Saturday, February 10, 2007

HPV Vaccine is Pro-Life

The governor of Texas (of all governors, of all states!) has written an op-ed extolling the virtues of making the HPV vaccine mandatory for young girls in his state. His take? It's truly a "pro-life" position as it saves girl's & women's lives by helping to prevent cervical cancer. Great idea - why didn't the pro-choicers think of this tack?! Oh, wait, we did. Our minds and bodies are bursting with the inherent knowledge that freedom of access and choice saves lives.

Gov. Rick Perry proclaimed his strong stance against cancer (wow, that's a brave choice!) in this opinion piece in USA Today (sorry, I'm a little grumpy today):

Opposing view: My order protects life
Vaccine mandate will prevent deaths, give parents the final word.

By Rick Perry

As governor of Texas, I will do everything in my power to protect public health. The executive order I signed last Friday will help stop the spread of human papillomavirus (HPV) and prevent cervical cancer in young women.

Some are focused on the cause of this cancer, but I remain focused on the cure. And if I err, I will always err on the side of protecting life.

For the first time in history, a vaccine exists that can prevent a deadly cancer — the second most common form of cancer in women. The HPV vaccine is approved by the U.S Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and a second vaccine is expected on the market within the next year.

Research shows that the HPV vaccine is highly effective in protecting women against the four leading cancer-causing strains of HPV. Though some might argue that we should wait several years before requiring the vaccine, I believe such a delay unnecessarily risks the lives of young women.

This is not the first vaccine Texas has required for a non-contagious disease. Years ago, Texas required inoculations to prevent the spread of Hepatitis B, spread primarily through sexual contact or shared needles.

Even with this new requirement, parents can still choose to opt out. But we will never eradicate a disease that impacts 20 million Americans with an "opt in" provision because statistics show only one-quarter of the eligible population gets inoculated in such circumstances. The "opt out" provision — standard for all Texas vaccinations —will help us protect three-quarters of our young women.

Parents will still have the final word, and a full debate will take place as our health agency adopts implementation rules before the order takes effect in 19 months. And if Texas legislators want to debate and pass a different vaccine law, there is nothing standing in their way.

If we could stop lung cancer, would some shy away claiming it might encourage tobacco use? This is a rare opportunity to act, and as a pro-life governor, I will always take the side of protecting life.

Rick Perry, a Republican, is governor of Texas.

I praise Governor Perry for coming out in favor of not just providing the vaccine to young girls & women in his state, but making it mandatory, thereby ensuring that all who want it, have access to it. As with any vaccine, a parent of a minor can choose to "opt out" on behalf of their children.

But there is the cynical, maybe just level-headed, part of myself that sees this (and all state policies that have made the HPV vaccine mandatory thus far) as a deal with the devil. It's a handshake between legislators and a powerful drug company lobby. Merck will get the billions, governors & legislators will get the support. Maybe that's just the way politics works. I want the HPV vaccine to be available and, more than that, accessible to any girl or woman who wants it.

And, as the oped states, when you make a vaccine mandatory there is clearly a huge percentage of folks who will get it, who wouldn't otherwise. So, it's a good thing, right?

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Girls Gone Wild - NOT!

When my daughter was three years old and not yet reading, I got her a subscription to a magazine. I know it may have been a little presumptuous. But the magazine I subscribed her to, New Moon Magazine ("Bringing Girls Voices To The World"), is one of those tools in my growing toolbox of "Things to combat popular culture/sexism/patriarchy and help my daughter grow into a smart, loving, creative, beautiful, badass woman - like the girl she is now."

I got the monthly email from New Moon Magazine in my mailbox today featuring their concise attempt to dispel the myth that girls are suddenly getting more "wild" these days - that they are more violent now, that the number of incidences of girl-on-girl assault is increasing in our country and that young female celebrities like Paris Hilton are encouraging that "wild" behavior. According to the Girls Study Group, convened by the U.S. Justice Department, the media's attempts to cover the issue has resulted in overblown statistics and conflated conclusions.

In fact, the idea that young female violence is on the upswing is just plain wrong:

Newsweek's cover story this week proclaims "The Girls Gone Wild Effect" with Paris Hilton and Britney Spears hanging on each other. The authors of the article attempt to make a case that because young celebrity women are out in public more, partying with seemingly no care in the world, young girls are feeling the "negative effects" of these "Girls Gone Wild." I have to say that the premise seems like a rehashing of the idea that women should be good little females and mind their manners in public or girls will actually get the idea that they don't have to maintain strict standards for how they behave (gasp!) when they grow up.

According to statistics, there is no cause and effect relationship between however Paris or Britney choose to spend their time and girls descent into some kind of wanton craziness or brutality.

Thank you, New Moon Magazine, for being my co-conspirator & my support as I attempt to raise a strong, smart and feisty woman in this country that seems to try and foil me at every other turn.

