Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Respect the right...

The latest anti-choice brainchild appears to be the innocuously-enough worded ""Reducing the Need for Abortions Initiative."

Recently approved by the House, the bill seeks to fund family planning and pregnancy prevention programs. As I mentioned the other day, that is all well and good, but forgive me if these programs sound like a not so subtle way to continue to vilify abortion. As a repro health and rights advocate, I think it's important to remember that -- for some women -- abortion is their best and only option and we need to respect a woman's right and ability to make that decision. I honestly believe that women have abortions for many reasons (not necessarily purely financial, as some of these initiatives would have us believe) and, even if we disagree with a particular reason, it is still best that each woman decide for herself what is best for her and her future.

Equally frustrating are the incredibly flawed polls that abortion opponents cite to support their contention that the public is conflicted. Everyone of these polls ask if people are opposed to "late-term abortions." The answer -- invariably overwhelmingly yes -- is then used to support the federal abortion ban. The problem with that logic is that -- say it with me -- the federal ban is NOT a ban on late-term abortions; late-term (or third trimester) abortions are already banned in almost every state (with the exception if the mother's life is in danger). The ban actually applies to a safe second trimester abortion that is (umm, was) sometimes necessary to protect a woman's health.

You can bet your life (or health) that, if worded another way, "the public" would support to keep women healthy and alive.


In happier news, this week's Newsweek highlights Danica McKellar (former "Wonder Years" star) and her new book "Math Doesn't Suck," which is meant to encourage girls to actually like math. Taking a different approach from many other Hollywood women, Danica majored in math and wants "to tell girls that cute and dumb isn't as good as cute and smart." Hear, hear!

Monday, July 30, 2007

O'er the weekend

Not sure if anyone caught the ridiculous Washington Post Style Section story on Hillary Clinton's cleavage about a week ago. (Yes, they devoted an entire story to the topic). In addition to the various Wash Post and NY Times critiques of the story, yours truly published a letter to the editor in Sat's Washington Post, as follows:

It was almost funny that The Post devoted an entire column to the subject of Hillary Rodham Clinton's breasts -- excuse me, cleavage. Robin Givhan compared seeing Clinton to "spotting Rudy Giuliani with his shirt unbuttoned just a smidge too far," but I doubt that would spark a comparable Style article.

Most disturbing, however, was the misogynistic tone Givhan took, most notably with her comment, "No one wants to see that . . . Just look away!" It really should come as no surprise that women tend to have breasts. With breasts come cleavage. They are part of the female body, not "part of a bold, confident style package."


In other news, our friends at NOW have alerted us that The Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2007 (H.R. 2831), sponsored by Rep. George Miller (D-CA), will likely come to the House floor for a vote this evening Monday evening, July 30. Why does this matter? You may recall that the conservative majority on the Supreme Court recently (and unfairly) limited the ability of anyone who has suffered pay discrimination to seek back pay and other compensation. The Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2007 will fix this constitutional misinterpretation and ensure that pay discrimination victims get their fair day in court. Tell your rep to support equal pay!


Finally, some of the articles I've been linking to -- in the LA Times, Wash Post and NY Times -- require registration to read the articles. There's nothing I can about that except advise you to register; it's free!

Friday, July 27, 2007

Can't we all just...

Gosh, yesterday's LA Times story, "Democrats shift approach on abortion," gets so many idealogical things wrong it's almost impossible to address it all here. So, focusing on my two largest bones of contention:

1. While it's commendable to offer services (financial and otherwise) to women who want to have children and feel that barriers are preventing them from making that decision, such programs are hardly the panacea the story suggests them to be. The fact, is some women simply do not want to -- or are not ready to -- have children and, for them, abortion may be their best and only option. To exclusively promote services that neglect that reality does a real disservice to the decision-making process that women go through when they consider what is best for them and their families. Working to prevent unintended pregnancies and offering women tools to help them make a life-altering decision is both important and helpful; villifying abortion is not.

2. The conservative push to frame increased access to birth control as promoting free love begs a knee-jerk, post 60s reaction: "No, that's not what we're doing! Sex? Who said anything about sex? Nobody is talking about sex here!" Umm, my question is, so what if it does? If people are having safe, consensual sex, what problem, exactly, does that pose to the greater good? I'm so tired of this (morality police) idea that we constantly need to assure people that increased access to birth control won't increase sexual actiivty... what if we actually said, "hey, what if it did -- that's STILL NOT A BAD THING?"

Alright, rant aside and with due diligence to reality: #2 is a hypothetical argument. While I personally don't see anything wrong with increased access = increased sex, everyone (conservatives included) should sleep more easily at night knowing that studies show over and over again that increased access does not actually change ( e.g. increase) sexual activity.

So there.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Birth control $$ back in the news

Thanks to the misleadingly named "Deficit Reduction Act," (read: Drastic Reduction Act) a bill passed by the 2005 Congress, college students continue to face soaring birth control prices. Before this Act, pharmaceutical companies discounted drugs for a range of health care providers, notably colleges. Now, college students are being asked to pay double or triple their old fees at student health centers.

