Although Chile has one of South America's strictest anti-abortion codes, it's estimated to have twice as many abortions each year (200,000) as Canada - a country with twice Chile's population. (Abortion is legal in Canada.) As a result, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, a socialist, late last year sanctioned the free distribution of abortion-inducing "morning-after" contraception pills at government-run hospitals.
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month and the theme is "Prevent Sexual Violence ... in our communities." RH Reality Check is proud to participate in Blog Against Sexual Violence Day to raise awareness of sexual violence.
Related news and information roundup after the jump.
Two major resignations from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in under a week! Wade Horn, considered the point man on abstinence education for the Bush Administration, resigned today as Assistant Secretary for Children and Families at HHS. (Abandon ship, anyone?)
Eric Keroack resigned Thursday as Director of the Office of Population Affairs (in charge of Title X, family planning funding). I'd love to tell you it was because of the public outrage at his ridiculous positions on birth control and family planning (among other things), but it looks like it's because the Massachusetts Office of Medicaid is taking action against him. Hmmm... sounds like there's some dirt there.
Congratulations to The Palm Beach Post for their op-ed last Sunday "To have fewer abortions, stop subsidizing the lies." The editorial denounces Crisis Pregnancy Centers (CPCs) and takes the position that CPCs should not receive public funds. We have previously highlighted the lies and deceitful tactics used by these health-center-imitators, but it bears repeating until funding goes to medically-accurate programs (instead of zealots who believe that stopping abortion justifies lying to and harassing women).
Last Friday, reporters managed to stump 2008 presidential hopeful John McCain. What tough topic caused the senator to pause awkwardly and stumble for an answer? Iraq? No ... Poverty? Try again ... Healthcare? Getting closer ... Contraception? Bingo! Specifically, whether contraceptives help stop the spread of HIV and should they be publicly funded.
Now, this should be a no-brainer. Honestly, anyone who has been through sex ed should know that condoms are highly effective in preventing HIV infection. Oh wait ... except that abstinence-only education gets tons of funding (while comprehensive sex ed gets none) and so it is prevalent in our nation's schools despite the fact that it doesn't teach kids medically accurate information, it doesn't teach them how to protect themselves from sexually transmitted infections and abstinence-only programs actually spread misinformation and religious dogma. Well, don't worry—McCain is also confused about his position on sexuality education. After a long pause, he decided that he thinks he supports the president's policy.
Enjoy two super short and funny videos from Planned Parenthood Federation of America (17 and 30 seconds, respectively). They're the first in a series of their pill character promoting Emergency Contraception. For more information, check out their Pill Patrol.
Happy Friday![img_assist|nid=2708|title=Watch the videos!|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=640|height=532]
March 8th is International Women's Day and in honor of this occasion, I'd like to draw your attention to a great lineup of blog posts and videos at the U.N. Foundation's The People Speak (TPS). TPS asked prominent women from around the world to talk about a woman whom they admire. Featured below are two women's answers: a blog post from Her Majesty Queen Rania Al-Abdullah of Jordan and a video of Eveline Herfkens of the U.N. Millennium Campaign.
What Woman Has Inspired You?
Her Majesty Queen Rania Al-Abdullah: "Maha Abdel Waham"
Last year in Jordan, many remarkable women and girls from all corners of the world gathered together to launch the Global Action Women's Network for Children - a new initiative to tackle some of humanity's oldest tragedies. Chief among them are the needless deaths of millions of mothers and babies every year...and the wasted potential of tens of millions of girls who are kept out of school.
I couldn't believe it when I read the news in The Washington Post. I mean, I shouldn't be surprised, but it still seems outrageous—even for this administration. Of course, this is the same administration who demonstrated that "W Stands for Women" by eliminating the White House Office of Women's Initiatives and Outreach (where I am almost embarrassed to admit that I interned, shortly after the scandal with that other White House intern) in its first day of office (which was also my birthday, by the way). Not that I hold a grudge ... ok, back to the point.
According to insiders, the Office of Women's Health has had a quarter of its operating budget taken away by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). And apparently they've already allocated or used what's left—so essentially they have no money to run programs and would have to halt operations for the rest of the year.
According to The New York Times, "Mom's Mad. And She's Organized." Yesterday's article is about MomsRising.org, a motherhood advocacy organization that made a documentary film about motherhood in America (watch the preview below). The organization is raising consciousness about pay, equity and work-family balance—framing them as economic and family issues "which resonate for a younger generation of women" (who apparently think feminism is a bad word).
