Histories of Choice: Stories from the Reproductive Rights Movement

Posted on April 21, 2014 by

Exhale, a national organization focused on the emotional health and wellbeing of people after abortion, has declared April to be Abortion Wellbeing Month. It is a month to raise awareness about the support people need after going through a very difficult decision.

roeOne way that this can be done is through a project called Histories of Choice that is being orchestrated by Florida Gulf Coast University. This project began as one aimed to gather stories from those who had experiences with abortion prior to the 1973 Roe vs. Wade trial that made abortion legal in the United States. Since then, the project has expanded, gathering stories from anyone who has a past or current story about reproductive rights.

This project is based in oral histories where historians along with interview individuals, record the interview, and transcribe it so that they may be published for future research. These oral histories are so important because they are giving people a chance to tell their story and they are giving them an opportunity to have their experienced preserved as a primary document forever. Allowing future generations to listen and read about what it was like when abortion was not legal, the fight to keep it legal, as well as abortion experiences in more recent times, helps to remind them why abortion should stay safe and legal. It is also a powerful tool to remind women and their families that they are not alone.

The Histories of Choice project is still looking for stories to gather. They want to talk to anyone and everyone who wishes to be part of the project.

If you wish to be interviewed by this project, please send a BLANK e-mail to and one of the historians involved will be in contact with you.

*If you wish to be involved in the project but not have your name disclosed, there are options to stay anonymous or have an alternate name.

The Power of Non-Engagement: Anti-Abortion Protesters and You

Posted on April 16, 2014 by

Found on the Nation</a.

Found on the Nation

We have a pretty active protester presence at the Planned Parenthood I work at. We are very lucky in that the protesters here mostly stick to yelling and being obnoxious as their main form of intimidation, as other health centers have to deal with individuals who are more willing to break the law. However, the fact that our local protesters are law abiding doesn’t mitigate their attempts to intimidate and shame our patients.

So, what should you do if you have to deal with abortion protesters?

Here at Planned Parenthood, we practice a non-engagement policy with anti-choice protesters. This means that we practice and promote avoiding any contact with the protesters ranging from physical, to verbal, to even non-verbal communication (i.e. no making faces or rolling eyes!) Before working here, I would have questioned the effectiveness of this policy. Often times when I tell patients or people visiting the health center that this is what we promote, they are confused. So, I think it might be time to explain why the non-engagement is awesome, and why it works so well for our health centers.
Pretty frequently, patients and their guests feel motivated to yell at the protesters, to try to defend their decision so that the protesters will know that their situation is different. It is an understandable desire to make someone see your side, especially when you have come to a decision that may have been very difficult to make. The words of the protesters are cruel, demeaning, and don’t reflect the individual life situations of our patients. The protesters aren’t taking into account financial situations, emotional states, health complications, or anything else related to the specific patient. They are making blanket statements about motherhood and fatherhood, and ignoring complex issues. However, it is important to remember that it is no one’s burden to change their minds, and that they are probably not the type of individuals who can easily have their opinions changed. They’ve heard lots of stories, from lots of people, and they are still stuck in their convictions. That is their right, just like it is our patient’s right to receive comprehensive, safe, and non-judgmental health care. By engaging with the protesters, by even acknowledging that they are important enough to talk to, they gain a certain level of power. Their opinion is important enough to get a rise out of someone. I have observed from working at the clinic that ignoring these individuals is the best way to take their power away from them.

When I talk to patients I try to frame them as “small people.” They’re not monsters or demons, they’re mostly just bullies. People who come to abortion clinics to yell at and intimidate individuals getting abortions are hoping they will catch someone in a vulnerable position. Does somebody who yells at strangers during a possibly difficult time seem like someone who is following a path that isn’t based on direct confrontation? It is generally not worth engaging with individuals who are just seeking to rile up emotions and rely on guilt and fear for their tactics.

At our health center, individuals receive time with staff and volunteers trained in non-judgmental options counseling. They have their space to speak their truth, and come to a decision to that is truly right for them. This time is much more important than the unfortunate and misguided insults and abuse that they have to face from clinic protesters.

We Tried It: Reusable Cloth Menstrual Pads

Posted on April 14, 2014 by

The Deluxe Kit from Party In My Pants, which we tried for this post.

The Deluxe Kit from Party In My Pants, which we tried for this post.

Have you ever thought about what you use during your period?

Many of us don’t. The common tampon and pad rule the market, but there is an increased awareness of reusable (read: non-disposable) alternatives. We’ve already written a copious post about all the options available, but today, I’ll talk about my firsthand trial of one method: the reusable cloth pad.

I’ve been intrigued about this option for a while, because I have the most sensitive skin in the history of the world. (Only slight hyperbole: my skin will react to anything – non-gentle washing detergent; fabric softener; dark liquors, the heat…you name it, my skin will become inflamed somehow.) I personally have always preferred pads to tampons, but the problem with pads is that, predictably, my skin would become irritated and I would get rashes from them. Much like how cloth diapers are anecdotally good at preventing diaper rash, I figured the same thing would work for me, right?

