Feministing has had a few great pieces lately on the intersection of women’s health and policy, discussing recent debates over how and which kind of contraception should be available. Several groups have recently made announcements relying on science, rather than fear-based rhetoric, to encourage greater access to contraception for women and other uterus-having people of all ages.
Last week, the site discussed a group of OB/GYN doctors who think birth control pills should be available over-the-counter. They claim that such availability would increase access and make it easier to take birth control pills regularly, which certainly seems like a great move to promote public health and increase the ability for people to control their own bodies. Another good point is that emergency contraception, a higher dose of contraceptive hormones, already can be purchased over the counter, which on top of the medical establishment’s support suggests that this would be a safe and helpful advance for reproductive health.
That is, you can get emergency contraception if you’re over 17. As Feministing discusses, there have been major disappointments in terms of access to emergency contraception for minors, but recently a group of pediatricians has stated the age limit should be removed. This policy suggestion also seems like the right move for preventing unwanted pregnancies and allowing people of all ages to control their own bodies.
I am hopeful that these suggestions may work their way into laws, as the scientific evidence begins to outweigh baseless concerns that this access somehow promotes sexual activity at a young age or would endanger the health of those taking birth control pills. What do you think, readers–will these evidence-based recommendations be heeded anytime soon?
Rick Santorum recently withdrew his bid to be the Republican nominee for president in 2012. Santorum’s campaign made headlines both for being the most recent beneficiary of anyone-but-Romney syndrome, and for his extremely conservative social policies (also for his”google problem”…but we won’t get into that here). Many politically informed feminists are understandably overjoyed at Santorum’s decision to end his campaign- as a Senator and a candidate, Santorum has championed policies that place severe restrictions on women’s rights, especially reproductive rights. He has also been notoriously unfriendly to the LGBTQ community. All in all, the Republican party deserves some credit for rejecting Santorum as its presidential candidate. However, Santorum’s departure from the race should prompt us to think about our alternatives. Though Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul are still clinging to their campaigns, and Rick Santorum failed to even mention him in his concession speech, Mitt Romney finally looks like he’s locked up the Republican nomination. But is this any better news for feminist voters? Some of Romney’s lackluster support among Republicans comes from his reputation as less of a bona fide social conservative than Santorum, for example. As governor of the relatively liberal state of Massachusetts, he appeared somewhat pragmatic and willing to compromise on social issues. However, in more recent years, his positions on issues such as marriage equality and reproductive rights have taken a turn for the conservative, perhaps in an attempt to appeal to his base and eventually secure the Republican nomination for president. Additionally, Romney’s reputation as somewhat more moderate gives him a much better chance than Santorum ever had of defeating President Obama in a general election. Therefore, while Santorum’s withdrawal from the race may seem like excellent news for feminist voters, the battle is hardly over.
Check out this amazing, articulate, impassioned appeal to the most recent attacks on women’s health. It is awe-inspiring and captures the issue completely.
“This is about sex and property, not life and morality. Sex because when women have sex and want to control their reproduction that threatens powerful social structures that rely on patriarchal access to and control over women as reproductive engines. Which brings us to property: control of reproduction was vital when the agricultural revolution took place and we, as a species, stopped meandering around plains in search of food. Reproduction and control of it ensured that a man could possess and consolidate wealth-building and food-producing land and then make sure it wasn’t disaggregated by passing it on to one son he knew was his — largely by claiming a woman and her gestation capability as property, too.”
And, to add another quote from another amazing feminist who spoke in context of the Civil Rights Movement (Fannie Lou Hamer):
“Whether you have a Ph.D., or no D, we’re in this bag together. And whether you’re from Morehouse or Nohouse, we’re still in this bag together. Not to fight to try to liberate ourselves from the men — this is another trick to get us fighting among ourselves — but to work together with the black man, then we will have a better chance to just act as human beings, and to be treated as human beings in our sick society.”
