The Pro-Voice Solution

Aspen Baker

Living with a pro-voice solution is the only option for a lasting peace to the abortion war.

Editor’s Note: After reading Muammar Qaddafi’s editorial, "The One-State Solution," on the Israel/Palestine conflict in the New York Times last week, Aspen Baker rewrote the editorial to address the abortion war.

In one day and with only a web page, President Obama reversed eight
years of the White House’s pro-life agenda and replaced it with a new
pro-choice one. The cycle of war – victory and retribution, triumph and
payback – continues, reminding us why a final resolution to the
so-called abortion war is so important. It is vital not just to break
this cycle, but also to deny the leaders who feed on the conflict an
excuse to grow their fight and further the divisions.

But everywhere one looks, among the speeches and the advocacy, there
is no real way forward. A just and lasting peace between pro-choice and
pro-life people is possible, but it lies in the history of those who
have fought over this conflicted issue, and not in the tired rhetoric
of "common ground."

Although it’s hard to realize, the cycle of war between the pro-life
and pro-choice people has not always existed. In fact, many of the
divisions between pro-life and pro-choice are recent ones. People on
both sides of the abortion issue worked alongside each other for years
delivering babies, helping families in need and opening up the adoption
process to make it more supportive and respectful of women, adopted
children and their families.

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Pro-choice and pro-life people can be members in the same family.
Throughout the decades both faced hostility and judgment from others
for their views and they often found solace in each other when they
talked, and learned about their different perspectives. Pro-life people
can support the legal right to have an abortion and pro-choice people
can hope for a world free of the need for abortion.

The history of abortion is not remarkable by human standards – over
the course of history, people have found – and continue to find – ways
to manipulate and control nature to make our lives easier, healthier,
and longer. But it is our cultures – our values, beliefs, morals and
norms – that help us make sense of our power and give us codes and
direction for how to relate with nature. Yet, across the world and
throughout history, there is great diversity in how cultures value
women, the unborn, children and abortion. That is why it gets
complicated when members of either side proclaim the moral high ground.

The basis for the legal right to abortion is the historic inequality
of women, which is undeniable. Women used to be the property of their
husbands, unable to own their own land, not to mention left legally
unprotected when raped or abused. Women want and deserve their equal
rights, especially to their own body.

But the value and treatment of human life is of great importance to
cultures throughout the human race and the growing life inside a woman
is viewed by many as sacred, including by the woman herself.

Thus pro-life people believe that protecting the growing life within
a woman is paramount, even if the woman herself does not want to carry
the child. And pro-choice people believe that her right to do as she
chooses with her own body is more important than the value of what’s
growing inside of her. Now, as a pro-choice agenda has been
re-established in the White House, calls for "common
ground" persist. But neither will work.

A "common ground" solution will create unacceptable conditions for
pro-life and pro-choice people. A country where abortion is legal, but
abused teens have to get permission from their violent parents and
dying women late in pregnancy are refused abortions no matter their
circumstance, is a country that has written off entire segments of
women as undeserving of equal rights and protection, an unacceptable
concession for pro-choice people.

For the same reasons, a country that only seeks to reduce abortions,
rather than eliminate them, with free contraception and comprehensive
sex education does not take the strong, moral stand against the
practice of abortion and only slows the loss of life, a weak-kneed
attempt at appeasement that pro-life people will reject in the face of
their higher calling.

In absolute terms, the two movements must remain in perpetual
conflict or a compromise must be reached. The compromise is "a life
choice" for all, a pro-voice agenda that would allow the people on each
side to feel that their values are respected throughout the country and
they are not deprived of practicing any part of their beliefs.

A key prerequisite for peace is safety for every woman who has had
an abortion and the right to speak the full truth of her experience –
the good, the bad, and the ugly – and be heard from all sides. It is an
injustice that these women who have not done anything illegal have been
marginalized, stigmatized and silenced from all sides despite their
experiences being at the center of this conflict.

It is a fact that when abortion is made illegal, abortions don’t
end, instead numbers of abortions go up as do deaths of women. It is
important to note that pro-life people do not hate women, nor are they
advocating for women to die. Yet, they must understand that this is a
consequence of their political actions and the onus is on them to
figure out how to uphold and promote their value of life for both women
and unborn children. Only a pro-voice solution can accommodate all the
voices on this issue and bring about the justice that is key to peace.

Integration of pro-choice and pro-life values is already a fact of
life in the United States. Most Americans want fewer abortions, are
against making it always illegal, and value the human life that grows
within a pregnant women. This successful integration can be a model for
"a life choice."

If the present interdependence and the historical fact of
Pro-choice/Pro-life coexistence guide their leaders, and if they can
see beyond the horizon of their own recent wins or losses and thirst
for revenge toward a long-term solution, then these two peoples will
come to realize, I hope sooner rather than later, that living under
pro-voice is the only option for a lasting peace.

This piece is also posted on Aspen Baker’s personal blog.

News Politics

Clinton Campaign Announces Tim Kaine as Pick for Vice President

Ally Boguhn

The prospect of Kaine’s selection has been criticized by some progressives due to his stances on issues including abortion as well as bank and trade regulation.