Now, if I remember correctly, college kids are not necessarily flush with cash (Ramen noodles ring a bell?) and increased prices can put them in a the dangerous situation of being unable to protect themselves against an unplanned pregnancy. Which is exactly what politicians claim not to want (Prevention first, anyone?).

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

"Girls Gone Wild"

This is not a celebrity blog. Yet I feel compelled to speak to today's blaring headlines about Lyndsay Lohan and Britney Spears if only to say that the "trend" of young women being arrested/using cocaine/being out of control drunk is alarming at minimum. These women's behavior seems to be a real cry for help, a cry that appears is going unanswered by anyone of note in their lives. Shadenfraude aside, why do none of them have a caring, committed friend/family member able to lend a hand? And if they do have such a person, why isn't s/he or helping?


Elsewhere, remember that YouTube/CNN Prez debate? Thanks to our friends over at Feminsting, we've learned that only 11 of the 29 chosen video questions were from women... If I divide that correctly, that's... umm... less than half (I think so anyway, after all, girls can't do math either, right?).

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

And they're off...

So last night the Dem candidates (yes, for Prez) debated on a CNN/YouTube forum with questions posed by regular ol' folks. Fielding such queries as "are you black enough?" or "are you female enough?" the candidates did their best to not seem annoyed that Tom Brokaw wasn't the one forming the questions. For a full transcript click here

In addition to the questions re: War & Peace, someone did inquire whether or not the candidates had chatted with their kids about sex. For some reason, this seemed a bit harder to answer than one might imagine; Senators Edwards and Obama (the two who answered the questions) both deferred to "good touching v. bad touching."

Hmm... does this apparent discomfort maybe underscore the point that it is HARD to talk to your kids about sex? Y'know what could help? If you think the answer is: SEX ED click here.

Monday, July 23, 2007

One dark morning in the middle of the night...

Skipped Thursday and Friday, apologies. But to catch you up: in the wees hours of Wed night/Thursday morning, Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) tried to get Congress to pass an amendment that would prohibit Title X funds from being made available to Planned Parenthood health centers.

Why does this matter? Title X funds family planning services for low-income and uninsured patients. In fact, e
ach year, more than five million women receive family planning services at approximately 4,500 family planning clinics funded by Title X. Happily, PP was able to work with our allies on the Hill to defeat this short-sighted amendment.

Good work team. Boo Pence.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

This is not an endorsement, either

Yesterday, Presidential candidates Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, along with Elizabeth Edwards, spoke at Planned Parenthood Action Fund's convention. Each pledged to support reproductive health and rights. (All Prez candidates were invited, the above were the only ones to attend...) Probably nothing we didn't already know right there, but nice to see the tops of the ticket show up and stand up.

And, on that note, what legislation are we supporting today? Check out Senator Clinton's re-introduction of "The Compassionate Care for Servicewomen Act," a law that would make Emergency Contraception (EC) -- a second chance to PREVENT unintended pregnancy -- available at all facilities for our servicewomen. As it stands now, Department of Defense policy does not require EC to be available at all health care facilities. In fact, current availability of EC is up to the discretion of each individual facility. Considering that timely access to EC (which is effective up to 5 days after unprotected sex but is most effective the sooner you take it), Congress should waste no time passing this common-sense legislation. But. They probably will.


On a COMPLETELY unrelated note, I think that the people who have uploaded Harry Potter #7 are really not playing fair (oh, and breaking the law). Marketing aside, there's something to be said for an extremely rare, exciting experience that has truly united the global community and the HP madness has singularly offered/captured that. Don't spoil it for the rest of us...

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

This is not an endorsement

So it seems the "controversy" du jour percolating around the internet is whether or not the (adorable) new Obama Girl(v. Guiliani Girl) video is in fact sexist. While I'd be hard pressed to argue that almost any ad involving women, stilettos and short shorts doesn't have some shades of sexism, I don't think it makes me a bad feminist to say that -- in this case -- I don't care that much. The video is engaging, cheeky and imminently humm-able and it may even serve that elusive goal of getting young people interested (or at least aware) of politics. To see for yourself: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ekSxxlj6rGE

In far more disturbing socio-political advertising news, CBS and Fox continue to refuse to air the "use a condom every time" Trojan ad. The ad has been dismissed by execs as not being enough about disease prevention (I mean, seriously, must the ad come out and say "can help prevent HIV and STDs." Is it not enough to encourage condom use and thereby prevent disease?!), a nuanced standard of morality notably absent from the network's programming... To tell the Fox and CBS to drop the hypocrisy, click here: http://www.ppaction.org/campaign/condom_ad

Monday, July 16, 2007

Call Joe Bruno -- (518) 455-3191

Today's Monday, July 16th -- does everyone remember what that means? State senate is back, probably very busy not passing the Healthy Teens Act. For more reasons why they should, check out PPNYC's President Joan Malin in today's Metro: http://www.ppnyc.org/new/releases/inthenews/metro071607.html


In other news, Louisiana has the dubious distinction of becoming the first state to outlaw an abortion procedure since SCOTUS upheld the federal abortion ban. Like the federal ban, Louisiana has outlawed a safe, effective abortion method unless the woman's life is in danger (who cares if her health is in jeopardy, right?).

