Monday, October 16, 2017
Devex (Oct. 3, 2017): In West Africa, youth ambassadors serve as family planning advocates, by Christin Roby:
In West Africa, young people are receiving training from health professionals and becoming community-based family planning advocates. They use their skills to initiate conversations with their local ministries of health to demand access to contraceptives, reproductive health services, and to ensure they each have a voice in future reproductive policies.
West Africa has the world’s lowest contraceptive prevalence rate accompanied by the world’s highest fertility rate. While the world averages 2.4 children per woman, African women average 4.7 children. West Africa surpasses even the African average with five children per woman, and a 17 percent modern contraception prevalence rate as compared to the global rate of 64 percent.
These initiatives are part of a larger project by the nations that make up the Ouagadougou Partnership (Benin, Burkina Faso, Cote d'Ivoire, Guinea, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal, and Togo). This Partnership has a goal to provide 2.2 million more people in the region better access to family planning methods by 2020. The youth ambassadors especially aim to reach rural communities that don't often have much knowledge about contraception or family planning.
Experts hope that introducing effective family planning methods into more communities will enable young mothers-to-be to space their births, so as to reduce potentially negative health consequences. Young men are important to the conversation as well, and educating them on the risks of un-spaced births and the health complications that young pregnant women face--especially those under 18 years old--is imperative.
By empowering the youth to advocate for themselves and their communities, these groups--such as Strengthening Civil Society Engagement for Family Planning in West Africa--hope to facilitate cooperation between religious and community leaders. Bridging these spheres is important in order to account for various cultural contexts when considering reproductive rights advocacy and establishing new health services programs. Youth ambassadors have effectively organized trainings within mosques and churches and are beginning to open a line of communication about safe sex practices, discussion of which is often considered taboo.
International health experts are optimistic that the West African model will expand contraceptive use and effective family planning and improve reproductive health in the region.
Thursday, October 5, 2017
UN Ambassador Flounders to Explain U.S. Vote Against Rebuking the Use of the Death Penalty to Target LGBTQ People
Think Progress (Oct. 4, 2017): Haley tries, fails to explain UN vote against rebuking use of death penalty to target LGBTQ people, by Zack Ford:
The United Nations approved a resolution on Friday, September 29 condemning the use of the death penalty in a discriminatory manner. The text of the resolution called for the death penalty to be banned "as a sanction for specific forms of conduct, such as apostasy, blasphemy, adultery and consensual same-sex relations."
The United States, however, voted against the resolution, along with Iraq and Saudi Arabia. Only 13 out of 47 countries on the Human Rights Council voted against it.
A spokesperson for the State Department cited "broader concerns" about the resolution as the reason for the negative vote, specifying disagreement with the resolution's "approach in condemning the death penalty in all circumstances." UN Ambassador Nikki Haley took to twitter to claim that the vote was not one for "the death penalty for gay people," claiming that Friday's vote was the same as the U.S.'s vote on the same issue under the Obama administration. In 2014, however, the Obama administration abstained from the death penalty resolution, which is distinct from actively voting "no." Additionally, the language regarding same-sex relationships was a new addition to the resolution.
The rest of the resolution’s calls to action refer to how the death penalty is implemented, not whether it should be. It simply calls upon states that have not yet abolished the death penalty to ensure that it is not applied in a discriminatory way and to take all possible precautions to protect the civil rights of people who are facing that punishment.
The controversy surrounding this vote highlights the United States' isolation on the death penalty compared to the rest of the democratized world. Many studies have found the death penalty to be applied in a discriminatory manner across the world where it is still implemented, especially against racial minorities and economically-vulnerable people. In the U.S., 55% of those awaiting execution today are people of color, according to the ACLU.
While the resolution encouraged countries to sign a protocol that aims at abolishing the death penalty, it did not require it.
Saturday, August 19, 2017
The New York Times (Aug. 9, 2017): The Right to (Black) Life, by Renee Bracey Sherman
Three years since the killing of Michael Brown, women of color are asserting that one of the greatest civil rights issues of our time is not abortion, as anti-choice advocates argue, but police brutality.
