Happy Fun Friday, kittens! This one is short and sweet … Need we say more?
Have a safe and happy Labor Day weekend, dear Feronians!
New Delhi charter school in Louisiana recently came under fire for forcing its teenage students to submit to pregnancy tests, and kicking out those students who tested positive or refused the test. From Slate, the school’s official policy: “If an administrator or teacher suspects a student is pregnant, a parent conference will be held. The school reserves the right to require any female student to take a pregnancy test to confirm whether or not the suspected student is in fact pregnant. The school further reserves the right to refer the suspected student to a physician of its choice. If the test indicates that the student is pregnant, the student will not be permitted to attend classes on the campus of Delhi Charter School.”
(FYI: Any student suspected of being pregnant who refuses to submit to a pregnancy test “shall be treated as a pregnant student and will be offered home study opportunities. If home study opportunities are not acceptable, the student will be counseled to seek other educational opportunities,” it said. But who’s to say the girls have parents capable of home-schooling?)
After the recent lawsuit from the ACLU, which believes the rule violates federal law requiring equal opportunity for education between the sexes, the school has stated “in light of the recent inquiry, the current policy has been forwarded to the law firm of Davenport, Files & Kelly in Monroe, Louisiana, to ensure that necessary revisions are made so that our school is in full compliance with the constitutional law.” School Board chairman Albert Christman has said that no one at the school realized anything was wrong until the lawsuit. It’s not clear yet whether a change in policy would reinstate previous students who had been forced to leave. If the school does revamp its policy to allow pregnant students to stay, there is no guarantee that pregnant teens at the school will find themselves in a supportive environment, but it will at least be a huge step forward for their chances at an education.
Great news for reproductive healthcare across the globe: last week in Newsweek, Melinda Gates announced that her central philanthropic issue moving forward is family planning! Historically, the Gates foundation has not funded abortion-related programs, though they have funded some family planning programs during their tenure. I am elated at her decision to bring access to contraception into the global healthcare conversation!
Melinda and Bill Gates (of Microsoft) are the founders of a massive philanthropic organization called The Gates Foundation, whose core belief is that “all lives have equal value.” This multi-billion dollar nonprofit supports both domestic and international efforts to curb poverty and improve the health and well-being of people in need. Further, when the Gates Foundation commits to a project, world leaders pay attention, and media attention follows.
In an article published last week on The Daily Beast, Gates discussed her struggles balancing her Catholic faith with her desire to assist the global need for contraception. I strongly recommend checking out the article – it’s very well written and very interesting!
What this landmark decision means is more funding for international contraceptive programs, and investment in research dedicated to improving and (even inventing!) effective contraception. As a member of a Planned Parenthood affiliate that conducts clinical research trials, my mind is bending at what opportunities may come. (By the way, did you know Planned Parenthood does medical research? We’re the leading reproductive healthcare provider in the United States, and one day we plan to be a leader in reproductive health research, too.)
A final flower in this bouquet of great news is the website they launched called “No Controversy,” which asks people from all over the world to share stories of how contraception has changed their lives. From their website: “There is no controversy in matters of equality. More than 200 million people worldwide don’t have access to contraceptives. Everyone deserves the tools they need to improve their life and provide opportunities for their children. The power to decide if and when to have a child has far-reaching impact for families, communities, and nations. Raise your voice for equal access to contraceptives. We all have a story. What’s yours?”
The site includes a stream of photos and text from people all over the world, sharing their stories of how contraception has helped them or changed their life. I’ve been hoping for an online community that raises awareness and normalizes contraceptive use for a while now, and I think they struck gold with this one. Check it out, add your story … because all people deserve the right to family planning.
Mississippi ladies, you still aren’t safe. Even though the personhood amendment didn’t pass, the Mississippi government hasn’t given up. There is one abortion clinic in the entire state, and it may be about to close. House Bill 1390, already passed and awaiting the governor’s approval, will require that each doctor that works in the clinic have admitting privileges in a local hospital. Two major problems with this: One, many hospitals will not grant admitting privileges to out-of-state doctors, and a few of the clinic’s doctors live out of state to avoid harassment. Two, the nearby hospitals are religiously affiliated and have the right to deny any doctor admitting privileges; therefore, the doctors are unlikely to be able to comply. Governor Bryant argues that the bill is designed to “stop back-room abortions” by making sure that the doctors providing abortion services are certified OB-GYNS who may admit patients to a local hospital, if necessary. Clearly, the way to stop back alley abortions is to close your state’s only abortion clinic. For the record, the doctors at the clinic are board-certified OB-GYNs already, and lack of admitting privileges does not prevent the health center’s patients from being able to receive care, if necessary.
