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!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Surgeon General Satcher: You Can't Have Good Health Without Good Policy

One day after President Obama vowed to do “everything in [his] power” to get health care reform passed in Congress, I had the opportunity to hear Former US Surgeon General Dr. David Satcher speak on the racial and ethnic inequalities in the United States’ health system at the Connecticut College 2010 Health Care Symposium. Satcher, who served as Surgeon General from 1998 to 2002, is the director of the Satcher Health Leadership Institute, established in 2006 to develop a diverse group of public health leaders, foster and support leadership strategies, and influence policies toward the reduction and ultimate elimination of disparities in health.

The health disparities between blacks and whites in America are huge; in terms of life expectancy, infant mortality rates, incidence of heart disease, cancer, and other common killers, African Americans are consistently much more likely to face serious issues for which they receive lesser care. In the simplest terms, Satcher’s argument was this: disparities are real and their determinants are clear, but it is impossible to have achieve equality without policy reform.

With African American babies more than twice as likely as Caucasian children to die in their first year of birth, Dr. Satcher focused much of his discussion on the importance of infant mortality initiatives. These programs address education, nutrition, prenatal care, physical environment, social factors, the health of the mother and child, and other crucial forms of assistance. However, in our own state, Governor Rell's Midterm Budget Adjustments have proposed to eliminate all funding for Fetal and Infant Mortality Review.

As evident from Dr. Satcher's keynote, state-level assistance programs are crucial. In all, his talk was an important reminder that not just health care, but the entire health system are in need of reform. Though education and outreach are equally important in combating deeply entrenched inequality, good health requires good policy and thus we at NARAL are committed to ensuring sexual and reproductive health, rights, and justice for all.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

NARAL Pro-Choice Connecticut Joins Advocates in Support of Basic Workplace Standard for Paid Sick Days

Advocates in support of paid sick days for Connecticut’s worker’s came to the Legislative Office Building today to ask Connecticut lawmakers to pass S.B 63, which would allow workers at businesses with more than 50 employees to earn paid sick time—up to five days per year.

NARAL Pro-Choice Connecticut supports this important policy change because of the profound affect it can have on low income pregnant women in Connecticut and their access to adequate prenatal care. Low-income women in Connecticut have higher rates of inadequate, late or no prenatal care, have higher rates of low birth weight, and their babies are more likely to die than higher income earning women in the state.

Adequate prenatal care is necessary for a healthy pregnancy and healthy child and is directly linked to preventing mother and child from costly health conditions later on in life. During a healthy pregnancy a woman will visit her doctor twelve times. Low income working women in Connecticut should be given the opportunity to attend at least some of their prenatal visits without losing pay.

State Senator Edith Prague and State Senator John Kissel spoke out in support of SB 63, as did Connecticut Working Families, Connecticut Sexual Assault Crisis Services, and the Permanent Commission on the Status of Women.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Choice approached as a social experiment: Bump+

The concept of the new interactive internet show, Bump+, is certainly an interesting one. It is a self-proclaimed social experiment in which three supposedly pregnant women are followed for several weeks during the process of making a decision about what to do in the event of an unplanned pregnancy. Online viewers are invited to discuss each 5-ish minute episode and share their personal stories of unplanned pregnancies and reproductive choice. As the season progresses, episodes are crafted according to viewers, whose comments and stories will ultimately lead to a decision for each woman of whether to carry the pregnancy to term or terminate it.

Yellow Line Studios, the producing agency of the show, states that the purpose of Bump+ is to provoke a more open and productive dialogue around abortion in the hopes that "story can succeed where nearly four decades of angry rhetoric and political posturing have failed." While I am more than supportive of a mission to improve the discourse around reproductive rights, I have doubts about the capacity of this show to constructively promote discussion. I see that the show encourages viewers to put themselves in the shoes of women facing unplanned pregnancies in order to understand the complexity of factors such women contend with when trying to make a choice. However, I fear that even hypothetically placing a woman's reproductive choice in the hands of people other than the woman herself inherently undermines the concept of choice. Furthermore, the remarkably unrepresentative cross-section of pregnant women featured - three young white women in strenuous relationships - paints a dangerously specific picture of who faces unplanned pregnancies. This picture's expediency in galvanizing the public's sympathy could be at the expense of the many women who do not fit these cookie cutter models.

Will the dialogue inspired by this experiment contribute to a more (appropriately) nuanced understanding of the importance of reproductive freedom? Or will it instead detract from the ability of bystanders to respect the decisions that each individual woman, regardless of her circumstances, makes for herself? The answers to these questions are not readily apparent.

Of course, this is likely the point.