Why, some may wonder, does the state need to its own ban when the federal government has already (foolishly, dangerously and purely politically) done the deed for them? Well, this way the state can arrest and prosecute doctors itself rather than having to wait for the federal government. Nice going Gov. Kathleen Blanco: you've come a long way, baby...

Friday, July 13, 2007

Bruno to teens: Drop Dead

Speaking of sex ed, remember how last month the NY State Senate (e.g . Joe Bruno) let the session expire without bringing the Healthy Teens Act to the floor for a vote? Despite the support of 85% of New Yorkers, despite there not being a mandate, despite no funding just yet, despite the Assembly and the Senate's own health committee passing it?

Well, on Monday, the Senate (e.g. Joe Bruno) returns to…drumroll... once again refuse to let the bill come to the floor for a vote.

Granted, I'm some years out of social studies, but I sorta thought we elected officials to represent our wishes. So it seems to me that if 85% OF NEW YORKERS SUPPORT THE BILL (and, of course, it's a common-sense bill backed by science), then the Senate should pass it.

If you agree, feel free to call Joe Bruno's office at (518) 455-3191
and tell him so. We've tried.


And three cheers for
Tory Bowen, who arranged a rally to protest a Judge's effort to prevent her from using the words "rape," "victim," "assailant" and "sexual-assault kit," in the trial against her alleged... umm, "the man who had sex with her when she didn't consent."

As it turns out, that ever charming Judge declared a mistrial because of said rally, accusing Ms. Bowen her friends of drumming up pretrial publicity that tainted the jury pool. To that, she responded -- quite reasonably I might add --that she "chose to speak out after Cheuvront's order because silencing rape victims is something that has been done for far too long."

Hello, He Lied

Like it wasn't outrageous/unethical/ludicrous/(umm… unsurprising?) enough that the Bush administration was by and large forbidding the Surgeon General – "the nation's doctor" – from TELLING THE TRUTH about medical issues (including but by no means limited to: contraception, sex ed and stem cell research). Now we are being asked to accept the latest Bush appointee to the position, Dr. Holsinger, who has a NIGHTMARE record on homosexuality and HIV/AID on the grounds that his scary views were based on old data? Wow.

Now, is it possible that Dr. Holsinger really was just a lousy researcher (wonderful quality in a Surgeon General, btw) and all his material was outdated, as his supporters are trying to claim? Mayybeee…but if you ask me: if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck… it's probably a bigot.


In other news: what godawful legislation are we opposing today? Answer: that would be Congress's last minute decision to
extend Title V funding for abstinence-only sex ed. It passed in the wee hours, so too late to do anything about it now, but I wanted to make sure you know that the Dems did not, as they had promised, let this bad funding expire. Fan-tast-ic.

Syphilis = Preventable

Well, after leveling off for the past couple of year, seems our good friend syphilis is back with a vengeance, skyrocketing infection rates throughout NYC in particular. So it's time for a crash course in STD prevention: if you're gonna have sex, condoms are the only method of birth control (actually, the only method of anything) that will protect you against STDs including syphilis and HIV.

A brief service plug: you can get condoms and STD testing/counseling at Planned Parenthood health centers. And, oh right, Planned Parenthood also advocates for sex ed, which would actually help teens prevent the one and learn about the other.

Death by... Stoning

So. Let's pretend that you, an unmarried adult, live in the United States and are having a sexual relationship with a consenting partner. Grand. Have fun.
Be safe. Now let's pretend that you, an unmarried adult, live in Iran, and are having a sexual relationship with a consenting partner. Slightly different story: you and your partner are going to be imprisoned and then stoned to death.

Jafar Kiani and Mokarrameh Ebrahimi were, it appears, living in sin. A month ago, he was executed. She is now awaiting the same fate.

Tragically, this is not unusual – though killing the male partner is a bit so. Stoning deaths are a form of "honor killings" that are usually committed against girls and women who have brought "dishonor" upon the family by doing crazy things like: refusing an arranged marriage, suffering a sexual assault, seeking a divorce or having sex outside of marriage. UNFPA estimates that at least 5,000 women are murdered annually this way.

Several months ago, in fact, a 17 year old girl in Iraq was ambushed by a group of 1000 men. As she cried for help, the men stripped her naked, kicked her and then threw stones at her head until she died. Her crime: Meeting her boyfriend, who was of another culture.

Clearly, there is a compelling global need to address the larger issue of creating a culture that properly values girls, women and sexuality. In the short-term, how 'bout we try to save Mokarrameh by calling Iranian officials and demanding an end to this barbaric practice?

Phone numbers, courtesy of Salon.com are here:


And/or you can sign this petition: