Thursday, December 07, 2006
My latest RH Reality post is part of a "top-rated submission" on Political Cortex - a democractically operated political magazine-type web site (that's a long explanation). Check it out!
Tuesday, December 05, 2006
So, is it any surprise that on Tuesday, November 28th The Christian Coalition voted to accept President-elect Reverend Joel C. Hunter’s resignation before he started because he wanted to expand their core issues beyond the confines of an anti-abortion, anti-homosexuality agenda?
But without an obsessive focus on reproductive rights, how would The Christian Coalition protect against feminists-gone-wild rampages where we gratuitously leave our partners, kill our children and become lesbians ?! The key to ensuring a harmonious bible-based society is keeping tight reins on a woman’s ability to control her own body.
However, citing “philosophical differences” , Reverend Hunter (author of the tellingly titled "Right Wing, Wrong Bird: Why the Tactics of the Religious Right Won't Fly With Most Conservative Christians") chose to step down before he was scheduled to take over the leadership of this odious organization on January 1st.
Full Story on Reproductive Health Reality Check
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
Here is my very first post (entitled A Guttmacher Gift) for Reproductive Health Reality Check - a new-ish web site that focuses on - you guessed it - reproductive health public policy and analysis.
It's a GREAT site filled with fantastic information. What I like best is that it features those of us in the field, working on the ground. So you get a million different perspectives on what's up in the world of reproductive rights and health depending on where we work, where we live, what populations we work with, and what kinds of programs and services our organizations provide.
I'll be writing one post each week so PLEASE, if you have ideas, send 'em my way! And be sure to read and comment on my posts so I know what you're thinking.
Thursday, November 16, 2006
I'm thinking that instead of legislating what women can and cannot do with their own bodies in this country, we should propose a law that partition's women's bodies into sections much like what we seem to be doing with Iraqi land.
Therefore, we can enact one law that lords over a woman's uterus related to all things reproductive: pregnancy, abortion, childbirth. A woman' s uterus may be used to grow and house the pre-born but may not be emptied of its contents via an abortion.
We can then legislate women's breasts allowing for the bearing of boobs on billboards, in strip clubs and in television & print advertising - that is, for purposes solely related to ogling and superficial sexuality.
Public breastfeeding is OUT under those legal tenets. We all know how repulsive breastfeeding is, right?
According to Delta Airlines, breastfeeding your baby on an airplane is tantamount to public drunkenness and will get you thrown off a flight. On October 13th, as a Delta flight was preparing to take off from Burlington, Vermont, a 27 year-old mother, seated in the second to last row in a window seat, preceded to breastfeed her 22 month old child.
A flight attendant asked her to "cover up" and offered her a blanket - which the mother declined. The flight attendant, apparently up-in-arms over this blasphemy, called to a Delta ticket agent to remove the family (!) from the plane. The young mother, feeling extremely embarrassed at that moment, complied.
MSNBC quotes the mother as saying, "It embarrassed me. That was my first reaction, which is a weird reaction for doing something so good for a child."
I'd say so. The CDC (Center for Disease Control) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services both promote breastfeeding as a tremendous health benefit for the baby as well as, in some instances, for the mother (it has been reported that breastfeeding reduces a woman's risk of breast cancer later in life).
In fact, the CDC is committed to increasing breastfeeding rates throughout the United States. Delta Airlines needs to step up to the plate and institute a company-wide policy that directly addresses public breastfeeding as permissible as well as ensure that their employees are up to snuff with their cultural competency skills.
According to MomsRising.org, a new advocacy web site started by Joan Blades from Moveon.org and Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner (author of The Motherhood Manifesto) this mother was publicly humiliated for doing what doctors, and even large government agencies advocate. They've got a petition going to Delta Airlines to encourage support of breastfeeding mothers.
They are also lobbying to get Congress to pass an amendment to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 called the Breastfeeding Promotion Act. Not sure what that is but it's worth some research...
Thursday, November 09, 2006
These are all reasons to celebrate. To be sure, they are victories and I'd like to feel encouraged by them - at least for a few moments - before ruminating on the reproductive rights challenges we are still faced with each and every day.
One of those challenges comes in the form of a federal abortion ban (what pre-lifers have termed the "Partial Birth Abortion ban") currently being heard in front of the U.S. Supreme Court.
I have written about the term "partial birth abortion" for Alternet.org in reference to its creation by pro-life advocates who strategically named a non-existent procedure for political purposes and then preceded to artfully frame the issue through this meaningless term.
The U.S. Supreme Court is weighing in once again on whether or not to overturn legislation passed by Congress in 2003 outlawing "partial birth abortion." And this time we've got Justices Alito and Roberts to contend with. Lawyers for the Bush administration faced off against legal advocates for reproductive freedom in front of the justices (Justice Clarence Thomas was out ill) and were grilled specifically about what the procedure entailed.
This is where, for me, it gets sticky (if I say "no pun intended" is that gross?). In reference to the specific procedure outlined in the law, Justice Roberts asked: "We have no evidence in the record as to how often this situation arises?" To which Priscilla Smith, arguing to strike down the federal ban, replied, "No, we don't your honor."
To which I say: if we are discussing a particular procedure, a D&X, that is done only in third trimester abortions and only when the woman's health or life is in danger and only, obviously, under a doctor's supervision and suggestion, then why are we questioning how often "this situation arises"? Why do we care? But, if we are discussing the law the way it is written then I say: we have no evidence as to how often "this situation" arises because the law does not refer to ONE situation but in fact can be interpreted as referring to both second and third trimester abortions.
This piece of legislation has been deceptive from the moment it was crafted. And during arguments in front of the SCOTUS over the last two days, the procedure to which the pro-life backers refer to as "partial birth abortion" but which in reality is a D&X, has been called gruesome and inhumane. Justice Ginsberg has repeatedly questioned the criteria for legislation against a particular procedure based solely on the fact that it is "gruesome" or "disgusting."
A D&X is a medical procedure that is undergone only at a doctor's discretion because it is the safest procedure available for the woman in question. It is undergone but only a few thousand women every year out of more than 1.25 million abortions (90% of abortions occur in the first trimester).