But my love for New Moon Magazine is multi-layered. Their magazine is filled with stories, poems, art and articles written by girls. They also focus on public policy and political action. Their web site has a section called "Letters to Congress" that highlights political and social issues affecting women and girls around the world and what you can do to impact legislative policies.

And they have a blog. And whaddya know?! I checked it out today for the first time and their newest post is about the Global Gag Rule!! If I had had something like this when I was growing up I could have saved thousands on therapy.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

When Pregnant Women Attack

You know how sick and tired I am of politicians using precious resources and time to create problems where none exist?! Virginia legislators actually spent time and tax payer money writing legislation that would criminalize pregnant women for causing a miscarriage:

Del. S. Chris Jones (R-Suffolk), the sponsor of the bill, said the legislation is aimed at protecting fetuses that are harmed during the late stages of pregnancy. He cited a Suffolk case in which a woman caused a miscarriage the day before she was scheduled to give birth. "If she would have taken it and abandoned it and it would have died, she would have been charged," Jones said.

Is this “when pregnant women attack”?! Really, are we to assume that this Virginia legislator was inundated with stories from his constituents begging & pleading with him to push a law that would put pregnant women in jail (?!) for bringing on a miscarriage? Del. Jones’ premise for this draconian legislation is so flawed; it’s amazing its being taken seriously. First of all, a miscarriage is defined as “the loss of a pregnancy before 20 weeks.” So, unless this woman was scheduled to give birth when she was 20 weeks pregnant, he is not talking of a woman who “caused a miscarriage” but rather, induced an abortion Also, according to the American College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists, most miscarriages occur in the first 3 months. Finally, it’s probably significant to note that approximately 10-15% of all known pregnancies end in miscarriage – and that’s only known pregnancies. Clearly the number is actually higher. How do we tell which one of these women caused her own miscarriage? You tell me. It’s probably safest to assume that if any harm should come to a growing embryo or fetus, we blame the mother & imprison her. Really, we just don’t want bands of women who have recently miscarried roving the streets unpunished.

I had a miscarriage after the birth of my first child. I was almost 12 weeks pregnant at the time. It was devastating. Only after I revealed to my close friends, co-workers and extended family that I had miscarried did I hear the innumerable stories of women who had also miscarried. Does this Virginia legislator propose to investigate all miscarriages? And how are we going to define “causing” a miscarriage?

Most distressing to me is that this proposed law sets up an expectation that a woman who causes her own miscarriage is guilty of essentially murder. If we are going to criminally penalize women who cause a miscarriage – ending the life of the fetus growing inside her, we must use the legal term, “murder”, to describe the result of the woman’s actions. National Advocates for Pregnant Women (NAPW) has been the most vocal and active advocates for pregnant women in the United States working “ to secure the human and civil rights, health and welfare of all women, focusing particularly on pregnant and parenting women, and those who are most vulnerable - low income women, women of color, and drug-using women” and I’m sure they will have a lot to say about this bill.

According to The Washington Post, the Virginia House of Delegates gave “tentative approval” to this bill yesterday, Monday, February 5. They also gave the same approval to a similar bill that would penalize someone, other than the mother, who causes a miscarriage to occur. The other law, the one I like to call “when pregnant women attack”, could result in a woman being imprisoned for up to ten years. So if a woman who is already a mother intentionally causes herself to miscarry, we not only punish the mother but we punish her living, breathing children as well by taking their mother away from them for upwards of ten years.

Once again, we see legislation designed solely to punish a woman for daring to get pregnant when she didn’t mean to or want to. Once again, we punish a woman for the intrinsic power her body can wield.

I’m shocked that this legislation actually made it through the Viriginia House. Final votes on the bill will happen today and if approved the bill will get sent over to the Senate. According to the Washington Post article, however, Republican leaders tried to block it because of its contentious nature (but not because its one more of the most woman-hating, basest pieces of anti-choice legislation that has hit our state governments in recent memory). Also, a 2005 Washington Post poll revealed that most Virginia residents want abortion to remain legal. This inherently anti-choice bill will certainly leave a bad taste in the mouths of most Virginia voters.

I read this article two hours ago and my mouth is still agape. I am truly disgusted. My brother and I have this discussion frequently: how can forced birthers/anti-choicers continue to advocate for the criminalization of abortion without calling for the imprisonment of the one who commits the crime – the woman? Eventually, we knew this was going to happen. I look forward to NAPW’s analysis of this and hope to god we don’t see copycat proposed legislation pop up around the country. Sadly, anti-choice advocates are slowly but surely succeeding at replacing the joy a woman feels, who is happily & willingly pregnant, with fear and terror. If we start prosecuting (and persecuting) pregnant women for “crimes” like miscarriage no pregnant women will be immune.

Feminist Peace Network