Friday, June 18, 2010

FDA Says EllaOne is Safe, Effective, Met With Anti-Choice Backlash

Recently, breaking news concerning a new kind of emergency contraceptive has begun circulating through the mainstream (and not-so mainstream) news, feminist websites, and the blogosphere, There seems to be a flurry of information, support from feminists and reproductive health care providers, and, to be expected, outrage from the religious right and anti-choice constituencies.
First, let me start with the facts. EllaOne, which would be administered as 30 mg ulipristal acetate works in many of the same ways that Plan B already does, but ellaOne increases the window for effectiveness to 120 hours, rather than the 72-hour window Plan B provides. Today, the FDA declared the drug SAFE and EFFECTIVE. Sounds great, right? As a young woman with a limited income, I can see the immediate benefits of offering a drug that works for a full two days longer. Plan B is expensive, and it is a lot to ask a young woman (I say young woman only because men are barred from buying Plan B) to come up with the cost of the drug (approximately $70) on short notice. To be afforded two extra days could mean the difference between having to face an unwanted pregnancy or not. As an advocate for comprehensive sex education and easy and affordable access to contraception, I am overjoyed that the FDA has stood up to anti-choice rhetoric declared the drug safe. Unfortunately, we have quite a battle ahead of us. The Anti-Choice delegation has swarmed the media with their anti-woman propaganda, and unfortunately the media has eaten it up.
In its article, ( the Washington Post quotes Concerned Women for America’s Wendy Wright as saying, "With ulipristal, women will be enticed to buy a poorly tested abortion drug, unaware of its medical risks, under the guise that it's a morning-after pill.” Instead of refuting this woman’s claim with the truth about the drug, or by explaining to the general public that Concerned Women for America is a Right-Wing fringe group which is actively engaged in horrific anti-choice work, including calling for the defunding of Planned Parenthood, the author continues his story by quoting another anti-choice organization: "The difference between preventing life and destroying life is hugely significant to many women," said Jeanne Monahan, director of the Family Research Council's Center for Human Dignity. "Women deserve to know that difference."
For the record, the Family Research Council's "research" argues, among other things that homosexuality is a choice (, that there is "research" to support "post-abortion syndrome" ( and that abstinance-only education has LOWERED teen birth rates (
In the above quotes, both Wright and Monahan give one of the most commonly used arguments against providing women with the tools they need and deserve to control their reproduction, and by extension, their sexuality. They express concern over women’s “choices” and knowledge, as if women need to be protected from making the “wrong” decision for themselves. By arguing against the use of the drug, organizations like CWA and the Family Research Council prop themselves up as protectors of women, while they are really just patronizing and infantilizing women as being incapable of making choices about their bodies and their lives.
At the end of the article (approximately ¾ of the way down) the author begins to include views from the majority, pro-choice crowd by quoting Amy Allina, program director at the National Women's Health Network. She then explains clearly that this drug is a contraceptive, and that those who argue against the use of Plan B or drugs like it are usually also against any form of birth control.
I am not sure if I am more incensed that people are still arguing against women being able to control their fertility, or the fact that the media keeps representing this view as legitimate and news-worthy. ran a similar story earlier in the week with another quote from Concerned Women for America and a myriad of anti-choice groups. Before we can move forward and have an honest discussion about reproductive rights and what new drugs and technology can do to improve the lives of women, we first need to demand that our news sources stop engaging radical fringe groups and presenting their views as valid in order to provide “balanced” coverage. We do not call up al-Qaeda, neo-Nazi, or white supremacist groups to get their side of the story before publishing, and it should be no different for misogynist or anti-woman groups.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

What Happened to Conventional Wisdom??

There are billsbeing introduced in state legislatures around the country that demean women who are faced with one of the toughest decisions-- whether to have an abortion due to circumstances that they have no control of. When browsing through the news and noticing the neo-conservative perspective and political opinion about abortion and reproductive rights I started to ponder upon the direction of what is considered conventional wisdom in our country. States such as Alabama are proposing rules that would impose their overly self-righteous religious law upon individuals who are already dealing with the burden of what they should do with an unwanted pregnancy. They want to force them to have a pre-ultrasound that might lead to second thoughts and guilt so they have to further think whether the decision they have to make is moral.

