Today was interview day at MPB. I kicked it off with by speaking with Dr. Currier of the Mississippi Department of Health about ab-only vs. ab-plus. The interview was as I expected, very matter of fact about the differences between evidence based/medically accurate programs and non-evidence based medically dubious programs. Ab-only unfortunately under the non-residence based umbrella. There are a couple that have been proved effective in delaying sex among teens. But, is delaying the inevitable – teens having sex which statistics show is reality – the goal? Or, is teaching teens all they need to know about sex and how to remain disease and baby free more important and effective?
Next up was Dr. Freda Bush. Dr. Bush is on Governor Bryant’s task force on teen pregnancy. An OBGYN, Dr. Bush lobbied hard for personhood in Mississippi. She made a video claiming the indisputable scientific evidence that life begins at conception. Which is not accurate. The belief that life begins at conception is that – a belief. She is also against birth control and abortion. She runs an extremely successful practice just outside Jackson.
Dr. Bush was joined by Larry McAdoo – which was a complete surprise. I contact Mr. McAdoo of Redemption Outreach Ministries to come on the program. He returned my call yesterday, I told him Dr. Bush agreed to come on and so he bowed out. But, there he was. Then, curiously, he told me that he hadn’t been invited on the show. I considered this odd and told him so since I had in fact invited him and in fact talked to him, well, yesterday. Regardless, the two were in the room. I found a lot of what they had to say fascinating – you will just have to wait until the good people of MPB are done with the edits to hear just what. But, one thing that is terribly unfortunate is that fact-checking stats on condoms, sti’s, etc., can’t be done during the immediacy of a radio interview. So, when I have a chance to review the audio – I will have a lot of work ahead of me checking Dr. Bush’s quoted stats.
Then, I spoke with Betti Watters. I have written about Betti before in my piece at The Atlantic.
One of the experts, Betti Watters, was a 30-plus-year advocate for young women and head of Teen Pregnancy Mississippi Campaign. A tiny powerhouse of a lady in her 60s with perfect white platinum hair and pearls, Watters started her career in social work specifically in the area of adoption. Over the years, she turned her energy toward pregnancy prevention. Along with many others, she’d been pushing for sex ed in public schools for decades.
The passage of HB 999 should have been a fulfillment, at least in part, of Watters’ life’s work. But when the subject was mentioned, she laughed and rolled her eyes. Although she concedes that getting any sex education bill passed in Mississippi is a minor coup, Betti says the bill has changed beyond recognition since it first entered the political process. “I laugh even though it’s not funny,” she explained, “because if I didn’t laugh, I wouldn’t be able to keep fighting this fight.” The group around the table shared a series of knowing looks that I’d come to recognize during my month reporting in Mississippi. The looks meant, For better or worse, this bill, as hobbled as it is, is progress.
She loved the article though denied having perfect platinum hair and couldn’t remember if she wore pearls the day we met or not. I assured her she did. Betti shared insight into the actual writing, debate, revision and eventual passage of HB 999. She was deeply involved with the initial push to bring sex education into schools. She is dismayed at much of what was added into the bill (homosexuality is a crime, abortion cannot be discussed and proper condom use cannot be demonstrated).
And I interviewed perennial favorite Cristen Hemmins as well.