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Michigan Lawmakers Are Trying To Sneak Extreme Abortion Restrictions

Source: http://thinkprogress.org/health/2012/12/06/1294861/michigan-lawmakers-are-trying-to-sneak-through-extreme-abortion-restrictions-in-lame-duck-session/

Women’s health advocates confirm that Michigan lawmakers are likely to revive on Thursday an omnibus anti-abortion bill that sparked widespread protests after it passed the House this summer, in addition to a host of other restrictive abortion legislation they hope to force through the current lame duck session.

As Michigan’s current attempt to pass anti-union legislation dominates the coverage surrounding the state legislature, lawmakers are using the opportunity to revisit anti-abortion measures they hope to slip through before this session ends. Since five anti-choice state legislators lost their seats in last month’s election, this may be the best time for the legislature to advance their far-right agenda — despite the fact that the majority of Michigan residents support legal access to abortion. On Thursday afternoon, the state senate may consider multiple anti-abortion bills that aim to:

1) Regulate abortion clinics out of existence. HB 5711, the massive 45-page legislation that sparked amassive outcry when the House considered it in June, contains additional and unnecessary regulations for abortion providers. HB 5711 would subject any facilities that perform 6 or more abortions per month to burdensome regulations that could be so costly that they force clinics to close their doors, an indirect method of targeting abortion providers.

2) Limit abortion access for women in rural areas. HB 5711 would also place restrictions on telemedical abortions, which provide essential health services to women in rural areas who often lack any access to nearby abortion doctors. Even though telemedical procedures have been proven to be safe and effective, Michigan lawmakers seek to require doctors to be physically present to administer abortion services.

3) Impose further guidelines for the disposal of fetal remains. Michigan already has regulations in place to instruct medical professions about how they must dispose of fetal remains, but HB 5711 wants to go a step further, requiring fetal remains to be treated in the exact same manner as dead bodies. Doctors would be forced to fill out death forms and make arrangements for the fetal remains’ cremation or burial,imposing an emotional burden on the women whose pregnancies end through a medical miscarriage. No other state handles fetal remains at 10 weeks in the same way as it handles dead bodies.

4) Prevent private insurance companies from covering any abortion services. A trio of companion bills — SBs 612, 613, and 614 — would work together to ban the health insurance exchange that Michigan will set up under Obamacare from covering abortion, as well as ban private insurers from covering any abortion services under their general insurance plans. Currently, 87 percent of Michigan’s insurance plans include abortion care in their benefits packages. If private insurers elect to cover abortions, they have to do it as a separate rider, which often ends up being more costly for women.

5) Allow doctors to refuse to perform abortion services because of their personal beliefs. SB 975, which passed the Michigan Senate’s Health Policy committee earlier this week and is now up for a full vote, is a sweeping “license to discriminate” bill that would allow medical professionals to deny health services based on their personal beliefs. It would allow doctors to refuse to provide HIV treatment, vaccinations, or abortions to any of their patients simply based on their “conscience.”

Preliminary reports from women’s health advocates on the ground in Michigan suggest that the Senate has already passed SB 975, and is likely to pass SBs 612, 613, and 614 this afternoon. But Thursday’s push doesn’t represent the only step that Michigan lawmakers have taken during this year’s lame duck session to push through anti-choice legislation. Just a few weeks ago, state legislators also considered establishing a tax credit for fetuses past 12 weeks’ gestation, a dangerous step toward endowing fetuses with the same rights as U.S. citizens.

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Anti-Choice Senators Block Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Treaty

Sadly, we’ve all grown used to the idea that nothing gets through the U.S. Senate these days without the support of at least 60 senators. Procedural tricks and a misuse of the filibuster rule has ground legislation to a near halt in the years since President Barack Obama took office. But when it came to a vote to ensure that disabled persons have the same rights as anyone else—including the right to avoiding pregnancy or terminating unwanted ones—even 60 votes wasn’t enough.

The Senate voted 61 to 38 to ratify the United Nations Rights of Persons with Disabilities Treaty, which stated “nations should strive to assure that the disabled enjoy the same rights and fundamental freedoms as their fellow citizens,” according to the Associated Press. The treaty was modeled after the Americans with Disabilities Act, but anti-choice activists rallied against it, claiming it “sacrifices the most vulnerable—the disabled and the unborn—all in the name of population control,” according to Bradley Mattes, president of the International Right to Life Federation.

Although anti-choice activists claimed concern that the treaty, if ratified, could expand access to abortion and somehow impede their efforts to overturn Roe v. Wade, many of those who voted against the measure, such as Utah Sen. Mike Lee, pointed to fear of losing United States “sovereignty” as their reason for opposing the treaty.

Source: http://www.rhrealitycheck.org/article/2012/12/04/anti-choice-senators-block-convention-on-rights-persons-with-disabilities-treaty

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Once I have been told about the game of words: how you link them determines your truth. The way you play the things in and around the words will make your existences; the only thing needed is evidence. Any subjects or fields rely on the final output, outcome and impacts of the input. In Social sciences, our goal is social development. Each and every field is related to each and every issues; the only thing that differ is how you link and prioritize.  Public health is the dynamic concept; it changes with the need and demand of the protecting and empowering the community against the diseases and risk factors. Some literatures had been defined it in a narrow concept; it does not mean it is. This has seemed to be originated as the experimental science of preventing and controlling Cholera in London. Though, the preventive medicine dates back 18th century, Public Health politics has began as original context of politics, and as act of maintaining sanitation and hygiene in Europe, it has thought to be grown through the following Historical phases:

  1. Disease control phase (1880-1920 AD)
  2. Health promotional phase (1920-1960 AD)
  3. Social engineering phase (1960-1980 AD)
  4. Health for all phase (1981-2000 AD)

In 1948, WHO has defined health as: “A state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing and not merely the absence of disease and infirmity”.  In this vision there are lots of opportunities for politics. This is platform for exercising the innovation, invention and discoveries in the matter of Health promotion and disease prevention. It seems that this idealist definition has created a field for action that is not other than ‘Public Health’. In real, the definition is more towards the promotive and preventive aspects of Health not only curing of diseases.

Former U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop said “Health care is vital to us at some of the time, but Public Health is vital to all of us all the time”. Medicine is concerned with individual patients where as Public Health regards the ‘community’ as its patient.

Based on the assumption that Health is the multidimensional concept, to expand the areas of Public Health there is a politics in the coordination and collaboration with different sciences. As said by Association of School of Public Health, “Public Health has many disciplines (Medicine, dentistry, nursing, optometry, nutrition, social work, Environmental sciences, Health education, health services administration, behavioral sciences), its activities focus on entire populations rather than on individual patients”. This is what I called- a field comprising versatile officers.

During 1980s: steps for promoting Health

Public Health is an emerging subject, but had used emerged subjects like Health promotion and Education as its tool. WHO has perceived the need of empowering the community for increasing control over, and improve health of the people. Thus, proposed the new concept of Health promotion, perceiving Health as a resource for everyday life, not the objective of living. Health is a positive concept emphasizing social and personal resources, as well as physical capabilities. Therefore, health promotion is not just the responsibility of the health sector, but goes beyond healthy lifestyle to well-being. There are grounds for Public Health actions, through each and every Health Promotion Conferences. From first Ottawa charter of 1986 to the seventh Global conference on Health Promotion in Nairobi, Public Health politics acts by searching its area for action. The game of words and Public Health linkage during these conferences is shown as:

  • First- International Conference on Health Promotion: Ottawa charter: 1986- “The move towards a New Public Health”.
  • Second- International Conference on Health Promotion: Australia: 1988- “Healthy Public Policy”.
  • Third- International Conference on Health Promotion: Sweden: 1991- “Supporting environment for health”.
  • Fourth- International Conference on Health Promotion: Indonesia: 1997- “New players for a new era-Leading health promotion into the 21st century”.
  • Fifth- Global Conference on Health promotion: Mexico: 2000- “Bridging the equity gap”.
  • Sixth- Global Conference on Health Promotion: Thailand: 2005- “Policy and partnership for Action: Addressing the determinant of health”.
  • Seventh- Global Conference on Health Promotion: Kenya: 2009- “Promoting health and development: Closing the implementation gap”.

 

John Bryant in his book, “Health and the developing world” presented a gloomy picture and a challenge of inequalities in Health saying: “Large numbers of the world’s people. Perhaps more than half have no access to health care at all, and for many of the rest the care they receive does not answer the problems they have”. This signifies the opportunities for the politics in the ‘Equality and equity’. So does the Public Health, there is the platform for action based on the issue of Primary Health care to attain ‘Health for all’.

 

Words for Public Health

Public Health politics lies behind the critical words as Health determinants like: hygiene, sanitation, housing, safe drinking water, waste disposal, working and living styles. The growth of politics in health seems to be at rapid strides in western world. Its progress has been slow in developing countries like Nepal, where the main health problems continue to be those faced by the western world 100 years ago. The establishment of WHO providing a Health Charter for all people provided a great fillip to the Public Health movement in these countries. WHO has defined Public Health as: “the art of applying science in the context of politics so as to reduce inequalities in Health while ensuring the best health for the greatest number”.

 

C.E.A. Winslow in 1920 AD had defined the gist of Public Health. This has provided platform for politics to many Public Health professional. In the perspectives of Health promotion and disease prevention he had defined Public Health as: “the science and art of preventing disease, prolonging life and promoting health and efficiency through organized community effort.” This definition is multiplicity of concern. His definition not just clearly saying something about what Public Health is, but also contains some politics about how Public Health is to be achieved and how things need to be arranged to bring these things about.

The American Heritage Dictionary defines Public Health as: “the science and practice of protecting and improving the health of the community, as by preventive medicine, health education, control of communicable diseases, application of sanitary measures, and monitoring of environmental hazards.” These words enlighten the summary how Public Health acts. This definition seemed to be based on the reality. But, it has narrowed the area for politics.

 

John Last’s Definition of Public Health, 1980 defined: “Public health is one of the efforts organized by society to protect, promote, and restore the people’s health. It is the combination of sciences, skills, and beliefs directed to maintenance and improvement of health of all people through collective or social actions. The programme, services and institutions involved emphasis on prevention of disease and the health needs of the population as a whole. Public health activities change with changing technology & social values, but goals remain the same.” This definition provides the versatile and dynamic nature of Public Health. There are lots of causes to show the existence of Public Health. This has played a game through its words stating it as changing with technology, but goal remains the same.

 

In 1988, the future of Public Health has defined, “Public health is what we as a society, do collectively to assure the conditions in which people can be healthy.” It has focused on the congested concept of all set of activities for promoting, prolonging and restoring the health. It signifies that the value of Public Health lies upon the common efforts by society and empowering them. This politics helps Public health to attain new height in matter of health development.

 

 Public Health is about science- based on evidence, Art- based on innovation, invention and discoveries, of utilizing local, national and international resources to uplift the health, so that people can be empowered for everyday achievements.

 

Childress et. al in 2002, has defined Public Health as concerning subject upon population rather upon individual. The broad definition included the science of Public Health, Epidemiology, as its tool for promotion of health and prevention of diseases and disabilities. It has also linked Public Health with the recognition of multidimensional nature of the determinants of health and a focus on the complex interactions of many factors like, biological, social, environmental, etc. in developing effective intervention.

 

The words on Public Health are now changed from communicable disease prevention and control to the non-communicable disease prevention and control. Not only this, the politics is seeking place for acting on prevention of- accidents, injuries, conflict, violence, war and terrorism. However Public Health is all about 5P’s: prevention, promotion, protection, population based and preparedness. At this time it can be said that, “All interest in disease and death is only another expression of interest in life.” To lead the theme of “Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise”, we have still to practice politics in Public Health; after all, “Knowing is not enough, we must apply, Willing is not enough, we must do”

CiST college students

Thank

 you!!!!

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When engaging in consensual sex, choosing to use condoms can aid in preventing pregnancy, assisting in preventing the of spread sexually transmitted diseases and infections (STDs/STIs), and adding a little bit of flavor to any sexual rendezvous.

In fact,  according the Center for Disease Control (CDC, 2012), when worn properly and consistently, male condoms are highly effective in the prevention of pregnancy and spreading of STDs/STIs, for example HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus).

Condoms are for one time use only.  Trojan Condoms recommends you:

Dispose of a used condom by wrapping it in tissue and throwing it in the trash. Wash your hands, genitals and surrounding areas with soap and water. (Trojan Condoms, 2012)

However, there are sites on the internet that allow people to anonymously sell and purchase used condoms with their contents.  Even on some main stream sites, such as Experience Project have forms dedicated to obtaining used condoms and their contents, the best way to store used condoms and their contents, and the best ways to use used condoms and their contents.  This is risky behavior and can lead to contracting STDs/STIs.  These websites are free to join and use, as long as you are 18 years of age or older.

This fetish of ingesting, reusing, wearing, and using used condoms and their contents when masturbating can have negative health outcomes.  There is no way for these sites to regulate and screen used condoms and their contents for STDs and STIs, and there is no way for the purchaser to know if they are purchasing used condoms and their contents from an STD/STI free individual.

This serious sexual health issue can be addressed by Comprehensive Sexual Health Education.  That covers the transmission of STDs/STIs, Condom Usage and Disposal Information, and Sexuality and Sexual Behaviors.

Another way to address this sexual health issue is by having open dialogue about how this expression of a condom fetish can have adverse effects on a persons’s health.  Discussing the possible alternatives to safely pursing a condom fetish may also be helpful in addressing this sexual health issue.

In the end, a person has the right to make their own decisions about how they live and what they do in their bedrooms or living rooms, as long as it is legal. In the end, this is just something to think critically about and raise awareness about the possible adverse effects of utilizing used condoms and their contents.

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Another day has come and gone over Bali ICPD Beyond 2014 Global Youth Forum.But as days come and go, the discussion intensifies and young people are more demanding to their governments, religious and traditional authorities, parents, and society at large.

Universal access to education,inclusive education, relevant education, quality education ,financing and partnerships, as well as ccomprehensive sexuality education were identified by participants at the ICPD beyond 2014 Global Youth Forum participants as being vital for comprehensive education to become a reality in our world and were thus recommended in that other for discussion by the United Nations and possible inclusion in its post-2015 international  development agenda.

Transitions to decent work, and famiies,youth Rights and well being are the themes which were on the discussion table today.These being of course issues which are relevant to every young person irrespective of  where he/she hails, the debate in the plenary was so intense and continued into the various work groups.

During the plenary on transitions to decent employment, it was revealed by the International Labour Organisation’s representative that we now have the highest number of unemployed youths that the world has ever. Also, during this plenary it was disclosed that 1 in 9 young workers in Africa are in the informal sector, 4 out of 10 young workers are working on a temporary basis, and 5 in 10 low paid persons are youths.

Productivity, fairness, and rewarding are the major characteristics of a decent job as defined by the International Labour Organisation(ILO). If one is to go by this definition, one will have no choice but agree with the above statistics. One other area in which there was total agree is on the fact that  stronger families, respect of  youth rights, and the well being of youths are the basis for any society and so for  a world at peace with itself, there was need for these issues to be tackled with maximum care.

According to Mr.Anatole Makosso, the president to the conference of African youth ministers and youth minister of Congo Brazzaville, there exist three reasons for governments to carefully consider the above mentioned issues and ensure that the needs of youths are met: They are the majority, they are the future, they will not identify with any decisions taken without them.

Another day is come and gone,  and the desire for action by youths on the part of their governments has not faultered Youths want to make the Bali declaration not only a declaration but a platform for action. Hear our voices!

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What a long awaited and historic day for mankind has today being. The ICPD Beyond 2014 Global Youth Forum was officially opened today. In the presence of   close to a thousand participants, Indonesian officials, and  representatives of governments the world over, Dr Babatunde Osotimehin, UNFPA’s executive Director , in his speech  decried the  situation in which so many young people, especially those in the global south, live in before pointing  out the importance of this event, and then inviting  representatives of governments and those he termed “Seniors” to look  at the  young people around them and  challenge  how they  relate to them, and then think of how they can release  the potentials of these young people.

Further setting the context of the Bali ICPD Beyond 2014 Global Youth Forum, the Indonesian minister for people’s welfare, declared that: we believe that a meaningful dialogue is necessary on the means and ways of engaging young people to release their potential. He further emphasized that , young people need to understand the values of life that will make them  stay healthy, be educated, foster family life, actively participate in building the  world they have always dreamed of.

Staying healthy, comprehensive education, transition to  decent work for youth, Families, youth rights and well being, leadership and meaningful youth participation, and realizing youth rights are the themes which will be discussed and recommendations made by the over 650 participants for  discussion and adoption  by the UN member states as one of its post-2015 agenda.

 

Staying healthy and comprehensive education were tackled today in discussion groups (world Cafés) and recommendations made on the former. Access to data, putting in place of an enabling environment for youths by governments, religious and traditional authorities, access to   quality, affordable, and comprehensive health services, and finally  the abolition of laws and policies that   that hinder youth empowerment   are the recommendations that came out from the 15 sort of work groups that brainstormed on this topic. The recommendations on the comprehensive education will be presented  tomorrow, Wednesday December 5th 2012.

It should be noted that the above recommendations were arrived at by participants including representatives of governments, UN agencies, and civil society in a very interactive, safe, and open environment  after attending the plenary session that addressed  the issue of staying healthy for a young person. At this plenary Advocate for Youth’s Meredith Waters acting in her capacity as young person commentator for this theme, declared amid thunderous applause from the audience  that: the Global Youth Forum is a great way to start but not enough. Dr Nafsia Mboi, Indonesian minister of health, answering to questions from the participants declared to conclude the plenary that: Every person, I repeat every person including young people has the right to health.

Good as the speeches may be, world leaders should be conscious that young people are tired of speeches and want to see concrete actions being taken solve the pile of problems in which young people from all part of our beloved world are drowning. World leaders! Take action now or be fired! We are ready for the fight and I assure you we will always out power you; for we are the majority.

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Applications for the Spring 2013 Great American Condom Campaign are open!

Friends, we are once again searching for the most bold and visionary college students from around the United States to receive five hundred Trojan Brand condoms to distribute on their college campuses.

We select one-thousand SafeSites every semester to participate in this nation-wide youth-led grassroots movement to make the United States a sexually healthy nation. Each year, GACC members give out one million Trojan Brand condoms on college campuses across the United States, educate their peers about sexual health, and organize to improve the policies that affect young people’s health and lives.

What kind of ingenious plans will you come up with to distribute them this time? Condom lollipops? Condom scavenger hunt? Condom raffle tickets? Condom demonstration flash mob? Dress up as a giant chicken/duck/goose/platypus laying plastic eggs filled with condoms, candy and fun facts in strategic areas to welcome the spring? THE POSSIBILITIES ARE ENDLESS!

The application deadline is December 31st and it only takes about 10 minutes to fill out. Apply now!

Do it for your country.
PS – Check out the GACC Facebook page to learn more and see the amazing ways SafeSites are distributing condoms, educating, and organizing.

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Fighting HIV/AIDS and other diseases like malaria is one the Millennium Development Goals(MDGs) voted by the United Nation’s in the year 2000. Given that this fight seems to be slowing down and that more than 5% of Cameroonians are living with HIV/AIDS-60% of which are women and 40% falling in the youths category-there is a cause for concern on the strategy to be used for the achievement of MDGs.

 

Conscious that handicapped persons are also celebrated in December and given that living with HIV/AIDS is more and more considered a handicapped. This article is going to dwell on the inclusion of the handicapped in the achievement of MDGs.

 

Concerning the non-achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by most countries of the global south, much has been said and so much more left unsaid. But if there is one thing that has so often been ignored by policy makers, politicians and all those in charge of implementing policies that will lead to a timely  achievement of MDGs, it the absence of human rights in these goals. The non-inclusion of human rights in the MDGs means the exclusion of handicapped persons, indigenous people, and other minority groups in their achievement.

 

Given that handicapped persons constitute 10% of Cameroon’s population and are among the poorest people in the country, it is evident that talking of poverty, the fight against hunger, improvement of maternal health care and reduction of infant mortality child is pretentious if nothing is done to the more than 85% of these handicapped persons aged14-64 years who are jobless and the other 15% of them who are confined to shoe mending, shoe shinning and other informal sector activities.

 

Also, talking about achieving universal access to education without paying particular attention to the fact that less than 5% of handicapped children in Cameroon can afford to

go to school with only 2% of these handicapped children completing secondary school, is wishful thinking.  What about the  ever increasing number of albino children who because of their sight defect and the inability of their parents to buy them glasses drop out daily from school?

 

The government of Cameroon recruited 25000 certificate holders in 2011 under a special recruitment scheme. But none of them was an handicapped person and as if this was not enough, a good number of handicapped persons were sent away from public schools because they could not afford to pay the required fees. This despite the fact that they are officially exempt from the payment of school fees in public schools in Cameroon. To protest against the above acts, the handicapped organized a protest march in front of the prime minister’s office in October 2011 but were violently dispersed by the police and military forces.

 

Can we say of a country whose government carries out such horrible acts against its own very population, even if it achieves all the MDGs, that it is developed? Can MDGs be achieved if the strategy to achieve them is not inclusive? Can the achievement of MDGs, as they are now, lead to sustainable development?

 

My answer to the above questions is ‘NO’. Because I am intimately convinced that, unless inclusive and people-centered, no development plan can produce any sustainable results. It is high time for our government and civil society to listen to and amplify the voices of the handicapped so that they are heard and acted upon by policy making and implementing structures because like all poor people, “they long to belong to, and participate in their communities on equal footing with others. Most of all, they do not want charity. They want opportunity”, as former world bank President James Wolfehnson once put it.  Anything short of this will make the achievement of MDGs in Cameroon, even by 2035, a far-fetched dream.

 

How can one expect a country like Cameroon to achieve the MDGs related to literacy, health, and economic empowerment when it does not take the handicapped into consideration when designing and constructing public buildings and other infrastructure like roads, hospitals, universities, and schools?

 

How can one expect Cameroon to be democratic, united, and emerging by 2025,as exposed in its vision 2035,when more 10% of its population(handicapped persons) are disenfranchised due to their non-consideration when designing and producing electoral material(especially ballots) and situating polling stations(Most being inaccessible to the handicapped)?

 

Realizing that the above is impossible without respect for human rights, we, at the Education 4Development (E4D) have made human rights the 9th MDG and therefore one of the elements of our advocacy and awareness creation campaign on a participative, timely, and inclusive achievement of MDGs in our community. Through our MDGs participative achievement programme, we reached out to more than 1000 pupils and students in 2011 and look forward to reaching out to a greater number in 2012.

 

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On November 29, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)—the government’s lead agency delivering foreign assistance to more than 100 countries around the world—officially launched its first-ever Youth in Development Policy. The policy, which has been posted on the USAID website since the beginning of November, provides the agency with important guidance recognizing young people as a driving force in global development efforts.

Nearly two years in the making, the policy seeks to strengthen youth programming, participation, and partnership while mainstreaming and integrating young people throughout all of the agency’s policies and programs. Such mainstreaming is critical because, while USAID supports some youth-focused programming, in the health sector for example, these efforts are often small-scale, short-term pilot projects that are limited in reach.  In addition, broader initiatives that should be addressing young people’s needs do not necessarily do so unless there are youth champions within the agency or among implementing agencies who seek to proactively prioritize youth within the programming.

This policy has the potential to impact real change on the ground for young people by systematically integrating and mainstreaming youth while also engaging them in policy decisions. Whether it’s providing critical family planning information and services; promoting democracy, human rights, and gender equality; increasing employment and civic engagement; or delivering life-saving assistance following humanitarian disasters, every facet of USAID’s development agenda could (and in my opinion, should) include youth as a key component.  In order to achieve this, the policy includes seven key principles:

  • Recognize that youth participation is vital for effective programs;
  • Invest in assets that build youth resilience;
  • Account for youth differences and commonalities;
  • Create second chance opportunities;
  • Involve and support mentors, families, and communities;
  • Pursue gender equality; and
  • Embrace innovation and technology by and for youth.

The fact that there exists a youth policy at all, let alone such a multifaceted one, is certainly commendable.  Furthermore, the extent to which it highlights young people’s sexual and reproductive health needs, including the prevention of unintended pregnancies, early marriage, and gender-based violence, is a positive development given the fundamental role sexual and reproductive health plays in all aspects of U.S. foreign policy.  In addition to strong language on health, the policy also explicitly recognizes the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth, as well as the importance of pursuing gender equality and connecting with hard-to-reach populations, including young migrants and refugees, out-of-school and street youth, rural youth, married adolescents, and young people with disabilities.

No government policy is perfect, however.  While this policy has made strides in promoting a more holistic and positive approach to youth, it lacks the teeth required to achieve its full potential.  No additional funding is set aside to implement it and no mandate is given requiring the agency’s overseas missions to follow it, leaving it largely up to the discretion of individual missions and staff to decide if they have the time or interest in prioritizing youth.  Without such mechanisms in place, the policy is just a piece of paper sitting on a shelf.  In order to bring it to life, we need to get past this idea that doing youth work is too hard, that young people are too difficult to work with, don’t care, aren’t engaged, or don’t have the knowledge or experience to make change.

We cannot continue to let governments and others perpetuate the fear-based notion that, left unaddressed, youth will wreak havoc on communities and nations.  We must remember that young people do not instigate civil strife and conflict; weak political systems do. Young people do not promote extremist ideologies; oppressive government policies do.  Young people do not fuel crime sprees; inequitable distribution of resources and economic stagnation do. Young people are not the problem, they are the solution.

They have proven that they are resilient, innovative, and powerful agents of change who can achieve significant policy advancements when they work in conjunction with local, national, and regional stakeholders.  Nepalese youth activists supported by Advocates for Youth and our local partner, YUWA, have successfully lobbied government officials to change Nepal’s national sex education curriculum to better reflect the needs of youth.  After years of effort, Advocates’ youth council in Nigeria, Education as a Vaccine (EVA), won its campaign to have the Federal Ministry of Health create a stand-alone budget line in the national health sector budget that is specifically dedicated to adolescent and youth sexual and reproductive health funding.  And, the Jamaica Youth Advocacy Network (JYAN) is working with the World Health Organization to develop guidelines for adolescents living with HIV in low- and middle-income countries.  Involving young people and key stakeholders in their communities in these processes not only leads to innovative programs, it also increases success rates, while further helping young people build skills in communication, negotiation, and civic participation.

While young people have made tremendous progress in advancing their rights, they cannot and should not do it alone.  National governments and the entire international community must not only recognize the rights of youth and respect them as equal partners and rights-holders, but they also have a responsibility to prioritize youth within all their development policies and programs.  The USAID Youth in Development policy is one step in the right direction.

With nearly half the world’s population under the age of 25, a government policy recognizing the pivotal role young people play in the development of their communities, their nations, and the world is long overdue.  The current and future direction of this planet will largely depend on how well we educate, empower, and engage the largest generation of young people in history.  In no area is this of more paramount importance than in the realm of sexual and reproductive health and rights, where education, health, self-determination, and human rights intersect to create the foundations for healthy decision-making.

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‘It was the best époque,’ said the driver to the man who occupied the front seat of the car as I boarded. ‘Yes it was,’ ‘Yes it was, ‘ quietly answered the middle aged man in a manner that clearly revealed that he was in a contemplative mood and took the discussion with the driver seriously. I must confess that as long as I have been boarding Taxis, never have I boarded one in which the atmosphere was so contemplative.   ‘How I wish that the youths of our time had the opportunity to experience an educational system as effective and efficient as ours, ‘ quickly added the driver, just as I started wondering what these two men were discussing that made them so passionate and engaged. When I had reached my destination, the discussion between the two men, nostalgic of their school days and educational system, had not stopped and as I alighted from the Taxi, I started having a deep thought on all the things I had heard the two men discuss. I asked myself, ‘What will I talk about with so much emotion and passion in two decades from now? ‘. As this question wondered in my mind, I soon became nervous and started blaming the generation of the Taxi driver and his passenger for having done nothing to ensure that people of my generation enjoy the efficient and effective educational system that they had.

As a young person, I am conscious of the fact that there is a great tendency for people of every generation to blame the generation that preceded it as being the cause of its turmoil. According to international bodies like the United Nations, no generation before ours has ever had the tools and means of overcoming all the things we inherently hate and would not like to be associated with like poverty, hunger, abuse of human rights, and all forms of violence. To me, this raises the question of ‘what legacy do I want my generation to leave to future generations? ‘   Such questions should be constantly on the minds of every youth of this generation.

About 43% of the world’s population is under the age of 25. Youths therefore make up close to half   of the global population and are logically those most affected by the plagues of our generation (disease poverty, hunger, and abuse of human rights).The above reinforces my belief in the fact that it is in the ultimate interest of youths of this generation to make the eradication of those things plaguing our world a priority. It is only then that governments, policy makers, traditional and religious authorities  will clearly see how much we long to live in a  world where people’s gender, sexual orientation, and status in society is nothing compared to their right to treatment, safe delivery, and  access health facilities.

While we have rights we also have responsibilities, and one of those responsibilities is to leave the world better than we had it for the generations to come. If we expect to receive more let’s be prepared to give more than we receive. Come to think of it, we are the generation with the highest chances ever of making access to health care for all a reality, ending gender based violence, and making poverty history. Our time really is now and we must never allow this opportunity to leave a cherished legacy to future generations pass us by. Do something today for this generation’s legacy and the good of future generations so that we could one day proudly say: Our generation made the world a better place.

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Education is one of the cornerstones on which any development worth the name is built. The growing acknowledgement of this fact has led to the emergence of many nations in our world today. But the fact that education has become an item at the top of the agenda of major international bodies and policy formulation processes is not enough. The efficiency of the educational system is an important aspect of quality education that is most often neglected by educational authorities and policy makers in Cameroon. In fact, many now believe that our educational system more than any other thing  is the cause  of our problems.

If the educational system in Cameroon is as inefficient as it is, more inefficient even has been sex education in primary and secondary schools. Sex education in schools in Cameroon has been so inefficient that the government had no choice   but to acknowledge this and take necessary measures to correct the failings of sex education in Cameroon.

Introduced by Cameroon’s government through a ministerial decree on the 18th of January 2007, Education on Family life, Population Issues, HIV/AIDs has been implemented in Cameroon’s schools only since September 2012. To build the capacity of teachers and correct the failings of the abandoned approach to sex education, a series of Radio programs have been organized by ministries in charge of education and health in Cameroon alongside UNAIDs. Through active and collective listening of these programs by teachers in the 350 centers selected across the country, teachers of secondary, primary, and   teachers training colleges are enlightened and given the opportunity to ask questions to clear their doubts and deepen their understanding on the new approach of imparting knowledge on family life, population issues, and HIV/AIDs to pupils and students.

