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I have seen people change and at the same vein witnessed a retrograde in youths. I have been around areas where there\’s no hope for light and peace, but in this same situation some people still survive.

I have been around youths – Boys and Girls, that have made life difficult for themselves due to lack of knowledge. And my countenance has dwindled, because I have witnessed a holocaust of ruined lives in the past, even now.

I love peace and the prospect it brings. I love sanctuary – a foundation laid on the rocks of simplicity and the Arm of Justice.
I stand against the illegal acts displayed by the so-called Governmental body. I stand against rape, child abuse and its associated acts. I stand against the malfunctioning of child rights and value – I stand for a change, as an \”Advocate\”.

I stand as a Youth, Not a man, alone. But with men – the colony of change.
\”A man cannot be a faculty, men can. The necessity of change begins with not one man, but with the uniformity of all\”.
(Victor Omovbude Brown)

I stand against – Child punishment, Tribalism, criticism, Discrimination, and Queer visions. I stand for change, which is my first goal. As a youth, I stand for Unity, Peace and Progress.

I stand for a free and transparent Health service attributed to (children,youths and adults) – I stand against unequal rights and segregation in roles.
I stand for Quality Education – Void of preferential treatment, equal for all.
I stand against poor governance.

I am an \”Advocate For Youth\”.

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I have seen people change and at the same vein witnessed a retrograde in youths. I have been around areas where there’s no hope for light and peace, but in this same situation some people still survive.

I have been around youths – Boys and Girls, that have made life difficult for themselves due to lack of knowledge. And my countenance has dwindled, because I have witnessed a holocaust of ruined lives in the past, even now.

I love peace and the prospect it brings. I love sanctuary – a foundation laid on the rocks of simplicity and the Arm of Justice.
I stand against the illegal acts displayed by the so-called Governmental body. I stand against rape, child abuse and its associated acts. I stand against the malfunctioning of child rights and value – I stand for a change, as an “Advocate”.

I stand as a Youth, Not a man, alone. But with men – the colony of change.
“A man cannot be a faculty, men can. The necessity of change begins with not one man, but with the uniformity of all”.
(Victor Omovbude Brown)

I stand against – Child punishment, Tribalism, criticism, Discrimination, and Queer visions. I stand for change, which is my first goal. As a youth, I stand for Unity, Peace and Progress.

I stand for a free and transparent Health service attributed to (children,youths and adults) – I stand against unequal rights and segregation in roles.
I stand for Quality Education – Void of preferential treatment, equal for all.
I stand against poor governance.

I am an “Advocate For Youth”.

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By: Sarah Bradley ’17

On April 5, I and another freshmen member of Students for Sexual Health attended the Planned Parenthood Advocacy Fund of Massachusetts conference for campus organizers, alongside representatives from UMASS-Amherst, Boston University, Tufts University, Northeastern University, Smith College, and Wellesley College. It was a day of instruction and reflection on how to improve our campus outreach programs, strengthen our campaigns, recruit new members, and facilitate those difficult conversations concerning reproductive social justice. Discussions were encouraged as we exchanged ideas and strategies. Representing Boston College—a school where we as a student group have no support from the administration and literally stand on non-BC property sidewalks to distribute condoms—we represented a unique situation within the group.

It was both frustrating and incredibly exciting to hear what other schools were doing, to hear about their incredibly fun and innovative events and creative campus outreach programs. When we explained our situation as an unrecognized sexual health group at a Catholic college, the other representatives were shocked. They were quick to suggest different ways to rally support and to promote our cause, regardless of our campus situation. And they had some great ideas.

Taking the train home, I found myself wishing I attended a more liberal college where our student group could have more freedom with our outreach programs. Then I realized: as great as it is that these other Massachusetts schools have the ability to rally on campus and receive administrative support, the fact remains that this is not the situation we face at Boston College—at least, not now.

I’m a freshman. That means that I have three more years to continue working with Students for Sexual Health here at BC. If I had attended a more progressive college, maybe sexual health would have just been another cause among the lineup of tables at the club fair. But attending a conservative college, as frustrating as it may be, is an important push that maybe I would not have experienced otherwise. It’s not about sulking over the lack of administrative support; it’s about taking it as a challenge.

Personally, I know that I have three more years ahead of me of standing on the sidewalk passing out condoms, holding events off campus, and doing our best even as an unofficial group to educate our peers. And while it may not happen during my time here as a student, SSH will be an official group someday—but even then, Students for Sexual Health will continue to advocate for our cause and for our right to educate our peers here at BC.

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In the words of ROCK STAR youth activist Kirin Gupta, ““What is at stake today is an issue of sexism, classism, and oppression. It is the control exercised by money and power of a few who are twisting our country’s freedom of religion to deny basic freedoms to young, often already marginalized bodies. These choices are ours—not our schools, not our bosses, not anyone else’s.”

Today’s Supreme Court hearing on contraception and religious liberty was a big deal and we could not be more proud of the response from our friends, allies, co-workers, partner orgs, and youth activists all around the country.  Our voices have been heard, and we are watching!

Visit #DearSCOTUS for a comprehensive look at all the went down today, but here are a few pics too!

photo 3 photo 4 photo 5 1960963_10154052157820145_1817722768_o photo 2kirin jeryl

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WWD 2

In the past years, I have volunteered my skills and time on a number of community projects. But the feeling I had this morning after digging for the laying of pipes which will convey potable water to  the community of the of the Bassa Industrial area especially those of the “Plateau Guinness” neighborhood was  special. Special because sparked by the smiles on the faces  of the adults of this community who had come out in their numbers to contribute to the building of the taps from which will flow this so much talked about “Precious” liquid which some have said is “Life”. The smile on their faces was as radiant as I have only seen on the faces of children enjoying every minute of their life on a school playground at break.

These persons have every reason to smile because Cameroon’s water sector is one of the most neglected and poorly maintained. According to a United Nation’s Environment Program (UNEP), about 92% of Cameroonians living in cities have access to improved water while only 47% of Cameroonians living in rural areas can access potable water. This situation has not only been the cause of the repeated Cholera outbreaks that the country has experienced recently but caused untold damages in families and communities especially rural communities.

World Water DAY 2014In fact, these people who are not alone in their case have had their sisters, daughters, and mothers raped as they moved to the stream to fetch water, they have missed their lessons or being late to   school because of they have to move for long distances to fetch water for the family every morning while their peers are in class, and have lost a loved one to diarrhea and other water related diseases. This has no doubt contributed to the lamentable state of rural areas in my country Cameroon.

We must all make the progress our world is currently enjoying benefit all. It is only when the fruits of the progress the world is currently experiencing are enjoyed by all that the development we are so much clamoring for will really be sustainable.

Knowing that atrocities such as those described above are experienced by a countless number of people in other communities around the world is revolting because we live in a world of plenty and can all afford to make life better for all. In fact, the United Nations estimates that 800 million people lack access to safe, clean drinking water .May the below extract from Reflections on Water  by the  Ecumenical Water Network, a project of the World Council of Churches, inspire you to act  in your own small way for this liquid as we observe World Water Day today, March 22nd  2014.

 

Like the ticking of a clock marking out time, water drips noisily.

Maybe it drips off the edge of a stone or roof in times of rain and plenty,

or perhaps from a badly turned off tap in societies where earth’s most precious

and vital resource is unconsciously wasted.

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“Nothing decisive,Nothing sustainable,can be done in our country as long as this important part of ourselves remains in the oppression imposed on them by different systems of exploitation….the true empowerment of women is that which makes the woman responsible,that includes her in productive activities, and in the fight against the different challenges faced by our people. The true emancipation of women is that which forces consideration and respect from men”
Though these words may sounds like those of a convinced women’s rights activist of the second decade of the 21st century, they aren’t. These are words from Burkinabe revolutionary leader Thomas Sankara to women gathered to celebrate International Women’s day on March 8th 1987 a few months before his assassination.
The above was not only an appeal for women to never lose sight of the fundamental role they play in the progress of a society, but above all, a call to men and society as a whole to support them as they selflessly invest in the nation’s future at times through acts of courage that are often taken for granted or ignored such as beautifully balancing their role as mother, caretaker of the family, and increasingly bread winner for most families in my part of the world.
Rural Women deserve more……
 The brave women of the rural areas of Cameroonlive what I call “A life of service to the community” by waking up early to prepare the children for school; prepare breakfast for the family; toil all day in farms; return home late and despite the hard day’s work prepare dinner for the family. This makes me so proud of these women and reinforces my conviction that they merit more attention than is currently being accorded them by politicians and policy makers in the far away capital cities and comfortable skyscrapers in Yaounde, Addis Ababa, and NewYork.
Women make up more than half of Cameroon’s vastly youthful population. A majority of this very “important part of ourselves” live in the most ignoble of conditions in its rural areas and are on a daily basis subjected to torture, rape, and abuses of all sorts by men who are themselves oppressed by a society in which the gap between the very rich and the very poor is ever widening.
Economic Injustice is an Effective fertilizer for the Oppression of Women
Yes, a man who is powerless in the face of  his family’s inability to eat to their fill; cannot pay  health bills for his family; and cannot afford to send his children to school,  transfers the injustice done  him by society to his wife, sister, and daughteronly  in the face of whom he feels  “a real man”.Non-inclusive redistribution of a country’s resources therefore leads not only to economic inequality among a nation’s citizens but aggravates the already existing inequality through abuses of all sorts on women and girls.
Achievement of Millennium Development Goals is impossible without women 
Thus, greater economic opportunity is to be extended to rural area dwellers if the Millennium Development Goals to which this year’s International Women’s Day is dedicated are to ever be achieved and this cannot be done without the brave women who though living in these socially challenged areas, have put their lives “at the service of the community”

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TW: graphic discussion of rape and sexual violence

Using Mapping and Twitter to Fight Rape in Syria

The Women’s Media Center has created a user-generated map to document and raise awareness of sexual violence in Syria.

“The goals are three-fold: Firstly, we want to put the stories of sexualised violence in Syria on the map, drawing attention to them.

Secondly, we want to highlight where these abuses are taking place, pinpointing where victims need help, so that they can be offered survivor and psychosocial services once the fighting dies down.

The third aim is a long-term one – we want to build up a documentation base that could potentially be used as evidence if there’s going to be war crimes trials.”

via Vice

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Adrian Nava (18 years old) and Scarlett Jimenez (18 years old)

Colorado Youth CREATE Council Members

As educators, advocates, and allies of sexual health, we often ask ourselves why we are still having conversations about the implementation and support of comprehensive sexuality education for young people across the nation. For a lot of us, the issue of reproductive rights and justice is one that hits very close to home. As advocates, our stories and personal experiences hold immense power in our work. They allow us to break down barriers when interacting with others, and to create room for meaningful human connections and a space to share why we are so passionate about the work we do.

We share our stories with the hope that we will create awareness and support for comprehensive sex education. Having personal stories that reflect a lack of inclusion of all sexual orientations, or lack of information about healthy relationships and self–esteem, we – Scarlett and Adrian – understand and are optimal examples of why sexual health education is essential for all youth. During our years in advocacy, we have both been exposed to a world of possibilities, and have actively participated in various levels of advocacy.

From local to national participation, both of us have had the opportunity to express ourselves as young people. During the 2013 legislative session at Colorado’s State Capitol, we were actively involved in advocating for the passage of House Bill 1081, what has become known as Colorado’s “updated sex ed law.” We wanted to make sure that young people’s voices and concerns were included throughout the process. As part of CREATE, a youth advocacy council sponsored by Colorado Youth Matter and Advocates for Youth, we testified in favor of the bill during committee hearings and organized a youth advocacy day, which brought more than 230 youth to the capitol to speak to their legislators about the importance of passing laws that increase access to comprehensive sex education.

Adrian’s Story

Adrian NavaI consider myself an advocate not only for programs and policies that promote youth sexual health, but for change founded on social justice principles. As an advocate, a person of color, and someone who identifies as gay, I remember sitting in a crowded 7th grade health class during my glorious awkward pre-pubescent years, asking myself what the ladies at the front of the room were talking about. It turns out that these women were teaching the girls how to say “NO” to males who would only want to have sex with females. I then realized that this uncomfortable discussion was actually part of a “sexual health” class. Yikes! This situation was uncomfortable not only because I did not know what sexual health education looked like, but because I was being targeted as a male. I was expected to insist on having sexual intercourse with women. I was ultimately astonished and speechless at the sexist, and judgmental tone that was being set within a classroom environment.

As a student, I was genuinely eager to learn about what was going on inside of my body and mind. But after much talk about “male and female relationships,” I asked the teachers if it was possible for two boys to be together, and the teachers ignored my question and moved on to talk about the importance of abstaining from having sex.

I began to feel like it was wrong to ask that question – which meant that something about me was wrong, since I was attracted to people of the same gender as me. The following day, my peers and I participated in an activity in which one person was assigned to be a person with “AIDS.” To my surprise, that person was me. I learned later that gay men are stereotyped as having HIV, which only deteriorated my self-esteem and self-love because I was not exposed to positive messages about LGBT people.

My negative experience of feeling ignored and stigmatized in the classroom is the reason I became actively involved in advocacy work for increased access to comprehensive sex education. I was made to feel ashamed of being gay, which harmed my emotional health for a long period of time. I wish I could have received comprehensive, inclusive, medically accurate, age-appropriate information about my body and mind – but I didn’t.

However, just because my school did not provide me with that education, it does not mean that future generations should not have access. I am completely in love with my advocacy work and impacting my generation, for the better. I find empowerment through making my voice heard and mobilizing young people to speak about and advocate for their sexual health.

Scarlett’s Story

Scarlett JimenezI am an advocate for comprehensive sex education and reproductive rights and justice for young people, because I believe that the issues at hand should be considered as part of our basic human rights. I believe that young people should have the right to have access to accurate information about their bodies. Furthermore, youth deserve the opportunity to develop the life skills that are included in comprehensive sexuality education. I believe that my high school experience would have been a much happier and more successful time had that been included as part of my education.

On a daily basis, young women are bombarded with highly sexualized messages from the media that dictate the social norms. I think that it is absolutely essential for young women to learn that these messages are disempowering and are not actual expectations of women. All youth, regardless of their gender, deserve to hear that they are much more valuable than the media depicts them. High school is such a hectic and overwhelming stage for teens. Oftentimes, teens do not receive much needed positive and empowering messages about themselves or young people in general. I know that for myself, low sense of self-worth and a lack of basic sexual health information and the ability to communicate with my partner led me into an unsafe relationship and a very hard time in my life.

I am an advocate for comprehensive sexuality education, and all that it entails, because now I have a vision for future generations. Creating access to comprehensive sex education can inform and support youth to be empowered, inclusive, educated, compassionate, communicative, strong, and driven by their identified passions and goals.

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I came across a post inspired by the #MarchForLife activity taking place and thought it would be nice to share. My focus is mainly on the article about pro-life women who had abortions that they “justified”. I cannot believe how delusional people are.

“My first encounter with this phenomenon came when I was doing a 2-week follow-up at a family planning clinic. The woman’s anti-choice values spoke indirectly through her expression and body language. She told me that she had been offended by the other women in the abortion clinic waiting room because they were using abortion as a form of birth control, but her condom had broken so she had no choice! I had real difficulty not pointing out that shedid have a choice, and she had made it! Just like the other women in the waiting room.” (Physician, Ontario)

 What?! Please read and share widely within your networks. I had no idea this was going on.

 

Since all the #MarchforLife stuff is going on, here’s a little dose of cited reality for you all

thebicker:

Here’s the link to my old abortion references mega-post.

Some more factoids:

Remember, abortion rates remain the same whether it’s legal or not.

Seriously though, banning it doesn’t stop it from happening.

Pro-lifers get abortions too, though they cleverly justify them.

Abortion existed before Roe v. Wade. In fact, it’s existed since the premodern world.

Mother Jones wrote a great piece about what life was like before Roe v. Wade. (Spoiler alert: Harrowing.)

When someone can’t access a legal abortion, they’ll find another way to have one.

The pro-life protesters who stand outside of clinics frighten women into finding a non-public alternative. Patients of Kermit Gosnell (who performed illegal abortions and killed several patients and infants) said they saw him because they were afraid of the protesters at Planned Parenthood.

The Bible actually goes back and forth a lot about the whole abortion thing.

Public funding for places like Planned Parenthood prevent about 800,000 abortions every year.

Source: the bicker

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pro choice

Today marks the 41st anniversary of Roe vs Wade decision, the landmark US Supreme Court order that affirmed women’s reproductive right to abortion services. Although some states have placed restrictions on the access, American women still have the legal right to safe abortion services.

Roe vs Wade provides American women a basic human right which is the right to decide their own reproductive health whereas some women around the world have no choice and still struggle to get or to maintain reproductive freedom.

Due to poverty and the complex interplay of biological, social, and political forces, women in the global south such as countries in Africa and parts of south Asia face the tragic consequences of early marriages and or rape which lead to early conception and its complications like vesicovaginal fistulas.

Vesicovaginal fistulas (VVF) is a medical term for an abnormal hole between the bladder and a woman’s vagina that results in the continuous and involuntary discharge through the vagina instead of the normal passageway of the urethra.

The general public in the developed countries and most medical communities are still unaware of vesicovaginal fistulas and of the fact they result from obstructed labor very frequently in the developing countries because the injury rates are underreported. Early marriage for girls who have not fully developed their pelvic area and most importantly, lack of access to obstetric services like the right to abortion all plague the women in the developing countries.

The fact that girls in the global south do not have a choice in preventing birth related injuries like VVFs and do not have access to obstetric services like abortion points out the social injustices and the systems of inequality that are still present in the world.

As a member of Advocates for Youth, I’ve come to realize that the celebration of the anniversary of Roe vs. Wade means to appreciate the access to safe and legal abortion in America and to continue the fight for reproductive freedom so that generations of women worldwide and not just in America, can make their own decisions that are best for their health. Let’s recharge our efforts to champion reproductive justice so that all girls and women can have what we have!

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Here’s a short video of me talking about what Roe vs. Wade means to me. I’d really love to hear back from other young people. It would help to dispute the rhetoric that we don’t care about the repro-justice movement anymore.

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(reposted from USAToday, David Jackson, click for original and full post – Image of President Obama: Charles Dharapak – AP)

President Obama has put out his annual statement on the anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, praising the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that struck down anti-abortion laws.

“We reaffirm our steadfast commitment to protecting a woman’s access to safe, affordable health care and her constitutional right to privacy, including the right to reproductive freedom,” Obama said in a statement.

The president said he also wants to re-affirm commitments to “reduce the number of unintended pregnancies, support maternal and child health, and continue to build safe and healthy communities for all our children.”

 

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Birth-control-advantages

Just recently, I made a trip to the gynecologist to get a refill of my preferred birth control. I have the privilege of having insurance that requires no copay for appointments as such, and I had the privilege of getting into this doctor’s office within a month of calling. For my low-income neighborhood (see: health disparities), that was pretty quick. I was hoping for a quick appointment as well – sit down, update the doctor, get my prescription, and be on my way.

I haven’t been to this doctor in almost a year, but she had performed a pap smear and pelvic exam last visit. I also had no real changes between then and now. An added tidbit of information, I also just got a pelvic exam in the emergency room three months ago (unrelated, was nothing serious). I let the nurse know this, and I also informed her that I haven’t had any symptoms or real trouble. The doctor comes in, talks to me for a bit, and then instructs me to strip. The dreaded pelvic exam. The dreaded pelvic exam that I had just three months ago. When I protested and asked why she was doing a pelvic exam, I was told it is required to prescribe birth control. However, I had just been to the health district where they prescribed me birth control without me even taking my clothes off. I’d also like to note that my gynecologist did not ONCE ask me if I was sexually active, had been having unprotected sex, or if I’d like to get tested for HIV/STI’s, while the health district spent a good amount of time making sure they were fully aware of all my risk factors, and I was aware of the resources available to me.

I am seventeen, was in the office without a parent, and I did as instructed, not that I had much opportunity to do anything else. While still in the office, I decided to Google if pelvic exams are really required for birth control, contrary to my previous experience at the health district, only to find a massive online community outraged at the unnecessary pelvic exams women across the country are being forced into if they want a birth control prescription. According to a 2010 study, 1/3rd of of doctors and advanced nurses required pelvic exams before they would administer or prescribe hormonal birth control. Regardless of the fact thatguidelinesstudies, and experts have stated that pelvic exams are unnecessary.