The federal law has been struck down six separate times by courts across the country because of its over-reaching impact on all abortions infringing on a woman's right to access abortion under Roe v. Wade. If history is any indication, this piece of legislation will finally take its resting place in the graveyard of U.S. law. In 2000, a similar piece of legislation in Nebraska was struck down for its lack of an exception for a woman's health.
This Supreme Court battle is not our only fight for reproductive freedom on the horizon. The Hyde Amendment, passed in 1977 prohibiting the use of federal funds for abortions, has been squeezing out low-income women from their constitutional right to access abortion for thirty years and has recently been thrown into the ring again by a coalition of reproductive rights and health organizations and advocates.
The "Hyde - 30 Years is Enough" campaign started by NNAF (the National Network of Abortion Funds) highlights the need for overturning this amendment enacted not long after Roe v. Wade was decided. In particular, this campaign calls for culturally competent family planning services and abortion access for low-income women.
32 states ban state Medicaid to pay for abortion. They are legally obligated to provide coverage in the cases of life endangerment, rape and incest but more often than not fail to do so. One state provides coverage only in cases of life endangerment and 17 states provide state Medicaid coverage for poor women in almost all cases; proudly Washington state is one of those states.
This is an issue that the mainstream pro-choice movement has swept under the rug for a long time because of who the law affects - poor women seeking abortions. But the time is now to use this amendment as a springboard for addressing the inherent cultural, socio-economic and racist biases inherent in the reproductive freedom movement. If we cannot ensure that low-income women are able to access their constitution right to safe abortion care, then legal abortion is not a reality for a large percentage of the women in this country.
More later on the Hyde Amendment. For now, let's unify around these crucial reproductive freedom issues, ride this wave of victory and strategize about how we can use our new congress for bigger and better things!
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
I felt strangely left out. What should be on the top of our minds is: what will these election results mean for Americans?
I am heartened and encouraged that we now have the first female speaker of the house in Nancy Pelosi. This is the highest office a woman has attained in the United States government. Should Bush and Cheney meet with an, uh, "untimely" end Nancy Pelosi would lead this country. It's somewhat of a comfort.
And, the South Dakota abortion ban has been rejected by voters in that state as wholly unwanted. However, it's been rejected on the basis of the law being too far-reaching. The law could simply be reworked to include an exception for a woman's life (imagine that) and regain its legal status.
It's not that I'm not thrilled. As of today, Wednesday, November 8th at 12:50PM PST, here are the results of the three primary restrictive state ballot initiatives direct from Beverly Whipple, ED of the Feminist Women's Health Centers in Washington state:
and the resounding defeat of Attorney General Kline in
Thursday, November 02, 2006
You can take action live, in person, in South Dakota – at no expense to yourself!
If you have the time to spare, NOW is the time to act. In a few days it may be too late. We are in do-or-die mode and if this abortion ban passes, South Dakota will be second only to Nicaragua in its oppressive and virulently anti-family policy.
If I didn't have two young children to care for I would head down. It's not the kind of activism I'm able to engage in at the moment but if you can, GO!
Friday, October 27, 2006
Okay, this is straight from the UK. But, ew.
Apparently the woman in the photo above was searching for Christmas gifts for her daughters (ages 10 & 11) online when she came across a pole-dancing kit in the toys and games section of the British company Tesco's web site. The "toy" or "game" (depending on how you use it I suppose?) is called "Peekaboo Pole." Here's a portion of the marketing copy from the web site:
"Soon you'll be flaunting it to the world and earning a fortune in Peekaboo Dance Dollars". (emphasis is mine!)
Clearly Tesco, the company that sells this product, feels it's appropriate to groom girls for glamorous careers as exotic dancers in strip clubs. It seems they'd actually like to be part of the educational process - teaching them how to pole-dance while they're young.
The Tesco web site entices potential buyers of the Peekaboo Pole to "unleash the sex kitten inside...simply extend the Peekaboo pole inside the tube, slip on the sexy tunes and away you go!" However, the company denies that the pole is "sexually oriented" and have agreed to move it from the "Toys and Games" section instead being sold under "Fitness."
Tesco also features another "fitness accessory" presumably geared towards men (?) called Peekaboo Poker featuring a young woman in her underwear hawking the idea for "outrageous fun." The box is clear in its directive: "You set the limit." Somehow that's not much of an assurance to me.
I'm not sure why our society feels that young girls need, want, should be subjected to "toys" that purely objectify them at an incredibly young age. I am incredibly frustrated that it is now acceptable to sexualize girls, young girls, in the name of "entertainment."
My daughter brought home a Bratz doll the other day - a gift from a friend. It's unclear how my daughter was supposed to play with her. The doll was huge - half the size of my four-year old daughter and had a fully developed body and an ambiguously ethnic face with loads of make-up and a head full of wild, auburn hair. She was wearing a long, fur-like coat and looked, well, she looked straight out of a porno film.
How again is my four year old supposed to play with her? What kinds of games, stories, pretend play is she being encouraged to engage in with this oversized porn star doll?!
"Look at me Mommy, my bratz doll is pole-dancing with my brand new Peekaboo Pole-Dancing kit! Someday I'm going to pole-dance in my fur coat too!!"
Thursday, October 19, 2006
Two families with children at Hutchins Elementary School were to organize the silent protest at the school as part of the ministries' 3rd annual Day of Silent Solidarity. Stand True coordinated protests will occur at two area high schools. But news travelled fast and parents at the elementary school took quick action to shut down the planned event.
However, a quick glance at the ministries' web site boasts a list of hundreds of participating schools (I saw only one additional elementary school) around the country and into Europe.
The instructions for hosting a "Day of Silent Solidarity" are straightforward. Register your event, inform people, wear red duct tape over your mouth with the word "life" written on it but last (and not the very bit least according to them) is to pray.
All in all, I say why not? Go for it. Have your day of silent solidarity. It's your right of course. However, it is most certainly our right to inform folks about what Stand True Ministries advocates for.
In a nutshell, "Making the womb a safer place to live." Started by a young guy who thought he was going to be the next big Christian rock star (who's the first big one?!), he was called to create this "ministry" when, according to him, he was hanging around an abortion clinic waiting room stuffing pro-life literature into magazines.