The new approach to sex education in schools in Cameroon is aimed at developing   positive, protective, and safe behaviors among students for their present and future lives  as grown-ups and  thereby fully understand and take the reproductive health rights agenda at heart. Despite the fact that this new approach has been   developed with  the support of international bodies like UNAIDs, my  greatest fear is that, like the abandoned approach to sex education, this  new approach will fail in achieving the laudable  goals for which  it has been  created.

Lack of monitoring and evaluation is one of those things which could easily lead to the failure of the new approach to sex education in Cameroon’s schools. The government and its donors must therefore ensure that there be a constant monitoring and periodic evaluation of the efficiency and effectiveness of this approach.

Coupled with the above, resistance by  a cross-section of society of the new, realistic, and down- to-earth manner of the approach to sex education in Cameroon’s schools  could further complicate  the implementation of  this laudable reform in Cameroon’s educational system.

 

This reform to Cameroon’s educational system in itself is one that should be considered in countries whose approaches to sex education have over the years not produced the desired results. The use of radio will enable a huge number of teachers to improve   their knowledge of sex education increased and thereby bring about a revolution in the teaching of Sex, Population Issues, HIV/ AIDs in Cameroon.

This reform is proof of the fact that, Youth and reproductive health rights are slowly but surely taking their place at the heart of the development policy agenda in Cameroon. Though full of obstacles and challenges, the path chosen by the thousands of young Cameroonians who day-in, day-out advocate for the inclusion of youths in the formulation and implementation of  youth-focused policies is the right path. We shall overcome!

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Source: http://thinkprogress.org/health/2012/11/20/1223231/michigan-tax-credit-fetuses/

State legislators in Michigan held a hearing on Tuesday to consider House Bills 5684 and 5685, which would allow taxpayers to receive tax relief for unborn fetuses past 12 weeks’ gestation. The proposed legislation is an odd push for Michigan Republicans, partly because Progress Michigan notesthe state slashed tax credits for children last year — meaning that although parents living in Michigan do not qualify for additional tax breaks to offset the cost of caring for their own children, they could soon be able to claim a tax credit for an unborn fetus.

Progress Michigan’s executive director points outthat the proposed legislation is a dangerous step toward endowing fetuses with the same rights as human beings while disregarding the real economic needs of Michigan’s children, 341,000 of whom currently live in high-poverty areas:

“It’s clear Lansing Republicans have the wrong priorities by wasting time on these extreme bills,” said Zack Pohl, Executive Director of Progress Michigan. “This is really a backdoor way of passing extreme personhood legislation, which has been rejected by voters in states across the country. Even worse, this would create a special new tax credit for unborn fetuses, after Lansing Republicans eliminated the tax credit for living, breathing children last year.It’s time for our elected leaders to get their priorities straight and start working together to create good jobs and improve education.”

The National Conference of State Legislatures believes this type of legislation could represent the first of its kind, although they acknowledged that the issue of states providing tax credits for fetuses has not been widely studied.

The nonpartisan House Fiscal Agency has estimated that allowing Michigan residents to claim a tax credit for unborn fetuses would cost the state between $5 million and $10 million annually in lost tax revenue.

(HT: Alison C)

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On Saturday, over 10,000 people bombarded the streets of Dublin, yelling and waving signs into the air that say, “Never again!”  They were consumed with rage and devastation, and with hopes of possible change.  The protesters and their fervent cries has even caused the Irish Government to possibly re-examine their abortion policies.  And what was the cause for this reaction?

Her name was Savita Halappanavar.  She was a 31 year old dentist.  And her husband was Praveen, a 34 year old engineer.  She was 17 weeks pregnant but went to the hospital because she had back pain on October 21st.  That’s when she found out she was miscarrying.  According to The Irish Times, this was what Mr. Praveen Halappanavar had said:

“The doctor told us the cervix was fully dilated, amniotic fluid was leaking and unfortunately the baby wouldn’t survive. The doctor, he says, said it should be over in a few hours. There followed three days, he says, of the foetal heartbeat being checked several times a day.”

Savita begged for almost three days that her pregnancy be terminated.  But the fetal heartbeat was still present and that the procedure to treat the miscarriage should wait, even though the fetus was declared non-viable.  Savita spent the next few days in agonizing pain, still begging for an abortion but her request was consistently denied.  Savita was even told by the doctors that, “this is a Catholic Country.”  The fetal heartbeat finally stopped and that was when the doctors decided to perform the procedure, but by then it was too late.  Savita died of septicaemia and multiple organ failure.  And Mr. Halappanavar took his wife’s body home on November 1st to lay to rest, because a fetal heartbeat was deemed more important than his wife’s.

Savita Halappanavar

As noted by AFY_EmilyB:

“…by law in Ireland a woman has the right to an abortion if her life is in danger.  How did this happen?  From Salon:

…in a chilling climate where religious belief takes precedent over women’s health, where any choice to abort can be challenged and punished, whose interests are doctors going to protect?

When abortion is stigmatized and condemned without context, when anti-abortion activists elevate the needs and rights of the fetus over those of the woman and make their personal religious beliefs into law, we end up with a chain of events where, for no reason any person with a shred of humanity can fathom, a woman is left to die because doctors can still detect a heartbeat in a fetus they already knew wouldn’t survive.  A woman’s life was sacrificed so that a pregnancy that everyone knew was doomed could go on for an additional three days.”

This is all very true.  The World Health Organization even states, “When abortion is made legal, safe, and easily accessible, women’s health rapidly improves. By contrast, women’s health deteriorates when access to safe abortion is made more difficult or illegal.”  The tragedy of Savita unfortunately serves to highlight the struggles that are faced when mere fetuses are made more important than our friends and family, when full on reproductive health care and rights are restricted.

SOURCES:
http://www.who.int/reproductivehealth/topics/unsafe_abortion/article_unsafe_abortion.pdf
http://amplifyyourvoice.org/u/afy_emilyb/2012/11/16/how-it-is-in-a-pro-life-culture
http://thinkprogress.org/health/2012/11/16/1202851/indian-womans-death-may-lead-to-abortion-policy-shift-in-ireland/
http://thinkprogress.org/health/2012/11/14/1187721/tragic-death-ireland-denied-abortion/?mobile=nc
http://www.broadsheet.ie/2012/11/17/enough-3/
http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/frontpage/2012/1114/1224326575203.html

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To commemorate World AIDS Day, Metro TeenAIDS & REALTalkDC hosts the annual “The Golden Ticket: Party for Prevention” event at LIV Night Club, 2001  11th Street Northwest Washington, DC 20001 (U Street Metro).

FREE EVENT!! – Showcasing DMV’s very own local talent at the HOTTEST open-mic event of the year with special performances and FREE Food, FREE Prizes, FREE Confidential HIV/STI Testing for young people in the DMV!! Singers, Rappers, MCs, Poets, Dancers, Bands, etc are all welcome!

WANT TO PERFORM??

HIT UP DWAYNE @202-543-9355 OR DBROWN@METROTEENAIDS.ORG

In the month of November, get a FREE Confidential HIV Test at the following sites to get your VIP pass to enter the party, get swag bag of stuff, and have a chance to win the GRAND PRIZE!!

* FreeStyle Youth Center – 651 Pennsylvania Ave. SE (Eastern Market Metro)

* The Women’s Collective – 1331 Rhode Island Ave. NE (Rhode Island Ave. Metro)

* Sasha Bruce – POWER Program – 745 9th St. NE (Union Station Metro)

* Us Helping Us – 3636 Georgia Ave. NW (Georgia Ave/Petworth Metro)

* Community Education Group (CEG) – 3233 Pennsylvania Ave. SE (Potomac Ave. Metro – M6 or 39 Bus)

* SMYAL – 410 7th St. SE (Eastern Market Metro)

** Want another chance to win the GRAND PRIZE? Bring 2 friends to get tested at the event and you will get another raffle to enter**

TEXT “GOLDEN TICKET” TO 61827 TO GET UPDATES AND REMINDERS ON ALL FREE REALTALKDC EVENTS!

For more information, visit us at www.realtalkdc.org.

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The United Nations announced, “Access to contraception is a universal human right that could dramatically improve the lives of women and children in poor countries.”  CBS News says that this is the first time the United Nations Population Fund’s annual report describes family planning as a human right.  CBS even quotes the executive director:

“Family planning has a positive multiplier effect on development,” Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, executive director of the fund, said in a written statement. “Not only does the ability for a couple to choose when and how many children to have help lift nations out of poverty, but it is also one of the most effective means of empowering women. Women who use contraception are generally healthier, better educated, more empowered in their households and communities and more economically productive. Women’s increased labor-force participation boosts nations’ economies.”

But not everyone is happy with this progress.  Groups like Human Life International are disgusted with this development.  Really, the idea of having some control over when and where to get pregnant, spacing the births far apart enough for optimal health of pregnant person and children, and actually being able to care for the resulting children while saving some money in medical fees is mortifying.  Let’s all get up in arms and fight this!  I kid, of course.  Albeit, there are people who serious with this kind of sentiment, like the folks at LifeSiteNews:

Declaring birth control a right means “everyone else must pay for…the new right” Clowes told LifeSiteNews, “even if those forced to pay for it may object to it on moral grounds. This violates the more basic human right of freedom of conscience, which has for some time now been dispensed with by UN ‘human rights’ champions.”

Despite what they’re saying, the UN declares “that legal, cultural and financial barriers to accessing contraception and other family planning measures are an infringement of women’s* rights.”

*Let’s all try to remember that now all women can get pregnant and not all those who have the ability to become pregnant are women.


SOURCES:
http://blogs.babble.com/strollerderby/2011/08/01/big-win-for-women-family-planning-and-contraception/
https://www.unfpa.org/public/
http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-204_162-57549577/un-calls-contraception-access-a-universal-human-right/
http://www.rhrealitycheck.org/article/2012/11/15/they-are-coming-your-birth-control-condoms-are-murder-and-contraception-is-rape
http://www.lifesitenews.com/news/un-declares-birth-control-a-39human-right39#comment-710831021

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I live about five minutes away from this.

Their typical show of “slactivism” is anti-choice chalk writing on school property, which reeks of emotionally manipulative messages full of misinformation and bad spelling.

And now there’s this recent sign they put up, even after what happened to Savita Halappanavar, see what AFY_EmilyB has to say about that.

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Recently, anti-abortion protestors in my home state of Wisconsin staged a 40 Days of Life protest at a local family planning clinic in Wausau. The only catch? The Family Planning Clinic in Wausau doesn’t even provide abortion services because, like many clinics in Wisconsin and around the country, they are forbidden by the terms of their state grants from providing abortion services or even referring a woman to an abortion provider. That’s an affront to reproductive justice in and of itself. More immediately, however, we now live in a world where men and women must contend with clinic protestors and sidewalk counselors when they’re trying to access basic reproductive healthcare services, such as pap smears, contraception consultations, and STI tests.

Big sigh. We’ve certainly got our work cut out for us.

Categories: Health Care
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This is something you can use if you didn’t use birth control or were late on your regular method.  It’s really stronger doses of the same hormones that are found in regular birth control.  And it’s most effective if it’s taken within 12 hours after sex.

A lot of people make the mistake of thinking that Plan B and RU486 (also known as the ‘abortion pill’) are the same thing.  It’s not.  Pregnancy is defined by implantation, and Plan B can’t harm an egg that has finished implanting–thus can’t cause an abortion.  It also cannot cause birth defects.

Source: http://www.plannedparenthood.org/health-topics/emergency-contraception-morning-after-pill-4363.asp

Click on the image and then print it out for the Plan B Coupon!

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Advocates for Youth does not provide psychological counseling, or medical or legal advice. No information presented herein is intended as such advice. Furthermore, Advocates for Youth complies with, and does not condone, violations of the law.

Let’s face it ladies, it seems as though having your period can really really suck at time. When women experience our “time of the month” some women may feel as though they are experiencing one of the worst week of our lives. We are bloated, cranky, and generally not ourselves.  The menstrual period (the actual week of bleeding) can alter our body chemistry in a multitude of ways. Also did you know that the menstrual cycle (The continuous cycle that takes place every month) happens in four different stages? More information on that can be found here (http://www.netplaces.com/getting-pregnant/menstrual-cycle-basics/four-phases-of-the-menstrual-cycle.htm) Do you believe that there are actual changes in how we feel and act according to our menstrual period? According to a new study, there are other “side effects” that we only experience during our “special” week, but even with what may seems like a bunch of negatives to having a menstrual period, it isn’t at all bad. I mean after all, it is a sign that our “baby making machines” are turned on if we are interested in reproducing.  For more info on the article mentioned above, check out this article (http://www.cosmopolitan.com/_mobile/advice/health/period-side-effects). How would you describe any affects during the “special” week for women in your own words?

Categories: Health Care
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Check out this entry on Huff Post by Advocates for Youth’s own fantastic Youth Activist Network Coordinator, Ian O’Brien (also known as amplify user AFY_Ian)! It features an interview with GACC safesite Jeremiah at St. John’s University in New York!

Trojan Sexual Health Report Card Sparks Action

(more…)

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by Deb Hauser
President, Advocates for Youth

Advocates for Youth congratulates President Barack Obama on his historic reelection. We also celebrate the amazing role that young people played within his administration and his reelection, and we recognize the growing power of youth to drive social and cultural change for a better world. Young people represented approximately 19 percent of the electorate yesterday—a larger percentage even than in 2008!

In the years ahead, we call on President Obama to stand with us in recognition of every young person’s right to honest sexual health education, safe and affordable sexual health services, and an equity of social, educational, and economic opportunity – the type of opportunity that builds healthy lives and strong communities.

(more…)

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IMG00189

You hurriedly clicked to find out what this topic was talking about right? Lol

Before you close page, WAIT!!!!!

If you are between the ages of 15 – 35, I’m here to talk about your health. It won’t hurt to scroll down and find out what you may never know is silently killing you as a young person.

Knowledge is power. This article might save your life.

How healthy are you? Do you have a healthy diet? Do you exercise regularly? Do you drink at least 8 glasses of water a day? Do you get enough sleep every day? Do you go for regular checkups?

There are a lot of diseases that are growing up; most of us probably thought were for old people. Diseases like diabetes, stroke, cancer, fibroid, arthritis etc. But these days, diseases have no age restriction. It can happen to anyone. The kinds of foods we eat these days – over-processed foods, carbohydrates, fast foods, our lifestyle, and ignorance about the disease and how to cure them can make us susceptible to them.

While it is important that we are healthy and keep our bodies healthy by doing regular exercises, eating healthy and right, eating fruits and vegetables, there are other things we need to ensure that we are living a completely healthy life. Plus, early detection and treatment of some diseases is key.

You can’t put a price on your health right? Health, they say is wealth, and prevention is better than cure. Would you rather spend all your money treating an ailment or preventing it?

I guess while we think that the major diseases that we need to prevent are HIV, STIs, VVFs, we ignore other diseases like Hepatitis B, (Yes, it is a preventable disease. http://www.fwhc.org/health/nocancer.htm) or kidney disease.

This disease can kill a young person.

Hepatitis

 

Hepatitis B is a liver disease. Hepatitis means inflammation of the liver. Inflammation is the painful, red swelling that results when tissues of the body become injured or infected. Inflammation can cause organs to not work properly.

Symptoms of Hepatitis B:

  • a longer than usual amount of time for bleeding to stop
  • swollen stomach
  • easy bruising
  • easy fatigue
  • pain in the abdomen
  • loss of appetite
  • itching all over the body
  • Grey-colored stools
  • Dark yellow urine like tea or coke.

How do people get Hepatitis B?

  • by being born to a mother with hepatitis B
  • by having sex with an infected person
  • by being tattooed or pierced with unsterilized tools that were used on an infected person
  • by getting an accidental needle stick with a needle that was used on an infected person

Avoid Hepatitis B by:

  • using a condom during sex
  • not sharing drug needles
  • wearing gloves if you have to touch another person’s blood
  • not borrowing another person’s toothbrush, razor, or anything else that could have blood on it
  • making sure any tattoos or body piercings you get are done with sterile tools

Now that we have successfully identified this disease that can kill a young person, there are things that we can do to prevent disease or manage it. If you have not been to a doctor in the last six months, then I advice that you to do the following:

  • Go for regular checkups to find out about your sugar/glucose level, take a HIV test (AAAHHH!!!), and check your BMI. For the women, go and see your OB/GYN and for the men, see an urologist or a general medical doctor to get your reproductive systems checked out.
  • Make sure that your living right and eating right.
  • Avoid having sex with multiple partners
  • Drink at least eight to ten glasses of water a day (Hard, i know. But try at least 5)
  • Avoid sharing clippers or needles
  • Use protection (i.e. condoms always)
  • Eat at least one fruit a day
  • Add vegetables to your regular carbohydrate.
  • Cut out soft drinks or \”minerals\” (as it is popularly called in Nigeria)
  • Cut down or cut-out processed food and prepare your own meals. Processed foods are not good because (1) most nutritional value is lost (2) the preservatives added are bad for our health.  Many processed foods contain a high amount of salt content, which leads to higher blood pressure and heart disease.

With these afore mentioned, I hope we will take these measures and live a happy and disease free life.

 

Have a happy weekend ya\’ll

ELOQUENT

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THE DEADLINE HAS BEEN EXTENDED TO DECEMBER 7th

Boom. The International Youth Leadership Council is looking for college students in the DC metro area to apply to be new council members to start this January.

Need some background?

Advocates for Youth sponsors a project called the International Youth Leadership Council (IYLC), which is designed to develop youth leaders in the areas of international sexual and reproductive health and rights, abortion access, global HIV and AIDS, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) and other sexual orientation and gender identity rights. The Council currently consists of seven members who are a diverse group of young people with backgrounds from around the world.  Members attend colleges or universities in the Washington, DC Metro area.

 

IYLC members work with the staff of the Policy Department and The Youth Activist Network to increase U.S. support and leadership for improving young people’s sexual and reproductive health and rights globally and domestically. As members of the council, they develop an understanding of a broad range of issues, including international family planning; maternal health and adolescent maternal mortality; gender inequality; harmful traditional practices, such as child marriage; HIV and AIDS; and LGBT rights. They in turn become familiar with related U.S. domestic and foreign policy, and international agreements that address youth sexual and reproductive health and rights.

 

Throughout the school year, council members serve as youth educators, advocates, and spokespeople on sexual and reproductive health issues and polices that affect young people around the world. They organize campus events, utilize online and traditional media outlets, conduct educational workshops, attend conferences, and lobby policy makers at the national and international level.

To Summarize:
-opportunities to shape policy from the local to international level

-resources to mobilize your communities

-meet some pretty fantastic people

-be fancy

Be a part of a movement to make youth voices heard!

Apply Now!

https://advocatesforyouth.wufoo.com/forms/international-youth-leadership-application/

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Talk to your parents about sex.  No, really.  Do it.  I’m being completely serious.

If your parents aren’t around and/or conversations with your parents never go well and you fear an extreme negative reaction, find a local clinic/Planned Parenthood and direct some of your questions there or do some research using the Internet or find a trusted adult who you can talk to.  The education is worth it especially with all the risks that do come with sex.

But if the worst that can happen from talking about sex with your parents is just awkwardness, then it’s definitely worth the try.  And it might not just be awkward for you, it’s probably this way for them too.  But they care about you.  And I’m sure you care about them, even if you’re not ready to admit that quite yet.

Studies show that the closer the relationship is between parents and children, the less likely it is that a teen pregnancy or an STI will occur.1  Open communication can only help. I know, I know.  Easier said than done.  So, how do we bring it up?  Mom or Dad hands you your lunch or allowance or whatever and you just go, “Hey, can we talk about sex?”  If that works for you, try that.  I mean, yeah.  Your parents will be caught off guard, but it’s better than never finding out what your parents know or if they’re willing to help you reach a better understanding of sex and all it entails.

You can also try pulling up some article from a magazine or off the Internet about sex education and/or prevention care and try discussing that with your parents, then casually ask questions about your own interest, but be sure to have those questions prepared.

Why would you want to ask your parents about sex?  Why is it so important to have comprehensive education not only from school but from your parents as well?

It’s just important to gather all the information you can about sex.  Let’s look at it this way.  There are approximately one billion people ages 15-24 in the whole world, and there are about 42 million in the United States.  48% of high school students are currently sexually active, and 62% of those teens report using a condom the last time they had sex. Just 62%.  That’s like a D minus.  But get this, in 2006, only 5% of American high schools made condoms available to students.2

Maybe you’re thinking, “How hard can putting a condom on be?”  It’s a good question.  You probably know all the necessary steps, like checking the expiration date on the package, opening it with just your fingers and never your teeth, squeezing the tip of the condom, when exactly to put it on, leaving a half-inch space at the tip, which side to roll down, etc.  And did you know that with typical use of a condom, 15 out of 100 people face an unintended pregnancy?  When condoms are used consistently and correctly, less than 2 people experience an unintended pregnancy.3  Almost half of all new infections are happening with people under 25, but only less than a third of these people know how to protect themselves from STIs and HIV.4  So, think about those numbers again.  Weigh the awkwardness and the importance of sex education together for a minute and decide what matters more to you.

For more facts, please click this link: http://www.advocatesforyouth.org/press-room/get-the-facts

SOURCES:
1) Journal of HIV/AIDS Prevention & Education for Adolescents & Children 5.3-4 (2003): 7-32.
2) http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/FB-ATSRH.html
3) http://www.advocatesforyouth.org/press-room/get-the-facts
4) http://www.advocatesforyouth.org/hiv-home 

 

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Darian

By Darian James

As I made my way to the airport to join my coordinators and council members, I began to wonder about what the Urban Retreat would be like. After missing flight number one and being persuaded not to get on flight number two, flight number three was very early (5:26 a.m. to be exact) but quite the charm!

After missing two flights and waking up at 3:00 a.m. to catch the third flight I knew for sure that good luck was in store for me. I arrived at the Washington D.C. airport and was greeted by one of my fabulous coordinators, Cherisse.

Thinking that all of my bad luck was used on yesterday, I was certain that the rest of the trip would be perfect….. not just yet! I knocked on the door to room 711 and a guy answered the door. He welcomed me in and introduced himself. I thought nothing of it at that moment but as I began to think about rooming with a guy as the day went on, I started to feel more and more uncomfortable. So uncomfortable that I mentioned it to my coordinators. As we talked about the situation Emma explained that I was placed in that room by mistake. PHEW….I was relieved! As always, my name gave off the impression that I was a male.

The good luck begins and continues after that moment. The Urban Retreat was phenomenal. I am so appreciative for everything that I encountered prior to arriving at the Urban Retreat because I know that those obstacles were preparing me for my “Fiercely Fabulous Weekend.” The retreat certainly met and exceeded all of my expectations. Advocates from all over the world had the opportunity to share ideas, network, bond, grow, and so much more. At the various training sessions we had the opportunity to openly discuss our opinions and experiences about different topics without harsh stares or offensive comments from the people around us.

I am so thankful for this retreat because it not only allowed me to meet new people and grow as an individual but it assisted S.W.A.R.M. in forming a bond that is unbreakable. We shared so much with each other during those five days that you would have thought we knew each other for over five years. We laughed, walked, talked, took pictures, ate, danced, joked, and even cried together. I love my S.W.A.R.M. family so much and I know that Tim is smiling down on us because he would not have wanted it any other way! We love you Tim and we will continue to make you proud. I can honestly say that Exuberant Emma and Courageous Cherisse are two magnificent individuals. To take time out of their busy schedules, to travel to Washington, D.C. with 9 college students, who they saw face to face once or twice was remarkable. Thanks ladies!

The Urban Retreat has given me a different outlook on life, responsibility, rights, and so much more. My most memorable moments are going to the youth lounge for a refresher, media 101 and 102 with Ms. Rachel Cooke, the fabulous speech delivered by Ms. Sonia Renee, and LOBBYING! Lobbying was a great way to end our awesome retreat. It felt so good to go to our state representatives’ staff to voice our opinions and share our personal stories. We even had the opportunity to go on a few tours thank to our amazing coordinator Emma.

We as young people have the right to comprehensive sex education, deserve respect from everyone around us, and you should place responsibility on us to make wise decision when it pertains to sex and relationships!

Anyone who had anything to do with the Urban Retreat I want to thank you so much for a job well done! #UR2012

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Click to watch: Fundamental Human Rights.

Every day, governments all over the world violate the fundamental human rights of millions of women. The Center for Reproductive Rights fights on the front lines every day to beat back these assaults — and Meryl Streep, Sarah Silverman, Amy Poehler, Billy Crudup, Audra McDonald, and many more are standing beside us in this call to action in the global battle for reproductive freedom.

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This is outside the State Capitol building in Lansing for a free viewing of The Vagina Monologues, in which Eve Ensler made an appearance on her day off, in support of Representative Lisa Brown and overall reproductive healthcare and rights this past summer.  I was definitely there.

Michigan is trying to pass what is considered the worst anti-abortion bill in the nation.

What HB 5177 entails:

1) Bans Abortions After 20 Weeks, Even For Rape And Incest Victims: A woman would not be able to have an abortion after 20 weeks of gestation based on the widely disputed idea that a fetus can feel pain after that point. The only exception would be if a woman’s life was in danger.

2) Transforms Doctors Into Detectives: The Republican-backed legislation would make it a crime for anyone to coerce a woman into having an abortion. Doctors will have to give their patients a questionnaire to inform them of the illegality of coercion and determine if the woman had been coerced or is the victim of domestic abuse before the abortion procedure.

3) Limits Access For Rural Women: Under the omnibus bill, doctors would have to be physically present to perform a medication abortion, thus preventing a doctor from administering abortion-inducing medication by consulting via telephone or internet. This would especially hurt rural women, who may have to travel hours to meet in-person with a specialist.

4) Requires Doctors To Purchase Costly Malpractice Insurance: If HB 5711 goes into effect, then doctors would be required to carry $1 million in liability insurance if they perform five or more abortions each month or have been subject to two more more civil suits in the past seven years, among other requirements. But the qualifications are so vague that almost all doctors who perform abortions could be requiredto carry the additional liability insurance at a potential cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

5) Regulates Clinics Out Of Existence: HB 5711 would create new regulations so that any clinic that provides six or more abortions in a month or one which advertises abortion services would have to be licensed as a “freestanding surgical outpatient facility.” That means that even if a clinic does not offer surgical abortions, it would be required to have a full surgical suite.

Click here to see the progress of the bill.

I hope I don’t get in trouble for this following one.  I don’t really think it’s profane.

You probably can’t see me, but I’m somewhere in here.  I’ll have to look it up but I think over 500 people were there.

 

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One of the things I like to do as the moderator for STFU, Pro-Life is share pro-choice music.  People ask me why I do this, how is it relevant, etc.  I just think it’s cool to know if our favorite bands or singer supports a cause that we believe in.  A lot of these artists actually put their money into supporting sexual and reproductive health and rights.  Giving them a shout out just seems like the thing to do.

As stated on the STFU, Pro-Life blog:

This is based on their support for Planned Parenthood (either by playing for feminist events and/or knowingly signing onto labels that donate to PP) and continuous work for feminism and overall pro-choice awesomeness. You might be surprised by some of these artists. And if there’s a musician(s) you know that’s pro-choice and it’s not on this list, let me know! Progress never sounded so good.

And here are some of the bands:

311
AdeleAgainst Me!

Against All Authority

A.K.As

Alanis Morisette

Alice in Chains

Alkaline Trio

Aimee Mann

Andrew Bird

Angels and Airwaves

Ani Difranco

Animal Collective

Anti-Flag

The Antlers

Aphex Twin

Archers of Loaf

Asobi Seksu

Ataris

Atlas Sound

Audio Karate

Au Revoir Simone

Avail

Bad Astronaut

Bad Religion

Barenaked Ladies

Bayside

Beach House

Beastie Boys

Beck

Beirut

Ben Folds

Ben Harper

Best Coast

Beyonce

Big D and the Kids Table

Bikini Kill

Billie Holiday

The Black Keys

Black Mountain

Blink 182

Bloc Party

Blondes

The Bloodsugars

Boards of Canada

Bob Marley

Bon Iver

Born Ruffians

Bouncer Fighter

Bright Eyes

Broadcast

Broken Social Scene

Brother

Bruce Springsteen

Bush

Caribou

Cat Power

Chaka Khan

Cher

Christina Aguilera

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah

Cloud Cult

Coldplay

Cornelius

The Cure

Crystal Antlers

Cyndi Lauper

Dam Funk

Dan Deacon

Danielson

Dar Williams

Dave Matthews Band

The Dears

Death Cab for Cutie

The Decemberists

Deer Hunter

Destroyer

Devendra Banhardt

Digable Planets

Dillinger Escape Plan

Dinosaur Jr.

Dirty Projectors

Discovery

Dixie Chicks

Dom

The Donnas

Dropkick Murphys

Dry the River

Editors

Ellie Goulding

Elvis Perkins

Emilie Autumn

Errors

Everclear

Everlast

Expensive Looks

The Explosion

Feist

Femi Kuti

Fish Bone

Flogging Molly

Florence and the Machine

Freelance Whales

Flying Lotus

Foo Fighters

Forest Fire

The Format

Four Tet

Fox and the Law 

fun.

Gang Gang Dance

Get Up Kids

Good Charlotte

Goo Goo Dolls

The Go Team

Green Day

Gregory and the Hawk

Grizzly Bear

Hayden

Henry Rollins

Hole

Holly Throsby

The Holograms

Hospitality

Hygiene Wilder

Iggy Pop

Indigo Girls

IUD

Janis Ian

Jessie J

Jewel

Jimi Hendrix

Joan Jett

Joanna Newsom

Johnny Cash

Justin Timberlake

Kate Nash

The Kennedys

Kings of Convenience

Kinky Friedman

Kitten Forever

Korn

Lady Gaga

Lenny Kravitz

Less Than Jake

Le Tigre

Lily Allen

Little Boots

Living Colour

Liz Phair

Ludacris

The Lunachicks

Madonna

The Magnetic Fields

Manic Street Preachers

Maps & Atlases

Marilyn Manson

Marina and the Diamonds

Marnie Stern

Mary J. Blige

Melissa Etheridge

Metric

Mirah

The Mountain Goats

The Mighty Mighty Bosstones

My Brightest Diamond

My Morning Jacket

The National

Neil Young

Neko Case

New Found Glory

The New Pornographers

Nice Nice

Nice Purse

Nina Simone

Nirvana

No Age

No Doubt

NOFX

No Rey

No Use For a Name

Odetta

The Offspring

Of Montreal

Passion Pit

Patti Smith

Pavement

Pearl Jam

Pennywise

Phantogram

Phish

Pink

The Postal Service

The Presidents of the United States

Queens of the Stone Age

Radiohead

Rage Against the Machine

The Raincoats

The Ramones

Rancid

Ra Ra Riot

Regina Spektor

Red Hot Chilli Peppers

R.E.M.