Unnecessary pelvic exams are hindering in so many different ways. If a woman goes into her gynecologist to try to get a birth control prescription and is met with the unexpected price of a pelvic exam (around $350 in my experiences), this can keep the woman from obtaining birth control. My vagina, my rules, right? The simplest saying that carries the most weight, right? The simplest saying that is often betrayed by health care providers, particularly in marginalized communities. Minority groups and marginalized communities will not always have the means to pay for a pelvic exam. This puts women at risk of unintended and teen pregnancy, a problem that disproportionately affects communities of color. People of color are more likely to live in poverty which results in a probability that they would not be able to afford an unnecessary pelvic exam just so they can get birth control.

When it comes to effective birth control, we must do everything in our power to make it as easily attainable as possible. The fact is, pelvic exams often scare the young women I have encountered out of going to their doctors for birth control. I am still shocked by the fact that my gynecologist required a pelvic exam when I had just been prescribed birth control via the health district with NO pelvic exam necessary. These are the barriers that stand in the way of our young women and their reproductive health and choice. Women that do want birth control are often afraid or unable to obtain it because of things like mandated pelvic exams that raise appointments costs exponentially and leave women feeling like they have no choice but to lay back and allow it. I couldn’t help but feel slightly violated after my gynecology appointment, but more than violated, I was angry. I am angry that other people with vaginas are being forced to have unnecessary, highly invasive, uncomfortable exams that they can’t afford just to exercise their right to obtain birth control.

As with any issue, we need to speak up, speak loud, and speak truth. My body is not something for private doctor offices to turn a profit on. My body is not a vessel for your unnecessary medical treatments performed in keeping with tradition. I refuse to be quiet about this. Birth control should be accessible to all, without fear. I am speaking out, and I am not speaking alone.

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Hello :)

I just found this to be an interesting read. Enjoy. ^_^

 

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REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH

Ensure Access to Sexual & Reproductive Health and Rights

In 1994 at the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), governments worldwide recognized that ensuring access to sexual and reproductive health and protecting reproductive rights are essential strategies for improving the lives of all people.  A core strategy to achieve the MDGs is to ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health services for all by 2015. In 2006, The United Nations General Assembly included universal access to reproductive health by 2015 as one of the international community’s Millennium Development targets.

More than 222 million women worldwide have an unmet need for contraception.[1]

Of the 210 million pregnancies occurring each year, nearly 33 million are unintended.  These lead to approximately 21.6 million unsafe abortions, causing some 47,000 deaths annually.[2]

Most people become sexually active during adolescence, yet most young people do not have access to prevention programs.[3]

One in ten pregnancies end in an unsafe abortion.[4]

In Africa, one in five (22%) married women of reproductive age has an unmet need for contraception. Among married women, unmet need for contraception is highest among women ages 15-24.[5]

More than half of all women of reproductive age in developing countries, approximately 818 million, want to avoid pregnancy.  In total, 215 million women have an unmet need for modern contraception.

The current level of contraception prevents 188 million unintended pregnancies which results in 112 million fewer abortions, 1.1 million fewer newborn deaths, and 150,000 fewer maternal deaths.[6]

Roughly 52% of all people over the age of 15 living with HIV are women.[7]

Women ages 15-24 are three times more likely to be infected with HIV than men of the same age. In sub-Saharan Africa, women of the same age group are eight time more likely to be infected than men.[8]

Approximately 370,000 contracted HIV from mother-to-child transmission in 2009.[9]

At least two-thirds of all reported sexually transmissible infections occur among men and women under age 25. Many sexually transmitted infections affect the outcome of pregnancy and some are passed to unborn and newborn babies.[10]

The Costs of Poor Sexual & Reproductive Health

Worldwide, an estimated 250 million years of productive life are lost annually as a result of reproductive health problems.[11]

By investing in both family planning and maternal and newborn health services would save lives and cost $1.5 billion less than providing maternal and newborn services alone.[12]

One study estimated the economic impact of maternal and newborn mortality at more than US$15 billion annually worldwide in lost potential productivity, of which about half was associated with women and half with newborns.[13]

Maternal ill health results in much of the toll of the 4 million deaths of babies within the first month of life.[14]

Practical Solutions

Education can inform women about their bodies and give them options beyond childbearing. Of 137 million illiterate young people in the world, 63 percent are female.[15]

Fulfilling the unmet need for family planning would reduce global maternal deaths by two-thirds from 356,000 to 105,000.[16]

Access to emergency contraception reduces unintended pregnancies and abortions.

Treatment for HIV-positive mothers as well as their children is the most cost-effective approach, as motherless children are far less likely to survive to adulthood.

Investment in comprehensive reproductive health—contraceptive access, family planning counseling, safe abortion services—is cost-effective. Women and girls are better able to access education, have greater involvement in the community and achieve higher productivity in the workforce if there is access to health services.

WHO studies show that sex education delays the onset of sexual activity and increases safer sexual practice.[17]

Reducing gender inequality and empowering women leads to better reproductive and maternal health outcomes. Educated women are more likely than uneducated women to maternal and reproductive health services.[18]

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After Michigan House and Senate’s shameful support of a law that would force burial and cremation costs on those who sought abortions, they decided the next step would be to establish a “rape insurance” for people who have the ability to get pregnant earlier this month. The bill is infamously known as Michigan’s Rape Insurance bill, the actual name being The Abortion Insurance Opt-Out Act.  It places a ban on private insurance companies from covering abortion.  This forces women into buying extra coverage for their abortion care on top of their paid plans.  What’s more is that this legislation has no exceptions for rape or incest.  And the coverage can’t be purchased during a pregnancy, it has to be bought prior to one–because those who have the ability to become pregnant are in a constant state of being pre-pregnant.

The Guttmacher Institute’s research in payment for abortion shows that almost 70% of women pay out of their own pockets for this medical procedure, and almost 52% of those women found it difficult to pay.  So, what’s to become of that 52%?  What’s to become of those who already can’t pay for the treatment they need?  We already live in a system that routinely and unapologetically ignore the needs of the people.  It’s not just a limiting of our right to the health care we need.  It’s one more step to further marginalizing those who are already feeling the burden of an oppressive, unfree economy.

Not all are sitting idly while outside groups and politicians pushed for this.  Michigan Senator Gretchen Whitmer shared her own thoughts in a Huffington Post blog:

“I shared my story of being sexually assaulted because even if it wouldn’t give my Republican colleagues pause to reconsider the vote they were about to take, I at least wanted them to, for the first time, have to directly consider the consequences of their actions and see that those being hurt by it aren’t anonymous faces, but friends, family and, yes, even their colleagues on the Senate floor.

What’s too easily dismissed in these types of discussions is that this issue is not simply about pro-choice or pro-life, it is about interfering with contracts between women and our health care providers. This new law forbids private insurance companies from covering abortions unless a woman buys additional and preemptive coverage, even in the case of rape, incest, or even medically necessary dilation and curettage (D & C) procedures for planned pregnancies that went wrong.

This measure is extreme, ignorant and insultingly misogynistic. I’m disgusted to say that it is now the law of the land in Michigan, but how it became law is just as offensive as the law itself.

Right to Life of Michigan, an extremist special-interest group with significant financial backing from a select few secretive donors, has pushed for this law twice before. Both times they failed, as two different Republican Governors stood up to them and vetoed it. In fact, in explaining his veto of this measure earlier this year, Governor Rick Snyder, someone I don’t often agree with, rightly stated, “I don’t believe it is appropriate to tell a woman who becomes pregnant due to a rape that she needed to select elective insurance coverage.”

But instead of admitting defeat, Right to Life took their crusade even further. They exploited an obscure loophole in Michigan’s Constitution that allowed them to bypass the governor’s veto entirely, as well as the will of the people, by securing the signatures of only four percent of Michigan’s population to bring a so-called “citizens’ initiative” before the legislature and then flexed their political muscle over the Republican majority, forcing them to immediately vote it into law.”

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Buffer zone laws are meant to serve the simple purpose of aiding legal protection to abortion access and vary state to state, even country to country. They are viewed as bordering provisions for anti-abortion speakers and protestors to not infringe on the safety and well-being of an abortion provider’s patients and staff. In a few weeks, the Massachusetts buffer zone law will be heard in the Supreme Court, with anti-abortion activists and abortion activists ready and waiting. Reporters have already covered both sides of the story, and everyone in the reproductive justice community in Massachusetts is keeping a close eye on this decision.

 

With the Supreme Court hearing on Jan. 15, I wonder how the verdict will turn out. While anti-abortion activists will claim freedom of speech and assembly, these freedoms are not justified with previous histories of aggression, violence, and libel nationwide.

For those who work at the Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts, this decision hits close to home. Nearly two decades ago, a shooter entered a Planned Parenthood in Brookline, Massachusetts, and killed two people and wounded five others. As a result, Planned Parenthood moved to a new location, but the memory of those who died and were affected by this tragic incident sparked a movement to further protect staff and patients in abortion-providing settings.

Fast forward to 2013, and as I walk into Planned Parenthood for my internship, I see signs of defaced babies and crowds of people distributing anti-abortion material. The amount of anti-abortion activism varies, but it’s enough to know that the anti-abortion movement is strong in Massachusetts.

Let’s see what the new year brings.

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image

 

I am a pretty big fan of sitting at home with food and shows to binge on.  And East Los High caught my full and undivided attention.  I’m not normally into soapy teen dramas, but the problems teens face everyday, especially teens of color in neighborhoods like East Los, were real.

While many find sex and the details of it to still be taboo to discuss, teens are left without the rights and respect to get the knowledge they need to better protect themselves.  I found it so refreshing to find a series that is easily relatable, stimulating, and educational.  Oh, and guess what?  Characters in the show can actually say the word “abortion.”  There wasn’t a Voldemort treatment of an actual medical procedure that one out of three women in the United States will experience in their lifetime.  Even better, several choices and paths that follow unprotected sex are explored and tidbits of helpful sexual health facts and info are casually placed into the dialogue.  There’s even brief but impactful conversations on masculinity and gender roles in regards to safe sex throughout the show.

I had a Hulu Plus account and was fortunately able to view the “Hulu exclusive” series, but anyone can watch the full episodes on the East Los High website.  It’s a good and fairly accessible teen drama with lots of examples and lessons to share.    There are little whispers about a second season to appear, and I am excitedly waiting.  Not everyone shared my enthusiasm for the show though.  An online “news” article from Life Site News expressed an opinion:

Planned Parenthood’s has its guns aimed squarely at Hispanic teens, as it continues its latest foray into eugenic targeting via an unbelievably salacious novella featuring an all-Latino/Latina cast…

What kind of public service is done by the airing of this trashy novella directed to Hispanic teens? And just what is the “moral” of Episode 1? Finish the dance with your boyfriend before dashing to the car to have sex with someone else? Watch out when you have sex in a car because someone may be videotaping you? Being voted Winter Queen will make you extremely popular on the hookup circuit?

How can anyone even use the word “moral” in connection with this series?

There are some other significant things that this writer neglects to mention besides the awesome sexual health info and examples found throughout the series.  East Los High is the first English language show with an all Latino cast.  And what is even better is that the cast defies the mainstream roles that Latino people are often forced into.  For something like this to be left out in this diatribe is quite telling of the kind of perspective the writer has, especially with the condescending and twisted but very nonexistent link between the show and fictitious eugenic attempts.

Miriam Perez, a past contributor on Racialicious, Feministing, and RHRealityCheck, has written on this topic of anti-choice movements making it seem like they care about women of color.  Her post was originally found on RHRealityCheck, but I pulled it off Racialicious.  From the succinct and eloquent post Worried About Women of Color? Thanks, But No Thanks, Anti-Choicers. We’ve Got It Covered:

At first glance, it’s nice to see the anti-choice community pretending to care about communities of color. But within a few minutes, the skepticism sets in. What’s really behind these tactics, coming from a group that is majority white, middle-class and Christian? In the end, we know this isn’t actually about women of color and their well-being. It’s a sensationalist attempt to pit women of color against the reproductive rights movement. Classic divide and conquer…

We’ve fought back against governmental policies like welfare family caps and limits on access to certain types of contraception over others. We’ve fought with the reproductive rights community to get them to care about these issues and how they affect our communities—and we’ve won.

We’re fighting for access to contraception, to abortion, to options for childbirth and parenting. And now we’ll fight the racist and paternalistic logic behind the eugenics arguments being made by anti-choicers.

Life Site News has urged concerned citizens to call  Hulu’s corporate headquarters at 310-571-4700 to remove the series and to make sure a second season contract cannot be extended.  Please use the number to the opposite.

(This has also been posted on my blogs FanTalk and STFU, Pro-Lifers.)

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Seeing a pregnant teenager makes many people uncomfortable. The discomfort is rooted in facing the reality that the comforting lies these people tell themselves about youth not being sexual beings, don’t have questions about sex, and aren’t having sex are wrong.
By finding comfort and silence in their disillusions they too play a role in the high rate of unintended pregnancies experienced by teenagers and young adults everyday.
I remember being a pregnant 15 year old and complete strangers glaring at me, stopping me to lecture me on what a mistake I have made and how terrible I make the world, and telling me how dumb I was for not just saying no and keeping my legs closed.
After having my daughter some of these things subsided because I was no longer a pregnant teen they felt inclined to harass instead the disillusions took on a new form. When people would see me with my daughter they told themselves I was the baby sitter, older sister, nanny, cousin, anything BUT the mother.
The few rude brave ones would approach me and ask me if I was her mother. “YES!” I would proudly answer with the new mother glow only to be scoffed at, looked up and down, and walked away from.
Teenagers become pregnant for a variety of reasons: inadequate sex education, lack of access to affordable contraceptives, no one to talk to about sex and relationships, poverty, boredom, sexual assault, planning a pregnancy, all types of reasons. However, the overwhelming consensus is elders are failing to help youth navigate the world of relationships and sexuality in a healthy way so teens are figuring it out on their own.
Don’t like it? Change it by changing the way YOU (read adults) address and deal with approaching the topic. It isLet’s Talk Month… maybe you should start listening and stop comforting yourself with lies.

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The image above pretty much sums up the pro-life movement. Fetuses are more valuable than women in utero. And after they are born, the same people who professed to fight for its rights suddenly couldn’t care less.

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(reposted from The Nation, originally posted by Katha Pollitt)

How could something so basic be in such short supply? Diapers are expensive—up to $100 a month—particularly for women who don’t have transportation and must rely on bodegas and local convenience stores. Some women reported spending 6 percent of their total income on paper nappies. And before you say, “Let them use cloth,” Marie Antoinette, bear in mind that diaper services are expensive, few poor women have their own washing machines, most laundromats don’t permit customers to launder dirty diapers and most daycare programs don’t allow cloth diapers. Like fresh fruit and vegetables, humanely raised meat and dairy products, and organic baby food, cloth diapers are the province of the well-off.

Despite this clear need, however, diapers are not covered by the food stamp program (SNAP) or by the Women, Infants, and Children feeding program. The government apparently finds them unnecessary, like other hygiene products (toilet paper, menstrual supplies, toothpaste, even soap), which are also, unlike food, subject to sales tax. Never mind that babies can’t choose not to pee and poo and did not select their parents. Never mind, too, that those grandmothers who are the hardest hit caregivers are performing a crucial social task—and saving the taxpayer millions—by keeping those kids out of foster care.

Food, it’s true, is even more basic than diapers. But some people believe low-income children don’t really need that either. If House Republicans have their way, 4 to 6 million SNAP recipients may soon find themselves bounced from the rolls. This, at a time when the Department of Agriculture tells us that 17.6 million households regularly go hungry, up from 12 million ten years ago. Proving yet again that there really is a difference between the parties, Republicans want to cut the food stamp budget by $40 billion over the next ten years.

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(Image reposted from Amplify Facebook – click here for more)

Urban Retreat 2013 was truly an experience beyond any tier.  Never have I ever been surrounded by so many like-minded individuals–as much of an oxymoron as that might sound.  We were all individuals because we all had our own story to share.  We came from many different walks of life and parts of the world.  All of us had to overcome some type of unique trauma and oppression that we were facing in our own separate lives.  But we celebrated our diversity.  And we were all there in unison trying to contribute to the vision we shared for the world.

I might have been a tiny bit apprehensive about making the trip to Washington, D.C. at first.  I wasn’t really enthusiastic about being away from my girlfriend.  It was a place I had never been to on my own.  I would be surrounded by strangers.  But these strangers quickly became my friends.  And these friends were all activists and advocates for social progress in their own communities from all over the world, so I had a lot to learn from them.  And I found, to my surprise, that I had things I could share with them as well.  Together we received training to become more effective activists and leaders.  And after the inspiring trainings and workshops, we headed to Capitol Hill together to share our stories and insight with our representatives.  It was a self-affirming and inspiring experience.

I even got to meet Janet Mock!  We talked and had dinner.  She even tweeted me and followed me on Twitter!

It’s thanks to Urban Retreat that I’ve gained new tools, resources, and concepts that would empower me and inspire me to be more involved in activism and advocacy for social justice.  And it’s thanks to Urban Retreat that I’ve gained a new family with YouthResource.  Today I woke up this morning and found myself in my own bed in Michigan.  I wasn’t in Washington, D.C. with my fellow advocates anymore.  The realization was bittersweet.  But I know I’ll see these faces soon enough with stories to share.

 

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Documenting the Social and Economic Benefits of Family Planning

Reposted from: Guttmacher Institute, written by Adam Sonfield

Public health experts have long emphasized the benefits to maternal and child health of helping women and couples avoid unintended pregnancy and better time and space the pregnancies they have. Notably, numerous U.S. and international studies have found a causal link between closely spaced pregnancies and three key birth outcome measures: low birth weight, preterm birth and small size for gestational age.1 And a large body of literature highlights an association between unintended pregnancy and delayed initiation of prenatal care, as women are more likely to realize early that they are pregnant if they were trying to become pregnant.

Yet, although the preventive health benefits of unintended pregnancy prevention are clear and persuasive—and, indeed, provided the impetus for the new federal requirement that most private health plans cover contraception without copays or deductibles (see “The Case for Insurance Coverage of Contraceptive Services and Supplies Without Cost-sharing,” Winter 2011)—the primary reasons American women give for why they use and value contraception are social and economic. Women know that controlling whether and when to have children has positive benefits for their lives. A pair of recent Guttmacher Institute analyses explore their motivations and the benefits they accrue from acting on them. READ MORE

 

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Koch Bros. Give Millions to Anti-Choice Efforts in the States

Reposted from: RHRealityCheck, written by Adele M. Stan

To hear the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch tell it, they’re all about business; they don’t give a whit about those messy, so-called “social issues” like abortion, contraception, or same-sex marriage. The billions they dump into the political coffers of the right, they’ll tell you, are to further what they call “free enterprise” (translate: killing unions and regulations on business) and, more generally, “freedom” (by which they generally mean freedom from things they don’t like, such as regulations and unions).

But a blockbuster report published Thursday by Politico reporters Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei shows otherwise. How else to explain why Freedom Partners, a shadowy group that Politico refers to as the “Kochs’ secret bank” gave $8.2 million to the virulently anti-LGBT, anti-abortion Concerned Women for America Legislative Action Committee (CWALAC), which lobbies for such bills as the recently passed law in Texas that will effectively ban all abortion 20 weeks after fertilization, and includes unnecessary and onerous regulations on abortion clinics that are designed to compel many to close their doors.

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Texas woman drives four hours to Planned Parenthood after being shamed for hickey

Reposted from: Raw Story, written by David Edwards

A Texas woman who was shamed by her doctor for having a hickey and wanting birth control says she is now forced to drive four hours to a Planned Parenthood clinic for health care due to the state’s new anti-abortion laws.

Athena Mason told KUT that her first visit to the doctor as a student at Texas A&M was awkward.

“I had a hickey and the doctor was just like, you shouldn’t be doing that,” she recalled. “I’m like, ‘It’s a hickey, it’s nothing major.’ But I got a big lecture. [He said] my boyfriend was abusive and all of these things. And then I asked for birth control. I did not hear the end of that. So I said never mind, I’ll go somewhere else.”

Mason started using the Planned Parenthood clinic in Bryan. But that facility is one of four women’s health service providers that closed in August after the state passed new regulations restricting abortions.

So Mason now drives four hours to the Planned Parenthood clinic in Austin for health care.

In 1998, Cadence King was diagnosed with pre-cancerous cells on her cervix and became a patient at the Planned Parenthood clinic in Bryan. She had returned for regular checkups in the years since, but she has missed visits in recent weeks because the clinic closed.

King is now struggling to find a new health care provider. Her only options are driving three hours to Beaumont or waiting four months for the next opening with the one Bryan clinic that’s willing to take her case.