This bill has a good chance of becoming law soon, and what will this mean for Mississippi women? Traveling out of state is not easy for women who lack the funds, childcare, or ability to take time off work. A return to back-alley abortions is exactly what Gov. Bryant is proposing.
It’s important to remember what it was like before abortion was legal, especially for us younger women who didn’t live through that time. You can read the story of a 19-year-old’s illegal abortion in 1962 here at Alternet. As you read about her helplessness, the lack of support she had available to her, the financial strain, the travel to a foreign country, realize she was one of the lucky ones. She was able to come up with the money. She didn’t get an infection. Her uterus wasn’t perforated. She didn’t get sexually assaulted by the doctor who knew she wouldn’t be able to report it without getting in trouble herself. We can never, ever go back to this.
Let’s get real: Gov. Bryant’s statements about protecting women’s health are a lie, just like anti-choice advocates protestations about saving fetus’s lives are a lie. Law’s restricting abortion access are about restricting and punishing women’s sexuality, full stop. If this law goes through, Mississippi women are in trouble. It’s already an unhappy place for sexual health; it was found to have the highest teen birth rate in the nation a couple years ago, and schools weren’t even required to teach sex ed until last year. If this bill is signed, women in this state are going to need our help. Activists, keep watch and get ready.
No, I’m not actually an anarchist. And I’ll probably end up voting for Obama again, just to avoid having a president who will take away our birth control and make safe abortions illegal. But sometimes I look at our political system and the culture in which we must struggle for our rights and our health and just think … damn.
• So March is Women’s History Month and the Obama administration issued a Proclamation about it. I read through it, finding “promoting workplace flexibility, striving to bring more women into math and science professions, and fighting for equal pay for equal work,” OK; “combating violence against women,” OK; “equal role in peace-building” OK … wait a minute. No mention of reproductive health? Birth control? Abortion? Any mention of the issues all over the headlines every day recently? At my most generous, that’s … an odd oversight. Cynical me thinks that this is a meaningless proclamation designed to be as inoffensive as possible to avoid any controversy (which, to Democrats, means making Republicans mad). Do women’s reproductive health choices only matter when the administration is trying to pass a healthcare bill? I hope not. I was also bothered by this phrase: “While we have made great strides toward equality, we cannot rest until our mothers, sisters, and daughters assume their rightful place as full participants in a secure, prosperous, and just society.” Um, this nation has many women citizens fully capable of working towards equality – why is that phrased like the country is full of dudes who just happen to be related to women? Perhaps it was phrased that way because most of his administration is made up of men…oh snap.
• So, not only were women not included in the Congress panel on contraception, but the one woman who was invited (by the Democrats, of course) was not allowed to speak because her name was allegedly submitted too late … sure. Sandra Fluke, a Georgetown University law student, came to testify about the importance of birth control to women’s health and success. Even though she wasn’t even allowed to speak, she has still been subjected to media harassment. She’s been called a slut and a prostitute for admitting to needing birth control just like millions of American women. I’m not linking to a page because, frankly, I don’t want to give a certain someone more media attention, but Google if you must. But, in case you were under the impression that conservatives don’t think you’re a whore for being a sexual human being who uses contraception, sorry.
If you’d like to support Sandra Fluke, you can reach her on Twitter @sandrafluke. Have you guys been keeping up on the birth control stuff in the news? What are your thoughts?
Since my last post about the far Right’s war on women, I feel like the outrage went viral. I mean, all the major media camps were actually talking about our issues, informing voters about political agendas aiming to suppress reproductive rights (for example: trying to require medically unnecessary trans vaginal ultrasounds before abortions and legislating out contraception coverage). But don’t get me wrong, we’re not out of the weeds yet.
Politicians across our nation are choosing sides. They’re polarising women’s health by turning basic reproductive health care into a politicised issue. Their anti-choice agenda seems to say ALL OR NOTHING: no abortion or no reproductive health care at all, period. Case in point: see Texas.
So, what can you do? How can you be part of this campaign to take back what’s rightfully ours? Cecile Richards (President of Planned Parenthood Federation) suggests: you have a say!