The question is how does this affect voters and citizens of our state of Connecticut? The fact is that with the growing influence of this group of individuals who are vocally opposed to reproductive rights in the state of Connecticut you have to wonder if conventional wisdom about issues of choice are starting to slip through the cracks of people's consciousness. We do not know how this can ultimatley affect how our elected officials are voted into office, but it can be detrimental if the ones who are not protecting choice are elected. As they love to preach of "don't tread on me", well start living that way and stop treading on your fellow citizen.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Linda McMahon: Her Lack of Public Health

The issue of abortion and reproductive rights might not be considered a determining issue in deciding who will be the republican candidate for the Connecticut gubernatorial race, but most likely Linda McMahon who is the leading candidate will have to make her positions clear to Connecticut voters. As the conservative candidate she has stated that she is opposed to abortion rights. This stance is hypocritical and absolutely wrong. In her own private organization (WWE) where she has allowed and turned her back on the issue of steroids. She has let steroid use run rampant which has inevitably lead to an immense amount of health issues. You have to wonder if she is really concerned about public health in our communities. Reproductive rights is not an ideological battle between conservative and liberals, it is a public health concern. Women who are not granted these rights will be left out to dry without any state or this case federal legislation to help. When you enter the voting booth remember to re-think how your elected candidate looks at public health and notice whether they truly care.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Fifty Years and a Long Way to Go

Next month marks the 50th birthday of the birth control pill in the United States, prompting a TIME Magazine cover story, various histories of contraception, and the looming question: why, after half a century, are almost half of all pregnancies in the U.S. still unplanned?

Of the 3.1 million unintended pregnancies per year, almost half (48%) involve contraceptive failures. In 52% of the cases, couples used no birth control at all. As Melinda Beck of the Wall Street Journal points out, to begin to answer this question, we must untangle a complex web of cultural, religious, behavioral, educational and economic factors.

Contraception still presents a financial barrier for many people, complicated by culture and religion. Though most insurers now cover contraceptives, co-pays and deductibles can still present obstacles, and as was drilled into our heads earlier this year, before the reform bill, over 49 million Americans were uninsured.

Yet more importantly, Beck points to the behavioral tendencies which have failed to stop unplanned pregnancies:
And many young people are in "the fog zone" in which their beliefs about pregnancy don't match their behaviors, according to a 2009 report by the National Campaign to End Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. In a survey conducted by the Guttmacher Institute of 1,800 single men and women aged 18 to 29, more than 80% of both sexes said it was important to them to avoid pregnancy right now, yet 43% of those who are sexually active said they used no contraception or used it inconsistently.

This is where we come in.

Though we've gone a long way in the 50 years since the pill's FDA approval, it's clear that the need for education, support, and resources is still immense.

There is no doubt that sex education works and yet CT is one of only a few states that does not require a graduation requirement of one credit in health education. According to the Guttmacher Institute:
Connecticut has the 33rd highest teenage pregnancy rate of any state.
432,000 women are in need of contraceptive services and supplies. Of these, 165,960 women need publicly supported contraceptive services because they have incomes below 250% of the federal poverty level (106,520) or are sexually active teenagers (59,440).
Publicly funded family planning clinics in Connecticut help women prevent 16,400 unintended pregnancies each year.

So why, in a world of countless pills, the ring, the patch, implants, and condoms for women and men, do women still get pregnant unintentionally? Because without the availability of comprehensive services, adequate public funding, or supportive laws and policies, a victory fifty years ago can only take us so far.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Young People & Choice

In this week's edition of Newsweek, NARAL Pro-Choice America President Nancy Keenan was quoted in an article entitled, "Remember Roe! How Can the Next Generation Defend Abortion Rights When They Don't Think Abortion Rights Need Defending". Unfortunately, Ms. Keenan's comments hit a nerve with many young pro-choice activists who often feel discouraged and ignored by more seasoned feminists in this movement. On the NARAL Pro-Choice America blog, Nancy explained her Newsweek quote and highlighted NARAL's new research on young people and voting pro-choice. Her comments and the new research are focused on young people who consider themselves pro-choice but aren't at all likely to be vocal about it and as the research showed, aren't likely to vote based on being pro-choice either.

As a 28 year old Executive Director of NARAL Pro-Choice Connecticut, I am what they consider a "millenial" and I too was initially offended by the Newsweek article. But, once I read Ms. Keenan's blog and understood what the research was trying to get at--Why the majority of young pro-choice women don't vote pro-choice-- I became frustrated for other reasons.

