to them, even when they destroy the public welfare and are a common pest to society by acting in direct contradiction to the nature and end of their office."
Thus, upon a careful review of the apostle's reasoning in this passage, it appears that his arguments to enforce submission are of such a nature as to conclude only in favor of submission to such rulers as he himself describes, i.e., such as rule for the good of society, which is the only end of their institution. Common tyrants and public oppressors are not entitled to obedience from their subjects by virtue of anything here laid down by the inspired apostle. 
For, please to observe, that if the end of all civil government be the good of society, if this be the thing that is aimed at in constituting civil rulers, and if the motive and argument for submission to government be taken from the apparent usefulness of civil authority, it follows that when no such good end can be answered by submission there remains no argument or motive to enforce it; and if instead of this good end's being brought about by submission, a contrary end is brought about and the ruin and misery of society effected by it, here is a plain and positive reason against submission in all such cases, should they ever happen. And, therefore, in such cases, a regard to the public welfare ought to make us withhold from our rulers that obedience and subjection which it would, otherwise, be our duty to render to them.
If it be our duty, for example, to obey our king merely for this reason, that he rules for the public welfare (which is the only argument the apostle makes use of), it follows, by a parity of reason, that when he turns tyrant and makes his subjects his prey to devour and to destroy instead of his charge to defend and cherish, we are bound to throw off our allegiance to him and to resist, and that according to the tenor of the apostle's argument in this passage. Not to discontinue our allegiance, in this case, would be to join with the sovereign in promoting the slavery and misery of that society, the welfare of which we ourselves, as well as our sovereign, are indispensably obliged to secure and promote as far as in us lies. It is true the apostle puts no case of such a tyrannical prince; but, by his grounding his argu¬ment for submission wholly upon the good of civil society, it is plain he implicitly authorizes and even requires us to make resistance whenever this shall be necessary to the public safety and happiness. 
Those, therefore, who would from this passage infer the guilt of resisting kings in all cases whatever, though acting ever so contrary to the design of their office, must, if they will be consistent, go much farther and infer from it the guilt of resistance under all other forms of government and of resisting any petty officer in the state, though acting beyond his commission, in the most arbitrary, illegal manner possible. 
For the apostle says nothing that is peculiar to kings; what he says extends equally to all other persons whatever, vested with any civil office. They are all, in exactly the same sense, the ordinance of God and the ministers of God; and obedience is equally enjoined to be paid to them all. For, as the apostle expresses it, there is no power but of God; and we are required to render to all their dues, and not more than their dues. And what these dues are, and to whom they are to be rendered, the apostle does not say, but leaves to the reason and consciences of men to determine. 
But, then, if unlimited submission and passive obedience to the higher powers in all possible cases be not a duty, it will be asked, "How far are we obliged to submit? If we may innocently disobey and resist in some cases, why not in all? Where shall we stop? What is the measure of our duty? This doctrine tends to the total dissolution of civil government and to introduce such scenes of wild anarchy and confusion as are more fatal to society than the worst of tyranny. 
It would be stupid tameness and unaccountable folly for whole nations to suffer one unreasonable, ambi-tious, and cruel man to wanton and riot in their misery. And, in such a case, it would, of the two, be more rational to suppose that they did not resist than that they who did would receive to themselves damnation. . . .
To conclude, let us all learn to be free and to be loyal. Let us not profess ourselves vassals to the lawless pleasure of any man on earth. But let us remember, at the same time, government is sacred and not to be trifled with. Let us prize our freedom but not use our liberty for a cloak of maliciousness. There are men who strike at liberty under the term licentiousness. There are others who aim at popularity under the disguise of patriotism. Be aware of both. Extremes are dangerous. 
And while I am speaking of loyalty to our earthly prince, suffer me just to put you in mind to be loyal also to the Supreme Ruler of the universe, "by whom kings reign and princes decree justice" (Prov. 8:15). To which King eternal, immortal, invisible, even to the only wise God be all honor and praise, dominion and thanksgiving, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Thursday: House considers how to stop Obamacare from taking over the world

