Roundup: Public Health Victories and Ochocinco Talks BC

Beth Saunders

A needed new clinic opens in Milford, MA, and a Nevada school board reconsiders its abstinence class for students. Plus - Chad Ochocinco says he's as trusty as... a vasectomy?

Three cheers for public health! A grant in Massachusetts and student-led action on unacceptably high teen pregnancy rates have led to public health gains for communities.

Thanks to a Title X grant, a new Planned Parenthood clinic in Milford, MA, has opened its doors and is providing a much needed public health service to teens looking for sexual health information, education, and care.

Since the Health Awareness Services center closed a few months back, Milford High School nurse Tina Saggio said she has been struggling with where to send students who need family planning services.

“(The center) is a huge benefit (for the community),” Saggio said. “It’s the only place around where they can get confidential advice and care.”

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Saggio estimates four to five students per week look for information. Most, she said, are freshmen and sophomores.

Through cooperation with health instructors and teachers of younger students, Saggio hopes to approach new ways of getting information to kids about sexual education, disease and pregnancy prevention.

“Something’s not getting through,” Saggio said.

In the meantime, the new center downtown will provide an additional resource for students, Saggio said, especially those who feel they cannot talk to their parents or physicians.

“I encourage them to talk with their parents about it,” Saggio said. “But the ones that cannot, this is going to save them.”

But, of course, anti-choice protesters are gathering to spend their days in front of the new clinic  – that does not provide abortion services – but will provide STD tests, gynecological care and birth control. Says one protester, “The (abortion) referrals are just as bad as doing the abortion.”

And in Nevada, the Lyon County school board voted unanimously to reevaluate its sexuality education curriculum at the request of students who say that the abstinence class isn’t working to prevent teen pregnancy, as the county has one of the highest rates in the nation.

The LCSD requires students to have active permission from their parents each year in order to take sex education courses. The District’s current sex education program is an abstinence-only program called “Worth the Wait.”

McCormick said he believes a more comprehensive program is needed.

“I would like to see us add something a little more fact-based that hopefully meets the needs of our students as they leave our district,” he said.

Is it sad that when a public official comes out in favor of “fact-based” public health information, we find reason to cheer? Little victories, I guess.

Mini-roundup: Thank you, Chad “formerly Johnson” OchoCinco for allowing me to include you in the roundup. The wide receiver for the Cincinnati Bengals recently told the media “I just need everybody to trust in me like birth control. You know, because I’m always going to be there for you 99.9 percent of the time. And that 1 percent was the Jets game, that’s it.” Chad, I love your flashy style and tiger-y looking uniform pants, but 1) that’s faulty math, and 2) according to this handy Planned Parenthood chart, you must be talking about sterilization, IUDs or an implant.

June 15

Ultrasound Bill Vetoed by Crist…Thank God. – Campus Progress

New Bill to Modify Michigan Abortion Ultrasound Law – Christian Web News

Feminism in the Wake of the ‘Ladies’ Night’ is…Complicated – True/Slant

Alaskan Governor Vetoes Child’s Healthcare Funding Due to Abortion Concerns – Ms. Magazine

Sister Sarah – Washington Post (blog)

Can better ultrasounds prevent abortion? – Salon

New “morning-after” pill effective, safe: FDA staff – Reuters

Bobby Jindal Slated to Sign Abortion Funding Bill – The State Column

Time to move forward after differences on health reform, priest says – Catholic News Service

Abortion Drugs by Video? – New York Times

Ella – Contraception or Abortion Pill? – FOXNews (blog)

Protesters object to Planned Parenthood office in Milford – Milford Daily News

Is Rubio right to say Crist’s veto will alow tax-funded abortions? – MiamiHerald.com

Australian maternity benefit ‘may prompt abortions’ – AFP

Fielding attacked for abortion reference – Sydney Morning Herald

OUR OPINION: Crist keeps state on moderate course on abortion – MiamiHerald.com

Little-Known Risks of Birth Control Pills – DivineCaroline

Chad Ochocinco: ‘Trust in me like birth control’ – National Football Post

Written by Dan Savage – New Haven Advocate

New Birth Control Pill Effective Up to Five Days After Unprotected Sex – The Root

Alarming Rise In HIV Among Gay Men – Tech Jackal

US committee says gay blood ban will stay in place – PinkNews.co.uk

SDUT: UCSD reveals HIV early detection test study – SDNN

Youth Soccer League Fights AIDS in South Africa – Tonic

HIV Test Required of Worker, Suit Says – New York Times

Editorial: Blood banks need not discriminate – University of Pittsburgh The Pitt News

Midwifery a priority in planning – The Herald

Aurora police investigate after teen’s newborn is found dead – Akron Beacon Journal

The Burden of Child-Brides – THISDAY

June 16

Revolutionary birth control grows in popularity – Naperville Sun

Making abortions safe in Ghana – The Guardian

IUDs cut pregnancy rates compared to hormonal contraceptives – Sify

Marking the anniversary of the birth control pill – NJ.com (blog)