The Clinton campaign announced Friday that Sen. Tim Kaine (R-VA) has been selected to join Hillary Clinton’s ticket as her vice presidential candidate.

“I’m thrilled to announce my running mate, @TimKaine, a man who’s devoted his life to fighting for others,” said Clinton in a tweet.

“.@TimKaine is a relentless optimist who believes no problem is unsolvable if you put in the work to solve it,” she added.

The prospect of Kaine’s selection has been criticized by some progressives due to his stances on issues including abortion as well as bank and trade regulation.

Kaine signed two letters this week calling for the regulations on banks to be eased, according to a Wednesday report published by the Huffington Post, thereby ”setting himself up as a figure willing to do battle with the progressive wing of the party.”

Charles Chamberlain, executive director of the progressive political action committee Democracy for America, told the New York Times that Kaine’s selection “could be disastrous for our efforts to defeat Donald Trump in the fall” given the senator’s apparent support of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Just before Clinton’s campaign made the official announcement that Kaine had been selected, the senator praised the TPP during an interview with the Intercept, though he signaled he had ultimately not decided how he would vote on the matter.

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Kaine’s record on reproductive rights has also generated controversy as news began to circulate that he was being considered to join Clinton’s ticket. Though Kaine recently argued in favor of providing Planned Parenthood with access to funding to fight the Zika virus and signed on as a co-sponsor of the Women’s Health Protection Act—which would prohibit states and the federal government from enacting restrictions on abortion that aren’t applied to comparable medical services—he has also been vocal about his personal opposition to abortion.

In a June interview on NBC’s Meet the Press, Kaine told host Chuck Todd he was “personally” opposed to abortion. He went on, however, to affirm that he still believed “not just as a matter of politics, but even as a matter of morality, that matters about reproduction and intimacy and relationships and contraception are in the personal realm. They’re moral decisions for individuals to make for themselves. And the last thing we need is government intruding into those personal decisions.”

As Rewire has previously reported, though Kaine may have a 100 percent rating for his time in the Senate from Planned Parenthood Action Fund, the campaign website for his 2005 run for governor of Virginia promised he would “work in good faith to reduce abortions” by enforcing Virginia’s “restrictions on abortion and passing an enforceable ban on partial birth abortion that protects the life and health of the mother.”

As governor, Kaine did support some existing restrictions on abortion, including Virginia’s parental consent law and a so-called informed consent law. He also signed a 2009 measure that created “Choose Life” license plates in the state, and gave a percentage of the proceeds to a crisis pregnancy network.

Regardless of Clinton’s vice president pick, the “center of gravity in the Democratic Party has shifted in a bold, populist, progressive direction,” said Stephanie Taylor, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, in an emailed statement. “It’s now more important than ever that Hillary Clinton run an aggressive campaign on core economic ideas like expanding Social Security, debt-free college, Wall Street reform, and yes, stopping the TPP. It’s the best way to unite the Democratic Party, and stop Republicans from winning over swing voters on bread-and-butter issues.”

Roundups Sexual Health

This Week in Sex: The Sexually Transmitted Infections Edition

Martha Kempner

A new Zika case suggests the virus can be transmitted from an infected woman to a male partner. And, in other news, HPV-related cancers are on the rise, and an experimental chlamydia vaccine shows signs of promise.

This Week in Sex is a weekly summary of news and research related to sexual behavior, sexuality education, contraception, STIs, and more.

Zika May Have Been Sexually Transmitted From a Woman to Her Male Partner

A new case suggests that males may be infected with the Zika virus through unprotected sex with female partners. Researchers have known for a while that men can infect their partners through penetrative sexual intercourse, but this is the first suspected case of sexual transmission from a woman.

The case involves a New York City woman who is in her early 20s and traveled to a country with high rates of the mosquito-borne virus (her name and the specific country where she traveled have not been released). The woman, who experienced stomach cramps and a headache while waiting for her flight back to New York, reported one act of sexual intercourse without a condom the day she returned from her trip. The following day, her symptoms became worse and included fever, fatigue, a rash, and tingling in her hands and feet. Two days later, she visited her primary-care provider and tests confirmed she had the Zika virus.

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A few days after that (seven days after intercourse), her male partner, also in his 20s, began feeling similar symptoms. He had a rash, a fever, and also conjunctivitis (pink eye). He, too, was diagnosed with Zika. After meeting with him, public health officials in the New York City confirmed that he had not traveled out of the country nor had he been recently bit by a mosquito. This leaves sexual transmission from his partner as the most likely cause of his infection, though further tests are being done.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s recommendations for preventing Zika have been based on the assumption that virus was spread from a male to a receptive partner. Therefore the recommendations had been that pregnant women whose male partners had traveled or lived in a place where Zika virus is spreading use condoms or abstain from sex during the pregnancy. For those couples for whom pregnancy is not an issue, the CDC recommended that men who had traveled to countries with Zika outbreaks and had symptoms of the virus, use condoms or abstain from sex for six months after their trip. It also suggested that men who traveled but don’t have symptoms use condoms for at least eight weeks.