This Thursday the U.S. House of Representatives is scheduled to consider legislation to repeal Obamacare and its "take over the world" approach to health care. Of particular interest to those with pro-life persuasions are the findings (assertions of fact made in the bill) below (emphases added). 
Finding #7: While President Obama promised that nothing in the law would fund elective abortion, the law expands the role of the Federal Government in funding and facilitating abortion and plans that cover abortion. The law appropriates billions of dollars in new funding without explicitly prohibiting the use of these funds for abortion, and it provides Federal subsidies for health plans covering elective abortions. Moreover, the law effectively forces millions of individuals to personally pay a separate abortion premium in violation of their sincerely held religious, ethical, or moral beliefs. 
Finding #8: Until enactment of the law, the Federal Government has not sought to impose specific coverage or care requirements that infringe on the rights of conscience of insurers, purchasers of insurance, plan sponsors, beneficiaries, and other stakeholders, such as individual or institutional health care providers. The law creates a new nationwide requirement for health plans to cover ‘‘essential health benefits’’ and ‘‘preventive services’’, but does not allow stakeholders to opt out of covering items or services to which they have a religious or moral objection, in violation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (Public Law 103–141). By creating new barriers to health insurance and causing the loss of existing insurance arrangements, these inflexible mandates jeopardize the ability of institutions and individuals to exercise their rights of conscience and their ability to freely participate in the health insurance and health care marketplace.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Committee Analysis Highlights Most Effective Strategies to Prevent Teenage Pregnancy

Research Finds Parallels Between Sexual Risk Avoidance Approach and Successful Public Health Campaigns to Prevent Teenage Drinking, Smoking, and Reckless Driving
Washington, DC--The Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee today released a new staff analysis of adolescent risk taking and the most effective approaches to prevent unintended teen pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections. The report analyzes Sexual Risk Avoidance (SRA), an abstinence-centered approach to sex education, along with Comprehensive Sex Education (CSE), an alternative type of sex education that takes a value-neutral approach with a core message of risk reduction. The report finds that SRA is the better approach, noting that it is consistent with the latest research on teenage behavior and that it fosters healthy development among adolescents.
Rep. Pitts
"When it comes to preventing high-risk behavior among teens, the evidence is clear: risk avoidance is the most effective strategy. This is true of successful public health campaigns to reduce teenage smoking, drinking, and reckless driving, and it is also true of sex education curricula," said Health Subcommittee Chairman Joe Pitts (R-PA). "Particularly when it comes to investing taxpayer dollars, it's time for Congress to look carefully at the effectiveness of these programs and ensure we are supporting the approaches that support healthy choices. This report pulls together important research on adolescent risk avoidance, and it will be an important tool to inform the public discussion as we assess the programs that are being taught in our communities."
The report, entitled A Better Approach to Teenage Pregnancy Prevention: Sexual Risk Avoidance, chronicles the history of federal involvement in sex education from the 1960s and 70s through the present, assessing early approaches that were ineffective, the development of abstinence education strategies, and the Obama administration's emphasis on CSE approaches today, despite the lack of evidence that these programs produce a lasting influence on adolescent behavior and risk avoidance.
The report also includes a review of research into adolescent behavior and key findings related to teenage risk taking. Among its findings, the report identifies common elements that are found in successful public health campaigns designed to encourage teens to avoid risk behaviors such as underage drinking, illicit drug use, and reckless driving. The report notes that SRA follows a parallel approach to teenage pregnancy prevention, using behavioral theory and research as the underpinnings and incorporating those strategies that have been successful in other youth risk programs. Finally, the report offers insights into the evaluation process used to determine the effectiveness of these programs.
"America's teens need guidance to protect them from the consequences of risky sexual behavior. Unfortunately, the current course of national policy on teenage pregnancy prevention is undermining the desired health outcome. Careful examination of research confirms that a value-neutral and risk reduction approach to sexual behavior is not consistent with teenage behavioral theory and not effective in impacting America's high rates of teenage pregnancy and STIs. A better approach is needed that incorporates the capability of teens to manage risk in the same way as programs designed to prevent teenage smoking, underage drinking, and reckless driving. Teens are confused by messages that are non-directive about risking taking and optimal health. Instead, they need programs that encourage healthy choices and healthy development," the report concludes. It also offers a series of policy recommendations to ensure federal dollars are invested in programs built on sound theory and empirical evidence, focusing on the better approach to reinforce the importance of healthy decisions.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Kindergarten lessons for health care reform

Text of my commentary published in today's Washington Examiner is below:

Repeal Obamacare -- and then really reform health care
Re: "As a tax hike, Obamacare is another broken promise," Editorial, July 2
Tax versus penalty semantics aside, let's focus on repealing Obamacare and enacting focused reforms:
- Provide a targeted and sustainable safety net to assist the poor and patients with catastrophic health care costs;
- Preserve patient access to health care professionals through conscience rights and malpractice reform;
- Cut government bureaucracy and paperwork and return decision making to patients and their physicians;
- Empower consumers with insurance competition between states and portability between jobs; and
- Encourage health savings accounts that protect against unaffordable expenses and let consumers choose care and medicines through transparent pricing.
Reforming health care is unquestionably challenging, but it's not brain surgery. It works best when following basic principles most kindergartners learn: Help others up when they've fallen, keep your hands off other people's stuff and save your lunch money for when it's needed.