Rilo Kiley

Rise Against

RZA

Salt ‘n’ Pepa

Santana

Sarah McLachlan

The Scissor Sisters

Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings

Sheryl Crow

The Shins

Sigur Ros

Sleater-Kinney

Social Distortion

Sonic Youth

Sorry OK

Sound Garden

Stars

The States

Steel Train

Stone Temple Pilots

Straylight Run

Strike Anywhere

Sugarcult

Sum 41

The Summer Set

Surfer Blood

Sweet Secrets 

System of a Down

Ted Leo

Teenage Moods

Telekinesis

Tegan and Sara

Thao Nguyen

Thom Yorke

Those Darlins

Tom Waits

Tool

Tori Amos

Tupac Shakur

TV on the Radio

U2

Uh Huh Her

Usher

The Vacancy

Vampire Weekend

Veruca Salt

The Volcano Diary

Wavves

Whetherman

White Zombie

Wolf Mother

Wolf Parade

Women

Yann Tiersan

Yeasayer

Yellowcard

Yo La Tengo

Zola Jesus

 

 

 

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This is going to be a short post.

I saw a comment on this site that read:

i believe that women should not put a baby through this there are other choices like adoption. there are many families out there that are not able to have babies and would love to adopt a child. Abortions are unjust and i believe that should not be done at all!

Everyone is entitled to an opinion, so I’ll share mine as well.

Adoption may be the right choice for some people, if that’s how they feel. That’s the beauty of being supportive of reproductive rights, we understand that it’s not our choice.

But why tell people that “there are other choices like adoption” when just maybe, that was already a thought that crossed the person’s mind? Why act as if adoption is a magical solution to an unwanted pregnancy? It’s not going to change the fact that a person will be forced to remain pregnant for nine months and give childbirth. Shouldn’t it be the pregnant person’s choice to decide to continue the pregnancy, risks, complications, and all?(1)  Can we also remember that childbirth is 14 times more dangerous than abortion is?(2)  No one should be forced into that. It should be a choice. You want an abortion? You want to continue the pregnancy and raise the resulting child? You want to stay pregnant and participate in the adoption system? Great. Your choice.

Adoption is the alternative to parenthood, not pregnancy.

Sources:
1: http://www.womenshealth.gov/pregnancy/you-are-pregnant/pregnancy-complications.cfm
2: http://journals.lww.com/greenjournal/pages/default.aspx

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Here’s an email we sent out to our list today, celebrating tomorrow’s beginning of ACA contraception provisions!  

On August 1, 2012, under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), private insurance plans will begin to cover the cost of birth control — meaning millions of women will no longer have to pay the up to $600 a year that birth control can cost.

Most young women with insurance will soon be able to choose among birth-control methods — oral contraception, injectables, the ring, IUDs, and others. They will be able to select the method that best fits their needs and lives, without cost standing in the way of their decision. You helped make birth control with no co-pay a reality. You sent thousands of letters and participated throughout the year in a campaign urging President Obama and Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to stand firm and supporting them in the face of relentless attacks from social conservatives. And you were heard!

With this new mandate, making women’s preventative care affordable for those with insurance, we are inching closer to the day when all young women will be able to choose the type of contraception that is right for them; when they can take full control of protecting their health and planning for their futures.

Unfortunately, not everyone has coverage yet. Conscience clauses still allow churches and other houses of worship to deny coverage to their employees. And, nonprofit employers who, based on religious beliefs, do not currently provide contraceptive coverage in their insurance plan, will have an additional year to prepare (until August 1, 2013) to comply with the new law — meaning many students at colleges and universities which claim a religious exemption may not be covered until next year. And, last week, in Colorado a judge granted an injunction allowing one business to deny its employees access to birth control while its lawsuit challenging the ACA is decided.

So we still have a long way to go to ensure all women have access to affordable contraception and the full range of reproductive health services. But today, thanks to your activism and commitment, private insurance coverage begins to reflect the health care needs and priorities of women. And that’s something to celebrate.

In solidarity,

Julia Reticker-Flynn
Youth Activist Network Manager
Advocates for Youth

 

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Contraception benefits under the Affordable Care Act go into effect tomorrow, August 1!

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When I was child, I dreamed to be a doctor; in fact that was dream for all others as well. This illusion was deeply rooted among all, who even don’t know what it is. As easier as to disclose this dream; the same is the hardness in attaining it. Better for understanding that people has access to stony Gods, but not to Human Gods. There are more than 10,000 doctors in Nepal; every year the numbers of doctor produced in Nepal are more than 2,000. Still one doctor is providing services for 27,000 people. Out of total 2,000 doctors produced per year in the country only 1090 are utilized at governmental level, rest go to the foreign for training them for roaring business. Nepal is not only the country of rich and affluent people; this is better to say as the place of vulnerable, marginalized and conservative innocent poor people. Kathmandu is only the dark city having total 80-90 percent of doctors centralized here to earn their debt of 30- 50 lakhs during MBBS course. I can’t believe on the skill and quality of thus produced doctors, as their all concern during course is on making strategy to return the debt.

Though, more than 80 percent people in Nepal are living at rural part of country, the accessibility of health care services are still lacking due to bad culture among doctors. They think themselves as a part of modern values and norms, and acts based on this. Some also blame about country policy to motivate those scholar doctors. During early period, there was provision for 5 years working for governmental MBBS scholars, but later it was made for 2 years service. Even this condition is also degenerating due to “source and force” in Nepal. Most doctors are from higher level family and had easy access to political and economic power, but for poor it is making poorer. Whom to blame? Doctors criticize on low facilities for them at remote areas, government had no effective working and monitoring mechanism; people at remote areas are in ignorance and thus habitual to health risk behaviors. Rural people perceive doctors as God; even AHW and HA are treated as doctor. Lack of infrastructures and equipments, career development opportunities and communication gap are the major factors that restrain the rural movements; whereas, the centralization of tertiary care has fostered on roaring business. There is darkness on the dream of those who think of making society healthy, political instability and burden in health had lead youth minds in wrong direction.

Ministry of education has contributed a lot in doctor production. But, the bitter-truth is, Education system only focused on the bio-medical knowledge and skill, and no training on psycho-social behavior. The minor part of Nepal is suffering from inappropriate behavior of doctors, while majority has still dream to see them. Today, Doctors think them self as God; but the reality is they had forgotten they are human first. No one is God only the belief makes God, with this business they will always be dream for poor and slave for money. It seems that, this new height to new world cannot move alone without fulfilling the dream for poor and rural people.

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Yesterday’s Gods are now slaves of money. I often wonder about the adherences of Nepalese people in seeking the modern health care system. It does not mean only to cure the diseases; it goes beyond the promotion of healthy life style and working style. If one questioned me to seek modern health care system, this is not only question for me; rather this is for all those 40 percent of Nepalese people. The choices of adherences depend on the terms of money and belief. However, money can be said as the first and foremost factor that sustain Health care adherence. The fact that health care is delivered through unskilled, unqualified, inexperienced and unmotivated health professionals in the rural part of Nepal, has hit the hardest on the promotion of quality health services.

The history reveals about ancient eastern philosophy and its application in the eastern part of the world is the major determinants and philosophy of the health care services. Nepalese has practiced the health services guided by the Hindu mythology. People worshipped God and Goddess to be free from diseases. These types of health care systems without any systems were started to practice since very early age of human evolution, which are still common in Nepal, Viz. Dhami, Jhankri, Jharphuke, Tantrik, Lama, etc. Ayurveda is believed to be the oldest formal health care system in Nepal, which was developed since 5000 BC. Modern health care system has no long history; however it’s from 1740s, which has now deeply rooted.
Health care services in Nepal can be outlined as follows:

The traditional views to cure disease can be categorized into 2 parts; I have followed here the basis of formalization. So, basically those without system simply mean not a formalized one. Here, providers may use their knowledge/experiences (E.g. Sudeni) or provoders follow their ancestors to practice health services as professions (E.g. Jharphuke) or providers may use herbs to cure diseases (E.g. Vaidya). They view disease as a result of wrath of God and Goddess or Planetary effects or evil spirit or sorcery or witchcraft and evil eyes or breach of taboos. As a part of rural society I have encountered most of above health care systems. Nepal is land of forest as well; hence, I see here the possibilities for expansion of Ayurveda. Since there were no adverse effects of medicine in Ayurveda and Unani, Nepalese were frequently seeking these as well. The free services in these systems and no need of diagnosing with expensive tests have made them common. On the other side, modern health care system is thought to be as a business. Though, this trade has fostered with science and technology, even sometime I afraid of its chronic effects. It is based on the human capacity and man-made Gods. I found modern system like a disaster for 40 percent poor Nepalese. To hit the hardest the competing business on human health is again all over the world.
Within these limitations what actually you think about health care in Nepalese house? I belief on modern system thoroughly I want my savings as well, off course health is component of life, but not a life. 50 paisa earning cannot bring 1 rupee service. There is need of modern strategies (like, Community insurances, User fee, social health insurances), in providing the modern health care services.

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The following article was originally published on The Huffington Post.

Just a few hours ago, among hundreds of young activists committed to fighting HIV and AIDS, we announced the creation of — and called on the U.S. government to officially recognize — National Youth HIV & AIDS Awareness Day.

This week, political leaders, health experts and government representatives join advocates from around the globe here in Washington, D.C., for the 19th International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012). But even as high profile leaders like Secretary of State Hillary Clinton make news at this conference, there is another part of the story that needs to be told. We need to take a close look at the current reality of HIV and AIDS — and that means listening to, involving and prioritizing young people.

When I was 17 years old, I found out I was HIV-positive. I know first-hand what it feels like to face discrimination from peers and even from my teachers. I remember the fear of rejection, and the incredible love and support I found among my family and friends. I had to face the stark choice between continuing to receive government support for my HIV medication, or taking a new job where my health care wouldn’t cover my treatment because HIV was considered a preexisting condition. As a young, Black gay man, this is my story.

In fact, in the United States a young black gay man has nearly a one in four chance of becoming infected by age 25. This was my story, but I am only one of the many diverse faces of HIV. Around the world, young people make up 40 percent of new HIV infections. Despite these harsh realities, young people are taking extraordinary measures to stem the tide of HIV and AIDS and are determined to end this pandemic once and for all. Since the day I first learned my HIV status, I have made it my personal responsibility to fight this disease until we reach an AIDS-free generation. I know many young people out there feel the same.

The creation of National Youth HIV & AIDS Awareness Day is a momentous step towards acknowledging and addressing the needs of young people in the HIV and AIDS response. Each year, young activists in high schools and at universities across the country will use this day to organize and educate about HIV and AIDS. They will promote HIV testing, fight stigma and start the necessary and uncomfortable conversations we need to deal honestly and effectively with the challenges we face. Perhaps most importantly, it will provide a recurring, yearly date for young activists to hold our leaders accountable for their commitment to, and investment in, truly realizing an AIDS-free generation.

[TAKE ACTION: Call on President Obama, Congress, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the HIV & AIDS community to officially recognize April 10 as National Youth HIV & AIDS Awareness Day.]

My generation is the first to never know a world without HIV and AIDS. But we will be the generation that will help the world believe in and achieve a future where this epidemic is only a memory. There are thousands of educated, smart and resourceful young people attending this year’s International AIDS Conference. But, which world leaders, scientists, and policymakers will be bold enough to reach out to young people, to listen to them, and to address the social, political and structural changes necessary to reach them?

Young people know that we cannot settle for a short-term, politically-safe response to HIV and AIDS. We can’t get to an AIDS-free generation unless we acknowledge that young people have the right to accurate and complete sexual health information and confidential, affordable health care services; that we deserve respect — and a seat at the table — for the role we are playing to end the pandemic; and that the government and our society has the responsibility to ensure that all young people are provided with the tools they need to safeguard their sexual and reproductive health.

Just a year ago, President Obama made his speech on World AIDS Day. Many people remember his bold declaration that with steady commitment we can achieve an "AIDS free generation." What I remember from his speech is something different. The president said that even though no country has done more to stem the tide of HIV/AIDS at home and abroad, "we cannot be complacent."

Well, we’re not going to be complacent, Mr. President. Young people are not going to stand on the sidelines as this disease ravages our communities, our loved ones or our futures. As young people, we declare April 10 National Youth HIV & AIDS Awareness Day. We call on President Obama, Congress and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to officially recognize National Youth HIV & AIDS Awareness Day as an important, tangible step towards realizing the dream of an AIDS-free generation. We can realize this dream. We must. We will.

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My eyebrows raise far stretched when I hear people talk about Caribbean people and Jamaicans in particular and their anti-homosexual stance.

Firstly, Jamaica is not the only country in the world that does not support homosexuality on a large scale and it is not the most drastic country in terms of punishment either.
Are all jurisprudences tolerant of homosexuality? Do all countries have laws to protect homosexuals? Do all countries give them the same amenities as other citizens?

In fact, there is no law that speaks directly to homosexuality in Jamaica.
Buggery however, is illegal. It is defined under section 76 of the Buggery Act as anal intercourse between a man and a woman or between two men.

The Offences Against the Person Act prohibits "acts of gross indecency" – this means that persons can be arrested and charged for exposing themselves in public or have sex in public. Is something wrong with that?

So where does the discrimination and hate come in?
1. Jamaica is a very religious country. Regardless of the vast participation in strong secular activities, the nation is one of high religious conviction which is translated into almost mandatory morals.
2. The highly influential cultures within the society such as Dancehall and Rastafari strongly encourage and require one to prove his/her sexual prowess. And as such the man must be able to please his woman while the woman should be very able to keep her man through sex (for Dancehall). In Rastafari, the man is considered complete when he has the complement of his Empress. Man and woman relationship is strongly encouraged and not just for sex but also for having children. Jamaicans value the ability to have children. A woman who is able to give birth is prized; one with an inability may be referred to as a "mule". A man who is able to impregnate a woman or many women for that matter is considered "don". For the very same reason abortion is looked down on, the ability to have one’s own children is a prize.
3. Is the problem with men who have sex with men or does it include women who have sex with women too? Because much of the hullaballoo that I have witnessed has had to do with men having sexual relationships with other men or acting in a way that it is believed they want to compete with women in the feminine arena.

Yes, i agree. Discrimination based on sexual orientation affects development but so many other things such as crime, education, employment etc affect development too.
Are they really denied access to health care? Are they denied access to education? Does it prevent them from joining financial institutions? Are they unable to obtain employment anymore than the average citizen? Does it prevent them from having a social life by going to clubs and church?

Also, the HIV stigma is not solely dropped upon the heads of homosexuals… Prostitutes i think get a bigger portion of such and relatives of infected persons.

Note that, violence met by homosexuals in Jamaica is also dished out in enough cases among themselves. So it is also unfair to "demonize" the general population about not tolerating them and not encouraging them to be peaceful among them.

Next thing, I get the feeling that this is a one way thing. Taking into consideration what Jamaicans were taught by the church that Sodom n Gomorrah was destroyed by God due to acts of homosexuality, and other scriptures that condemns the act.

With that said, Jamaicans are becoming more tolerant of homosexuality and acts that are considered associated with such. Credit given to cultural diffusion, lobby groups, the media and travel. It is also only fair that the nation becomes more tolerant. This doesn’t mean that they are betraying their religion or culture. But the said religion that preaches love, peace and leaving vengeance to God is also driving a hate spear in the hearts of its followers.
The impression I get is that there fails to be equilibrium, the gays and not-gays fail to agree.
So what approach do we really take?
I say, don’t choke the lamb. Feed it in stages and it will eventually eat all.

My conclusion?
It’s nobody’s business what happens in peoples’ bedrooms if the law is not broken (mark you, the law is still broken in heterosexual bedrooms too). Also, it won’t be anybody’s business if you don’t make it.

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Couple of days back while reading the paper I saw what is called “fragment” why is it called a fragment? I have no idea but when I went through the article I was shocked to see some reveling inside of the situation of the country’s leadership. The first paragraph says;
“The dust had not yet settled after the presidents infamous “I don’t give a damn” statement, when he was asked about publicly declaring his assets during the presidential media chat on Sunday June 24, when he came out with yet another controversial statement on Tuesday, saying that Nigerian should embrace birth control legislation in order to check population explosion.”
Well I believe you will also be wondering what is bad about the president asking Nigerians to brace up Birth control, but the truth of the matter is these; when there are so many pressing issues that need to be addressed other things like birth control will not be National priority. And when information is missing which is supposed to help the citizens make informed choices is not available, then a big problem is within it government.
Nigerian population stand at approximately 170million people with about 62% of the population are young people and 47% of the youth are Unemployed, apart from that; The Educational sector need to be reformed or else the rising population will be more dangerous than what is being seen now, you will agree with when I say “Education and Information is vital to the population”.
Looking at it this way when 10% of populations of 130 people are educated, give this population just 20 days and you will find out that the behavior of these population will gradually start changing by the rate of which informed decision made.
Now looking at health sector; when the health sector is not in place where can the poor people access the birth control pills when they cannot even provide to their family 3 square meal, talk more of them going to the health care centers to get these contraceptives. I myself will advocate to birth control when the time is right, but for now I believe that any thing that before these basic amenities which includes;
1. Education
2. Health
3. Agriculture
4. Power
5. housing
I know that the president means well, but the timing was off. Nigeria has a lot of problems, problems that if not being taking care of? The country will not develop, well not any time soon.
Corruption has eating more than just the country’s economy but the countries dream and if not addressed we are at the verge of break down.

My message to All Youth is and Will always Be "Learn More About Your Right (LMAYR)"

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Crossposted from www.youthaids2012.org.

Throughout the YouthForce 2012 preconference to the International AIDS Conference in Washington, DC, over 130 young activists and leaders collaborated to create the YouthForce Declaration – a document that details the policy and programmatic demands of youth in the global response to HIV and AIDS. Powered by codigital, the YouthForce Declaration project allowed participants to submit, edit, and vote on ideas in realtime.



The YouthForce Declaration: Top 10 Ideas

All young people have the right to sexual and reproductive health services that are accessible, available, safe, affordable, quality-approved, youth-friendly and adapted to their specific needs.

Meaningful youth participation at all levels of decision-making is crucial in the development of effective SRHR and HIV programmes; participation must include not only those with resources but also those on the ground levels.

We demand ACCESS to youth-friendly prevention, treatment, care and support services for all young people, including young people living with HIV, so that our right to the highest attainable standard of health may be achieved.

Comprehensive and appropriate information about HIV should be accessible to all young people including those with disabilities, in & out of schools, migrants & those living in geographically isolated and disadvantaged areas.

We demand increased funding for research that focuses on HIV among young people addressing not only prevalence rates but also lifestyles and behavioral patterns, risk factors and other areas needed for HIV response.

Increase ACCESS to financial & technical support that strengthens youth organizations and youth led initiatives to increase our impact in the HIV response, by creating mechanisms that assure money transfers down to the ground.

We demand universal access to sexual and reproductive health integrated services that includes the specific needs of women and girls, respecting their human rights and an emphasis on equity and respect for diversity.

Eliminate social, cultural and political barriers in accessing health services among young people by making interventions gender and age-responsive, rights-based, and sexual orientation and gender identity-inclusive.

We demand more support for capacity building programs that empower youth and enable them to participate effectively in policy making especially concerning areas that affect them like environment, health and rights.

We demand PROTECTION by the law. We must not be criminalized because of our sexual orientation and gender identity, drug use, HIV status, disability and/or sex work.

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On Wednesday, House Republicans passed the House Appropriations Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies (otherwise known as Labor-HHS) FY 13 funding bill. In this bill, House Republicans defined their funding priorities and unfortunately (and unsurprisingly) sexual health took a tremendous hit. Here is a quick overview of how programs affecting young people’s sexual and rights fared:

Sex Education:
-The Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative, which funds evidence-based and promising programs was cut from $105 million to $20 million while Community Abstinence Education was increased from $5 million to $20 million.

Contraception & Preventive Care:
-Title X Family Planning program funds clinics to provide access to contraception and other preventive health services to low-income people, including youth. This program was completely zeroed out.

-Funding to all Planned Parenthood affiliates would be zeroed out if they used their own money to provide abortion care.

-Includes Blunt Amendment-like language which would allow employers to refuse coverage of any health benefit in their insurance plans for any religious and/or moral belief.

In addition, large pieces of the Affordable Care Act would go unfunded, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention would receive a massive cut and federal funding of needle exchange would be banned…again. Of course we can’t forget that once again the bill also withholds federal dollars from covering women’s access to abortion-except in the most extreme circumstances.

While these attacks are not a surprise, it is nonetheless disappointing and incredibly infuriating. Next up, the bill goes to the full Committee for a vote. We’ll keep you updated when that happens.

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Here’s an email we sent out today to thank those who participated in #BC4US in the weeks leading up to Independence Day!  Thanks for participating!

In the weeks leading up to July 4, we asked you to declare your independence from social conservatives and show your support for President Obama and Secretary Sebelius in their decision to make birth control available with no co-pay. And your response was phenomenal. You shared hundreds of pictures and online actions standing up for birth control. Check out some of the pics here.

I want to thank you for your commitment to improving young women’s access to birth control. Empowering women to prevent unintended pregnancy is basic health care — and our right.

We’ll keep working to protect youth rights and ensure all young people have the tools they need to protect their health. And keep taking and sending in pictures — all you have to do is download your "United We Stand" poster, fill it out, and take your picture. Post it on Facebook and email to us at BC4US2012@gmail.com.*

In solidarity,

Julia Reticker-Flynn
Youth Activist Network Manager
Advocates for Youth

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This past weekend, I attended the National Council of La Raza’s Annual Conference in Las Vegas Nevada. I had the most amazing time in the NCLR conference. I am so grateful to have been given the opportunity to lead a workshop with an amazing individual, Ana Laura Rivera, in the Lideres Summit [the youth component of the NCLR Conference]. In addition, our coordinator Hemly Ordonez was (and is) amazing throughout this entire conference. Also, I met awesome DREAMers!


Ana Laura, from YWOC, and me!

Our presentation was titled, “Sex Education Advocacy: Helping Youth Make Sound and Good Decisions” and we had approximately forty high school and college students. Our presentation offered an array of valuable information. Also, we felt that it was crucial to engage our audience through thoughtful questions. For example, we asked, “What do you think consists of an effective sex education class?” and we even had a fun game called, “Named that Contraceptive!” in which we displayed a photo of a contraceptive and asked the audience to correctly name it. In this presentation, we began with defining sex education and the two types of sex education [abstinence-centered and comprehensive sex education]. Second, we described different methods of contraception and passed around a female condom so our audience could have an actual view of a type of contraceptive. Third, we provided statistics of birth rates among adolescents in the United States with a special emphasis on Latino adolescents. Lastly, we informed our audience on how they could effectively advocate for this issue and others. Overall, we had an informative and fun presentation with a receptive audience! After the presentation, Ana Laura and I were interviewed by the Huff Post Voces, the Spanish segment of AOL’s Huffington Post.

My flight was scheduled for 1AM Sunday but I missed it because I confused the times. However, if I would have left, I would not have learned many valuable things, especially about myself, on that exact Sunday. For example, Hemly helped me understand and shape my own identity as a Latina, as a young mother, and as an activist. I learned that it in order to shape your identity you must understand your past, history, and culture and how it fits in the larger context. In this blog, I want to talk about my culture, my upbringing on welfare programs, and teenage pregnancy.

On welfare programs…

In the Nuestras Voces, Nuestra Salud: A Critical Conversation About Latina Reproductive Health, a policy workshop, I became emotional because I finally understood the issues that Latinas face in a larger scale. I saw my entire life in those three simple PowerPoint presentations. I first saw it through my childhood as a Medicaid recipient. My three siblings and I grew up with the assistance of welfare, including Medicaid, housing, and food stamps. The first time my mother received Medicaid was when she was pregnant of me because it was considered a high risk pregnancy. She had not received it before because at the time she lived in Matamoros, Mexico and she believed that it was not correct to receive government services. Ultimately, she returned to the United States because she was extremely poor in Mexico, even though she was born in the U.S. and loved Matamoros. These programs helped us tremendously when my mother and father worked on minimum wage. On a separate note, we got sick often! Medicaid helped us when we were sick, when my brother broke his arm, when we needed a checkup to play sports. Even though we lived with a low socioeconomic status, we received quality healthcare insurance and medication because of Medicaid. Once I became pregnant, I knew that I needed healthcare insurance for my pregnancy, so I applied for Medicaid. Throughout my pregnancy, Medicaid helped me tremendously! It assisted me in providing for monthly and weekly medical visits, prenatal vitamins, and additional services I needed. It paid for my hospital bill when Frida was born. After the pregnancy, I placed Frida on Medicaid and I also received assistance from WIC. So in this presentation, I also learned about the Affordable Health Care Act and became ecstatic to learn about the services that would assist many people without medical insurance. At the moment, my brother, sister, and myself are without insurance and I immediately thought of them. I dislike thinking that my brother or my younger sister cannot visit a doctor because he has no medical insurance or sufficient money.

On teenage pregnancy…

On a booklet titled “2011 Bringing Opportunity Home: A Latino Public Policy Agenda for the 112th Congress” [provided by NCLR] it stated [in regards to teen pregnancy from a study in 2006],

“Among racial and ethnic minorities, Latinas ages 15-19 have the highest teen pregnancy rate (126.6 per 1000) and highest teen pregnancy rate (70.1 per 1000). To put this into perspective, 52% of Latinas get pregnant at least once before the age of 20, and Latinas accounted for nearly 33% of births to teens ages 15-19 in 2009.”

Clearly, I fell into this statistic. Even though the Latino birth rate has decreased, we still possess the highest teen birth rate [Texas ranks fourth!]. I also want to note that on a study conducted by the CDC, teen childbearing in the U.S. cost approximately $10.9 billion. These are the reasons why:

“Women who become pregnant as a teenager face a host of challenges, particularly as they relate to education. Furthermore, the effects of a teen pregnancy go beyond the teen mother. Children of teen mothers have higher rates of poverty and are more likely to repeat a grade and drop out of school… Many of these factors have a disproportionate effect on Latina teenagers given the challenges they already face in obtaining a quality education.”

The presenters also mentioned that an overwhelming amount of Latinas do not utilize contraceptives because they cannot afford it and the existing stigmatization.

Teenage pregnancy and young parents face many social inequalities that hinder their development and the possibility of realizing their full potential. In addition, we must provide strong bases of support for young parents to counter these obstacles. Luckily, I have been able to continue with my post-secondary education because of the tremendous help my mother and government services have given to me. I see that they want me to succeed for myself and for my daughter. Initially, I viewed my goals with those motivations in mind but now I have realized that it is much more than that. I am motivated by other pregnant teenagers and young parents. I am motivated by the fact that I am breaking those barriers to success and stigmatization I face for being a young parent. I am motivated by the fact that I am an example that it can be done and that we can help others.

The common theme for this year’s NCLR conference was sparking a movement. For this issue, we spark a movement by initiating the conversation. We must engage in honest and open conversations with adolescents, without the omission or distortion of information. It does make a difference.

In a workshop at the AFY Urban Retreat, we were asked to write on an index card why we are acitivists and we were asked to pass them around and read them out loud. I was given this one and it resonated with my life so much that I decided to keep it. I have had it ever since.



On my Mexican culture…

In this conference, many of the presenters spoke about how their parents raised them with a strong cultural upbringing. They embraced their culture. It is important to note that in Texas, I did not receive any education on my culture and how it played an important role in Texas. It was not until I was enrolled in Mexican American Studies [in college!] that I learned about the Chicano Movement. I am ashamed to say that I did not consider myself a woman of color until I attended the AFY’s Urban Retreat last year. Whenever I was presented with a questionnaire that asked for my race, I did not select white or black. I knew [or at least I thought I did] that I was not white but I was not white, I was Hispanic. However, when other people had “white” on their birth certificate we were all confused. Now I understand that many Mexican Americans registered as white to their birth certificate to avoid many oppressive methods that were placed on them. So, there is confusion when it comes to our role in Texas and the United States. I did not know the history of my ethnicity and I did not understand it. I never questioned it because it was never taught. Our culture was not taught or embraced in public schools. This is a problem in Texas that must be undone. We must teach children and adolescents about our culture, our history, and our past. We can change our future if we become educated on our history. It does not matter if Latinos are the fastest growing group in the United States, we must still become informed, teach others, and empower them to become civically engaged.

Why Learn Mexican American History?

     1. Awareness of the largest U.S. minority
2. Omission and/or distortion in traditional U.S. history
3. Importance to self-esteem which affects
a. Values
b. Opinions
c. Lifestyle Choices
d. Stimulation of Learning
4. Significance to ethnic literacy and how it affects our
a. Daily lives
b. Society
c. Transactions- locally, regionally, nationally, transnationally
5. Awareness of Mexican American contributions to U.S. history
6. Creation of a school climate which appreciates diversity 

It took me this long to really understand all of this! Even though I am considered low income and a young mother, I do not see it as an excuse to no be successful. It may be more difficult but not impossible. Now more than ever, it is crucial to understand and recognize oppressive systems. We must not stay quiet and we must question and speak out against something that is not right. We must exercise our power through voting and civic engagement [not just in election years]. Before doing this, we must create a culture of participation[credit to NCLR’s CEO and President].

From the Barefoot Guide!

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[I am posting this on behalf of Janine Kossen, Advocates for Youth’s Director of Public Policy.]

Every July 11th, we observe World Population Day, a time to call attention to the essential part that reproductive health plays in creating a just and equitable world. To commemorate this momentous occasion in 2012, world leaders will meet in London on Wednesday to call for unprecedented international political commitment and resources to provide an additional 120 million women in the world’s poorest countries with lifesaving contraceptives, information, and services by 2020.

We can support these efforts by calling on our own elected officials to support the end of the Global Gag Rule.

The London Family Planning Summit has the potential to achieve transformational, life changing results which will reduce the number of newborn deaths, improve the health of women and girls, and ultimately lead to healthier and more prosperous nations.

