Friday, January 22, 2016

Planned Parenthood sucks

My previous post was a condemnation of a deadly terrorist attack against Planned Parenthood. When something like this happens, the reflex of the well-meaning bystander is to elevate the target to hero status. Unfortunately, life has made me cynical and I am now careful to make people my heroes, particularly if they are still alive. Being in the victim position is no virtue in itself, and if you are too quick to give someone the ethical high ground, this person or group is more than likely to disappoint you the next day by acting like a jerk.

Below, I am copying most of Jerry Coyne's post Planned Parenthood tells HIV-positive youth it’s okay to keep their status secret from sex partners:

"Over at the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) site, you can find a description and a free download of their booklet, Healthy, Happy and Hot: A Young Person’s Guide to their Rights, Sexuality, and Living with HIV. And in that booklet you will find the advice that it’s up to infected people themselves whether or not to tell their partner. While the booklet does give good advice how to have sex if you’re HIV positive, it also asserts that people have a right to decide whether or not to disclose your status, and that apparently goes for your sex partners as well.

Here are some screenshots from that booklet:

 Screen shot 2015-12-27 at 6.56.48 AM
Screen shot 2015-12-27 at 6.54.17 AM

When you share your HIV status. In other words, you don’t have to share your HIV status with your partner; it’s your right not to. There’s no advice I can find that you should and must share your status with those partners.

Screen shot 2015-12-27 at 6.54.07 AM

This is odious, for regardless of the kind of sex you have with your partners, there’s always a finite chance of infecting them. Apparently, for the IPPF, the “right” to keep your status to yourself trumps the “right” of your partner to know you’re infected, knowledge that is critical since infection can be fatal, and always burdens one with long-term and expensive medical care.

In fact, many states in the US require you to tell your sexual partners if you’re HIV positive...But note that the pamphlet says that these disclosure laws violate the right of HIV-positive people to decide whether, when, and whom to tell about their status.

I’m not sure what is going on here, or why the IPPF considers nondisclosure to partners a “right”. It isn’t, at least not by any reasonable lights. The “right” of partners to know that you’re infected surely trumps whatever “right” you have to keep that status to yourself.  Perhaps I’ve misinterpreted this pamphlet, but I don’t think so, although they do mention that there are laws. Nor am I sure whether the US branch of the IPPF agrees with this stand.

Clearly, if you’re not having sexual contact with someone, or otherwise putting them at risk, there’s no need to tell people you’re infected. But the line should be drawn, as it is in most states, at sex.

I’m always wary when someone asserts something as a simple “right”: all too often that’s simply a way to shut down further discussion. In fact, I’d prefer to avoid all talk of rights, and discuss why the law allows people to do some things and not others. In this case it comes down to public health and to morality, which themselves come down to what kind of society we prefer to live in. I would prefer to live in a society in which HIV infected people are required to tell their sexual partners of their status. To me, that’s better than an unproductive discussion about competing “rights.”"

I fully agree with Prof. Coyne. Let me add my twopence: for an old Puritan like me, even the title of the pamphlet is worrying. Healthy, Happy and Hot: A Young Person’s Guide to their Rights, Sexuality, and Living with HIV. This contains in a concise form some ideas that I consider serious faults of our culture: that to be happy, to be dignified, to be a real human being, you have to be "hot", i.e. sexually attractive; and you must actually make sex, a lot of sex, even if you do not really wish it, and even with people whom you do not love, trust, like very much or know properly. In short, this is advice to HIV-positive young people to adopt or continue a destructive behavior that (1) can lead to new infections and (2) is fairly likely to have got them infected in the first place.

The comments to this post are also interesting. Some make a lot of sense:

"A typical pro choice argument is that people have the right to protect their bodies from harm.Somehow, this logic is being thrown out the window when it comes to those who should be denied the right to choose whether or not to expose themselves to HIV. Shame on you PP."

"Maybe I’m getting old, but should you really be in a sexual relationship with someone you can’t trust enough to talk to about such stuff? Perhaps, for someone living with HIV, they should remember what it was like for them? They could maybe reflect on how they contracted it, presumably from someone who didn’t tell them about their status."

"That’s just plain insane! Maybe their position is that viruses have rights too."

"Better that Planned Parenthood should sell fetal tissue to Satanists for Black Mass rituals than that it should give such lousy advice to kids."

"I can think of no intimacy more selfish than having sex without disclosing to your partner that you’re HIV positive."

