Building Community: Rewire Q3

Scott Swenson

Rewire readership is up 75 percent in Q3 2007, and a growing community, especially in a new media world, means challenges. With your ideas, contributions, and participation, Rewire will continue to succeed.

Rewire continues to learn, grow, and, most importantly, build community. Community building is often unwieldy and always a challenge.

When some people talk about the "sexual and reproductive health community," they are referring to a collective group of advocacy organizations, professional associations, and health providers. Others define community as the membership of those organizations, while some would focus on the professionals working within them. Some include anyone interested in sexual and reproductive health, but might focus on specialty issues to the exclusion of others. And all too often, we still learn lessons of exclusion based on class, access, race, orientation, and geography, even within progressive movements. No doubt about it, community is a challenge, especially online.

Rewire is building a community that challenges many of these notions because our community is premised on promoting access to information, encouraging dialog, and providing a platform where more people can find and contribute to a diversity of progressive ideas about sexual and reproductive health more quickly. Our goal is to counter the glut of misinformation promoted by others by putting a progressive frame on issues, ranging in viewpoint from expert opinion to personal anecdote.

The challenge is not to ideas, to individuals, or to anyone's definition of community. The challenge, and it is one that every issue area faces in this age of new media and new journalism, is how the diversity of ideas often debated privately can move into an age where our ideas flourish publicly, and we can be confident that even when progressives differ, we share information the public needs and can rely on. Each of us is strengthened by ideas of others.

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None of us has all the answers and too few have access to the nuance that impacts all of us. But together, progressive ideas brought to light will inform, educate, and win.

With generous support and a commitment to editorial independence from the United Nations Foundation, Rewire has built a platform for this online community to flourish, and, thanks to you, it is.

  • Readership is up 75 percent in the most recent quarter and 140 percent from the start of the year.
  • We are steadily climbing in the Technorati rankings, now in the 7000 range, up from a ranking of 20,000 at the start of the quarter. The rankings are based on links to and from the site in the past three months. The higher our ranking, the more highly ranked our content is on many search engines.
  • We continue to push content aggressively through additional information products, repackaging the content you see and promoting it to other websites and to journalists, opinion leaders and subscribers to our daily, weekly or monthly feeds.

In Q3 2007, Rewire:

  • Kicked off our Election 2008 coverage, featuring information about every candidate, updated with regular posts.
  • Introduced our weekly podcast, RealityCast with Amanda Marcotte, available every Monday. And Amanda's weekly column brings you her fresh, frank, and personal takes on what reproductive justice really means in our lives every Wednesday.
  • Began featuring more regular columnists, including Cristina Page from birthcontrolwatch.org, and Anika Rahman from Americans for UNFPA.
  • Partnered with Advocates for Youth, SIECUS, ISIS, and DoGooderTV to sponsor Fresh Focus: Sex Ed Digital Video Contest to learn what people 15-30 think about the future of Sex Ed. See Amie's post about this contest and the fantastic prizes, and encourage youth you know to enter!
  • Featured new content every day from our Leading Voices, our Global Perspectives writers, and other feminist journalists and commentators on our front page. We are deepening our connections to seasoned reporters who bring you the latest, most accurate news, with more analysis and information on reproductive rights than you'll see in the mainstream media.
  • Built our relationship with the progressive blogosphere, having a presence both on DailyKos and at the Yearly Kos Convention and welcoming progressive bloggers to our site. We believe more needs to be done to elevate sexual and reproductive health issues in the progressive blogosphere, and with your ideas on Rewire, we will.
  • Introduced Talk Back, featuring the most recent comments on the front page, and adding a "Most Popular Discussions" tab at the bottom of the front page. By clicking the Talk Back headline, you link to the 30 most recent comments on our site, making Rewire even more interactive. Use your real name to comment, or a screen name that allows you to speak more freely. Unlike many socially conservative web sites, we welcome all respectful voices on our site, and encourage the community to use comments to respond, debate, inform and educate. You may not win over an opposition commenter, but an open-minded reader who sees your civil arguments will benefit from your truth.
  • Changed Breaking News from using only the Kaiser feed, to bringing you the latest headlines from original sources via Google News, selected by Rewire editorial staff. Again, clicking on the orange Breaking News headline takes you to all the recent news. As with all our content, it is available in an RSS Feed, allowing you to manage all your content from your favorite sites.
  • Expanded your ability to contribute to the site via RH Wiki. Just like at Wikipedia, at Rewire you can submit content to several sections of the site, providing the latest studies from your organization, your favorite Reckless Rhetoric from the opposition, and more. The benefit, in addition to community participation, is that the information you provide will be linked to more sites, and will appear ranked higher in search engines as a result of the work Rewire is doing. If you are interested in volunteering to be a community Wiki Editor, we'd love to hear from you, but you don't have to be a Wiki Editor to share the good information you have access to with the larger community. More links to and from your site and Rewire lifts all sites, getting more eyes on your information.