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Yesterday Merck & Co, the makers of the Gardasil vaccine, announced they were suspending their campaign to get state legislatures to make the HPV vaccine mandatory for girls entering the sixth grade. Though the vaccine to prevent cervical cancer has been seen by many as a significant medical advance, there has been a great deal of controversy surrounding mandatory vaccination.
In an appeal to the Republican Party's conservative base, John McCain said that he does not support the law that legalized abortion and that it should be overturned. This contradicts his statements on the campaign trail in 1999 when he took a softer stance, saying that he "would not support repeal of Roe vs. Wade, which would then force x number of women in America to [undergo] illegal and dangerous operations."
While in South Carolina, he also attended an abstinence-only rally for students, sponsored by a crisis pregnancy center (whose website compares the link between abortion & breast cancer with the link between smoking & cancer—a new twist on an old myth).
According to a recent poll, McCain is out of sync with over 60% of Americans who would not like to see Roe v. Wade overturned.
Happy Valentine's Day! In celebration of National Condom Week, which starts today, enjoy some condom-related news:
Lauren Sisson from CHANGE discusses female condoms, the only female-controlled prevention method against HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.
Check out the blog on SaveRoe.com about New York City's brand of free condoms in colors that represent the different subway lines.
Increase your peers' access to condoms -- register to become a Safesite through the Great American Condom Campaign!
Jennifer Pozner from WIMN's Voices discusses reproductive health in the media in her multimedia presentation called "Reproductive Wrongs: Exposing Media Misinformation About Abortion, Family Planning and Clinic Violence."
Media coverage of reproductive justice issues informs what the public believes is true about family planning, sex education, low-income women's access to health care, anti-abortion legislation, clinic violence and more. Yet all too often, our most influential media outlets play political football with these issues, reporting their impact on politicians' position in opinion polls, rather than on the women and girls whose lives they most affect.
Sounds intriguing and spot on. Unfortunately, I'm nowhere near Easton, Massachusetts -- but if you are, check it out on February 12th and let me know what you think.
On a related note, the television show Veronica Mars drew a lot of attention this week for an episode that referred to RU-486 (mifepristone) as "the morning-after pill" in the episode summary (which has since been changed) and title (which has not).
February 7th is National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NBHAAD). African Americans are still disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS. Though they make up 13% of the U.S. population, they account for 50% of the new HIV/AIDS diagnoses (according to the Centers for Disease Control and the 2000 Census). In 2002, HIV/AIDS was the number one cause of death for African American women aged 25-34 years.
Today we have a new and exciting tool for you: RH Glossary. You may have noticed certain words on the blog linking to a "coming soon" page -- now those words link to definitions. Glossary words are underlined with orange dots and provide definitions of common sexual and reproductive health terms, such as "family planning." These definitions are intended to help people who are just learning the issue to become more familiar with this topic.
Last week, CBS Evening News featured a balanced story on the HPV vaccine and proposals to make the vaccine mandatory for girls entering the 6th grade. Several states are considering similar legislation, but the segment focused on the District of Columbia, which has the highest cervical cancer rate in the U.S. The video does a good job of addressing the facts about HPV and cervical cancer, as well as showing parents' perspectives both for and against the vaccine bill—without falling prey to myths about the vaccine encouraging promiscuity.
We've had an overwhelming response to Andrea's post last Thursday exposing Eric Keroack's ridiculous assertions about oxytocin and premarital sex. (You remember him, don't you—the one in charge of the federal family planning program who believes birth control is "demeaning" to women?) Well, thanks to all of you who read Andrea's witty commentary or watched the slideshow, it has quickly become one of our most popular posts!
However, we realize that some people may not have wanted to wade through even one of Keroack's slides, let alone 68. So today we're giving you the trimmed version with Flickr notes. Check out our "Keroack Slideshow" photo set on Flickr (click on a slide picture then scroll over it with your mouse to see the notes). You can post comments under each picture to add your own commentary. Get creative—what do you have to say about this presentation?
Thank you, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, for making a joke of abstinence-only programs. The show returned from its mid-season break on Monday, with two storylines relevant to reproductive health. The first dealt with Matt (Matthew Perry) and Harriet (Sarah Paulson). Her devout Christian character enters a date auction to raise money for teen abstinence programs. She does this to get back in the good graces of a conservative women's organization (that disinvited her to a previous event because she wasn't anti-gay enough), though Harriet admits that she has no problem with premarital sex.
