Dawna Cornelissen

RH Reality Check

I was raised in the Northeast but now live in Texas where I am a graduate student in Women's Studies. I have a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Central Florida. I love activism and enjoy organizing on behalf of social justice issues, most importantly reproductive health and rights. My organizing experience includes chartering and serving as President of a reproductive rights group on campus and interning with a major reproductive rights organization. My research interests are primarily reproductive health and rights with a focus on Transnational Feminist activism.


All Work

Who Cares?

Dawna Cornelissen

Since issues and concerns that are important to unmarried women are often marginalized by legislators, it is no surprise that Congress recessed last month without fixing the birth control crisis.

Equal Access for All

Dawna Cornelissen

Dawna Cornelissen interviews the President of the Texas Equal Access Fund about the obstacles faced by pregnant women in North Texas.

The Intersection of Reality and Politics

Dawna Cornelissen

Dawna reflects on a series of events that caught her off guard: a panel discussion on various faith's perspectives on reproductive rights, the Supreme Court decision, and an awards ceremony recognizing her pro-choice student group.

Is Feminism Bad for Your Health?

Dawna Cornelissen

It is unfortunate that in the year 2007 feminism still gathers negative media attention with such ease. For the last few weeks the blogosphere has been buzzing with fervor about a study claiming that feminism is bad for people's health. The topic has gone viral, ranging from conservative blogs such as rightthinkinggirl to liberal blogs such as feministe. All you have to do is search for "feminism is bad for your health" and up pops 11,200 results.

The fact that this topic has garnered so much attention, including kudos from Rush Limbaugh, worries me deeply. It is reminiscent of the late nineteenth century theory that education was bad for women's health, which attempted to keep women out of higher education. Fortunately this theory was dispelled, as the one about feminism hopefully will be. As absurd as it sounded, I decided to go to the source and see if there's any merit to the claim that feminism is bad for people's health.

The Texas HPV Vaccine Controversy

Dawna Cornelissen

The biggest debate in Texas right now is over Governor Rick Perry's executive order mandating all girls entering the sixth grade to be immunized with the recently approved human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine starting in September 2008. The order, signed on February 2, has sparked all sorts of controversy: the conservatives are furious, the liberals are speechless, and the independents are suspicious. Personally, I have mixed feelings about Perry's decision as well. At first, I was elated that Perry, a conservative Republican, was able to see past the absurd argument that the vaccine would increase sexual promiscuity. But, almost as soon as Perry's order was signed, it turned out to be too good to be true.

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The State of the Texas Legislature

Dawna Cornelissen

"AN ACT relating to the protection of life, including unborn life, from the point of fertilization." This is the opening sentence in the new abortion ban trigger bills filed recently in the 80th Texas state legislative session, which opened on January 9, 2007. The wording of this bill tells us a lot about the authors, as well as the state of the Texas legislature in general. The author of the House bill (HB175) is, not surprisingly, Rep. Warren Chisum from Pampa (R-District 88). Known for his anti-sex legislation, specifically for reinstating Texas' anti-sodomy law, Chisum also recently authored and filed HB 311, which requires parents to give written consent in order for their child(ren) to be allowed to participate in their school's human sexuality class. Requiring consent for a class on human sexuality is absurd when you take into account written consent isn't required, at least through legislation, for any other science class in public school. Additionally, a little required sexuality education might do Texas teens well considering we have the fifth highest teen pregnancy rate in the nation.

What We Don’t Know Will Hurt Us: Gynecologic Cancers

Dawna Cornelissen

Did you know...?

  1. Nearly 80,000 U.S. women are newly diagnosed with cancers affecting reproductive organs each year.
  2. Ovarian cancer is the most deadly gynecologic cancer.
  3. Annually, more than 27,000 women in the U.S. die from some form of gynecologic cancer.
  4. Survival rates for gynecologic cancers are as high as 90% when diagnosed early but drop to 50% when diagnosed later.
  5. September is Gynecologic Cancer Awareness Month.

If you didn't know this information, don't feel bad, because most people don't. According to the Women's Cancer Network, almost one-third of U.S. women feel they are not knowledgeable about gynecologic cancers, the majority (55%) feel they are only somewhat knowledgeable, and only fourteen percent say they are very knowledgeable about gynecologic cancers (PDF). But, hopefully, this will soon change.

Young People, MTV and HIV

Dawna Cornelissen

This past Friday, World AIDS Day 2006, I took a moment to reflect on the impact AIDS has had on my own life. I was born a year after the "discovery" of HIV. I have never known a world without it. I have seen it go through all of the myths from something only gay people get, to something you could get through casual contact, to what we know today: that you get it through certain body fluids, like blood and semen. Although I learned about HIV/AIDS in school (before the times of abstinence-only), I didn't know what the disease meant for me.

The first time I realized the seriousness of HIV/AIDS was through Pedro Zamora by watching the 1994 season of the Real World on MTV. It was the first time I "knew" someone with HIV. Watching someone on a day to day basis live with HIV helped to squash my misconceptions about the disease.

Legislating Sex in the 21st Century

Dawna Cornelissen

Governments have been legislating (controlling) peoples' sex lives for hundreds of years. Take for example sodomy laws, which broadly referred to any form of non-procreative sex, but more recently, have only referred to anal sex between two men. In the U.S., sodomy laws date all the way back to the 1600's. It wasn't until 2003 that the Supreme Court invalidated all state same-sex (as well as some heterosexual) sodomy laws, finally making it legal for two consenting adult males to engage in sex in privacy (see Lawrence et. al. v. Texas). This was a huge victory for same-sex couples in the U.S and a welcome precedent for the protection of private sexual behavior for all people. Lately though, I have begun to fear for that protection and have become fully aware that my sexual rights are at risk.

The problem today isn't so much the existing laws restricting sexual behavior, like the one in Maryland that makes it illegal to have oral sex or the one in Massachusetts that makes adultery illegal, because they are mostly unenforceable. Rather, I am afraid of the ones that more subtly attempt to tell people who they can and can't have sex with/be intimate with/love, for example same-sex marriage bans.

Rhetoric vs. Reality

Dawna Cornelissen

If there is one thing that pro-lifers are good at, it is creating posters intended to shock and blame. The most disturbing and extreme pro-life poster I have ever seen is, by far, the "Malachi" poster (circa 1993), which shows a blown up photograph of a supposedly aborted fetus. Lately, the pro-lifers have been less graphically disturbing but just as relentless, displaying phrases like "Abortion is Murder". Last weekend posters like these were on exhibit at a pro-life rally less than one mile from my school. Over 50 people came out to stand with National Life Chain Sunday, a project of a Christian pro-life ministry based 45 miles north of Sacramento, CA called Please Let Me Live. These "life chains" are held in numerous cities across the U.S. on the first Sunday of every October (for a list of cities that participated, click here).

Everything Is Bigger in Texas

Dawna Cornelissen

Editorial Note: With this post, Rewire welcomes Dawna Cornelissen, who is a graduate student in Women's Studies at Texas Woman's University. She is also the president of Vox: Voices for Planned Parenthood at TWU.

Everything is Bigger in Texas ...even parental consent forms for abortions. Earlier this month, the Texas Medical Board approved a six page form for minors seeking abortions. This form is a result of Senate Bill 419 passed in June 2005, which was intended to reauthorize the State Board of Medical Examiners, but additionally, made it unlawful for a physician to perform an abortion on a minor without written parental consent. Although a copy of the form is not yet available, Polly Ross Hughes, of the Houston Chronicle, reports that the form "warn(s) of medical risks and tout(s) ‘women's right to know' brochures backed by abortion opponents."

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