 

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The definition of an advocate is a person who publicly supports or recommends a particular cause or policy. The definition of being passionate is having strong feelings or beliefs for something. I am an Ohio advocate because I encompass both traits and now have an outlet in which I can help implement policy change that reflects what I support and believe in.

There is a huge inequality issue not only on the federal level but also on the state and local level. There needs to be a regulated comprehensive sex education program implemented in Ohio, there needs to be an end of making the LGBTQ community second class citizens and the bullying and dehumanizing of students in schools everywhere needs to be put to a stop. Through Ohio advocates, I now have the tools, support and voice to help change the black and white values and patterns of society.

I am an advocate for all people, regardless of size, age, race, sexual orientation or gender. I am passionate and hopeful for the equality of all people in the state and country. My name is Hannah, and this is why I am an Ohio advocate.

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August 2013 is the beginning of my second year as a Broward County Youth Council member. This year will be bitter sweet for  me because I am aging out. I am extremely excited for what this year has to bring. All of the hard work we did last year is slowly coming to fruition. I am excited to see how everything falls into place regarding comprehensive sex ed in the Broward County school system. This year we have a few new members and I am anxious to work with them on our upcoming projects. This year will be EPIC for me. I plan on having a blast. Urban Retreat is s quickly approaching and I am ready to learn new techniques and tools that will help me be a better advocate. This year will definitely be a memorable one.

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Just yesterday on a Friday afternoon, I posted the petition to make The Real Education for Healthy Youth Act a reality on my reproductive justice blog.  It’s not much, but it’s already gained a little less than 900 notes on Tumblr.  Popular blogs like ST*U, Sexists and F*ck Yeah, Sex Education just gave the petition a signal boost and I’ve seen a lot of #vision4sexed hashtags on Twitter, so we’ll be sure to see more feedback before September 10.  And the youth activists have been out and about getting physical signatures, which is something I’m doing once school is back in session.  Some people are reblogging it with their own commentary to emphasize the importance of it, and sometimes it’s all in caps so you know it’s a pretty big deal.  Especially with our current culture’s views on sexuality and education.  No one should have to suffer another abstinence only class in which our youth, especially girls, are compared to used up candy wrappers and dirty pieces of tape if they’re sexually active.  If you haven’t already and you support comprehensive sex education, definitely sign the petition and share it!

The petition page lets you know exactly what you’re saying when you’re leaving behind a signature:

I support the Real Education for Healthy Youth Act, a sex education vision that outlines what young people truly need. The bill not only authorizes funding for comprehensive sex education directed towards adolescents and college students, but also prioritizes teacher training so that our nation’s educators have the tools they need to be effective in the classroom.

Let’s work to realize our vision of young people receiving the sex education they need in order to lead healthy lives and have healthy relationships. We owe it to them to provide them honest sexual health education. With the Real Education for Healthy Youth Act we can start bringing our vision for sex ed to life!

My vision for sex education includes letting our youth know that it’s never okay to shame others for being sexually active or abstinent by choice.  My vision for sex education also includes teaching our youth the signs of an abusive relationship, whether it’s emotional, physical, or both.  I’d love for there to be discussions that include the LGBTQ community because often they are erased from the topic, leaving many without resources.  I find it to be very dangerous to let our youth go through life without the tools they need to have healthy lives.  Comprehensive sex education just makes perfect sense to me.  What’s your vision for sex ed?

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New York City’s Health Department understands that you have to meet youth where they’re at and today youth are almost always on their phones.
Knowing this NYC’s Department of Health has released two apps, Find Condoms NYC and Teens in NYC Protection+ that help youth locate sexual health services as well as LGTQ counseling centers in their immediate locations through the “near me” or “current location” options or through typing in an address.
Both apps are extremely user friendly and are available through the app store for free! In addition these apps help youth locate FREE condoms!
While some individuals are trying to lessen the amount and or access to medically accurate sexual health and mental health consoling for youth, I applaud New York Cities Department of Health for releasing these apps which are literally at any youth’s fingertips who have a smart phone.
One of the things I would like both apps to have is a set by set guide or video on how to properly place both a female and male condom because although many people know what a condom is many have no idea how to properly use one. Thankfully fellow Amplify contributor has outlined the 12 Steps, yes there are 12, to using a male condom properly.
I hope more cities that lack comprehensive sex ed are taking similar strides to providing youth and young adults in their cities the information they need and want by developing sexual health apps for smart phone users.

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Despite the heroic efforts of Wendy Davis and pro-choice supporters in Texas, a sad day occurred in Texas on the July 18th, 2013 when Rick Perry signed a new restrictive, abortion ban into existence which bans abortion at 20 weeks. Another Republican representative immediately followed up this ban with HB 59 legislation that bans abortion after detecting a fetal heartbeat- a law that eerily mirrors Ohio’s version called the Heartbeat Bill.

 

Though I have written about the restrictive abortion bills that have popped up in recent months and how detrimental they are to women’s health and reproductive freedom as a whole, this instance in particular is quite upsetting to me. It’s upsetting that multitudes of people have shown their support to these restrictive bills, creating even more barriers for the people who are constituents that these representatives are supposed to serve. They pro-choice supporters are blatantly mocked, dismissed and ignored by the representatives and eventually ends with a slap in a face by doing the exact opposite of what people are asking for. Ignoring their constituents at the great price of treating women as second class citizens who do not have the right to make the best decisions for themselves and their families without being treated like common criminals, is seemingly their goal. It’s a disturbing trend that sees no signs of letting up in the near future.

 

Show your support of abortion rights by visiting www.1in3campaign.org! For information on where to seek abortion services, text SEXT to 74574.

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Ireland Has Performed Its

First- Ever Legal Abortion,

And It Saved A Dying Woman’s

Life

(Re-posted from ThinkProgress)

The first legal abortion in an Irish hospital has been carried out in Dublin, the Irish Times confirmed on Friday. It represents the first pregnancy termination under Ireland’s historic new abortion law, which slightly relaxed the country’s total ban to allow for legal abortions in cases when it’s necessary to preserve a woman’s life.

Before Ireland’s prime minister approved the new law in July, the country’s abortion laws had not been updated since 1867. Now, there are 25 Irish hospitals that are authorized to perform legal abortions in life-threatening cases without worrying about legal repercussions.

The National Maternity Hospital in Dublin carried out the pregnancy termination for a dying woman whose membrane had ruptured for more than 24 hours. She ran a high risk of sepsis, and her 18-week twin fetuses had no chance of survival outside of the womb. Doctors said her case bore many similarities to that of Savita Halappanavar, a 31-year-old woman who died after being denied an emergency abortion in an Irish Catholic hospital last year. Halappanavar developed sepsis after she began to miscarry, but doctors wouldn’t terminate her doomed pregnancy until the fetal heartbeat had officially stopped three days later — and by that time, it was too late.

The Irish Times reports that in contrast to Halappanavar, the woman who received a legal abortion this month “has made a good recovery after receiving antibiotic treatment and undergoing the termination a number of weeks ago.”

Ireland’s new abortion law was spurred by Halappanavar’s tragic death, which sparked a global controversy. Reproductive rights activists vowed that an individual would “never again” be denied the life-saving medical care that could avert this type of tragedy. But even though Ireland has slightly relaxed its stringent abortion law to successfully avert another Savita, a handful of other conservative Catholic countries still impose total bans on the procedure. Following Halpannavar’s death, similar controversies have unfolded in El Salvador and Chile.

The Guttmacher Institute’s research has found that harsh bans on abortion don’t actually lower abortion rates. Instead, they simply encourage women to risk their lives to end a pregnancy illegally. An estimated 47,000 women around the world die each year from unsafe abortions — and that figure doesn’t include women like Halpannavar who die from pregnancy-related complications that an abortion could have averted.

SOURCE

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The piece explains how residents in this particular Bronx zip code have at least two of the following STD’s:HIV hepatitis B, hepatitis C, gonorrhea, syphilis, chlamydia and tuberculosis?”
 
This got me thinking about what major campaigns or sex education curriculums have arguably lesser known STD’s as prominent as HIV/ AIDS. Sex education usually stresses HIV/ AIDS so much that other STD’s are seen as less serious, less likely to be contracted, and in some cases completely forgotten about. 
 
The immediate comments following the article were:
 
“I knew it would be The Bronx. Lotz of dope users.” Actually the title says it in big bold letters above.
 
“What do you expect when most residents of 10457 can’t even spell STD?”
 
And the eloquent: “We are the ones paying for these creatures aids treatments, at  40-80K for the rest of their lives.” SO MUCH WRONG WITH THIS.
 
HOLD ON! 10457 is my zip code!
I can tell you first hand that finding a condom in my neighborhood is damn near impossible. I remember sitting down one day and wondering where I could go and get a condom for free if I needed one and not being able to come up with anywhere that was within walking distance from my home. 
The comments go on to talk about how terrible myself and my neighbors are. 
 
However, not one of the comments I read, and I had to soon stop because it appears the Daily News has captured the most ignorant and judgmental audience in New York City, stopped to think about the lack of access, affordability, and social problems that factor into these findings. 
 
While the Upper West Side and Upper East Side richer neighborhoods have more access, information, and actually teach a more comprehensive sex education curriculum in their schools. The reality is The Bronx and specifically 10457 is way behind with all of the above. 
 
As a resident I’m racking my brain about the initiatives I can start to change my neighborhood from “Disease Alley” to “Accurate Sex Education Condom Alley.” 

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Ohio Republicans Pledge to Reintroduce Heartbeat Ban

“We are ready to start the fire again,” said state Rep. Christina Hagan at the press conference, which was filled with reporters as well as members of the Duggar family, reality television stars who have become some of the new faces of the evangelical anti-choice movement.

Speaking in favor of the ban was Michelle Duggar, matriarch of the 19 Kids and Counting family. With 17 of her 19 children in tow, Duggar spoke against the “baby holocaust” occurring in the United States, a talking point she also used at a Texas press event roughly a month ago: “There is a baby holocaust taking place, where doctors and nurses are paid to take the lives of innocent, unborn children. … If we do not speak up and do something to stop this holocaust, the blood of these little ones will be on our hands.”

Michelle’s oldest son, Josh, was recently named executive director of FRC Action, the political arm of the right-wing Christian group Family Research Council, an avid heartbeat ban supporter.

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Prison Birth: Exploring Prison Justice Through Orange is the New Black

(Re-posted from Because I Am Woman an AH-MAZING sex-positivity, sex-ed, feminism, reproductive justice, birth justice, intersectionality, and activism blog. Check them out, and THANK YOU for letting us post this piece here.)

Orange is the New Black has been getting a lot of press lately, and it is certainly well deserved. The dark comedy features a dynamic and multi-faceted cast of women and gives a first-hand look into many of the realities women in prison face that are often left out of the conversation in mainstream culture and other prison related media. The visibility of the series has opened up many vital conversations on topics such as birthing, healthcare for trans people, mental health, privilege, sexuality and even the prison industrial complex itself. Over the course of the next couple of weeks, I will be exploring these issues (and more) through the lens of the Orange is the New Black.

First up, we will be taking a good hard look at birthing in prison. Although birth has been an increasingly popular topic in reproductive justice and feminism in recent years, people experiencing it in prison aren’t often considered as part of the equation. In Orange is the New Black we are introduced to what birthing in prison might look like for people who are incarcerated when one inmate, Ruiz, is about to give birth during episode 8. Over the course of the episode, (although only a minor plot point), we see Ruiz go into labor and be told by a pharmacy tech that she may not go to a hospital until her contractions are extremely close together. When the time finally comes, Ruiz is taken away only to return at the end of the episode silently wheeled back into a room of women without her child. As the room of women turn to look at her, the silence that fills the room provides viewers with a shared sense of loss and sadness for the new mother, one that is likely in prison for a minor crime, who has already been taken from her child.

What we saw in this episode is only the beginning of what pregnancy and birth actually look like for many in prison. According to The Prison Birth Project, “In prison, 4-7% of women are pregnant, the same percentage as in the wider population; 85% are mothers, and 25% were pregnant upon arrest or gave birth in the previous year.” This demonstrates that reproductive health and pregnancy are clearly an issue for those incarcerated, and an issue that cannot be ignored in the reproductive justice movement. There is a need for education, advocacy, and support amongst these populations.

The reality of giving birth for many prisoners is also much worse than what we saw on Orange is the New Black. Many in prison are denied the medical care they need (pre and post-natal), and many more give birth still shackled in prison instead of in a hospital. Although advocates in many states have been pushing for change, only 16 states have passed legislation to outlaw the barbaric shackling of prisoners birthing and in labor. In their report “Mothers Behind Bars”by the National Women’s Law Center and the Rebecca Project for Human Rights, the organizations gave almost half of all states a failing grade for their treatment of pregnant and birthing people, and point out that there is no national standards for treatment and care of those who experience pregnancy behind bars.

Fortunately, there are people and organizations out there organizing around these issues. The Prison Birth Project and Birth Behind Bars both act as advocates in their respective areas and bring doulas into prisons to aid in birth and pregnancy. You can support them by volunteering your time, money and support, as well as by continuing to spread the word on these issues.

As for Orange is the New Black, we can likely count on this not being the last pregnancy and/or birth we see in the series. Since the pregnancy of Daya by a prison guard is a much bigger plot point in the show, it is my hope that we see a more well-rounded and realistic depiction of what this experience looks like for inmates in the second season.

BECAUSE I AM WOMAN

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One year ago, then-Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO) uttered his infamous “legitimate rape” comment when explaining his opposition to abortion even in the case of rape. The comment gave the public a rare peek into the extreme views Akin and other like-minded conservatives have on reproductive rights and how fundamentally misinformed they are on matters of basic biology.

The comment was the beginning of the end of Akin’s Senate run. But while it may have cost him an election, it hasn’t stopped Republicans across the country from trying to legislate legal abortion out of existence. On Friday, the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) quantified those efforts in a new report, Shut That Whole Thing Down: A Survey of Abortion Restrictions Even in Cases of Rape. The report looks at abortion legislation in the states and Congress from the first half of 2013 and finds that:

  • 86 percent (235) of the 273 provisions that politicians introduced in state legislatures to restrict a woman’s access to abortion apply to a woman whose pregnancy resulted from rape.

  • 71 percent (27) of the 38 state provisions restricting women’s access to abortion enacted by the states apply to a woman whose pregnancy resulted from rape.

  • 72 percent (18) of the 25 bills introduced in Congress to restrict a woman’s access to abortion apply to a woman whose pregnancy resulted from rape.

Source: http://rhrealitycheck.tumblr.com/

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Fetal Pain Is A Lie: How Phony Science Took Over The Abortion Debate

New laws banning abortion after 20 weeks are based on pseudoscience — and real research proves it conclusively.

This article originally appeared on Salon.com.

Since Nebraska first jump-started the trend back in 2010, close to a dozen state legislatures across the country have passed laws banning abortion at 20 weeks. Most of these restrictions are given grave-sounding titles like the “Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act,” or some near-identical riff on the words “fetal,” “pain” and “protection.” All of them, no matter what they’re called, rest on the stated premise that a fetus can experience pain at 20 weeks, and that this is a sufficient justification to ban all abortions after this gestational stage.

But “fetal pain” in the popular discourse is a nebulous concept, one that lawmakers like Jodie Laubenberg, Trent Franks and others haven’t much bothered to define or help ground in available medical evidence.

Probably because there really isn’t any. The limited research used to support such claims has been refuted as pseudoscience by both the Journal of the American Medical Association and the British Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. (Not to mention smaller studies from researchers at Harvard University, University College London and elsewhere.)

“We know a lot about embryology [in the field]. The way that a fetus grows and develops hasn’t changed and never will,” Dr. Anne Davis, a second-trimester abortion provider, associate professor of clinical obstetrics and gynecology at Columbia University Medical Center, and consulting medical director at Physicians for Reproductive Health, told Salon. “And what we know in terms of the brain and the nervous system in a fetus is that the part of the brain that perceives pain is not connected to the part of the body that receives pain signals until about 26 weeks from the last menstrual period, which is about 24 weeks from conception.”

Because the neural structures necessary to feel pain have not yet developed, any observable responses to stimuli at this gestational stage — like the fetal “flinching” during an amniocentesis — are reflexive, not experiential. Which is to say, the fetus at 20 weeks can’t actually feel anything at all. Which is to say, the fundamental justification for these laws is a really big, really popular lie.

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North Carolina House Republicans sneak abortion rules into motorcycle safety bill without notice

North Carolina House Republicans have, without notice, inserted sweeping changes to the state’s abortion rules into a motorcycle safety law. Effectively, they’ve reintroduced the abortion bill that Governor Pat McCrory had threatened to veto.

 

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Make videos!

Forward Together youth are excited to present their brand new video series… Sex Ed: the Saga!

Sex Ed: the Saga is a video series created by and for youth and is a way for young people to lead conversations that adults don’t always know how to have with us. Forward Together Youth are aiming to get young people, caregivers, teachers, and mentors to start conversations on the topics often left at the door.

The first video they’ve released is “20 Condoms,” a sex positive, protection-endorsing riff on Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ song Thrift Shop. This video along with all the others in the Sex Ed: the Saga video series promote a comprehensive and LGBTQ inclusive sex education that is essential to cultivating justice in our communities and empowering young people!

Check it out!

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Originally posted at Choice USA: Choice Words:

India just banned the use/exploitation of dolphins as entertainment, as they are now considered “non-human persons”Blackfish, a documentary about the psychological realities other animals face when confined in captivity, has just opened in theaters (at the distress of SeaWorld). Bird brain mapping has recently revealed that birds are “remarkably intelligent in a similar way to mammals such as humans and monkeys,” but ‘bird brain’ is still an insult. And the U.S. State Department and President Obama have decided to push ahead with building the Keystone XL Pipeline’s southern half amongst numerous questionable building practices, even though the previous Keystone I Pipeline has leaked fourteen different times. But isn’t this the Choice USA blog? What does this have to do with reproductive justice? Everything.

feminist cat

Having grown up with cats my whole life and having a vegetarian mother, I guess you could sayI was predisposed: at age 10 I chose to become a vegetarian and at age 19 I chose to begin living a vegan lifestyle. Somewhere in between there I also became a sexual health peer educator and have dedicated all of my time and effort to the reproductive justice movement ever since— including my eating habits.

 I, like many of you, am pro-choice because I believe in each individual’s autonomy concerning their own body, lifestyle, and choices. I am pro-choice because I challenge any attempt to infringe on each individual’s freedom to control their own bodies and minds. I am pro-choice because it is not my place to coerce or use another being’s body as a means to any reproductive end she did not choose. And I am vegan for the exact same reasons.

(more…)

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After over a decade of pointless restrictions and politics taking priority over science, emergency contraception (EC) is finally on store shelves where it belongs! Regardless of age, anyone can now buy Plan B One-Step® as easily as they stock up on ibuprofen—no need to show identification or get a pharmacist involved. This is especially important for young people, who no longer need to get prescriptions or show ID they may not have. At last, we’re trusted to make responsible decisions about our bodies and lives.

Want to join in on the celebration? There’s a fun and simple way to show your support—here’s how:
1. Go to rhtp.org/ECotcGraphic.asp and print out a Healthcare in Your Hands graphic. Fill in your name and location.

2. Take a trip to your local pharmacy and find EC in the family planning aisle, near the condoms and pregnancy tests.

3. Either pose for a picture with your graphic and EC in the store or buy some and take your picture at home. (Remember, EC is always good to have around!)

4. Submit your picture to ecotc.tumblr.com/submit and tell us about your experience finding EC or why you’re excited that it’s finally on store shelves.

It’s that easy to join the party and show how many people can finally take their healthcare into their own hands! Check out ecotc.tumblr.com for more helpful information about the new rules for purchasing generic emergency contraception and what to do if a pharmacist denies you access.

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When we hear about politicians making unqualified and uneducated statements about abortion and reproductive/sexual health, we just shake our heads, asking ourselves and our peers, “How does someone like that get into office?”

Not to diminish your faith in humanity, but less than a couple weeks ago, Brian Nieves, a Republican state senator of Missouri, commented in a Facebook argument to a pro-choice priest, “‘Life of the Mother?’ Your own argument proves it is a matter of convenience!”  State senator Brian Nieves later denied that he said this.  But the denial wouldn’t do him any good since his comments have been screencapped and the comment is still on the Facebook page.

There are people who treat this like it’s an isolated incident.  Like it’s nothing to worry about, but you’d have to imagine the kind of culture it takes to condition people to be able to say these things.  You don’t even have to imagine because that’s the culture we’re living in.  It’s not just one old, white male politician.  It’s several.  And they’re not necessarily always white men.