While most of us will not have the opportunity to participate directly in the Summit, everyone has a role to play and something to contribute to the global movement for universal access to reproductive health services. As young people and adult allies, we can commit to ensuring that all women, men, and young people receive quality comprehensive sexual and reproductive health information and services, unfettered by ideology and political whims.

Ask your Members of Congress to support a permanent repeal of the Global Gag Rule!

Use this opportunity to ask your Members of Congress to support a permanent repeal of the Global Gag Rule, a harmful ideological policy that denies women and young people life-saving information and services. Officially known as the Mexico City Policy, the Global Gag Rule prohibits foreign non-governmental organizations from receiving critical international family planning funds if they provide, counsel, refer, or otherwise advocate for abortion services with their own, non-U.S. funding. When in effect, the policy disqualifies some of the most effective and experienced providers of reproductive health care, often dismantling the only health services available in a community.

Fortunately, there is something we can do about that. The Global Democracy Promotion Act (GDPA) (H.R. 2639/S. 1585) would permanently repeal the Global Gag Rule and ensure that U.S.-funded organizations can continue to deliver life-saving information and services that meet the needs of women and young people around the world. The GDPA will ensure that women in developing countries have greater access to contraceptives, fewer unintended pregnancies, and reduced risk of dying from complications following unsafe abortion.

Contact your Senators and Representative today and ask that they cosponsor the Global Democracy Promotion Act, or thank them if they already have!

The United States has been a global leader in promoting the health and rights of women and young people for more than 40 years. Restrictions on family planning in developing countries have jeopardized the world’s most critically underserved populations for far too long. We need your help to permanently repeal the Global Gag Rule once and for all!

P.S. Check out the annual World Population Day Blogathon to read what young people all over the world have to say about their perspectives and recommendations for ensuring universal access to reproductive health services.

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In case you missed it, this morning the Supreme Court released their health care decision. There were two major pieces in their announcement:

• The mandate was upheld in 5-4 decision. Chief Justice Roberts joined the majority (shocking!-really it is). The majority has different opinions as to why the mandate is constitutional, but for the most part it considers the mandate a tax which Congress can legally impose on people.
• Medicaid expansion was also upheld, but should states choose not to participate in the expansion, they cannot be penalized by the federal government (i.e. they can’t have their current Medicaid dollars pulled if they don’t participate in the expansion). That unfortunately means that states will be able to opt-out of the expansion which is bad for young people, people living with HIV/AIDS, etc.

We can only hope states won’t opt-out of the Medicaid expansion which is due to start in 2014.

The rest of the health care law stands (young people can stay on their parent’s health insurance, state sex education money, birth control/women’s health regs, can’t exclude people from coverage based on pre-existing conditions, etc.). Now we’re just counting down until the rest of the bill being implemented. To see what is happening when, check out this timeline: http://www.healthcare.gov/law/timeline/.

For more information on the Supreme Court’s decision, these SCOTUS blog pieces are helpful:
http://www.scotusblog.com/2012/06/court-holds-that-states-have-choice-whether-to-join-medicaid-expansion/
http://www.scotusblog.com/2012/06/dont-call-it-a-mandate-its-a-tax/

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Independence Day is less than two weeks away! From now through July 4, we hope you’ll join us to show the country that young people are still standing up for birth control!

In February, the Obama administration affirmed its commitment to women’s health care and issued a rule requiring birth control coverage without co-pays under the health care law. It makes sense: Birth control is basic, preventive health care.

Despite a solution that upholds women’s health AND guarantees that insurance companies — not religious colleges or institutions — foot the bill, some social conservatives still aren’t happy. Their attacks on the President have steadily increased and will reach a fever pitch in the next two weeks — which means it’s time once again for all of us to raise our voices!

This Independence Day, declare YOUR independence from those conservative leaders who want to control your body and block women’s health!

TELL PRESIDENT OBAMA AND HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES SECRETARY SEBELIUS THAT YOU SUPPORT THEIR DECISION to make birth control available with no co-pay. Download your "United We Stand" poster, fill it out, and take your picture. Post it on Facebook and email to us at BC4US2012@gmail.com.*

Then tweet it to @WhiteHouse and @HHSGov with the hashtag #BC4US.

Over the next two weeks, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is staging its "Fortnight for Freedom," trying to bully President Obama and Secretary Sebelius into reversing course on birth control. But, the Bishops don’t speak for everyone. In fact, nearly 2 in 3 Americans support insurance coverage for birth control. After all, 99% of all women — and 98% of Catholic women — have used birth control in their lifetime. This isn’t about "religious freedom," it’s about women’s health!

Earlier this year, you delivered more than 1,000 photos demanding that Congress stop the attacks on birth control. Now, let’s make sure President Obama and Secretary Sebelius know we’re standing with them for women’s health!

I just sent my photo…Will you join me?

Do it for your country!

Julia Reticker-Flynn
Youth Activist Network Manager
Advocates for Youth

P.S. Your awesome work is already making the news! The BC4US campaign was featured in Politico this morning: "To counter the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ ‘Fortnight for Freedom’ protesting the Obama administration’s contraception coverage rule (and other policies they say infringe on their beliefs), Advocates for Youth will announce today that it’s re-launching its ‘Birth Control 4 Us’ campaign…They first initiated the campaign in February in support of birth control in student health plans, collecting valentines reading ‘Hands off my birth control.’" Click here to get involved!

By posting on Amplify’s Facebook Page or emailing us your photos, you give permission for these photos to be used for any Advocates for Youth materials, including but not limited to websites and printed publications. All photos must be of people age 18 or older.

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Earlier this week I attended the Take Back The American Dream (TBAD) Conference in DC. The conference featured some impressive speakers, including former Chair of the Democratic Party Howard Dean, Van Jones, Sandra Fluke, Molly Katchpole and famed economist Paul Krugman. We heard fiery speeches all with the same message: our work does not end after Election Day.

TBAD was a progressive call to action and I heard it loud and clear. Since the 2008 election I have been working on plethora of issues in Texas. First in the Rio Grand Valley and now in Houston, but I have noticed that not everyone my age is as engaged.

Too often, I hear my generation voice their thoughts on the political process and how they would like to stay out of it all. Notably, in Texas they say "what’s the point?" I get it – For too long Texas politicians have worked against youth; talked down to us and incessantly impeded on our rights.

Enough is enough. I’ve lived in Texas my entire life and I think the only hope for this state is the engagement of young people in politics. I know I am fighting for what is right; I’m fighting for the generation after me that has yet to find its voice, I’m fighting for my generation which struggles with their newly cognizant idea of politics. Most importantly I’m fighting for you! But I can’t do it alone, I need your help.

Sitting back and not participating hasn’t worked, and many of those in power are fine with our disengagement. The far-right politicians who dominate our state’s politics don’t show concern for the issues that matter to young people – and it’s partly our fault. Young people aren’t reading or watching the news, we don’t interact with our elected officials, hell -we don’t even vote! But you know what? The time has come for things to change.

The election is nearly four months away, but don’t get fooled into thinking it’s all about the race to the White House. This election is about who represents you. It’s about who supports health care for those who cannot afford it, it’s about giving those who were not brought here on their own will a chance at the only way of life they’ve ever known, it’s about making sure us queer folk are given the same rights as straight kids, it’s about having officials who respect the ability of women to make decisions of their own, it’s about having a fair say in the political dialogue in the era of citizens united.

We have the opportunity to determine our destiny and help the generation that follows. We also have the opportunity to remain silent. I for one know that I will speak up and speak out. I will not let the chains of injustice hold me back any longer. I’m a young gay man who believes in women’s rights and LGBTQIA equality, inner city kids, the separation of church and state, overturning citizens united and fighting for the marginalized few. Young peoples’ interests are just as diverse as we are. I will fight for these people, but today I ask for you to stand with me.

Whether you’re in Texas, California, Illinois, New York, Florida or anywhere in between I call on you to stand up. We are the majority and as such we have a great deal of power. We can have the society we dream of but it will take our collective actions to change the status quo.

The choice to participate in the upcoming election is the same choice we have to make in life. We can either follow a path of ignorance and complacency or we can make our own path; a path with true justice and equality for all, a path which forces those who write us off as apathetic and lazy to realize we are a passionate, powerful force. In other words, a path forward.

It’s likely that you’re already engaged, but I call on you to work harder than ever to bring those who are not to realize what impact they can have. I call on you to empower your fellow classmates, your friends, your brothers and sisters. Stand up for us, stand up and make your voice heard not just in this election, but every election to come. This is the moment that defines us, this is our future and this is for those to come. This is your moment to force those who ignore you to recognize your existence.

Generation ME, will you stand with me?

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For the past few days here in Rio, we have more tears than victory. It seems that the heavens is joining us today to mourn the tragedy that will unfold as the United Nations Conference for Sustainable Development (UNCSD) or better known as Rio+20 commences. The governments of the world have disappointed us by deleting important provisions on sexual and reproductive health and rights and the recognition of young adolescents rights for access to family planning services and comprehensive sexuality education.

Six days ago, the Holy See, who is a non-member of the United Nations but enjoys the status as an Observer nation proposed to delete the provisions of the ICPD (International Conference on Population and Development) and the Beijing Program of Action (PoA) in the Gender section of the negotiated texts. To my surprise, Indonesia, who has championed the ICPD+20 Process and Beijing PoA forwarded the suggestion of the Holy See in behalf of G77 and was supported by (Argentina, Brazil, China, India, South Africa, and Uruguay).

As it was reported by our colleagues inside the negotiation room, the G77 (negotiated by Indonesia) supported every ammendment proposed by the Holy See and in addition proposed the deletion of the following language in the Health Section:

1. Delete "full" implementation of ICPD and Beijing"

2. Delete Human rights of women: add men and children because women are not a specific category

3. Right of adolescents to decide freely and responsibly on matters relating to their sexuality (delete adolescents, replace with youth, delete sexuality, keep SRH).

Following arguments of the Holy See about how adolescent are children and need basic health care. The Holy See stated that the CPD Outcome Document was not the reflection of international consensus but "only a commission of the UN". It is absolutely unacceptable that the G77 as a block is speaking in this way when we know it is not a consensus position within the G77, which is true, because my country the Philippines cannot look back on the lot of every Filipino women especially that the government is supportive of the RH Bill.

But, thanks to our Indonesian friends who contacted their government back home in Jakarta, the position of Indonesia changed and G77, which had no consensus on this issue allowed its member-states to split up and speak individually as a nation. As Esther Agbarakwe updates us, "Gender 7 was agreed ad ref today and the Health 8 (Health and Population) had a new language referenced from ECOSOC 2009 paragraph 16, proposed by G77. The new text was adopted by all delegation while the Holy See registered their deep reservation."

This is a victory! But the struggle continued in the succeeding days which I will be telling you as I go along in this blog post. It is sad to note that some G77 countries are making this move against women and young people. Folks, 7/11 current female Heads of State belongs to G77 countries and 35% of these member-states have produced female Heads of State and/or Heads of Government which includes Megawati Sukarnoputri, Cristina Kirchner, Dilma Rousseff, Soong Ching-ling, Pratibha Patil, and Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri among others.

So what if these countries have women leaders?

We are hoping that through their leadership, they can accelerate the empowerment of women in their own countries and translate it further in the international scene especially in conventions and negotiations such as Rio+20 by supporting provisions in the text that mentions women, sexual and reproductive health and rights, and young people; negotiating when these provisions are threatened; lobbying it when it is not included; and defending it when conservative states try to eradicate those provisions.

I believe that this is SHOULD how women leaders ACT in behalf of their female and youth constituents back home. We are expecting that their governments have a sense of solidarity on our causes because they at least know HOW IT FEELS to be considered as a second-rate citizen, not to have POWER and INFLUENCE, and being DEPRIVED of the RIGHT to CHOOSE and have OPTIONS to consider. Sadly, this is not the case. Most of these even participated in KILLING provisions on SRHR, women, and young people.

The celebration was shortlived.

Two days ago, at around 5 o’clock in the afternoon, we received an urgent e-mail from Sarah Kennell, a fellow youth and SRHR advocate from Youth Coalition for Sexual and Reproductive Rights (YC-SRR) from the United States who was at the room P3-A where the negotiations are telling us that  the "negotiators just finished commenting on the health section of the text  and the G77 has proposed to remove references to young people in paragraph 147 which is as follows:" 

147. We commit to reduce maternal and child mortality, and to improve the health of women, men, youth and children. We reaffirm our commitment to gender equality and to protect the rights of women, men and youth to have control over and decide freely and responsibly on matters related to their sexuality, including access to sexual and reproductive health, free from coercion, discrimination and violence. We will work actively to ensure that health systems provide the necessary information and health services addressing the sexual and reproductive health of women, including working towards universal access to safe, effective, affordable and acceptable modern methods of family planning, as this is essential for women’s health and advancing gender equality.

The proposal of G77 country-members (Chile, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Syria) as backed by the Holy See and Russia to remove references to young people in commitments to reduce maternal mortality, improve health of women, men, youth and children and reaffirm commitments to gender equality and language on youth having control over and decide freely and responsibly on matters related to their sexuality,including access to sexual and reproductive health is a serious blow to us young people and women. It is the ONLY provision in the ENTIRE text about gender, SRHR, and women!

This is NOT the FUTURE WE want.

As of the latest texts available right now that was compiled by the government of Brazil, there is no reference in the Gender Section of the negotiated text about sexual and reproductive health and rights of women and young people. This is disheartening. SRHR guarantees that women have access to family planning services, that young people have comprehensive sexuality education which, bottomline, is that at the end of the day women and young people can have an INFORMED CHOICE.

If they have all these factors about their sexuality, then they can decide whether to have family or not. When they chose to have, they can plan it well according to the numbering, spacing, and timing of the children they wanted considering their capacity to raise children and give them quality life in the future. Should they chose not to, they can still be free from HIV/AIDS and live a healthy life. You can see that from the CHOICES they made, a lot of opportunities is opened to them and they can participate well in sustainable development efforts.

We NEED to have SRHR provisions BACK in the texts!

And we need to ACT fast!

I urge you to contact your government delegation especially young people who are in it. Let us show them that women and young people have the power to hold their governments accountable. Show to them whos is the REAL BOSS! We have ELECTED government officials not to make them powerful and rich but to REPRESENT us as their constituents. National and local elections are still ongoing for most countries around the world. I think one should consider in voting if your candidate supported your RIGHTS.

Would you still VOTE a POLITICIAN who bastardize your rights here in Rio?

I think NOT! But you still decide.

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Editor’s Note: The writer is from Namibia.

Late last year, I was seated on a plane headed back to home to Namibia from Addis Ababa. I couldn’t wait to get home to see my son and sisters and while I was thinking of them, I then I asked myself a question "Oh gosh, where am I coming from?" I answered myself, "Helena, you are coming from the International Conference on AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infection in AFRICA (ICASA 2011)." Ooo, okay, and I just smiled.

I started thinking about the whole conference and what successful meeting it was for the young women who got the great chance to attend. As a young woman participant my expectations were fully met and I am happy. I went to ICASA as a positive mother, aunty, cousin, sister, and a young woman who is hungry for many things, especially making the world a better place for her and other fellow young women who don’t get this kind of opportunity. I am very happy to have organisation like Advancing Gender Equality and Human Right in the Global Response to HIV (ATHENA), UNAIDS, National Network of Positive Women Ethiopians (NNPWE) and others supporting us. They have seen the challenges that we face as young women, like limited opportunities for gaining knowledge and skills that pose barriers to our getting to where we want to be in life. Groups like these have great ways of bringing young leaders of today together and investing in them.

I know I am not educated but as I am seated here now, nobody can tell me what to do or put me down because I know who I am, what I want and when I want it [smiling]. I find that I am one of the luckiest young leaders/women in the world to be able to be in this group of young people with ATHENA. I know that we are all masters of our own destination and drivers of our own lives. Yes, I know and I will fight the hard road as a young woman who knows what she wants. Whatever I want is not only for me but for a million of young women who don’t get this opportunity to be here and who still don’t know what it means to have a right. I am proud to say that I am a young leader of today and I have always known that. I just really want to thank ATHENA, UNAIDS, ADVOCATES FOR YOUTH and others for giving us the chance to see proud young women who can be examples and help empower us, such as Ebony Johnson who has opened my eyes and the eyes of many young women worldwide with her powerful words. As a young woman, who wouldn’t want to be like her maybe? I think whoever doesn’t want to be like her doesn’t know what they want in life. She is one of the young powerful women I have met in my life and she asked us young women to hold hands because we need each other in life in whatever we do and wherever we are.

As a young woman I have no worries about my leadership because I know I am one among many. One day, I will be a proud woman to see a world with full, equal rights for all; the best health care for all; HIV positive women who can access the family planning methods of their choice; HIV positive women who can start a family when they want to; and the elimination of forced sterilization. As a young leader I believe that one day we will make the world a better place for everyone. My wish is also to go back to school and study whatever I want because it’s never too late to do anything and where there is a will, there is always a way.

In conclusion I just want to say thanks to all for trusting and investing in young people because whatever you are feeding us, it’s in us and we will use it in a wise way to change the world. Some of the young people who came to ICASA did not even understand global HIV/AIDS issues and now know many things — it means a lot to us as young leaders of today to have such opportunities. It’s important and helpful to me and other young women to be able to come together in a positive way. I hope that all young women will believe in themselves every day and when they fall down, I say just pick yourself up, move forward, and hope and think positive so that we can make the world a better place for us and for the next generation. Without you, I am nothing but with you, we will achieve a lot and together we can make the world a better place. Talk to you soon.

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            It may seems like the bills that unfavored and threaten women’s health are the only way women are being attack. Today I understood that women are being attack on many other different ways then those threatening healthcare bills.  During a War on women debate   at Take  Back The American  Dream  Dr. Maya Rockeymore detailed some hidden consequences of the talk of "balance the budget". She called it a  "Fiscal sexism" because  women  are the majority of recipient of social security. The idea of cutting the cost of living adjustment, which helps women because we live statistically live longer than men. 

                
                Those floating ideas certainly do not directly affect women’s health nor do they affect our agenda to sexually educate our youth. However, I think it is relevant for women to know that they are under attack on various level, so we can take a stance on those issues the same way we do for health care. The youth needs to be aware so we have a chance to make our voice heard  and not walk into a future where there is no social security and retirement age is raise to the day we die. 
 
 

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Not only have i been denied proper health care but also haven’t recieved any sacriments fr any of the local preist. I don’t understand why after many phone calls they still refuse to see me. If you have any advise on this please call me or write me. Again my number is 58 227 3681 and my address is 27 pulaski st, amstersdam, N.Y. 12010

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On May 15th, Melissa Sue Robinson won the Democratic Primary for Idaho’s State Senate from Canyon County- District 12. This made her the first transgender person to win a Primary Election in the United States. What makes her win even more impressive is that her district is in the most conservative county in Idaho. She may have an uphill campaign ahead of her for November, but she is definitely a politician we’ll want to watch.

The following is an interview I did with Ms. Robinson by e-mail over this past weekend.

1) Many transgender people struggle with discrimination and transphobia. Studies over the years have shown us that LGBT students have faced harassment and violence at alarming levels. These realities leave many transgender people at a social and economic disadvantage that is largely institutional- and legal. What has your process of personal empowerment been like, that has allowed you to overcome the sense of disenfranchisement often felt by transgender people?

Well I personally didn’t let it destroy my confidence, and I continued to deal with people in the same way as I had before my GRS surgery. I formed a 501C3 at the time known as The National Association for the Advancement of Trans gendered People, held marches for anti-discrimination in Lansing, MI. known as the Nikki Nicholas March for Change, ran for several political offices in order to get my new name out, and was instrumental in helping to get anti-discrimination laws and ordinances in both Michigan and Lansing, MI. I also promoted transgender people on Oprah in 2005, on German TV in 2003, and in several other media outlets.

2) Over the past few years, several transgender people have been elected to public office. What does this mean to you personally?

Well it means that we are making progress and my dream of giving back through politics is now a possibility.

3) Do you identify as liberal? As progressive? Conservative? How do you describe your political or social perspective?

I am liberal on some issues, conservative on some fiscal issues, and progressive on most issues. I believe that anyone should be able to marry and share it’s benefits. I believe that abortion should be a last resort, but should be a woman’s choice, and I believe in the constitution. I think that society should provide services such as healthcare and housing to those that cannot afford it or are unable to work. I believe that medical marijuana should be legal and farmers should be allowed to grow hemp. Harsh laws against soft drugs like marijuana should be repealed so that we can free up our criminal justice system and resources to concentrate on felonies such as murder, rape, and robbery.

4) What has your campaign experience been like? What issues do you find that voters are most concerned about?

My campaign experience has been way more favorable than I expected in conservative Canyon County, Voters are mainly interested in job creation and a good education for their children, followed by family values. They want gang free, safe cities, and a good transportation system going from Caldwell to Boise. I was a job creator as I owned a 25 employee business in Michigan for over 25 years and hired many employees. I was also one of the first people to recommend a bus rapid transit district instead of light rail going down the I-84 corridor from Caldwell to Mountain Home (because of the cost of light rail). I was the first person to call for a state owned bank to help those that can’t get loans from conventional banks in order to fund small businesses and mortgages (or to bail out business during recessions). See article by Dan Pokey in 2010 when I ran for the state legislature by Goggling Melissa Sue Robinson State Banks. I started talking about health care reform in 2004 when I ran for the Michigan legislature.

5) Part of your platform involves replacing the “Students Come First Luna Laws” in order to “promote quality education.” Can you explain why and how this initiative has failed students, and what you would propose to guarantee that all students, regardless of socio-economic status, are given a valuable education?

Well let’s take Melba for example: they replaced a popular, good history teacher with online history classes when he retired. Also good teachers from other states will not (and I guarantee) will not, even consider Idaho as a place of employment. Would you go to a state that doesn’t allow collective bargaining for your profession? I think not. Therefore we will not only lose, but will not gain any good educators in Idaho and that will trickle up to the college and University level. Talk about going last in education Idaho is sure heading there. It’s like they are trying to dumb down Idaho Citizens on purpose. It’s not just in Idaho as Mitt Romney also wants to do that. Without good teachers we will have a hard time instilling morals, ethics, and other needed things that shape our children into model citizens, and responsible adults. The Parents can’t do it all and don’t have time in today’s two parents working society. Our children can only be taught to be spokes in the wheel (instead of holes in the doughnut) by good, quality, teachers. I would lead a fight to eliminate Idaho’s so called "Right to work"-"Right to Fire" laws as a start. I would also help out and promote any campaigns to repeal Luna Laws. My vote as Senator would always be "Yes" on repeal.

6) You also promise to fight for gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation to be included in the Idaho Human Rights Law. As such a proposal has never been read before the House or Senate, could you describe your strategies for gaining support?

The first and only way to gain support for that legislation is through education. Republican politicians don’t believe that those laws are needed so they have to be shown by examples from around Idaho and the entire world. I know how to sell as I have been doing that my entire life so I would proceed to sell them on the advantages of such a law (including landing corporations that believe in anti discrimination to create jobs in this state). I have worked for three corporations that have anti-discrimination policies in their corporate bi-laws for LGBT people such as: Century Link/Qwest Communications Corp., SBC/AT&T Communications, and Pinkerton Automotive div. at General Motors Corp.

7) Have you or do you plan to reach out to young voters, considering their higher level of acceptance of the LGBT community?

I not only have reached out to young voters and tried to educate them on LGBT issues in the past, but I have also used them in my campaigns. I relate very well with other generations both young and older than myself generations.

8) The activities of Republican-led state legislatures across the country, especially since the 2010 election, have been radical and extreme. The Idaho Senate is currently 75% Republican. Recent activity has included: rejecting an anti-discrimination law, supporting anti-abortion legislation, rejecting the necessity of accessible contraception, and proposing the legal (and un-taxable) use of gold and silver coins as an alternative to paper money. You are running in “the most conservative Republican county” in the state. Do you feel confident campaigning as a Democrat in such a conservative area?

I not only have reached out to young voters and tried to educate them on LGBT issues in the past, but I have also used them in my campaigns. I relate very well with other generations both young and older than myself generations.

 

~ Samantha
Community Editor

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Late last year, Congressman Trent Franks (R-AZ) introduced the Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act of 2011 (aka PRENDA) to ban abortions on the basis of race and sex selection (more on that later). With PRENDA coming up for a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives today, anti-abortion hoax video auteur Lila Rose just happened to release a new video “sting operation” claiming to document sex selection at Planned Parenthood clinics. Because these totally-not-coordinated attacks on abortion access have nothing to do with each other, House Republicans made a last minute change to the bill – dropping “race selection” language completely*. Now, we just happen – totally a coincidence, we promise! – to have Congress voting on a “sex selection abortion ban” the day after a new “undercover sex selection abortion exposé” tries to hijack the news cycle.

Amazing.

On the surface, this legislation – along with similar bills in state legislatures – pretends to care about communities of color, who access abortion at higher rates than their White counterparts. If signed into law, PRENDA would impose civil and criminal penalties on health care providers who terminate a pregnancy for reasons of race and/or sex. In other words, this law would now make it illegal to have an abortion for a particular reason. By evoking the images of two iconic freedom fighters and using language borrowed from the Civil Rights Movement, Rep. Franks obviously hoped to distract us from his true intentions.

Let’s be clear – this is not about protecting women and girls.

So what are we really talking about? Sex selection consists of using a variety of medical procedures to ensure having a child of a preferred sex. It takes many forms, including sperm sorting, Pre-implantation Genetic Diagnosis, and abortion. It’s based on the idea that sex equals gender, and gender equals expected social behaviors and norms. In societies where men enjoy a higher social status than women, there is enormous pressure on women to have sons, including threats and acts of physical, emotional and verbal abuse.

And the truth is banning sex selection does not protect women and girls from this pressure. In fact, it just reinforces the gender inequality that already exists.

Now you might think that Congressman Franks, if he really cared about ending this practice, would want to restrict all methods of sex selection. But you would be wrong. Because despite everything Franks says, this isn’t about sex discrimination or caring about female fetuses. This is an abortion ban in disguise.

Sex selection, however, is real and does take place in many countries around the world, including right here in the United States. Unlike what Rep. Franks proposes, we can discourage gender bias without undermining women’s reproductive self-determination and health care. We want women to be able to make the best decisions for themselves and their families. PRENDA is a ploy to weaken support for reproductive justice in communities of color by stigmatizing women of color’s reproductive choices and saying they are not fit to make these decisions in the first place.

As reproductive health, rights and justice activists, if we really care about the lives of women and girls, we should focus on dismantling the gender stereotypes that drive the pressure to have sons. We should ensure access to comprehensive sex education and the full spectrum of reproductive health services.

We have a saying in Spanish, “Yo te conozco bacalao, aunque vengas disfrazado.” (“I know you, codfish, although you come disguised.”) Despite his newfound concern for women of color, Congressman Franks doesn’t fool me. He can hide behind the legacies of Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass and co-opt human rights language, all he wants, but that doesn’t change his real agenda. He wants to ban abortion. Period. And I see through his disguise.

* Even though race selection seems to have been dropped from the bill – for now – it’s worth touching on the topic for a moment since most of these bills propose banning abortion in the case of sex and/or race selection. RACE SELECTION DOES NOT EXIST. It’s not real. Race selection is a bogeyman made up by anti-abortion activists to attack women of color, especially Black women. Women of color experience unintended pregnancies and abortions at higher rates than White woman. You and I probably understand that is because women of color have less access to reproductive health care services, including contraception, resulting in higher rates of unintended pregnancies. To anti-abortion activists, the higher abortion rates mean that women of color are terminating pregnancies because they do not want to have babies of color. Abortion opponents say any abortion by a woman of color is tantamount to genocide. But to paraphrase reproductive justice activist Loretta Ross, “What Black woman doesn’t know she’s having a Black baby?”

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 As a member of the Broward County Youth Council, I was responsible for getting students to complete surveys about sex education. We are trying to find out what information and education that students in Broward County are getting.
When we began surveying students, I was nervous about what people would say. It was challenging for me to stand in front of a classroom filled with students and ask them to to fill out a survey about sex education. It may be that I was more nervous about the maturity level they may or may not have. Thankfully, most students were excited to complete the survey. Of course there were some that weren’t keen on the idea, and that’s fine too. They weren’t mean and angry about the fact that I asked.
I was surprised the most by the fact that the students thought teens should older be when they received sex education. Girls were the majority that believed they wait to learn about sex when they are older. I was shocked that some students didn’t know that oral sex could transmit STIs (sexually transmitted infections) including HIV/AIDS. When the students finished the surveys, many would ask me questions and for advice on sexual health!
This experience has taught me a lot. I learned that there are too many young people don’t know basic information about sexual health or health care such as birth control. I am glad I had an opportunity to take part in the Broward County Youth Council this year. I enjoy helping people, and fighting for comprehensive sex education is definitely something that students need to protect themselves. I love the fact that I helped others gain that knowledge.
You can take the survey: http://bit.ly/HealthyTeensYouthSurvey
The Broward County Youth Council is a project of the Florida Healthy Teens Campaign sponsored by Planned Parenthood of South Florida and the Treasure Coast and Advocates for Youth. The purpose of the council is to advocate for comprehensive, medically accurate, and age appropriate sexual health education that provides teens with the information and skills for responsible decision-making. www.HealthyTeensFlorida.org<http://www.HealthyTeensFlorida.org>

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In any moment of decision the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.
- Theodore Roosevelt, 26th President of the United States of America

Since May 2, 2012 youth leaders across the 7,107 islands of the Philippines have converged in Naga City, Camarines Sur’s Avenue Hotel for the 9th National Youth Parliament (NYP). Since it is only held every two years and first time in recent years it was convened on summer vacation, one can consider it as an ultimate summer experience considering that the host city of Naga is one of the tourist destinations in the Philippines with its pristine white beaches, extreme water sports facilities, and rich cultural and religious heritage as the home of Ina, Nuestra Señora de Peñafrancia, Patroness of Bicolandia.

The legal mandate of NYP is stated in Section 13 of the Youth in Nation-Building Act of 1995 (Republic Act 8044) which states that “The Youth Parliament shall be initially convened not later than six (6) months from the full constitution of the Commission, and shall meet at the call of the National Youth Commission (NYC), and thereafter be convened every two (2) years.” With this year’s theme, “Revolutionizing Youth Development,” NYP9 will gather and engage these young leaders from various youth sectors all over the country and empower them to have a stake at innovating solutions to pressing issues according to NYC.