Let me stop here for a moment. I have worked at an abortion clinic for six years. I'm not sure what clinic this guy is referring to but I'd say they need to ramp up their security. If his story is true (and I'm inclined to believe it's not), he was allowed to hang around in the waiting room of an abortion clinic with no one noticing, while stuffing "pro-life literature" into the magazines?!
The second part of his story:
I walked over to the window at the reception area and someone opened a door behind the window. I saw a young girl laying on the table with her head turned to me and tears flowing down her eyes. There was a man reaching down between her legs and I suddenly realized how real this was. I was witnessing a child being killed in front of my eyes and a young girl being emotionally damaged.
So, the procedure rooms are right behind the reception area and if you happen to be standing at the reception area at the wrong time, you just might witness an abortion being performed?
I know this absurd tale of the ministries' founder seems a bit beside the point. However, it points to an inherent, well, absurdist quality to these kinds of organizations. They are founded on bizarre lies and serve only to promote lies. Which leads to another one of their claims, or more accurately, tag lines:
"Making the womb a safer place to live."
If making women's wombs safer is his goal, I'd like to start with some facts:
- Abortion is one of the safest medical procedures a woman can undergo. It is ten times safer than childbirth (the risk of death associated with childbirth is about ten times greater than that associated with legal abortion).
- Less than 1% of women who undergo abortions experience a major complication as a result of either an aspiration (surgical) or medication (pills) abortion.
- Abortion has no impact on one's future ability to get pregnant and carry that pregnancy to term.
So, I guess the founder of Stand True Ministries, in his zest to make my and all of our wombs safer, will need to also ban sexual relations of any kind (even between married folks) that might lead to pregnancy. Pregnancy makes our wombs much more unsafe than abortion ever could. Pregnancy is a risky proposition for both baby and mother.
If you want to make our wombs a safer place to live, why not focus on ensuring health care access for all pregnant women in this country that want to be pregnant? And what about pregnancy in developing nations? The same pregnancy-related complications that affect women in developing countries (severe bleeding, obstructed or prolonged labor, infection or sepsis, pre-eclampsia) due in part to a severe lack of proper pre-natal medical care also threaten the babies lives. In fact, in less developed countries, of the estimated 8 million deaths each year that occur in utero or in the first week of life, the vast majority are associated wtih maternal health problems or poor obstetric care during childbirth.
So, please don't tell me that you care about making women's wombs safer. It's simply not why you're doing this.
Why are they doing "this"? Why are they rallying thousands of folks around the country to participate in their "Day of Silent Solidarity"? Their "Personhood Redefined" brochure gives me a clue. It starts out: "Three times in recent history personhood has been redefined and stripped away from a group of people. Their very rights as a human have been taken away by men who had no right to do so." Sound familiar? They are of course advocating for the rights of the fetus and do it with reference to three main "issues": The Dred Scott decision, The Holocaust and Roe vs. Wade.
In essence, Stand True Ministries believes that fetuses, Jews and African-Americans are legally one and the same.
The Stand True "Day of Silent Solidarity" protest that was planned at this elementary school in Michigan as well as at high schools, colleges, and universities around the country, are not about "standing true" at all. They are about screaming lies - even in their silence. The young people who are participating are being ministered to by an organization that preaches distortions from the pulpit in the name of truth and love.
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
Who received more than $60 million last year from our federal government and is receiving thousands more from Minnesota's state government to scare women and provide false and misleading information to women thinking about abortion?
Crisis Pregnancy Centers, that's who.
And now this:Finding Common Ground On The Abortion Divide
Does Minnesota want to prevent abortions, really? Because this is NOT the way to do it, I assure you. I am all for prioritizing low-income women in our federal and state public policies. I support giving mothers and mothers-to-be the assistance they need to provide for the children they have and the children they are expecting. However, I can tell you that there are other ways to do it. Giving Crisis Pregnancy Centers (CPCs) thousands of dollars under the guise of "preventing abortions" is a crisis itself.
CPCs don't "prevent abortion." CPCs use scare tactics and false information to force women to choose parenting or adoption. Forcing a woman to choose any option is wrong. The goal here is to provide women with information and resources so they can choose the best option for themselves and their families. So, I don't see how, as the title of this article suggests, we are finding "common ground on the abortion divide."
In recent weeks, I have been working with local pro-choice advocates including NARAL, fellow women's health centers and a nonprofit legal organization to tackle some extremely disturbing issues for women in our area seeking out free pregnancy testing and ending up at CPCs.
Reports from women in our area who have mistakenly or not wound up at a Crisis Pregnancy Center range from not being able to retain a record of their pregnancy test results, therefore unable to apply for medical coupons through the state to pay for an abortion (or simply for medical care), to being given an ultrasound with a mass circled on it of something outside her uterus and told that this was her baby. Stories from women also include being hounded via telephone by CPC staff wanting to make sure that they were not going to get an abortion; one woman talked of her experience of mistaking a Crisis Pregnancy Center that opened up shop in a mall, for the Planned Parenthood right next door.
Reportedly, this is a common practice for Crisis Pregnancy Centers, some of which are using this as a strategy for luring women away from abortion clinics.
I fully support a woman's right to access a range of information and services. But when these centers resort to trickery and deception under the guise of "helping women", it becomes unethical and even worse - harmful to the very women they say they are attemting to help.
To be clear, this is not simply a clash of pro-choice vs. pro-life perspectives. Crisis pregnancy centers provide information on adoption and parenting, as do abortion clinics. That can be crucial information for a woman who is weighing her options to receive. It is not even, to go one step further, that CPCs are blatantly anti-abortion. As long as they are open about that fact, they have every right to exist and offer assistance.
It is that crisis pregnancy centers are more often than not run by extremely religious outfits. We are talking about federally and state-funded religious organizations offering non-regulated medical care to women and providing these women with inaccurate and limited information so that they will not - and many times cannot - access abortion.