While the fundamental right to procreate (or not to) remains essential for black women, many point out that this choice, without the legitimate ability to raise their children in safety and away from violence, "rings hollow."
It’s important to understand that the fight for reproductive justice and the fight to end police brutality go hand in hand. State violence and control, whether through racist policing, the criminal justice system or the welfare system, are all issues at the core of reproductive justice. They are fundamentally about whether you, or the state, has control over your own body and destiny.
Reproductive justice as a human rights framework, was initiated by women of color in the early 1990s. Beyond abortion, the movement is about ensuring a woman's right to choose whether to conceive, her right to a safe, shame-free pregnancy, and the right to raise her children free from state control and brutality.
Discrimination against black mothers and mothers-to-be begins right away and is recognized by organizations such as the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Racial bias, they say, affects mothers and families both directly through unequal treatment, and indirectly through the stress of such an environment.
Anti-abortion activists, in particular, when black mothers survive the killing of their children, look to blame the mother or the child himself. "They scrutinize every parenting decision and ignore the structural issues that force those decisions."
Far too often, compassion for black lives doesn’t extend beyond the womb or to the black women carrying that womb. Too few tears are shed for the people killed by police violence. Reproductive justice is about the resolve to raise our families on our own terms, safely. This is the fight for the right to life.
Friday, August 18, 2017
The New York Times (Aug. 16, 2017): Sperm Count in Western Men Has Dropped Over 50 Percent Since 1973, Paper Finds, by Maya Salam
The sperm count of men in Western countries has been declining precipitously with no signs of “leveling off,” according to new research, bolstering a school of thought that male health in the modern world is at risk, possibly threatening fertility.
By examining thousands of studies and conducting a meta-analysis of 185 — the most comprehensive effort to date — an international team of researchers ultimately looked at semen samples from 42,935 men from 50 countries from 1973 to 2011.
They found that sperm concentration — the number of sperm per milliliter of semen — had declined each year, amounting to a 52.4 percent total decline, in men from North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand.
Possible causes that researchers have identified include exposure to cigarette smoke, alcohol, and chemicals--such as phthalates--in utero. Age, obesity, and stress also play a role in lowered sperm count and quality. While long-term consequences have yet to be identified, research shows that fertility rates in Western nations are too low to sustain the current population.
Wednesday, September 21, 2016
Since 2013, the Urban Resource Institute’s program URIPALS (People and Animals Living Safely) has helped families with pets escape domestic violence and enter shelter together. Now the Institute has published a white paper exploring the connection between domestic violence and pet abuse. Excerpts from the report follow:
The connection between domestic violence and pet abuse is very real, and in many cases, pet ownership becomes a barrier to safety because of the survivor’s unwillingness to leave their pet behind. The choice in many cases is forced because there are few programs that allow survivors of domestic violence to bring their pets with them when entering a shelter. This reality points to a great need both in New York City and nationally for more services for domestic violence survivors who are pet owners. It is vital for domestic violence service providers, animal advocates, funders and government partners to work together to support the growth of programs like URIPALS in order to ensure that people are able to leave an abusive environment with their entire family—pets included.
Leveraging findings from URIPALS, the white paper reveals:
- Insights from pet owners and survivors of domestic violence
- Recommendations for building a co-sheltering model, where people and pets are able to live together in shelter
- Current barriers to safety for pet owners seeking shelter
Monday, September 5, 2016
Fast Company (August 15, 2016): Patagonia's CEO Explains How To Make On-Site Child Care Pay For Itself, by Rose Marcario:
Patagonia CEO Rose Marcario explains that many businesspeople ask how companies can afford the plethora of family centered benefits similar to those offered to Patagonia employees: "company-paid health care and sick time for all employees; paid maternity and paternity leave; access to on-site child care for employees at our headquarters in Ventura, California, and at our Reno, Nevada, distribution center; and financial support to those who need it, among other benefits." Marcario writes that while paid leave should be favored because it is the ethically responsible thing to do, it is also an effective business model, with an-in depth look at the tax benefits, employee retention, and employee engagement fostered by Patagonia's policies. This is something Patagonia has done since its inception, and current leadership maintains a staunch commitment to these values:
For 33 years, Patagonia has provided on-site child care—a mandate from our founders, who believed it was a moral imperative. Even in times of economic struggle the program was never cut, because they believed in providing a supportive work environment for working families. Taking care of our tribe is part of our culture and our commitment to helping our own people live the way they want. It’s true, there are financial costs to offering onsite child care, and they can be expensive if you offer high-quality programs or subsidize your employees’ tuition when onsite care is not available.
