Abortion Stigma: What is it?

seachangeRecently at Planned Parenthood, we have been talking a lot about abortion stigma across our affiliates. This is thanks to the work that Planned Parenthood Federation of America is doing alongside organizations like The Sea Change Program which focus on abortion stigma. Sea Change defines abortion stigma as “a shared [mis]understanding that abortion is morally wrong and/or socially unacceptable. The stigma of abortion manifests within multiple levels, including media, law and policy, institutions, communities, and individuals.” While this definition may seem a little hefty, basically it is saying that shame and judgment about abortion combine in different places in our society to create the shared idea that abortion is wrong, and that this judgment and shame negatively affects individuals who seek or have had abortions. And with 1 in 3 women having an abortion during their lifetime, and we need to work to end the silence and judgment so they don’t have to carry around other people’s judgment.

When we think about how abortion is portrayed in our media, how it is talked about amongst our peers, and current restrictive laws that are being passed regarding abortion, this definition makes sense. All of these negative forces combine to make access to abortion more difficult. Practical changes, like laws which create waiting periods, put extra burdens on people who are trying to access abortion. Media representations may present people who have abortions as being “in the wrong” or may not even discuss abortion as an option when a character has an unintended pregnancy. People around us, and unfortunately sometimes we as individuals, may talk about abortion in ways that place blame on those who have them (i.e. “If she had just used birth control she wouldn’t be going through this right now!”) Judgment like this from a loved one or peer can be especially harmful.

Judgment and shame don’t work to stop abortions, but what they do is create an emotionally desctrutive space that prevents people from accessing the support they need. Medical decisions are personal, and don’t affect outsiders. We can help end stigma by being careful about the ways we talk about abortion, and making it clear that lots of people are affected by those who judge and shame!

How is Syphilis Spread?

gytIf you thought that syphilis wasn’t an issue anymore, you’re wrong. Read on…

Primary Stage  
During this stage many people will notice a painless sore(s). The sores can appear on the penis, vagina, anus, rectum, and/or lips/mouth. The sore(s) usually take 3-6 weeks to heal and can go away on their own without treatment. It is important to note that an infected person should make sure they seek medical attention to ensure the infection does not go into the second stage. During this stage an infected person is contagious. The sore(s) spread from direct contact (aka: oral, anal, or vaginal sex).

Secondary Stage
During this stage someone may notice an unusual rash and/or sores in the mouth or genital area. The rash can also occur on other parts of the body. You could also develop a rash on the palms of the hands or bottom of the feet. Sometimes it is very noticeable and other times it can be so faint someone may not notice it. Other symptoms can include fever, swollen lymph glands, sore throat, patchy hair loss, headaches, weight loss, muscle aches, and fatigue (feeling very tired). The symptoms from this stage will eventually go away, but if they are not treated the infection can develop into the latent and late stages.

Latent and Late Stages
During these stages the infection can hibernate for years and not show any signs or symptoms. If someone had the infection for a long time it could move to the late stage and cause damage to internal organs, blindness, brain damage and potentially lead to death.

Can syphilis harm a pregnancy?
Syphilis can lead to a low birth weight baby that is born early, stillborn or cause severe birth defects. Women should be tested for STD’s during pregnancy and at delivery.

How do you test for syphilis?
A quick blood draw will determine if you are positive.

Can syphilis be cured?
Yes, thankfully syphilis can be cured with antibiotics, but the medication cannot reverse any damage that the infection has caused.

How do you prevent syphilis?
The only way to prevent syphilis is to not have direct contact with a syphilis sore. In other words, abstinence from oral, anal and vaginal sex. You can reduce your risk by always using condoms and barriers.

For more information on syphilis or to find a Planned Parenthood in your area.

How to Gift Justice This Holiday Season

“And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled ’till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.” ― Dr. Seuss, How the Grinch Stole Christmas!

community-gardenIf you aren’t familiar with Momastery, get familiar. Go. Now. We’ll wait. Follow Glennon on Facebook too. Glennon introduced me to the CWS Best Gift Catalog. I’d never heard of it. It’s a catalog where you can gift things like a birthing kit, mosquito nets, seeds, and schooling to people in need. You can even buy the gift (range: $10 to $10,000) in someone else’s name for an extra meaninful gesture. Anyway, she talked about how gifts like these aren’t just about offering charity, but instead, seeking justice. YES!

So then I started thinking about more ways you can gift justice…

Did you know that some 9 million people have been forced from their homes in war-torn Syria? Millions of Syrian refugees left their homes, their businesses, their farms, their belongings, and some left behind family members, or became separated from them. Cue ShelterBox USA. I have had the pleasure of donating to this organization through Rotary International. (You know Rotary – they’re the ones eradicating Polio around the world.) Basically, you can throw a party, invite all your friends, and collect enough donations at said party to buy shelter (read: hope, dignity, justice) for someone in desperate need. AND THEN, you can track the ShelterBox you bought and see where in the world it is changing someone’s life. Watch this video and then donate to ShelterBox USA:

heiferHeifer International is the source of The Most Important Gift Catalog in the World. My mother-in-law once gifted a goat in my name and to date, it is the best gift I didn’t receive. Heifer International has been around since 1944 so their programs are diverse and really make a difference.