At first glance, the state of reproductive rights looks better on the 34th Anniversary of Roe v. Wade than it has in the past few years—last fall voters in South Dakota and California rejected anti-choice initiatives and the makeup of the new Congress is more favorable towards reproductive health. Yet despite these gains, Roe is far from safe and we must not take its protection for granted. From the U.S. Supreme Court to the state capitols, opponents of a woman's right to choose whether and when to have a child are continuing to introduce legislation that restricts that right throughout the country. Here's a roundup of recent abortion legislation news.
In honor of the 34th Anniversary of Roe v. Wade today, NARAL Pro-Choice America is sponsoring Blog for Choice Day. So go ahead and celebrate your personal right to freedom and privacy - and let us know why you are pro-choice. Please post comments below.
In her post yesterday, Andrea included a link to 34 Million Friends of UNFPA. Its founder, Jane Roberts, wrote a poem which was then set to music by Odetta. Check out this music video featuring beautiful women around the world and have a happy Friday.
Ok, so I feel like a bad lesbian for missing the season premiere of The L Word last Sunday. I had to find out about the pro-choice theme of the show via Feministing. (The cable gremlins disconnected my neighborhood's premiere cable channels... what's a girl to do?) Anyway, the first episode picked up the storyline of Kit (played by Pam Greer) and her boyfriend Angus deciding what to do about her pregnancy. Unlike other popular TV shows (*cough* Scrubs), The L Word dealt with the topic of abortion in a very nonjudgmental way. But what the buzz really centers around is that Sunday's show highlighted the hypocrisy of crisis pregnancy centers.
Since the Federal Drug Administration approved the HPV vaccine last summer, there have been varied reactions to this important breakthrough. Recently, several states have lined up with legislation to make the vaccine mandatory or to provide it at no cost. In honor of January being National Cervical Health Awareness Month, here's an update on HPV vaccine news around the world.
In an opinion piece published last Sunday, Byron Calame (the New York Times' reader representative) wrote about a key component in a New York Times Magazine article on abortion in El Salvador: "Accuracy and fairness were not pursued with the vigor Times readers have a right to expect." The original article, written by Jack Hitt, had several interviews with women who had abortions in El Salvador - where the medical procedure is illegal and anyone who participates in one can get sentenced with up to 30 years jail time.
The controversy is over one of the women, Carmen Climaco, who is currently serving time in prison; the debate is whether she was punished for ending her pregnancy (as Hitt reported) or for killing her full-term baby after it was born (as court documents suggest). Calame contends that Hitt and his editors did not fact check thoroughly, and then denied their mistake when questioned about Climaco.
Today the House of Representatives will vote on the Unborn Child Pain Awareness Act, sponsored by reproductive health advocates' good buddy - Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ). This is the act that would require women seeking abortions be offered anesthesia for fetuses of 20 weeks or more and told that there is substantial evidence of fetal pain at that stage. Rev. Haffner discusses this latest attempt to mandate bad information and Marcy Bloom examines the science and politics behind this issue. And that's exactly what's going on - politics.
This is just another example of abortion counseling requirements that are medically inaccurate. Fetal pain legislation is a common tactic used by abortion opponents to try to force women to continue their pregnancies. In fact, five states already include counseling materials on fetal pain, despite credible scientific evidence that fetal pain is unlikely before the third trimester. (And third trimester abortions are illegal - in fact, so called "late-term" abortions occur in the second trimester and "partial-birth" is not even a real medical term... but now we're getting off-topic.)
This bill puts politics in the doctor's office, without regard to sound science - so why isn't this bigger news?
World AIDS Day is tomorrow, December 1. Activists, organizations, and ordinary people around the world will recognize the day in myriad ways, all aware that the disease claimed 3 million lives last year and that over 4 million people were newly infected with the HIV virus.
Healy Thomspon of the Center for Health and Gender Equity (CHANGE) blogged about some of the wider issues they will be bringing to people's attention tomorrow morning with For Whom the Bell Tolls.
Also, check back tomorrow for World AIDS Day coverage from Cecile Richards, President of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and Sharon Camp, President of the Guttmacher Institute.
Clusters of umbrellas gathered outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday's rainy DC morning. Advocates from both sides of a controversial issue waited in line to hear the oral arguments in the two cases challenging the Partial Birth Abortion Act of 2003. On one side of the steps, people from the National Organization of Women marched in support of women's right to late-term abortions. In the middle of the crowd, the supporters of the ban held a press conference. The usual slogans, rhetoric, and graphic signs were in play as everyone waited for the case to begin.