In any case, Bump+ merits a look from any and all interested parties. Conversation encouraged.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Abstinence education study must be considered with care

The public needs to be very careful about how it digests the newly released University of Pennsylvania study on abstinence-only education. ABC News, among other media agencies, such as the Washington Post, is pointing to it as "clear evidence that abstinence-only education works." But such a constricted study cannot be taken as "clear evidence" of anything, certainly not of abstinence-only education "working." When we talk about sex education "working," what do we mean, exactly? Does sex education "work" when fewer teens are sexually active at all? Or when they have less sex with fewer people? Or when they feel empowered about their choices? Or when they learn how to protect themselves from pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases? Or when they learn how to gain practical access to those tools of protection? Such questions are critical to considering this data as an educated information consumer.

In any case, one cannot view these findings in a vacuum: they must be considered in conjunction with other persuasive national data, not instead. The study measures success as a decrease in sexually active 6th and 7th graders. This is a pretty narrow definition of success that leaves many students receiving this education out in the cold. While the study may be hopeful in suggesting that abstinence-only education in middle school decreases the number of sexually active pre-teens, it does not address the persistent concern of safer sex behaviors among those who do choose to have sex. Even after the decrease in sexually active middle schoolers described in this study, 33% still reported having had sex at least once. This means a third of pre-teens exposed to this education is left with no recourse to protect themselves. Furthermore, as these middle schoolers enter high school and more of the remaining 67% begin to have sex and find themselves in need of safer sex education, abstinence-only education becomes even less appropriate and more damaging.

If abstinence-only sex ed has a place anywhere in sex education, it makes its strongest argument with application to younger students, and even then it presents significant concerns. Its seeming success does not take away from the fact that sexually active youth are in need of education on safer sex behaviors so that they have the complete tools to protect themselves. Additionally, it must also be noted that the sample size in this study was very small and that it comprised primarily urban minority students, making it extremely difficult to meaningfully extrapolate to the larger population without follow-up research.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Give testimony on Women's Day at the Capitol

The Connecticut Permanent Commission on the Status of women is now seeking submissions for oral and written testimony at the February 9 Women's Day at the Capitol. This is an opportunity to tell Connecticut's Permanent Commission on the Status of Women what issues affecting women in this state are most important to you. Additionally, if you'd like to go to the capitol on Feb 9 to give oral testimony, this is an opportunity not only to voice your concerns but also to hear concerns of women across the state. For submission information, and to learn more about the CT Permanent Commission on the Status of Women, visit their website.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Bad call on Super Bowl anti-abortion ad, CBS

The Focus on the Family ad slated to air on CBS during the Superbowl is a disturbing demonstration of irresponsibility on the part of the network and a reminder of the power of money to advance ideology. The Los Angeles Times does a stellar job of outlining the policy changes and financial circumstances leading to CBS' decision to air the ad, as well as the emotionally manipulative content of the ad, which features Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Tim Tebow and his mother. Where is the network's integrity? Focus on the Family claims that they are running the ad because "families need to be inspired." But this supposed inspiration of families will also function as oppression of the millions of women in America who are watching the Super Bowl or whose family members are watching it, being impressed upon to imagine abortions as murdered future Heisman Trophy winners. Such manipulation is condescending and ignorant of the multitude of real-life dilemmas facing women from all walks of life during unplanned pregnancies.

Come on, CBS. You have all the lucrative options in the world for ads to air for that 30 seconds that don't condemn a woman's legal right to an abortion. I know football is traditionally a man's game, but bulldozing a woman's right to choose is not a play you can run or a show you can put on during halftime, no matter how popular a player your quarterback is. Have some guts: DON'T run the Focus on the Family ad next Sunday.

Join NARAL's effort to petition CBS not to run its ad by visiting the national website. Tell them why you think it's unacceptable to run an anti-choice ad during the most-watched TV event of the year, during which the ads are nearly as much of a draw as the featured program itself. Tell CBS to stand up for women, and for you.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Rise in teen pregnancy suggests flaws in sexual education policy

Teen pregnancy is rising in the U.S. after a decade-long decline, according to brand new data published by the Guttmacher Institute. This slow in decline and subsequent change in direction correlates with the adoption of the Title V abstinence-only education law from 1998-2009, which attached federal dollars for education to a strictly defined abstinence-until-marriage sexual education. While the classic statistical imperative charges that we not infer causation from correlation, it is difficult to ignore the implications of a federal law stating that sexual education programs who hope to receive federal funding must be "abstinence-only programs [that] have as their 'exclusive purpose' promoting abstinence outside of marriage" and that such "programs may not in any way advocate contraceptive use or discuss contraceptive methods except to emphasize their failure rates." The government financially rewards states that deny teenagers the tools to protect themselves adequately. This not only serves to validate such states' sex education agendas, but it also makes it extremely difficult for the state to change its policies. While at one time or another 49 out of 50 states accepted funds from Title V, half the states ceased participation. State Health Commissioner Dr. Richard F. Daines is cited on SIECUS stating his reasoning for New York's withdrawal from the program: “The Bush administration’s abstinence-only program is an example of a failed national health care policy directive… [the policy was] …based on ideology rather than on sound scientific-based evidence that must be the cornerstone of good public healthc are policy.”