If you like to shop for gifts that are handmade and fair trade, give Ten Thousand Villages a try. They carry a wide variety of products – jewelry to rugs – and everything is beautiful. They’ve been a fair trade retailer since 1946, way before it was an admiral and responsible thing to do (to the general public, anyway). They have some neat gifts for kids, too!

maskAnd I have to put in a plug for Galeria Namu, a fair trade gallery for indigenous crafts and folk art, in San Jose, Costa Rica. I bought from this shop when I lived there and whenever I go back, it is always on my must-do list.

Maybe you’re thinking, “but what about the people in need here in the US?” Well, just look around folks, it won’t take you long to find a person/place/issue that could benefit from your intent to create justice. Here are a few ideas:

  • donate to your neighborhood food pantry
  • pay the power bill of that single mom who lives down the street
  • buy your kids that dog from the rescue center, not the puppy mill
  • ask what your local school needs
  • donate your clothes, books, home goods
  • volunteer your time to a cause that’s important to you
  • VOTE
  • recycle

Do you have suggestions for gifts that give hope and justice? If so, please share the in comments section.

Three – Often Overlooked – Parts of Being an Effective Ally

The events over the past two weeks in Ferguson and New York (and Utah, and Arizona, and, and, and) have gotten a lot of folks talking about what it means to be a good ally. One of the best pieces I’ve seen recently is this video by Franchesca Ramsey.

Now, we’ve talked a bit about being an ally before. After all, those of us who care about things like reproductive justice, gender equity and ending homophobia, sexism and transphobia have experience as activists, and are often working to help address problems whose primary effects land on groups we’re not a part of. And intersectionality means that even those things that we don’t think of as affecting us directly are still incredibly connected to other issues of injustice.

The discussions about being an ally have been great at covering the basics (listen more than you speak, etc.), but there are three thoughts that I think are especially important to highlight.

Firstly, as Franchesca says in the video above, ally is a verb. It’s great to identify as an ally, but that’s really an internal issue – it’s your actions and interactions with the world around you that work to create change.

Secondly, there is no one way to be an ally. Working to find the strategies that work best for you is one of the most useful things you can do to help make a lasting impact. One of the things I tend to do is have conversations with family members who don’t tend to think about these things all that often. I’ve talked before about the conversations my stepfather and I have, despite the rather large gaps between our political views. And one-on-one conversations can be set up to be fertile ground for people changing their minds, depending on your approach.

Now, none of this is terribly flashy, but it’s one piece in the big, patchwork quilt of activism. Attending protests, helping to arrange for childcare at different political events, working to help share other people’s stories and help make their voices be heard … This is a place where there are lots and lots of good ways to help. Try things out and see what feels right for you.

And lastly, use that strategic approach to keep yourself motivated after things have started to quiet down. Finding ways to stay engaged in a sustainable way isn’t easy, but it’s necessary if you’re going to be motivated by things other than crises. Burnout is a common problem, but it’s not inevitable.


3 Things Everyone Can Do to Prevent HIV

December 1st was World AIDS Day so we are reposting this one from a couple of years ago to highlight that not much changes in terms of HIV prevention… 

Although HIV has been a part of our lives for over 25 years, people in this country are still getting infected at about the same rate they have been for several years. Many people still have misinformation about the virus or don’t feel they are at risk. Here are a few things everyone can do:

• Encourage people to get tested and get tested yourself
Planned Parenthood of Southwest & Central Florida offers 3 types of HIV testing: a rapid test (results in 20 minutes), blood draw sent to a local lab (results in 2-3 days) or the free state test (results in about 3 weeks).

• Learn the facts about HIV so you can educate yourself and others
There are still many myths about how HIV is spread, who’s at risk, and how it’s prevented.

• Promote condom use
Many people worry more about becoming pregnant than becoming infected with a STI. If they or their partner are using contraception, they may believe they have taken care of all their reproductive needs. If they have a same sex partner or are past childbearing years, they may figure they have nothing to worry about.

Out of all the STIs, HIV is the most difficult to acquire, and it has a dramatic impact on someone’s life as well as the lives of those who love them. Despite fears of many to the contrary, a positive HIV test isn’t a death sentence; with medical attention, proper medication, and taking control of their health, someone can live a long and healthy life with HIV.

The best medication for HIV, though? Not getting the virus at all. Let’s all do our part to reduce the spread of HIV.

