Roundup: FDA Considers Approval of Female Condom; Richard Cizik Outspoken on Civil Unions, Abortion

Roundup: FDA Considers Approval of Female Condom; Richard Cizik Outspoken on Civil Unions, Abortion

Emily Douglas

FDA considers approval of second-generation female condom; midwives critical for maternal care in Afghanistan; is Richard Cizik trying to get fired?; American Life League's Judie Brown compares Wendy Norris to Barack Obama!

FDA Considers Approving Second-Generation Female Condom

On Tuesday, Pamela Merritt encouraged Rewire
to urge the Obstetrics and Gynecology Devices Advisory Committee at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to approve the second-generation female condom, "FC2."  At Women’s eNews, Molly Ginty covers the innovations of the new version of the female condom:

the other version of the female condom–the "FC" approved by the FDA
in 1994–the second-generation "FC2" is made by the Chicago-based
Female Health Company. Just as effective as its predecessor at preventing
unwanted pregnancy, HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, the new
version is made of nitrile, a cheaper material than the older version’s
polyurethane, and is 30 percent less expensive.

Midwives Critical for Maternal Care in Afghanistan

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Bodies, Our Blog has an excellent write-up
of a Chicago
Tribune story
on midwifery in Afghanistan.  Maternal morality is high in that country – a woman
dies giving birth every 26 minutes – and midwives bring desperately-needed
skilled birth attendance to women in rural areas.  Yet deadly threats to midwives remain:

[I]n a country where government employees are attacked constantly by
Taliban-led insurgents, being a midwife is a risky political statement.

In Nuristan province, a midwife was
kidnapped by the Taliban four months ago. In a rural part of Kandahar province, militants shot and killed
a midwife about two months ago, allegedly because she was handing out condoms
and birth control.

The Ghani Khel program is supposed to train students from neighboring Kunar
province, a militant haven, but no students from Kunar are enrolled. A clinic
that opened in the dangerous Pech Valley of Kunar has almost no patients
because it is close to a U.S. base, and Afghans there do not want to associate
– or be seen associating – with Americans. That clinic is being moved.

"People didn’t want to send their women there because it was near the
Americans," said Toorpekay Nawab, 51, the midwife who runs the Ghani Khel
school. "The war affects everything. Of course it hurts our program."


"Is Richard Cizik Trying to Get Fired?"

on Right Wing Watch wonders
, "Is [National Association of Evangelicals president] Richard Cizik trying to get fired?" Kyle mentions an interview Cizik had with NPR’s Terry Gross, in which he expressed support for civil unions for same-sex couples and President-Elect Obama’s plans to work to "reduce abortion." Notes Kyle, "Tony Perkins, for one, isn’t buying it, saying that Cizik ‘left the reservation a long time ago’ and wanting to know why he is still employed by the NAE:

How else can you explain enthusiastic support for what
will probably be the nation’s most pro-abortion, anti-family president
in our nation’s 232 year history?

The question, however, remains. If Cizik does not speak for the NAE,
as the Rev. Anderson has said, why is he on Capitol Hill representing
NAE and claiming to speak for Evangelicals? Is it possible for a human
being to come with a disclaimer?

American Life League’s Judie Brown Compares Wendy Norris to Barack Obama

To American
Life League founder Judie Brown
, both Rewire contributor Wendy Norris and President-Elect Obama suffer from the same delusion about the true nature of fertilized eggs.  In a column on RenewAmerica, Brown writes,

Norris, like Obama, has the strange perspective that when pro-life
America speaks of personhood, we are attempting to assign human dignity
to a "fertilized egg." Norris is in denial, and she chooses to avoid
being honest enough to tell her readers that the human being whose life
begins at the union of sperm and egg is immediately a human being. By
using the term "fertilized egg," Norris attempts to dehumanize the
baby, thus giving her the opportunity to deny that scientific fact has
anything whatsoever to do with the personhood of individual human

Let’s review the question of personhood and fertilization, shall we, with our handy Reality Check video!

Rewire: Does Personhood Start At Fertilization? from Rewire on Vimeo.

FDA Approves Next Generation Female Condom

Kimberly Whipkey

Yesterday the FDA approved the second-generation female condom, expanding the "prevention toolkit" and offering women a less expensive contraceptive and STI prevention option.

Prevention advocates rejoice! Yesterday  the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the FC2 female
condom – a second generation product manufactured by the Female Health

There are many reasons to celebrate. 
First and foremost, the "prevention toolkit" is expanding – women
and men now have another option to prevent HIV infection. And women
in particular now have another safe and effective method designed for
them to initiate (even though men
can initiate female condom use too
The FC2 is designed to overcome some of the reported barriers faced
by its predecessor, the FC1 – it is apparently less noisy to use during
sex – and yet shares all the benefits of the FC1, such as the ability
to use water and oil-based lubricants or to insert the condom up to
eight hours before intercourse.  But the reason that is grabbing
the most headlines is the FC2 is cheaper to produce than the FC1, which
means that cost-savings will be passed on to the consumer.  In
fact, the FC2 will sell for about 30% less than the FC1. 