"For me, the important thing here is consent. You cannot consent if you don’t fully understand the situation. It’s unconscionable in my mind not to tell a partner that you are HIV positive, especially as it could have devastating consequences for the other party. Would PP advise it’s OK to not use a condom if you tell your partner you are using one? I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t because it would violate consent. What’s the difference with disclosing HIV status? To me the principle is the same – you can’t consent if you are not aware. I know there are very real issues regarding HIV status being leaked, but if you don’t want it leaked and you don’t trust your partner don’t have sex."

"In practice (which I have much of), the grey area of someone being unjustly accused of “knowingly” transmitting HIV (when they in-fact did not know)… never happened. It just never came up. The worst of the worst has ALWAYS been the Gaetan Dugas type… KNEW but was determined to put everything on everybody he pooned. Either complete sociopaths or complete denialists that HIV had anything to do with anything. And we ran into a lot of them. What do we do? Let the worst gay persons’ nightmare go on the rampage? Some segments of the gay community said “yes”, but a larger contingent asked us to ignore the more idiotic of the politically-motivated, and to simply treat this disease like any other. In any case, the larger politically-motivated folks won out in the big cities. And the nuts was essentially chopped off of any systems to deal with disease control proactively — which is why we now see 90% of new HIV infections in gay males in all the big cities. The epidemiological picture has not budged since day one. It is truly tragic. And it is public health malfeasance, due to a misperception that such surveillance and control measures are tantamount to there being a “bedroom police” when such systems are maintained. They chose death for themselves and others over the freedoms for other to remain uninfected. That sucks... It is public health malfeasance. I don’t read minds yet, but attribute this kind of “hands-off” mentality to built-in desires to root for the underdog (supposedly, the infected). That the right of the uninfected to remain so is the central point of public health disease control (and usually enshrined in law in the local statutes, besides) seems to not cross the minds of many of the people involved in the biz, apparently." (Emphasis mine - M. M.)

"A friend of mine died because his partner did not disclose that he was HIV positive. And he died rather painfully. As far as am concerned, the partner is a murderer. The PP pamphlet is inexcusable."

Others put themselves in the shoes of the HIV-positive person wanting the best for himself:

"One reason – not by any means the only one – for being cautious about disclosing one’s HIV status is that there have been no small number of breakups after which one of the partners has disclosed the other partner’s status against their wishes. People do do horrible and unconscionable things to other people. I’ve a friend who has been in that boat. It’s not a nice place to be."

"“Freedom for Aggression,” as I call it, is a common position among “gay rights” supporters, though they avoid yelling it from the rooftops. For instance, you cite the ACLU, are you aware that the ACLU supports the same position the IPPF does?"

"I won’t address the moral issue of HIV non-disclosure but I would like to draw attention to the arguments against criminalization of non-disclosure from a public health/ prevention point of view.
(From one of these articles cited by another commenter: "“Laws that criminalize HIV exposure may actually undermine public health efforts by, for example, providing a disincentive for persons at risk to be tested (lest individuals become aware of their infection and have to disclose it to sex partners) or by reinforcing discrimination against persons living with HIV (PLHIV) and exacerbating HIV-related stigma.”)... There is no evidence that criminal laws reduce HIV prevalence... disclosure is not helpful (nor is it enjoyable discussing it with those who consider it a moral absolute). That’s the nature of HIV infection. Find out how to protect yourself from HIV. Don’t rely on the law or your partner’s disclosure to protect you. Take it from someone who’ve been HIV+ for over 30 years. And think about the morality of using criminal law to deal with a public health issue in a country where most kids get abstinence-only sex ed."

I have deliberately put this comment last, though this broke the chronology of the discussion (some of the above comments were actually reactions to it). The author is HIV-positive and wants for himself the right to make sex without disclosure but does not openly state his position. Instead, he deceptively claims that laws requiring disclosure are counter-productive and even cites some junk "scientific" article to support his argument. To me, such hypocrisy is more repulsive than even the most odious open manifesto.

The situation reminds me of leftists who want the West destroyed and hail everyone who could do it, be it Islamists or common criminals. These leftists know that few would support them if they openly advocated replacement of our beautiful civilization with either a Saudi Arabia-like theocracy or the jungle law. So they weave convoluted "arguments" that we shouldn't crack down on Islamists or lock up criminals because this only produces more of them. John Pepple mocked this nicely: "Isn’t it funny that experts on the left never say that going after racists or neo-Nazis will somehow help the recruiting efforts of those groups, but they always will say this when we want to go after the Islamists?"