So, last week, I took the plunge and ordered The Deluxe Kit from Party In My Pants (yes, commonly known as PIMP. No comment on that for today). The company had come highly recommended from people I’d talked with who use cloth pads and they sold a good introductory kit, with a liner, large pad, and overnight (long) pad in adorable colors for an affordable price. I picked the three cutest patterns in organic – because, why not and really, how adorable is the Fox Trot pattern – and received them last Friday, just in time for my period.

Here’s the outcome: I love them. I’m switching over and here’s why.

  • They are as absorbent as advertised.
  • They’re also comfortable – it doesn’t feel any different than wearing a pair of underwear, whether or not you’re wearing a flannel or cotton pad.
  • You can wash them like any other piece of clothing. Throw them in your clothes hamper (important caveat: when they are not wet) and they come out with few stains and just as fresh as before. This was one of my big concerns, and I’m glad to say that it was unfounded.
  • They’re more breathable: while I tried both flannel and cotton, I live in Florida and cotton will be my go-to during almost all of the year.
  • I am, as of this writing, completely irritation-free. Hallelujah!

My preference is for the overnight pad (I like the longer length) and the luxe liner for lighter days, but everyone’s choice may be different, depending upon the kind of underwear you wear and your individual period.

If you’ve been thinking about it, give them a try: I bet you won’t regret it.

PS: We were not compensated by Party In My Pants for this post; we just tried something and wanted to share our thoughts with you.

Fun Friday: “Not-the-Sac” Wax

Posted on April 11, 2014 by

A couple of weeks ago, 20 VERY BRAVE men agreed to have their scrotums waxed to raise awareness for testicular cancer, and the result is hilarious and cringe-worthy. Sorry, dudes. The next time someone suggests that you get pubic hair ripped out with hot wax, show them this:

Testicular cancer mainly occurs in men between the ages of 15 to 34. Thanks, brave dudes, for raising awareness! Now go check your “nuts.”

Hobby Lobby, Hypocrisy, and Compassion

Posted on April 9, 2014 by

Oh, Hobby Lobby.

Like a lot of folks, I’ve been paying attention to their lawsuit over refusing to cover certain types of birth control under the Affordable Care Act. I’ve been rooting for the Supreme Court to uphold the law’s requirement for all preventive care to be covered, so it’s not surprising that I had some very strong reactions when I heard the news about how they’ve been investing in companies that produce the very same birth control that they’re suing to avoid. Working to prevent your employees from accessing basic health care is bad enough, but it’s the hypocrisy takes this to a new level.

800px-HobbyLobbyStowOhioI think I was particularly struck by the news because a few weeks ago, I’d spent some time trying to understand Hobby Lobby’s point of view. My family were in town, and my stepfather’s always up for a good (friendly) political discussion. We disagree on a ton of issues, but we can see that we’re each coming from a sincere desire to make the world a better place. We just have vastly different ideas on how to get there.

He fully supports access to birth control and abortion, but we ended up talking a lot about what it would be like for someone who owns a company to feel forced into being involved with something that they truly felt was immoral. It was interesting to hear his thoughts, but when it comes to things that are a public good – like healthcare – businesses don’t get to opt out. Business owners who are members of peace churches have been dealing with this for ages: they pay taxes that support the death penalty and the military despite their religious convictions to the contrary.

Now, it’s a lot easier for me to feel sympathetic towards Mennonite and Quaker folks who oppose war than for people who oppose birth control. (Not surprising for someone who’s marched in a bunch of anti-war protests and who works at Planned Parenthood.) But looking at the core issue – religious conviction that’s at odds with what you’re legally required to do – still brought up some compassion for the people involved.

But then the news broke. Once I realized it wasn’t an Onion article or bad April Fool’s joke, that compassion evaporated and disgust came rolling in to take its place.

People can have complicated views on things, and often make compromises in their lives when it comes to how they combine religious conviction and everyday life. But Hobby Lobby’s argument rested on the fact that they wouldn’t make this compromise – something that’s now obviously untrue.

Having sympathy for people on the other side of arguments is a good thing, but compassion can only exist when everyone is acting with sincerity. I’m thankful that my conversations with my stepdad have a generous amount of it; I can only hope that companies that are talking at length about their religious beliefs can bring more of it to bear themselves.

The App That’s Helping Syphilis Spread

Posted on April 7, 2014 by

dsc_0094-e1367819041812Some scary news is coming out of Onondaga County, NY. Between 2012 and 2013, the number of syphilis cases nearly doubled, and the smart phone app called Grindr is partly to blame. Grindr is a global positioning app that allows users to locate other users (within feet) who want to meet up. Many times, these meet ups turn into hook ups. The app is targeted to men who have sex with men, very similar to other apps like Tinder, which targets a more heterosexual base. Grindr boasts over 7 million members across 192 countries. You can see why health officials are concerned.

Health officials in the Syracuse area confirmed that nearly all the cases involved men, and more than 70 percent involved men who reported having sex with other men. Many of these men reported using Grindr (and similar apps) to find their recent sex partners. In case you need a refresher, syphilis can be deadly if left untreated by antibiotics. It is a bacterial infection, like chlamydia and gonorrhea, but left untreated, syphilis has much worse consequences. To learn about the symptoms associated with syphilis, please visit this CDC fact sheet.