But the benefits—financial and otherwise—pay for themselves every year. As a CEO, it’s not even a question in my mind. Business leaders (and their chief financial officers) should take note.
Friday, September 2, 2016
New York Times (Aug. 31, 2016): Review: "The Art of Waiting," What to Expect When You're Still Not Expecting, by Jennifer Senior:
In this book review of Belle Boggs's "The Art of Waiting: On Fertility, Medicine, and Motherhood," Senior describes the book as a dispeller of myths. Myths about infertility abound: it is primarily a while, upper-middle-class problem, it is a woman's problem, it is rare and unnatural. None of these myths is even remotely true. The psychological experience of infertility and the attempts to treat it are harrowing:
There is always one more treatment to try or redo, provided she’s willing to spring for it or disappear into a canyon of debt. There’s adoption to consider; there’s also the simple possibility of giving up, of deciding there’s another kind of life to be lived. Ms. Boggs did that for a while. It was both horrible and a great relief. “I felt split in two,” she writes. “The person I had hoped to become was torn away, leaving only the person I had always been.” She eventually resumes trying.
Apart from the psychological devastation of trying and failing to have children is the crushing social isolation. As Senior puts it, "There’s something truly challenging, if not excruciating, about being out of step with your cohort."
At times the book seem hermetic because Boggs focuses primarily on her mileu of artists and writers. Nonetheless, concludes Senior, Boggs's has given "a cold, clinical topic some much-needed warmth and soul."
Wednesday, August 17, 2016
The Atlantic (August 3, 2016): It's Time to Make 'Women's Work' Everyone's Work, by The Atlantic
In such a simple yet powerful video interview, Anne Marie-Slaughter contends that the women's movement is missing an "emphasis on caregiving policies." Slaughter asks why we have failed to recognize that traditional women's work is just as important as traditional men's work. She argues that cultivating the idea that breadwinning and caregiving are equally as important in a successful household is key in achieving true equality.
Thursday, July 28, 2016
Huffington Post (Jul. 18, 2016): A Play about Abortion Care Shows How "Remarkably Normal" It Is, by Katherine Brooks:
A new documentary play, "Remarkably Normal," shares the stories of real women gleaned from in-depth interviews to emphasize the statistic that one in three American women will have an abortion in their lifetime but that, shockingly, access to medically safe abortion care remains in doubt. The play "aim[s] to express the emotions and humanity of a common experience that political discussions underplay" and for which we, no matter our political stripe, allow little room for honest conversation.
Playwrights Marie Sproul and Jessi Blue Gormezano believe that theater can inspire social change by opening audiences' hearts and minds. They envision "Remarkably Normal" as a game changer--a play by women about women--in an industry dominated by men.
Not only is "Remarkably Normal" a documentary play. It is also an interview play, "a play in which the playwright interviews people on a particular subject and then uses that material to create the play and the characters in it. The audience experiences the play as the interviewer, hearing the responses of the people to whom the questions were asked." The effect is a riveting portrait of women reliving an experience few can understand without experiencing it themselves. Nonetheless, whether one has lived these experiences or not, "Remarkably Normal" makes them impossible to dismiss and in the process deeply humanizes the women telling their stories.
Friday, July 1, 2016
New York Times (June 13, 2016): China's Call to Young Men: Your Nation Needs Your Sperm, by Javier C. Hernández:
Styling it as an important contribution to society, the Chinese government is doing all it can to encourage young men to donate sperm. The country faces severe shortages, and about half of the current volunteers are screened out.
The enticements to donate run the gamut, including coveted iPhones and cash along with messages of patriotism and exhortations to help China deal with its aging population. Culturally, though, donating sperm and using donated sperm are hard to sell. Men in China associate semen with vitality and are reluctant to give any away. Couples struggling with fertility are many times uncomfortable using an unrelated man's sperm to conceive.
