Saturday, April 20, 2013

If You Must Smoke, Use a Condom.

Below is my op-ed that ran in 2008 in the Des Moines Register on the anniversary of Roe vs. Wade. Copyright Jennifer C. Bioche All rights Reserved. 

My family has spent almost a year now relocated in Cedar Rapids from southern California, and each month brings a great new discovery of the Midwest. Recently, the finding was a trip to Detroit to visit my 96 year old grandmother. She wasn’t quite her old self, not recognizing us, but my children got to meet her. It made for great discussion in the car ride home for end of life issues.

Growing up, I did have at an early understanding of the value of new life. My mother was a pioneering force in the California Right to Life movement. She along with other housewives-turned activists lobbied politicians and formed prayer groups for the unborn. I remember staying up late one night stuffing envelopes for the cause.

When I left my quiet hometown and headed to Los Angeles to attend USC, a pro-life mindset went with me. Oddly enough, my closest friends in college called themselves pro-choice and were sexually active. I held firm to well- rehearsed pro life arguments and worried about my roommates when they spent the night elsewhere.

Last fall, National Review editor Jonah Goldberg cited his pro-life stance by default. He’s not sure a fetus is a human, so he’s erring on the side of caution. Not a bad argument, but not entirely solid either. Then, it got me thinking.

When it comes to so many other issues, I’d have to say that being pro-choice makes a lot of sense. Take the environment for example. A woman should absolutely have the right to chose whether or not to recycle that plastic bottle. I mean, maybe it's not really plastic until it's fully filled with a recognizable consumer product, standing on it’s own at the market. I want the government out of my trash can.

Then there’s smoking. A woman should absolutely have the right to chose. My junior year in college, I went away for a semester in Washington, D.C. There, everybody smoked. I took up the habit in an attempt to curb my bete noire at the time, being overweight.

Smoking however didn’t help my weight loss. In fact I craved chocolate more to get the nicotine taste out of my mouth, and got heavier. But I never got addicted to nicotine, and to my knowledge never killed anyone second- handedly. I guess you could call that safe smoking.

I ditched the habit a year later, but now should the need to smoke arise - say to keep warm during long Iowa winters, my right to choose is disappearing. I need equal access to body temperature control! And with huge taxes now on cigarettes, I guess we really will have to resort to back alley Camel bumming. It’s my body. Keep smoking safe and legal.

A school board in the state of Maine approved last November distributing birth control pills to 6th graders, probably since “they’re going to do it anyway”. Except people wouldn’t dream of applying this logic to smoking, carbon emission, or drunken driving.

Whatever the issue, good choices are based on information. But when it comes to abortion and sex education for our young, information often gets omitted. Like the link between the birth control pill and an increased risk for breast cancer, infertility and stroke. Ortho McNeil, which manufactured the birth control patch failed to discover in trials increased risk of blood clots. This oversight left over a dozen women dead in 2004.

Yes, choice is a funny thing. It depends on how you define it. And very often the right choices aren’t easy, popular or - well sexy.

The truth is, for every choice, we pay a price. The choice to be pro-life, and the lifestyle that goes with it is really about freedom and peace of mind, not hormones and “reality”. “Safe” sex, especially for underage minors, is simply a made-up phrase. We can kid ourselves all we want that some pill or condom in a package will protect our children, but ask yourself if that’s a risk worth really worth taking. It would equate to saying “I don’t want you to drink and drive - but if you make that decision, wear a seat belt and don’t speed”.

We’re diligent about making our children eat right, study and focus on a bright future. But when it comes sexuality, we leave our kids in an ambiguous and dangerous gray area. We tell them vehemently “don’t do drugs”, but look the other way regarding back of the Chevy temptations. That logic simply doesn’t line up.

Telling our children to “just say no to sex” is the best way - not the easiest or most popular way - to guide the next generation. It’s like telling them to wait for “desert”. They’ll avoid a myriad of problems that go way beyond physical health problems, including an increased self worth and the benefits of delayed gratification. And so what if you had a few transgressions in your youth. If you avoided an unplanned pregnancy - good for you. If you avoided, a sexually transmitted disease -phew. But would you really and honestly recommend risky behavior to you child with the logic that "I got lucky - now so should you..." When we encourage our children to “just say no” to sex- we're really teaching them how to say a big “yes” to the rest of their life. And isn’t that what real freedom is all about?

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