For the most current information on the virus, check out the CDC website on HIV.

For living with HIV, read this CDC brochure on HIVas well as Avert, the international HIV & AIDS charity, to answer common questions about living with HIV.

Which Emergency Contraception is Right for You?

Emergency Contraception aka Plan B and the morning after pill is used to prevent pregnancy. It GD*5768580is not an abortion pill. This method works by preventing the ovaries from releasing an egg.

  • After unprotected sex
  • The condom slipped off or broke
  • A female was using a birth control method but not taking it correctly (ex: she was taking the pill but forgot to take it two days in a row)
  • A female was raped
  • A female was under the influence and unsure if her partner used a condom

There are 3 Emergency Contraception options for women to prevent pregnancy:

  • Next Choice One Dose and Plan B One-Step: works best when taken within the first 3 days after unprotected sex and is 89% effective at preventing pregnancy. This means that if 100 women take the medication, 11 could still become pregnant. The pill can be taken up to 5 days after unprotected sex, but it is less effective on the 4th and 5th day. This method of emergency contraception may not work as well for women who have a BMI (body mass index) over 25 and won’t work for women with a BMI over 30. If women are in the higher BMI category they will need to get a prescription for Ella or have an IUD inserted. Both brands are available over the counter and there are no age restrictions.
  • Ella: 85% effective if taken with 5 days after unprotected sex and works for women well for any BMI below 35. If a woman has a BMI greater than 35 it may still work but not as well. Ella is only available by prescription from a medical provider.
  • Paraguard (aka Copper IUD): 99.9% effective if inserted within 5 days after unprotected sex and can prevent pregnancy for up to 12 years. The IUD is inserted by a medical provider.

Please see the chart below for a side-by-side comparison of the 3 methods. If you still have questions you can chat with a Planned Parenthood educator online or text a question to 774636.


Fun Friday: Giving Thanks for Your Support

This month marks the 3rd anniversary of The Feronia Project so we are hijacking our regulary scheduled post to tell you how grateful we are for your readership! We are also grateful for our talented writers who have a knack for infusing education with humor. If there’s any topic you’d like us to write about, leave a comment and let us know! Happy Anniversary, Feronians!


Puberty: A Time of Change

Today’s post is by “Obi,” a Nigerian doctor conducting his field experience at Planned Parenthood as part of his MPH program. He was a general practitioner in his home country with main interest and expertise in maternal and child health.

Puberty is one of the most complex periods of human development. In terms of body growth and development, puberty is second only to the period in our lives when we are babies. It may also explain why teens can be so difficult sometimes – the transformation they are undergoing is incredible!

Pubertal changes are a result of neurological changes in the brain and endocrine effects from the gonads (testes for boys which release testosterone and ovaries for girls which release estrogen).

These changes start during adolescence and continue until early adulthood. The average age of pubertal onset is between 10 and 11 years for girls (however between 8 and 13 years is normal). For boys the average age range is between 11 and 12 years (however between 9 and 15 years is normal).

Due to this wide range of onset, some children may be confused when they see these pubertal changes in others but not themselves. Although the endpoint of puberty is similar for most, the experiences and degree of these changes vary widely among individuals.

Pubertal changes in boys:

  • Enlargement of testicles and thinning of the scrotum
  • Production of sperm begins
  • Growth of pubic hair
  • General body growth with rapid increase in sizes of different body parts
  • Penile growth
  • Changes in voice. As vocal cords widen, voice deepens, but may “break” at times, which is normal.
  • Growth of facial and underarm hair. Facial hair is like the holy grail of maturity for boys – most can’t wait for this change. It usually begins growing on the upper lip, then chin, then sides of the face.
  • Development of acne (varies greatly, seek help from a dermatologist if it is severe)
  • Some boys may develop slight breast enlargement but this is usually temporary and resolves after a while.

Pubertal changes in girls:

  • Growth of breasts (Although breast development follows a consistent pattern, the breast size varies widely among different women.)
  • Growth of pubic and underarm hair
  • General body growth
  • Menstrual cycle begins (ovaries begin releasing eggs)
  • Development of acne (varies greatly, seek help from a dermatologist if it is severe)

feronia post

Finally, apart from the physical changes there are other changes which are as important and have huge impact on adolescents. These include:

  • Becoming oversensitive and self conscious
  • Development of mood changes (these could be mild or severe)
  • Development of uncertainties, conflicting thoughts and ideas
  • Urge to create an identity (this increases susceptibility to peer pressure and influence from popular media and culture)
  • Increase in curiosity about sexuality. Development of sexual feelings during puberty is a normal process of sexual maturation. It may be a confusing time for adolescents and most don’t know how to explain or adjust to these new changes. It is important that they get answers to their questions and concerns from an informed adult who they are comfortable with (parent(s), teacher, doctor or a counselor).