Spirits were high on both sides, despite the huge losses suffered by conservatives in yesterday's elections. Rev. Patrick Mahoney, from Christian Defense Coalition, held a press conference at 9 a.m., which raised a loud ruckus. Decrying the results of the election and blaming Republicans for failing the far-right, he confirmed his community's commitment to conservative principles and values, not to a political party. (I know they won't be supportive of the Democratic Party anytime soon, so where does that leave them?) Rev. Mahoney expressed disappointment in South Dakota, but rallied hope for other states to ban abortion in the future and declared, "Roe v. Wade is crumbling."
As a progressive political wave washed across the country yesterday, reproductive justice advocates experienced three major victories. Voters in South Dakota, California, and Oregon rejected ballot measures that would have restricted abortion in their states.
The most publicized ballot measure - the one that would have banned abortion (except to save a woman's life) in South Dakota - was defeated. Sara Stoesz, President of the Planned Parenthood of Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota Action Fund, announced this victory:
Yesterday, tens of thousands of people across the state of South Dakota came together to overturn the most far-reaching abortion ban in many decades. Our coalition of men and women, faith leaders, business professionals and healthcare professionals sent a strong message to their legislators -- don't use our state to push an extremist agenda.
Congratulations on surviving the midterm elections! But wait a sec - we're not done with the big news yet. Today is critical for reproductive health. With the news circus leading up to yesterday's elections, today's Supreme Court case on the federal abortion ban hasn't garnered much press. Ian wondered where the "pro-life" lobby has been, but it turns out that the pro-choice lobby hasn't been very vocal on this issue either (as of Tuesday afternoon). Let's take a quick look at news from our side of this important case.
According to a new series in Lancet, a well-respected, peer-reviewed, medical journal:
"Every year, 340 million new patients acquire gonorrhoea, syphilis, chlamydia, or trichomonas, more than 120 million couples have an unmet need for contraception, 80 million women have unintended pregnancies, and an estimated 19 million women undergo unsafe abortions; 70,000 of them die as a result."
There are cheap and effective ways to prevent unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, provide safe abortions, assist healthy pregnancies and delivery, and support children and families. With advances in medicine, access to health and education, why do these critical issues still threaten women's health? Politics. Clear and simple. Conservative ideology endangers women's health.
Yesterday, Lancet launched the new series on sexual and reproductive health worldwide. This study is based on the first ever global research of this kind - real data from researchers who took a fact-based approach to sexual and reproductive health and practices around the world.
Not to show my age, but my first time was 1996. It was great and made me feel like a responsible adult. Now, some people have taken offense to the ad below, but I don't think there's anything wrong with implying that voting is sexy. That's the beauty of feminism - it encompasses such a wide variety of perspectives - the main point is equality. And when it comes to voting, women haven't been stepping up equally with men. 20 million women did not vote in the last election, which means that they chose not to make a difference on reproductive health, among other issues.
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We have the power. We can make a difference. On issues like reproductive health - contraception, abortion, sexuality education, HIV & STI prevention, access to healthcare... the list goes on and on. Voting is important. But for some reason, 20 million women choose not to exercise that power. They don't act to make a difference.
The ad below is one in a series of Public Service Announcements by "Women's Voices. Women Vote." designed to reach these 20 million women, in the hope that in this critical upcoming election they will get out and vote.[img_assist|nid=1339|title=Watch the PSA.|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=382|height=314]
Arizona Senator John Kyl has been attempting to hide his extreme views recently, but his anti-choice record is undeniable. According to Nancy Keenan, President of NARAL Pro-Choice America:
“Jon Kyl is one of the most rigid anti-choice senators in Washington and his actions have real consequences for women’s everyday lives. Arizona women need to know Kyl’s anti-choice record before they vote in November.”
Check out the new TV ad released by NARAL to highlight Kyl's opposition to abortion, even when a woman's health is at risk.[img_assist|nid=1312|title=Watch the New NARAL Ad Opposing Sen. Kyl|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=398|height=324]
No on Prop 85 released an unusual TV ad on Monday. Sponsored by the ACLU and the California Teachers Association (CTA) in the Bay Area, this ad was designed to cut through the election clutter and highlight vulnerable teens who would be endangered by Prop 85.
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Supporters of anti-choice legislation have sunk to new lows this week. The anti-choice campaign in South Dakota used to rely on distorting the facts, but now they are getting desperate and resorting to bald-faced lies.