Now on its ninth session, I was one of the young people selected as Members of the Youth Parliament. It is supposedly the second time that I applied and was accepted as Member of the Youth Parliament. I also applied and was accepted for the 8th National Youth Parliament that was held in November, 2010 in Butuan City, Agusan del Norte. Unfortunately, it coincided with the Youth Coalition training on Young People’s Sexual and Reproductive Rights and the National Development Plan of the Philippines in preparation of our participation in the crafting of the Medium Term Philippine Development Plan for 2011-2016 and the Philippine Youth Development Plan for 2011-2016 so I have to back out from the 8th NYP..

Me and my colleagues from the Eastern Visayas Delegation and Pro-RH block were very much eager to push through the endorsement of the controversial Reproductive Health Bill that was killed at the committee level by some Anti-RH Parliamentarians during the 8th NYP among other priority bills that we would want for our Congress to pass within this year such as the bills for Comprehensive Sexuality Education, Freedom for Information, Anti-Discrimination of the LGBT community, Student Fare Discount, Anti-Smoking among Minors, and other legislative measures that caters to the needs of the youth and the Filipino people as a whole.

However, on the last minute that we are about to leave, I have decided to pull out of the delegation in order to be in a much important family affair that will only happened once in a lifetime. It was a last minute decision which I regretted at first because I felt that I am more productive and needed in the 9th NYP than in the family event, but I came to appreciate it later on as I realized I have been absent in much of family events and I need to make up for it. But second of all, I made my grandmother happy. Even without my participation, I felt that my friends and colleagues have the capacity to forward our agenda and came out unscathed of all the intrigues and politics inside the parliament.

Here’s what our fellow young RH Advocates have reported right in the middle of the parliament proceedings:

Dear Kapatids,

I would like to update you guys as to what is happening here in NYP.

I am really sorry that I was not able to include the resolution on the integration of Peer Education Manual in all schools. Since DOH is still on their process on developing the Y-PEER Manual which they would like to adopt. But still it is already the next step for DOH to do so, hopefully.

I am happy to share that Kuya Jeross is the Chairperson of the Committee on Health and automatically the Majority Floor Leader of the Parliament. Kuya Stephen Bongcaras, from UNFPA YAP (Youth Advisory Panel) is the Secretary-General.

The resolutions that we made on our Committee on Health, addressed issues with regards to SRHR were on maternal and child health care services, HIV/AIDS and youth-friendly health care providers. I forgot the exact titles of the resolutions; probably on my next e-mail I will elaborate it.

Later (since it is 12:25am) we will present in the plenary the resolutions. Well, that is only for today. :)

Hugs,
Danica

Danica or Dan-Dan (born Danica Shahana Magtubo) is our baby in Youth Peer Education Network (Y-PEER) Pilipinas. She is the youngest member in the network at the age of 16 yet she has acquired numerous experiences from working with the Province of Aklan Technical Working Group (TWG) and Y-PEER. One of our best Peer Educator, she has her solid foundation from her mentor Doreen (Doreen Murata) who is a former member of the TWG and currently the Chairperson of UNFPA YAP Philippines. Just like me, she is studying Psychology in Manila where she is now living.

Dear all,

Just to add on what Danica has reported

Resolutions include:

Strengthening Maternal Health Care and Child & Youth Friendly Services*

Creating Youth Health Desk*

Coordinated National Campaign on HIV/AIDS*

Review, et al of the Tobacco Regulatory Act

Adopting a Family and Life Skills Education programme*

*These are resolutions reached through compromise that while containing the essence of the RH Bill in part does not have "Reproductive Health" explicitly spelled out in what I assume is an act of caution. Our democracy however entails such compromises to move forward.

I make special mention to the vigilance of Danica in making sure that SRHR issues are always at the fore in our discussions and to Steph for being a excellent Vice Chairperson in tempering the opposition (and my enthusiasm for spirited debate) and providing invaluable knowledge to the committee. He will make an excellent Secretary-General for tomorrow’s plenary session. Tonight, I end my duty as Chairperson of the Committee on Health and take oath tomorrow morning as Majority Floor Leader.

I wish you all the best knowing that you all are with us in heart and spirit.

Cheers,

Jeross

Jeross or Joe (Jeross Aguilar) is one of our coolest friends in Y-PEER even if he is kinda nerdy and serious. A fellow debater, I first met Joe in a debate tournament where I was debating and he was the one adjudicating our debate round. Sadly, he made us lost to our opponent. Nevertheless, I admire and idolize this guy. Currently he is working with the Family Organization of the Philippines (FPOP) a member of the IPPF (International Planned Parenthood Federation) and also with UNFPA Masbate where UNFPA Philippines currently have a program. With Joe and Dan-Dan and the rest of pro-RH youth, we can expect good resolutions on SRHR and youth issues in the Philippines!

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Amplify has the stories you need to hear! With so many great contributors from all over the world, you definitely don’t want you to miss out on the top insightful and informative stories of the week. Check in each week for a list of must-read posts. Whether it’s a national story or a individual experience, these are the issues you care about!

April 29- May 5

Stats this week: 55 blogs by 31 writers

Top Five Ways to Support Young Activists: Lessons from the “Heart of It All”- by ashthom

Inside this post:

I am not going to lie – in doing the work that I do, I get tired. It is grueling at times, and I get a little sick of older people telling me my generation is apathetic. That’s why it was so refreshing to see two of the most prominent women in the United States praise something that passionate young people organized.

Risk of Negligence- by peepee

Inside this post:

HIV positive youth come from all different backgrounds; however recent studies show that 75 percent of HIV positive teens (13 to 19 years old) were African, even though only 17 percent of all young people are Africans. Unlike young men, the vast majority of young women get HIV through heterosexual sex (sex between a male and female), because Young women are especially vulnerable.

Republicans Further Demonstrate Inability to Address Sexual Health: VAWA edition- by ashthom

Inside this post:

Republicans simply do not support the types of services and policies necessary to prevent violence. Instead they stick their heads in the sand to avoid addressing the root causes of violence, because it causes them to question their privilege and beliefs.

Unconditional- by cavve_sol

Inside this post:

So, I’ve been volunteering as an Abortion Doula for the past few months, and it’s really been amazing. The womyn I meet, the stories we share with each other, the tears that pass, the hands held in the brightly lit sterile room… I’ve also been battling just as long it seems with others in my life about the supposedly horrible thing I am doing, the kind of work I am dedicating myself to.

Taking Action Across Texas- by Garrett Mize

Inside this post:

We had approximately 30 young people attended each training. They learned extensive information on grassroots organizing and civic engagement. In particular they learned tactics like voter registration, block-walking (canvassing) and phone-banking. Each of our student chapters will be using these skills through the next semester to register thousands of students across Texas to vote.

New Action Alert: Tell the Obama Administration to Stop Endorsing a Sexist and Homophobic Curriculum- by Amplify_Staff

Inside this post:

President Obama has said he is working toward women’s equality and ending sexism. He has shown his support for contraception as a part of basic health care. And he has spoken out against homophobia and bullying of LGBT students. Yet the Administration has allowed Heritage Keepers onto a short list of HHS-approved programs, in direct contradiction of those principles.

The Church, Privacy and Individual Freedoms- by Ricaadoe

Inside this post:

I believe this is a dangerous standard by which to determine how society progresses or evolves, since scripture itself cannot evolve, it is static. […] As society’s understanding of human attitudes, relations and needs evolve, there will arise a need for renewal and change. Where the church opposes this, the state must assert itself as the proper guardian of the liberties of all citizens.

Looking Back on Spring 2012- by kenzie

Inside this post:

We set up our table with a cardboard cutout of Rick Perry, our current governor and the second largest support of failed abstinence-only-until-marriage programs (George W. Bush is still #1 though!) so that students could write him a message and stick it to him, literally, with a sticky note.

Thank you to everyone who posted a blog this week! You are part of what makes this community great!

~ Samantha
Community Editor

—————————————————-
Blogs I wrote this week:
The Female Body in YA Fiction
In Context: Criticisms of the SlutWalk Movement (trigger warning)
Think of the Children!
Republican Policies on Rape, Incest, and Abortion

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I’m getting caught up on my DVR news, and on the April 27th episode of The Rachel Maddow Show, Rachel spoke about the extreme anti-abortion bills that we’ve seen in the past year and half. She framed the information around Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, who is pretty much the only person who still wants to be considered for Vice President this November. McDonnell, who approved the transvaginal ultrasound bill that was all over the news this spring, recently clarified a comment from his spokesperson which made him sound more accepting of abortion than he really is. In a radio interview, he made clear that the only situation where he thinks abortion is justifiable is when the life of the mother is at risk. Apparently survivors of rape being able to choose what to do with their body is unjustifiable.

Add to this the fact that the Iowa legislature was one vote shy of eliminating state funding for abortions of pregnancies specifically caused by rape or incest. Since last July (the beginning of their current fiscal year), Medicaid funding has paid for only 16 abortions in Iowa. Ten of these pregnancies were aborted due to severe fetal anomalies, five due to the mother’s life being at risk, and one because the woman had been raped. The total cost to the state was less than $15,000. Apparently, if you’re poor, Iowa doesn’t care about what happens to your body.

Also note that Florida Governor Rick Scott just decided to veto $1.5 million in funding for rape crisis centers. He claims that “nobody was able to make it clear to him why rape crisis centers needed the new funding.” It’s unclear why he would lie about this, given that Jennifer Dritt, executive director of the Florida Council, provided the Governor with information that made the need for funding perfectly clear.

"We gave them information about the number of new survivors we have and we showed them that these rape crisis centers have waiting lists. Survivors are having to wait weeks, sometimes six weeks, in some programs three months to be seen. We included quotes from the programs about the waiting lists and what services they weren’t able to offer because of a lack of money. There is clearly an unmet need."

One of the questions that Rachel Maddow posed in her segment was asking where the line is between being extreme enough that you’d be considered adequately conservative to be Romney’s VP pick, and being rational enough that your position wouldn’t hurt the ticket in the general election. But when the answer is, “You must be against access and funding for abortion in all cases (with the occasional exception for life of the mother),” we have to ask ourselves how we got to the point when our decision for President and Vice President comes down to a choice between supporting survivors of abuse or ignoring them. We have to ask why the Republican party has been so extreme about women’s health care.

Is there a problem here that the Republicans are trying to address? Have rape victims just been coddled too much? Have rape victims had it too easy in America? Have they not had enough of other people doing things with their body that they don’t want to do? Is that a pressing problem that is calling out for Republican legislative intervention? Because the Republican party is cracking down on victims of rape and incest right now. They’re not cracking down on “rape” and “incest,” they’re cracking down on the victims of rape and incest.

These confusing laws from around the country may not be easy to make sense of, but if one thing’s certain, it’s that further abusing survivors of rape or incest by denying them affordable access to health care services and timely aid in crisis situations will not be acceptable in November’s general election.

~ Samantha
Community Editor

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Hi All- We just sent this action alert about the Obama administration’s decision to officially endorse an abstinence-only-until-marriage program. See the message below…if you have a minute today, click here to take action.

Want to read more about this news? Read our analysis on RH Reality Check.


Dear Advocate-

"Everything is just as you have seen it in a million daydreams…The flowers you spent so much time choosing fill the room like soft perfume. Your true love stands at the front. You are ready to trust him with all that you have and all that you are."

The above is not an excerpt from a cheesy romance novel. It’s from an abstinence-only-until-marriage program called Heritage Keepers.

Like most abstinence-only programs, Heritage Keepers:

  • employs gender bias, telling girls they must "dress modestly" so as not to provoke "lustful thoughts" in boys;
  • misleads young people about protection from HIV, STIs and pregnancy, providing no discussion of the benefits of using condoms and contraception; and
  • reinforces homophobia: its focus on heterosexual marriage ignores and stigmatizes LGBT youth, who still cannot marry in most states and at the federal level.

And now Heritage Keepers has been included on a very short list of HHS-approved programs eligible for implementation with federal funds by Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative grantees.

TAKE ACTION: Ask Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius to remove Heritage Keepers from the list of approved programs.

Heritage Keepers has been assessed at least twice previously and found to be ineffective. Whether the data exist to support the program’s effectiveness is still in question, but the egregious content of the program is crystal clear.

President Obama has said he is working toward women’s equality and ending sexism. He has shown his support for contraception as a part of basic health care. And he has spoken out against homophobia and bullying of LGBT students. Yet the Administration has allowed Heritage Keepers onto a short list of HHS-approved programs, in direct contradiction of those principles.

The Administration’s hypocrisy must end. Students should be given information and skills they can use, not be instructed to fantasize about their dream weddings.

TAKE ACTION: Ask Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius to remove Heritage Keepers from the list of evidence-based programs.

Sincerely,

Deb Hauser
President
Advocates for Youth

P.S. Click here to see how these lessons play out in a classroom that might include LGBT students.

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Amplify has the stories you need to hear! With so many great contributors from all over the world, you definitely don’t want you to miss out on the top insightful and informative stories of the week. Check in each week for a list of must-read posts. Whether it’s a national story or a individual experience, these are the issues you care about!

April 22- April 28

Stats this week: 36 blogs by 26 writers

Refuse to let others who do not care about ALL women define our battleground- by AFY_Julia

Inside this post:

…we used talking points like no federal funding is used to provide abortion care except in cases of rape, incest, or if the life the woman is danger. This talking point, while true, demonstrates how we lost control over the battleground. We have accepted the loss that no Federal Funds are used for abortion and we even used this as a main talking point to defend current access to family planning.

Marrying at 15 is her Greatest Regret- by Gastonkwa

Inside this post:

I am more than convinced that a more accessible, affordable, conducive, and above all inclusive educational system is needed to effectively fight against forced marriages.
The educational system in rural areas is a great push factor for early marriages in Cameroon. Gender based violence(GBV), poor infrastructure, gender bias teaching material(text books), cultural practices which discourage parents from fully investing on the education of women, and a non-conducive learning environment are all motivating factors for girls to drop out of school.

The same but different: Twenty years in the repro rights movement- by AFY_Kate

Inside this post:

Now the stories of women having abortions were front and center. No judging, but listening to all the different circumstances; no story like another, but all connected. A new movement for a new generation: one that is knowledgeable, energetic, and politically savvy – but never losing sight of who we’re working for, and listening to women’s voices.

A Letter to Myself at 15- by em_sayz

Inside this post:

You’ll just have to educate yourself the best ways you can figure out and do your best to explain to your friends that they need to too. Forget the whole thing about young people giving “bad” information. You’re probably the best source of education most of those girls will ever have.

Sweden and Genital Mutilation – This Takes the Cake- by U-DGurl

Inside this post:

wrong if the cake in question happened to be baked by Makode Linde and looked like a truly grotesque caricature of what an African woman supposedly looks like;
wrong if you happened to be Swedish Minister of Culture, Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth and decided that that would be a great day to perform a mock clitoridectomy on the crotch of that same cake to the applause of all who attended.

Thank you to everyone who posted a blog this week! You are part of what makes this community great!

~ Samantha
Community Editor

—————————————–
My posts this week:
Abortion on Demand: What, Why, and How?
Using Babies to Make Rape Jokes (trigger warning)
FOX News Host: Women have all the rights they need…like shopping
Sluts Across America
Don’t Forget About Mental Health

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Support for integration reproductive health services has been growing worldwide since its endorsement at the 1994 ICPD. Given that, the call for HIV and FP integration services has also gained its pace. Numerous organizations working on the development of health has also been advocating on this issue.

However, the promise on integrated HIV and PF services to be implemented is yet very far. Clinics, Hpspitals and health care centers are not so far practising the comprehensive reproductive health care that integrates HIV prevention and family planning sevices. In Nepal, 33% are still deprived of the proper family planning services and well above 7500 people live with HIV(UNAIDS)

This has been adversely affecting on the comprehensive information services to the young people. Young people living with HIV are still not getting the proper counselling on the contraceptivr methods. Nevertheless, there are also few clinics which stand apart. For example, the clinic run by Family planning association of Nepal(FPAN) demonstrate a global a global trend in women’s health care. Comprehensive reproductive health care that integrates STI prevention and treatment into long estlablished and better funded family palnning and maternity  child health services.

All together, Nepal, like some other developing country, needs to gain its pace in th integration of HIV and FP services. these programs have historically been underfunded and poorly resoursed. Its time to invest in operations research to answer a number of important questions. policy makers and program manager need to know how much it costs to add STI prevention and treatment to family planning services, how such integration affects clients use and whether it improves the quality of all reproductive health services. Research is needed to identify the best approaches to STI prevention and treatment education in clinics. And in settings where full integration is not possible, program managers need to determine the most viable options for referrals.

Reference:
FPAN, UNAIDS

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Amplify has the stories you need to hear! With so many great contributors from all over the world, you definitely don’t want you to miss out on the top insightful and informative stories of the week. Check in each week for a list of must-read posts. Whether it’s a national story or a individual experience, these are the issues you care about!

April 15- April 21

Stats this week: 25 blogs by 18 writers

How Soon is Too Soon?- by Bree_YWOC

Inside this post:

Whenever I speak to parents, I encourage them to talk to their children early about sex and relationships. Young children know more than everyone assumes and though they may not ask questions, they see it on a daily basis in advertisements, television, music, and the internet. Kids often put what they see to use and as a youth worker, I have plenty of examples to show for it.

Did you know that there are 12 steps to using a condom?- by cvernola

Inside this post:

Step seven: Add water-based or silicon- based lubrication to the inside and outside of the condom.
• Adding lubrication will both increase pleasure and decrease friction (which can cause a condom to break).You do not want to use any oil based substances because they will breakdown the material of the condom causing it to break much easier.

Two Major Victories In Direct Services in Philadelphia- by Jordan

Inside this post:

The first victory happened over the weekend, as PGN publisher Mark Segal got the greenlight for funding on an LGBTIQ friendly senior housing project.
[…]
The second piece of good news involves the opening of the first ever shelter designed specifically for Philadelphia’s large trans population. The Morris House, named after trans* murder victim Nizah Morris, just opened this week.

NLIRH fights law that will endanger young Latinas- by NLIRH

Inside this post:

Put simply, the federal government cannot mandate family communication or healthy family relationships. If CIANA were to pass, Latinas, who are younger than the general population and already face numerous barriers to reproductive health care, would face increased risks of physical harm and decreased access to the reproductive health services they need.

Queer Theory for Youth? It Isn’t Just For Academics- by MarilynRoxie

Inside this post:

I became empowered by learning about people like me who critically engaged with and challenged dominant ideas about gender, sex, and sexuality. I finally accepted that queer theory, postmodernism, even feminism was not something for academics way beyond my age range to engage with…it was about me and I could progress step-by-step through the volumes I understood to the trickier ones.

Thank you to everyone who posted a blog this week! You are part of what makes this community great!

~ Samantha
Community Editor

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“Abortion on demand.”

What does it mean? Why do some people think it’s a bad thing? How does it influence policy decisions on reproductive healthcare? Let’s dive in.

Abortion on demand is the idea that women should be able to access abortion services without having to jump through hoops. It means that if a woman enters her doctor’s office or local women’s health clinic and asks (or “demands”) to have an abortion, she will be able to get the next available appointment. In this process, she won’t be subjected to unnecessary delays such as waiting periods, counseling sessions, being read a list of medically inaccurate statements, having to pay for a medically unnecessary ultrasound (which they may be forced to look at and which may be a penetrative, transvaginal ultrasound- even if they became pregnant due to rape or incest), having to notify their parents and/or get written consent from their parents, or having to go before a judge for a wavier of the consent by explaining why it would put them in a dangerous situation to tell a parent they are pregnant.

Abortion on demand also means that women who are past 24 weeks pregnant are able to access an abortion if their health or lives have been put at risk or if the probability of the infant being born with a severe birth defect is very high or if the probability of the child living more than a few days- or even a few minutes- is very low. Another aspect of abortion on demand is that all women- regardless of income, race, religion, and place of residence- have equal access to a safe, legal abortion. Overall, abortion on demand means that if a woman (or transgender man) wants or needs an abortion, they are able to access one in the same manner that they would receive any other healthcare procedure.

Now to our second question; Why do some people think that abortion on demand is a bad thing? I’d say there are two parts to this. Generally, some people have a negative reaction to hearing “abortion on demand” because the people most likely to use this term are against access to safe abortions, and speak with a tone implying that people who are “demanding” to be able to safely access this service are being forceful about something misunderstood to be morally wrong. So if abortion isn’t something you often think about, and the majority of what you hear about abortion makes it sound like a bad thing, then it makes sense that when one hears about people “demanding” an abortion, they view that negatively.

But more importantly, what is it about those who oppose abortion on demand (the ability of all women to access safe, legal abortion) that makes them believe the way they do? To answer this, we have to look at the hurdles that anti-choice people fight for and impose upon others as legislation and why they feel these measures are justified. What is the assumed benefit of implementing obstacles to this specific, time-sensitive, medical procedure?

Forcing women to make multiple appointments, view an ultrasound image, and be lectured based on scientifically false or misleading data largely influenced by a specific religious ideology all comes from the assumption that women approach getting an abortion without giving themselves enough time to consider their options, without the understanding that they have an embryo or fetus growing inside them, and without being aware of social or religious perceptions of abortion.

It also assumes that women enter the office or clinic without any sense of self-awareness, understanding of pregnancy, knowledge of accurate information, or an individual understanding and level of comfort with their religious beliefs or lack thereof. And if women who are seeking an abortion are assumed to be as simple-minded and suggestible as these “precautionary measures” imply, then it makes sense that legislators feel justified in assuring themselves that women have thought about whether or not to get an abortion, realize that the reason they’re at the clinic is because there is a potential child growing inside them, and understand that abortion is not a personal decision but rather one that the government, the Christian Church, and anti-women activists have the right to dictate and regulate. So of course, to these people, “abortion on demand” would be outrageous.

We have here the answer to our third question: How does the concept of “abortion on demand” influence policy decisions on reproductive healthcare? But I’d also like to address the pro-choice side of this question. To do this, let’s look at the facts. Despite the long list of unnecessary and inconvenient limitations on accessing abortion services, it remains the most common out-patient medical procedure in the country, with 1 in 3 women having an abortion in her lifetime. Half of all pregnancies are unplanned, including 80% of teen pregnancies. Over 40% of all unplanned pregnancies end in abortion.

Given these statistics, combined with the growing number of restrictions on abortion, this should tell us that women who need an abortion will get one, no matter what. Ideally, this should mean that since so many women require safe access to this procedure, that it would be made available, on demand, to any woman who wants one. Abortion on demand is logical. It’s practical. It’s necessary for the well-being of women and their families (especially considering that 60% of women who have an abortion already have at least one child).

If abortion on demand is so helpful to women and if opposition to abortion on demand is so demeaning to women, doesn’t it logically makes sense that abortion on demand would be the standard in a country that professes that women are full, equal citizens? Shouldn’t this pro-woman concept be reflected in our politics? Couldn’t we use its benefits to facilitate pro-choice legislation, instead of using it to demonize such a common and necessary procedure?

The way to address this disconnect is to first acknowledge that, in reality, this is a country where women make 77cents to every 1 dollar a man makes, “feminist” is a bad word, access to birth control and breast cancer screenings are issues in the campaign for President, advertising continuously reduces women to objects or body parts, for over 30 years the Equal Rights Amendment has failed to become Constitutional law, transgender women are unable to serve in the military or enjoy the protections of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, and new mothers are not given adequate maternity leave or access to affordable child-care services.

Once we accept these realities to be true, we are compelled to fight them. Women are not stupid. Women deserve respect, and that includes respect from their government to make their own decisions about pregnancy. Abortion on demand is not a radical concept- well, unless you’re anti-woman. It is about equality and respect. It’s pro-woman. So unless you want to be against equal rights for women, I suggest you start fighting for abortion on demand. Our politics should reflect our values. I for one choose to value women. I support abortion on demand.

~ Samantha
Community Editor

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The National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (NLIRH) is taking a strong stance in opposition to proposed federal legislation that will threaten the health and safety of young Latinas seeking reproductive health care. Our new fact sheet on The Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act, or CIANA, (H.R. 2299, S.1214) illustrates how this harmful piece of legislation will have particularly harsh effects on young Latin@s.

CIANA provides for fines or even prison time for an individual, other than a parent or guardian, who assists a minor in traveling to another state to obtain an abortion. The law also places burdensome and unworkable restrictions on abortion care providers to comply with the law of another state.

Although the bill’s supporters claim that this legislation will protect young people, CIANA may actually place young people in complicated and dangerous situations. While many minors do involve their parents/guardians in matters of their health, what happens to the young people who live in violent domestic situations? What about a young Latina who is seeking to terminate a pregnancy that was caused by incest? What about a Latina who knows her own circumstances and concludes that a trusted aunt, family friend, or mentor may be her best sources of support and assistance during a difficult decision and experience?

According to the Guttmacher Institute, 87% of U.S. counties have no abortion provider, so traveling long distances to seek abortion care may be necessary for many. CIANA would make it even more difficult for young people to obtain needed care, while also stripping them of support.

Despite the overwhelming negative implications of CIANA, the U.S. House of Representatives is advancing this legislation, which has the support of 163 Congresspeople, most of whom are outright opponents of abortion rights. On March 23, the bill was voted out of the House Judiciary Committee, which means this notoriously anti-reproductive health Congress could be voting on the bill soon. The Senate version of the bill is sponsored by Florida Senator Marco Rubio (R) with the support of 32 co-sponsors and is sitting in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Put simply, the federal government cannot mandate family communication or healthy family relationships. If CIANA were to pass, Latinas, who are younger than the general population and already face numerous barriers to reproductive health care, would face increased risks of physical harm and decreased access to the reproductive health services they need. NLIRH works for health, dignity, and justice for Latin@s of all ages and will continue to work to stop CIANA from hurting our young people, our families, and our communities.

Please visit the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health’s website as we recently released a new fact sheet on CIANA, which includes an excellent scenario of how this law would play out in the life of a young Latina living in Texas.

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Cross-posted by Vincent Paolo Villano, National Center for Transgender Equality

Last week, in honor of National LGBT Health Awareness Week, we released a preview of this resource highlighting nine facts about sexual and reproductive health for transgender people. Too often, transgender people don’t seek medical care out of fear of discrimination or harassment. Other times, they don’t receive adequate care because their providers are unsure about what questions should be asked, or what screenings or treatments are needed. The resource, Transgender Sexual and Reproductive Health: Unmet Needs and Barriers to Care, provides an overview of what providers can do to improve care.

In NCTE and the Task Force’s National Transgender Discrimination Survey, 50% of the transgender respondents said they had to teach their health care provider about appropriate care. “That number is just staggering considering the progress the medical community has made around our health,” said Mara Keisling, NCTE executive director. “More and more health care providers know who trans people are, and I hope that they use this resource to step up their level of care.”

In addition to providing information about trans sexual and reproductive health needs and experiences, the resource makes a series of policy recommendations for providers, health organizations, and government agencies urging them to:

  • Follow accepted medical guidelines from the American Congress of Obstreticians and Gynecologists (ACOG), and the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH).
  • Adopt policies of respect and nondiscrimination.
  • Train staff and providers on cultural competence and nondiscrimination.
  • Revise Title X family planning grant guidelines for to prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation and to address the cultural and clinical needs of transgender patients.
  • Eliminate public policies that require sterilization procedures for trans people.

NCTE has released this resource as a supplementary document to the health care “know your rights” guide published last week. The guide, Health Care Rights and Transgender People outlines the health care protections transgender people have, and the process for reporting instances of discrimination.

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On Thursday, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, facing a re-call election set for this summer, signed a bill passed down party lines by Republicans to repeal the 2009 Equal Pay Enforcement Act. Yes- he decided to make it harder for women being paid an unequal amount to press charges against their employers. Apparently he and the Republicans in the state legislature believe that women don’t deserve to be paid as much as men. The repeal, supported by several major business associations, such as Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce and the Wisconsin Restaurant association, reverses an employee’s ability to “plead their cases in the less costly, more accessible state court system,” and instead forces them to go before a federal court.

Reading about this, I asked myself: “Don’t we have federal legislation protecting an employee’s right to equal pay? How does this law comply with the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act?” What I learned was that the Ledbetter Act deals with revising the statute of limitations on when an employee can sue for unequal pay; it doesn’t deal with the process of how they do that. What it does say is that you can sue for unequal pay within 180 days of your most recent paycheck, extending the previous limitation of 180 days from your first discriminatory paycheck.

Glenn Grothman, a Wisconsin state senator and “major driver of the repeal,” believes that “a huge number of the discrimination claims are baseless,” even though the 2009 law offered such confident protection to employees that zero lawsuits were filed against employers during the two years the law was in effect. Faced with the realities of the wage gap, though- which in Wisconsin is 78:100- Grothman explains the discrepancy as a difference in priorities and a different sense of urgency between men and women; not as discrimination.

During a recent interview, he referred to work done by Ann Coulter, which he claimed showed that the wage gap only effects married women. Even knowing this isn’t true, it’s problematic because it supports the assumption that married women, who are presumed to have children, obviously have better things to worry about than finances. This theory, however, was debunked by a 2007 study by the American Association of University Women.

“After accounting for college major, occupation, industry, sector, hours worked, workplace flexibility, experience, educational attainment, enrollment status, GPA, institution selectivity, age, race/ethnicity, region, marital status, and number of children, a 5 percent difference in the earnings of male and female college graduates one year after graduation was still unexplained,” it said. After 10 years in the workforce, there’s an unexplained 12 percent gap.

When asked for his response to such studies, Grothman dismissed the American Association of University Women as “a pretty liberal group,” and claimed that they overlooked things like “goals in life,” saying, “You could argue that money is more important for men.”

Saying that money is more important for men is like saying that paying the rent, buying food, and covering medical bills isn’t as important to women. It also plays to the stereotype that women want or need men who can fully support them financially, freeing them to do the un-paid “women’s work” like laundry, dishes, and childcare that they really wish they could do even more of.

Sarah Finger, executive director of the Wisconsin Alliance for Women’s Health, says that the new law is a “women’s health issue.”

"The salary women are paid directly affects the type and frequency of health care services they are able to access. At a time when women’s health services are becoming more expensive and harder to obtain, financial stability is essential to maintain steady access."

She makes an apt point, especially considering the long list of recent legislative attacks on Wisconsin women. This includes the defunding of Planned Parenthood, mandatory counseling sessions for those seeking an abortion, a ban on private health insurance coverage for abortion, abstinence-only programs that cannot include information on contraceptives, and a personhood amendment, each proposed or passed within the last year.

Kathleen Falk, a former Dane County executive and one of two Democratic frontrunners in the Governor’s re-call election, says that as a working mother, she understands the importance of economic stability for women.