Editorial: Blood banks need not discriminate – University of Pittsburgh The Pitt News

Teen charged in suspected HIV lie – Journal and Courier

‘Having HIV doesn’t make you abnormal’ – The Guardian

HIV – the movie! – The Guardian

HIV-positive in Swaziland – The Guardian

Breaking Dawn’s Violent Vampire Birth May Happen Off-Screen – New York Magazine

Susan Komen for the Cure pushes enhanced Medicaid funding – The Hill (blog)

G20 Girls, Mexico: Hundreds of girl deaths – Toronto Star

Maternal mortality in Nigeria – The Guardian

‘We’re pregnant’: The changing role of new fathers – Times Herald-Record

Young Midwives Prove Their Worth – Bernama

School Board to reconsider sex ed curriculum – Reno Gazette Journal

News Abortion

Study: United States a ‘Stark Outlier’ in Countries With Legal Abortion, Thanks to Hyde Amendment

Nicole Knight Shine

The study's lead author said the United States' public-funding restriction makes it a "stark outlier among countries where abortion is legal—especially among high-income nations."

The vast majority of countries pay for abortion care, making the United States a global outlier and putting it on par with the former Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan and a handful of Balkan States, a new study in the journal Contraception finds.

A team of researchers conducted two rounds of surveys between 2011 and 2014 in 80 countries where abortion care is legal. They found that 59 countries, or 74 percent of those surveyed, either fully or partially cover terminations using public funding. The United States was one of only ten countries that limits federal funding for abortion care to exceptional cases, such as rape, incest, or life endangerment.

Among the 40 “high-income” countries included in the survey, 31 provided full or partial funding for abortion care—something the United States does not do.

Dr. Daniel Grossman, lead author and director of Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIRH) at the University of California (UC) San Francisco, said in a statement announcing the findings that this country’s public-funding restriction makes it a “stark outlier among countries where abortion is legal—especially among high-income nations.”

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The researchers call on policymakers to make affordable health care a priority.

The federal Hyde Amendment (first passed in 1976 and reauthorized every year thereafter) bans the use of federal dollars for abortion care, except for cases of rape, incest, or life endangerment. Seventeen states, as the researchers note, bridge this gap by spending state money on terminations for low-income residents. Of the 14.1 million women enrolled in Medicaid, fewer than half, or 6.7 million, live in states that cover abortion services with state funds.

This funding gap delays abortion care for some people with limited means, who need time to raise money for the procedure, researchers note.

As Jamila Taylor and Yamani Hernandez wrote last year for Rewire, “We have heard first-person accounts of low-income women selling their belongings, going hungry for weeks as they save up their grocery money, or risking eviction by using their rent money to pay for an abortion, because of the Hyde Amendment.”

Public insurance coverage of abortion remains controversial in the United States despite “evidence that cost may create a barrier to access,” the authors observe.

“Women in the US, including those with low incomes, should have access to the highest quality of care, including the full range of reproductive health services,” Grossman said in the statement. “This research indicates there is a global consensus that abortion care should be covered like other health care.”

Earlier research indicated that U.S. women attempting to self-induce abortion cited high cost as a reason.

The team of ANSIRH researchers and Ibis Reproductive Health uncovered a bit of good news, finding that some countries are loosening abortion laws and paying for the procedures.

“Uruguay, as well as Mexico City,” as co-author Kate Grindlay from Ibis Reproductive Health noted in a press release, “legalized abortion in the first trimester in the past decade, and in both cases the service is available free of charge in public hospitals or covered by national insurance.”

Commentary Politics

No, Republicans, Porn Is Still Not a Public Health Crisis

Martha Kempner

The news of the last few weeks has been full of public health crises—gun violence, Zika virus, and the rise of syphilis, to name a few—and yet, on Monday, Republicans focused on the perceived dangers of pornography.

The news of the last few weeks has been full of public health crises—gun violence, the Zika virus, and the rise of syphilis, to name a few—and yet, on Monday, Republicans focused on the perceived dangers of pornography. Without much debate, a subcommittee of Republican delegates agreed to add to a draft of the party’s 2016 platform an amendment declaring pornography is endangering our children and destroying lives. As Rewire argued when Utah passed a resolution with similar language, pornography is neither dangerous nor a public health crisis.

According to CNN, the amendment to the platform reads:

The internet must not become a safe haven for predators. Pornography, with its harmful effects, especially on children, has become a public health crisis that is destroying the life [sic] of millions. We encourage states to continue to fight this public menace and pledge our commitment to children’s safety and well-being. We applaud the social networking sites that bar sex offenders from participation. We urge energetic prosecution of child pornography which [is] closely linked to human trafficking.

Mary Frances Forrester, a delegate from North Carolina, told Yahoo News in an interview that she had worked with conservative Christian group Concerned Women for America (CWA) on the amendment’s language. On its website, CWA explains that its mission is “to protect and promote Biblical values among all citizens—first through prayer, then education, and finally by influencing our society—thereby reversing the decline in moral values in our nation.”