First, the proponents of the abortion ban mocked a rape survivor by appearing at a press conference dressed in a Cat in the Hat costume. Then they hid information and launched a TV ad that says referred law 6 has an exception for rape and incest (it does not). Now, their latest TV ad shows doctors supporting the ban, reiterating an exception for "the life and the health of the mother." As Kate Looby and Rep. Murschel previously explained, there are no exceptions to protect women's health in referred law 6. The South Dakota Campaign for Healthy Families has responded with their own TV ad.
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The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that the United States population reached 300 million this morning. (Check their population clock to see the current projection for this very minute; stay on the page for a bit and you can watch the numbers continue to increase.) You've probably been hearing about how this relates to immigration, the environment and the economy - but how does this affect reproductive health?
Bill Smith of SIECUS opened the 4th Annual "Back to School" briefing last week by saying, "Abstinence is a great thing, a wonderful choice - but it shouldn't be the only thing being taught." This is the major disconnect between advocates for comprehensive sex ed and abstinence-only sex ed: the latter group thinks that the former one does not value or teach abstinence. To the contrary, we gladly support abstinence as it delays sexual behavior and decreases the risk of pregnancy and disease. And comprehensive sex ed programs do stress the importance of abstinence, as well as providing vital knowledge about how to prevent sexually transmitted infections and unplanned pregnancy. However, what abstinence-only advocates ignore is that not everyone chooses abstinence -- regardless of their education -- and even those who do will most likely become sexually active at some point outside of marriage.
This critical lack of information is not the only problem with abstinence-only programs. Ab-only advocates also blame comprehensive sex ed for all sorts of irresponsible behavior, including an outrageous link to pedophilia (see the video below of Wendy Wright's offensive comments). Add the fact that many abstinence-only programs rely on shame and fear to try to manipulate adolescents into abstaining from sex and, well, we've got a serious problem with sex ed in our nation's schools.
Rewire has featured several guest bloggers writing about Prop. 85. If passed, this ballot initiative would prohibit abortions for California teens until 48 hours after their parents have been notified.
These videos, made for the No on 85 Campaign, highlight the president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. Watch Cecile Richards explain why she opposes parental notification initiatives.
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[img_assist|nid=598|title=Special Series|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=100|height=67]If, as a conference held September 22nd-23rd stated, "Contraception Is Not the Answer," what on earth is the question? Surely it was not, "What is the best way to reduce abortion?" No, the focus of the conference was the evil of contraception throughout society. The speakers presented a comprehensive attack escalating a new political strategy of the far right.
The pro-life organizers of the conference called the decidedly middle-class, white audience "brave" for making history attacking the "golden calf of contraception." According to the Centers for Disease Control, most American women who have had sex have used at least one contraceptive method at some point in their lives. Fr. Thomas Euteneuer told the gathering, "When you sow contraception, you reap abortion." Holding the majority of women in this country responsible for abortion demonstrates the extremism of their agenda.
Editor's note: Some of the links in this post are audio clips; click on them to listen to Allan Carlson in a new window.
[img_assist|nid=598|title=Special Series|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=100|height=67]Welcome back to Rewire's series about the emerging war on contraception. In this episode, I will analyze Allan Carlson's presentation on "The Emptied Quiver: The Protestant Embrace of Contraception." As the daughter of two Lutheran ministers, I found Carlson's narrow take on Christianity, Martin Luther and the burden of families on clergy particularly interesting. His anti-feminist lecture examined Protestant roots against contraception and celibacy and their departure from that position, ending with an appeal for Protestants to return to their original opinion.
[img_assist|nid=598|title=Special Series|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=100|height=67]Two speakers at the "Contraception Is Not the Answer" conference used religion as their main argument against contraception. They used religion as a weapon to attempt to manipulate people into following their narrow beliefs. But it is important to remember that they do not represent the majority of conservatives, nor of Christians. This reality check is for the right and the left.
Editor's note: Some of the links in this post are audio clips; click on them to listen to Lionel Tiger in a new window.
[img_assist|nid=598|title=Special Series|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=100|height=67]At "Contraception Is Not the Answer", Eric Scheidler of the Pro-Life Action League introduced Lionel Tiger (his real name, I swear) as "an honest scientist" who was NOT coming from a religious conservative perspective. Every other speaker at the anti-contraception conference was from a conservative group or religious institution and obviously pushing an ideological agenda. But Lionel Tiger (and bears - oh my!) is the Charles Darwin Professor of Anthropology at Rutgers University. He was there because of his book "The Decline of Males", which Amazon describes as a counterpart to feminism ("masculinism") that chronicles the decline of men and the ascendancy of women - due to reproductive technology.