Brace yourself.  This is pretty triggering.

“These Planned Parenthood women, the Code Pink women, and all of these women have been neutering American men and bringing us to the point of this incredible weakness…We are not going to have our men become subservient.”

— Florida Rep. Allen West expresses a clear understanding of how oppression and privilege works.

“In the emergency room they have what’s called rape kits where a woman can get cleaned out.”

— Texas state Rep. Jodie Laubenberg, discussing why there shouldn’t be a rape or incest exception in bills restricting reproductive health care because clearly she understands how health care works.

“I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something God intended to happen.”  —Richard Mourdock, an Indiana state senator candidate who fortunately did not win.

“Understand though, that when we talk about exceptions, we talk about rape, incest, health of a woman, life of a woman. Life of the woman is not an exception.”

—Joe Walsh, former Illinois congressman revealing just how “pro-life” he really is.

“If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

—Missouri Representative Todd Akin basically sharing how much he doesn’t know about a female body in one terrible sentence.

“The facts show that people who are raped —who are truly raped—the juices don’t flow, the body functions don’t work and they don’t get pregnant. Medical authorities agree that this is a rarity, if ever.”

—former North Carolina Rep. Henry Aldridge using imaginary doctors as his sources.

“As long as it’s inevitable, you might as well lie back and enjoy it.”

—Clayton Williams regarding rape, he was a former Texas Republican gubernatorial contender and a past fundraiser for John McCain.

This is one of the many reasons why I’m in total support of Advocates for Youth.  The politicians I’ve listed are the kind of people who have been supporting legislation that not only hurts people who need abortions, but rape victims and teens in desperate need of comprehensive sex education.  It hurts people who need access to contraception, affordable health care, and everything else a person would need to live a quality life.  And it’s not going to stop until we change the culture and institutions that allows it to happen.  So, we advocate for the youth.  We have a responsibility to them to ensure that they have their rights and are to be respected.

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Young sexual and reproductive rights advocates continue to push for the full integration of a rights-based approach in relation to advancing population and development goals. That was the overarching message of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) and the United Nations Population Fund’s (UNFPA) Regional Youth Summit.

Earlier this summer, I had the opportunity to travel to Istanbul, Turkey, where activists representing over 40 international organizations gathered and developed a Call to Action, ensuring young people sexual and reproductive rights continue to be integrated in development agendas.

The summit brought together a diverse group of 40 young people from Eastern Europe, North America, Central Asia and Israel (EECARO region), to discuss and develop priority goals. During the summit, we organized ourselves into three sessions based on interest and expertise

  1. Population Dynamics and Sustainable Development,
  2. Families, Sexual and Reproductive Health over the Life Course,
  3. Inequalities, Social Inclusion and Rights.

After lengthy conversations, each group came up with a number of recommendations to share with the entire forum for us all to debate and finalize. The culmination of our work was translated into a solid document that represents what the youth from the EECARO region want elected officials and  leaders to take into consideration. You can access the full document here.

The outcome of the summit embodied the youth vision and development priorities for the region over the next decade and was presented at the Regional Conference in Geneva. Fifteen delegates from our group (bearing in mind equal representation) attended the Geneva Conference and shared our declaration (Youth Call to Action). The speech, delivered by Grace Wilentz from YouAct (European Youth Network on Sexual and Reproductive Rights) and Jakub Skrzypczyk from Youth Coalition for Sexual and Reproductive Rights can be found here.

On a personal note, I had a great time interacting with all the youth participants at the Regional Youth Forum and learning more about the EECARO region. It became clearer to me that the same sexual and reproductive health and rights issues we are advocating for in the US are found in other parts of the world. I was happy to discover that we are not alone in this battle. Young people from all over the world are rising up to the challenge, demanding greater youth representation in world affairs and better human rights conditions for all.

 

 

About United Nations Population Fund’s (UNFPA)

Tasked with the mission of delivering “a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every birth is safe, every young person’s potential is fulfilled,” UNFPA is a UN organization whose efforts are guided by two main frameworks, 1) the Program of Action adopted at the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) and 2) the Millennium Development Goals (MDG), which are eight targets to reduce extreme poverty by 2015.

With the date for achieving these goals fast approaching, UNFPA and its partners, such as the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), have been working together to ramp up their efforts. UNFPA and UNECE have been involved in the Beyond 2014 Review, an effort to engage world leaders from governments and civil society in drafting a new global commitment to create a more equal and more sustainable world.

The ICPD Operational Review has been taking place as part of the Beyond 2014 Review, and UNFPA and UNECE have been facilitating this process. Within this process, UNFPA and UNECE organized three thematic meetings on the following topics:

  1. “Population Dynamics and Sustainable Development”,
  2. “Reducing Inequities, Fostering Social Inclusion” and
  3. “Life Course, Sexual and Reproductive Health, and Families”.

As a culminating event, the agencies planned for a two-day Regional Conference entitled “Enabling Choices: Population Priorities for the 21st Century,” which was just held in Geneva (1-2 July), gathering leaders from all over the EECARO region (Europe, North America, Central Asia and Israel).

Young people are at the core of the UNFPA’s mandate, offering an essential voice to help shape the future development agenda. Therefore, young people have participated in the operational review at the country level and in all the thematic meetings mentioned above. In order to continue their involvement, UNFPA EECARO has organized the Regional Youth Forum in Istanbul (30-31 May) and in which I participated, representing Advocates for Youth and the US at large.

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California’s teen pregnancy rate has dropped nearly 60 percent as a result of expanded sex education programs, according to a report released by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) on Wednesday.

The report –- which was based on data collected until 2011 — revealed that the California teen pregnancy rate reached a 20-year low that year. While in 1991, there were 70.9 births for every 1,000 teens aged 15-19, in 2011 this number decreased to 28 births per 1,000 teens.

Teen pregnancy rates fell across all ethnic groups, according to the report. The Hispanic teen birth rate dropped from 73.6 in 2001 to 42.7 in 2011 –- although Hispanics continue to be the group with the highest teen birth rate. Teen pregnancy rates for African-Americans, Whites and Asian-Americans also decreased significantly.

Several factors contributed to the falling pregnancy rates, the department said in a press release. One factor was the state’s school sex education program, which law requires to be comprehensive and medically accurate. The report also credits community-based education programs that provide sexual health information to teens and their parents.

“We do believe that our programs are behind these numbers,” Karen Ramstrom, the chief of the program standards branch at the California Department of Public Health’s maternal child and adolescent health division, told the Los Angeles Times.

“California’s innovative strategies and community partnerships aimed at lowering teen pregnancy are helping young women and men make responsible choices,” Dr. Ron Chapman, director of the CDPH, said in a press release. “We must not be complacent; we must continue to promote teen pregnancy prevention programs and strategies in all communities.”

As Think Progress noted, California’s teen birth rate decreases are part of a national trend. The national teen birth rate dropped nearly 50 percent between 1991 and 2011, NBC’s Today Health reported.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/19/california-teen-pregnancy-rates-drop_n_3625090.html?ncid=txtlnkushpmg00000037

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Latin America is home to five of the seven countries in the world in which abortion is banned in all instances, even when the life of the woman is at risk: Chile, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, and the Dominican Republic, with the Vatican City and Malta outside the region.

Why? The politics of abortion in Latin America

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All too often our stories are told for us. Last week, I had the honor of presenting to members of congress, their staff and other people in the reproductive health and rights field during a congressional briefing with Black Women’s Health Imperative. I took this opportunity to use my voice as an African American young person to tell anyone listening that we Millennials are not only invested in creating change but we are committed to making sure our generation can lead healthy lives. Read what I had to say! 

As a member of Advocates for Youth’s Young Women of Color Leadership Council, I have been organizing and advocating around the sexual and reproductive health and rights of young people for the last 5 years. I am dedicated to this work not only because I believe that young people like me deserve the right to lead healthy, self-determined lives, but also because I know first-hand what it is like to navigate this world without access to accurate and honest education and services.

At 23 I can say that I never received any type of formal sexual education from any educational institution I attended. The first time I was tested for HIV happened completely by accident. One day during my junior year in high school I wandered into a mobile testing unit in hopes of receiving a free metrocard. That would be the first day I would find out about HIV and other STIs. The woman conducting my test asked me if I was nervous and I proceeded to tell her no and then asked her would I have a reason to be. She began to explain sexually transmitted infections and diseases to me. Thus giving my first “sex education class” in the back of a mobile testing unit. Although my results that day revealed that I was not HIV positive, I remember feeling like someone had robbed me. I felt cheated. Lied to. I could not fathom at that time how learning about preventing diseases that could potentially make you sick and claim your life were not as important as math and science. The even more depressing part is that even when I went to college many of my peers were still uneducated about their sexual health, and how prevent HIV, STIs and unplanned pregnancies. I began wondering whether we all needed to wander aimlessly into a mobile testing truck to learn about saving our lives.

As leader of a campus organization that provided sexual health information specifically geared toward Black and Latino students at Syracuse, it became more and more clear to me that I was not the only person who had been robbed. Some of our campus events attracted over 200 young people interested in learning about what they could do to lead sexually healthy lives. Many of these young people expressed that they felt that this is something that should be taught in school, by the administration. They were not alone.

Not only do African American Millennials believe that comprehensive sexuality education should be available to young people in high school, overwhelming majority, over 90% believe that it should include information about preventing HIV/AIDS and other STDS, unplanned pregnancy prevention, and abstinence. Over 80% also believe that comprehensive sex education programs in high school should cover information about pregnancy options including abortion.

Many of the young people I worked with in college constantly spoke about the barriers, many financial, to accessing contraception and abortion services. Research shows that over 90% of African American Millennials believe that contraception needs to be available and affordable to help young people stay healthy. 75% of African American Millennials believe that regardless of how they feel personally, abortion should remain legal and that women should be able to get safe abortions.

There is still much to be done to ensure that young people like myself have access to medically accurate and culturally competent information regarding their sexual health, and we young people across the country are working diligently and organizing to make it happen.. While the media and other people are committed to portraying my generation as apathetic and removed from this type of work, I can insure you that those statements are indeed false. In fact, according to research conducted by the Reproductive Justice Communications Group and Advocates for Youth, over 7 in 10 of African American millennials say they are interested in improving young people’s access to sexual health services such as contraception and testing for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. 7 in 10 expressed interest in getting personally involved in promoting honest and accurate sex education programs in their communities. Another 6 in 10 are personally interested in making sure that safe abortion is available and accessible in their community. We African American Millennials are interested and committed to helping our friends, our families and our communities access services and information to live healthy, autonomous lives.

Here’s video of my remarks at the briefing!

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On the same day that Texas Governor Rick Perry signed a controversial abortion omnibus bill into law, Republican legislators in the state introduced yet another anti-abortion measure, this time looking to ban abortions after 6 weeks. And while it seems very unlikely at this point that the bill will make it through the state’s legislative process by July 31, the end of the current special legislative session in Texas, the timing is still drawing a decent bit of attention.

There’s only one state in the U.S. with an abortion ban after 6 weeks: North Dakota. And that law is being challenged in the courts as unconstitutional. The 6-week bans, like the one proposed in Texas, rely upon the detection of a fetal heartbeat by a doctor. Arguing that a fetal heartbeat is “a key medical predictor that an unborn child will reach live birth,” the Texas bill, HB59, would require doctors to determine whether a fetal heartbeat exists before legally performing an abortion. Fetal heartbeats typically register at around 6 weeks, meaning that the bill would effectively make that the cut off for the procedure.

READ MORE HERE.

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Flea markets are a one-stop place where people can get every-day necessities, often at a low price or second-hand. Among clothing, food, and furniture a Texas women can also find pills that induce miscarriage, an evocative sign of the role of family planning in everyday life. The pills, known by their brand name, Cytotec, were designed to prevent stomach ulcers, but are being taken without a prescription by many Texan women and causing complications such as extended bleeding and incomplete abortions.

In the Lower Rio Grande Valley, a region along the southeastern border of Mexico, these pills are reportedly popular.  One of the states and nation’s most low-income areas, women of the Valley have already had difficulty accessing reproductive health care after the state cut funding for birth control in 2011.

HB 2, the Texas abortion bill that is awaiting Governor Rick Perry’s signature will further restrict access to family planning and reproductive health clinics across the state. Unless clinics meet the requirements of ambulatory surgical center standards within a year, these locations will be forced to close, pushing women to seek risky alternatives. The two clinics currently in the Lower Rio Grande Valley do not meet the requirement of the bill. If these centers close down, women will have to travel hours across that state to receive care and will have additional costs such as transportation, hotel, food, missed work, and childcare.

Erlinda Dasquez, a 29 year-old mother of four who has used the pills, sees the widespread desire for these pills an economic issue. She described how for $40 she received four pills, a sum much less than the $550 pharmaceutical abortion cost at the closest legal provider. Many women and families like Dasquez seek illegal and unsafe forms of abortion due to the staggering costs of abortion which are typically not covered or subsidized by insurance companies or the state. Many undocumented women are also taking Cytotec and similar drugs. These women cannot utilize traditional health care outlets for fear of being reported.

The clinics that are being threatened do not solely provide abortion services. Many of these facilities are a source of free or inexpensive birth control for families, a valuable resource. Without assistance, many low-income people cannot justify paying the amount for contraceptives among other economic priorities. When interviewed, Alma Saldana said, “If I had $100 to pay for birth control or pay the bill for lights, I’d pay the lights”. Saldana stopped taking birth control after two nearby clinics closed and the remaining clinic charged more than she could afford.

 

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-07-11/flea-market-abortions-thrive-as-texas-may-close-clinics.html

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Texas Lawmaker Says Sex Ed Makes Teens ‘Hot and Bothered’ Leads to Sex and Babies

The Texas house recently passed an extreme bill that could force most of the state’s abortion clinics to close. Many of the debates over the bill were heated, but one of the more interesting ones started last Tuesday night after a house committee vote was over and three members of the committee had a conversation that was audio-taped by a reporter for theHouston Chronicle. In that conversation, Rep. Donna Howard (D-Austin) pointed out to two of her Republican colleagues, Reps. Steve Toth (The Woodlands) and Bill Zedler (Arlington), that sex education that includes information about contraception can help prevent unintended pregnancies, and therefore can reduce the number of abortions that are performed. Toth was quick to disagree about the merits of sex education.

READ MORE HERE.

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Yesterday, the Center for Investigative Reporting broke the story that the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation authorized doctors to sterilize at least 148 women between 2006 and 2010. Another 100 women were estimated to be sterilized since the late 1990s. Incarcerated women at the California Institution for Women in Corona and Valley State Prison for Women in Chowchilla were coerced into having tubal ligations against their will. Many of the women who underwent the procedure while incarcerated said they were not only provided with little information on the health risks, but falsely educated.

Women who are incarcerated are predominantly low-income, women of color. In 2009, the compounded state and federal incarceration rates (per 100,000) for black and Hispanic women were 142 and 74 respectively, while for white women this rate was 50 [1]. Forced sterilization is a violation of one of women’s most basic rights – the right to procreate. Although modern-day sterilizations are not as blatantly racist as eugenics in California in the early 20th century, it is scary to see parallels between the “science” used to justify the practice then and now. Modern doctors pushing sterilization as a necessity for inmate’s health is reminiscent of the research and academic eugenic centers that sprung up a hundred years ago that were dedicated to maintaining “desirable” bloodlines.

What really enrages me is that Daun Martin, the top medical manager at Valley State Prison from 2005-08 “characterized the surgeries as an empowerment issue for female inmates, providing them the same options as women on the outside”. No, empowerment is allowing women to have autonomy over their bodies, families, and decision-making process. Empowerment is providing women with comprehensive, unbiased information, while respecting their authority. Empowerment is presenting honest facts that don’t spin the truth or patronize women’s ability to see political actors’ contrived stories for what they are.

Martin continues to prove clueless as he claims that some pregnant women commit premeditated crimes in order to enter the prison system and receive better health care. While he acknowledges that women who manipulate the system should not be criticized, he simultaneously asserts that this trend must stop. Instead of persecuting women, Martin should focus on the systems that force women to make such drastic decisions. What do the actions of these desperate women say about the state of our health care system and the level of inequality in this nation?

For more details, visit: http://cironline.org/reports/female-inmates-sterilized-california-prisons-without-approval-4917

[1] Mauer, Marc. (2013). The Changing Racial Dynamics of Women’s Incarceration. The Sentencing Project. Retrieved from: http://sentencingproject.org/doc/publications/rd_Changing%20Racial%20Dynamics%202013.pdf

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When I mention the term taboo I DO mean the game in which you guess the word someone on your team is explaining. I mean taboo as in  is a vehement prohibition of an action based on the belief that such behavior is either too sacred or too accursed for ordinary individuals to undertake, under threat of supernatural punishment as explained by Wikipedia(you know you refer to that site).  Parents today are just not taking the initiative to  teach their kids or even answer questions.Everything starts at  home.  The schools does not enforce sexual education like they should hence why advocates does the work they do.  I hearing all kinds of things that are just plain crazy and I have to correct the young people and send to different resource. If different organizations are providing the resources then parents should back the kids it’s only right.  I want education for all dispite the topic. If only I can educate the world.Sex shouldn’t be taboo instead it’s should be talked about.  I am positive parents don’t want students learning from the wrong person.

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APIreland’s lawmakers voted 138-24 to back a bill legalizing abortions in life-threatening cases. The proposed law faces final passage next week.

Prime Minister Enda Kenny easily prevailed as he sought all-party endorsement of his government’s Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill.

Ireland, almost uniquely in Europe, officially bans abortion in all circumstances. But the Supreme Court in 1992 ruled that terminations should be legal if doctors deem one essential to safeguard the life of the woman — including from her own suicide threats.

Photo: This Saturday, Nov. 17, 2012 file photo shows abortion rights protesters holding pictures of Savita Halappanavar as they march through central Dublin, demanding that Ireland’s government ensures that abortions can be performed to save a woman’s life. (Shawn Pogatchnik / AP file)

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I decided to break the law to provide a necessary medical service because women were dying at the hands of butchers and incompetent quacks, and there was no one there to help them. The law was barbarous, cruel and unjust. I had been in a concentration camp, and I knew what suffering was. If I can ease suffering, I feel perfectly justified in doing so.

-Dr. Henry Morgentaler, a Canadian doctor who was arrested four times for performing abortions, but whose arrests eventually led to the 1988 Canadian Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion in the country.

He died this week at the age of 90. Good obit in the NY Times.

Image from Vancouver Sun.

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I posted a couple things here about Wendy Davis’ insanely awesome marathon filibuster to stop SB5, which is a bill from Texas that would close the majority of the clinics in the state that not only provide abortion services, but contraception and general health care.  And she wasn’t alone.  Hundreds of local supporters stood by her and when the bill was thought to be stopped, the capitol building erupted with cheers.

The lawmakers had to vote on this bill before it hit midnight.  But thanks to Senator Wendy Davis, Senator Leticia Van De Putte, and hundreds of reproductive justice advocates, lawmakers fortunately did not get the chance to meet that deadline. Republican lawmakers tried to argue that the bill was voted and passed on time despite clear evidence revealing that the vote ended on June 26 when it was supposed to be June 25.  They later took it back and admitted that the vote occurred after midnight and the bill was dead.  All Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst could say about it was: “…it’s been fun.”  Because taking away people’s rights to health care is so much fun.

The bill was thought to be stopped and everyone in the social justice club was happy.  But Texas Governor Rick Perry called for a special session to try to bring SB5 back.  This would make all the efforts of the Texans who went to stop this in vain.  Governor Rick Perry’s Facebook, Twitter, office website, office address, and phone information has been spreading so that people can voice their opinions.  Hopefully the voices of the constituents will be heard.

While the Internet social justice atmosphere exploded at the news of Texan Republicans’ shady tactics, for good reason, Ohio has passed some terrible anti-choice legislation of their own.  Ohio lawmakers didn’t even bring it up for debate.  They slyly passed the bill last minute the other night.  Activists are sharing Ohio Governor John Kaisch’s phone number (614-728-7576) in hopes that he line-vetoes the measure.  If he doesn’t, Planned Parenthood and rape crisis centers lose their funding in that state, and those funds will be going to Crisis Pregnancy Centers.  And you know what Crisis Pregnancy Centers are like.  People will have to will 24 hours before receiving their emergency contraception.  Forced ultrasounds will be legalized, and the unwilling patient would still have to pay for it.  This measure would even redefine pregnancy, throwing out the actual medical definition, so that using emergency contraception would be considered abortion.

We have our work cut out for us.