A man named Robert Pearson opened the first pregnancy center designed to be explicitly (what I call) pre-life. Pearson started a foundation and soon after created a manual called HOW TO START AND OPERATE YOUR OWN PROLIFE OUTREACH CRISIS PREGNANCY CENTER. According to an article in an Indiana newspaper earlier this year, "Until the mid-’90s, many CPCs were run according to the principles laid out in Pearson’s 1984 manual, which asserted that “A killer, who in this case is the girl who wants to kill her baby, has no right to information that will help her kill her baby.” How to Start and Operate Your Own Pro-Life Outreach Crisis Pregnancy Center advocated activities ranging from the use of misleading clinic names — “If the girl who would be going to the abortion chamber sees your office with a similar name, she will probably come into your center” — to withholding the results of a client’s pregnancy test (available in two to five minutes) and keeping the woman at the CPC for up to an hour in order to show her graphic anti-abortion videos.
“The mission of the CPC,” according to the current Central Indiana Crisis Pregnancy Center Web site, “is to affirm the value of life by providing a network of care to those experiencing pregnancy-related crisis and by compassionately presenting biblical truth resulting in changed lives to the glory of God.”
Men are Like Waffles, Women are Like Spaghetti
So, now we know CPCs are religious missions run by those who have little regard for the woman as a human being and with even less regard for her well-being. But a quick glance at one of the largest organizations running CPCs currently, Heartbeat International, tells an even deeper tale.
Heartbeat International would like to set up CPCs in every city in every state in this country. And they have a Pearson-like set of instructions for opening an "affiliate." The list of resources for potential affiliates includes a brochure on "Resting in God's Presence", how to discuss abortion and most telling: packets on what they deem "Sexual Integrity" which includes books with titles like "Men Are Like Waffles, Women Are Like Spaghetti", "Does Birth Control Cause Abortion?" and "Contraception, Why Not?" Their message includes clear instructions on remaining abstinent until marriage.
Ultimately, I would have little problem with Crisis Pregnancy Centers if they a) did not receive immense federal subsidies, b) use deceptive and misleading methods to "reach out" to and/or provide services for women and c) harass and intimidate women once in their care.
What to do about it? Carolyn Maloney, a Democratic Representative from New York, introduced a bill last year called Stop Deceptive Advertising in Women's Services Act. The bill is designed to legislate how Crisis Pregnancy Centers can advertise their services, specifically regulating the way they advertise their "abortion services." Although Maloney has said that she doubts the bill will go anywhere in a Congress saturated with Republicans inextricably tied to the religious conservatives, it is a start. Go to Rep. Maloney's web site for more information.
For more information on Crisis Pregnancy Centers, the National Abortion Federation has some excellent resources.
Thursday, September 07, 2006
I took off the kid's names for the sake of their privacy.
Vowels: A,E,I,O,U and Sometimes Y
The sound that
comes out and
makes an apple.
The shape of the
end of a rake.
The letter that
switches around and
makes an H.
The mouth of yours
which opens and shuts.
of the smile
on your face
(or a frown that
makes you feel down.)
The two fingers
to make a
My Dog Sky
My little dog is named Sky. People
say he is shaky as a wire
but I don’t care. They say he isn’t
one speck of silver, but a speck
of dirt, but I don’t care. They
say if the sun was to come
today it would burn all the dirt
off him, but I say “good,” and
“I don’t care, he needed a bath anyway.”
They say if it snowed, he wouldn’t dare
to shiver because all the
dirt would keep him warm.
They say he is dark, is a
night time sky, but I don’t
care; they say he is crazy
just like the people on the
road trying to get through
traffic last Sunday. But
I don’t care because
I love my dog and
I always will.
Friday, August 25, 2006
Basically they want federal money to subsidize campus centers around the country that, under the guise of "providing services for pregnant and parenting students" actually give them incomplete information, espouse a pro-life perspective and get women to either parent or put their child up for adoption. This is what the Feminists for Life web site says about the topic of pregnancy on campus:
“Schools can talk about everything else in orientation, classes and the student newspaper—drinking, drugs, rohypnol, sexual assault, STDs, domestic violence and gay rights—but they never bring up pregnancy. When a woman doesn't see anyone else succeeding as a student parent, she assumes that the administration won't support her. Most often the clinic automatically refers her to an abortion clinic. There is a better way.”
Oh, it's a fantastic idea to include how easy and wonderful it can be to become a student parent at age 18. And, the last line says it all. Of course the ultimate purpose of these "centers" is to steer women away from abortion and be clear that they really have only two "choices" - parenting or adoption.
Thursday, August 10, 2006
Yes, that's right.
Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, the leaders of the suffragest movement, arguably two of the most important figures in the birth of feminism were pro-life. And Feminists for Life have made the brilliant move to leverage that fact.
But was Susan B. Anthony really pro-life in the way that we define that politically burdened word today? I would argue that, no, she wasn't. And certainly not in the way that Feminists for Life use her position to bolster their cause.
Susan B. Anthony argued against abortion as an option for women in the mid-19th century when abortion was an often unsafe and sometimes deadly medical procedure for women - very true at that time and most certainly a reason to advocate against undergoing an abortion procedure. Ms. Anthony also argued that abortion was not an option for women in a society ruled by men because they did not have the same options available to them in general. Ms. Anthony obviously went on to demand that women's "options" including the right to vote were given to them. She believed that women chose abortion only when they were forced into it. Ultimately, she believed, "When a woman destroys the life of her unborn child, it is a sign that, by education or circumstances, she has been greatly wronged."
But would her position have changed if she were living today when abortion is one of the safest medical procedures available? When women do have many more opportunities to chose the lives they want to lead?
Now I don't believe that when a woman has an abortion that means she has been necessarily "wronged" by education or circumstances. However, as I wrote in my last post, we see that the number of women in the lower socio-economic strata who are getting abortions is increasing as the number of more affluent women accessing abortion is decreasing. This is a sign, I believe, that lower income women are not getting the access to tools, education and information to take full control over the reproductive lives.
Susan B. Anthony, however, was also a racist. At that time, she fought for a woman's right to vote, based on her belief that the "ignorant" black man or immigrant man was much more poorly suited to vote.
So, was she really a feminist? What is a feminist? Does it matter? Can we really look to these historical figures as symbols of our movement today? If not, how do we learn from them, make sense of their nuanced positions and move forward? Obviously, Susan B. Anthony may not be the best role model for feminism today without looking at the historical context within which she lived.
