Young Women Of Color Speak Out

New PEP research into young women of color and reproductive rights. The controversy over the HHS rules rages on, and do you know if your city is healthy for women?


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Links in this episode:

Pro-Choice Public Education Project

Public News on HHS regs

Public News on HHS regs, II

Propaganda and PEPFAR funds

Healthiest cities for women

More on the scary, scary "hook-up culture"


On this episode of Reality Cast, I’ll be interviewing Aimee Thorne-Thomsen about the Pro-Choice Public Education Project’s new research into what young women of color are doing and thinking with regards to activism and sexual health.  Also, the controversy over the HHS redefining contraception as abortion rages on, and Self magazine investigates women’s health city by city.  But will the Today show tell the whole story?

Woo!  New Reality Check videos up.  This one is about condoms and whether or not they work.  Answer: yes.

•    reality check *

I understand the urge to just ignore people who claim that condoms don’t work.  But seriously, they have a far reach, especially in schools and churches. 

Rewire, along with Move On dot org, played a huge role in getting together an enormous cry of protest from reality-based citizens against the Bush administration’s attempts to redefine contraception as abortion, in order to make it easier for anti-sex and anti-woman health care workers to  block women’s access to contraception, especially female-controlled kinds like hormonal contraception.  It’s disappointing to find out that not only has the Bush administration openly ignored the protests, they seem to be blowing a raspberry at everyone, extending the deadline to pass the HHS rule change by 30 days because they apparently think hurting and humiliating women is a national priority. 

•    hhs 1 *

I love how it’s now about being tantamount to abortion.  Where does this sort of redefinition stop?  If I get a job as a secretary working in a hospital, can I refuse to file because that’s tantamount to abortion?  Who’s to say that it’s not?  My god says that women filing are aborting.  Also that it’s witchcraft. 

I’m fascinated by the stranglehold the religious right has on the Bush administration, especially since giant giveaways to them can’t, at this point in time, be turned over into some sort of electoral gains.  I fail to see why the administration feels a need to go out of their way to please the religious right.  It’s not just this HHS deadline extension thing, either.  It’s also the way that the HIV funding under PEPFAR has been distributed.  In 2006, with no elections looming and no need to get the religious right riled up, 56% of PEPFAR spending went to abstinence-only propaganda.  That concerns me, because I don’t think the prudery promoted by abstinence-only is conducive to the communication skills  necessary for safer sex.  Plus, this agenda fails to take into account how marriage is a risk factor for women in many developing countries. 

With this in mind, it’s hard not to want to speculate about the administration’s motivations.  Michigan’s NOW President Renee Beeker has a theory.

•    hhs 2*

Distraction is a popular theory.  But I’m not so sure that there’s any way to distract from the economy.  I  will say that the introduction of real problems in recent months has helped make the squalling of the anti-sex brigade sound even more ridiculous and hollow than it usually does. 

One thing that’s troubling is the suggestion that these HHS regulations are there to encourage anti-choicers to get jobs where they can become obstacles to women seeking birth control or abortion. 

•    hhs 3 *

Until I heard this news report on the Public News Service, it never even occurred to me that it might be an attempt to use federal powers to enact a coup inside  women’s clinics.  Frightening.  It’s interesting to me that anti-choicers believe that if the government will not force women to bear children against their will, then they should be able to step in and do it on an individual level.  What next?  Demanding the right to hold women hostage in their own homes until they submit to pregnancy?

What’s not funny is that this threat to Planned Parenthood’s solvency might make it hard for them to hire decent staff.

•    hhs 4 *

The good news is even if the Bush administration does this damage on their way out, Congress has already got a bill brewing to overturn it, which would free up clinics to hire responsible employees instead of wack-a-loons again.


•    insert interview *

I found myself pleasantly surprised to see that the “Today” show did an okay job covering Self magazine’s 9th annual survey of the healthiest cities for women in the U.S.  It seems that the magazine really does put a lot of effort into this annual project, setting up elaborate computer programs that analyze thousands of bits of data to get their rankings.  I’m sure you’re curious who came out on top, so I won’t keep you in suspense.

•    today 1 *

One thing that jumps out at me that wasn’t touched on in this interview is that the more liberal a part of the country, the better for women’s health.  That doesn’t strike me as a coincidence in any way.  Obviously, the more that a community values women as people and not just as objects to be manipulated in a patriarchal system, the better women will feel about themselves and the better care will be out there for women.  By the way, my home city of Austin ranked at the top for Texas, which is unsurprising, since Austin is also the most liberal.

•    today 2 *

What I found interesting about this was that people are beginning to make connections between health activism and environmentalism on their own.  It took people awhile to realize that environmentalism is a win/win for your body and for the environment, but finally we’re getting there, and questions about whether or not you walk or bike to work reflects this.  Self actually made the connection explicit in this survey.

•    today 3 *

I hope to see this trend increasing.  Now for the bad news.  This segment was 3 and a half minutes long, and while that’s not a lot of time, it should be enough for them to address an extremely important aspect of women’s health care, which is access to reproductive health care.  I was worried that this reflected a problem with the report, but I went and looked at the website and found that yes, Self put access to birth control and abortion into their metrics.  That’s in fact one reason Austin doesn’t rate higher than it is, because Texas ranks so low on access to birth control and abortion. So why did Today avoid the issue?  I have my suspicions, and it has everything to do with the fact that keeping women healthy in all aspects is so controversial.  Oh sure, we can talk about keeping women skinny and running them off cigarettes all day.  But mention that fertility control is a critical issue as well, and expect a deluge of letters.  Very disappointing, Today show.

And now for the Wisdom of Wingnuts.  It looks like someone has finally made a feature length scare movie about the so-called “hook up culture”.  You can tell where they’re going with this from the guy they forefront in the ad who’s just running his mouth, but who I suspect we’re supposed to take seriously. 

•    hook up culture *

Let’s count the incorrect and offensive notions.  The first is that men are automatically more knowledgeable and smarter than women, that they know what women think but women can’t know what men think, because men are tricking us.  The second is that the struggle between intercourse and just making out will always be between guys who want to go further and girls who don’t.  The third is that men who want to have sex with you by definition think that you’re undeserving of basic respect.  But worst of all, he’s shading right into rape apologist behavior, as if a woman who goes home with a guy can’t decide at any point in time that she wants not to do anything.  Once you have this guy’s attitude, it’s easy to say that it’s the victim’s fault if she sets a limit that the rapist won’t respect.

Download this podcast next week for an expose into the crisis pregnancy center industry.  Or, make it even easier on yourself and subscribe on iTunes.  The link can be found on Rewire dot org’s front page.