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From Huffington Post:

The Texas anti-abortion bill, which threatened to close nearly all of the abortion clinics in the state and prompted an 11-hour filibuster by state Sen. Wendy Davis (D), is dead, The Austin American-Statesman reported.

Lawmakers had to vote on Senate Bill 5 before the special session’s end at 12 a.m. local time. However, more than 400 protesters halted the proceedings 15 minutes before the roll call could be completed with what they called “a people’s filibuster,”The Associated Press reported.

The crowd of demonstrators in the capitol cried “Shame! Shame!” when Davis’ filibuster was halted by Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who ruled that her discussion of mandatory ultrasound testing was off-topic. Then the protesters roared after state Sen. Leticia Van De Putte asked, “At what point must a female senator raise her hand or her voice to be recognized over her male colleagues?”

Their cries continued to echo inside the chamber — and over a livestream watched by thousands around the world — until after the midnight deadline passed.

Although some Republican lawmakers later claimed the bill had passed in time, Democrats denied that the vote was completed before the clock ran out on the session.

A time stamp showing the vote completed after midnight was the deciding factor. “This will not become law,” Sen. John Whitmire (D), told The Austin American-Statesman.

In response, the crowd of protesters gathered in the capitol cheered and began singing “The Eyes Of Texas,” the alma mater of the University of Texas at Austin.

According to The Texas Tribune, Dewhurst was less than pleased by the evening’s turn of events. After ruling that the time on SB 5 had expired, he told reporters that “an unruly mob using Occupy Wall Street tactics” had derailed legislation that was designed to protect women and babies.

The legislation would have prohibited abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, regulated first-trimester abortion clinics as ambulatory surgical centers and restricted access to medication abortions. Had it passed, nearly all of the clinics in the state would have been shuttered.

Dewhurst also hinted that Gov. Rick Perry may call another special session to get the bill passed, saying: “It’s over. It’s been fun. But see you soon.”

Despite a long day of filibustering, Davis was upbeat when she greeted the crowd of supporters, who applauded the senator and chanted her name.

“Today was democracy in action,” Davis said. “You all are the voices we were speaking for from the floor.”

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From Tumblr blogger kat1712:
(edited for language)

Senator Wendy Davis is a f*cking badass.

There’s this bill that they are trying to pass in Texas that would make it illegal to get any abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy, and would make it very difficult for abortion centers to continue doing what they do. Governor Rick Perry has already said that if the bill makes it to his desk, he will sign it. And Wendy Davis said f*ck no that is not happening.

So she’s filibustering it. That means she asked to talk on the subject at 11:18 this morning, and if she can continue talking about abortion until 11:59 tonight, the bill won’t reach Governor Perry, and they would have to start all over with the bill next time they meet- 2 years from now.

But Wendy has to keep talking. She can’t pause for even a minute, not for food or a sip of water or to go to the bathroom or sit down. She can’t even lean up against anything, or she’s out. So she’s wearing motherf*cking PINK NIKE TENNIS SHOES in the middle of the state senate.

She also has to continue talking about the topic. She sent out tweets an other messages last night asking for anyone and everyone’s abortion story, and received a sh*t load of answers. Her staff is still collecting them, and she’s reading them aloud to the senate. Not only is she making this bill impossible to pass, she may just change some minds while she’s at it.

This is history, guys. Wendy Davis is a motherf*cking badass, and we are watching it happen.

Dallas Live Video

CBS NEWS: Senator Wendy Davis

Twitter Results for Wendy Davis

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For decades, most Crisis Pregnancy Centers have been lying to women, evading questions, and disguising their institutions as health care facilities. They receive federal funding to shame women into believing lies- “abortion causes breast cancer”, “it will make you infertile”, “condoms do not protect against STIs”, etc. They do not have a doctor at these facilities, and are not under HIPAA regulations of non-disclosure of medical records. They are against all contraception forms. They will harass a woman until she is in tears, and then send her on her way with a Christian religious token, and a promise from her that she will keep her child, they will only provide “help” if she agrees to go to Bible Study. This is not health care. Title X funding should be revoked.

LINK: https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/cut-funding-crisis-pregnancy-centers/x44cgD3v

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“CPCs have a long history of engaging in deceptive advertising. For example, some CPCs intentionally choose their name to mislead women into believing that they offer a wide range of services, including family planning and abortion care. The Family Research Council investigated what names would be most likely to appeal to women, particularly pro-choice women, in a 1998 report. Women’s Resource Center, which gives the impression of a full range of services, was deemed to have the most strategic value in reaching women “at risk for abortion.” The report also showed that women faced with an unplanned pregnancy were most likely to look in the Yellow Pages under the words “Pregnancy,” “Medical,” “Women’s Centers” and “Clinics.” Accordingly, CPCs often are advertised under these categories, as well as “Abortion Alternatives,” and “Women’s Organizations.” CPCs also advertise through posters, signs, and billboards that contain messages like, “Free Pregnancy Test,” or “Pregnant? Scared? We Can Help! Call 1-800 #.” Women report, however, that when they call these numbers the CPC representatives evade questions about whether they provide abortions, and urge the women to make an appointment to meet with a ‘counselor’ to talk in person.”

Crisis Pregnancy Centers: An Affront to Choice

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Let me start off by wishing everyone (who has a dad), a very Happy Fathers’ Day. Now that my heteronormative wishes have gone through, let me get right to the point. Celebrating Mothers and Fathers on separate days is straight up offensive. Do mind the pun. Having specific days dedicated to either mothers or fathers assumes that all families conform to “traditional” and “heteronormative’ lifestyles and does not acknowledge the fact that there are many families who do belong to these strict structures. LGBT families are an example that may come directly to mind. Imagine how offended (and hurt) members of such a family would be on Mothers or Fathers’ Day, feeling left out and marginalized from society, not able to take part of all the festivities that people like to organize around such holidays. It’s enough to look at any magazine around said holidays for a member of an LGBT family to feel the amount of insensitivity thrown at him/her/them. But LGBT families are not the only ones who suffer on such holidays. A similar situation applies to single parents as well as parents raising orphans or adopted children. And the list goes on. Therefore, I believe Mothers’ Day and Fathers’ Day should be abolished and replaced by Parents’ Day, celebrating all parents around the world, no matter their background. Parenthood is not restricted to any age, relationship status, gender, sex, sexual expression, etc. In this age of political correctness, when will Mothers’ Day and Fathers’ Day be ruled insensitive?

PS:  National Parents’ Day is celebrated in the US on the fourth Sunday of every July. Though the intention of its establishment in 1994 (during Clinton’s administration) was not to be politically correct, I think such a case must be made loud and clear.

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“Together we can end HIV stigma, but we need to be able to TALK ABOUT IT. Share this graphic to continue the conversation and encourage your network of friends to speak up!”

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A dangerous development in Myanmar is largely going unreported. Recently, local authorities announced their support for the enforcement of a two-child limit for Rohingya Muslims. While not an official policy of the central or state government, the policy has been implemented on a grass-roots level. The most recent public endorsement for this policy comes from Immigration Minister, Khin Yi who stated that Rohingya families of 10-12 children are “not good for child nutrition. It’s not very easy for schooling. It is not very easy to take care of the children.” While details of this discriminatory practice are recently reaching the international community, some believe this policy has been in effect for years, possibly decades.

This stateless, minority group primarily lives in one of Southeast Asia’s poorest regions, Rakhine state. They have been excluded from Myanmar’s 1982 Citizenship Act which recognizes 135 ethnic groups. Bangladesh has also disowned the Rohingyas and denied them refugee status, although they migrated from Bangladesh between 1824 and 1948. The two-child policy is aimed at controlling unrest between Buddhists (the majority in Myanmar) and Muslims. As a result of increasing violence, stricter policies have been placed on the Rohingyas, risking the spread of wider anti-Muslim sentiment. More worrisome is the belief that the child restriction is a form of ethnic cleansing.

Health experts fear this policy could encourage unsafe abortions in Myanmar, where abortion is illegal except in cases of maternal life.[1] Women that already have two children who become pregnant might have an illegal abortion in order to avoid fines or incarceration. Vickie Hawkins, Deputy Head of Mission of Myanmar’s Doctors Without Borders divisionv often sees “Women coming in [the] clinics with infections and medical complications because they have had unsafe abortions”. Doctors Without Borders operate in Maungdaw and Buthidaung townships where there are the largest Rohingya populations in the state. Journalists are not allowed to visit either town, making it difficult to access correct information and rally the international community behind this issue.

The UN and other human right organizations have condemned Myanmar’s unofficial policy, arguing it violates international law and harms women’s mental and physical health. While family planning is an issue that should involve both parents, this policy attacks women’s autonomy over their bodies. In addition, this ban circumscribes the construction of Myanmar Buddhist families onto the Rohingya population. Forcing cultural and ethnic norms onto groups has never worked and will only intensify the animosity between Myanmar’s populations.

 

Source: Reuter’s. “Myanmar Minister backs 2-child Policy for Rohingyas”

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As a follow up, to my post about CPCs in Louisville, here are a few tips about distinguishing CPCs from real clinics.

Crisis pregnancy centers, or pregnancy resource centers, disguise themselves as medical facilities, but usually have no licensed doctors, nurses or counselors. They often appear under “Abortion Alternatives,” and may have names similar to abortion clinics nearby in order to confuse patients into entering their buildings instead of the real clinics.

Once you enter a CPC, their mission is to prevent you from getting an abortion at any cost. They will use misleading language, delay tactics, emotional manipulation, intimidation, and outright lies to either persuade you against abortion or to make you miss your appointment. The worst part? It’s all completely legal and funded by federal dollars.

CPCs do their best to appear as legitimate abortion clinics, so how can you tell which is which? Here is a list of red flags for CPCs:

  • The words “crisis” or “resource” appear in the center’s name
  • Their ads use language like “Pregnant & Scared?”
  • They offer free pregnancy tests and ultrasounds
  • When asked if they provide abortions or contraception, they will not give a direct answer
  • The waiting room has biased pamphlets, sometimes with graphic pictures labeled as abortions
  • They attempt to make you feel guilty about considering abortion
  • They offer baby items, such as diapers and formula
  • They downplay the effectiveness of contraception and emphasize abstinence
  • They emphasize the dangers of abortion (Fact: fewer than 0.3% of patients experience complications requiring hospitalization)
  • They discuss the false connections between abortion and breast cancerinfertility, or mental illness, often referred to as post-abortion stress syndrome
  • Regardless of how you talk about the pregnancy, they refer to “your baby,” the “preborn child,” “post-abortive women,” and say that you are “already a mother.”

More on CPCs

How to Identify CPCs

Beware of Fake Clinics

Crisis Pregnancy Centers: An Affront to Choice

CPC Warning Stickers

A list of licensed abortion clinics in the United States can be found on the Abortion Assistance Blog.

Source: http://bebinn.tumblr.com/

 

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Just in case women didn’t have enough to deal with Repro-Justice wise, there are also fake abortion clinics to contend with in addition to pro-life hecklers.

I’ve always known about CPCs (Crisis Pregnacy Centers), but I never knew just how horrible they could be until now.

There have been reports of a couple of fake clinics in downtown Louisville, KY. These clinics are right next to a genuine one – EMW Women’s Surgical Center on Market street.

Tumblr user thisgingerisback reports, “…this place is seriously a nightmarish hell-hole for any unsuspecting women tricked by the anti’s [sic]. They assure you this this the abortion clinic, they get you inside, and then offer you food and drink—which of course, means that once you realize your mistake, you can’t run next door and catch your actual appointment, since you need to fast.

Women have come out of this building crying, and on a few rare occasions, without their pants. They take you to a back room for an ultrasound, have you remove your pants, and then begin lecturing you on the sins of aborting. They do not give you back your pants until you have listened, and a few women tricked this far refused to listen and stormed out furious, ashamed, and in their underwear…”

Signal boost, spread the word, give everyone you know a heads up.

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Reposted from Feminists-At-Large and the Voice

I used to consider myself “transiently pro-choice,” mainly because I didn’t know enough about the issue to restrict anyone’s rights, but I certainly wasn’t comfortable with abortion.

Then things started to change as I came to college and, through my studies, came to some startling realizations about women’s health.

I felt that way before I developed a greater understanding of healthcare in America, particularly the fact that millions are uninsured and underinsured. Not only that, but also that it is easier in this country to get insurance for Viagra than for birth control.

It was before I understood sex and how much easier it is to be sexually irresponsible than responsible. It is not easy to take one pill at the same time every day, especially when your insurance plan does not cover contraceptives. I was “transiently pro-choice” before I had ever taken Plan B, placed that second pill on my tongue and realized that to some I was now a “murderer.”

Most importantly, it was before I understood the meaning of choice. “It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” If Dumbledore said it, then it must be true. However, there are no identical choices, and not everyone has the same opportunities or resources, not everyone has bootstraps or even boots with which to pull themselves up.

But most of all, it was before I delved into the field of Global Health.

Internationally, 222 million women have an unmet need for family planning. For those who pretend that statistics about women’s issues are in some way fabricated or exaggerated, women with an “unmet need” are those who are sexually active, and are not using any method of contraception, but either do not want to become pregnant or want to delay their next pregnancy.

Over 40 million women have abortions annually. 40 million. And nearly half of them are unsafe. 47,000 women die from complications due to unsafe abortion every year. 47,000. Not to mention the 8.5 million others who suffer serious medical complications from unsafe abortions. 13 percent of maternal deaths are attributable to unsafe abortions. Women drink turpentine or bleach, insert haphazard herbal mixtures into their vaginas, penetrate themselves with hangers or chicken bones, and jump from roofs or fling themselves down stairs because they don’t have access to abortion services.

This is what is known as a preventable cause of death. This is on us. We can’t ascribe these deaths to the long Latin names of communicable diseases. These women do not die of natural causes. These women die because of us, namely bad governance and worse laws. These women die because lawmakers ignore science and statistics, and they ignore history. Policymakers are more concerned with the life of a fetus than the life of its mother.

These policies cannot be categorized as “third world problems.” Less than two weeks after Rep. Joe Walsh (R-IL) claimed that in abortion “there is no such exception as life of the mother [...] with advances in science and technology,” Savita Halappanavar became a martyr to the cause, dying because despite pregnancy complications and her inevitable miscarriage, she was denied an abortion in a Dublin hospital.

Criminalizing abortion is not a tradeoff. Save some fetuses, lose some women; there are no winners. Rather than decreasing abortion rates, it merely decreases the proportion that are performed in a safe, sanitary manner. Western European countries, home to some of the most liberal abortion laws, have the lowest abortion rates globally, with an estimated 12 per 1,000 women of childbearing age annually. Whereas regions with highly restrictive abortion laws have rates two to three times that, at 29 per 1,000 and 32 per 1,000 in Africa and Latin America, respectively.

How one can call oneself “pro-life” while striving to criminalize abortion is one of the greatest health paradoxes known to humankind. If pro-lifers want to save lives they should take a leaf out of South Africa’s book. The country has the lowest abortion rates in the continent due to the liberalization of its laws in 1997, which led to a decrease in abortion-related deaths by 91 percent in the first five years.

Another way to save lives is to financially support mothers and women of childbearing age, which decreases abortion rates even in developed countries.

However, the most direct way to prevent abortion-related deaths, both those of the mothers and those of the fetuses, is to make modern contraceptive methods affordable and accessible. Approximately 80 percent of unintended pregnancies in developing countries can be attributed to unmet need for contraceptives. Even here, we have much to gain from improving access to contraceptives. A recent study performed in St. Louis, surveying over 9,000 women, showed that providing a variety of free contraceptives decreased teen pregnancy rates from 34 to 6.3 per 1,000 women, and abortion rates dropped from between 13.4-17 to between 4.4-7.5 per 1,000 women.

Contraceptives, not restrictive abortion laws, save lives.

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On Wednesday, the highest court in El Salvador denied an abortion to a woman with a pregnancy that is so high-risk that doctors say it could kill her. Beatriz, 22, is carrying a 26-week fetus with anencephaly, a birth defect that means part of the brain and skull are missing and that the baby will almost certainly die at birth. Beatriz’s doctors say the abortion is necessary for Beatriz’s health and perhaps to save her life. But by a vote of 4–1, the Salvadoran judges ruled that in light of the country’s absolute ban on abortion, “the rights of the mother cannot be privileged over those” of the fetus.

El Salvador’s complete ban on abortions has become relatively rare worldwide, as the first map below shows. Keep scrolling and you will see enormous variation in how countries (and states in the U.S.) regulate abortion and birth control. Our main sources of data for these maps are the United Nations, the Guttmacher Institute, the Population Reference Bureauthe National Conference of State Legislatures, and Harvard University’s Center for Population and Development Studies.

The maps reflect continuing change: Uruguay recently legalized first-trimester abortions, and courts in Columbia, Brazil, and Argentina have begun to allow them in certain cases. Meanwhile in the United States, Republican-led statehouses have been tightening restrictions since the 2010 election. It’s the largest wave of legislation in the decades since Roe v. Wade.

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Whenever abortion is the topic of a conversation, especially when spoken of as a choice that someone wants to make for whatever reason that’s personally valid to them, there is always someone who pops up and says, “Adoption is an option too!”  You know, as if that thought never occurred to anyone ever or it’s some kind of a magical word to rid one of an unwanted pregnancy.  I witness it all the time on my STFU Pro-Lifers blog through the large amount of messages I receive on a daily basis, but yesterday a self-proclaimed pro-choicer shared that familiar, derailing insight you hear from anti-choicers.  Granted, she had her own personal experiences with abortion and adoption.  I made sure that she knew how appreciative and grateful I was to her for sharing those experiences with me.  But it was something she said that really bugged me.  There were a few sentences subtly expressing privilege and ignorance.

“It isn’t that hard to find someone to adopt a baby…”

She also mentioned the baby she gave up for adoption was blonde haired and blue eyed.  It’s another discussion that makes it clear how important it is to be intersectional.  She was speaking solely as a white woman in her experiences with adoption.  She somehow gained an adoption lawyer at no personal cost to her.  Adoptive parents quickly lined up for this white blue eyed baby.  And the parents the girl chose to adopt her baby paid for her one year of school tuition.  She was happy with her decision, and that’s great.  I’m happy for her.  Anyone would be.

But for the part about how “easy” it is to get someone to adopt a baby… well, I quickly and politely corrected her.  She thanked me and then told me that she loves my blog.  The matter was settled.  It still bugs me though, and it’s not so much the person but the original line of thinking shared by so many people.  You hear things like that all the time.  Oh, you’re pregnant and don’t want to be?  But there are tons of people out there who can’t have children!  You should consider adoption!

I guess no one told them that less than 2% of our entire population actually adopts, and when they do adopt, the less than 2% tend to favor the able-bodied, young, emotionally sound, sibling-less, white baby. [source]  And really?  Agreeing to the idea of an adoption won’t make an unwanted pregnancy go poof!  There are still nine, agonizing months of a condition that was never consented to.  I mean, most pregnancies are already really difficult for those who do it willingly.  There are tons of complications that arise during those three, brave trimesters.  I can’t even begin to imagine how traumatic it is for those who desperately don’t want to be pregnant but were forced to remain so.

Don’t want to raise a child?  Fine!  Adoption is definitely an alternative to parenthood.  Just keep in mind that abortion is an alternative to a pregnancy.  That’s how it works.  Don’t talk to me about how there are tons of people in the world who can’t have children.  No one should be forced into being a brood mare for someone else.  No one owes their body to anyone else.

As pro-choicers, it’s inherent in our very name that we celebrate choice whether it be parenthood, adoption, or abortion.  We keep in mind that our lives are individual, and the same can be said about our choices.

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Beatriz_emailgraphicedit

Just yesterday, the Supreme Court of El Salvador handed a young woman a death sentence by denying Beatriz “permission” for an abortion needed to save her life.

Beatriz is 22. The mother of a 1-year old boy. She has lupus. Kidney malfunction. And her doctors say she will likely die if the pregnancy continues. But, there is still hope for Beatriz.

Beatriz needs your help.

(more…)

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There are a lot of forces out there trying to misinform the public, especially the youth, when it comes to reproductive/sexual health and rights.  One of the biggest groups out there is called Live Action.  When you look up Live Action on Google, they’re listed as a non-profit pro-life organization.  According to them, they are a “youth led movement dedicated to building a culture of life and ending abortion.”  They claim to do undercover investigation in clinics to prove and document “illegal, inhuman, and gruesome” practices and share it on social media sites.  To this organization, abortion is:

An enterprise built on destroying pre-born children for money leaves few rules unbroken.  But the abortion industry’s corruption goes deeper than most people would think: from threatening women’s lives with dangerously bad medical advice, to protecting child sex-trafficking rings, to covering up statutory rape, to actions even more heinous.  Live Action’s undercover exposés document these many abuses, so the whole world can see the horrors going on right in our backyards – and paid for with our tax money.