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The amendment does not elaborate on the ways in which this internet monster is supposedly harmful to children. Forrester, however, told Yahoo News that she worries that pornography is addictive: “It’s such an insidious epidemic and there are no rules for our children. It seems … [young people] do not have the discernment and so they become addicted before they have the maturity to understand the consequences.”

“Biological” porn addiction was one of the 18 “points of fact” that were included in a Utah Senate resolution that was ultimately signed by Gov. Gary Herbert (R) in April. As Rewire explained when the resolution first passed out of committee in February, none of these “facts” are supported by scientific research.

The myth of porn addiction typically suggests that young people who view pornography and enjoy it will be hard-wired to need more and more pornography, in much the same way that a drug addict needs their next fix. The myth goes on to allege that porn addicts will not just need more porn but will need more explicit or violent porn in order to get off. This will prevent them from having healthy sexual relationships in real life, and might even lead them to become sexually violent as well.

This is a scary story, for sure, but it is not supported by research. Yes, porn does activate the same pleasure centers in the brain that are activated by, for example, cocaine or heroin. But as Nicole Prause, a researcher at the University of California, Los Angeles, told Rewire back in February, so does looking at pictures of “chocolate, cheese, or puppies playing.” Prause went on to explain: “Sex film viewing does not lead to loss of control, erectile dysfunction, enhanced cue (sex image) reactivity, or withdrawal.” Without these symptoms, she said, we can assume “sex films are not addicting.”

Though the GOP’s draft platform amendment is far less explicit about why porn is harmful than Utah’s resolution, the Republicans on the subcommittee clearly want to evoke fears of child pornography, sexual predators, and trafficking. It is as though they want us to believe that pornography on the internet is the exclusive domain of those wishing to molest or exploit our children.

Child pornography is certainly an issue, as are sexual predators and human trafficking. But conflating all those problems and treating all porn as if it worsens them across the board does nothing to solve them, and diverts attention from actual potential solutions.

David Ley, a clinical psychologist, told Rewire in a recent email that the majority of porn on the internet depicts adults. Equating all internet porn with child pornography and molestation is dangerous, Ley wrote, not just because it vilifies a perfectly healthy sexual behavior but because it takes focus away from the real dangers to children: “The modern dialogue about child porn is just a version of the stranger danger stories of men in trenchcoats in alleys—it tells kids to fear the unknown, the stranger, when in fact, 90 percent of sexual abuse of children occurs at hands of people known to the victim—relatives, wrestling coaches, teachers, pastors, and priests.” He added: “By blaming porn, they put the problem external, when in fact, it is something internal which we need to address.”

The Republican platform amendment, by using words like “public health crisis,” “public menace” “predators” and “destroying the life,” seems designed to make us afraid, but it does nothing to actually make us safer.

If Republicans were truly interested in making us safer and healthier, they could focus on real public health crises like the rise of STIs; the imminent threat of antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea; the looming risk of the Zika virus; and, of course, the ever-present hazards of gun violence. But the GOP does not seem interested in solving real problems—it spearheaded the prohibition against research into gun violence that continues today, it has cut funding for the public health infrastructure to prevent and treat STIs, and it is working to cut Title X contraception funding despite the emergence of Zika, which can be sexually transmitted and causes birth defects that can only be prevented by preventing pregnancy.

This amendment is not about public health; it is about imposing conservative values on our sexual behavior, relationships, and gender expression. This is evident in other elements of the draft platform, which uphold that marriage is between a man and a women; ask the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn its ruling affirming the right to same-sex marriage; declare dangerous the Obama administration’s rule that schools allow transgender students to use the bathroom and locker room of their gender identity; and support conversion therapy, a highly criticized practice that attempts to change a person’s sexual orientation and has been deemed ineffective and harmful by the American Psychological Association.

Americans like porn. Happy, well-adjusted adults like porn. Republicans like porn. In 2015, there were 21.2 billion visits to the popular website PornHub. The site’s analytics suggest that visitors around the world spent a total of 4,392,486,580 hours watching the site’s adult entertainment. Remember, this is only one way that web users access internet porn—so it doesn’t capture all of the visits or hours spent on what may have trumped baseball as America’s favorite pastime.

As Rewire covered in February, porn is not a perfect art form for many reasons; it is not, however, an epidemic. And Concerned Women for America, Mary Frances Forrester, and the Republican subcommittee may not like how often Americans turn on their laptops and stick their hands down their pants, but that doesn’t make it a public health crisis.

Party platforms are often eclipsed by the rest of what happens at the convention, which will take place next week. Given the spectacle that a convention headlined by presumptive nominee (and seasoned reality television star) Donald Trump is bound to be, this amendment may not be discussed after next week. But that doesn’t mean that it is unimportant or will not have an effect on Republican lawmakers. Attempts to codify strict sexual mores are a dangerous part of our history—Anthony Comstock’s crusade against pornography ultimately extended to laws that made contraception illegal—that we cannot afford to repeat.