(CNSNews.com) – It is time for abortion rights advocates to include a “pro-family” context in their conversations about reproductive rights, according to Malika Saada Saar, executive director of the Rebecca Project for Human Rights.
Saar was a member of a recent panel discussion at the liberal Center for American Progress (CAP) in Washington, D.C., to discuss the topic “Time for a Change in the Reproductive Rights Debate.”
Saar said that much of her generation, the “Roe Generation” that came of age after the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision legalizing abortion, has held a view of the abortion-rights movement as “anti-family” and “anti-child.”
“A new leadership that is interested in having a different conversation” has emerged today, she said, referring to the new era that begins when President-elect Barack Obama takes office on Jan. 20.
Other members of the panel were Jessica Arons, director of Women’s Health & Rights Program at CAP; Geeta Rao Gupta, president of the International Center for Research on Women; and James Wagoner, president of Advocates for Youth.
The opportunity has come to “include a pro-child, pro-mother, pro-family, pro-human rights context to how we talk about our movement,” Saar said.
“Pro-family” abortion and reproductive rights would include “the sacredness of women, the sacredness of mothering, the sacredness of family, the sacredness of our children,” she said.
“Reproductive rights” should also be defined as “human rights,” Saar added.
Saar also advocated an expansion of “family-based treatment” so that mothers don’t have to choose “between treatment and their children.”
The panel touched upon multiple issues involving the future of reproductive rights.
“With respect to state and local politics, it’s going to be incumbent upon advocates to really mobilize and engage youth as partners on these issue sets,” said Wagoner.
Wagoner also advocated comprehensive sex education as the new alternative to abstinence-only education, which he claimed has utterly failed.
Abstinence-only education is “totally an anti-science position,” he said.
“It would be a tremendous transformation in this country,” he said, that “public health in the reproductive and sexual areas be based on science and evidence,” as opposed to today’s education dictated by “ideology.”
When asked at what age he supported comprehensive sex education for children in schools, Wagoner replied that children as young as kindergartners could participate in the curriculum, but such education would have to be “age-appropriate.”
“Well, I think it’s got to be age-appropriate,” Wagoner told to CNSNews.com, “so when you’re talking about kindergarten or about elementary school, you’re really talking about puberty … and safety education.”
“When you talk about contraception, and the like, you’re really talking about middle and high school,” he added.
Wagoner also stated that local communities must maintain the standards. “It’s fine for the federal government to have broad guidelines” sex education, he said, “but the decision about what curricula goes into the classroom has to be left to local communities, local school boards. Because what flies in a suburb of Chicago may not in Birmingham, Ala.”