The above statements were taken right off of the home page of their website.  Now despite their best efforts to intentionally misinform the public about abortion and Planned Parenthood services, people have caught on.  One of the many people to call out Live Action’s lies is a YouTube vlogger named Cristina Rad who is popular on the Internet for her commentary on her atheism, gender politics, and casual ideas of social justice.  The Live Action video she tackled and is most popular for is called We are the Youth.  You can watch her video response here.  I would definitely recommend ignoring the Live Action video and go straight to Cristina’s response, especially since Cristina actually cites some statistics in her description.

It’s beyond a YouTube vlog debunking Live Action videos though.  Media Matters, “a research and information center dedicated to comprehensively monitoring, analyzing, and correcting conservative misinformation in the Media,” lists hoax after hoax created by Live Action.  Even Slate, a major online magazine on politics and culture, has recently come out with a video that reveals how Live Action’s deceptive editing is intentionally done to frame doctors and clinic staff.  The video that Slate chose to analyze has unfortunately already been promoted and aired on TV news (if you really count Fox News as news at all–countries with laws against lying on the news certainly don’t) and commentary programs after the Kermit Gosnell incident.  But Slate’s video is worth the view, because they go through all the raw footage that Live Action leaves out and reveals what Live Action didn’t want the average viewer to see.

Seriously!  Click the link below to watch!

http://www.slate.com/articles/video/slate_v/2013/05/abortion_clinic_video_exposing_fake_selectively_edited_hidden_camera_footage.html

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WD time is now

What if all the empathy that transpired in the speeches and talks of policy makers I listened to today at the Women Deliver pre-youth conference could immediately be converted to action? This is the question I asked myself during my reflection on the pre-youth conference that ok place on the 27th May 2013 in Kuala Lumpur.

Passion, enthusiasm, and determination were perceptible in the way the policy makers I listened to and spoke with today spoke about how painful, frustrating, and humiliating the consequences of inequalities that exist in todays world are.   But does this mean these people have finally heeded to the call of social activists to act now for inequality to be eradicated? Only time will tell as youths will be keeping a keen eye on these people to ensure that all the promises they will make this time around are kept and within the minimum possible time frame.

The biggest risk to the continuity of humanity is inequality, declared UNFPAs deputy Director; Kate Gilmore during an intervention at the Women Deliver pre-youth conference. Conscious of this, it is unavoidably true that, by delivering on their promises to not only reduce but eradicate inequalities and injustices of every nature, policy makers will be contributing to the continuity of humanity. Therefore by failing to deliver for Girls, women, and Youths, policy makers of this generation will be committing a crime that present and future generations will not pardon.

But well, we the youths of this generation wont sit arms folded to see you commit such heinous crimes, because our silence-that of Girls, Women, and Youths is a roar that will degenerate into something worse if not listened to.

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WD

“To  free the people still under colonial  rule, let us  accept to die a little or even completely so that the  African Union doesn’t become mere words”.  These are the words of Ahmed Ben Bella one of those African leaders present in Addis Ababa on the 25th of May 1963 to form what is today known as the African Union.
Why do I quote Ahmed Ben Bella? and why am I talking about the African Union?, it’s exactly 50 years today that this historic event took place and I happen to be in the very historic town of Addis where African heads of states and other major decision makers from around the African continent have also gathered to celebrate this event.

50years is worth  celebrating no doubt, but what  do Africans have to celebrate the African Union for ? Economic growth ?,political independence ? social progress ?,or  technological advancement ? An answer to this will depend on which side of the board one finds his/herself. There is no doubt that strides have been made  in some of the mentioned above areas, but  if there one area in which the African Union has woefully failed is in the area of the empowerment of  girls, women, and youths.

 Having a woman at the  helm of the African Union-Nkosazana Nzuma, and another -Helene Johnson Sirleaf at the helm of one of its nations ;Liberia is the arguement many will advance to contradict my above assertion, but they are just two in  millions who are languising in poverty,dieing while giving birth,reduced to sexual slaves, and considered in many cultures  as good only for child bearing. Statistics on these issues in Africa abound and I will not like to come back to them here. Same arguement will be advanced as concerns the plight of African youths.But how many of them occupy posts of responsibility in the communities from which they hail or live in ? How many of them have been given the opportunity by policy makers to participate in the formulation and implementation of policies ;even on issues that affect them the most ? A very tiny proportion, is the answer I will give you.

In a write-up to mark this day titled : The Africa We Want to See,the current chairperson of the African Union commission, Nkosazana Nzuma amongst other things talks of this being an opportunity to take stock of Africa today,its assets, capabilities,opportunities , and challenges. She is definitely right and inorder  for the African Union not to become mere words as feared by Ahmed Ben Bella, Africa through the African Union and its people must deliver for its main assets which is its people- especially girls, women , and youths. The time is for African girls, women, and youths is now ! I am utterly convinced that the African delegates and other stakeholders at the 3rd Global Women Deliver conference will make cristal clear and that concrete actions will be taken  to ensure that the plight of the African girl,woman , and youth takes  central stage in the various policy formulation and implementation processes accross our beloveth continent ;Africa.

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Mississippi Could Soon Jail Women for Stillbirths & Miscarriages?

On March 14, 2009, 31 weeks into her pregnancy, Nina Buckhalter gave birth to a stillborn baby girl. She named the child Hayley Jade. Two months later, a grand jury in Lamar County, Mississippi, indicted Buckhalter for manslaughter, claiming that the then-29-year-old woman “did willfully, unlawfully, feloniously, kill Hayley Jade Buckhalter, a human being, by culpable negligence.”

The district attorney argued that methamphetamine detected in Buckhalter’s system caused Hayley Jade’s death. The state Supreme Court, which heard oral arguments on the case on April 2, is expected to rule soon on whether the prosecution can move forward.

If prosecutors prevail in this case, the state would be setting a “dangerous precedent” that “unintentional pregnancy loss can be treated as a form of homicide,” says Farah Diaz-Tello, a staff attorney with National Advocates for Pregnant Women, a nonprofit legal organization that has joined with Robert McDuff, a Mississippi civil rights lawyer, to defend Buckhalter. If Buckhalter’s case goes forward, NAPW fears it could spur a wave of similar prosecutions in Mississippi and other states.

Mississippi’s manslaughter laws were not intended to apply in cases of stillbirths and miscarriages. Four times between 1998 through 2002, Mississippi lawmakers rejected proposals that would have set specific penalties for damaging a fetus by using illegal drugs during pregnancy. But Mississippi prosecutors say that two other state laws allow them to charge Buckhalter. One definesof manslaughter as the “killing of a human being, by the act, procurement, or culpable negligence of another”; another includes ”an unborn child at every stage of gestation from conception until live birth” in the state’s definition of human beings.

The cause of any given miscarriage or stillbirth is difficult to determine, and many experts believe there is no conclusive evidence that exposure to drugs in utero can cause a miscarriage or stillbirth. Because of this, prosecuting Buckhalter opens the door to investigating and prosecuting women for any number of other potential causes of a miscarriage or stillbirth, her lawyers argued in a filing to the state Supreme Court—”smoking, drinking alcohol, using drugs, exercising against doctor’s orders, or failing to follow advice regarding conditions such as obesity or hypertension.” Supreme Court Justice Leslie D. King also raised this question in the oral arguments last month: “Doctors say women should avoid herbal tea, things like unpasteurized cheese, lunch meats. Exactly what are the boundaries?”

READ MORE HERE

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Quality Health Care Pic

Wow! How time flies. I can’t imagine I am year older (again), thought I this morning when I received an SMS from a friend I have long lost sight of. It read thus; “Happy Birthday and many more years” This is a classical birthday message that anyone will send to a friend or even an unknown person, you might be thinking. But this is not the case for me because unlike in the previous years when I will just receive these messages and file, I have this year decided to carefully study these Birthday messages before filing or even deleting and as well carefully look through all the Birthday messages I have been sent at each one of these occasions.

Though written in different styles and strongly influenced by the nature of my relationship with the sender of the birthday message, there is a wish that was omnipresent in all the messages: Wishes of Good Health; which is what my friend’s, “Many More Years” in the above extraction from his birthday wish message to me seeks to express The result of this crazy study revealed to me how much Cameroonians care about their health.

The health of the average Cameroonian, like that of any normal human being in the world, is very important to him/her. What would vary might be the approach to ensuring that they stay healthy and maintain an equilibrium that is necessary for them to live a life worth living. Important as being healthy might be to Cameroonians, they are not unaware of the barriers to staying healthy. Talking about barriers to staying healthy in Cameroon, if you ask any Cameroon what  the greatest barrier to  staying healthy  is, you would likely  hear  him/her answer   ‘ACCESS’.

While it is clear from all indications that access to health is a stumbling block to Cameroonian’s staying healthy, it should be noted that even where these health facilities are available, users complain bitterly of the quality of the services rendered. Thus, it is common place to see a health practitioner sarcastically questioning   a teenage girl about the reason for her pregnancy and making fun of her pregnancy by using very insulting and violent language. Worst still, it is common place to get a health practitioner who openly discusses results of the medical test of his/her patients without any sense of guilt or fear. The judgmental nature and lack of confidentiality in Cameroon’s health services is so widespread and across all spheres of society that a government minister recently declared that a journalist who had been tortured to death while in detention had died of HIV/AIDS.

With judgemental attitudes like these from health professionals and lack of confidentiality, no wonder an ever increasing number of pregnant teenagers  refuse to go for prenatal checkups. To stay clear of insults and other traumatizing language and behaviours, they thus decide to stay at home with the risks that this carries.

It is high time the quality of health services in existing health facilities be improved so that patients, especially young persons, can have the best possible experience and not be afraid, for instance, to get an  HIV test because they are not sure the results will remain between them and the health professionals.

The quality of health services, though often ignored, is an important factor in reinforcing the access of   young people in particular and society at large to health facilities and should be considered as such by policy makers and health professionals. The availability of health facilities that have little or no consideration for the quality of the services offered creates more problems than it solves.

                                                       

As government leaders, policymakers, healthcare professionals, NGO representatives, corporate leaders, and global media outlets gather in Kuala Lumpur to attend the Women Deliver 3rd Global conference to hold from the 28th-31st May 2013, it is  my  greatest desire that  the quality of health services as they are now be carefully studied and appropriate action taken to make them  less judgmental, more efficient, and more youth friendly.

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“Sadly, real or perceived controversy keeps schools from providing young people with the information and skills they need to become sexually healthy adults. Just like other topics taught in school, sexuality education should be developmentally appropriate, sequential and complete.

Irrational fear – the cultural belief that teaching young people about sex will cause them to have sex – keeps administrators and educators from doing what they know is best: providing young people with developmentally appropriate, sequential and honest sex education. Never mind that 30 years of public health research clearly demonstrates that when young people receive such education, they are more likely to delay sexual initiation, and to use protection when they do eventually become sexually active, than those who receive no sex education or learn only about abstinence. Withholding information about sex and sexuality will not keep children safe; it will only keep them ignorant.

Ninety-five percent of all Americans have sex before marriage. About half of all young people begin having sex by age 17. Providing a foundation of quality sex education is the only way to ensure that young people will grow into sexually healthy adults. It can augment what children learn at home and combat misinformation learned from peers or found on the Internet. Porn is not the best way for teenagers to learn about sex, but it will fill the vacuum when sex education is politicized and withheld from our classrooms.

Quality sex education should start in kindergarten. Early elementary school students need to learn the proper names for their body parts, the difference between good touch and bad touch, and ways in which they can be a good friend (the foundation for healthy intimate relationships later in life). Fourth- and fifth-graders need information about puberty and their changing bodies, Internet safety, and the harmful impact of bullying. And seventh-, eighth- and ninth-graders are ready for information about body image, reproduction, abstinence, contraception, H.I.V. and disease prevention, communication, and the topic they most want to learn about: healthy relationships.”

READ MORE HERE.

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*This is a long post. Just a heads up! Grammatical errors and misspelled words are inevitably bound to show up, as well as the extreme use of the words, awesome, FIERCE, amazing, radical and inspiring.

From April 12- April 14, I had the amazing opportunity to attend the 27th Annual CLPP Conference at Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts. This was my first time visiting Massachusetts and attending CLPP Conference, so needless to say, I was extremely blessed and excited to be in a safe space to discuss abortion rights and reproductive justice (RJ)!

If you don’t know what CLPP Conference is, let me copy and paste the mission for you, so you can read about how awesome it is!

CLPP(Civil Liberties and Public Policy program) Conference is held every year to create a welcoming space for RJ activists!

“CLPP’s annual conference connects activists from across the U.S. and internationally to build a stronger movement for reproductive justice and social change. We support intergenerational dialogue, encourage youth leadership, and foster cross-movement collaborations. Through plenaries, workshops, panels, and trainings, speakers will highlight successful examples of activism and illuminate how struggles for reproductive and sexual rights are intricately linked to movements for economic, social, gender, and environmental justice.”

Reading that description just got me juiced to write this blog! I have not had much time to reflect on my trip (the reason why this blog is so late) due to school and personal life, but I am just as excited as when I got on the plane to go, so let me give you some amazing highlights from my trip!

 

Day 1: My six hour red eye flight from SFO to New Jersey to Connecticut has left me feeling groggy, tired, and in need of stimulants! Luckily, I consumed two cups of coffee before I headed out to begin day 1! After picking up the rest of the Advocates crew, we headed out to Hampshire College! The weather was rainy, windy, and the crisp air was not a fan of my sun tinted California skin. East coast weather was not a fan of me and I was not a fan of it either! We remained civil to one another for most of the trip, so it did not ruin my time at CLPP Conference!

After our bellies were fed and we checked into our hotel, we headed to Hampshire College. To be honest, I was a bit deterred upon arrival because I was not accustomed to being at such a small, liberal, privileged campus in the middle of what looked like a scene from a Twilight movie. I also was not fond of the lack of people of color at a reproductive justice/abortion rights conference, which I felt was necessary in such a big, popular space. I ended up giving them the benefit of the doubt, since it was the first day after all.

I helped set up our vending table for the 1 in 3 Campaign (if you don’t know what 1 in 3 is, check it out: 1in3campaign.org). I also got to chat with a few other vendors and hung out with my sistahs! Unfortunately, due to my jet lag, I did not attend the Abortion Speak Out that night, which I deeply regret. I hope that my other sistahs who attended will give you better details on that portion of the conference. I apologize, I teased you with my banter about the weather and small talk. Let’s move on to Day 2….

 

Day 2: The next day, I felt refreshed and ready to attend workshops! But here are some highlights in the form of quotes from the Opening Plenary:

“I could be killed for doing this work. I face that w/ full knowledge, knowing I’m going to be held + supported by this community”- Anonymous

“In many countries, if you ask a crowd “raise your hand if you know someone who’s died from an illegal abortion” every hand goes up” – Anonymous

“Fuck off Human Rights Campaign” – 16 year old FIERCE QUEER, Trish Bryant

“When we talk about reproductive justice we must also talk about immigration.” – Sonia Guinansaca

“As we continue to build in solidarity and continue to say fuck them…” -Monica Raye Simpson

These lovely gems pumped me up and got me out of my seat praising my fellow RJ sistahs (unbeknownst to them that they are, my sistahs) for their inspiring, unapologetic, FIERCE, words of wisdom and truth! MMM! I just got excited all over again!

Let’s go on to workshops, shall we?

Unpacking Oppressions: Liberation through Media Making:

This workshop gave me life! I truly believe that youth have the power and tools to create and gain acknowledgement through popular social media tools to spread RJ messages more than ever before. The first facilitator, Jamia Wilson, used her journalistic expertise to tell attendees that mainstream media is not the end all be all to spread news. Other sources of media, such as tumblr, youtube, blog sites, etc. have become more advanced at creating a steady platform that gains widespread audiences so much, that mainstream news has caught wind of RJ issues. For example, alternative media helped push the Planned Parenthood situation into becoming national news because RJ activists got upset and took to their blogs! Of course the event spiraled into a lot of negative feedback from Fox News and other conservative outlets, but it went on to show that we do have a voice and a platform to engage audiences about what we stand for.

During the second half of the workshop, Colorado queer youth activists,  Trish Bryant and Eleanor Dewey, engaged the audience by telling us the story of how they have created their own media in order to spread the voices of queer identifying youth of color in Colorado. Using little resources, they bought a camera, tripod, and editing equipment and made their own documentary because they felt that queer youth did not have any positive images in the media. I cannot express to you how empowering this was for me. Seeing young people take matters into their own hands to create positive images for the next generation really inspired me to create videos on my own. I am also a new fangirl of 16 year old, Trish Bryant, who is just way too cool and more bad ass than I will ever be. She is a fan of bell hooks. Enough said.

*I forgot the name of this workshop:

Facilitators, Steph Harold and Poonam Dreyfus-Pai presented their research thesis, called Reading Women’s Lives. During this study, they observed a group of women in book clubs, who read a book about abortion stories and  discussed their findings. They found that these women were affected and transformed by storytelling, which is crucial in framing abortion rights. This small group setting and reading material allowed a safe space for women to tell their abortion stories, whether they were pro-choice or pro-life. As I am training to be a peer counselor for an after-abortion hotline, I have realized that having a space to express your thoughts and feelings around abortion is necessary. We must validate and put a name to people’s individual experiences. Abortion should not be seen as a political stance. It is an individual experience and people have the right to tell their stories and put a face to the experience in a public space if they choose to.

At Your Cervix: A Self-Exam Workshop:

Lauren Mitchell, facilitator, taught us how to perform a self pelvic and breast exams. I was quite nervous to attend this event because I am extremely sensitive to graphic material. Lauren was an amazing teacher and taught us step by step instructions. Although I don’t think I will be performing any self-exams soon, I did find this workshop to be empowering in the sense that women have the right to learn and explore their bodies. I also got a free speculum! :)

Day 3: I will keep this quick because I’ve already written enough!

The Revolution Starts with Me: Incorporating Self-Care and Preventing Burnout: This workshop was the perfect ending to a lovely weekend. For many activists, such as myself, it can be difficult to practice self-care when you are out trying to educate, empower, and uplift others folks. In my personal life, I struggle with aligning school, activism, and work into an organized manner, which leaves me tired and listless at the end of the day. Facilitators, Adaku and Nicole, started the 90 minute workshop off with meditation. After our relaxation session, we went on to discuss reasons why we are burned out and how it is easy to  forget about our body temples. While our work is never done, we can take a break to go out dancing, take naps, go running, and eat healthy. We do not have to feel guilty about saying no or eating ice cream. We deserve it! We compiled a list of self-care tips, which I have found extremely useful. Bubble baths and my India Arie pandora playlist are officially a weekly thing for me. :D

To sum it up, CLPP Conference has changed me. I love life changing conferences! Being around such radical people has led me to check my privilege, change my dialoguem share my stories, and provide a listening ear to those who need it the most. CLPP Conference created a safe space for me to promote the work I do in the Bay Area, establish a network of women I can lean on, and take what I have learned and put it into practice. There were more POCs being represented at CLPP than the years before, from what I heard, which was great! Being a women of color in the same space as Eesha Pandit Monica Ray Simpson and Miriam Zoila Perez (to name a few) was life altering!

Amherst, you were hella cold, but you were good to me. That six hour flight was totally worth it.

Thank you to Advocates for Youth and Trina Scott for giving me the opportunity to attend CLPP Conference 2013! I am ever so grateful!

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« KO! KO! KO! », shouted the crowd .Mind you, they weren’t participating in a boxing match, neither were they at a musical concert, they shouted KO! in response to the health officials that took turns in sensitizing the crowd of more than 5000 that gathered at the Douala Place du Gouvernement to participate in the 9KM sensitization Walk that was organized by the Cameroon’s Coalition of Businesses for the fight against HIV/AIDS, Malaria, and Tuberculosis and better known by its French acronym CCATSIDA, Cameroon’s Ministry of Public Health, and other stakeholders (local and international) in the fight against Malaria this Saturday 20th April 2013.

Being a participant, I could not help but be marveled at how engaged fellow participants were as we criss-crossed the streets of Cameroon’s most populated town. Young and old, and from diverse horizons, one thing united this people; that Malaria be kicked Out of Cameroon.

