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Currently in Alabama, the state does not have a mandate on teaching sexual education. There are also much higher rates of cervical cancer a highly treatable and preventable disease in Alabama, with Black women twice as likely to die of the disease as white women. They withhold information that young people need and have a right to obtain, create a climate of fear around sexual and reproductive health by presenting incredibly harmful metaphors, and make young people ashamed of openly discussing health concerns.


This is especially troubling considering that Alabama has one of the highest cervical cancer-related mortality rates in the U. There are clear barriers to HPV prevention, treatment, and education, specifically for Black women including a shortage of gynecologists in rural areas, transportation costs, etc. Still, lack of access to sexual and reproductive health information was a prominent restriction for women receiving HPV care in the state. The state can and should do this by mandating medically-accurate, de-stigmatizing, and inclusive sex education programs and updating the state code.

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Alabama must also ensure the education of HPV and the HPV vaccine in schools, to parents of students, and in community-based organizations that can provide effective outreach to communities. I'm your host, Jennie Wetter, and I'll be helping you stay informed around issues like birth control, abortion, sex education and LGBTQ issues and much, much more-- giving you the tools you need to take action and fight back. Okay, let's dive in.


Jennie: Just a tiny bit of housekeeping at the top. If you haven't already, make sure you subscribe to our podcast on your favorite podcast platform, that way you never miss an episode when it comes out, which is especially important. If we have some surprise bonus episodes that come out that way, you know that they're there right away.

Also, if you love the podcast, it would be really amazing if you could take a moment to rate and review us on your favorite podcast platform, it helps other people find the podcast.

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And that would be wonderful to bring more people into the fold of repros right now, I am thinking about procrastination. I've been doing a lot of it, which is fine.

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One of the things that happens when I procrastinate is you find really random projects that you've been putting off that all of a sudden have to be done right away and needed to be done. So, I had one of those recently, where like, I have this really big wall behind my couch, and I had hung a couple of big picture frames on it that had some handmade art I did in them.

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They were always just placeholders. I was always going to do something different, but I couldn't leave it blank. So I had to have something up. Well, I had decided I really wanted to do a gallery wall to showcase a bunch of pictures I've taken from various trips that I have taken. It's been on my mind. It's been something I've been wanting to do for years. Well, all of a sudden it had to be done.

I had to get it done. And so I found this great kit that had all the frames and it had this amazing template that you could just tape to your wall. And it showed you exactly where to put the nails.

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So everything came out perfectly. I mean, in theory, because my pictures are not perfectly straight, which fine. I think it's mostly me because I feel like I've mentioned before-- I can be a bit of a perfectionist. I think most people, and I've showed them pictures of the wall, they haven't noticed that it's a little crooked, but that's okay. I think that's mostly in my head. I mean, pictures are obviously a little, not in straight lines, but the overall effect is great. I'm just really excited to have some of the pictures I've taken on various trips up and I can change them out whenever I want, which is really exciting.

Jennie: And I ordered several prints from Liberal Jane, and if you haven't checked out her shop, make sure you get a chance to check her out.

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She is on Instagram. She has amazing repro-related art. So I have a couple of prints of hers that I hung up in this gallery wall.

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I think my favorite one that I have right now is hex the patriarchy. It makes me happy, but there's three or four of them that made it into my gallery wall and I'm really excited to have them up. So thank you Liberal Jane for the amazing prints that I ordered. I'm very excited to have it done and I can't wait to change it as I someday get to do more travel and take more pictures.

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So it was really nice to have this new thing done, but again, it was really just a tool of procrastination. That's okay. I got the things done that I was procrastinating on, so it's okay.

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And I'm just very excited to have this wall done. It was on my list for a while. I don't know that I have anything else super exciting that's been going on. I've still been doing baking. I don't know that I've baked anything super exciting recently. Oh, I made these really amazing chocolate chip cookie bars. I got the recipe from King Arthur Flour.

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They were delightful. They made me very, very happy.

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I will definitely make them again. And I've been telling everybody about them because they were delightful. But other than that, not too much new has been happening. Same old, same old, like many of you I'm still trapped at home. Literally right now, I am looking at both of them sitting on my table, staring at me while I podcast.

So I don't know what they're going to do when I'm not here anymore.

So with that, let's take it to the episode. Instead of the hearing me talk about my two little fluffy kitties this week, we had a great conversation with Annerieke Smaak Daniel at Human Rights Watch.


We talked about sex education in Alabama, and we talked about HPV and cervical cancer in Alabama and how the state of Alabama is failing people. So it was a really important conversation and it was great to do a deep dive into a specific state instead of just doing a broad overview of sex education. So with that, I will take you to my interview with Annerieke. Jennie: Before we get started do you want to do a real quick introduce yourself and include your preferred pronouns? Annerieke: Sure. Um, my name is Annerieke Smaak Daniel. Jennie: Really excited to have you on.

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We have had a couple episodes where we have talked about the importance of sex education and what sex education looks like around the U. So I'm really excited. Jennie: So before we talk about all the things that are happening, do we wish to do a little bit of background and talk about what does sexual health and HPV look like in Alabama right now? Annerieke: I guess, going back to this research and why we looked at sex ed and HPV in Alabama, this was a follow-up to HRW research on racial disparities and cervical cancer mortality rates in Alabama. So all of this research comes from that.

So cervical cancer is a human rights issue. It's tied to discrimination, to poverty, to inequality. It's highly preventable. It's highly treatable. No one should be dying of the disease right now, but every year about 4, women in the U.

So when Black women are dying at alarming rates from a disease that's highly preventable, it's highly treatable, It's a clear failure of our government, and it's a clear indication of racial discrimination and inequality. And so Alabama has one of the highest rates of cervical cancer cases and deaths in the country.

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And then Black women in Alabama are nearly twice as likely to die the disease than white women. So a Fellow at HRW, Kelly Flannery, led the research, looking at these racial disparities in Alabama to really understand why Black women are dying at such disproportionately high rates.

So the research found that there are barriers that exclude Black women from the healthcare system, and it prevents them from accessing the reproductive health care services, the information that they need to prevent treat cervical cancer. So among many other barriers that came up such as a shortage of gynecologists in rural areas, transportation costs when women have to pay a lot of money or have to secure transportation to get to doctors who are far away for follow-up care, the lack of health insurance among these different barriers, lack access to information on sexual reproductive health came up, women reported not having information to prevent treat cervical cancer.

So we're talking information on HPV, the importance of routine gynecological visits and screenings, how to recognize the abnormal symptoms, information on their bodies and sexual health…all of this information had women had, they'd be better informed to take steps to prevent cervical cancer, to treat it at an early stage. So that research led into this research on sexual health education, because Alabama is just really missing an opportunity by not providing young people with information on their sexual and reproductive health.

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The state has high rates of cancers related to HPV. Yet young people aren't learning about sexual health. They're not learning about HPV or the vaccine in school and vaccination rates across the state are very low so that they can just be doing so much more to provide young people with information, to make these informed decisions, to protect themselves, to stay safe, to lower their risk of preventable deaths. Instead, the policies are restricting access to this information. Jennie: So I think that le us into, maybe we should talk about what does sex education look like in Alabama? Annerieke: Yeah.

So Alabama is failing young people when it comes to sex ed, the state doesn't have a mandate requiring sex ed. So the decision whether to teach her or not is really left up to local school boards. It varies throughout the state. The state code on sex ed is horrible. If schools do decide to teach it sex ed, the state code requires a focus on abstinence, and then it contains outdated language, medically inaccurate terminology. And it's horrible.

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