Weekly Pulse: The New Hunger Epidemic, Making CPCs Come Clean, and Smoking Hipsters

Lindsay Beyerstein

More families are going hungry, the NYC Council will vote on requiring CPCs to disclose they are not health care facilities, CRR takes the FDA to court, and more.

This article was originally published by The Media Consortium, of which Rewire is a member.

As some Americans obsess over whether to brine or deep-fry their Thanksgiving turkeys, others are going hungry. Seth Freed Wessler reports for ColorLines that 50 million Americans went hungry in 2009, according to the latest figures from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Astonishingly, more than 36% of female-headed households suffered from food insecurity last year, in spite of a massive expansion of federal food stamp benefits as part of the economic stimulus. Forty-two million families received food stamps last year, 10 million more than the year before. Congress gutted the food stamp program this summer. If something isn’t done, families of four will lose $59 a month in food stamp benefits at the end of 2014. At the time of the cuts, House Democrats promised to restore food stamp benefits during the lame duck session of Congress, but Freed notes there’s been little sign recently that they plan to follow through on the promise.

Making Crisis Pregnancy Centers come clean

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The New York City Council is preparing to vote on the legislation to force so-called “crisis pregnancy centers” (CPCs) to disclose that they are not health care facilities and that they do not provide birth control or abortions. CPCs are anti-choice ministries that deliberately mimic abortion clinics in order to trick women who might be seeking abortions. It’s all a ruse to bombard these women with false information about abortion under the guise of health care. As we discussed last week in the Pulse, CPCs also serve as incubators for more extreme forms of anti-choice activism, from clinic obstruction to violence.

In Rewire, Dr. Lynette Leighton explains why she supports New York City’s proposed bill to require so-called “crisis pregnancy centers” to disclose that they aren’t real clinics staffed by health care providers:

As a family physician, I provide comprehensive health care for all of my patients, including safe abortions for women who decide to end a pregnancy. I’ve cared for many women who came to me in crisis when they learned they were pregnant. The last thing my patients need is to be misled by anti-abortion organizations masquerading as health clinics. I’m strongly in favor of the New York City bill requiring crisis pregnancy centers to disclose that they do not provide abortions or contraception, or offer referrals for these services.

New York CPCs are claiming that the requirement to disclose violates their freedom of speech, Robin Marty notes in Rewire. In other words, they are claiming a First Amendment right to bait and switch. The executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) is scheduled to testify before the City Council that the free speech claim is baseless.

See you in court!

In other reproductive rights news, the Center for Reproductive Rights took the FDA to court on Tuesday over access to the morning after pill. The FDA has been ignoring a court order to make emergency contraception available over the counter to women of all ages, and the Center is going to court to spur the agency to comply, Vanessa Valenti reports for Feministing.

Look at this smokin’ hipster

Tobacco giant R.J. Reynolds is courting hipsters with a new “Williamsburg” cigarette, Brie Cadman reports for Change.org. “[Smoking Camels is] about last call, a sloppy kiss goodbye and a solo saunter to a rock show in an abandoned building… It’s where a tree grows,” according to the online ad copy. Mmm, kissing smokers.

It’s all part of an online marketing campaign in which users are invited to guess where brand mascot Joe Camel will show up next week. Interestingly, the contest’s name is “Break Free Adventure,” a twist on the Camel brand’s “Break Free” tagline. Odd that they’d pick a slogan usually associated with quitting smoking, rather than feeding the addiction. Those hipsters sure love irony.

Blowing the whistle on health insurers

On Democracy Now!, health insurance executive turned whistleblower Wendell Potter predicts that the Republicans will back off their grandiose campaign promises to repeal health care reform and instead try to dismantle the bill’s provisions that protect consumers. Potter notes that health insurers are major Republican donors, and that parts of the law are very good for insurers, notably the mandate forcing everyone to buy health insurance.

Apparently, some true believers haven’t gotten the memo. Steve Benen of the Washington Monthly notes that some Republican members of Congress are still gunning to shut down the government over health care reform and other spending.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about health care by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Pulse for a complete list of articles on health care reform, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, health care and immigration issues, check out The Audit, The Mulch, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

Commentary Contraception

Sex, Lies, Contraception, and a Really Awful Video

Amy Phillips Bursch

After watching an anti-choice video on contraception, I decided to debunk it. Surprise! It's full of lies.  

Part of my job with a family planning advocacy organization involves keeping an eye on what the other side is up to, crazy videos included. And this one is a real doozy.

The video, called “You Deserve to Know the Truth: Contraception” (catchy!) was uploaded to YouTube by an organization called Come Unity in Truth on Sept. 26 and mentioned by @LifeSite as a “GREAT new teaching video on the harms of contraception.”