This passion and demonstrated in the endurance of the participants all through the alertness of their  footsteps and the smile on their faces, could not however stop me from asking myself fundamental questions around the strategy for the fight against Malaria in my country. Thus, when  one of the thousands of spectators that had  amassed  at  streets corners shouted, “Where are condoms?”, there was  an outburst of laughter from the crowd, I began asking myself  what might have prompted this spectator to ask the question he did. As I thought about this, my eyes fell on the logo of the Cameroonian Coalition of Businesses for the fight against HIV/AIDS, Malaria, and Tuberculosis and on the T-Shirt of the participant ahead of me, my answer was here. The words AIDS on this coalitions logo prompted the question from this spectator.

AIDS and its prevention methods are better known in Cameroon than Malaria and its means of protection.  This is paradoxical given that Malaria kills in Cameroon and Sub-Saharan Africa than HIV/AIDS. Mind you, I am in no way saying that resources (human and material) should be shifted from the fight against HIV/AIDS, which is causing havoc in Cameroon especially amongst youths, to the fight against Malaria. The point I am trying to make is that the fight against Malaria, HIV/AIDS, and Tuberculosis has for long been done as though they were isolated.

It is true that a person that has Malaria  or Tuberculosis is not automatically an HIV/AIDS patient, but  most often people suffering from HIV/AIDS in Cameroon are  victims of the  Malaria and tuberculosis given the milieu in which they live and  the little means they have to survive on.

I have for long being convinced that an effective fight against Malaria cannot be done in an isolated manner but must be inclusive; taking into consideration the vectors of the disease in various communities in Cameroon. A dirty environment provides good breeding grounds for Mosquitoes especially the female Anopheles mosquito, through which Malaria is spread, the fight against Malaria must start from there. If a clean environment is achieved through mechanism through efficient urban development and poverty reduction strategies, Malaria will be made history. After all, isn’t it common knowledge that prevention is better than Cure?

In Cameroon and I guess is the case elsewhere in the world, a change from a dirty and crowded environment to a cleaner environment is the main indicator that a person has emerged from poverty. This is so because people who could barely afford 3 meals a day will have little time to think about the environments in which they live talk less of women in this bracket going for prenatal consultation or even having time to take their infants to the hospital when they are sick. Thus, despite the bed-nets distribution campaigns that  have been organized all over Cameroon and despite the fact that  Malaria treatment is free for  children and pregnant women  in Cameroon, Malaria killed more than 3000 people most of whom children.

Without an efficient attack on poverty, which is fertile ground for poor living conditions, I am afraid our walk and much talk on the fight against Malaria will be in vain. For Malaria to be kicked out of this country, we must not only walk on occasions like those organized  to mark the World day for the fight against Malaria, we must truly walk the talk on the fight against Malaria daily, by  launching an immediate assault and poverty. Because Malaria is the consequence of a dirty environment which is its self a glaring consequence of poverty.

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The two years I spent serving as a health volunteer with the Peace Corps in West Africa were some of the most formative years of my life. They fostered my sense of independence and resourcefulness, solidified my career and life goals, and taught me to question injustices, particularly those injustices that jeopardized the sexual and reproductive health and rights of young women and girls and placed them at an educational, economic, social, and political disadvantage. I never imagined that one day I would find myself questioning injustices faced by Peace Corps volunteers themselves.

More than 210,000 of us have served in the Peace Corps since its founding 52 years ago. As anyone can attest, Peace Corps volunteers provide an invaluable service to our country and the countries in which we serve, but we often do it at risk to our own safety and security. Over the past decade, more than 1,000 volunteers have experienced sexual assault. Women—who comprise more than 60 percent of the 8,000 currently serving volunteers—should never have to face the tragedy of a sexual assault, but if they do, they should be able to access comprehensive health care and support services. Yet, Peace Corps volunteers are now one of the only groups of women who receive their health care through the federal government who are denied coverage for abortion services in the cases of rape, incest, or life endangerment.

We must change this outrageously blatant discriminatory policy! Join me in demanding health equity and fairness for Peace Corps volunteers!

Denying volunteers a basic health care benefit that is extended to all other federal employees—including the Peace Corps employees who work with these volunteers—is grossly unfair and denies thousands of volunteers access to vital health services. Women serving our country deserve equity and fairness in access to health care, consistent with other areas of federal law.

Fortunately, Senators Lautenberg, Shaheen, Gillibrand, Boxer, Murray, Warren, and Murphy introduced the Peace Corps Equity Act (S. 813), which would repeal this inequitable restriction on women’s health and allow the Peace Corps to provide the same coverage for abortion care—in cases of rape, incest, and life endangerment—as employees covered under other federal health plans currently receive.

Please contact your Senators today to urge their support for the Peace Corps Equity Act!

No woman should face life endangerment because she cannot access a medical procedure that is safe and legal in the United States.

In solidarity,

Janine Kossen

Director of Public Policy and Returned Peace Corps Volunteer

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“I also came to realize that the focus on personhood ignores the fact that a zygote, embryo, or fetus is growing inside of another person’s body.

Libby Anne, “How I Lost Faith in the ‘Pro-Life’ Movement”

This is really important to consider.  You absolutely can advocate for a zygote, embryo, or fetus.  But understand that in doing so, it subsequently infringes on the rights of the person this being resides in.

Giving a fetus personhood is not equality.  No one currently has the special right of using another’s person body without constant consent.

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Earth Day is more than appreciating the way in which trees grow from nourished soil— though that is a refreshing sight.  It’s a day to be reminded of our relationship with the planet and how we have the power to make it an even better place to live and breathe.  However, the quality of the air that fills our lungs and bodies can almost be suffocating.

You see, even in the most frequented of places, breathing can be risky. Take nail salons, for example. Getting manicures and pedicures are a regular beauty regimen for many women.  The strong fumes of nail products are as unpleasant to smell as they are for your health. Nail salons aren’t only a place for customers to prepare for a glamorous occasion; they are a site of environmental injustice.

There are thousands of chemicals in nail salon products, the vast majority of which have never been tested for safety. The three that advocates are working the hardest to remove are dubbed the “toxic trio”— toluene, formaldehyde, and dibutyl phthalate. These ingredients have been found to cause cancer, infertility, miscarriages, birth defects, wheezing, coughing, skin rashes, headaches, and dizziness. Once emitted into the air, toluene, which is a volatile solvent, has the power to impact, even worse, damage our reproductive and central nervous systems. Formaldehyde is known to cause cancer, skin irritation, coughing and wheezing.  Finally, the last coat for a sheer finish for manicures involves dibutyl phthalate, which causes reproductive harm. This all leaves women with the unfair choice between their health and working to support themselves and their families.

Most nail technicians are Asian American women; Vietnamese women make up the highest percentage of technicians, followed by Korean women. There’s an unbreakable connection between the environment and our health and, unfortunately for many women, income level and immigration status can create heightened vulnerability to environmental harm. Most nail salon workers are immigrants with limited English proficiency and low levels of education, so their occupation choices are very limited.

So why isn’t the government protecting women from these toxins? Unfortunately, the law that “regulates” the cosmetics industry was passed in 1938 and has not been updated since. Therefore, it does not address the myriad of new, dangerous chemicals that have come into use since then. Moreover, it allows the industry to self-regulate. A panel of industry representatives, called the Cosmetics Ingredient Review Panel, is charged with oversight. Further, regulatory agencies that should be able to do something about this don’t have the authority to do so. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) cannot pull products off the market or even demand that products be clearly labeled with all their ingredients.

The National Asian and Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF), as part of the National Healthy Nail and Beauty Salon Alliance (The Alliance) are pushing for justice within nail salons.  They have urged beauty supply companies to come clean about the ingredients presented in their products, are advocating for the Safe Cosmetics Act, and are working with federal agencies on this issue.

Until we are able to get these toxins off the market and out of our salons, here are some suggestions for safety:

1. Purchase nail care products that do not contain the “toxic trio.”

We can’t be too sure that all ingredients are posted the label. If you want to stay safe, contact the companies directly to ensure your products are clear of toluene, formaldehyde, and dibutyl phthalate

2. Pay attention to which nail and beauty brands are being honest with their consumers

When an urgent letter was distributed to a pool of nail and beauty companies, some responded with honest answers while others didn’t respond at all.

3. Learn about best practices for making salons safer work places.

For more information on safe and healthy nail salon practices, you can check out and share the following resource, which has been translated in Vietnamese and Korean: http://www.epa.gov/opptintr/dfe/pubs/projects/salon/index.htm

On this Earth Day, yes, hug a tree, take a deep breath, and give thanks to this planet. But also remember the people who are most affected by environmental injustice, including nail salon workers. One day, I hope nail salon workers can take a nice deep breath in their work spaces, knowing that it’s safe to do so.

 

For more information and references:

http://nailsalonalliance.squarespace.com/storage/WVE.NailSalon.Report.pdf

http://napawf.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/working/pdfs/issuebrief_nailsalon_updated.pdf

http://napawf.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/working/pdfs/Toxic_Trio_nail_report2009.pdf

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The American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Reproductive Rights have filed a lawsuit to block an Arkansas law banning abortion care after 12 weeks from going into effect.

Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe had vetoed the extreme measure in March, citing concerns that it violated Roe v. Wade and that subsequent legal challenges would prove “very costly to the taxpayers of our state” as the “costs and fees [of defending an unconstitutional law] can be significant.” The Legislature overrode Beebe’s veto in March.

The suit seeks a preliminary injunction against the law, which is set to take effect in July.

“This law is one of the most dangerous assaults on women’s health that we’ve seen in decades,” said Rita Sklar, executive director of the ACLU of Arkansas. “We may not all agree about abortion, but we can all agree that this complex and personal decision should be made by a woman, her family, and her doctor, not politicians.”

And not just women, of course.  Everyone is entitled to reproductive/sexual healthcare and rights.

Read more here: http://www.salon.com/2013/04/17/arkansas_abortion_ban_faces_legal_challenge/

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When debating whether a fetus’s “right to life” trumps a woman’s “right to choose” — or whether the news media has paid enough attention to the trial of a Philadelphia doctor who allegedly killed seven babies born alive during late-term abortions, as well as a pregnant woman — Americans are bitterly divided on abortion. Before abandoning facts for rhetoric, let’s tackle some misunderstandings about this procedure’s history and impact.

Read more: http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/five-myths-about-abortion-rights/2013/04/18/bd53c884-a5e5-11e2-b029-8fb7e977ef71_story.html

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Social justice and environmental justice have a very direct
correlation. The environmental movement and the feminist movement both
advocate for the health of humanity, but in different ways. There are
many subject matters that exemplify this intersectionality.
For example, the way people use and abuse nature can easily be
compared to how society uses and abuses women.
Toxic Chemicals. We clearly need to do something about how easy it is
for major companies to slowly pollute our bodies and our earth. There
are over 84,000 chemicals in popular consumer products and only 200
have been tested. When chemicals even are tested it is primarily on
men, so these companies clearly do not care about the effect they are
having on women’s bodies. Some of these chemicals are made from toxins
that pollute our water and air. Many of these chemicals have been
shown to cause infertility, low sperm counts, sexual dysfunction,
miscarriage, and different types of cancer.  Not to mention women use
personal care products far more often than men and are therefore more
negatively affected. Here at ETSU we’re celebrating Earth Day with a
festival and a young man best summarized it when he said “unnatural
chemicals don’t make natural beauty.”
Not everyone can afford ridiculously expensive so-called “natural
organic” personal care products to keep themselves and their children
healthy. In addition, toxic waste dumps are disproportionately located
near minority communities. Women of color are targeted by systematic
racist beauty standards convincing them to buy hair relaxers and skin
lightening creams with chemicals that have severe damage potential.
For example, the chemicals found in common African-American hair
products are known endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs). EDCs are
linked to a range of reproductive health issues, like premature
puberty, gynecologic cancer, and birth defects. Look at who is hurting
the most by toxic chemicals. This is clearly a social justice issue
activists need to rise up against.
Quick Fact: 80% of federal transportation funds go to highways while
only 20% goes to mass transit. Not only does this hurt inner city
communities, but it’s a contributing factor to global warming.
Reproductive Justice. You know what’s really hurting our resources?
Overpopulation. People are using up far more than they need to and it
is growing out of control. If reproductive health options were more
readily available this would alleviate a great deal of that
environmental strain.
Here is a quick review on what the Toxic Substances Control Act is and
why we need it to be updated. This site also helps teach you on how
you can help.http://www.saferchemicals.org/resources/opinion.html
Find out what is in your cosmetics:
http://safecosmetics.org/article.php?list=type&type=33
Wake up to the threat of toxic chemicals!
www.rhtp.org/fertility/ToxicZombie.asp (Many resources used in the
writing of this blog were obtained from this site.)
“Toxic Combination: Fact Sheet on Toxic Chemicals and Reproductive
Health”—Center for American Progress:
http://www.americanprogress.org/wp-content/uploads/issues/2010/04/pdf/toxic_combination.pdf
“Women of Color are at Greater Risk for Toxic Chemical
Exposure”—Women’s Voices for the Earth:
http://www.womensvoices.org/about/why-a-womens-organization/

 

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Photo Credit: Sacramento Earth Day

Crossposted from Everyday Feminism

Today is Earth Day.

It’s a day that many of us associate with recycling and celebrating trees, wildlife, and rivers. And as a recreational tree-hugger, I can appreciate those traditional connotations of Earth Day.

But today’s environmental issues run much broader than just our waterways and forests.

Examining environmental issues with a feminist lens enables us to see the intersection of gender, socio-economics, and the environment.

The exploration and study of this intersection is formally referred to as eco-feminism.

Although no single definition of it exists, I would define it as a feminism that works to examine how environmental degradation and climate change impact communities and community members based on their socio-economic status and gender.

It’s important that the valuable intersectional perspective of eco-feminism doesn’t get lost amidst the green frenzy on Earth Day.

Women and Global Climate Change

Natural disasters and resource shortages hit impoverished communities first and worst. With women making up an estimated 70% of those living below the poverty line, they are most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and environmental degradation.

Women living in developing nations tend to be natural resource managers as the gatherers of food, water and firewood. And from a young age, girls traditionally assist their mothers with this work.

As resources become scarcer with decline in the environment’s health, girls are attending less and less school to be able to dedicate more time to finding water, or simply because school fees are no longer available as crop cycles become less predictable.

You can imagine the cycle of poverty that this spawns.

As primary natural resource managers, these women are especially well-equipped to lead environmental mitigation and adaptation efforts.

But due to traditional and patriarchal gender roles that devalue unpaid work like childcare and water retrieval, women’s specialized knowledge in smart and effective climate change adaptation is typically not respected or taken into consideration in most community decision-making processes.

Environmental and Social Injustice in the United States

In our own backyard, low-income communities and communities of color bear the greatest burden of environmental injustice.

Take Mossville, Louisiana as an example.

The small, rural, and predominantly African American town became the site of the highest concentration of vinyl plastic manufacturers in the US, in addition to housing a coal-fired power plant, oil refineries and other chemical production facilities.

Together, these facilities produce more than 4 million pounds of carcinogenic toxic chemicals that end up in the soil, air and water of Mossville. This community’s exposure to these toxins has resulted in grave health impacts, from high incidences of asthma to a cancer epidemic.

It is not a coincidence that these toxic plants were built in a lower-class community of color and not a place like downtown Washington, DC, a place populated by people of privilege and significant socio-political power.

Mossville, Louisiana is a clear cut incidence of environmental racism.

Toxic Injustice

Another alarming instance of environmental and social injustice happening right before our eyes has to do with toxic chemical exposure.

Mounting scientific evidence reveals that chemicals in our air, water and everyday products—from our furniture to our personal care and cleaning products—are harming our reproductive health and fertility.

This is frightening news for those of us that are planning big spring cleaning extravaganzas or like to paint our nails every few weeks.

But what about if you clean houses for a living or work in a nail salon? Your exposure to toxic chemicals is likely to be constant and severe.

Women of color and immigrant women are overrepresented in professions that entail extreme and dangerous exposure to toxic chemicals.

Again, it’s not a coincidence that low-income women of color are disproportionately burdened by toxic chemicals through their jobs, and the eco-feminist lens helps illuminate this reality.

Applying Eco-Feminism on Earth Day and Beyond

The eco-feminism lens is helpful in addressing environmental issues because it allows us the unveil oppressive societal structures – like racism, sexism, and classism – that play a significant role in the health of the environment and who is most impacted by this health declining.

So from now on, when you’re discussing recycling with your friends, don’t just think about where your un-recycled items will end up.

Dig deeper and consider which communities tend to live near the landfills in which non-recyclable waste is dumped.

Then dig even deeper and consider how living near the landfills may impact their health and wellbeing and if they are likely to have access to health insurance or not when it comes time to address these health impacts.

That is the beauty of the intersectional nature of eco-feminism.

Taking Action

With eyes wide open to the importance of justice issues on Earth Day, let’s take action in support of legislation that would make the 84,000 chemicals in commerce today safe for use by all consumers, but most importantly, communities that are disproportionately harmed by toxic chemicals.

Tell your Senators that you support the Safe Chemicals Act!

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weeden

A line of men in sweatshirts and jeans, baseball caps pulled down, snakes through desert brush in the hidden camera footage. The voice-over in this Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) film describes the actions of the “illegal aliens,” “They walk, but some get tired. A few sit and snack. Likely the snack packages will become litter… … more people, more paths, more trash.”
No one likes litter, especially those espousing to be environmentalists. The narrative of this film (you can find it here) is easy to follow. Immigrants = trash = ruined wildlife = environmental disaster.
It’s a simple argument to pull apart; consumption levels of people in America are astronomically higher than those of our southern neighbors and historically the U.S. accounts for a disproportionate amount of carbon emissions. Upon entering the U.S. one doesn’t immediately increase their consumption; factors of class and wealth are much better indicators of consumption. Since the Environmental Justice movement took off in the early 1980s, more and more immigrants and people of color have contributed their voices and values to the fight for the environment and climate. In short, immigrants aren’t the problem.

While easy to write-off as conservative propaganda, this film unfortunately represents a resurgent trend: racist, anti-immigrant rhetoric posing as values of the environmental movement. Let’s trace the connections from this film to the environmental movement. CIS is funded by the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), which John Tanton, the originator of what the Center for New Community (CNC) calls the “John Tanton Network,” founded. The Network is a web of inter-connected anti-immigration, pro-English, and nationalist groups that share funding and leadership. Tanton works directly with the Weeden Foundation, a major environmental funder, has sat on Sierra Club committees, and calls himself, “a strong conservationist and leading advocate for the environment”. Is this the leadership we want?
The good news is groups such as Center for New Community are calling out this trend and asserting what it really means to be an environmentalist. In a nation of immigrants, our generation is more open-minded than any to come before us on the issues of race, and immigration. We will be alive in the year 2050, when it is projected there will be no clear ethnic or racial majority in the United States. It’s up to us as young activists to call out this ruse when we see it and stand with our allies for immigration reform and environmental justice.
The voices of immigrants and people of color are absolutely essential if our generation is to achieve environmental and climate justice. Messages of hate and racism have no place in our movement. Communities are already fighting back against the false messages of Tanton and his cronies. Check out this CNC video highlighting youth in the Bronx who took the fight right to the offices of the Weeden Foundation:

http://youtu.be/TxQTnMgJ94w

Or read CNC’s report “Race, Migration and the Environment.”

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gink baby

By April Grayce Dunlop for The Black Sheep Journal

To not have children and act thoughtfully towards the Earth are perfectly valid life decisions on their own, but claiming that not having kids is the best thing we can do for the health of the planet threatens reproductive rights and climate justice.  This misled moralistic approach to denouncing procreation is exactly the platform of an emerging group of women who self-identify as GINKs- Green Inclinations, No Kids.  Their main stated motivation in being “child-free by choice” is to reduce their “carbon footprint.”  An article shared and widely “liked” on the GINK Facebook page states that, “To insure that the reduction of emissions in the developed countries is not cancelled by increases from the developing world, we must slow the growth rate of our human family.”

Drawing this connection between population control and environmental health encourages reproductive rights policies aimed at low birth rates instead of bodily autonomy.  Blaming climate change on large families and “overpopulation” distracts us from the people responsible for massive environmental destruction – such as oil companies, polluting factories, and militaries to name a few.  To lessen one’s harmful impact on the environment is an admirable goal, but the individualist frame of GINKs hugely limits their potential for change.