This news is especially hard to hear considering that the U.S. was doing so well at reducing syphilis cases that the CDC officially ceased its Syphilis Elimination Effort just months ago in December 2013.

The Grindr website encourages its users to stay safe by getting tested and using protection, but only specifically mentions HIV and hepatitis. Here are two tips to keep you (sexually) safer when using meet up to hook up apps: 1- Know your status by getting tested often. If you’re testing positive, don’t spread the infection. 2- Use condoms. Asking someone you’re dating to reveal their status is one thing, but expecting a complete stranger to be honest about their status is completely unrealistic. And remember, given the opportunity, sexually transmitted diseases will spread, regardless of who you have sex with.

If you do test positive and aren’t sure how to tell your past partners, alert them anonymously with inSPOT. For testing, visit your local health department or Planned Parenthood.

All of Planned Parenthood’s Services Matter

Posted on April 2, 2014 by

careIn my time as a volunteer and employee of Planned Parenthood, I have thought a lot about how we are perceived. One of the most positive growths in understanding seems to be focused on recognizing the wide variety of services that Planned Parenthood offers. When people think of Planned Parenthood, and particularly when anti-choice people think of us, we are sometimes automatically thought of as providing solely abortion care. It is absolutely essential that we receive attention for doing more than that! Without this knowledge, individuals may not know where they can go to get low cost birth control, life-saving cancer and STD screenings, and general information on sexual health. However, it is important that when we highlight the wide variety of care Planned Parenthood offers, we aren’t alienating or invalidating any of our patients or the care they have received.

A few years ago, while I was still only volunteering for the organization, I was tabling at a local community event. Lots of times when tabling within the community, people will come up and share their opinions and personal connections to Planned Parenthood. At this particular event, a woman came up to me and the first words out of her mouth were: “People don’t realize all the important work that you do.” Then and now, I am very invested in getting the word out about all the other services Planned Parenthood offers besides abortion. I said, “I know! People think our services are so limited, but we actually do a lot more than just abortion! We have STD testing, birth control, Pap exams, breast exams, pregnancy testing, vasectomies, basic health screening, and we have awesome sex educators!” When I finished talking, the woman clarified her statement. “Yes, but offering abortions is what is really important to me. You all were there for me at a time when no one else was.”

This conversation clarified for me something I have tried to remember for all my future work with Planned Parenthood: Abortion care IS an essential service. The decision to terminate a pregnancy can be incredibly difficult. It is made more difficult by the stigma patients face, and the limited options that they have as far as abortion providers. Planned Parenthood’s commitment to non-judgmental and empathetic care means that people seeking abortion care have a care provider they can trust and a name that they know, even if they haven’t received care through us before. It is certainly important that we make it known all the great work that Planned Parenthood does aside from abortion. However, it is also important that we recognize the importance of safe, non-judgmental, and compassionate abortion care.

Do you need to make an appointment? Click here to find the Planned Parenthood closest to you. Care, no matter what.

Jane Fonda Teaches How to Get Physical In a Safer Way

Posted on March 31, 2014 by

I regularly have parents contact me asking for resources for discussing sexuality related issues with teens. I usually refer them to Planned Parenthood, but I am always looking for new reading materialteen to recommend to teens. I recently stumbled upon a book called Being A Teen: Everything Teen Girls & Boys Should Know About Relationships, Sex, Love, Health, Identity & More, by Jane Fonda. I was unaware of her commitment and dedication to the issues of teens and preventing unplanned pregnancy. I only knew her as the actress, activist, and workout guru but I will now add sexuality educator to the list. Apparently, she always had a passion for helping youth, but in the 90’s lived in Georgia and became heavily involved in helping young people navigate adolescence. Jane went on to found the (formerly the Georgia Campaign for Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention) Georgia Campaign for Adolescent Power and Potential and the Jane Fonda Center for Adolescent Health at Emory University.


Jane remarked,

“I have a passion for this work, partly because, when I was a teen, I was very confused, not particularly happy, awkward about negotiating relationships with boys and didn’t know where to go for answers. I wrote the book because I was asked many times over questions like (from girls) ‘how do I know if I’m in a real relationship?’ and ‘how can I say ‘no’ and still be popular?’ and ‘when is it okay to have sex?’ I would see boys so confused and sad because they felt they treated girls well and were their best friends but couldn’t seem to get them to be their girlfriends. So many young people my non-profits work with don’t understand enough about how their bodies work, don’t know enough about ways to prevent getting pregnant or getting someone else pregnant, or how to avoid getting HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and think that oral sex isn’t really sex and can’t give them an STI.”

This book is written in a very simple way that allows teens or adults who have a teen in their life to skip around and find the chapters with the topics that concern them and come back to the others at another time. This would be a great book for parents and teens to read at the same time and then discuss with each other. She did a fantastic job at discussing the topics in a medically accurate, non-judgmental way. She must have been a sexuality educator in a previous life! She really gets teens and the issues they struggle with around their changing bodies, hearts, and brains.