Well, I have a few words for it, and “great” isn’t one of them. Perhaps “misleading.” “Ridiculous.” “Offensive.” And plain old “wrong.” Here are the “facts” it gives:

  • When women use the birth control pill, they are no longer desirable to men. While some studies have shown that altering women’s hormones might slightly change the laws of attraction, humans aren’t animals. We don’t solely rely on hormones when choosing mates. Yet the video’s makers present this laughable scenario:  “What’s a man to do when the majority of women are contracepting, and he no longer finds them desirable?” More women than ever are using IUDs. Perhaps our poor man will meet one of them?
  • Because of that, women who use contraception have to dress all naughty to get male attention. In the video’s words: “contracepting women degrade themselves through immodest dress” in order to make up for the fact that men don’t find them attractive anymore. See! Rush Limbaugh was right!
  • The World Health Organization has classified contraception as a Class 1 carcinogen. Yes, sort of. The WHO says that combined estrogen and progestin can slightly increase the risk of liver, breast and cervical cancer, but they also PROTECT against endometrial and ovarian cancer. And the studies were done on pills with up to 4 times the amount of hormones women take in today’s oral contraceptives. These are very small relative risks that are found with most forms of medication. Watched a Cialis commercial lately?
  • The inventor of the birth control pill blames his invention for “demographic catastrophe.” Completely false. Carl Djerassi debunked that here in 2009. The anti-contraception crowd knowingly takes him out of context.
  • “We’re contracepting ourselves out of existence.” Not even close. There are 7 billion people on the planet now, as I mentioned before. The United Nations projects that we’ll have at least 9 billion by 2050 – and possibly even 11 billion if everyone watches this video. I’ve never been good at math, but I do know that 11 is bigger than 7.
  • 30-150 million children have died because of IVF. Only if by “child” you mean “embryo,” and even that appears to be a major exaggeration.
  • Contraception “pollutes the heart” and rejects the “will of God.” The video also says that with contraception, “we allow passion to take over reason, and our actions become more like animals than humans,” and that contraception will lead to bestiality and pedophilia. The old slippery slope argument.
  • Sterilization has resulted in 223 million infertile couples. Stop me if I’m mistaken, but isn’t that’s the whole point of sterilization?
  • “If you had a valuable racehorse, because of its worth, you would want it to have as many offspring as possible.” Last time I checked, I’m not a racehorse.
  • “We should want to procreate – knowing that every person has a unique and immortal soul.” Well, many people DON’T want to have kidsfor a variety of reasons. Videos like this one try to make them feel bad about it, but there’s nothing wrong with it. No source was provided for the “unique and immortal soul” part. Imagine that!
  • “Pregnancy is not a risk – it’s a privilege.” Untrue. Pregnancy is always a risk. Depending on where you live and the care you receive, it can be a huge risk. Complications include ectopic pregnancy, fetal growth restriction, gestational hypertension, incompetent cervix, miscarriage, placenta accreta, placental abruption, RH factor, gestational diabetes, hyperemesis gravidarum, placenta previa, preeclampsia, toxoplasmosis and fistula, to name a few.

The video ends with this gem: “If someone you know is contracepting, tell them to stop. It will destroy them.” Unlike unintended pregnancies and unwanted children, which are totally awesome!

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So … seen any good movies recently?

News Media

A New Era for Rewire and Our First Online Fundraiser

Jodi Jacobson

As of January 1, 2012, Rewire will be a fully independent 501 c3 organization. This is exciting news but it also means we will need your help now more than ever.

Dear Rewire Readers and Supporters,

I am writing to share some exciting news and to ask for your help.

As of January 1, 2012, Rewire will be a fully independent 501 c3 organization.  We are deeply grateful to the United Nations Foundation (UNF), under the umbrella of which Rewire was founded in 2006 and has since thrived.  Since that time, UNF has funded and supported Rewire in ways too many to count. Without UNF, there would be no Rewire today.

As we are nearing our own independence, we need to raise funds independently.  We intend to cover our core salary costs in 2012 from generous foundation grants, both grants we have already secured and those we are pursuing.  But now, for the first time, we are asking for your support in raising funds to help us expand our coverage of reproductive and sexual health and justice issues at the federal and state level in 2012.  Your money will go directly to pay writers and investigative reporters working on critical issues, especially during the 2012 election campaign.

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No donation is too small (and certainly none too large!).

Can you help? We are seeking to raise at least $25,000 before Thanksgiving.  And whether you can give $25.00 dollars or $250.00 dollars or more, your support will be used expeditiously to keep you informed.  You can make your secure donation HERE.  Please also ask your friends, neighbors and colleagues to join you in supporting independent news, analysis and commentary and to sign up to recieve our daily news.

Why support Rewire?  We believe we are an important resource for fact-based news, reporting and analysis in a world filled with misinformation and persistent attacks on women’s health and rights here and abroad.  A reality check.  A sanity check.

Our work has helped increase attention to a wide range of sexual and reproductive justice issues, from so-called Personhood campaigns to shackling of pregnant women to the real implications of right-wing legislation on the health and rights of women and girls.  We’ve covered clinic violence, the growth of Crisis Pregnancy Centers, the effects of budget cuts on low-income women and communities of color, and the effects of the Global Gag Rule on women abroad.   We’ve reported on the positions of candidates, efforts to defund Planned Parenthood, and the implications of the global AIDS crisis.  And much more.

Even with a small budget, we are reaching an increasing number of people with fact-based news, analysis, and commentary, from 5,000 per month just four years ago to more than 250,000 today and still growing.  The number of Rewire’s Twitter followers increased from roughly 3,000 in March of this year to well over 8,000 today.  Our work has been used or cited by countless media and radio programs, including the Rachel Maddow Show, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Nation and many others.  

We are a low-cost, high impact investment and an increasingly influential voice in the media.  We do not have ads; we do not charge subscriber fees.  We want to keep it that way. But we need your help to do that.

If you are able and willing to help us expand our coverage of critical issues in 2012, a year that will inarguably be one of the most important ever for reproductive and sexual justice, we would be most grateful.

Again, whether it is small or large, please make a donation to support Rewire here today to support expanded reporting in 2012 and help us raise at least $25,000 before Thanksgiving by making your secure donation here.


Jodi Jacobson,

Editor in Chief, Rewire