Faith and reproductive justice | Sex in the Suburbs

A rabbi, a chaplain and a sexuality educator walk into an auditorium…

No, this isn’t the beginning of a joke. I had the great privilege recently to be on a panel at Seattle University regarding faith and reproductive justice with Vincent Lachina, state chaplain for Planned Parenthood, and Yohanna Kinberg, rabbi at Temple B’nai Torah in Bellevue. Rounding out the speakers were Dan Dombrowski, Seattle University philosophy professor, and Jodi O’Brien, sociology professor and chair of the College of Arts and Sciences at Seattle U.

The five of us, with affiliations to the Baptist, United Church of Christ, Catholic, Mormon and Jewish religious communities, agreed that reproductive and economic justice are inextricably tied together. What does that mean?

It means that we need more free and low-cost clinics where people can go to be tested for HPV, HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. Remember, one in four of our teenage girls has a sexually transmitted infection ( If they are not tested, they may unwittingly pass on the disease.

It means we need to provide free and low-cost contraception for those who are sexually active — in order to reduce unintended pregnancies. It means free and low-cost condoms, both male and female, to limit the spread of disease.

It means providing services in many languages so that people can make truly informed choices. And it means education — not just the plumbing lessons or the HIV lessons, but also education around the relational nature of sexuality, values and decision-making, what abstinence does and doesn’t mean, and what the options are between abstinence and intercourse.

Jodi O’Brien cited recent research that shows that youth who are “at risk” are actually getting better sexuality education than other youth. Once they have been identified as “at risk,” they have access to programs where they can discuss sexuality issues with trustworthy adults. Parents of youth who are not “at risk” tend to be conflicted about how they want their children educated about sexuality, resulting in little or no education at all.

Ironically, Vincent Lachina pointed out, those members of our culture with more progressive views tend to lack passion in expression of said views, and therefore are often perceived as a minority, even though we are actually the mainstream in religious America.

As you may have noticed, I am not among the apathetic or conflicted. At the risk of repeating myself: The apathy on the left, the scare tactics on the right and the self-righteousness of both sides are costing lives. These lives are lost through lack of education about disease and pregnancy prevention, as well as through ill-informed support of funding cuts without considering their total cost.

I firmly believe that if we band together as a small group of committed people, we can, as Margaret Mead proclaims, change the world. With that in mind, I challenge you to think of one thing you can do to support healthy sexuality today. Beyond that, I challenge you to share it on Facebook by becoming a fan of the “Sex in the Suburbs” page and writing on the wall. If you aren’t on Facebook, e-mail me and I will share your ideas on the wall. Please submit only respectful, sincere ideas.

Together, we can make a difference. Our future depends on it.

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