"As a woman and as a mother who worked full-time while raising my son, I know first-hand how important pay equity and health care are to women across Wisconsin,"

According to her website, Ms. Falk “has been recognized for her three decades of public service and has received dozens of awards and recognitions” from various groups such as women’s organizations, LGBT and equality advocates, and domestic violence support groups. Her statement reminded me of another Wisconsin news story I heard about a month ago. It features our sexist friend, Glenn Grothman, co-sponsoring a bill with Rep. Donald Pridemore that would associate single parenthood with child abuse.

The bill says a child being raised by a single mother could be considered living in an abusive situation…

It would mandate the state Child Abuse Prevention Board conduct public awareness campaigns emphasizing that single parenthood is a leading cause of child abuse.

While being interviewed about the validity of the bill, Grothman spoke of his own research (without citing sources) that claimed an outrageous connection to sexual abuse.

"A child is 20 times more likely to be sexually abused if they are raised by say, a mother and a boyfriend, than their mother and father," Grothman said

He also voiced a conspiracy theory last summer that single motherhood was all part of the liberal agenda.

The Left and the social welfare establishment want children born out of wedlock because they are far more likely to be dependent on the government,”

That makes no damn sense. And what a slap in the face to the single mothers of Wisconsin, who incidentally, make up one-third of parents raising children in the state. This Republican war on women is despicable. In Wisconsin, women are at a disadvantage to fight workplace discrimination, to get comprehensive sex education, to secure access to prescription medication and medical procedures, and to be given a level of respect as people and as parents, whether married or single. When will it end??

What makes it worse is that the Republicans won’t even acknowledge that what they’re doing is abusive. The Chairman of the Republican National Committee, Reince Priebus, recently said in an interview on “Political Capital with Al Hunt” that the war on women was as fictional as claiming we were having a “war on caterpillars.” Nice to know he’s taking this seriously.

In contrast, the Obama re-election campaign has spoken out strongly against these attacks. Responding to Chairman Priebus’ caterpillar comment, Obama’s Deputy Campaign Manager said that this was yet another example of why women can’t trust Republicans to protect their rights.

“Reince Priebus’ comparison of Republican attempts to limit women’s access to mammograms, cervical cancer screenings, and contraception to a ‘war on caterpillars’ shows how little regard leading Republicans, including Mitt Romney, have for women’s health. … Reince Priebus’ comments today only reinforce why women simply cannot trust Mitt Romney or other leading Republicans to stand up for them.”

And, in response to the repeal of the Equal Pay Enforcement Act, a campaign spokesperson called on Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who has supported Governor Scott Walker, to tell the women of Wisconsin whether he agrees with the repeal.

"As he campaigned across Wisconsin, Mitt Romney repeatedly praised Governor Scott Walker’s leadership, calling him a ‘hero’ and ‘a man of courage,’" she said. "But with his signing yesterday of a bill make it harder for women to enforce in court their right to equal pay, Walker showed how far Republicans are willing to go to undermine not only women’s health care, but also their economic security. Does Romney think women should have ability to take their bosses to court to get the same pay as their male coworkers? Or does he stand with Governor Walker against this?"

The people of Wisconsin stood up at this time last year to fight against the Republican effort to restrict the rights of unionized workers, and in doing so they inspired the entire country. Considering the extreme attacks they are now pushing through against women, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the people of Wisconsin put up another great fight.

~ Samantha
Community Editor

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Sunday night, someone left a bomb on the windowsill of the Planned Parenthood clinic in Grand Chute, Wisconsin, about 30 miles southwest of Green Bay. The bomb started a small fire, which resulted in minimal damage to one of the clinic’s exam rooms. Luckily, no one was hurt. A male suspect, 50-year-old Francis Gerald Grady, was arrested on Monday, though he has yet to be charged. Of the 27 Planned Parenthood clinics in Wisconsin, the one that was targeted was one of only three in the state that offered abortion services. Teri Huyck, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin released a statement on Monday assuring that the clinic would remain open.

"Our primary concern today — as always — is our patients, staff and volunteers." "Women deserve safe and compassionate care, and we are proud to provide it. Rest assured, our doors will remain open for the thousands of women who rely on Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin each year for high quality health care.

"We extend our heartfelt gratitude to the law enforcement agencies working with us to ensure Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin continues to be a safe and trusted health care provider," she said.

Having spent time campaigning in the state for Tuesday’s primary election, Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum released a statement to TPM on Wednesday, which began by condemning the act of violence.

Violence is never the answer, and I will always condemn any and all violent attacks against our fellow Americans. In this country, we resolve our differences through political discussion and free and fair elections – never by violence.

This seems like a perfectly reasonable and appropriate response, but Rick Santorum can’t seems to pass up any opportunity to disrespect Planned Parenthood and the women who rely on their services. He couldn’t stop at condemning the violence; he had to condemn Planned Parenthood as well.

This upcoming election is about restoring freedom and liberty in America, and a key part of that is to restore a culture that values human life and the dignity of all Americans. While we can and should work to defund Planned Parenthood and push back against government mandates that force Americans and religious institution to violate their faith, violence against our fellow citizens has no place in a freedom-loving America.

I’m not writing about this because I’m surprised that he said it, I’m writing about this because his language and the policies he hopes to enact contribute to the atmosphere that pushes some people to commit acts of violence against women’s health clinics. Defunding preventative care and limiting a woman’s ability to visit a reproductive health specialist causes harm. Telling lies about the government infringing on religious liberty (which is already illegal) causes harm. Depicting Planned Parenthood as an immoral institution causes harm. I can believe that he’s against the use of violence, but it would be dishonest to say that just because that’s the case, Santorum was doing the right thing by Planned Parenthood. Of the Republicans running for President, he is the most outspoken about limiting women’s rights.

The other thing that bothers me about the language of this statement is that he uses words like freedom, liberty, and dignity, but completely overlooks the fact that women deserve the freedom, liberty, and dignity to access the health care they need without worrying about violence-inducing language and dangers of life-threatening violence like bombs or shootings.

I don’t know why Rick Santorum put out this statement at all. He’s certainly been criticized for his long history of being anti-women, and I can see why he would want to avoid further criticism, but in trying to do the right thing, all he really ended up doing was adding more fuel to the fire. What’s curious to me is why he couldn’t just say that what happened was wrong and leave it at that. Why couldn’t he just say that violence is an inappropriate way to deal with something you don’t understand or agree with?

It seems reasonable to suggest that Santorum may have included the language against Planned Parenthood not just because he is against all of the services that Planned Parenthood offers, but to appease the ever smaller and more extreme group of people he considers to be his base. I’m confused as to how his campaign thinks this will work for them. If in the event of a potentially serious act of violence on a women’s health clinic you cannot help but comment on how you irrationally believe that women having access to health care is a bad thing, how can you possibly believe that you have the temperament to lead a nation that stands with Planned Parenthood?

~ Samantha
Community Editor

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I am surprised. Maybe I shouldn’t be, but–no wait- I should be shocked that a Governor easily said, in the presence of other women and with a TV audience of mostly women on Tuesday‘s episode of The View, that “Women don’t care about contraception.“ When I first saw a graphic from MoveOn.org showing the quote on a picture on South Carolina’s Republican Governor, Nikki Haley, I thought it must be fake, even though the quote was cited. She’s a woman! How could she legitimately not know that other women care about being able to manage when and if they have children? It’s impossible. For some reason, she’s lying. And while it’s an obviously false lie, we’re hearing it all the time.

Watch the video here.

Near the end of the segment, Elizabeth Hasselbeck asked Gov. Haley a great question.

A lot of the time people associate women’s rights with liberals, right, and not Republican women. So how do you say, yes, I- we are here representing women, I am working right now for government. How do you put that out there in terms of Republicans versus liberals?

And considering that the question led off of Governor Haley speaking about being able to represent the needs of women and encouraging women to run…

That’s part of what happens, but it’s also why women need to get involved in office. It’s why we need real people running for office, because we need to make sure we’re getting our experiences out, and we’re telling our story, and in the book, you hear, ‘Yes, I went through a lot of challenges, but we overcame them.’ What a blessed country we are that we can now do that and that my parents can now see this happen.”

…it’s mind-boggling that her answer to Hasselbeck’s question would include something so outrageously false as “Women don’t care about contraception.“

Nikki Haley: All of my policy is not based on a label, it’s based on what I lived and what I know. Women don’t care about contraception. They care about jobs and the economy and raising their family and all those things.

Joy Behar: Women care about contraception, too!

Nikki Haley: But that’s not the only thing they care about. The media wants to talk about contraception.

Joy Behar: Well, when Rick Santorum says he’s going to take it away, we care!

Nikki Haley: Well…while we care about contraception, let’s be clear. All we’re saying is we don’t want government to mandate when we have to have it and when we don’t. We want to be able to make that decision. We don’t need the government making that decision for us.

Okay now I’m really confused. I’m also amazed at how, not just out-of-touch, but all over the map her response is. Haley says that her policy positions are influenced by her experience, and, making the easy assumption that she is part of the 99% of women who have used contraception, using and needing contraception is a part of her experience. So, given her (highly likely) personal experience, how can she say that having access to contraception isn’t a big deal for women?

And then, as rote, she blames the media. She’s right that there is a lot of media coverage on reproductive health issues, but she’s acting as if it’s strange that that would be the case. The attacks on birth control and abortion are extreme measures. Creating restrictions and institutional shame around reproductive health issues cause extreme consequences for women. So why wouldn’t the media pay attention to this? Why would Gov. Haley think that the media was doing something suspicious or uncalled for by reporting on stories that greatly effect the wide majority of women and girls?

Then she tries to claim that the conversation or debate we’re having about contraception is about the government forcing women to use contraception and the government telling women that they can only use contraception at certain points in their lives. How did she even come up with that? Neither of those ideas are being questioned at all! How is it possible that she actually thinks that that’s what all the fighting is about? It just can’t be the case. She tries to say that “big government” is bad, yet, in truth, Republicans rely on expanding government into the personal lives, and uteruses, of women.

She finishes by trying to circle back to the idea that women do want to manage their fertility and that they deserve to and are capable of managing their fertility without government intrusion. And while I agree, isn’t it an empty sentiment coming from someone who thinks that “women don’t care about contraception,” that attacks on contraception aren’t newsworthy, and that the actual problem is the government trying to force more women to use contraception?

Even though Nikki Haley is a woman who has presumably used contraception, she has chosen to present herself as someone who dismisses the thought that contraception is of any priority to women. To me, this is problematic beyond the extent that it displays how out-of-touch she is. The most problematic part is that in dismissing the issue, she is dismissing the 99% of women who rely on birth control and the significant percentage of those women who have difficulty in accessing the method of birth control that will be most effective and convenient for them.

Gov. Nikki Haley may never have had a problem with accessing contraception, so for her, working through the barriers may have never been an issue that needed to be a priority. But for the women who don’t have health insurance, who don’t regularly see a gynecologist, who cannot afford the full price of their preferred method, or who are young women who don’t have experience seeking reproductive health care and may be limited by abstinence-only programs, Gov. Haley’s claim that “women don’t care about contraception” is extremely dismissive of women who are forced to prioritize how and where to get contraception.

Women care about contraception. Women obviously care about contraception. The outrage across the country against the attacks on women’s health care prove this point. I can’t believe I’m actually in a position where I have to say that women do in fact care about reproductive rights. I am done with conservatives, regardless of gender, lying about what’s important to women’s health, assuming they know better than I do about my own body.

~ Samantha
Community Editor

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Amplify has the stories you need to hear! With so many great contributors from all over the world, you definitely don’t want you to miss out on the top insightful and informative stories of the week. Check in each week for a list of must-read posts. Whether it’s a national story or a individual experience, these are the issues you care about!

March 25- March 31

Stats this week: 19 posts by 15 writers

Why EC=BC: Emergency Contraception is a Form of Birth Control- by Amplify_Staff

Inside this post:

Over the last two months, religious opposition to insurance coverage for birth control, right-wing resistance to the Affordable Care Act, and GOP presidential nominees’ attacks on family planning created a perfect storm of anti-EC propaganda that not only threatens to set our advocacy back by years, but risks discouraging women from using this safe, effective method of preventing pregnancy.

The Broward Youth Council supports LGBT Rights!- by Jenny_BCYC

Inside this post:

However, Florida Statute 1003.46 implicitly forbids teaching gay students about HIV prevention, requiring that HIV/AIDS education in schools promotes “monogamous heterosexual marriage” and teaches “the expected standard for all students is abstinence outside of marriage.”
As advocates of comprehensive sexual education, we think that it is important to include LGBT language in our curriculums.

“Factors affecting abortion decisions amongst young couples in Nepal”- by PragunMhr

Inside this post:

Only 39 percent of currently married women report using a modern method of contraception. Furthermore, contraceptive use amongst young women is very low compared with that reported by older women. Only nine per cent of women aged 15-19 years are currently using a modern method of contraception, compared with 52 per cent of women aged 35-39 years.

Supreme Court Victory: Trans* Inmates Must Receive Surgery And Hormones- by Jordan

Inside this post:

So, now, those inmates who are being denied necessary treatment have the Supremes on their side and now must receive treatment for their condition. And perhaps there may be redemption for certain prisoners, as their feelings of hopelessness which lead to the transgressions that they have committed can be adequately addressed in an institutionalized setting through hormone therapy, surgery, and other responses, and can then have a smooth transition to the outside world once released.

Thank you to everyone who posted a blog this week! You are part of what makes this community great!

~ Samantha
Community Editor

——————————–
My blog this week:
New Shave Gel Ad Puts a $10,000 Value on What’s In Your Pants

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Last week, I heard about an amazing project that finally pushed me to learn how to crochet. It’s called the Snatchel Project. The idea is to knit or crochet a vulva or a uterus and send it to a member of Congress who has voted against women’s health.

Republicans claim to hate big government intrusion into health care, yet they can’t get enough of it when the government wants doctors to lie to patients, restrict access to legal procedures, discourage insurance plans from covering popular medication, and force those seeking an abortion to pay to be unnecessarily vaginally probed. When it comes to women’s health care, the bigger the government the better. People in elected office who think they know better than individual women what the best choices for them are, need to be told to stop intruding in the private, personal lives of strangers.

The project’s co-founder, Donna Drunchunas, hopes the recipients of this unconventional idea get the message the women should be allowed to manage their own bodies.

"The message is hands off my uterus. If you want one to control, here’s one of your own."

Their website, GovernmentFreeVJJ, includes knitting and crochet patterns, links to find the Representative, Senator, or Governor you want to send your piece to, and a way to keep track of how many pieces have been sent to each anti-women legislator. If you don’t want to knit, you can also use their site to request that someone make a uterus and send it to your Representative on your behalf.

Ashley Weeks Cart, a participant in the Snatchel Project, told ABC News that she sent a plush uterus to her Senator, Scott Brown, to “help spread some awareness.”

"I think it’s a great way to get some people’s attention and get people involved that otherwise might not be politically active," she said. "It’s so gimmicky and silly, but that’s why it’s great. That’s why people are talking about it."

I have made a few vulvas of my own, following this crochet pattern I found from Tiny Cat Pants. So far, I’ve made four.

I haven’t threaded the ends in yet, but aren’t they cute? I’m not sure who I’m going to send them to yet, but they’ve been fun to make. Plus, my imperfect crochet skills didn’t really matter because each vulva is different! :-)

I love this project! I think it’s so creative and definitely leaves a bigger impression than an e-mail or a phone call (though both of those are important too!!). And, even as Ashley Weeks Cart acknowledges, while most of them will probably end up in the trash, isn’t that such a bad visual? Who would throw out a uterus?

Learn more about the Snatchel Project from GovernmentFreeVJJ.com

~ Samantha
Community Editor


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By Andrea Miller, NARAL Pro-Choice New York/NIRH

Editor’s Note: This article was cross-posted from RH Reality Check’s 2012 Back Up Your Birth Control series.

The claim started out on the lips of the Catholic bishops and anti-choice activists: Obamacare will mandate coverage for abortion-causing drugs – by which they meant emergency contraception (EC), a form of birth control (BC) that does not actually terminate a pregnancy. But that little detail didn’t seem to matter. Soon anti-choice politicians jumped on the bandwagon. Before long the mainstream media was uncritically repeating the mantra. In a moment of directorial carelessness or simple misunderstanding, a popular television show even got in on propagating the lie that emergency contraception is an abortifacient.

Today is the 11th Annual Back Up Your Birth Control (BUYBC) Day of Action. For 11 years, this campaign has served a dual purpose: increasing consumer knowledge about EC and advocating that it be available and accessible for anyone who needs a second chance to prevent pregnancy.

For more than a decade, the campaign has spread the word that EC is a safe and effective method of birth control that can prevent pregnancy when taken up to five days after sex, while also providing a forum for increased activism around making EC available over-the-counter for people of all ages. In a serious battle for women’s reproductive freedom, the Back Up Your Birth Control campaign has been a vehicle to infuse a little levity into the debate, reach new and diverse audiences, and keep ourselves sane. Using iconic pop cultural images, at-times irreverent messages, and guerilla-style tactics, thousands of people have engaged in street action, online activism, and good old-fashioned public education about this important birth control method.

It (almost) makes me feel old that I remember when a dedicated EC product was first made available by prescription in 1998, even though women’s health advocates knew for more than a decade prior that the hormones found in many birth control pills could be used after sex to prevent pregnancy. It (almost) makes me tired to remember that it then took constant advocacy, consumer education, lawsuits, court orders, and a scathing GAO report over the course of the next seven years before the FDA approved EC for over-the-counter access for those 18 years and older – a significant step yet one that ignored the scientific studies finding that EC was safe and effective for all ages. And it definitely makes me mad that, to this day, the “behind-the-counter” status conferred on this safe, effective contraceptive requires everyone to request EC from a pharmacist and present a government-issued ID to get it. What gives me hope is that, while the pace is glacial at times, there has been progress.

In 2009, we won over-the-counter access for 17-year-olds, and, this year, we anticipated science was finally – FINALLY – going to trump politics. The FDA was set to make EC available over-the-counter for all ages, which would have made EC available next to the condoms and pregnancy tests at pharmacies, grocery stores, and other retailers, without the need for prescriptions or proof of age. (For undocumented people, those too intimidated to ask the pharmacist for EC, or those in the suburbs or rural communities, where you might have to drive 20 miles just to buy a potato, much less EC, this would have been huge.)

But it was also too good to be true. In an unprecedented move, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius swept in to override the FDA’s decision. Then, the President – who so often speaks passionately as a parent who wants a better future for his daughters – made the groan-inducing claim that “The reason Kathleen made this decision is that she could not be confident that a 10-year-old or an 11-year-old going to a drugstore should be able — alongside bubble gum or batteries — be able to buy a medication that potentially, if not used properly, could have an adverse effect.”

We barely had time to regroup and take stock after this unscientific, but sadly unsurprising, attack on EC before we witnessed an even more powerful backlash of a different sort. Over the last two months, religious opposition to insurance coverage for birth control, right-wing resistance to the Affordable Care Act, and GOP presidential nominees’ attacks on family planning created a perfect storm of anti-EC propaganda that not only threatens to set our advocacy back by years, but risks discouraging women from using this safe, effective method of preventing pregnancy. And it’s not just consumers who are affected. Health care providers, pharmacists, educators, parents, and others also need and deserve to have correct and truthful information about what EC is, how it works, and who can purchase it.

This year, the Back Up Your Birth Control campaign is addressing the lies head-on. Our theme is as simple as it is scientifically accurate: EC=BC. EC is a form of birth control. It will not end a pregnancy – not that there’s anything wrong with that, if it is the best decision for a woman and her family. EC will not interfere with a fertilized egg that has already implanted. There is no controversy here, and the scientific and medical communities are unanimous. EC=BC.

So, hoping to reach beyond our usual suspects again this year, we have launched www.ECequalsBC.tumblr.com. Check it out, pass it along, add your own images and thoughts, and join with us as we refuse to leave misinformation unchallenged and insist on creating a conversation in which contraception – of any sort – is the norm and a no-brainer.

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Amplify has the stories you need to hear! With so many great contributors from all over the world, you definitely don’t want you to miss out on the top insightful and informative stories of the week. Check in each week for a list of must-read posts. Whether it’s a national story or a individual experience, these are the issues you care about!

March 18- March 24

Stats this week: 20 posts by 15 writers

The Head of Campus Ministry suggests that giving out condoms encourages date rape- by ceotto21

Inside this post:

[Catholic University Students for Choice] provides students with free condoms, as well as information about contraceptives, STD testing, and even rides to Planned Parenthood. Any student who is caught providing these services is not only subject to disciplinary action but may also be publicly shamed by University officials.

2 Year Anniversary of the Affordable Care Act — What’s In It for Young People?- by AFY_Sarah

Inside this post:

Not all health plans cover contraception and even if they do, sometimes co-pays are too high to make contraception accessible. In fact, one study showed that more than half of young women experienced a time when they could not afford to use their birth control consistently.
Well, this is about to get better. Starting in August, plans will be required to not only cover contraception, but cover it with no co-pay.

Media Justice Beings Early: Children’s Books- by Media_Justice

Inside this post:

As I prepare to become a Tia/Auntie the first thing I looked for were books including same gender parents, mainly women. It was not an easy search. It’s not as rare as it once was, but it’s still a hunt! Because I know how challenging this can be, I’ve decided to share a list of the books I’ve found and purchased for my nephew.

A Dust Storm Over Equality in El Paso, Texas- by Olacfz

Inside this post:

Lost in the rhetorical crossfire over benefits for domestic partners was the actual wording used for this referendum. It asked voters to endorse “traditional family values” by limiting benefits to "city employees and their legal spouse and dependent children.” Alongside domestic partners, retired policemen, firemen and some elected officials were inadvertently stripped of their health benefits.

My turnout for the ‘Abortion Diaries’ screening- by dmpaz420

Inside this post:

The audience watched with enthusiasm while they learned of abortion experiences that were representing a women’s choice over her own body. After the film, the discussion was even better. The general reaction from the film was in support of a woman making her own choice when it comes to being a mother, but a lot of other questions got asked in the mix.

“Work It Out” With Your Rapist? No Way.- by ACLU

Inside this post:

And it gets worse. The officials at her school ultimately charged her with sexual misconduct, and sent her to the same off-campus alternative school as her rapist, where she "had to not only face him, but the bullying of others because he bragged about it."

Thank you to everyone who posted a blog this week! You are part of what makes this community great!

~ Samantha
Community Editor

————————————
My posts this week:
Our Cultural Lack of Respect for Pregnant Teens
Using Homophobia to Make Money
The Nature of Controversy
Virginity: Sexy or Lame?

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In December of 2011, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius overruled the FDA’s recommendation that the emergency contraception pill Plan B OneStep be permitted to be sold over the counter. Sebelius expressed concern that younger teens and pre-teens were not cognitively advanced enough to use the product without talking to a health care professional. Research published in April’s issue of Obstetrics and Gynecology explored this supposed potential misunderstanding of how to use Plan B by providing an EC product to young women who requested it at a clinic, but not providing further instruction, simply allowing them to read the label. Researchers found that 92 percent of the women in the study correctly selected to use or not use the product, and 93 percent used it according to the instructions on the label. They also found that correct use of the product was not associated with age. That is, a 13 year old was as capable of assessing her need for EC, and taking EC, as was a 17 year old.

Researchers observe that only 3 percent of young people initiate sexual activity before age 13, so therefore, the study’s age range represents the majority of youth ages 17 and under who are in need of emergency contraception. (And, even if participants did use the product incorrectly, it would not cause harm beyond the product’s typical side effects of headache and nausea; Plan B cannot harm an established pregnancy.)

Meanwhile, additional recent research found that some pharmacists are misinformed about EC: in a study in the journal Pediatrics, one-fifth told callers they believed to be 17 years old that they could not access emergency contraception, and 43 percent gave incorrect information about at what age teens can acquire EC without a prescription. While pharmacists can be great partners in helping young people access emergency contraception, including emergency contraception, if they don’t have correct information they create a barrier: a barrier that would not exist if emergency contraception were available over the counter. Common sense says young women can decide if they need EC, and they can take Plan B OneStep’s one pill correctly – and science says so too.

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by Bianca Laureano

Sometime in the next few weeks I’m going to be an Auntie/Tia/Titi. My sister has always wanted a family. When she married her wife last year in Washington, DC, the Big Fat Puerto Rican Lesbian Wedding we had was marvelous! They began to plan for their family and the time is arriving for my nephew to be born. Our families and communities are so excited for his arrival!

As I prepare to become a Tia/Auntie the first thing I looked for were books including same gender parents, mainly women. It was not an easy search. It’s not as rare as it once was, but it’s still a hunt! Because I know how challenging this can be, I’ve decided to share a list of the books I’ve found and purchased for my nephew. These are books that are often still in print, affordable, well-written, and engaging. Children’s books are important forms of media that are also markers of class status. I like to purchase books for children instead of toys because I value them, especially in a time when books are now becoming paperless, I’d like to transmit this value to my nephew. Finding a book that represents our family, struggles, successes, and love is essential to my ideas of media literacy and media justice.

The first challenge was finding a book about two mami’s. It’s not too hard to find a book about two mommy’s but finding one on two women of Color was a whole other challenge. Then, to find a book that had mami’s of Color and children of Color was another challenge. Add to that trying to find a book that had characters of Color, same gender parents, and then ones that had two mami’s raising a son and them being in bilingual in English and Spanish, the search was exhausting! But, they do exist.

Here are the books I purchased for my nephew:

Antonio’s Card/La Tarjeta de Antonio by Rigoberto Gonzalez and Cecilía Alvarez 

This book follows Antonio who is creating a Mother’s Day card in his class. He wants to include his mother’s partner, Leslie, but does not want to be made fun of by his classmates. Leslie picks him up from school every day and they spend time together before his mother arrives. I picked this book because it is bilingual (and one of the only ones), discusses a Latino boy (of which my nephew is), and because of how Leslie is described and drawn. She is someone described as being tall and large that she towers over Antonio, she wears baggy overalls that have paint splattered on them because she is an artist, and has short dark hair. Leslie really does look and sound like my sister and her gender expression being more lax with embracing more baggy clothing than her wife. It was the perfect book for our family and I am so excited to have found the book.

The Story of Colors/La Historia de los Colores: A Bilingual Folktale from the Jungles of Chiapas  by Subcomandante Marcos and Domitila Domínguez.

I often purchase this book for the new parents in my life. The story is created by Subcomandante Marcos of the Mexican Zapatistas guerilla movement, an indigenous rights and equality movement. The illustrator is Domitila Domínguez, an indigenous artist from Oaxaca, Mexico. This book is so beautiful and shares the story of how colors have come into our world and lives. There are animals that help in sharing the story of how the gods decided to add color to our world. The narrative includes indigenous traditions and rituals, as well as the reality of what indigenous people in Mexico struggle with to maintain and preserve their cultural practices and rituals.

My Princess Boy by Cheryl Kilodavis and Suzanne DeSimone 

Based on lived experiences of parent and author Cheryl Kilodavis, we follow the story of a young boy of Color who challenges the way we imagine femininity and masculinity in young children. He enjoys exploring what makes him feel most genuine as each day comes whether it may be “pink and sparkly things. Sometimes he wears dresses, and sometimes he wears jeans.” One of the few stories for young children that discusses gender, identity, and challenges how we socialize our children. Visit the book website and listen to Kilodavis discuss her book. 

Heather Has Two Mommies by Lesléa Newman and Diana Souza 

This was the first children’s book that featured two same gender parents that were lesbians raising a daughter. It is a classic that celebrated it’s 20th anniversary edition in 2009 and is now published in color. My sister specifically requested this book for their library. Author Lesléa Newman has written several books and many are on this list. This book follows Heather and we meet her family which includes Mama Kate, Mama Jane and her dog Midnight. The book centers love that is found in many families regardless of how they are formed.

A Tale of Two Mommies by Vanita Oelschlager and Mike Blanc 

This book takes place on the beach where two boys have a conversation about their families. A girl nearby listening joins in and we hear how they have questions for the little boy who has two mommies. The boy in the book is a boy of Color, and the two mommies could be women of Color as well, but I read them as racially white. If the child was adopted this is not discussed.

Be Who You Are by Jennifer Carr 

One of the few books that centers transgender children, Be Who You Are tells the story of Nick. Assigned sex at birth male, Nick sees and believes herself to be a girl. The story follows Nick’s family who is supportive, loving, and works with Nick and her school to create and maintain a supportive environment.

Books To Purchase In The Future

Felicia’s Favorite Story by Lesléa Newman and Adriana Romo

Centers on Felicia who was adopted by her mothers Nessa and Linda. It follows a similar narrative that Newman is famous for: centering love in families. We learn how Felicia’s mama’s went about adopting her from Guatemala

Mommy, Mama, and Me by Lesléa Newman and Carol Thompson 

Follows a lesbian couple and their child on a regular day. They go to the park to play, take a bath, have dinner, and a bedtime story. I read one of the parents as a woman of Color, so this is also an interracial book for some families.

And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson, Peter Parnell and Henry Cole 

Based on a true story that took place at the New York City Central Park Zoo about two male penguin’s Roy and Silo. They decide they wish to become parents and find an egg shaped rock to care for. When one zookeeper notices and provides them with an egg that needs attention, Roy and Silo care for their egg until it hatches and they have a daughter. The family is still at the Central Park Zoo!

The Family Book by Todd Parr 

This book celebrates the differences and diversity found in families and includes same-gender parents. A picturesque story of how differences are important to recognize and value using the example of family formation.

In Our Mother’s House by Patricia Polacco 

Centering on lesbian parents who have a large family, In Our Mother’s House shares a story that we rarely hear. Narrated by a young Black girl who was adopted by two white women she calls Marmee and Meema, she shares how her family evolved to include an Asian brother and red-headed sister. This book is one that shares how the community is supportive and a part of their family. It is the first book that has all the characters age and the ending is one that is epic.

Out of Print & Hard To Find (in the US)

123: A Family Counting Book by Bobbi Combs
Is a counting book up to the number 20. The images depict gay and lesbian parents and their children. The publishing company is a gay and lesbian centric one called Two Lives Publishing where online ordering is coming soon.

ABC: A Family Alphabet Book by Bobbi Combs 

Similar to the Family Counting Book, this book helps children learn the alphabet featuring gay and lesbian parents. Published by Two Lives publishing online ordering should be available soon, and hopefully it won’t be over $25!