Sunday, February 7, 2016
New York Times (Feb. 5, 2016): Female Genital Cutting: Not Just "an African Problem," by Pam Belluck and Joe Cochrane:
New documentation shows that female genital cutting is widespread in Indonesia, one of the most populous countries in Asia and the world's most populous Muslim-majority nation. It is estimated that 60 million women and girls have been cut, using a technique that is less invasive than is common in Africa. Current regulations require the cutting to be performed by a medical professional who may do no more than scratch the clitoral hood without injuring the clitoris. Most cutting is performed on infants. Unicef has been working in Indonesia to end the practice.
The practice of female genital cutting persists, despite reductions in its incidence worldwide. The reductions are not keeping up with population growth with the result that the number of girls and woman being cut is expected to rise over the next 15 years. Cultural beliefs about the practice vary, including that without it women cannot truly be women and cannot marry.
Tuesday, January 19, 2016
New York Times (Jan. 17, 2016): On Paper, Italy Allows Abortions, but Few Doctors Will Perform Them, by Gaia Pianigiani:
Thirty years ago, the long fight for abortion rights resulted in a law permits abortion with ninety days of pregnancy and later for women in mental or physical danger or in cases of serious fetal pathologies. But nearly three-quarters of the country's gynecologists--more in some regions--are conscientious objectors to the law, reflecting the influence of the Roman Catholic Church in the delivery of medical care. Many non-objecting physicians, who tend to be part of the older generation of practitioners, are approaching retirement age. Non-invasive abortions are completely unavailable in some regions, despite a national directive that has been in place since 2009. The European Committee of Social Rights has deemed the lack of access to abortion in certain regions detrimental to the health of women.
Thursday, April 30, 2015
TIME - Ideas: We Need to Talk—Really Talk—About Abortion, by Cecile Richards:
America has an urgent need for authentic public dialogue about abortion
When Jemima Kirke, an artist and star of HBO’s Girls, recently talked openly about her personal experience with abortion, media took notice. Her story made it plain that, too often, women’s access to abortion and other reproductive health care is seriously limited due to their economic circumstances and because of the part of the country where they live. Jemima’s story was also a reminder that the ability to decide when or whether to have children is key to women’s opportunity to be financially secure and pursue their dreams. In recent years, spurred on by the reproductive justice movement, young people are refusing to be shamed or silenced about their personal decisions around abortion. . . .
Tuesday, March 17, 2015
The Washington Post: Elton John is boycotting Dolce and Gabbana for calling children conceived with IVF ‘synthetic’, by Soraya Nadia McDonald:
This year, Italian designers Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana unveiled a celebration of motherhood at Milan Fashion Week, sending models down the catwalk who were visibly pregnant or carrying little chubby-cheeked bundles of joy. . . .
Recent statements Dolce and Gabbana made to Panorama, an Italian magazine, have cast their fall-winter 2016 collection, which they named “Viva la mamma,” in an entirely new light.
In the interview, translated by the Telegraph, the couple stated: “We oppose gay adoptions. The only family is the traditional one. … No chemical offsprings and rented uterus: Life has a natural flow, there are things that should not be changed.”
“You are born to a mother and a father — or at least that’s how it should be,” Dolce said. “I call children of chemistry, synthetic children. Rented uterus, semen chosen from a catalog.” . . .
Tuesday, February 24, 2015
The Washington Post: TV gets smart — and sensitive — about abortion, by Alyssa Rosenberg:
For all Lena Dunham’s indie comedy “Girls” has been lauded for its bravery, back in 2012 during its first season, the show took what felt like an early punt. On her way to have an abortion, Jessa (Jemima Kirke) had one of pop culture’s infamous spontaneous miscarriages, saving her — and the show — from making a decision that Hollywood still treats as controversial. Last night, the show finally circled back around to the subject, when Adam’s (Adam Driver) new girlfriend, Mimi-Rose (Gillian Jacobs), revealed that she’d had an abortion without consulting him. . . .