I can say without question that Feminists for Life does not work to ensure that ALL women have what they need to lead healthy lives. They focus on those laws and policies that primarily affect college-aged women who become pregnant. They lobby for health insurance for young women who are pregnant based solely on the fact that they are pregnant - not taking into account the millions who do not WANT to be pregnant and who need help before they are pregnant.
If they truly want to make sure that young women in college are given the tools to lead healthy and happy lives wouldn't they ensure access to accurate sexuality education? Wouldn't they advocate for access to contraception and contraceptive services for these women? And curiously, why is it primarily the women in college who deserve their attention? Well, one can hazard a guess. Apparently they believe that those women of college-age who do not attend college are not as deserving of these particular governmental policies.
I think we need to either reclaim the word "feminist" or phase it out. Cause I'm starting to feel like it means nothing anymore.
Thursday, August 03, 2006
The decades-long decline in the U.S. abortion rate slowed yet again in 2003, adding to mounting evidence that the nation is failing to help women prevent unintended pregnancies and reduce the need for abortion, according to a new analysis by the Guttmacher Institute. Guttmacher Institute researchers reported in May that while the overall rate of unintended pregnancy in the U.S. remained unchanged between 1994 and 2001, rates increased by 29% among poor women, even as they declined by 20% for more affluent women.
“These trends are alarming, and should be a wake-up call to policymakers at the federal and state levels to do more to help women, especially those at greatest risk, avoid unwanted pregnancies,” argues Dr. Camp. “There is an urgent need to strengthen evidence-based policies that have been proven to reduce unintended pregnancy and the need for abortion. These include improving public funding for contraceptive services for poor women at the state and federal levels by expanding Medicaid eligibility and Title X funding, and ensuring that the Food and Drug Administration acts on its own experts’ advice to grant over-the-counter status for the emergency contraceptive Plan B without further delay.”
The above is from the most recent news release from one of my most favorite sources of information on current reproductive health trends - the New York City based Guttmacher Institute (www.guttmacher.org). Dr. Sharon Camp, President of the Guttmacher Institute, is obviously attempting to remain calm in the face of what I see as an all-out assault on women, particularly lower-income women. We have known for a long while now that abortion rates have been declining among upper income women. At the same time, abortions have been increasing among lower income women. This should not be a surprise. Our federal government has funneled hundreds of millions of dollars into unscientific, ultimately failed abstinence-ONLY programs and "crisis pregnancy centers" (centers which are essentially pro-life advocacy organizations tied more often than not to ultra-religious Christian denominations with a particularly narrow forced birth agenda) in the name of preventing unplanned pregnancies.
However, as both qualitative and quantitative studies and anecdotal evidence have shown over and over again, abstinence-only education does not succeed in preventing either unplanned pregnancy OR in lowering rates of sexually transmitted infections among young people. In Bush's home state of Texas, the abstinence-only programs implemented in the public schools proved completely ineffective at educating young people, delaying sexual activity and ultimately reducing teen pregnancy. In addition, rates of sexually transmitted infections among the young people in these particular towns soared. In fact, students in almost all high school grades were more sexually active after undergoing abstinence only education!
To be fair, trends show that students in that particular age group would have increased their sexual activity anyway at that time in their lives. Therefore, at best, this abstinence-only education did absolutely nothing to change students' sexual behavior. At worst, it put them in grave danger of contracting infections that potentially pose a real threat to their health and lives. How in good conscience, can these zealots who are intent on politicizing their religious and personal value systems, encourage policies and programs that are dangerous or just plain don't work?
What's truly appalling is that the federal government, OUR government, spent $131 million last year (2005) on abstinence-only education - "education" that has not given our youth the tools they need to lead healthy lives. The administration has certainly not let up in 2006, continuing to increase funding for these morality and religious-based programs (which, come on, should not be called education but agenda) while at the same time decreasing funding for - or all out ignoring - medically and scientifically proven health education programs that would have a positive effect on our young people's sexual health. Once again, studies show that an age-appropriate, medically accurate sexual health curriculum that includes information about both contraception as well as abstinence is the most effective method of reaching and teaching teens thereby reducing teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted infection rates.
In addition, access to over the counter emergency contraception - a birth control method which has the potential to reduce the number of unplanned pregnancies by the millions - has been caught in what we all know is a political net, held up for years by the FDA and an administration intent on strangling us with their moral nooses. Emergency contraception could be one of the single most important tools for women of any age in the effort to prevent pregnancy- but especially for lower-income women for whom lack of access to consistent birth control coverage can be a problem.
45.8 million Americans do not have health care coverage. Women in this country without health insurance are less likely to use birth control if they have to pay for it out of pocket - simply because then they cannot afford it. At $25/dose and the possibility for over-the-counter access, emergency contraception can be a tremendous reproductive health tool for women who do not want to get pregnant.
One only needs to look at this country's increasing numbers of women in need of publicly funded contraception to see how this affects the growing abortion disparity. According to the Guttmacher Institute, about half of the 66.3 million women in this country of reproductive age (33.4 million women) were in need of contraceptive services. Of those women–17.4 million–were in need of publicly funded contraceptive services and supplies, an increase of one million women since 2000.
To be clear, these women are low-income and they are not getting the birth control services they need to take control of their reproductive and sexual health care. According to Guttmacher "the number of women who have incomes below 250% of the federal poverty level or are younger than 20–increased by 6%. Meanwhile, the number of women of reproductive age and the total number of women in need of contraceptive services each rose by only 1%, indicating that the broader economic trends of the period, rather than population growth, drove the change."
This is not rocket science. This is a public health concern for all of us. Women of a particular income level are not receiving the education and the tools they need to lead happy, productive and healthy lives. Once again, this administration has managed to widen the gap between rich and poor. The leaders in Congress who are not taking a stand to ensure that our state and federal governments take care of all citizens - not just those in the upper-income levels - are acting foolishly and cold-heartedly.