The findings published by the Guttmacher Institute reveal differences in sex education policy indeed indicating that abstinence-based policies are not as functional as the writers of Title V hoped. The states with the highest teen pregnancy rates overall (New Mexico, Nevada, Arizona, Texas, Mississippi) are in the South and Southwest, and the states with the lowest (New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine, Minnesota) are in New England and the north Midwest. According to the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS), none of the states at the bottom require any sexual education at all. When schools in those states do choose to include education, state policy either follows the guidelines in Title V (only MS, currently) or stresses abstinence as much preferred over other sexual education (TX, AZ). These states also incorporate an opt-out policy, which allows parents to choose to exempt their children from sex education (NM), or an opt-in policy are required to give consent for the child to receive such education - making no sex education the default (NV). Conversely, the states with the lowest rates also have sexual education policies that significantly incorporate safer sex education and require all schools and students to participate.

These data also have startling implications for social justice. It seems like a cruel joke that those states which tend towards abstinence-centric sex education are also some of the poorest states in the nation whose public education systems are most in need of funding. There's nothing like putting strings on federal money to control the activities of poorly-funded education systems. Additionally, in the states with the highest rates, minority teens are taking a particularly hard hit. Those states report statistics (which generally reflect national averages) indicating that African American and Hispanic teenagers have significantly higher rates of teen pregnancy than white teens. In Maine, by contrast, which has one of the most comprehensive state mandated sex education programs in the country, the gap is almost nonexistent. Efforts to promote social and reproductive justice in the sex education and teen pregnancy arena would do well to take a closer look at sexual education as practiced in Maine's public schools. Again, causation cannot follow directly from correlation; but you have to start somewhere.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Reproductive Health Care in Haiti is an Integral Part of the Picture

In the weeks following Haiti’s disastrous earthquake, the concerned global public’s awareness of reproductive health repercussions is critically relevant to the material aid reaching a vulnerable group of survivors on the ground in Port-au-Prince. The monetary and medical relief that is pouring into the country, much of it from United States citizens, has been phenomenal by all accounts. Where infrastructural chaos is not blocking supplies, it is resulting in significant respite to victims in Port-au-Prince. My response is, reasonably, one of awe and renewed faith in human altruism at this widespread generosity from afar.

Given such a moving incidence of compassion, I find it upsetting and inconsistent to come across information sources that seek to deny some of the most vulnerable of survivors in Haiti their most essential medical needs: reproductive health care. Vocal family planning opponents are not new players on the scene, and their detractions are generally too numerous to address individually. However, in this moment of human crisis on a massive scale, their self-righteousness must be exposed as deadly ignorance.

Life-threatening consequences of the 7.0 Mw earthquake come in many forms, including serious bodily injury, rampant infection, and dissolution of access to safe water and food. Of equally lethal threat, but often under the radar, is the health of what the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) estimates as 37,000 pregnant women among the survivors in and around Port-au-Prince. These women face “another kind of emergency, perhaps less visible but equally deadly, … when [they] are forced to give birth in unsanitary conditions and without access to medical care.” The UNFPA estimates that about seven thousand of these women will deliver in the next month and about 15% will require care for life-threatening-pregnancy complications. In these cases, reproductive health care services are not supplemental to relief: they are equivalent to relief.

The threat to these women’s lives and health in Haiti is not confined to complications of childbirth. Just as the vital needs of those who are sick and injured after a disaster increase, so also do the reproductive health care needs of women. The majority of deaths among pregnant women are due to hemorrhage, infection, miscarriage, prolonged/obstructed labor and hypertensive disorders, many of which could be avoided with medical care, according to CARE. The risk of such complications increases at all stages of pregnancy, and the risk of their occurrence skyrockets in the Port-au-Prince disaster zone. Pregnant women, as well as lactating women trying to safely feed their children, are particularly susceptible to illnesses spread as a result of unclean food and water and chaotic infrastructure. Additionally, considering Haiti’s average birth rate of nearly 4 children per woman, the likelihood that pregnant women surviving the quake have other children is exceedingly high. A great many of these women are sole or primary caretakers. Protecting women’s reproductive health not only means providing them with one of their most essential needs, it also means protecting the health and integrity of entire families.