Asha’s Mums by Rosamund Elwin, Michele Paulse and Dawn Lee 

Follows Asha, a African-Canadian girl whose family becomes of interest to her teachers and classmates because her parents are lesbians. This book has a more specific and overt homophobic tone as it features Asha’s teachers telling her she can’t have two mothers.

Keesha & Her Two Moms Go Swimming by Monica Bey-Clarke, Cheril N. Clarke, Michelle Hutchinson, and Aiswarya Mukherjee 

We follow Keesha as she goes swimming with her parents and meets up with her friend Trevor who has a similar family as she does: two fathers. Keesha is a young girl of Color and she has parents of Color as well.

Molly’s Family by Nancy Garden and Sharon Wooding  

Following a similar story found in Antonio’s Card, Molly creates an image of her family featuring her two mothers. When a classmate tells her that she can’t have two mommies Molly doesn’t know how to respond.

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By Lauren Kalina, Advocates for Youth Intern

Prior to my Spring Break trip to Nicaragua, I was apprehensive about the experience. I imagined visiting an area that was dirt-poor, disease-ridden and generally unhappy. However, I quickly came to realize that this previous misconception is nothing like Nicaragua at all. During my week in the country, I had the opportunity to experience sustainable development work, the physical and mental strength of my Nicaraguan counterparts and a seemingly strong sense of contentment.

During our trip, we worked for and stayed at a fantastic organization called Nochari. The office headquarters were located in the town of Nandaime, not far from Managua, the capital of Nicaragua. Nochari supports sustainable agriculture practices as well as women’s empowerment. My group worked on a cooperative property called Ojo de Agua alongside Nicaraguan workers to help build a grain storage facility for women to store their grains when not selling them at the market on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

My group had the chance to visit the homes of members living in the rural community of Ojo De Agua. The homes had dirt floors and most had only received electricity within the last five years. However, just about 30 minutes away in Nandaime, we spoke with local high school students who had cell phones, and Facebook. Many of them were able to speak to us in English because they had English class at school and TVs at home. I spoke to a 14 year old student who had aspirations of becoming a doctor. She said that after medical school she wanted to stay in Nicaragua and help her people.

In fact, I don’t know why she wouldn’t want to stay. Upon our visit to the health clinic down the road, we learned that doctors who attend public medical school in Nicaragua are automatically placed in jobs once they graduate and paid an average salary at least 10 times above the minimum wage in Nicaragua. Additionally, the healthcare system in Nicaragua is completely free and universal to those seeking medical attention. Even today in America, as we reach the two-year anniversary of the passing of the Affordable Care Act, this kind of medical care is not a reality. And finally, being the sexual health nut that I am, I was thrilled to find that the medical facility had a separate building on site dedicated to sexual and reproductive health. The clinic had a group specifically for adolescents, which trained them to become peer educators on issues such as teen pregnancy prevention, STIs and HIV/AIDS. This group exists despite the fact that the HIV/AIDS rate is lower in Nicaragua than most other Central American countries.

Overall, I found my trip to be incredibly enlightening. I was amazed by the things that I learned and the connections that I made (even though I experienced a serious language barrier by not speaking Spanish). The reality of the situation in Nicaragua far exceeded my expectations in the best way possible.

In closing, Maria, the founder and President of Nochari said this of Nicaragua: “We are a poor country, but rich in culture.” And in my short but meaningful time in the country, I can say that I whole-heartedly agree.

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Editor’s Note: This blog is part of the HERvotes blog carnival.

This week is the anniversary of the Affordable Care Act and next week the Supreme Court will hear arguments from some states who are essentially trying to overturn the law for a variety of reasons.

While the Affordable Care Act is nowhere near perfect and in fact does some crappy things (sets us back on abortion and funds abstinence-only sex education programs to states for five years), there are quite a few positive advances for young people which we have listed below.

1. Young people can stay on their parent’s health insurance until their 26th birthday.
When the healthcare bill passed, young people were the largest group of the uninsured. In these economic times, not only has it been difficult for people (especially young people) to find jobs, but jobs that include health insurance. Being able to stay on your parent’s health insurance just makes sense. New data has shown that nearly one million young people have gained health insurance thanks to this provision.

2. Minors can’t be denied insurance coverage based on pre-existing conditions.
Because of the new healthcare bill, minors cannot be denied coverage because of a pre-existing condition. This is great news for young people who have everything from asthma to HIV.

3. No co-pays for birth control.
In the year 2012, you’d think access to birth control wouldn’t be a big deal…but it is. Not all health plans cover contraception and even if they do, sometimes co-pays are too high to make contraception accessible. In fact, one study showed that more than half of young women experienced a time when they could not afford to use their birth control consistently.

Well, this is about to get better. Starting in August, plans will be required to not only cover contraception, but cover it with no co-pay. One exemption exists for houses of worship who oppose contraception. For religious-based organizations who oppose birth control, they are able to apply for a one-year waiver from the rule, meaning they would not have to comply until August 2013 and then the health insurance company covers the actual cost of the contraception. For groups that are self-insured, those rules are still being discussed.

And as we heard on Friday, this rule also applies to student health plans (yay!), some of which currently do not cover birth control. Student activists from across the country like Sandra Fluke and you have been fighting for a LONG time for this victory. Like with the employer plans, religious-affiliated universities may apply for a one-year waiver, but by August 2013, student health plans will also have to cover contraception making access one step closer to reality for young women trying to focus on their education. Check out other protections to student health plans that were also just announced by clicking here.

Let’s face it. Birth control can be expensive. If women, including young women, want to make the responsible decision to use contraception to prevent and unintended pregnancy, they should be able to access the services they need to do so.

These are just a few gains brought to us by the new healthcare law that have been implemented or will go into effect soon, but there is more to come…

1. No one will be denied coverage based on pre-existing conditions.
Whether it’s diabetes, cancer, pregnancy or domestic violence (I’m not even lying. Women have been denied coverage because they are survivors of domestic violence or are pregnant), starting in 2014, no one will be denied access to insurance coverage because of any pre-existing condition.

2. Medicaid expanded!
In order to make sure more people have access to healthcare, in 2014, Medicaid will be expanded to include all Americans who make less than 133% of the poverty level (about $14,000 for individuals and $29,000 for a family of four). This is a HUGE deal for young people and young families who previously have had a hard time accessing healthcare. I know this is especially important for women (like some of my friends) who have become pregnant, had access to Medicaid during their pregnancy, and then were kicked off weeks after delivering their baby.

3. Women can’t be charged more…for being women.
Believe it or not, there are still cases where men and women pay different prices for the same health insurance…and women are paying MORE (Equality, what?). Because of the new healthcare law, insurance companies cannot charge higher rates based on gender. While this also doesn’t come into effect until 2014, it’s a huge gain that honestly, should have happened years ago.

Like I mentioned before, there is a lot to the new healthcare law, but these are just a few of the good things we’ve gained because of it. And while it clearly isn’t perfect, it’s certainly not something to overturn and take away all these advances that benefit young people.

For those who oppose the entire law, it’s probably a good idea to ask them where they stand on these issues, and if they really want them all to go away.

As more of the law is implemented, we’ll be sure to keep you updated!

To learn more about the new healthcare law and additional benefits for women, check out the HERvotes blog carnival.

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Each week, I’ll be posting a list of the most news-worthy and/or inspirational, informative, well-written, thought-provoking, and/or unique posts of the week. While every post and every contributor is valuable to our community, these are the blogs that I feel are must-reads.

March 11- March 17

Stats this week: 52 posts by 30 writers

No Te Metas Con Las Mujeres De Tejas/ Don’t Mess With Texas Women- by abril_flowers

Inside this post:

I hoped to rely on resources like Planned Parenthood but Perry decided to select few resources to fund for women’s health services. Planned Parenthood is not one of them.

My advice to activists considering public health graduate programs- by ashthom

Inside this post:

There is a big difference between working to implement policies that impact health and implementing programs that impact health. Find what you like. Both are important and have an impact on the health and lives of people, but the skills and personality needed to do each type of work are different.

Wisconsin escalates its war on sex education- by AFY_EmilyB

Inside this post:

But while the new law isn’t a surprise, it’s certainly a disappointment. The removal of instruction about contraception is bad. But calling abstinence "the only reliable" means of prevention is simply a lie.

BCSSH Sex Files #19: The One-Stop Guide to Women’s Health Care Reform- by bcssh

Inside this post:

Since it can be difficult even for us to keep up with the sudden bustle of Congressional activity, we’ve broken down the top three benchmarks in the women’s health debate, as well as a few ways that you can get involved to stand up for your rights and health.

Stupid Stuff State Legislatures Are Doing, and The Awesome Responses They Get- by nikki_liz

Inside this post:

In Arizona, SB1359 would allow doctors who personally oppose abortion to – well, not exactly lie – but withhold medical information from pregnant women if they think that information might lead to the woman considering abortion.

INTERVIEW: Rachel Lloyd, Founder of Girls Educational & Mentoring Services- by Amplify_Staff

Inside this post:

I believe that there are a handful of adult women in the commercial sex industry for whom it may be an employment choice among other employment choices. I can’t speak for them or their experiences. However for millions of girls and women, (and boys and transgender youth) around the world, it’s less about choice than it is about lack of choice.

The Violence Against Women Act; It Shouldn’t Be Controversial- by nikki_liz

Inside this post:

…many in Congress who oppose the Violence Against Women Act are saying that domestic violence in immigrant and LGBT communities is not a big deal, and these provisions are just attempts to give more rights to immigrants and to those identifying as LGBT. However, these expansions are responses to the National Coalition of Anti Violence Programs’ 2010 report,…

BREAKING: Utah governor vetoes abstinence-only bill- by AFY_EmilyB

Inside this post:

The new bill would have taken Utah from "sex education which discusses condoms and contraception but emphasizes abstinence" to "sex education which may not even broach the topic of contraception." It would be a change from "lots of moralizing with your info" to "no info."

Thank you to everyone who posted a blog this week! You are part of what makes this community great!

~ Samantha
Community Editor

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Written by: Nicole Murray, Advocates for Youth Intern

A sarcastic twist on an old tactic – the poison pill amendment – is making rounds in state legislatures as opposition mounts to the ongoing assault on reproductive and sexual rights. The poison pill amendment, or the wrecking amendment, is an amendment proposed to a bill by someone who opposes the bill. This amendment is usually not something the legislator proposing the amendment would want in reality, but is proposed to give more room for debate, to post pone a vote on a bill, or, in cases where the amendment does get attached to the bill, ensure that no one would vote for the bill with the attached amendment.

Todays poison pills are aimed at exposing the sexism inherent in attempting to restrict women’s reproductive rights and freedoms, while still allowing men complete sexual freedom and control over their own bodies.

In addition to the ultrasound bill signed into law in Virginia, and the very possible return to abstinence-only education in Utah, here are some of the most recent stupid laws legislatures are considering.

Wisconsin: A Bill Making Non-Marital Parenthood Tantamount To Abuse

Senate bill 507, introduced by Senator Glenn Grothman, would update the states current Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention law to emphasize “non marital parenthood as a contributing factor to child abuse and neglect.”  According to Grothman, “Whether that leads to more people paying attention and having children after they’re married or whether that leads to some other making a choice for adoptions,” he wanted to bring up this “politically incorrect” legislation, as he calls it.

In the past, Grotham has campaigned against programs that would make contraception and other health services that would lead to fewer unintended pregnancies. He recently wrote “How the United States and The State of Wisconsin Are Working to Encourage Single Motherhood and Discouraging Children in 2 Parent Families,” where he claims that the government tells women not to get married so they can receive low-income housing assistance, school choice, WIC, and food stamps.

The bill would create a public awareness campaign aimed at promoting the idea that raising a child out of wedlock (either as co-habitators, as a single parent, or as a committed LGBT couple) is abusive and neglectful to children. This public education campaign would specifically emphasis (read: demonize) single mothers, as it is supposed to underscore “the role of fathers in the primary prevention of child abuse and neglect.” According to these legislators, without a man around, a woman will just abuse her children. (Never mind that there are many women who are single mothers due to fleeing abusive partners and spouses.)

According to Representative Chris Taylor:

“This bill is going to do nothing to help children avoid abuse. It’s going to do nothing to help families. What this bill does is call out and chastise women who have babies who are unmarried.”

The most recent numbers show that a third of all parents in Wisconsin are single parents, with the majority being single mothers. 90% of teen parents were unmarried at the birth of the child. In 2010 there were 25,228 non-marital teen births. Those mothers would all be demonized by this bill.

A side note: at 1:00 AM Wednesday March 14th, 2012, the Legislature passed AB337, which will repeal the Healthy Youth Act. The Healthy Youth Act was the gold standard in sex education. Now teens will be denied accurate medical information about preventing teen pregnancy and STIs. Will this lead to an increase in teen mothers? And therefore, according to this bill, an increase in neglectful and abusive non-marital parents?  The legislature also passed AB154, which bans private insurance from covering abortion. If teens do find themselves pregnant, they will be forced to pay for an abortion out of pocked now. On Thursday they will be voting on AB371, which will ban telemedice abortion, meaning teens who choose abortion will not only have to pay for it out of pocket, rather than have it covered by their parents private insurance, but they will have to travel possibly hours to get to a clinic that can perform it. (Telemedicine is a way that residents of rural communities can get access to specialists and doctors without traveling out of their community. They talk to the doctor via video conference, like Skype, and then the doctor can determine if the patient can get the medicine. The doctor will hit a button, and unlock a drawer the patient has access to, and the patient will then take the pills in front of a nurse. This is a common way of administering many medicines, including RU-486, or Mifepristone, for a medical abortion).

Arizona: A Bill Making it Legal For  A Doctor To Withhold Medical Information Concerning A Pregnancy If That Information Might Lead To The Woman Considering Abortion

In Arizona, SB1359 would allow doctors who personally oppose abortion to – well, not exactly lie – but withhold medical information from pregnant women if they think that information might lead to the woman considering abortion.

What information would this be? Information on possible birth defects the fetus may have, or does have; information on medical conditions that may lead to the woman’s death if an abortion is not obtained; and information on medical conditions the fetus may have that might lead to either a short and agonizing life after birth, or other quality of life conditions.

For women who may choose not to abort, withholding this information means that the family has no time to prepare to give birth to and raise a child with birth defects, and no time to attempt to find out if they have the financial resources to provide all the medical care the child might need.

Lesson to be learned: If a woman is seeking abortion, you must give her ALL the information by means of forcing her to have an ultrasound. If a woman is carrying a wanted pregnancy, make sure she has NO information that might cause her to change her mind about giving birth.

Side note of another bill in Arizona: HB2625, a bill to allow any religious employer to refuse to have insurance which covers contraception. In an earlier version of the bill, religious employer was defined as: ,

(a)  The entity primarily employs persons who share the religious tenets of the entity.
(b)  The entity primarily serves persons who share the religious tenets of the entity.
(c)  The entity is a nonprofit organization as described in section 6033(a)(2)(A) (i) or (iii) of the internal revenue code of 1986, as amended.

 however, this definition was removed, leaving it undefined. Further, an earlier bill contained clause stating that “a religious employer shall not discriminate against an employee who independently chooses to obtain insurance coverage or prescriptions for contraceptives from another source.” This was also removed, giving the green light to religious employers to fire employees who use contraception.

Georgia: A Bill That Would Ban Abortions After 20 Weeks

In Georgia, HB 954 would ban abortion in the state after 20 weeks, based on the idea that at 20 weeks fetuses become “pain capable.” Most research states, however, that a fetus does not have the neurological systems in place to experience tough, and cannot distinguish between touch and pain (which is an emotional response) until much later in the third trimester, which is the time right before a woman would normally give birth.

Most abortions occur in the first trimester, so while this bill will not affect the majority of women seeking abortion, it will affect the women who find out about severe birth defects, complications, or that the fetus has died. Medical complications are usually not detectable until around the 18th to 19th week.  At this point, further tests need to be done to confirm certain defects. With the new law, a woman who receives a bad indication would have just a few days to decide whether she wants to hope for the best, go forth with more testing, and chance that she might in fact be carrying a fetus incompatible with life, or should she abort while it is still legal, and try again? Women who have fetuses that have died would not be allowed to induce labor and deliver a stillbirth past 20 weeks, as this procedure would technically still be an abortion. Instead, if a fetus is stillborn, and it is 21 weeks, she will be forced to carry a stillborn fetus to term, rather than induce labor, mourn, and try again.

In a moment of extreme insensitivity, one Representative compared women carrying stillborn fetuses to cows he used to work with who delivered dead calves.

And here are some of the sarcastic responses:

Delaware: In Wilmingont, Delware, a bill was passed to grant every sperm and every egg personhood, and deem them equal under law.

Virginia: In Virginia, Senator Janet Howell proposed an amendment to the ultrasound bill which would have required rectal exams and cardiac stress tests for men wishing obtain medications for erectile dysfunction. The amendment was just two votes shy of passing.

Georgia: Female lawmakers in Georgia have proposed a bill that would ban men from obtaining vasectomies. The author of the bill, Yasmin Neal, said:

“"It is patently unfair that men can avoid unwanted fatherhood by presuming that their judgment over such matters is more valid than the judgment of the General Assembly, while women’s ability to decide is constantly up for debate throughout the United States."”

Ohio: A bill (SB307) proposed in Ohio by Senator Nina Turner would require men to receive a psychological screening performed by a sex therapist, receive a cardiac stress test and present a notarized affidavit signed by a current sexual partner stating that the man is in fact impotent. It further states that the man must be notified in writing of the potential risks and complications of taking erectile dysfunction medications, and for a physician to include non-pharmaceutical treatments for erectile dysfunction, including resources for celibacy.

Illinois: Representative Kelly Cassidy proposed an amendment that would require a man seeking erectile dysfunction medications to watch a graphic video detailing the complications and treatments for complications that could arise from taking medication for erectile dysfunction.

Oklahoma: An amendment was proposed to a personhood bill that would make it illegal to ejaculate anywhere outside of a woman’s vagina, and another amendment that would require that any man who impregnates a woman without her consent pay a large fine, be required to obtain a vasectomy, and be financially responsible for the resulting offspring until he/she reaches 21 years of age. 

Texas: While this bill (HB15) was passed last year and went into effect recently, there were still a number of amendments that women legislators attempted to tag on to the bill to show their displeasure. This specific bill does require a transvaginal ultrasound for women seeking abortion care. Several amendments were attached (all failed) to the ultrasound bill, including an amendment  that would require the state to pay for college tuition for any child born as a result of a pregnant woman viewing the ultrasound and changing her mind, an amendment of the state to pay health care costs for the resulting child until 18 years of age, (later amended to age 6), as well as a failed common sense amendment to provide the woman with medically accurate information on contraception, and an amendment to make the Department of Health pay for the mandatory ultrasounds, and later this amendment was re-written to require the state to pay for the ultrasound if the woman did not live within 45 minutes of the provider.

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Will I make an impact on the world by being an activist, or just another anonymous donor? Will I fight on the battlefields of life, be amongst the brave ones struggling for a better world, or more disappointingly – would I be one of life’s many spectators and waiting and watching as things happen, not making them happen?

These are some of the questions I often ask myself growing up in Nigeria. Being torn between what the societies expects of me, and from what I expect of myself.

Nigeria is not a nation that makes a big deal out of celebrating International Women’s Day, in my opinion. Yes, some do acknowledge its relevance out of the other 365 days the world is going to witness this year. On the 8th of March radio stations conducted games and played programs aligned to the theme of the day, television channels showed movies and new reports to honour women with underlying messages like motherhood, girl education and feminine independence. Husbands and boyfriends are more often than not "encouraged" to view the day as a continuation of Valentine’s Day – besides, it is not as if they have any more creative ways to tell the women in their lives of their love and appreciation. In general, they all do their parts in trying to get the word out to the people, but are we really doing enough?

In comparison, rural life is somewhat limited to urban dwelling. Though research and experience show that women have been marginalized and discriminated against no matter the size of their city or town, the situation is worse for the rural women who have are more likely to have low literacy level and consequently, have become mere tools at the hands of their husbands. These women work tirelessly from morning till late in the evening trying to provide the most for their family.

They are often poorly nourished and lack adequate health care; their efforts are mostly unrecognised and unappreciated. Unlike their urban counterparts, majority of them are poor financially and educationally. They often possess very little, if any decision-making power. This in no small way affects the young women living in the society.

How can they, seeing all this happen rise above to be empowered, enlightened and create positive impact in their environments, increasing the respect and appreciation of women in their communities?

Education is the key. Without education how can one be enlightened enough, believe in one’s own ability to dream, and dream big?

We need to empower women all around the world. To empower means to give authority to and enable a person gain power. I have found that a simple way to achieve this is to believe in them and enable them believe in themselves. If Dr. Tererai Trent, a Zimbabwean who was married at 11 with three children at age 18 whose husband reportedly beat her everyday could still rise out of what most saw as a dead-end situation, then who cannot?

We all have to play our parts in this never-ending drama of life. I know what I was born to play. Do you?

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Boston College Students for Sexual Health is an unofficial student organization that was formed in response to the lack of sexual health education and resources at Boston College. Among other activities, we blog regularly on Her Campus BC in an effort to reach out to the student body and promote thinking about sex-related issues. This particular entry provides a brief overview of recent Congressional activity regarding contraception and women’s health. Please note that this blog entry was originally posted on Her Campus BC.

By Amanda Beiner

You may have already seen this photo before.  For those in need of a quick recap, this is a picture of the House’s panel invited to speak about conflicts between religious ideology and contraceptive coverage.  No, your screen isn’t blurry.  Five panelists.  Zero uteruses.  For some reason that I still don’t really get, House Republicans think that they can make decisions regarding women’s health without women or healthcare professionals. Washington, we have a problem.
 
Since it can be difficult even for us to keep up with the sudden bustle of Congressional activity, we’ve broken down the top three benchmarks in the women’s health debate, as well as a few ways that you can get involved to stand up for your rights and health.

  1. March 23, 2010:  Obama signs the Affordable Care Act into law
    The Affordable Care Act seeks to rectify some of the more ethically questionable practices within the health insurance industry.  It basically eliminates all of the ways that health insurance providers weasel out of paying for medical services, leaving us wondering why the heck we bought insurance in the first place.

    The act also revamped and specified what measures constitute “preventative care” regarding women’s health.  The government is finally catching on to the fact that contraception is important and is requiring employee health plans to cover it.  Of course, religious institutions and social conservatives pressured the Obama administration to allow religious schools, hospitals, and charities to opt out of covering contraceptives.

    Check out The Sex Files #16 for more information about women’s health in the Affordable Care Act!

  2. February 10, 2012:  Obama announces a compromise
    Under more pressure than the Harvard valedictorian during finals week, Obama sought a compromise that could reconcile religious concerns with women’s health needs.  In February, the President announced that contraceptive coverage should be offered to women directly from insurance companies, without direct involvement from religious institutions.  In plain English, Boston College, for example, would not be forced by the federal government to provide birth control.  Instead, Blue Cross Blue Shield (through which BC offers their insurance) would have to cover the cost of contraception without BC’s money.  The Catholic Health Association accepted this compromise because, well, it makes sense.  The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops still opposes the compromise, claiming that it still violates the conscience of Catholics in the insurance industry.  All feigned shock aside, supporters of near-universal coverage think that this stance is a bit of a stretch.

    Which brings us to our biggest problem…

  3. March 1, 2012: Senate votes down Blunt Amendment

    In a last-ditch attempt to find any possible excuse to escape covering women’s health care, Senator Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) proposed an amendment to the Affordable Care Act, which has come to be called the “Blunt Amendment.”  Not only would this amendment allow religious employers to deny contraception to their female employees on religious grounds, it would allow any employer to deny any health service to any employee on any “moral conviction.”

    The Blunt Amendment would have essentially undone all of the progress made by the Affordable Care Act, creating loopholes wide enough to fit a Mack Truck.  Under this dangerous piece of legislation, an employer could technically:

    - Refuse maternity care to an interracial or homosexual couple if they have moral objections to such a    
       relationship.
    – Refuse Type 2 diabetes screening to overweight employees because of a perceived “unhealthy” lifestyle.
    – Refuse maternity care to single mothers on religious grounds.

    Luckily, common sense won out, and lawmakers killed this amendment with a vote of 51-48 on March 1st.. Unfortunately, the Blunt Amendment represents only one of several recent attacks on women’s health.  We must all remain vigilant, and continue to speak out against any more threats that may come.

BCSSH – along with all the women who don’t want their bodies controlled by five middle-aged men in a biased congressional hearing – strongly oppose legislative restrictions on contraception.  To get involved and stand up for your rights, check out Planned Parenthood’s Petition.
 
Peace, love, and lube,
BC Students for Sexual Health

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Have you ever heard women complain about being mistreated by other women? Perhaps they were denied an opportunity or harshly evaluated. I have! Some even rationalize the situation by stating that the ‘the boss/teacher (woman) is ‘bad-mind’, jealous or feels threatened (by me)’. I recognize that a person may have misconstrued the situation and other reasons such as ones competency and skills or bad attitude, may have accounted for the alleged mistreatment. But I cannot deny that on some fronts it is true that some women mistreat other women. For example, I have heard that teen mothers in trying to access prenatal and postnatal care have been mistreated and discriminated against by women in the health care profession.

On a day like International Women’s Day, I must reflect on instances like this because it makes me evaluate the fight we are fight. 
     If it is that we are trying to liberate women from being subordinates to men but rather their equals, why are we belittling our ‘own kind’ shouldn’t we be supporting and uplifting each other?
     If it is that we believe that all females should have the right to family planning and the right to the highest standard of sexual and reproductive health (SRH) free from discrimination, coercion and violence; why are we stigmatizing, discriminating and denying access to our young girls? Aren’t they worthy of the same treatment like adult women? Similarly, why are we stigmatizing and discriminating against women and girls living with HIV/AIDS? Aren’t they worthy of the same treatment like the non-infected?

In honor of the 101st International Women’s Day let us:

• identify situations where women and girls are stigmatized, discriminated against and mistreated and let us speak up about it.

• continue to advocate for comprehensive sexuality education, which helps to build life skills, so that young girls are able to make more informed responsible decisions.

• continue to advocate for the highest quality of reproductive and sexual health care and services for all females, young or old, infected or non-infected (HIV/AIDS), black or white, rich or poor, literate or illiterate.

• continue the fight we are fight and dismantle oppressive thoughts and actions that hold back the contributions and development of ALL women.

And remember girls NEVER give anyone the opportunity to make you feel less than you are…you are to be respected and valued!

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Disclaimer: Advocates for Youth does not provide psychological counseling, or medical or legal advice. No information presented herein is intended as such advice. Furthermore, Advocates for Youth complies with, and does not condone, violations of the law.

While I still consider myself to be young, I feel like when I was coming up through high school and college, that contraception access was a "normal" thing. It was as simple as going to the doctor and getting it, no questions asked. Today it seems like there is a concentrated effort to take these rights away. Why is that? It should really be as simple as, “I want to do what I want, with my body.” Easy enough right? When asking a doctor or any health care provider for contraceptive assistance, they should give it. Period. Doctors are there to "first do no harm". This includes giving everyone, all the facts, whether they agree with them morally or not. At the end of the day, government should stop trying to regulate our family planning options with these “moral conscience” clauses that are being put in place for pharmacists and physicians to be able to deny contraceptive access.

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I found an article written by Linnette Vasell in the Jamaica Gleaner on March 8, 2012 to be an interesting read and as such I thought I would begin by sharing a few lines from her piece. Ms. Vasell in her International Women’s Day (IWD) commentary highlighted a few interested facts about the IWD celebrations in Jamaica over the years. For example her article mentioned that in Jamaica the “IWD celebrations are rooted in a progressive activist tradition of organisational building and advocacy. Spearheaded in 1978 by the Committee of Women for Progress and the People’s National Party Women’s Movement, united as the Joint Committee for Women’s Rights, the first IWD celebrations saw the launch of an assertive and multifaceted campaign for a maternity leave. The Maternity Leave Act passed in 1979 has become a signpost over these 50 years of women’s struggle to confront and eradicate gender discrimination which has remained embedded in our experience since Independence.”

Jamaica in 2012
Since the 1970s IWD celebrations in Jamaica have become quite a celebratory event with many events being staged to mark women’s contributions to community and nation building. Despite this however the question still remains as to whether or not our democracy has secured the rights of women as full citizens in Jamaica. On a daily basis women in Jamaica’s urban and not to mention rural communities are confronted with pervasive gender-biases including sexual and physical abuse. Further to this, women in rural areas face greater challenges as it relates to poverty, unemployment and seeking proper health care. Its funny how we often take for granted the amenities afforded to us as “urban” citizens until we experience life in more remote/rural areas. It was just last week that I journeyed to a few rural communities where piped water, a very basic amenity was not in place. These and other realities continue to impact the livelihood of women and their ability to contribute to our society.

In spite of these challenges I must acknowledge that progress is being made and one such recent example is the passage of the new Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedom in 2011 which serves as an amendment to the Jamaica Constitution prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex. The challenge however is that passage of legislation at times does not translate into action without the proper education of citizens and appropriate monitoring systems. Notwithstanding this, as a young Jamaican woman I remain hopeful that one day soon women and girls particularly those in the rural areas will be afforded greater opportunities to exercise full citizenship.

Today I reaffirm my commitment to furthering this cause.

One Love.

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"From all across the country, women have been mobilizing to fight back against politicians who try to restrict women’s access to reproductive health care. Now, Governor Perry is about to see what happens when you try to mess with Texas women."

On Monday, March 5, 2012, Planned Parenthood launched a brave statewide bus tour in Texas. This tour was initiated as a response to Rick Perry’s decisions on women’s healthcare in Texas. The Planned Parenthood’s Don’t Mess With Texas website states, “On March 14, Texas Governor Rick Perry will cut off access to affordable health care for 130,000 low-income women in Texas. We won’t let him get away with it. We’ve put our bus (back) on the road to spend every day until then criss-crossing Texas to make sure he gets our message: stop playing politics with women’s lives.”

This bus tour started in early March and it made its first stop right here in my home, Brownsville, Texas. They will be making several stops in Texas in hopes to change Perry’s decision.

However, Rick Perry revisited his decision. In a Texas Tribune article, “Gov. Rick Perry notified President Obama on Thursday that Texas will find the money to continue to fund the Women’s Health Program, no matter what the federal government does. But Planned Parenthood won’t be allowed to participate — and the program may no longer be affiliated with Medicaid.”