The abstinence-only pushers. the legislators who refuse to enact laws to increase government spending for tried and true health care and educational programs that take care of our citizens, and the problematic influence of certain moral perspectives on what should be a scientific decision by our Food and Drug Administration, have a strong and terrible impact on women's lives in this country but more than that they have an impact on the lives of all of us who are of certain socio-economic strata. Women must understand that this is first and foremost an issue of economics and only secondarily a gender issue. The war has been waged by this administration time and again - and it is against the poor and middle income for sure.
Friday, July 28, 2006
This afternoon, around the time I was picking my four year old daughter up from her downtown Seattle pre-school, an unidentified man entered the downtown offices of the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle and opened fire screaming, "I am a Muslim American angry at Israel!"
I'm not sure what to say. This man is a murderer. He deserves no sympathy. But what drove him to kill a Jewish woman and wound as many others as he could before being caught by police? To brazenly sweep into a Jewish agency with the intent of informing the world, or at least our community, that he was bursting with anger over this never ending war between Israel and the Palestinian people? A war that has spilled out onto Lebanese soil and will surely spread throughout the Middle East with the aid of President Bush and the United States.
I am sad and I am scared. I have been trying not to think of the kind of world my children will inherit preferring just to work myopically as hard as I can to change the world. But I slammed on the brakes tonight and the car came to a screeching halt. This is the world my children live in. This is the world my Jewish children live in. This is the world your Muslim children live in. This is the world your African American children live in. This is the world your Palestinian children live in. This is the world your Somali children live in. This is the world your Israeli children live in.
Tuesday, July 18, 2006
Holy Sh*T these young kids can play that rock n roll! It was truly amazing. We've been listening to the Harry and The Potters latest CD for the last two days straight. Please go see them!!!!
Saturday, July 15, 2006
I'm not sure what to say about this interview with John Stossell regarding the the law against selling ones' organs on the open market.
John Stossell is amazed, no - he seems genuinely angered - over the 1984 bill spearheaded by Al Gore that banned the sale of human organs from either dead or living donors because "...it is the ultimate conceit to say 'you don't own your body. I, Al Gore,...own your body. I decide what's moral for you to do with your body.' "
Now, I truly have not given much thought (luckily, I have not had to) regarding whether or not organ selling should be legal or not. My belief is that legalized organ selling is likely a dangerous, slippery slope. Mr. Stossel's article this week in Jewish World Review certainly makes it clear that there are far too many people out there waiting for organs and far too many people who die waiting - that is abominable and organ donation is not solving the problem.
I'm angered, however, because in this society we can have a brainless "news" reporter arguing for (according to him) "poor people's free will" to sell their own organs based on the fact that government has no right to tell you what you can or cannot do with your own body but nothing about what this framework means for women's and girl's reproductive rights.
John Stossel opens his 7/6/2006 Jewish World Review article protesting the criminalization of organ selling with this line:
"Who owns your body? You? Or Al Gore?"
Excuse me Mr. Stossell? You're honestly arguing for one's right to decide whether one can sell a second kidney or a spleen based on a reproductive justice framework?! I hope you are actively and openly pro-choice - I really do.
And John Stossel is angry that his right to decide what he does or does not want to do with his own body could be impeded by our legislators?! Where is his outrage at our crumbling reproductive rights? Where is his outrage with legislators in states where teenagers are being forced to tell a parent who has committed incest against them that they are pregnant with that parent's child in order to get an abortion? Where is his outrage when young, pregnant low income women cannot scrape up enough money to pay for an abortion they desperately want in order to ensure that the children they already have are taken care of in they best way they can. Where is his outrage with pharmacists who decide what is "moral" for women when they deny us our right to birth control?
This interview with John Stossel is truly eye-opening. His anger at daring to be told what he can or cannot do with his own body is telling. He seems to not recognize the impact of what he's saying - as if this idea of government intrusion into our rights over our own bodies is ridiculous.
Yes, Mr. Stossel, it is hard to imagine, isn't it? And, now, the next time you are in El Salvador and you are forced to bear a child against your will and become pregnant again and seek an illegal abortion only to be tried and convicted in a court of law for having that dangerous, illegal abortion - only then do you have the right to be outraged.
In the meantime, please email him (as I will do) and tell him what this unimaginable scenario (you know, having our legislators decide what is morally acceptable for one to do with one's body) is like. Then tell him that you'll be looking for him to do a significant story on 20/20 about the absolute atrocity of the United States (and for that matter - the world's) government telling women what they can or cannot do with their own bodies.
Thursday, July 13, 2006
Those lovely looking men on your left? Why that's Joe and Jack - "the good Catholic boys" - who started "ProLifeSearch.com" powered by Google! That's them handing over a check to the Executive Director of a "women's health center." Well, you know, it's a health center in the sense that they talk to women and they, you know, talk vaguely about health.
50% of the user generated profits of the world's first "prolife search engine" go to lovely pro-life organizations like Priests for Life and One More Soul (which teaches us that "... the use of contraception harms everyone involved...the use of contraception leads to abortion"). There are dozens of approved pro-life charities to which Joe and Jack cannot wait to donate. Some people even decide to directly donate money to these charities via ProLifeSearch.com "in memory of the unborn children of abortion" or "in memory of Terri Schiavo." Yes, Terri Schiavo.
I decided to test out the search engine. Of course, what was the first word I put into the engine? How can you NOT put the word "abortion" into a prolife search engine? That little box was just screaming for the word abortion. So, I typed it in - slowly. I thought maybe fire and brimstone would burst forth from my screen. Maybe an alarm would sound? Maybe my computer would get tagged as some sort of computer-intruder?! No. It's just a regular search engine. Regular pro-choice and pro-life sites came up. I found the abortion clinic I work for easily.
What's funny to me is that they actually make a point of saying that their search engine is "safe" for kids to use because they've filtered out the porn (seemingly it's okay if your kids find accurate information on abortion though): At ProLifeSearch.com we use a special program filter called SafeSearch. With SafeSearch, sites and web pages containing adult themed and explicit sexual content are excluded from web search results.
So, apparently it's okay if the teenage children of these prelifers need to find an abortion clinic for themselves or their girlfriends using ProLifeSearch.com? Because we get a lot of clients at our clinic who self-identify as prolife, who say their parents are prolife and would "kill them" if they found out where they were, but they just really, really need to get this one abortion.
