Another area in which the religious conservatives are implementing their agenda is at the expense of people dying from AIDS. Although the President is undoubtedly moved by the tragedy of millions of people dying in Africa and the Caribbean, his ultraconservative agenda leads him to export an abstinence-only approach to HIV prevention. Again ideology takes the place of facts and good sense. How can the women we heard about in India "just say no"? How can the United States be a country that is telling the world to deprive its children of life-saving information?
Again it comes down to our different world visions related to women, power and sexuality. Margaret Sanger Center International's work to scale up HIV prevention programs around the world has shown that helping young girls gain power and control over their lives plus honest, down-to-earth sex education, are among the critical components of any successful HIV prevention program. But the Administration promotes abstinence-only. Actually abstinence is fine as a voluntary option but as an exclusive family planning method it needs to be reconsidered due to its extremely high rates of user failure and potential negative side effects. Remember, it has been said that the vow of abstinence is broken more often than latex condoms! The Administration's unrealistic focus on abstinence will only lead to more unnecessary deaths - but serves to promote the ultraconservative agenda.
And we also heard about the administration's refusal to provide support to the United Nations Population Fund UNFPA. The smoke screen is China's coercive one child policy. But this is not the issue since we all agree that coercion in family planning is never acceptable.
The reality is that UNFPA provides essential reproductive health services that are anathema to the ultraconservatives. These same services are the lifeblood of family planning, HIV prevention and sex education programs around the world. They are programs that help empower women - that help women gain a say in their communities, control the number of children they bring into this world, and prevent domestic violence …programs that help women control their lives. Precisely what the ultraconservatives do not want to happen.
So this brings me back to where I began: women, power and sexuality. Only by understanding that the ultraconservative agenda opposes women's empowerment, and needs to control women's reproductive and sexual freedom, can we understand what is at stake.