Organizations responding to reproductive needs in Haiti comprise a critical piece of the relief effort there. The UNFPA is sending clean delivery kits, containing “a clean piece of cloth, a sterile knife to cut the cord, a cord clamp, a plastic sheet and so forth so that if they have to deliver where they are,” according to Dr. Jemilah Mahmood, chief of UNFPA's Humanitarian Response Branch, in an interview on United Nations Radio. They will also be distributing dignity kits, which contain sanitary napkins, soap and various other items of personal hygiene. The International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) is working with its Haitian member organization, PROFAMIL, to provide crucial medical services in the form of temporary clinics, basic first aid, and obstetric and family planning services. Beyond material aid, these services will empower women to be in better control of their own and their families’ health and lives. Such empowerment will be essential to the rebuilding of Port-au-Prince long after the current flood of global resources has slowed to a trickle.

Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of criticism of reproductive health care relief services is that it undermines the overall global relief effort. While natural catastrophes happen every day worldwide, international outpouring of support is not a daily phenomenon. To discourage the public from supporting material, effective relief is counterproductive and tragically impedes the level of kindness that people are capable of. More practically and immediately speaking, it impedes the help that survivors in Port-au-Prince are able to receive. When donating to Haiti relief efforts, please consider supporting the efforts of UNFPA and IPPF as they perform a vital service for Haitian citizens in need.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

I for one like men.

Created by: Jillian

This guy missed the point entirely. I think that men should be given more options to control their reproductive future. Unlike this guy, though, I view the lack of available options to men as a reflection of our society's sexism toward women, not some female conspiracy to overtake men.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Women Have Most to Gain from Health Care Reform! Don't Take Away Our Rights!

The health care reform bill is the most important social policy since Medicare and Medicaid. It will disproportionately help women because women are currently less likely to have health insurance. Women are more likely to work for small firms, in nonunion jobs, and part-time employment, all of which come with weaker or no benefits. Most women depend on their husbands for health insurance: 79% of couples have a single policy, and 75% of these policies are through the husband’s employment. Women face, what’s called in economics, “marital lock”, where they are encouraged to stay married for the simple reason of maintaining their health insurance. Women, who currently obtain their own policies either through work or the individual market, pay much higher premiums than men. Discrimination in insurance by race was outlawed decades ago, but discrimination by gender continues to be commonplace in health insurance.

Both the house and senate health care bills would outlaw discrimination by gender in insurance by regulating the companies. The bills will also have an individual mandate; everyone will be required to have health insurance. This will alter the pool of the individual market to include millions of healthy people, theoretically making the individual market a reasonable place to purchase insurance, even for people with pre-existing conditions. The structure of employer-sponsored health insurance benefits men over women, so, any policies that lead us in the direction of universal health care will disproportionately help women.

However, republicans and blue dog democrats are using health care reform as an opportunity to slash away at reproductive rights. They are taking legislation that is necessary for women’s rights and adding anti-choice measures to it. Unfortunately, Congress voted in favor of both the Stupak amendment (House) and the Nelson amendment (Senate). Right now, members of the party leadership are meeting in conference to decide what will be in the final bill. If they decide keep the anti-abortion measures, it will be a huge loss for women all across the country. Even if we get health care reform, which is a huge social justice and women’s rights issue, we still lose decades of hard won reproductive rights.

There is no other single medical procedure being targeted in health care reform. Abortion is the only one. It is unfair to target a procedure that only affects women. Abortion is legal! Members of Congress need to be reminded of that.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Thank you Senator Dodd.

Pro-Choice Leaders Pay Tribute to Sen. Dodd’s Record
in Support of Women’s Freedom and Privacy

Washington, DCNancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, and Jillian Gilchrest, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Connecticut, issued the following statement regarding Sen. Christopher Dodd’s decision to retire.

“On behalf of pro-choice residents of Connecticut and women across the country, we thank Sen. Christopher Dodd for his distinguished record of protecting and defending a woman’s right to choose. He has been a stalwart advocate for the pro-choice values of freedom and privacy. When the debate over health reform started in the Senate last year, Sen. Dodd led a key committee in defeating repeated attempts by anti-choice senators to politicize health-care reform legislation with divisive amendments. As Sen. Dodd completes his final term, we will continue to work with him and his staff on the many critical issues of importance to women’s reproductive health and privacy.”