I have to say, why don't we come up with ideas like this? There are 13 states that now allow their citizens to purchase "Choose Life" license plates with the proceeds going towards prolife organizations. There are 0 states with similar license plate deals for prochoice organizations. I really don't think these strange social entrepeneurial experiments should be a priority for reproductive justice advocates. But they are smart and creative ways to ensure that these organizations are getting the broad support they need to remain healthy and to continue to meet their missions.
Monday, June 26, 2006
What does that mean?!
I support the action, of course. I just don't know why there has been no evolution in the messaging of our movement - none. Information for those near Olympia is below:
The current schedule for picketing outside of Ralph's Thriftway (whose pharmacy refuses to carry emergency contraception) is: Wednesday, June 28th, 5-7 p.m., Thursday, June 29th, 5-7 p.m., Friday, June 30th, 5-7 p.m. and Sunday, July 2, 5-7 p.m.
Friday, June 23, 2006
According to federal legislation- that apparently slid through with nary a noise from most- new citizenship verification for those who rely on Medicaid to ensure health care coverage could mean that millions of elderly and young children (you know - nursing home residents, children in foster care - those that the administration could care less about) find themselves without the required documentation to receive their medicaid coverage by July 1st.
President Bush has signed into law a rule that would require those millions to produce birth certificates or passports to prove their United States citizenship. Yes, that means that an 85 year-old on a limited income struggling to maintain health care coverage who cannot find their birth certificate by July 1st will be permanently kicked off.
For low-income women who seek abortions in states that cover abortions through Medicaid (like Washington state) this will mean one more hurdle, no, barrier, to abortion access. The other day our clinic manager and I were discussing this near our waiting room. That day there happened to be a number of appointments with Latina clients. Looking out into the waiting room, our clinic manager remarked that none of these women would be able to have the abortions they have legally sought out.
Our front desk phone counselors help low-income women who have decided to have an abortion sign up for the medical coupons (medicaid) they need to pay for their abortions. Many of these women are Latina women, native Spanish speakers who do not have this kind of citizenship documentation readily available.
Thankfully, there are provisions written that, if passed, would "correct" this new damaging policy. The provisions include exempting all of those on Medicare as well as SSI (Social Security Insurance) recipients - sparing over 7 million elderly and disabled American citizens (including 1.5 million nursing home residents!); and foster care children. The provisions would also allow for birth records documentation to be in electronic form so that a state agency could e-mail the required documentation to a state DSHS agency making it less burdensome for the state agencies as well as the citizen applicants.
Lastly, the July 1st deadline is ridiculous. This administration is ready and willing to kick 50 million folks off of Medicaid in the next two weeks unless they can present this documentation asap. Do these folks use the U.S. mail? Have they ever dealt with a freakin' state agency before? Anyone who has ever been on welfare, unemployment, medicaid, medicare, applied for a driver's license or in any way dealt with a state agency before should know that it takes weeks, sometimes months, for applications to processed, forms to be sent, approved, recieved by or transmitted to the right person.
To think that it is in any way feasible for 50 million people to come up with either a birth certificate or a passport in the next two weeks is just absurd.
By the way, hold on to your hats, according to the New York Times: "The main proponents of the new requirements were two Republican House members from Georgia, Representatives Charlie Norwood and Nathan Deal."
So, as I am prone to do, write letters to the folks on two different committees: the Finance committee and Energy & Commerce committee - both of whom are the ones debating a "Pension Conference Report" that this technical corrections bill would be a part of.
If you're in Washington state, Rep. Jay Inslee is on the Energy and Commerce Comittee: http://www.house.gov/inslee/contact/index.html. Contact him!!!!
Thursday, June 22, 2006
Here are links to two news articles about the Ralph's Thriftway situation here in Olympia:
As for the boycott, we are asking people to at least boycott for the month of July, although many people, such as myself, will not shop at any business owned by the Stormans corporation (Ralph's Thriftway, Bayview Thriftway, Daniel's House of Prayer) until Ralph's Thriftway pharmacy stocks Plan B.
We are beginning a picket line at Ralph's Thriftway on Wednesday, June 28th,
5-7 p.m., and continuing on the 29th, 5-7 p.m., 6/30, 5-7 p.m., and 7/2, 5-7 p.m. We will probably continue picketing throughout the month of July, but we haven't nailed down specific times beyond those listed above. We would love to have you join us!
I lead the development of a booklet at our center called "I Had An Abortion: Real Women. Real Choices." It is a collection of real women's stories about their experiences with abortion and the events and feelings leading up to and following the abortions.
I was on the board of a start-up magazine called Our Truths, Nuestras Verdades that seeks to provide a safe space for women and men to share their experiences with abortion as well as political commentary and analyses. I have written about the significance of women's stories resonating louder in this endless political debate because there is nothing, nothing that will change for women until we are able to come to terms with what we do with our own bodies, the power we hold over life and death. Until women are able to dialogue about this, talk freely and openly about our abortions, our births, our miscarriages, our children's deaths (and I don't mean necessarily in a public forum) we will NOT be able to claim we truly control our own bodies - even if abortion remains legal.
The truth is it's a vicious circle - keeping women unempowered, confused and shamed about their bodies only serves to ensure that women do not necessarily have the tools to make the best decisions about our lives and health. And please don't misunderstand me - abortion is NOT a bad decision in and of itself. However, if we do not allow women to feel empowered and in control of our bodies which includes pregnancy, we are not giving women the tools to be healthy and powerful.
There is a growing and vocal movement of us - The Abortion Diaries, Speak Out: I Had An Abortion, i'mnotsorry.net and many others I probably don't even know about - working towards a very concrete goal: women carving out the space in the world to deal with their abortion experiences, in the context of their larger reproductive health lives , in a healthy and appropriate way.
There is no one who has worked in reproductive health care that would ever say that having an abortion has absolutely no emotional ramifications - it's ridiculous. But so what?! Why should a procedure that has emotional ramifications for women automatically result in the complete dissolution of that procedure? Why does the pro-choice movement try so desperately to pretend that it has no emotional ramifications? Why does the pro-life movement pretend that emotional ramifications are absolutely untenable, impossible to deal with and the explanation for why that procedure should be outlawed?!
