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.