Based on this case—the first to suggest female-to-male transmission—the CDC may extend these recommendations to couples in which a female traveled to a country with an outbreak.

More Signs of Gonorrhea’s Growing Antibiotic Resistance

Last week, the CDC released new data on gonorrhea and warned once again that the bacteria that causes this common sexually transmitted infection (STI) is becoming resistant to the antibiotics used to treat it.

There are about 350,000 cases of gonorrhea reported each year, but it is estimated that 800,000 cases really occur with many going undiagnosed and untreated. Once easily treatable with antibiotics, the bacteria Neisseria gonorrhoeae has steadily gained resistance to whole classes of antibiotics over the decades. By the 1980s, penicillin no longer worked to treat it, and in 2007 the CDC stopped recommending the use of fluoroquinolones. Now, cephalosporins are the only class of drugs that work. The recommended treatment involves a combination of ceftriaxone (an injectable cephalosporin) and azithromycin (an oral antibiotic).

Unfortunately, the data released last week—which comes from analysis of more than 5,000 samples of gonorrhea (called isolates) collected from STI clinics across the country—shows that the bacteria is developing resistance to these drugs as well. In fact, the percentage of gonorrhea isolates with decreased susceptibility to azithromycin increased more than 300 percent between 2013 and 2014 (from 0.6 percent to 2.5 percent).

Though no cases of treatment failure has been reported in the United States, this is a troubling sign of what may be coming. Dr. Gail Bolan, director of CDC’s Division of STD Prevention, said in a press release: “It is unclear how long the combination therapy of azithromycin and ceftriaxone will be effective if the increases in resistance persists. We need to push forward on multiple fronts to ensure we can continue offering successful treatment to those who need it.”

HPV-Related Cancers Up Despite Vaccine 

The CDC also released new data this month showing an increase in HPV-associated cancers between 2008 and 2012 compared with the previous five-year period. HPV or human papillomavirus is an extremely common sexually transmitted infection. In fact, HPV is so common that the CDC believes most sexually active adults will get it at some point in their lives. Many cases of HPV clear spontaneously with no medical intervention, but certain types of the virus cause cancer of the cervix, vulva, penis, anus, mouth, and neck.

The CDC’s new data suggests that an average of 38,793 HPV-associated cancers were diagnosed each year between 2008 and 2012. This is a 17 percent increase from about 33,000 each year between 2004 and 2008. This is a particularly unfortunate trend given that the newest available vaccine—Gardasil 9—can prevent the types of HPV most often linked to cancer. In fact, researchers estimated that the majority of cancers found in the recent data (about 28,000 each year) were caused by types of the virus that could be prevented by the vaccine.

Unfortunately, as Rewire has reported, the vaccine is often mired in controversy and far fewer young people have received it than get most other recommended vaccines. In 2014, only 40 percent of girls and 22 percent of boys ages 13 to 17 had received all three recommended doses of the vaccine. In comparison, nearly 80 percent of young people in this age group had received the vaccine that protects against meningitis.

In response to the newest data, Dr. Electra Paskett, co-director of the Cancer Control Research Program at the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center, told HealthDay:

In order to increase HPV vaccination rates, we must change the perception of the HPV vaccine from something that prevents a sexually transmitted disease to a vaccine that prevents cancer. Every parent should ask the question: If there was a vaccine I could give my child that would prevent them from developing six different cancers, would I give it to them? The answer would be a resounding yes—and we would have a dramatic decrease in HPV-related cancers across the globe.

Making Inroads Toward a Chlamydia Vaccine

An article published in the journal Vaccine shows that researchers have made progress with a new vaccine to prevent chlamydia. According to lead researcher David Bulir of the M. G. DeGroote Institute for Infectious Disease Research at Canada’s McMaster University, efforts to create a vaccine have been underway for decades, but this is the first formulation to show success.

In 2014, there were 1.4 million reported cases of chlamydia in the United States. While this bacterial infection can be easily treated with antibiotics, it often goes undiagnosed because many people show no symptoms. Untreated chlamydia can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease, which can leave scar tissue in the fallopian tubes or uterus and ultimately result in infertility.

The experimental vaccine was created by Canadian researchers who used pieces of the bacteria that causes chlamydia to form an antigen they called BD584. The hope was that the antigen could prompt the body’s immune system to fight the chlamydia bacteria if exposed to it.

Researchers gave BD584 to mice using a nasal spray, and then exposed them to chlamydia. The results were very promising. The mice who received the spray cleared the infection faster than the mice who did not. Moreover, the mice given the nasal spray were less likely to show symptoms of infection, such as bacterial shedding from the vagina or fluid blockages of the fallopian tubes.

There are many steps to go before this vaccine could become available. The researchers need to test it on other strains of the bacteria and in other animals before testing it in humans. And, of course, experience with the HPV vaccine shows that there’s work to be done to make sure people get vaccines that prevent STIs even after they’re invented. Nonetheless, a vaccine to prevent chlamydia would be a great victory in our ongoing fight against STIs and their health consequences, and we here at This Week in Sex are happy to end on a bit of a positive note.