14-Year Old Girl Faces Life In Prison for Killing Her Baby: Is She a Victim Of Florida's Insane Abstinence Education?
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This article originally appeard on xoJane.com.
14-year-old Cassidy Goodson was indicted by a grand jury on October 4 for the murder of her newborn baby. She’ll face trial as an adult for charges of first-degree murder and aggravated child abuse and may serve a life sentence if convicted.
Cassidy went into labor in her Lakeland, Florida mobile home, and gave birth to a 9-and-a-half-pound baby boy on September 19. According to authorities, she bit down on a towel and ran the shower to muffle noise from the bathroom for fear that her mother, also in the mobile home, might hear her.
Upon discovering the bathroom mess, Cassidy’s mother took her to the emergency room, where she said she’d miscarried. Several days later, however, her mother discovered the body in a shoebox in her bedroom.
Once arrested, Cassidy told police that she strangled the baby because she did not know what else to do with it, and further, that she did not want her relationship with her mother to change.
In all likelihood, what Cassidy said is accurate; she simply did not know what else to do about her pregnancy and didn’t have the adult support she needed, from either family or school, to weigh her options.
This incident should be a wake-up call to proponents of abstinence-only-until-marriage curriculum, and to educators who stand to effect change in the lives of students concerning healthy sex. Instead, both the media and the criminal justice system is operating fully within an anti-choice narrative that values fetal rights over those of the mother and ignores the physical and psychological health of pregnant women and girls in need to systemic support.
Florida, where Cassidy lives, has historically been resistant to any kind of sex-education reform that promotes or mandates comprehensive education over abstinence-only-until-marriage curricula. In fact, the state returned $4.5 million in federal funds as of 2010, awarded under the Obama Administration’s Personal Responsibility Education Program (PREP). Instead, the state accepted Title V funding, originally established in 1996, which allocates $50 million annually for grants to promote sexual abstinence until marriage as the primary means of preventing pregnancy and STDs.
On its face, PREP is a sign of progress, allocating a minimum of $250,000 per state to provide comprehensive sex-ed in schools. However, states that didn’t apply to receive funding under this stream between 2010 and 2011 became ineligible to reapply for the next three years.
What’s more, the Secretary of the U.S. Department Health and Human Services can provide three-year grants to community-based and faith-based organizations and local entities in states that refused PREP funding using the allocated funds for Fiscal Years 2012 through 2014. That said, states like Florida that refused or returned funds don’t suffer for it, and actually enjoy similar benefits with less regulation.
Title V enforces an 8-point definition of abstinence, including that “a mutually faithful monogamous relationship in the context of marriage is the expected standard of human sexual activity” and that “sexual activity outside of the context of marriage is likely to have harmful psychological and physical effects.”
As of October 1, 2012, the only requirements for sex-education in Florida were age-appropriateness and freedom for parents to opt out of enrolling their kids in “prevention” courses altogether. That classes should be culturally appropriate, unbiased or provide medically accurate information were not required according to a Guttmacher Institute State by State report.
RH Reality Check, a non-profit online community and publication that works to advance sexual and reproductive health and rights, published a comprehensive study on sex education in the state of Florida overall and by district in 2008 entitled, Sex Education in the Sunshine State: How Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Programs are Keeping Florida’s Youth in the Dark. The report, conducted by the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS) targeted Florida specifically for its historic support and use of abstinence-only-until-marriage curriculum in public schools.