Finally, in Q4 2007, watch for:

  • Reader Survey. As we grow this community, we want to hear from you. In late October we will conduct an online survey, and we hope you'll share with us what works best about Rewire and what more we could do for you.
  • Improving "Page Two" features. After our front page, every page you jump to is page two to us — so watch what happens in the right hand column over the next few weeks and months.
  • Off site organizing. Rewire is working with others to more effectively coordinate and elevate the promotion of sexual and reproductive health issues, as well as feminist ideas, throughout the blogosphere. Many progressives still want to downplay these issues … we won't let them! United we win!

Thanks again for reading, commenting and writing. We encourage you to submit not only comments, but your own writing. Rewire celebrates ideas, especially yours!

News Abortion

Anti-Choice Leader to Remove Himself From Medical Board Case in Ohio

Michelle D. Anderson

In a letter to the State of Ohio Medical Board, representatives from nine groups shared comments made by Gonidakis and said he lacked the objectivity required to remain a member of the medical board. The letter’s undersigned said the board should take whatever steps necessary to force Gonidakis’ resignation if he failed to resign.

Anti-choice leader Mike Gonidakis said Monday that he would remove himself from deciding a complaint against a local abortion provider after several groups asked that he resign as president of the State of Ohio Medical Board.

The Associated Press first reported news of Gonidakis’ decision, which came after several pro-choice groups said he should step down from the medical board because he had a conflict of interest in the pending complaint.

The complaint, filed by Dayton Right to Life on August 3, alleged that three abortion providers working at Women’s Med Center in Dayton violated state law and forced an abortion on a patient that was incapable of withdrawing her consent due to a drug overdose.

Ohio Right to Life issued a news release the same day Dayton Right to Life filed its complaint, featuring a quotation from its executive director saying that local pro-choice advocates forfeit “whatever tinge of credibility” it had if it refused to condemn what allegedly happened at Women’s Med Center.

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Gonidakis, the president of Ohio Right to Life, had then forwarded a copy of the news release to ProgressOhio Executive Director Sandy Theis with a note saying, “Sandy…. Will you finally repudiate the industry for which you so proudly support? So much for ‘women’s health’. So sad.”

On Friday, ProgressOhio, along with eight other groupsDoctors for Health Care Solutions, Common Cause Ohio, the Ohio National Organization for Women, Innovation Ohio, the Ohio House Democratic Women’s Caucus, the National Council of Jewish Women, Democratic Voices of Ohio, and Ohio Voice—responded to Gonidakis’ public and private commentary by writing a letter to the medical board asking that he resign.

In the letter, representatives from those groups shared comments made by Gonidakis and said he lacked the objectivity required to remain a member of the medical board. The letter’s undersigned said the board should take whatever steps necessary to force Gonidakis’ resignation if he failed to resign.

Contacted for comment, the medical board did not respond by press time.

The Ohio Medical Board protects the public by licensing and regulating physicians and other health-care professionals in part by reviewing complaints such as the one filed by Dayton Right to Life.

The decision-making body includes three non-physician consumer members and nine physicians who serve five-year terms when fully staffed. Currently, 11 citizens serve on the board.

Gonidakis, appointed in 2012 by Ohio Gov. John Kasich, is a consumer member of the board and lacks medical training.

Theis told Rewire in a telephone interview that the letter’s undersigned did not include groups like NARAL Pro-Choice and Planned Parenthood in its effort to highlight the conflict with Gonidakis.

“We wanted it to be about ethics” and not about abortion politics, Theis explained to Rewire.

Theis said Gonidakis had publicly condemned three licensed doctors from Women’s Med Center without engaging the providers or hearing the facts about the alleged incident.

“He put his point out there on Main Street having only heard the view of Dayton Right to Life,” Theis said. “In court, a judge who does something like that would have been thrown off the bench.”

Arthur Lavin, co-chairman of Doctors for Health Care Solutions, told the Associated Press the medical board should be free from politics.

Theis said ProgressOhio also exercised its right to file a complaint with the Ohio Ethics Commission to have Gonidakis removed because Theis had first-hand knowledge of his ethical wrongdoing.

The 29-page complaint, obtained by Rewire, details Gonidakis’ association with anti-choice groups and includes a copy of the email he sent to Theis.

Common Cause Ohio was the only group that co-signed the letter that is decidedly not pro-choice. A policy analyst from the nonpartisan organization told the Columbus Dispatch that Common Cause was not for or against abortion, but had signed the letter because a clear conflict of interest exists on the state’s medical board.

Commentary Contraception

Hillary Clinton Played a Critical Role in Making Emergency Contraception More Accessible

Susan Wood

Today, women are able to access emergency contraception, a safe, second-chance option for preventing unintended pregnancy in a timely manner without a prescription. Clinton helped make this happen, and I can tell the story from having watched it unfold.