[img_assist|nid=598|title=Special Series|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=100|height=67]There has been a lot of news lately about declining birth rates and changes in population in various countries. Pro-population groups have used this opportunity to predict doom and gloom if people don’t start having more babies. Taking that approach, a demographer named Andrew Pollard discussed “Societal Suicide: The Profound Demographic Impact of Contraception” at the Contraception is Not the Answer conference. In contrast to the friendly, cheerful demeanor of the other speakers, Pollard sounded angry and vehement. He made some of the most outrageous statements I heard during the entire conference, which you can listen to in the audio clips at the end of this post.
Going into the anti-contraception conference in Chicago, I wasn't sure what to expect. I wanted to blend in, so I packed clothes that I deemed to be slightly formal, but wouldn't stand out. I wanted to look conservative and professional, but not too much like I'm from Washington, DC. Oh, and I needed to hide my tattoos and piercings, which involved wearing long-sleeve shirts and not opening my mouth too wide (which was an additional barrier to speaking up when I heard outrageous statements). I put on my cross necklace, wore skirts and plain tops, and ventured into the belly of the beast.
Since many anti-abortion groups have shied away from taking on contraception, I thought only radical extremists would gather to oppose something that is used by the majority of Americans. To my surprise, that was not the case.
As we get closer to the election, things are heating up in the campaign to defeat the South Dakota abortion ban. This morning I attended a briefing sponsored by the South Dakota Campaign for Healthy Families (SDCHF), NARAL Pro-Choice America, and Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota (PPMNS). Leaders from these organizations discussed the progress of the campaign, the implications that it has for other states and the nation, and gave a preview of the campaign's second TV ad.
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As Scott mentioned when he introduced this series yesterday, I attended a conference in Chicago last weekend titled "Contraception Is Not the Answer." You may be wondering who would oppose an essential part of many Americans' lives - one that protects people from disease and helps them plan if, when, and how many children to have. Ian provided an insightful preview to the event with background information in Friday's blog. In this series I will address the main themes of the conference and provide a much-needed reality check on their arguments.
The Centers for Disease Control have revised recommendations for HIV screening in healthcare settings. According to a telephone briefing on Thursday:
Recommendations are designed to make voluntary HIV screening a routine part of medical care for all patients ages 13 to 64. With these Recommendations, CDC aims to simplify the HIV testing process in health-care settings and increase early HIV diagnosis among the more than 250,000 HIV-positive persons in the U.S. who remain unaware of their infection. The Recommendations also include new measures to improve diagnosis among pregnant women in order to further reduce mother-to-child HIV transmission.
[img_assist|nid=577|title=|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=116|height=177]One of the two groups that formed to sue Montgomery County, Md. public school system over the sex ed curriculum has given the newly-revised condom video positive reviews. Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum (CRC) thinks the latest version is more clinical and less MTV. The video no longer has "a cute little blonde with a cucumber," according to the president of CRC. Now the demonstration about the correct use of prophylactics only shows a pair of hands putting a condom on a wooden penis and is narrated by a male voice. Maybe the right-wingers substituted a woody...oops, i mean wooden model for the cucumber because they worried about engorged, ...er high expectations. Or, they thought the woman health education teacher was too suggestive (though I guess they aren't worrying about splinters).
Apparently it's not good enough to give out false information about abortion. Nor are they satisfied with using taxpayer money to offer religiously-motivated "counseling." No, they are taking it further. So-called pregnancy resource centers (or crisis pregnancy centers) are also targeting inner-city neighborhoods, specifically to restrict the pregnancy options of poor women & girls of color. But wait - that's not all! The Washington Post reported Saturday that these offices are adding "health" services and locating their centers as close as possible to real medical clinics (even taking over their space when clinics move) in the hope that confused patients accidentally go to the wrong office.
That's right, folks - pregnancy resource centers have adopted a business plan similar to a certain fast food giant: set up next to competitors and try to steal their business.
On Wednesday, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) held a briefing on its State of World Population 2006 report, which focuses on women and international migration. Titled "A Passage to Hope," the report highlights the role that women play in migration and its affect on their lives. The briefing featured Maria Jose Alcala (principal author of the report), Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (NY), Kathleen Newland (Director and co-founder of the Migration Policy Institute), and Professor Susan Forbes Martin (Georgetown University), moderated by Sarah Craven (UNPFA).
