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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Florida received $13,101,054 in federal abstinence-only-until-marriage funding in 2008 alone, second only to Texas in the entire country. In fact, since 2002, Florida received over $64 million in sex-ed funding from the federal government. This money goes towards spending on class materials like videos and books, guest speakers, and curricula that SEICUS states, “not only fail to provide youth with the information they need in order to protect themselves from the negative health outcomes that are clearly a problem in Florida, they also rely on fear and shame and present stereotypes, biases, and blatantly inaccurate information as truth.”
This particular SEICUS report studied Florida prior to the implementation of PREP, however, because Florida opted out of money from this funding stream in favor of community based programming with Title V funding, it is likely that practices are largely unchanged. According to the SIECUS, the curriculum material reviewed was found to employ shame and fear based tactics, and further it contained outdated information.
In Polk County, federal abstinence-only-until-marriage funding went to the Plant City Pregnancy Center, which provides abstinence education. Plant City features sensationalized descriptions of abortion on its website while purporting to be a resource for teens.
It’s impossible to know whether Cassidy considered either having an abortion or putting her baby up for adoption, although the latter seems especially unlikely based on the measures she took. If she had been interested in an abortion, she might have contacted the nearest pregnancy crisis centers of the three centers closest to her high school: Your Choice Lakeland, Options for Women, and Catholic Charities of Central Florida. This is all assuming she had the resources and the sense of agency to contact these facilities in the first place. What’s more, the State of Florida requires that a minor obtain parental consent for an abortion, something Cassidy clearly hoped to avoid.
According to the National Abortion Federation, such centers exist all over the country, presenting themselves as medical clinics when in fact they exist to discourage women from having abortions. If she did contact a crisis center, like for instance, Options for Women, she might have been confronted with the anti-choice rhetoric evident in the section of the clinic’s website that describes Post Abortion Syndrome.
This fact sheet cites these statistics for women who have undergone an abortion: 61% report feeling guilty, 28% attempt suicide, 53% experience depression, and 45% feel anger and remorse. There’s also a quiz on the same page with a series of 14 questions, followed by the statement, “If you answered ‘Yes’ to two or more of the above questions you are at HIGH RISK for experiencing Post-Abortion Syndrome. (Their caps) “Are you 18 or younger?” and “Is having an abortion a difficult decision for you?” are among those 14. Given the reaction Cassidy had to the birth of her baby, she was likely under extreme duress, and is, of course, younger than 18. If those aren’t scare tactics what are?
We have no way of knowing the intimate circumstances of Cassidy’s home life, or any intimate knowledge of her internal struggle. However, it is the responsibility of sex-educators and law enforcement to acknowledge and explore the possibility that this manner of “prevention” is not effective and may have contributed to Cassidy’s case. To blame a 14-year-old entirely for her reaction to a sense of helplessness exempts the system that was meant to prepare her.