First of all, stop calling us post-Roe. That may be true, but it ignores and all but denies the fact that we grew up within an abortion context. Our context was one of extreme divisiveness, in which clinics were being bombed, doctors were being killed, and the Catholic Church told our friends and family members that abortion was wrong. I don't find it shocking at all that the young people surveyed in this poll didn't think the right to access abortion is in jeopardy, because I think that many young people have chosen to remove themselves from the debate. And for many "millenials" that's all that pro-choice/pro-life is...a debate, a fight, an argument that they would much rather ignore than take part in.

The second important thing highlighted by this research is that "millenials" are more likely to see abortion as a moral issue. Again, not shocked and again, consider our context. For many in my generation, religion was still a central part of the family life, that is until we came of age and were no longer required to attend. For years, many young people were taught by their religion or heard from the religion of others that abortion is wrong and unacceptable and so there is an inherent "guilt" associated with abortion.

It is important to note though, that millenials are less religious than older Americans and fewer young adults belong to any particular faith than older people do today. Regardless of our religious upbringing or current beliefs, I think that for many young people, religion isn't as black and white as it was for the generations before us. Morality & beliefs may influence our decisions but religion doesn't dictate them. So, when I hear that a young person can think abortion is wrong but not think it should be illegal, I understand. I may not agree with something, but that doesn't give me the right to tell someone else what to do.

Lastly, it's time to stop using the, "you never grew up in a time when abortion was illegal" in an accusatory way and start seeing that in context. You're right, abortion has always been legal for us, so telling us over and over again to "Keep Abortion Legal" seems stale and a little bit extreme. What we need to focus on, and NARAL Pro-Choice America does a good job of this, is the fact that while pro-lifers would rather continue debating over abortion, pro-choicers are interested in addressing the underlying reasons why women seek abortions in the first place--lack of sex education, cost of birth control, rape, incest, etc. Abortion must be kept legal because everyone's experience is different.

Lastly, can we have a re-count on "millenials"...really, who came up with that?

Monday, April 12, 2010

Justice John Paul Stevens Set to Retire, Loss of Pro-Choice Ally

At a forum in his honor at Fordham University Law School in 2005, Justice John Paul Stevens declared an important principle not often recognized by the Roberts Court: "Learning on the job is essential to the process of judging."

Stevens exemplified this M.O. during his 34 years as a Supreme Court Justice, becoming one of the more liberal members of the Court through a varied trajectory. His announcement to retire at the end of this term marks the regrettable loss of both an ally for women's rights and of a certain integrity in jurisprudence.

As the first Justice named to the Supreme Court after the decision of Roe v. Wade, Stevens initially exhibited a slight conservative bent, voting against requiring the government to pay for abortions for women who could not afford them. As Linda Greenhouse notes in her piece about the eras of judicial politics Stevens' tenure straddles, "little in his early performance suggested that he would come to play an important strategic role in preserving the right to abortion, let alone that he would retire three decades later as the leader of the court’s remaining liberals."

But, learning in the process, Stevens came to consistently vote to uphold Roe v. Wade, supported affirmative action, and championed lesbian gay and transgender rights. Stevens is now among the strongest supporters of the right to choose currently serving on the Supreme Court, as his record reflects a respect for individual freedom and opposition to political interference in personal decisions.

As this summer is bound to bring an ardent battle over Steven's replacement, it is my hope that whoever is nominated not only learns from their job, but also learns from Justice Stevens.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Against Health Education...really?

The Family Institute of Connecticut, our state's leading anti-choice organization is at it once again. This time they are opposing HB 5489, An Act Concerning Secondary School Reform and our attempts to have Connecticut mandate a one credit graduation requirement in health education.

Currently, Connecticut is one of fourteen states that do not require health education to graduate. Without a state health education requirement, schools may choose to cut or eliminate health education from their school’s budget during difficult economic times such as these.

In Connecticut, our low income and minority residents experience staggering reproductive health disparities, including greater risk of obesity, teen pregnancy, smoking, heart disease, poor prenatal care, and the list goes on and on. It is critical to teach health to our children as part of their ongoing education so they can develop the skills they need to make healthy choices.

HB 5489 is part of a comprehensive package of secondary education reforms that support Connecticut’s commitment to the national Common Core Standards Initiative and enhances our chances of receiving federal Race to the Top funds.

It is outrageous that the Family Institute of Connecticut, an organization that touts itself as ethical and moral is actively working against this important legislative measure.

Please contact the members of the Education Committee and let them know that you support a HB 5489!