Monday, January 22, 2001

Choices Fair places focus on education, responsibility

By Tom O'Neill
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Health educator Dan Newman has a fairly simple view on reproductive rights and preventing sexually transmitted diseases: Be informed. Make up your own mind. And take no right for granted.

        Mr. Newman, the keynote speaker at Sunday's third annual Choices Fair 2001 at the University of Cincinnati's French Hall, focused his blunt-talk presentation on condom reliability, disease myths, product claims and what he called “good old-fashioned common sense” about sex.

        But the political undercurrent, he acknowledged afterward, was apparent.

        With a more conservative presi dent in George W. Bush and an attorney general nominee, John Ashcroft, who believes abortion should be illegal even for rape and incest victims, abortion rights leaders perceive a heightened need to speak up.

        “I think we're going to have in the next four years political battles on all our lives,” said Mr. Newman, a health educator for the Northern Kentucky Independent District Health Department. “I'm not sure if that's good or bad, but look at history. Nothing is written in stone.”

        He was referring to abortion rights, but Sunday's event also provided information on abstinence, gay issues and family planning.

        Mike Brachet, a 22-year-old ur ban planning major at UC, said he understands competing views.

        “I hear a lot of the other side, the right-wing religious side,” he said. “I was raised in a conservative home. I just want to learn as much as I can on both sides of the issue.”

        The event was sponsored by Cincinnati NOW (Organization for Women), Planned Parenthood, the National Abortion Rights Action League, PSI (Postponing Sexual Involvement), AIDS Volunteers of Cincinnati, the UC Women's Center, Jewish Family Services and several gay-issue groups.

        “Well, as an adolescent,” 17-year-old Krystal Taylor of Pleasant Ridge said, “get educated about sex, and most importantly, STDs. People on the street, they're afraid to talk about it.”

        About half of those who attended appeared to be in their late teens or early 20s, many younger than the 1973 landmark Roe v. Wade ruling that established abortion rights.

        But NOW vice president Georgine Getty said that's a small piece of a bigger picture.

        “It's been so much anti-choice versus pro-choice but there's a whole range of decisions about choices,” she said.

        “Basically, we reached a point where the anti-choice people were out in the street protesting. And we could have done that, but we want to get a teen before there's an unwanted pregnancy.”


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