[img_assist|nid=538|title=State of the World Population Report|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=100|height=125] This articulate group of women spoke up about the benefits of migration for immigrants and their adopted countries, as well as the darker side of this issue.
Did you know that women making up half of all international immigrants in the world? This is no minority group with "special needs," as Newland pointed out. Women migrants may not be as visible as their male counterparts, but they outnumber men migrants in the United States. They typically work in less noticeable jobs - domestic and care-giving positions with private or semi-private employers instead of out in the public view. And yet they often don't have access to health services and are ignored by policy-makers.
In the spirit of back-to-school week, here is a quick RH pop quiz:
Question: Which country just announced a five-year, $2.5 billion campaign against HIV/AIDS?
Answer: India, the second-most populous country.
Question: What is the focus of that campaign?
Answer: Prevention. Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss announced that 80% of a new national campaign will focus on condoms as the best defense against HIV/AIDS. This is especially significant for the country with more HIV-positive people than any other country.
Question: How does this compare to HIV prevention strategy in the United States?
Abstinence-only education has been under fire frequently of late - in Toronto at the IAC, in Africa because of PEPFAR, and recently in Canton, Ohio. After learning last fall that one in seven girls attending Timkin High School were pregnant, the school board decided that maybe abstinence-only education wasn't working after all. Surprise! You can tell a teenager "NO", but do you really think that's going to work? Well, gee - when I was a young adult, being told not to do something just increased my desire to do it. Maybe adolescent attitudes have changed... but from the look of things... maybe not.
Concerned Women of America (CWA) held a meeting earlier in the month to express concern about a weapon that threatens the American way of life. Is it terrorism... missiles... drugs?? No. Prepare yourself. Are you sitting down? Ok, here goes - it's the U.N. Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). Terrifying, I know. The treaty (ratified by 184 countries, but not the U.S.) would involve the U.N. in "our homes, our families, our marriages," according to the conservative group. They even use the ‘F' word - yes, that's right: feminists. They say that the socialist feminists (*double shudder*) want to impose a radical liberal agenda around the world.
Never mind that one of the major focuses of the recent International AIDS Conference was that women and girls are a vulnerable population and have an increasing risk for HIV/AIDS... that this is often due to gender inequality, gender-based violence, economic disparity, being forced to obey their husband, and lack of education (to name just a few minor reasons)... Why would such a large women's group not want to acknowledge that a treaty is needed to protect women and stop gender discrimination around the world?
A recent New York Times article confirmed what most of us know already: condoms are effective at preventing pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. One doctor in the article even goes so far as to nominate the condom for "the greatest technological invention of the past 2,000 years." Why? They don't need a prescription, they don't have an age limit, they're affordable, they can fit in your pocket, they're not messy, they save lives... the list goes on and on. So why is this news?
Because despite all of the progress in sexuality education and in preventing pregnancy and disease, there are still many misconceptions floating around about condoms.
A gal finds herself pregnant, looking for some advice. She finds a pregnancy counseling center, thinking they will give her accurate, nonjudgmental advice about her options. She has a tough decision to make and she wants some facts and medical referrals. Imagine her surprise when the "counselor" calls her a murderer for considering abortion and gives her inaccurate information intended to intimidate and scare her into continuing her pregnancy.
Sounds familiar, doesn't it? Sounds an awful lot like what Congressman Waxman discovered about crisis pregnancy centers in the United States - that they accept federal funds and then give biased, inaccurate advice. Only, this scenario and others like it are happening in Australia.
A report released by the South Australia Government's Pregnancy Advisory Centre says that "various bodies and agencies, both private and public, have given women false information on the physical and mental health risks of abortions." But that's no big deal, right? I mean, it's not like pregnancy is a decision that can completely change a woman's whole life. No, wait... it is.
This must be plan V... or at least plan P for the Bush administration.
After repeatedly politicizing emergency contraception, pressuring the FDA into going against recommendations by their own scientists, and trying in vain to establish Andrew von Eschenbach's independence, Bush finally decided to try something different. During Monday morning's press conference, Bush stated:
"I believe that Plan B ought to be -- ought to require a prescription for minors, is what I believe. And I support Andy's decision."
Wait - did I just hear that correctly? Listen to that little space between what he said... right there - the part where he implied Plan B ought not to require a prescription for adults.
This week, a Ugandan pastor was in Las Vegas giving talks about AIDS. Martin Sempa is a long-time AIDS activist who credits abstinence-only programs and Christian values (like fidelity and matrimony...not so much care for the vulnerable) for Uganda's success in the fight against AIDS.