I'm tired of both sides of this debate getting it wrong. I'm tired of the political extremists (of which I must admit I am one) speaking on behalf of all women in this country and around the world. If we do not listen to women we will never "resolve" this. We are all yelling so loudly we can't hear the voices that matter most.
Wednesday, June 21, 2006
There are over one hundred different strains of HPV. But types 6, 11, 16 and 18 cause 90 percent of genital warts and 70 percent of cervical cancer is caused by types 16 and 18. The vaccine that is most exciting is Gardasil which would protect against the above four strains.
HPV is common; about 80 percent of sexually active people have had an infection with HPV, although most of those cases clear on their own. If HPV genital infection can be prevented, it will make a major impact on the occurrence of cervical cancer.
The lives of thousands of women in the United States and hundreds of thousands of women in the Global South would be saved with the development of these vaccines. The Gates Foundation recently awarded PATH, an international public health organization, $28 million to bring this vaccine to developing nations.
The vaccine would be most effective when administered to girls well before they are sexually active - 9 - 12 years old - in this country. And since HPV is an STI (sexually transmitted infection/disease) we've got the religious pre-lifers hot on our tails!! They say NO! to this pagan, heathen, evil cancer prevention tool.
Why, an HPV vaccine available - and maybe even mandatory - for young girls would absolutely lead to free-sexploration, wild and crazy sex-mania for these young girls. Of course it would! If the hardline Christian right prelifers did not maintain control over my body, my daughter's body, your daughter's body, what would happen? Oh, right, their suffocating ideologies would fall by the wayside, their societal power would diminish and, g-d forbid, we'd be a true nation of equals.
Check out the president of Human Life International's letter to his "followers":
HPV Vaccine-Another Deception of the Culture of Death by Rev. Thomas J. Euteneuer
Spirit & Life
Human Life International e-Newsletter
Volume 01, Number 20 | Friday, June 16, 2006
The big news recently is that the FDA has just approved a new vaccine supposedly to inoculate women against cervical cancer. Predictably, the media and health professionals are touting this as the greatest thing since the Salk vaccine, but they are also engaging in a propaganda campaign aimed at distorting the public's perception of it. I for one will stand against what I consider this newest marriage of the culture of death with junk science, and I believe we all should. In the next few weeks I intend to examine a number of aspects of this Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccine for the benefit of parents who may some day be coerced into getting their kids vaccinated with it.
Let me start by pointing out a few basic elements of this vaccine and its service as a tool of the culture of death. First of all, did you ever wonder why all of a sudden we need a vaccine for just one sexually transmitted disease? Just to give you a little perspective: in the nineteen sixties, before the advent of the birth control pill and other forms of abortion-causing drugs, there were only three sexually transmitted diseases which at that time were known as venereal diseases, a name derived from Venus, the pagan goddess of sexual promiscuity.
Because of the exponential increase in illicit sexual activity in the past four decades, the number of distinct sexually transmitted diseases has risen to over thirty, not to mention the multiple strains of the distinct diseases. The Human Papilloma Virus, for example, is just one sexually transmitted disease, but it has over 100 different strains!
Only a small number of these strains actually lead to cancer and most of its victims don't know they have it and cure themselves over time.
Now, to put it into even clearer perspective: the much-touted HPV vaccine treats only two strains of HPV and two strains of genital warts.
This is a tour-de-force against HPV isn't it?
The most wretched hypocrisy of the promoters of this vaccine, however, is that, rather than calling it a vaccine against a couple strains of one of the dozens of sexually transmitted diseases, they are calling it a vaccine against cervical cancer. Well, it will certainly protect some women from cervical cancer in the future but that's not the point. The point is that there are overwhelming numbers of diseases, strains and even cancers that this vaccine does not protect from, all of which are gotten by the very same sexual act. Thinking that this vaccine gives blanket protection against cervical cancer (which of course is how it's perceived because that is how it's being promoted) is like believing that thirty people jumping out of the same airplane will all be protected because one of them is wearing a parachute.
This HPV vaccine, my friends, is a classic case of the culture of death playing fast and loose with people's lives. They use junk science to hook our terribly un-reflective culture on a promise that will benefit only a miniscule portion of the population, and then the false perception of security surrounding their newest ruse hooks everyone else into behaviors and lifestyles that perpetuate the damage and decay our decency.
Don't fall for it because pretty soon they will be forcing you-and your kids-to drink their potions to the dregs.
Sincerely Yours in Christ,
Rev. Thomas J. Euteneuer,
President, Human Life International
Ralph’s Thriftway in
"I don't want to get into a detailed debate," Kevin Stormans, one of the co-owners of Ralph's and Bayview Thriftways, said in an interview Tuesday. "I just think people have to choose when they believe life begins. There are questions about this drug on that issue."
Of course he doesn't want to get into a detailed debate. He has decided for all women that we do not have a right to use safe, legal contraception. What's to debate? Good ole Kevin.
I will post more info as I receive it but feel free to check out the article in today’s Olympian.
The Senate voted yesterday NOT to raise the minimum wage approximately $2/hour from $5.15 to $7.25/hour. Meanwhile they voted to give themselves another raise (shock!) so your representatives are now making more than $168,500/year. The full-time minimum wage worker's salary is a bit above $10,000/year. I know people - it's really not like those guys and a handful of women to put their own self-wants and needs above their constituents. I mean, really, they are usually so giving, so generous.
I don't know what came over them.
Check these out...
- my friend Alex' words
- New Moon Magazine
- A Year in Namibia
- Shakespeare's Sister
- Reproductive Health Reality Check
- Mothers Acting Up!
- Progress Now: Maternal Might Not Just a Celluloid Fantasy
- Amie on Seattle's KUBE radio station
- Taking Mother's Day Back to its Roots
- Women's enews article I'm quoted in!
- I Had An Abortion Stories
- Our Truths, Nuestras Verdades
- A Year in Namibia
- ► 2007 (20)
- ▼ 12/03 - 12/10 (2)
- ► 07/09 - 07/16 (2)