In the midst of election-year talk and debates about political controversies, we often forget examples of candidates’ past leadership. But we must not overlook the ways in which Hillary Clinton demonstrated her commitment to women’s health before she became the Democratic presidential nominee. In early 2008, I wrote the following article for Rewirewhich has been lightly edited—from my perspective as a former official at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) about the critical role that Clinton, then a senator, had played in making the emergency contraception method Plan B available over the counter. She demanded that reproductive health benefits and the best available science drive decisions at the FDA, not politics. She challenged the Bush administration and pushed the Democratic-controlled Senate to protect the FDA’s decision making from political interference in order to help women get access to EC.

Since that time, Plan B and other emergency contraception pills have become fully over the counter with no age or ID requirements. Despite all the controversy, women at risk of unintended pregnancy finally can get timely access to another method of contraception if they need it—such as in cases of condom failure or sexual assault. By 2010, according to National Center for Health Statistics data, 11 percent of all sexually experienced women ages 15 to 44 had ever used EC, compared with only 4 percent in 2002. Indeed, nearly one-quarter of all women ages 20 to 24 had used emergency contraception by 2010.

As I stated in 2008, “All those who benefited from this decision should know it may not have happened were it not for Hillary Clinton.”

Now, there are new emergency contraceptive pills (Ella) available by prescription, women have access to insurance coverage of contraception without cost-sharing, and there is progress in making some regular contraceptive pills available over the counter, without prescription. Yet extreme calls for defunding Planned Parenthood, the costs and lack of coverage of over-the-counter EC, and refusals by some pharmacies to stock emergency contraception clearly demonstrate that politicization of science and limits to our access to contraception remain a serious problem.

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Today, women are able to access emergency contraception, a safe, second chance option for preventing unintended pregnancy in a timely manner without a prescription. Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) helped make this happen, and I can tell the story from having watched it unfold.

Although stories about reproductive health and politicization of science have made headlines recently, stories of how these problems are solved are less often told. On August 31, 2005 I resigned my position as assistant commissioner for women’s health at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) because the agency was not allowed to make its decisions based on the science or in the best interests of the public’s health. While my resignation was widely covered by the media, it would have been a hollow gesture were there not leaders in Congress who stepped in and demanded more accountability from the FDA.

I have been working to improve health care for women and families in the United States for nearly 20 years. In 2000, I became the director of women’s health for the FDA. I was rather quietly doing my job when the debate began in 2003 over whether or not emergency contraception should be provided over the counter (OTC). As a scientist, I knew the facts showed that this medication, which can be used after a rape or other emergency situations, prevents an unwanted pregnancy. It does not cause an abortion, but can help prevent the need for one. But it only works if used within 72 hours, and sooner is even better. Since it is completely safe, and many women find it impossible to get a doctor’s appointment within two to three days, making emergency contraception available to women without a prescription was simply the right thing to do. As an FDA employee, I knew it should have been a routine approval within the agency.

Plan B emergency contraception is just like birth control pills—it is not the “abortion pill,” RU-486, and most people in the United States don’t think access to safe and effective contraception is controversial. Sadly, in Congress and in the White House, there are many people who do oppose birth control. And although this may surprise you, this false “controversy” not only has affected emergency contraception, but also caused the recent dramatic increase in the cost of birth control pills on college campuses, and limited family planning services across the country.  The reality is that having more options for contraception helps each of us make our own decisions in planning our families and preventing unwanted pregnancies. This is something we can all agree on.

Meanwhile, inside the walls of the FDA in 2003 and 2004, the Bush administration continued to throw roadblocks at efforts to approve emergency contraception over the counter. When this struggle became public, I was struck by the leadership that Hillary Clinton displayed. She used the tools of a U.S. senator and fought ardently to preserve the FDA’s independent scientific decision-making authority. Many other senators and congressmen agreed, but she was the one who took the lead, saying she simply wanted the FDA to be able to make decisions based on its public health mission and on the medical evidence.

When it became clear that FDA scientists would continue to be overruled for non-scientific reasons, I resigned in protest in late 2005. I was interviewed by news media for months and traveled around the country hoping that many would stand up and demand that FDA do its job properly. But, although it can help, all the media in the world can’t make Congress or a president do the right thing.

Sen. Clinton made the difference. The FDA suddenly announced it would approve emergency contraception for use without a prescription for women ages 18 and older—one day before FDA officials were to face a determined Sen. Clinton and her colleague Sen. Murray (D-WA) at a Senate hearing in 2006. No one was more surprised than I was. All those who benefited from this decision should know it may not have happened were it not for Hillary Clinton.

Sometimes these success stories get lost in the “horse-race stories” about political campaigns and the exposes of taxpayer-funded bridges to nowhere, and who said what to whom. This story of emergency contraception at the FDA is just one story of many. Sen. Clinton saw a problem that affected people’s lives. She then stood up to the challenge and worked to solve it.

The challenges we face in health care, our economy, global climate change, and issues of war and peace, need to be tackled with experience, skills and the commitment to using the best available science and evidence to make the best possible policy.  This will benefit us all.

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