Now you may be thinking: AIDS... International activist... wait a second - why wasn't he in Toronto at the International AIDS Conference? Oh yeah, it's because "hatred of motherhood and the family, a pathological fear of fidelity and sexual continence and loathing of traditional Christian values are the defining forces in the international fight against AIDS" - not a place for a guy like Sempa.
Avoiding Toronto because of expected hostility to his message, Sempa spoke from Las Vegas. Maybe you've heard of it? City of casinos, nude dancers, Elvis impersonators and quickie weddings, nicknamed "Sin City." Seems like kind of a funny place for a pastor to take haven from those wacky International AIDS activists and speak out about "Christian values" and preventing HIV, doesn't it?
Isn't it amazing when different social movements work together in peace and justice? This past week, 2,000 hotel employees in Toronto voted to authorize a strike, but after considering the havoc this would wreak on the HIV/AIDS conference (you know, the one that we keep gabbing about) they instead deferred the strike and declared their solidarity with people living with HIV/AIDS.
Missourians will be able to vote on the Missouri Stem Cell Research and Cures Initiative this fall, since it was certified by the MO Secretary of State on Tuesday. Supporters gathered more than enough signatures to qualify for the ballot, despite lies put out by the opposition.
Focus on the Family sent out over 90,000 brochures to Missouri residents, with quotes from women's organizations to strengthen opposition to the stem cell initiative. When the Center for American Progress contacted several of the women's organizations, they said their quotes had been taken out of context in order to misrepresent their views. In fact, these women's organizations are supportive of stem cell research. They do NOT think it is "exploiting women in the name of science" as the brochure says. Looks like Focus on the Family was exploiting women's health advocates!
It seems like for the past several years Americans have become more polarized by a great divide deepening between the right and the left, conservative and liberal, red states and blue states. The myth of a dramatic culture war has become pervasive in the popular consciousness. But that's exactly what it is - a myth.
A poll by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center shows that most Americans fall in the middle on many hot issues such as abortion, homosexuality, and other controversial social issues. Though the country is still split on the topic of abortion (51% think it should be available compared to 46% who think it should be illegal), 66% of Americans believe that we need to find a middle ground. This solid majority willing to consider opposing views comes from a varied background - including different religions, political party, race, age, and geographical location.
Public health advocates in California have been working to prevent the spread of disease among injection-drug users by making needles available at pharmacies without a prescription. Unfortunately, when the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors had the opportunity to legalize sales of needles last year, they gave in to misinformation and fear that increasing access to clean needles would increase drug use. Studies have found that increased syringe access decreases infection such as HIV and Hepatitis C - not that it encourages people to do more drugs.
When a government agency makes a decision, they complete an unbiased analysis based on scientific data... right? I mean, the FDA decides whether Americans have access to various medications - so one would think that they must really be grounded in science and not be influenced by little things like politics. No?
Court documents recently released by the Center for Reproductive Rights confirm that FDA officials decided against approving Plan B for over-the-counter use WELL BEFORE the data review was finished by agency scientists.
"Everybody has strong opinions... There are many other arguments people could give you. I think the most important thing, which is what we see here today, is we've got to be able to have these discussions and listen to other people's opinions and not go so crazy," said Barbara Walters, host of The View, after a segment she introduced to discuss Plan B was high-jacked by the anti-choice passion of guest panelist and GOP pinup Elisabeth Hasselbeck.
Editorial Note: With this post Rewire welcomes its newest staff blogger, Tyler LePard. Tyler has worked in and volunteered with a variety of reproductive health organizations, as well as in other progressive causes. She has her BA from Wesleyan University and a Masters in Public Policy from George Washington Univeristy. We are pleased she has joined our team and we know you will look forward to reading her posts.
If you happened to read a press release from Instead Sciences, Inc. on Business Wire a couple of days ago, you may have gotten very excited about the first approved microbicide about to hit the market. But hold on a minute - settle down and prepare for disappointment. This was just a misunderstanding - a tweaking, if you will, by some PR people.
When Tommy Thompson (the Chair of Instead Sciences, Inc.) said "Amphora -- which already has FDA safety clearance for human use -- is in the best position to be the first approved microbicide", apparently what he really meant is that Amphora has been approved as a sexual lubricant... and that they might know something about its effectiveness in preventing infection (such as Chlamydia and Gonorrhea) by the year 2010. MAYBE.