Often, the financial burden of raising kids ($234,000 for each child’s lifetime according to the GINK article) is posed as the most urgent reason not to have any. The cost of feeding, clothing, and housing children undeniably takes a chunk of parents’ paychecks.  A GINK WordPress blogger says household clutter is an eyesore of families with kids – “stuff” increases 30% when you have a toddler.  But how much of that financial drain and “stuff” is necessary and how much of it is the result of rampant consumerism?  Families who make more money spend more money on their children.  A 2008 USDA study found that “total family expenses on a child through age 17 would be $210,340 for households in the lowest income group, $291,570 for those in the middle, and $483,750 for those in the highest income group.”  Not spending money and resources on children leaves you with more for yourself, sure, but how many of the child-free by choice are living lavish lives and how many get by with the bare minimum?

In addition to the environmental motivations, paradoxically, many material benefits are cited as reasons to be childless.  The dream life depicted as an alternative to child-rearing includes luxurious vacations, all the sleep you could want, and a fancy house free of fingerprints on the glass.  This presumes, of course, that everyone’s life could be like this if they didn’t reproduce.  It is telling that the photo on the GINK manifesto on greenprophets.com is a flat, white stomach with a bit of long blond hair hanging at the side.  Beyond the obvious fat-shaming implications of this, it makes me wonder how many women “choosing to be child-free” are white, upper-middle class, and/or college-educated.  All types of people decide not to have kids, but it’s hard to imagine GINKs are representative of diverse backgrounds and socioeconomic status when “traveling the world, running my business, getting massages, getting pedicures and manicures, working out with my trainer, enjoying great dining experiences and enjoying life to the fullest” is depicted as the non-parenting life.

Perhaps childrearing wouldn’t be “too expensive” if our economic structures and public spaces accommodated raising children in families that didn’t fit the mold of a couple with one high-income-earing parent and a full-time caregiver.  To encourage people to forgo having children due to the cost reinforces it as a privilege for middle to upper class people – and an irresponsible choice for lower class folks.  Instead of examining our buying practices, inadequate wages, price inflation, and the need for publicly supported childcare, the GINK approach relies on individual choices as the solution to systemic problems.

Many people choosing not to have children for the benefit of the planet do not identify (openly, on the internet) as GINKs, but the rhetoric is similar and equally precarious.  A Seattle Times columnist, Sharon Pian Chan, voiced her support for not having kids as “the most important thing [she] could do to reduce [her] carbon footprint.”  She cites a 2009 study by Oregon State University that calculated the emissions impact of each new child in the United States to be 9441 metric tons of carbon dioxide – which is five times the emissions of a child born in China.  It is important to acknowledge the national differences in pollution, but fearing non-U.S. countries’ rapidly increasing emission rates should signal us to take a critical look at our own country’s policies and practices.  Instead of interpreting high individual emissions rates in the context of a larger pattern of production and consumption, the GINK framework shifts the focus to a micro level.  From that vantage point, it is easy to overlook the magnitude of change needed on corporate and institutional levels to halt environmental damage soon enough to be meaningful.

No matter how many light switches we turn off when we leave the room, pounds of food scraps we dutifully compost, and hours spent on public transit instead of driving an SUV, the Earth will still be under violent attack.  The GINK ideology may be well intentioned, but evades the root causes of climate change and unintentionally humiliates mothers who are less than totally enthusiastic and prepared to have kids.  Reproductive freedom must necessarily include the freedom to have – or not have – children.  Encouraging women to sacrifice their right to do what they want with their body for the “greater good” stirs up guilt in individuals that is widely disproportionate to their personal impact.  We need collective action- not individual shaming- to effectively address the global environmental crisis.

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Virginia’s New Anti-Choice

Restrictions Will Force 40-

Year-Old Abortion Clinic To

Close This Weekend

 Last week, Virginia’s Board of Health voted to finalizeunnecessary regulations that will force many of the state’s abortion clinics to shut down. Those new restrictions — which are known as the Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers, or TRAP laws — are already having their intended effect. Hillcrest Clinic, which opened to the public just nine months after the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalized abortion services, will be closing its doors this weekend.

READ MORE HERE.

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As advocates for young people’s sexual health and rights, many may not think of us as having a stake in the immigration reform game. But in fact, it’s quite the opposite. The health and wellbeing of young people both within and outside our borders, regardless of immigration paperwork, is of the utmost importance to our organization. While we may not take a stand on every issue in immigration reform, there are a few that rise to the top—some of which were included in the Senate’s Gang of Eight bill, and others which were left out.

 

The Good

  • DREAM-inclusive reform

In 2010, Advocates for Youth stood strong with DREAMers (undocumented youth) across the country and had our hearts broken when the Senate voted down the DREAM Act, which would have given young people who arrived in the United States as children a pathway to citizenship. In the current bill, DREAMers who arrive to the United States before the age of 16 and who have completed high school in the United States can apply for a Registered Provisional Immigrant (RPI) status and move more quickly through the process to become citizens. There is also no age cap to this provision.

  • Better language for refugees

Currently, those who apply for asylum in the United States have one year to do so. The current bill would lift that extremely short deadline which would help reduce the burden of those needing asylum in the United States, many of whom identify as LGBT and are coming from countries that persecute these communities.

  • Lifting of 3 and 10-year bans for re-entry

Many of our families have had members who were deported for low-level offenses, simply because they were without papers. As a result, they are barred from re-entering the United States for extended periods of time, even if they have children here who are citizens. The current bill gives those who have been deported with family still in the United States the ability to apply for RPI status.

  • Better training for DHS staff

Too often individuals, and especially those who identify as LGBT, have been abused in immigration facilities. This bill would provide training and resources on appropriate use of force, individual rights, and cultural sensitivity.

 

 

The Bad

  • Ignores bi-national same sex couples

Because of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), same-sex couples do not receive the same benefits of heterosexual couples when it comes to sponsoring a spouse from another country. The Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) would have resolved this situation, but unfortunately it was left out of the bill.

  • Healthcare denied

For those that gain RPI status, they will not have access to public benefits like Medicaid, Children’s Health Insurance Program or food stamps. For the 11 million undocumented people who now will have a pathway to citizenship (yay), that 13-year process could mean no access to healthcare during that time (extra boo). We’ve already had long discussions around the Affordable Care Act about what it means to go without healthcare (from awful health outcomes to additional costs being placed on hospitals), and especially those who would be given RPI status should be able to access the healthcare they need to lead healthy lives.

 

There is a lot more good and a lot more bad, but these are the issues we’ll be watching closely.

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This past Wed. was the Reproductive Health Lobby Day 2013 in Columbus, OH, sponsored by a coalition of groups including: Planned Parenthood, Naral Pro-Choice Ohio, the National Council of Jewish Women, and the Ohio Advocates/Advocates for Youth. Though I arrived late due to classes and a long drive, I was able to meet with Representative Ron O’Brian’s legislative aide Chad Aronson and Senator John Ecklund in order to urge their vote against Substitute House Bill 59. I, along with nearly one hundred others (mostly women to my eye), were fighting the Bill’s efforts to defund Planned Parenthood, move federal TANF grant money to “crisis pregnancy centers,’ and in a last-minute addition, ban comprehensive sex education programs and “gateway sexual activities” in Ohio schools.

Let’s take a quick step back here and review these points: 1. Defund an organization which is utilized by 1 in 5 American women for pregnancy tests, pap smears, access to birth control, cancer screenings, etc. An organization that is staffed by medical professions and who competes vigorously for its funding; winning it because they are the best in their field. 2. Moving federal grant money to a loose-knit collaboration of “crisis” centers, some of which are centered in RVs and moveable homes, with clear and overt religious affiliations and questionable to no real medical credentials or authorities. 3. Banning all comprehensive sex ed programs and “gateway sexual activities.  .  .” This is the kicker for me. Apparently the word “sex” drowns out the words “comprehensive” and “education,” words which I feel in most academic setting (vs. something silly or illegal) are generally considered most excellent. Further, “gateway sexual activities” are not defined. This could mean holding hands, kissing, cuddling, overt flirting; hell, watching certain TV shows with sexual content (which in today’s pop culture is ubiquitous) could be considered a “gateway” to the terrible and unnatural acts of “sex.” Note, however, that the legal age of consent for a minor is 16, halfway through one’s high-school career. Concurrently, it has been statistically proven by a number of studies that comprehensive sex ed programs lower rates of unwanted pregnancy, STD/STI transmission, and sex in general for high-school aged students (I can gladly provide links if needed). Abstinence-only programs have no such support and leaves kids (since a truly comprehensive program will start education in primary school) to search the internet or use TV shows and/or peers as sources of information. Many of these sources are NOT vetted and may have misleading, incomplete, or wrong (and potentially dangerous) information. In a similar vein, these “crisis pregnancy centers” make one’s reproductive health and family planning efforts into a “crisis” while many (at least 47% according to a Naral survey) offer little to no information on the connections between pregnancy and mental health issues, the very option of abortion, or forms of contraception beyond the natural “rhythmic” method.

Returning to the specifics of my experience: the meeting with Rep. O’Brian’s legislative aide (who was quite dashing and exceedingly polite) went over very well and I believe O’Brian voted against the Bill in the vote earlier today. The meeting with Senator Ecklund was a bit more rushed and came out with a more neutral answer but I think he will lean towards against. He did, however, bring up the issue of abortion immediately upon hearing the words “family planning centers” and claimed that he personally believes all abortions are wrong. Note that this issue has NOTHING to do with the issue of abortion and that only 3% of Planned Parenthood’s budget is allotted for abortions. Note also that Senator Ecklund was savvy enough to recognize that his District is highly divided on the issue, allowing him the ability to abstain on the issue. Upon hearing of the House’s approval of Substitute House Bill 59 I decided to send Senator Ecklund this email:

I just wanted to take a moment to thank you via email for meeting with me and Judith Pindell on Wed., April 17th regarding Substitute House Bill 59. I also wanted to utilize this medium to reiterate my concern for House Bill 59 and my urging for you to vote against it when it comes to the Senate. I realize that the Bill has passed through the House and it is my greatest hope that the Senate will show a better understanding of the terrible ramifications this Bill will have for women and their families across the State of OH. 


Furthermore, while I believe the comprehensive education addendum to the Bill was removed by the House I would like you to know that my colleagues and I at the College of Wooster are at this time preparing a comprehensive sex ed program for all Wooster students next year. Ohioans should not have to wait until college, if they can afford college, to learn the dos and don’ts of safe sex practices in a safe, knowledgeable, and empowering way. I know that you will make the right choice, now and in the future.

Thank you for your time and consideration,

It is my sincere hope that he and the rest of the Senate vote against this backwards, outmoded Bill. It is 2013, everybody.  .  .come on already!

- Justin

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Among both pro-choice and anti-abortion activists, the story of the abhorrent conditions and Kermit Gosnell’s actions at the Women’s Medical Society clinic in West Philadelphia brought feelings of anger and sadness as it lit up Facebook and social media. People expressed outrage not only at the death of Karnamaya Mongar, a Nepalese refugee who died after receiving an overdose of a sedative at the hands of Gosnell’s staff, but also at the failure of officials to close Women’s Medical Society and revoke Gosnell’s license, and at the media for failing to give the story the attention it deserves. (To read a more complete story, read this article at The Atlantic, one of the first news outlets to cover the case)

I agree that people should feel outraged. They should feel outraged for all of the reasons listed above, and they should feel outraged because no woman, no person, no girl should ever have to face the conditions that Gosnell’s patients did.  This situation could have been prevented if the United States guaranteed every woman’s right to safe, affordable, legal abortion. Unfortunately, it does not.

One of the most shocking aspects of the story were the fetuses found stored in jars and refrigerators in Gosnell’s office. Many of the fetuses were over the age of 24 weeks, the cut-off for legal abortion in Pennsylvania. One question that has not been asked is why? Why were these fetuses aborted so late? The most likely answer: these poor women did not have access to an abortion any earlier than that. Even if they realized they were pregnant at 8 or 10 weeks, it could have easily taken them 3 months to save up the hundreds of dollars they needed to afford an abortion. This is yet another example of why there should be funding to pay for abortions for those women who cannot afford them.

Another question: why did these women go to Gosnell’s office? Why did they not leave when they saw the terrible conditions? The answer: they had nowhere else to turn. There are four abortion providers in Philadelphia, and in 2008, there were only 50 total abortion providers in the entire state of Pennsylvania. 46% of Pennsylvania women live in a county without an abortion provider. Even if a women or girl could have gotten transportation to see a different provider, it could have taken weeks to get an appointment, after the weeks it took her to raise the money. In addition, Pennsylvania law states that a woman must receive state-directed counseling that includes information designed to discourage her from having an abortion, and then wait 24 hours before the procedure is provided. This is why clinics cannot be closed, why providers must be able to continue providing safe, legal abortions, and why these restrictions must be removed.

Gosnell’s case should be receiving publicity. Not only does it show the terrible situations in which women who are exercising their right to have an abortion find themselves in all too often thanks to restrictive legislation, but it shows what will happen if abortion becomes illegal.

I would also like to use Gosnell’s case to shine light on another pervasive problem that threatens women’s and girls’ lives around the world: unsafe abortion.  In 2008, 21.6 million unsafe abortions took place worldwide; only 360,000 of these occurred in developed regions. As a result of these unsafe abortions, 47,000 women in developing countries will die; only 90 will die in developed regions. Complications from pregnancy, including unsafe abortion are the leading cause of death for young women ages 15 through 19. Among those who survive the procedure, many suffer from post-abortion sepsis, hemorrhage, and genital trauma.

As in the case of Gosnell’s patients, we must ask ourselves: why? Why do 3 million girls between the ages of 15 and 19 receive unsafe abortions? Why are over 21 million unsafe abortions performed annually? One major barrier is the legality of abortion. Only 15% of developing countries permit abortions on request, and only 39 percent of women live in a country where it is available upon request. In 4 countries, abortion is not permitted under any circumstances, even to save the life of the mother. In addition, many of these countries have additional restrictions on abortion like those we see in the United States. Even if abortion is legal, women may have to go through a waiting period or receive an endorsement from several doctors or specialists. In developing countries where physicians are few and far between, this can make the process nearly impossible.

Several other issues restrict women from accessing safe and legal abortion care. Many countries have failed to make provisions for abortion services, often due to social and cultural beliefs. Women are often uninformed of their right under the law, or they cannot afford the services. Abortion services are often not well distributed throughout the country, they are insufficient to meet the demand, or they are of poor quality.

Sound familiar? Women cannot afford services? Abortion services are not well distributed throughout the country? The United States is quickly going down a dangerous path that leads to unsafe abortions, far more than those seen in Gosnell’s clinic. In the United States and in other countries, women must have the right to choose, and the right to a safe, legal, affordable abortion. That should be the discussion around the Kermit Gosnell case. That should be why people are outraged.

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While Boston College is against adult students at the college using and having access to condoms my college LOVED when the student government gave out condom flowers on Condom Day.

I am one part of my college’s Undergrad Student Governments Health Programming Board. Our campus has a health clinic like many other college campuses however, a lot of students do not know about it. In an effort to get more of my peers to know about the clinic and to be more mindful of the sexual health I decided to make condom flowers for Valentine’s Day and give them away to students.

Condom flowers are cute, creative, and lets face it super practical. Luckily for me they’re even easy to make. I set out making the flowers the day before and after hours of tape, condoms, and pipe cleaners  I called it quits at 140 flowers.
Unfortunately, I had class at the time of giving them away however when I went downstairs between classes my friends h
ad told me that the condom flowers were a huge hit!
Even the Dean of Student Affairs came out to them and thanked them for doing “this it’s really nee
ded.”
While I was with them I watched as some people would pull their hands back as if they were reaching into fire when they noticed they were condoms. Why?
Why is it that condoms are “icky,” “gross,” “embarrassing and unprotected sex isn’t? Why are adults in college still afraid and blush at the sight of a condom? The other day the Center for Disease Control confirmed the United States is one of the most infectious developed countries in the world.
Perhaps if we learned, familiarized, and taught ourselves about sex safe we would actually have safe sex. Imagine that.

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STIGMA

A few weeks back  I listened attentively to ‘SOS Doctor’, one of the best health programs that be on Radio in Cameroon. As I listened, I got very happy at the great job that Dr. Dion Grace, a member of the National AIDS Control Committee of Cameroon was doing to educate Cameroonians on anti-retroviral drugs. She eloquently and insightfully answered every one of the questions that were posed to her by listeners who called-in and am sure her intervention in the program was a timely one. Everything was fine until when a listener called-in to ask what is it that could be done to reduce stigma on people who are on anti-retroviral drugs. Dr. Dion as usual gave a very insightful answer to this question going as far as citing the example of Ivory Coast where the drugs are put in anonymous packages so that they can be taken by patients without fear of stigma by the people around them. She went ahead to cite cases where some special containers of various doses is been used in some countries to reduce stigma. This was quiet interesting to know, but when she started advising people on anti-retroviral that they could tell people around them that they are taking vitamins or pills in order to avoid stigmatization I grumbled the following to myself: Do I have to be so ashamed of my status that I have to lie to others?

I have no statistics on this but I can assure you that having to lie on your HIV status is the order of the day in Cameroon especially amongst young people to avoid stigma and discrimination.  Well, this to an extend is understandable given that People Living With  HIV/AIDS(PLWHA)  are considered as being punished by God for either their sisns or those committed by their family. But when telling a lie to avoid stigma is a behaviour that is reinforced health professionals, I have reservations and clearly doubt how efficient this approach could be.

I am utterly convinced that a problem can only be solved if its root cause(s) is/are carefully tackled. As a young person living in a society where most PLWHA are young persons, I compare telling a lie on your HIV/AIDS status to survive to deliberately refusing to tackle the problem from it’s source and launching an attack on its leaves instead.

To reduce stigma in the most sustainable way possible, education rather than lies is required.Young  People, their families, and the communities in which People on anti-retroviral drugs have to be educated on the dangers of stigma and on the importance of accepting PLWHA. Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations’ Secretary-General,  vividly spelt out society’s responsibility to PLWHA when he declared that,  “We can fight stigma. Enlightened laws and policies are key. But it begins with openness, the courage to speak out. Schools should teach respect and understanding. Religious leaders should preach tolerance. The media should condemn prejudice and use its influence to advance social change, from securing legal protections to ensuring access to health care.”

Lies do nothing but contribute in amplifying the myth around HIV/AIDS in the Cameroonian society. People on anti-retroviral drugs do not need to lie on their status to survive stigma, they need to accept themselves as they are and deserve the care and protection that every other human being is due by the society in which they live.They deserve to live a real life and not a life of lies.

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immigration_rally_onpage

Video From NAW 2013!!!

Thanks to Advocates For Youth, I had the privilege and pleasure of attending the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health’s National Advocacy Weekend for 5 days this past March. As I packed my bags and boarded the plane that would take me from Ithaca, NY to Washington DC, I had no clue as to the intense intellectual, emotional, and passionate environment I was about to step into.

This year’s Advocacy Weekend was focused on the inclusion of immigrant women’s health care in immigration reform. Immigration policy directly affects an immigrant woman’s access to health care. According to the NLIRH website, the majority of female immigrants do not have healthcare coverage. State legislatures continue to introduce legislation that would restrict non-citizens’ access to basic public health programs, including prenatal care. Immigrant women are less likely to receive adequate reproductive health care, including cervical and breast cancer screening and treatment, family planning services, HIV/AIDS testing and treatment, accurate sex education and culturally and linguistically competent services.

Reproductive Justice tells us that these services are essential for women to have the basic human rights to dignity and self determination. It was under this belief that over 50 activists from across the country joined together. We represented the full spectrum of american latina identity- some of us were undocumented, others were second and third generation citizens. Our command of English and Spanish differed, but we were united in our conviction, and most of all in our support of one another.

Yo te apoyo. This is one of NLIRH’s campaign slogans, and it was this sentiment that was most felt throughout the weekend. As we learned about the intricacies of immigration reform and of it’s intersections with Reproductive Justice, we were free to voice our personal experiences and frustrations. People spoke of very personal obstacles- young motherhood, the pain of familial disruption by deportation, the inability to be seen by a doctor for a cyst in the breast- openly and honestly, and were always received with respect and the assurance that they had in their power the ability to create change.

At the rally for Immigrant Women on Sunday, speakers shouted, “We are on the right side of history!” to a church full of applause. I clapped and shouted right along.  It was only later that I questioned the assurance I felt that this is true. I suppose I feel that I am “on the right side of history” when I am working with people who sound least like a history textbook.. People who choose not to simplify and sterilize an issue, because they are not afraid to admit to and confront the complexity and diversity of it. People who gain collective power through their willingness to admit to vulnerability, to the need to support and be supported in their struggle.

 

For more information about the issue of Immigrant women’s access to healthcare, and how it is affected by immigration policy, check out:

Our Issues: Immigrant Rights

The Economic Effects of Granting Legal Status and Citizenship to Undocumented Immigrants