“Perry and Republican leaders in the Legislature don’t want Planned Parenthood to be allowed to participate in the $40-million-per-year program, which is designed to help low-income women get birth-control pills, family-planning help and cancer screenings. Though no clinics that accept funding from the program may perform abortions, the state’s Health and Human Services commissioner signed a rule last week that forces Planned Parenthood clinics, which provide more than 40 percent of the program’s services, out of the program anyway.”

There are so many things wrong here but I will speak on a personal level. I used to be enrolled in the Texas PCCM Medicaid program; however, since I turned 21 this past January, I am no longer eligible. So now, I do not have any type of healthcare insurance. I hoped to rely on resources like Planned Parenthood but Perry decided to select few resources to fund for women’s health services. Planned Parenthood is not one of them. I do not think Perry realizes that many people in Brownsville depend on Planned Parenthood, including undocumented women. If Planned Parenthood does not receive funding then will more likely close their doors. Brownsville already closed one of the two PP clinics that served women.
Does Rick Perry realize that many women will have insufficient resources where they can receive health services?

As I have mentioned before: I am a single parent. I am a college student. I am economically disadvantaged. If I do not take care of myself then how will I feel safe in knowing that my daughter will have someone to depend on? I will not allow that to happen, for my own health and for my daughter.

Link to Texas Tribune Article:
www.texastribune.org/texas-people/rick-perry/perry-blasts-feds-over-abortion-redistricting/

Link to Don’t Mess With Texas Women Planned Parenthood:
pptexastour.tumblr.com

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Reproductive rights are fundamental to women’s health and equality and i believe that it is the states responsibility to ensure that women’s rights are given serious attention, especially with a woman as Prime Minister,
Under the Women’s Convention Article 12 requires States
Parties to “take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in the field of health care,” and specifies that women should have access to “appropriate services in connection with pregnancy, confinement and the post-natal period, granting free services where necessary, as well as adequate nutrition during
pregnancy and lactation.” Article 10(h) requires women to have “access to specific educational information to help to ensure the health and well-being of families, including information and advice on family planning.”
Abortion has always been a "hot topic" in Jamaica, with the church clamoring that it is un-Godly and human rights groups disgusted by the mere thought of having it legalized, but how much do these "advocates" really know about abortion? and are they looking at it through only the thin pages of the bible? what about the lives that un-wanted pregnancies ruin?
According to a recent news article, between 20,000 and 30,000 abortions are performed each year. Abortion is prima facie illegal in Jamaica, with exceptions for rape, incest and to save a woman’s life. In addition, there are case law exceptions to protect the mental and physical health of a woman. In cases where the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest, documented proof of the crime must be presented or the woman must be referred for an abortion by a judge or law enforcement official before the abortion can occur. In addition, a woman cannot have more than one abortion in her lifetime, even if it is the result of a criminal act. Public hospitals regularly perform abortions other than those that fall within the narrow exceptions allowed by law.Nonetheless,complications arising from unsafe abortion remain one of the leading causes of maternal mortality in Jamaica. While there is widespread support for legislative reform and the legalization of abortion by both the Ministry of Health and the Medical Association of Jamaica, no measures have been taken to liberalize these laws.

(information taken from the The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) shadow letter)

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 As many of you may have heard by now, ultra-conservative radio show host Rush Limbaugh has come under harsh criticism for his especially misogynist, inaccurate, and creepy comments about Sandra Fluke, the graduate student from Georgetown University who was denied a seat on the all-male panel at last month’s congressional hearing on birth control. Fortunately, she did eventually get her day to speak, though not as an official part of the hearing. House Democrats on the committee (not being able to call their own hearing because they are in the minority) organized a forum for her to share her testimony. She provided poignant information on why access to cost-free birth control is such an important and necessary part of women’s health, and shared stories to personalize her message, showing that policy decisions are not abstract but fundamentally effect real women, their partners, and their families.

Rush Limbaugh’s response included the following:

What does it say about the college co-ed Susan [Sandra] Fluke…who goes before a congressional committee and says that she must be paid to have sex? What does that make her? It makes her a slut, right? Makes her a prostitute.

He also said that her parents should be embarrassed of her, and should disconnect their phone line and hide from the neighbors to avoid the shame. These comments prompted President Obama to call Sandra Fluke to thank her for speaking out on such an important issue and to say that her parents should be very proud of her.

There were two comments though that stunned me even more than a misogynist calling sexually active women sluts. One absolutely grossed me out, and the complete ignorance of the other shocked me most of all. So let’s get to it.

I should warn you that this is excessively creepy.

Ms. Fluke and the rest of you femi-Nazis, here’s the deal. If we are going to ay for your contraceptives, and thus pay for you to have sex, we want something for it. And I’ll tell you what it is. We want you to post the videos online so we can all watch.

*cringe*

I know.

Limbaugh tried to defend himself by claiming that he has no power to control female sexuality, yet he is suggesting here that the only way to legitimize a woman making the personal decision to have sex is to do so for the public entertainment of strangers. If men she doesn’t know can’t benefit from her sexuality, then she shouldn’t be allowed to act on it. The purpose of her sexuality becomes something she has no control over. She acts for others instead of for herself. Her own pleasure become irrelevant.

The problem with Limbaugh’s statement isn’t just the epic perviness- it is the complete disregard for female sexual pleasure and the inability to grasp that women make valid sexual decisions solely for the purposes of their own pleasure. He can’t understand that women make sexual decisions that have nothing to do with men. Female sexuality does not exist FOR men. It exists for women. Women own their sexuality just as men own male sexuality, and whoever you have sex with it should be for no one else but you, no matter who your partner is.

While there’s no denying the outrage that such a misogynist comment rightly deserves, I was actually more stunned by the following comments, which make it clear that people who have absolutely no idea how birth control and pregnancy work should not in any way be involved in policy decisions regarding women’s health.

Your daughter goes up to a congressional hearing…and testifies she’s having so much sex she can’t afford her own birth control pills.
It’s no different than if someone knocked on my door, that I don’t know, and said, “You know, I’m out of money. I can’t afford birth control pills and I’m supposed to have sex with 3 guys tonight.”

I’m sure you see the problem here. MSNBC news host Rachel Maddow put it most simply and accurately on her show this week:

You don’t need more birth control to keep you not pregnant from more sex.

I am legitimately stunned. How the hell are their grown people ignorant enough to believe that you have to take a birth control pill before each time you have sex? Not only is this a stunning example of the consequences of abstinence-only programs, this is embarrassing! Birth control pills don’t work that way!

So I’ve decided to make this a teachable moment. Listen up kids; this is how birth control pills work!

Birth control pills are a prescription medication that most women get from their gynecologist. Most women use birth control pills to prevent pregnancy. However, many women use them for non-pregnancy related health issues and can get a prescription from their regular doctor. To be effective, you have to take the pill once a day every day, regardless of the primary reason you take it and regardless of if you anticipate having sex that day. To prevent pregnancy, birth control pills work in three ways.

1) They thicken the mucus around the cervix (the opening to the uterus at the top of the vagina). This makes it harder for sperm to reach the egg.

2) They delay the release of an egg from the ovary, reducing the amount of time that an egg is waiting in the fallopian tube.

3) They lessen the monthly build-up of tissue along the uterine walls, making it harder for an egg to attach to it. Menstruation is the process of the uterus emptying itself of the unused extra tissue- which is why getting your period means you’re not pregnant.

Taking the pill once a day every day protects you from pregnancy. How often you have sex is irrelevant. It works the same way every day no matter what you do.

Limbaugh’s absolute ignorance of this is especially dangerous because it coincides with his instance that (largely) old, white, privileged males in public office (who have also proudly proven their ignorance of women’s health a hundred times over) should be in charge of making medical decisions for women, dictating which women have access to medial care, and outlining what doctors are allowed to tell their patients and how visits are to be conducted.

If you don’t understand how birth control and pregnancy work then shut your mouth and pick up a book. Seriously. How can we move forward as a country if most of our elected officials don’t even know the most basic aspects of women’s health care? Ignorance is not bliss. Ignorance is extremely dangerous.

~ Samantha
Community Editor

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The formal meaning of ‘advocate’ is speaking on behalf of someone, as a lawyer does in a courtroom. The lawyer presents a matter before a judge on behalf of a client and in favor of the client in order to gain justification in his client’s favor.

An advocate acts individually or within a team to speak on behalf of people on interests or issues that concern these people with the aim to present these issues on a larger platform that can induce (a) change. Usually, an advocate speaks on behalf of someone or a group of people that cannot speak for themselves or who do not have the information or understanding of their rights to make specific demands from their leaders or policy makers.

Have your rights been infringed upon? Were you able to confidently speak up for yourself? Your guess can be as good as mine. I am a Nigerian and I know what it means for my rights to be infringed upon? From police harassments on the illegal checkpoints; or verbal and physical assaults from bus conductors and taxi drivers; or nasty, I-do-not-have-time-for-this attitude from health care workers?

Drawing it home, the corruption that has infiltrated every electoral process, the idea of actually (literally) knowing the winner of any election before the voting process is even completed; or the idea that you cannot get certain benefits (academic, employment, access to social services) just because your father is not the governor or cannot pull favors? Definitely it all sounds very familiar. How about a rape case that is not followed through because the rapist paid some “bribe” to the police officer and the victim to cover up the case? How about the fact that nothing is being done to investigate on such cases (rape) even when the offence was aired on the internet? Need I say more?

At this point do you see the need to speak up? Do you actually have other instances or experiences that have kept you silent when you could have gotten justice? It might have been your sister or some other close relative, or friend, neighbor… Do you actually need to see it happen to any of these before you speak up? Being an advocate is more than a job, it’s a passion. It is a will to demand justice not only for you, or your family but for generations to come. If things are so bad right now, imagine how much worse it will be in five, fifteen, twenty years to come.

I know, we, Nigerians, can be very religious. We find it easy to say “it can never be my portion, My children will not even be in this country…” or “I am the Senator, I have security to protect my kids and family…” That is so myopic and void of truth! Who would have thought the beautiful city of Jos will be today be a city torn by so much conflict, violence, genocide and homicide, unsafe and a place to stay away from? Who would have thought?

I said all of that to say this- The world is a small place and as small as it is, it is guided by certain principles as long as you exist. Someday, somehow, things have a way of coming around. As the saying goes, “what goes around comes around.”

The importance of being the “voice” for the seemingly unamplified voices is that you set the pace, you trail the path and create some form of hope for the hopeless. Even if change does not happen in your time, it sure will happen someday, just like Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr., Mahatma Gandhi. These were people who walked the surface of this earth leaving a trail of hope, setting the pace for justice and good leadership, taking up the unspoken pain and the risk with courage to make a change.

Today hiding yourself in self-preservation has not solved your injustice. It’s in your hands; it’s your call to take a stand for what you believe in. It’s your call!

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Count Down to IWD 2012: 7 Days to Go!

“Weak health service infrastructure contributes to poor maternal health”

March 8th every year the celebration of the International Women’s Day, as constituted by the UN has been an on-going event; it is a day when women are recognized for their achievements without regard to divisions, whether national, ethnic, linguistic, cultural, economic or political. It is a day to honor past struggles and advances made by women as well as serve as a reminder of the untapped potentials (and opportunities) and continued actions needed to ensure that the advances are maintained and built upon to achieve gender equality in all aspects of life.

For 2012, the theme is Connecting Girls, Inspiring futures! As good as the annual celebrations with various wonder theme and its intended objectives, there is an urgent issue that could underscore whatever success we are celebrating or projected future we hope for and that is the issue of maternal health services, as I speak now, across Nigeria and Africa, the presence of weak health service infrastructure has become a normal thing, to compound the worst situation, needed skilled personnel are inadequate, infrastructure and poor functioning equipment & a lack of essential drugs and supplies.

Policy makers and Government of African States must know, if they are not aware already that improving maternal health remains the most elusive of the MDGs, statistics has it that every minutes, at least one woman dies from pregnancy-related causes, and 99% of these are in developing countries. Majority of these deaths occurs in sub-Sahara Africa & South Asia and are avoidable, if our leadership would make available standard interventions and health care which all pregnant women and their newborns needs. As we plan to mark the 2012 International Women’s Day, with the aim of connecting Girls to opportunities that will give us an innovative future, we should not forget that this year also marks the 25th anniversary of Silver Jubilee of the Safe Motherhood Movement.
As we count-down to the D-Day, mostly filled with speeches and promises, we quickly forget come April, I call on Governments and International partners to know remember a forgotten priority: provision of solid maternal health service infrastructure, to me apart from access to education, access to quality health services and products, is the best connection we can give to girls that will inspire futures!

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They’re still at it: Republican Senators are still trying to deny you access to birth control. An important vote on whether or not to deny women access to contraception is happening tomorrow — if you have a few minutes, please call your Senators today and tell them to oppose the Blunt Amendment.

More info (and a handy call-in script) below:

Tomorrow, the U.S. Senate will vote on whether or not to deny women access to contraception.

Republican Senators have decided to hijack a major transportation bill by attaching the Blunt Amendment — an amendment that would allow any employer to deny any kind of health coverage for any personal "moral" reason. 

  • Don’t like birth control? Fine! You can deny your employees contraceptive coverage.
  • Agree with presidential candidate Rick Santorum that prenatal testing leads to abortion? Poof! No more insurance coverage for prenatal testing.
  • Still believe the myth that HIV is "a gay disease"? That’s okay! May as well opt out of covering HIV/AIDS testing.

Roughly 60 percent of people in the U.S. support requiring insurance companies to provide no-copay basic access to birth control. The Obama Administration has already provided a way for objecting religious-affiliated organizations to opt out of paying for this coverage in their employee health plans, a solution that is fully supported by the Catholic Health Association. As far as the American people are concerned, this issue has been settled: birth control is basic health care.

Apparently, many of your Senators disagree. The full Senate will vote on the Blunt Amendment tomorrow.

Call your Senators TODAY at 202-224-3121.

Then ask your friends to call. Dial the number and put a cell phone in their hand. We need to make sure that our Senators know that the voters who put them in office demand that they Vote NO on the Blunt Amendment.

Sample call-in script:

"Hi, my name is _____, and I’m calling from [City, State].

As your constituent, I would like to ask Senator _____ to oppose the Blunt Amendment to the Transportation Reauthorization Bill. Birth control is basic health care and millions of women and young people will benefit from expanded access to birth control coverage. In fact, nearly 60% of voters agree with me. Can you tell me how Senator _____ is planning to vote on this amendment?"

Please take a moment to call BOTH of your Senators today. We need to light up the phone lines on Capitol Hill.

Let’s get to it.

Sarah Audelo
Senior Manager of Domestic Policy
Advocates for Youth

P.S. Tweet your Senators’ responses @AmplifyTweets or post them on our Facebook Page. We want everyone to know whether our Senators are planning to stand up for birth control access. Use the hashtag #supportwomen.

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Did you know that African Americans account for only 14 percent of the U.S. population but make up almost half of all newly diagnosed HIV cases each year? This is an alarming rate and it is stumping advocates as to why this is happening. Poverty is one of the things believed to be fueling the epidemic and in African American communities, poverty rates are higher than other communities. Poverty affects all parts of life, impacting housing, education, nutrition and access to health care. When tackling issues such as worrying for your next meal or how rent will be paid on a regular basis, there is no surprise that getting educated on HIV is not at the top of the list.


 

On top of these issues, the budget cuts are causing state-run family-planning clinics to shut down so people have no place to go for regular checkups, to learn about their bodies and how to keep themselves healthy. Not to mention there is health illiteracy. There are a shocking number of blacks who cannot use written materials in the health care settings. HIV/AIDS is not just a “gay man disease.” It is a deadly, color blind disease and everyone is vulnerable.

You have to be concerned for your health and take the necessary precautions. You should:
1. Practice safe sex during EVERY sexual encounter.
2. Get screened every three to six months for undiagnosed and untreated cases of STDs and engage in partner notification services if you are diagnosed with an STD.
3. Get comprehensive sex education from a clinic and be open and honest about sex with your partner or children.

For more information check out The Body: The Complete HIV/AIDS Resource and Health Facts: HIV.

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Last Thursday was an interesting day. Let me recap for you.
 

First I headed down to the University of Akron to lead a discussion following the screening of The Abortion Diaries. The presentation was put on by the University of Akron chapter of Sociologist for Women in Society. There are some great faculty and students at UA and it was great to visit their campus.

Our discussion at UA was rich and diverse. One man brought up the impact abortion can have on men and shared a personal story about his cousin. It was great to have his perspective. Discussions also lead to the hypocrisy of legislators to restrict legal abortion and also birth control. The group seemed to agree one of the biggest barriers to improving sexual health and reproductive justice is the negative and shaming culture around sex.

There were also some self-proclaimed "strongly prolife" people in the crowd. I was glad these women came to the event, and made sure their opinions were allowed to be shared. Many disagreed but I worked to make sure, even if opinions differed, all voices were heard and respected.

After the screening I drove north to Cleveland Heights. There was a private media event with Sherrod Brown, Kathleen Sebelius and women from Cleveland Heights. The purpose of the event was to raise awareness about the impact of the Affordable Care Act on women’s health.

This seemed like a great opportunity to thank Brown and Sebelius for both being champions for the Affordable Care Act and co-pay free birth control. Wednesday I made calls out to my volunteers and was able to recruit a handful of people to help the day of the media event. One of the volunteers was a member of our high school peer education program and another was a graduate from the program. It was great to see young people engaged in healthcare policy and advocacy. 

We held signs across the street from the private home where the event was taking place. We got a few honks and cheers from people walking and driving by as we held our Birth Control Matters signs. When Brown and Sebelius came out of the house they saw us and waved. In response to our birth control matters signs Sebelius replied, "It does matter!" Brown even crossed the street to talk with us and take photos. Our little thank you event was event covered by local media

All in all it was a good day in Ohio for promoting reproductive justice. In Akron we worked on opening discussions about abortion, and de-stigmatizing women’s healthcare. In Cleveland Heights we let champions for women’s health know we have their backs and are thankful for their tenacity on this issue.

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By Amanda Marcotte

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on RH Reality Check.

Nancy Scola has a piece at Salon on the Republican delusion that the newly loud anti-choice war on contraception can somehow be repackaged as “religious liberty” and sold to the public, accomplishing the real goal–undermining women’s fundamental right not to just basic health care but also to make their own sexual and family decisions–and dressing it up as a fight for freedom. The strategy is to cast “religious liberty” as such a broad right, held only by fundamentalist Christians, that it actually extends far past their noses and right into your face and beyond, into your uterus. In this view, women securing equal rights to fair compensation from employers and to comprehensive basic health care coverage is framed as a violation of the right of religious misogynists to control and punish them. It’s a bold tactic, and while many liberals, who are used to rolling over for the right and letting them have whatever they want, fear it’s going to work, there’s reason to be skeptical.

Well, some reason to be skeptical. It is true that if we roll over and let the right define religious liberty as the right to interfere with other people’s personal and religious choices, then we will lose. But if we fight, we can win. We just need to be clear on the arguments here. So I put together a quick rundown of how to argue for women’s basic right to equal protection under the Constitution in light of these new HHS regulations.

1) Women’s right to be sexual beings is protected under the First Amendment’s religious liberty clause. Yes, Catholic bishops and their teeny group of avid followers have a right to believe that God wants women to either be virgins or non-stop baby factories. But women have a right to believe that God has a different plan for them—or to not believe in a God at all. Women have equal rights to their own religious beliefs around sex and reproduction. The Catholic bishops demanding the right to force women not to be able to go directly through insurers for contraception coverage—in essence, giving them extra-governmental power to levy a fine against women for being sexual—is a direct violation of a woman’s religious freedom. These employers cannot require women to attend Catholic mass as a condition of their employment, so why should they be able to require women to pay what amounts to a penance for what the church teaches is a sin as a condition of their employment? Religious liberty exists for all Americans, even women.

2) Religious liberty certainly doesn’t give you a right to tear down entire social systems because someone in them might differ from you on a matter of theology. Since Obama exempted Catholic hospitals and universities from covering contraception directly, the argument conservatives are making to attack women’s access to contraception is that if you pay into a system, you have the right to ban coverage for disliked services for every other person in that system. While they’re pretending to limit this principle to the employees of misogynist employers, if you think about it, believing this means that any single individual who gives an insurance company any money has the right to veto any procedure for any reason, as long as they dress it up as “moral." Which means that if a Catholic hospital buys insurance from a company, if, say, Planned Parenthood does too, under this principle, the Catholic hospital should be able to deny Planned Parenthood the right to coverage contraception for their employees. Or, heart disease treatments, for that matter, if they dress it up in enough religious garb.

And that would extend beyond just employers. Employees pay into the system, too, so presumably if a single dollar from your wallet goes to an insurance company and gives you ultimate veto power over how all the money is spent, then any random person anywhere in the system has this power. In essence, this principle would mean that insurance companies couldn’t function at all.

3) Insurance isn’t a gift your employers give you; it’s a part of your compensation package. If your employer has the right to force you not to use your compensation package in this way on general (and suddenly invented) principles, then why not in other ways? Once the principle that your compensation is your employer’s “money” and that they get to control it is established, then why can’t they step in and stop you from spending your salary on contraception? After all, if health insurance money is still theirs after they write the check, then your salary is, too.

4) Conservatives’ claim to support the right of the religious to intrude on others is an inch deep. While conservatives are claiming that the First Amendment is so broad that it gives your employer a right to discriminate against you for having different religious beliefs regarding sexuality, they don’t generally believe that religious liberty trumps generally applicable laws. For instance, last year a Muslim man in Pennsylvania was accused of assaulting another man who was dressed as zombie Mohammed. The judge dismissed the case, citing a lack of evidence, and the right wing media went wild, accusing the judge of “sharia law” for supposedly letting off the defendant because he took offense at a slight at his religion.

Regardless of the facts of the case, let’s look at the right wing argument. They claim, correctly, that having religious faith should not be grounds for having an exception to a generally applicable law against assault. Because you’re religious, they argue, doesn’t mean you have a right to force your faith on someone who doesn’t share it, especially in direct violation of the law.

By their own reasoning, therefore, employers should not be allowed under the guise of “religious liberty” to opt out of federal regulations requiring employers to compensate their employees fairly for their work. Nor should “religious liberty” give anyone a right to try to force their beliefs on others by withholding medical care. As it stands, conservatives are trying to argue that employers should be able to force women to pay twice for their birth control—once when they paid for it through labor/money when they got their insurance and again when they pick it up—to appease someone else’s religious sensibilities. If their right to religious belief continues well past where their nose ends and where yours begins, then by the same logic, laws against assault should also have religious exemptions, even for Muslims.

They’re obviously not going to sign on to that claim, demonstrating that this isn’t and never was about “religious liberty,” but about finding inventive ways to get between women and their access to contraception.

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 Each week, I’ll be posting a list of the most news-worthy and/or inspirational, informative, well-written, thought-provoking, and/or unique posts of the week. While every post and every contributor is valuable to our community, these are the blogs that I feel are must-reads.

February 12- February 18

Stats this week: 26 posts by 17 writers

If you educate a woman, you educate a woman- by Moonlight

Inside this post:

Will we only educate a woman because the nation needs her? Or must we educate womankind for the same reason we educate men? When we engage in overstatements, oversimplification, and obfuscation, we endanger the very cause we are fighting for, EQUALITY.

Religious “Freedom” to Deny Women Health Care: The Ham Sandwich Defense- by Amplify_Staff

Inside this post:

By comparing coverage for a major public health intervention to a law mandating that kosher delis serve pork, Bishop Lori revealed just how out of touch the USCCB and the religio-patriarchy writ large are with the needs and rights of women to live as normal human beings, and profoundly trivialized the experiences of women who struggle to manage their fertility, their health, and the well-being of themselves and their families.

The Rest of the Story Behind the Picture – Our Girls Deserve Better- by AFY_Sarah

Inside this post:

When the female members of Congress from the minority felt they had to walk out of the “farce” of a hearing, we as a society told our girls that even in 2012, your bodies are still politicized in ways that generations before thought they had resolved.

Thank you to everyone who posted a blog this week! You are part of what makes this community great!

~ Samantha
Community Editor

————————————-
My posts this week:
Debating BC as absurd as debating Inter-Racial Marriage
In Response: 25 Points of Contention with a Humorous Homophobe

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Last week thousands of students on campuses across the country voiced their frustration with Members of Congress who are spending their time coming up with pieces of legislation that aim to restrict access to no-copay birth control. As Members of Congress hold hearings with all-male panels that demonstrate their disrespect of young people and women, young people refuse to be silent. Within two weeks you have:

  • sent thousands of petitions to Congress
  • held press conferences testifying to your experiences
  • distributed thousands of condoms and talked to your peers about the importance of birth control and sexual health
  • organized hundreds of events on campuses
  • and submitted over 1,000 Valentines to Congress, putting a face on the people directly impacted by these dangerous pieces of legislation. (View the Birth Control 4 Us photo album below — you can also view it at www.flic.kr/s/aHsjyJEVWe.)

Today, Sandra Fluke, the young woman who was not allowed to testify at the hearing last week because she “lacked the appropriate credentials” (according to Representative Darrell Issa), shared her powerful story as a law student at Georgetown University, and the stories of many of her peers who will benefit from birth control coverage. After her compelling testimony, Representative Cummings stated, “You as students have made sure that not only Congress is listening, but the entire country is listening.”

After the hearing, we submitted a book of the 1000+ Valentines you collected urging Congress to listen to young people’s voices when it comes to their health care. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Representative Carolyn Maloney, and Representative Elijah Cummings were excited to receive these pictures of young people who are passionate about ensuring our acces to birth control. Thank you again for your incredible activism and making sure your voices are heard!

While the fight is far from over, we know that young people will not back down and will continue to fight for our access to the health care we deserve. To quote Mackenzie Massey, one of our rock start activists — “I am an intelligent young woman and I am perfectly capable of making responsible decisions about my body. They chose the wrong group to mess with. We will not back down.”

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Today, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi announced that the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee will be hosting a hearing this Thursday on “Women’s Health.” According to the announcement:

“The sole witness at the hearing will be Ms. Sandra Fluke, a third-year law student at Georgetown University, who was blocked from testifying at a recent Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing by Chairman Darrell Issa . Instead, Chairman Issa brought forward a panel of all men to testify on this topic.”

While it’s great to give Sandra a space to testify (the story she shares is incredibly compelling-you can click here to listen to what she would have said last week at the Oversight hearing), I must admit that my initial reaction was disappointment in the fact that Sandra is the only person sharing testimony.

Why? Because there are many more perspectives Congress needs to hear from on the important topic of contraceptive access…especially when it comes to contraceptive access for women who use birth control to (get ready for it) prevent unintended pregnancy.

Here is a quick list of folks I’d love to see testifying before Congress on this important issue as well as a little background to show why their voices are so important (and why they’re so great).

Rev. Debra Haffner of the Religious Institute. Quoted from their own website, “Founded in 2001, the Religious Institute is a multifaith organization dedicated to advocating for sexual health, education, and justice in faith communities and society. The Religious Institute has emerged as the national leadership organization working at the intersection of sexuality and religion. “

Dr. Renee Jenkins, Professor and Chair of the Department of Pediatrics and Child Health at Howard University. Dr. Jenkins is an active member of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Chair of the Pediatric Section of the National Medical Association, member of the Institute of Medicine and serves on the Board on Children, Youth and Families of the National Academy of Sciences.

Sister Carol Keehan, President of the Catholic Health Association of the United States, the organization who previously objected to the initial contraceptive rule from the Obama Administration but later came out in support of the compromise.

“The Catholic Health Association is very pleased with the White House announcement that a resolution has been reached that protects the religious liberty and conscience rights of Catholic institutions…The framework developed has responded to the issues we identified that needed to be fixed. We are pleased and grateful that the religious liberty and conscience protection needs of so many ministries that serve our country were appreciated enough that an early resolution of this issue was accomplished.”

Lizzie Jekanowski & Jessika Parry, Co-Presidents of Boston College Students for Sexual Health (BCSSH), “a student group whose mission is to fight for the health education and resources we need and deserve.” In 2009, BCSSH organized a student referendum where with one of the largest voter turnouts, almost 90% of students voted to expand sexual health services on campus-including prescriptions for birth control from their student health center.

Jon O’Brien, President of Catholics for Choice, and organization that “strive[s] to be an expression of Catholicism as it is lived by ordinary people. We are part of the great majority of the faithful in the Catholic church who disagrees with the dictates of the Vatican on matters related to sex, marriage, family life and motherhood. We are part of the great majority who believes that Catholic teachings on conscience mean that every individual must follow his or her own conscience — and respect others’ right to do the same.”

Kim (last name withheld for privacy reasons) or other young women who benefitted from the Affordable Care Act’s provision allowing young people to stay on their parent’s health insurance. While incredibly helpful when Kim was searching for a job after graduating from college, Kim’s Mom worked at a religious-affiliated hospital and therefore contraception was not covered in her health plan. Kim had to pay out-of-pocket.

Rev. Carlton Veazey, former President of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice. Rev. Veazey is a “a minister of the National Baptist Convention U.S.A. Reverend Veazey is founder of the Coalition’s celebrated National Black Church Initiative, which is breaking the silence in African American churches about sex and sexuality. His long and distinguished career in the ministry and public service and his commitment to social justice brought him to the presidency of the coalition of religious groups from 15 denominations and faith traditions.”

Rachel K. Jones and Joerg Dreweke who authored the Guttmacher Institute report “Countering Conventional Wisdom: New Evidence on Religion and Contraceptive Use.” In this report the authors discuss actual (instead of what “leaders” push) contraceptive usage of women (married and un-married) of various faiths.

April Flores, a student leader with the Texas Freedom Network Student Chapter at the University of Texas at Brownsville. April is a teen mom and uses her personal story to advocate for young people’s sexual health and rights in her community. She participated in (along with young people across the country) a Valentine’s Day Action showing support for contraceptive access in a district represented by Rep. Farenthold, the Member of Congress who compared the Administration’s rule on contraception to smoking bans at the Oversight hearing.

And of course…Sandra Fluke. The issue of using birth control for medical reasons is an important one that must also be shared. We as a movement just have to be cautious that this is not the only perspective we speak about, even if it makes people feel less awkward. At the end of the day, women (married and un-married) do have sex and don’t always want to conceive as a result of it!

Contraceptive access is an important issue. One that the majority of Americans support. One that I as a Millennial never thought I’d have to be fighting for. I need Congress to take this as serious as the young women I work with.

So while this is my quick take at a dream hearing, I’d love to hear YOUR thoughts. Who else do you think Congress needs to hear from?