This of course has positive
implications for the affordability and accessibility of female condoms
in the U.S. and internationally.  For instance, the United States
Agency for International Development plans to phase out procurement
of the FC1 upon FDA approval of the FC2 according to Saving Lives
, a report
by the Center for Health and Gender Equity.  This means that potentially
more female condoms can be procured, distributed and programmed overseas
due to lower costs.   

Cheers are definitely in order
for the decrease in manufacturing costs.  But it’s also important
to recognize that lower cost to the consumer is not a silver bullet
to rapid female condom uptake and use in the U.S. or internationally. 
Without adequate investments in technical support and programming, how
will women in men learn about the female condom-about how to insert
it and use it correctly and consistently, and how to negotiate and communicate
with their partners?   

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With the drop in cost for the
new female condom, we also need a surge in education and advocacy, at
the local, national and international level.  Local service providers
and departments of health, ministries of health and other decision makers
need to hear from advocates that increased investment in female condom
procurement, distribution and programming is essential. 

We encourage you to join the Prevention Now!
– a
global campaign to dramatically increase donor and government funding
for the purchase, distribution and program support needed to expand
access to female and male condoms and other existing prevention options
for women and men.  Let’s build on this momentum together to
make universal access to female condoms a reality!   

TIME Magazine: Right on Stimulus, Wrong on EC

Jodi Jacobson

In an otherwise excellent article on the Medicaid provision in the stimulus, TIME Magazine gets it all wrong on emergency contraception.

An otherwise excellent TIME Magazine article written today on by Amy Sullivan gets everything right in its explanation of the medicaid waiver for family planning taken out of the stimulus bill earlier this week….except for emergency contraception, which it gets all wrong.

Sullivan explains clearly the intention of the family planning waiver, how it would help women and families, and notes some of the grounds supporting it.

She goes on, however, to equate emergency contraception with abortion, which it is not. In question and answer style, she asks:

Would the provision have required states to cover emergency contraception or abortions?

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No. The policy of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is
that abortion "may not be claimed as a family planning service" under
any circumstances. Since 1976, the Hyde Amendment has barred the use of
federal funds to pay for abortions. Individual states can use their own
funds to pay for "medically necessary" abortions for Medicaid
recipients, and at least 17 states currently do so. 

In her Q and A, Sullivan therefore perpetuates an unfortunate and even dangerous myth: Emergency contraception is not an abortifacient. It is a method of contraception.

As a quick visit to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration website would have shown her:

1. What is emergency contraception?
Emergency contraception is a method of preventing
pregnancy to be used after a contraceptive fails or after
unprotected sex. It is not for routine use. Drugs used for this
purpose are called emergency contraceptive pills, post-coital pills,
or morning after pills. Emergency contraceptives contain the
hormones estrogen and progestin (levonorgestrel), either separately
or in combination. FDA has approved two products for prescription
use for emergency contraception – Preven (approved in 1998) and Plan
B (approved in 1999). 

Plan B [one name for emergency contraception] works like other birth control pills to prevent pregnancy.
Plan B acts primarily by stopping the release of an egg from the
ovary (ovulation). It may prevent the union of sperm and egg
(fertilization). If fertilization does occur, Plan B may prevent a
fertilized egg from attaching to the womb (implantation). If a
fertilized egg is implanted prior to taking Plan B, Plan B will not

In short, emergency contraception is not abortion, because abortion is defined as ending a pregnancy and a pregnancy begins with implantation of a fertilized egg.  If you are pregnant, emergency contraception does not work.

Related Video: What are the differences between emergency contraception, birth control pills and the abortion pill (RU-486)?

This is the widely accepted medical definition of emergency contraception shared by our own federal agencies and also by international bodies such as the World Health Organization.

Similar information can be found on other easily available websites, such as The Emergency Contraception Website, which offers not only straightforward information on many frequently asked questions about EC, but also enables women to find EC when and where they need it.

No, using emergency contraceptive
(also called "morning
after pills
" or "day after pills") prevents
after sex. It does not cause an abortion. (In fact,
because emergency contraception helps women avoid getting pregnant
when they are not ready or able to have children, it can reduce
the need for abortion

Emergency contraceptive
or the IUD as emergency
work before pregnancy begins. According to leading
medical authorities – such as the National Institutes of Health and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
pregnancy begins when the fertilized egg implants in the lining of
a woman’s uterus. Implantation begins five to seven days after sperm
fertilizes the egg, and the process is completed several days later.
Emergency contraception will not work if a woman is already pregnant,
and it also will not harm the woman
or her fetus.

This mistake, common to mainstream media and fostered by the far right misinformation machine continues to create confusion and further spread confusion in the public about emergency contraception.  In doing so, it can prevent women from understanding that they can access emergency contraception "as contraception" under family planning servcies because it is…..contraception!

Someone reading Ms. Sullivan’s piece might read it and erroneously assume they  cannot get the help they need before pregnancy occurs, and instead wind up having to turn to abortion.  If we all are interested in preventing unintended pregnancies in the first place, we have an obligation to get the data and science on contraceptives right.

I applaud Ms. Sullivan on her otherwise excellent article, but hope you will help bring to her attention this mistake by commenting on the site at


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