Contraception

Respect Life, But Let Me Keep My IUD

Jessica Griffin

Candidates vying for the Republican nomination love to talk about their respect for human life whenever they get the chance. Last night on CNN Mitt Romney threw in his own unsolicited quip about unborn life while talking about health care reform. While seemingly harmless, what I heard was, "We're taking away your birth control!" Here's why.

Personhood. Republicans love to talk about it. Even without being directly asked about abortion, Republican presidential candidates love to throw in – Life, from fertilization to natural death- whenever they get the chance. Or, as Romney offered while discussing Paul’s stance on health care on CNN last night “both unborn and living.”

But as this past year has made perfectly clear, the notion of respecting unborn life doesn’t just stop with respect. Personhood amendments been are become increasingly popular; both in state legislatures and in the grassroots pro-life rhetoric.

As a young woman, I find the notion of personhood personally terrifying, and not because I’m planning on having another abortion.

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Anyone familiar with my story knows that the reason I found myself facing an unplanned pregnancy in the first place was because oral contraceptives just don’t work for me. The combination of my hectic and unpredictable schedule and very sensitive stomach meant that just about every pill I tried made me sick, or I would just plain forget to take it.

For two solid years I had complained to doctors and nurses alike that the pill wasn’t a good fit for me. Their response was that I should consider other forms of birth control, but that they would cost more.

Since I didn’t have enough leftover student loan money every month to pay more than the $15 I was already paying for the pill, and because I certainly didn’t have the $500 down payment required to get the IUD I had been eyeing, I stuck with the pill and tried to remember to use condoms.

Almost inevitably, I found myself sitting in a Planned Parenthood talking with a counselor about the abortion that I would be having that day. She asked if I had any questions and I blurted out what frankly was my primary concern at the moment – How do I make sure that this doesn’t happen again?

I explained to her my now obvious problem with the pill, and she suggested that Planned Parenthood could insert an IUD that day, free of charge. The Mirena IUD would protect me from another unintended pregnancy for the next 5 years – I wouldn’t have to pay for birth control again until I had finished graduate school.

When I sat back down in the waiting room I turned to my boyfriend and excitedly told him that I would be getting an IUD for free that same day. In retrospect, I know that he didn’t really know what that meant, but at the time I didn’t care – a huge weight had been lifted off of me.

Life with the IUD has been just short of amazing. It may sound corny – but finding a form of birth control that really works for you is nothing short of liberating.

Which is why these personhood amendments are so troubling.

Personhood amendments, which this year alone have been introduced in countless states, would grant legal rights and protection to a fertilized egg (implanted or otherwise.) IUDS – like the one that has prevented me from taking another trip to the abortion clinic – would become illegal.

That’s right; this kind of amendment would make it illegal for me to do something that would change the lining of my uterus on the off chance that a fertilized egg may be hoping to nestle in there. Really?

And don’t give me any nonsense about other forms of prevention, like abstinence or the rhythm method.

The first guy I ever had sex with “practiced abstinence” (he had a ring to prove it!) and as my Catholic mother who has had five pregnancies explains- the rhythm method is what you use when you’re trying to get pregnant.

My hope is that I’ll never have to face the reality of one of these amendments in a state that I call home, or that if I do there’s a neighbor state close by with less regressive laws.

Can you imagine having to travel to another state for birth control?

The harsh reality is that the passage of a personhood amendment would almost guarantee that I would find myself facing another unplanned pregnancy, and in need of another abortion.

Should these amendments catch on and be upheld in court in the manner that anti-choicers are praying they will be, chances are I’ll be headed on an international vacation in order to exercise the right to my own body.

And that’s saving babies how?

Of course, there would be plenty of other women who wouldn’t have the ability to leave either the state or the country, and those women would be subjected to the same horrors that economically disadvantaged women faced before 1973.

But in the war against women, concern for our wellbeing isn’t exactly paramount.

News Sexual Health

Average Penis Is Less Than Six Inches Long, Study Finds

Martha Kempner

Don't believe the hype. A new study finds the average penis is only 5.6 inches when erect.

A new study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine has found that most men are not endowed like Dirk Diggler from Boogie Nights. In fact, most men have a penis that measures less than six inches long when erect.

The study, led by Indiana University researcher Debby Herbenick, surveyed 1,661 men, each of whom was asked to measure both the length and girth of his penis when erect. Men were also asked to tell the researchers how they attained the erection.

The largest penis in the survey measured in at 10.2 inches, while the smallest was 1.6 inches. Most men fell firmly in between, with the average penis measuring 5.6 inches in length and 4.8 inches in girth. The researchers found that characteristics such as race or sexual orientation were not good predictors of penis size.

However, men who reported attaining their erection through oral sex were on average larger than men who were alone when they became erect. Herbenick told LiveScience, “We don’t know if that means that when men have oral sex that it’s more arousing and they get a bigger erection, or means that men who have bigger penises could be getting more oral sex in the first place.”

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The data was collected as part of an earlier study comparing men’s use of a standard-sized condoms to the use of condoms specifically sized to fit their erect penis. Herbenick explained the results of that study to Rewire, saying, “We found that both standard and fitted condoms were comfortable for most men, and that some men on either end of the size continuum preferred condoms fitted to the size of their erect penis. Currently, ‘fitted’ condoms are no longer on the U.S. market. However, there’s a wider-than-ever range of condoms that are safe, effective, and pleasurable and that are available for men and their partners to choose from.”

News Sexual Health

Teen Birth Rate Hits Lowest Point Since 1946

Martha Kempner

Today, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released the latest teen birth rates which found that fewer babies were born to teen mothers in 2010 than in any year since 1946. 

The positive news just keeps coming. In February we reported on the latest teen pregnancy rates which were the lowest in nearly 40 years and showed a 42 percent decrease from their peak in 1990. Today, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released the latest teen birth rates which found that fewer babies were born to teen mothers in 2010 than in any year since 1946. In 2010 there were 367,752 babies born to teens compared to 409,802 in 2009.

The 2010 birth rates was 34.3 births per 1,000 young women ages 15 to 19 which represents a nine percent drop from just the year before and a 44 percent drop since 1991 when birth rates were at their highest (61.8 per 1,000 young women). The CDC’s report calculated that if that high rate had continued, there would have been about 3.4 million additional births to teenagers between 1992 and 2010.

The teen birth rate dropped across all racial and ethnic groups but still varies widely by race; Hispanics have the highest teenage birth rates at 55.7 births per 1,000 teens in the age group, followed by black teens at 51.5 per 1,000. Asian teens have the lowest teenage birth rate with 10.9 per 1,000.

In addition, teen birth rates fell since 2007 in all states except Montana, North Dakota, and West Virginia.  Still, birth rates vary widely among different groups of states; Mississippi has the highest teen birth rate at 55 per 1,000 girls 15 to 19 years of age, New Mexico’s rate is 53, and Arkansas is 52.5.  New Hampshire has the lowest birth rate at about 16 per 1,000 women with Massachusetts and Vermont following right behind.

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Though this study does not explain why the teen birth rate has dropped so significantly, previous research suggests that a combination of less teen sexual activity, more contraceptive use, and use of more effective contraceptive methods is responsible for this positive trend.

Of course, the United States still has a long way to go if we want to catch up with other industrialized nations which have far lower teen birth rates. Lithuania, for example, has a rate of 16 births per 1,000 young women 15 to 19 and Canada has only 14 births per 1,000.