The “I have a say” campaign has been launched to encourage everyday women to make YouTube videos about why politicians should care what women have to say about their reproductive rights.
Social media has become a force to be reckoned with. I’m going to make a post about why the politicians that work for the public should not forget half their constituency (i.e. the female ones). This is democracy, I have a say!!
Will you join the interweb’s fight against patriarchy? Send us a link to your videos, we’d love to share them with fellow Feronians!
One of the many things I’ve learned during my years at Planned Parenthood is that I take my job with me wherever I go. It’s not a punch-out-at-5:00 job, but one that defines me and has helped create me to be the woman I am.
A perfect example of this appeared several years ago when I was traveling to a bird research center deep in the Amazon basin. I met our guide for the week in a small port where my 3-day journey by motorized canoe began. She was twenty-one years old, born in the jungle and grew up learning about healing from her grandmother, the local midwife and healer. Spanish was her second language, German was her third and English was her fourth. Although she was not fluent in English and my Spanish is basic, we set out learning about each other’s lives with great gusto. Her dream in life was to be an OB/GYN. Since there was no opportunity for scholarships or loan programs in Peru at the time, this was a dream at best. I tried my best to explain my job as outreach educator.
At breakfast during the second day of our time together, I found her talking with great emotion with another guide. She was clearly very distressed, yet had to lead us on a hike through the jungle to a bird viewing tower. She asked if she could talk alone to me and proceeded to tell me that her dear friend had died the day before from an illegal abortion. She had advised her not to take a chance, but carry the pregnancy to term. She was shocked and amazed when I told her abortion was safe and legal in the US. Although legally Peru allows abortions in very restricted circumstances, in reality a safe, legal abortion is rarely done since they are not allowed to be performed in hospitals.
We went on to spend a fascinating week together, viewing hundreds of macaws, and hiking through the pristine rain forest where I learned about local plants that were the only medicine available to her during her childhood. And all throughout, once again, I was so very thankful to be born a woman in the United States.
When I see how cavalier some people are in the US concerning the rights to a safe legal abortion, I wish they could have been there to witness the story I heard or to speak with the volunteer I met. I wish they could have been there when I first started working for Planned Parenthood who had been an ER nurse when abortion was illegal, whospoke of the room where they placed women every weekend to die from infections or botched abortions. I wish they could have been there to meet the volunteer who was so impassioned to work with us because she was left sterile by an abortion she had as a teen when no safe option was available.
Today is the 39th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the landmark court case that made abortion legal in the United States. It’s a day to mark and celebrate our current reproductive freedom. It’s a day to think about the thousands upon thousands of women who died in back-alleys because they weren’t yet ready to have children. It’s a day to think about what Roe means to you.
Having been born more than a decade after Roe, it never meant much to me other than in the abstract – women in the United States, including me, could take control of their reproductive lives and I was happy for it. That’s how many women of my generation feel. But Roe suddenly took on much more meaning for me on an ordinary day at a nondescript Mexican restaurant when my mother told me she had gotten an abortion.
My white, middle-class, middle-of-the-road mother had an abortion? I was shocked. When she told me the details – that a few years after she and my father had their very-much-wanted children, she had accidentally gotten pregnant while on a prescription medication that caused harm to a fetus and the fetus wouldn’t have been able to live outside the womb – all of the sudden, keeping abortion legal became very personal and very real.
I wish more mothers would tell their daughters or their sisters or even the men in their lives about their experiences with abortion – it makes us, all of us, realize just how important legal abortion is. For me, in the short term, it’s made my mom and me closer; I know that if I was ever in a similar situation, she would be a source of support for me, important information for any daughter to know. In the long-term, it’s solidified my already strong support of Roe v. Wade and made me want to fight for and keep reproductive rights in this country so that women can make the choice that’s right for them.
In a world where more than half of abortions are unsafe and women are still dying every day in those back-alleys, give a little thought to what you can do to fight for Roe v. Wade. Sign up for Planned Parenthood’s action alerts; donate a few dollars to Planned Parenthood, NARAL, or Emily’s List; support a friend in her time of need.
Abortion is a safe, outpatient, and legal procedure in the United States – and it needs to stay that way.
(Today’s blog is a part of NARAL’s Blog for Choice Day. FYI: Tomorrow’s post will be talking about one of those women in one of those back-alleys around the world.)