For those of you who haven’t been following women’s health news lately, the Susan G. Komen Foundation for the Cure, an organization dedicated to fighting breast cancer, recently caused huge amounts of controversy by withdrawing funding for Planned Parenthood. In the past, Komen has given money to Planned Parenthood for the purpose of providing cancer screenings to women who might not otherwise be able to access this essential service. This shocking action was met with outrage, and the Komen Foundation quickly reversed its decision. Additionally, Karen Handel (a Komen Foundation official who has been criticised for her role in the initial decision) has resigned.
The strength of the public’s reaction to Komen’s decision was inspiring- clearly, people care about preventing and treating cancer. And, to their credit, the Komen Foundation was willing to admit and correct their mistake. However, the whole incident is representative of a disturbing trend in the United States. Access to basic health care for women is now a controversial topic, rather than a universal goal. Planned Parenthood has long been a target of criticism due to their reputation as an abortion-provider (abortions, in fact, account for only roughly three percent of Planned Parenthood’s services). Recently, though, debate on personhood amendments in state legislatures and the fight over insurance coverage for birth control have drawn women’s health issues into the spotlight, and not in an especially positive way. We may have won the Susan G. Komen Foundation fight, but even so, it’s important to remember to continue speaking out for women’s basic rights to health care.
So, I’m three days late…in writing this post, since World Contraception Day occurs on September 26th. I promise I wasn’t delayed with this post just to include that terrible pun, since scares of unwanted pregnancies are nothing to joke about. If you are having a type of sex that could lead to pregnancy but do not currently want to become pregnant, it’s important to know your contraceptive options!
Check out the World Contraception Day’s Guide to Contraception. If you are a Barnard student, make an appointment with Health Services (there are several awesome contraception experts). There are also several books in the office to get acquainted with your options, but the nurse practitioners are really friendly and great resources, not to mention the ones who will be prescribing you pills or referring you to other forms of birth control. If you are not at BC and do not have much insurance coverage, try to find a local Planned Parenthood. They will help you find low- or no-cost contraception that works for you.
Remember too that condoms are considered a form of contraception, but that safer sex practices must be maintained even when a person is on hormonal birth control or in sex acts where pregnancy is not a risk, such as anal or oral sex. Did you know there are flavored condoms [available in the WW office!] specifically for mouth-to-penis contact? Don’t forget about dental dams [also available at WW] for mouth-to-vagina or mouth-to-anus contact. Anal sex carries high STI risks, so always use condoms with lots of lubricant!
A very important caveat that’s worth restating: hormonal birth control does NOT protect against STIs–only condoms and other latex barriers, used correctly, will protect you from STIs.
I noticed that the vision of World Contraception Day is “a world where every pregnancy is wanted.” For some interesting discussion of the implications of a world with only wanted pregnancies vs. a world with no unwanted pregnancies, check out this blog at RH Reality Check.
…and I feel like cursing up a storm! But I won’t (on here).
This anti-choice business has gone too far and it is time to gather in the masses to show that we’re not taking it. In addition to being a bad ass and attending the rally this upcoming Saturday, be sure to sign the petition against the plan to defund Planned Parenthood (posted below by the lovely Jordan)!
Stand Up For Women’s Health!
Saturday, February 26th
Foley Square, Across from the Court House in Lower Manhattan
New York City 1-3pm
Here is BCRW’s video recording of the event if you weren’t able to make it out or would like to relive the experience!
These women have incredible stories and do amazing things.
Rock on radical doulas!
[Video description: This panel discussion features a group of reproductive justice activists and birth doulas who work across the spectrum of pregnancy, birth, and women’s health, connecting the traditional reproductive rights movement with new social justice activism that considers the complete physical, political, and economic well-being of girls and women. Panelists include Aisha Domingue, doula coordinator at the Brooklyn Young Mothers Collective; Mary Mahoney, assistant director of the Pro-Choice Public Education Project and co-founder and co-coordinator of the Doula Project; Lauren Mitchell, health educator and co-founder and co-coordinator of the Doula Project; and Miriam Pérez, founder and sole blogger at RadicalDoula.com and editor at Feministing.com. Moderated by Lucy Trainor, this event took place on March 3, 2010 at Barnard College in New York City.]