Jezebel: While You Watched the Oscars, Girls Did a Super Chill Abortion Episode, by Anna Merlan:
Here it is, because we have to talk about it: a character on Girls had an abortion, and it was very chill. Adam's new girlfriend Mimi-Rose politely declined his request to go for a jog, telling him, "I can't go for a run because I had an abortion yesterday." The scene that followed was both laudable in its matter-of-fact depiction of abortion and bizarre in just about every other way. Does no one on this show ever think about money? Ever? . . .
Yahoo Health: What Makes The Portrayal Of Abortion On 'GIRLS' Different Than The Rest, by Jennifer Gerson Uffalussy:
Last night, the most shocking thing on the Lena Dunham-helmed HBO show GIRLS wasn’t a graphic sex act (as has become the series’ calling card). It was the straightforward and non-sensationalized way in which one of the show’s characters discussed her decision to have an abortion. . . .
Sunday, February 22, 2015
The Huffington Post: 'Girls' Finally Went There With An Abortion Storyline, by Laura Duca & Emma Gray:
“I can’t go for a run because I had an abortion yesterday,” announces Adam Sackler’s new girlfriend, Mimi-Rose Howard. With that statement, “Girls” joined the (limited) ranks of TV shows that a) have a character follow through with an abortion and b) deal with the subject in a way that is both interesting and adds positively to the dialogue about reproductive choice. . . .
Friday, October 24, 2014
Elle: Ending the Silence That Fuels Abortion Stigma, by Cecile Richards:
It’s hard to imagine a medical procedure in this country that carries the stigma and judgment that abortion does. Women’s experiences are often seen through the lens of cultural and political battles. If a woman says that she’s relieved after having an abortion, she may be judged for being heartless or unfeeling. If she says that she feels regret, anti-abortion activists use this to push for laws that restrict access to abortion or laws that assume women are incapable of making their own decisions without the interference of others.
So instead, we just don’t talk about it. That’s how abortion came to be discussed as an “issue” instead of an experience. . . .
In ELLE's November issue, features director Laurie Abraham wrote a trenchant, honest essay about her abortions. Here, we share stories from other women who had abortions, to show that different women have different reasons for having an abortion, and that the procedure inspires all sorts of feelings—all of them, valid.
The Los Angeles Times: New class of abortion providers helps expand access in California, by Lee Romney:
Ever since the Planned Parenthood health center here opened, the six cushioned recliners in the recovery room had been in steady demand every Friday.
That's when a physician would rotate through to perform abortions for four hours. When everyone in the crowded waiting room knew why the woman next to her was there, when they all had to walk past a cluster of antiabortion protesters.
But a state law that went into effect in January has authorized nurse practitioners, certified nurse midwives and physician assistants to perform a method of first-trimester abortion known as vacuum aspiration. Previously, only doctors were allowed to do so.
With the expanded pool of providers, this Marin County clinic can now carry out the procedure as routinely as breast exams and birth control consultations, stripping away the taint of "abortion day." . . .
Friday, October 17, 2014
The New York Times: Take Back the Right: Katha Pollitt's 'Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights', by Clara Jeffery:
“I never had an abortion, but my mother did. She didn’t tell me about it, but from what I pieced together after her death from a line in her F.B.I. file, which my father, the old radical, had requested along with his own, it was in 1960, so like almost all abortions back then, it was illegal.”
Thus begins “Pro,” the abortion rights manifesto by the Nation columnist, poet and red diaper baby Katha Pollitt. While parents with F.B.I. files may be exotic, her departure point is that abortion was and is not. . . .
The Chicago Tribune: Review: 'Pro' by Katha Pollitt, by Martha Bayne:
. . . Over the book's 200-odd pages, Pollitt — longtime columnist for The Nation and all-around feminist public thinker — charts with passion and intellectual rigor just how much the lives of American women have changed since 1960, and how very much they haven't. . . .
Here's an interview with Pollitt:
And a roundtable on Minnesota Public Radio among Pollitt, Sarah Stoesz, President of the Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota Action Fund, and Teresa Collett, Professor of Law at the University of St Thomas:
MPR News: The politics and policy of abortion
Friday, September 12, 2014
The New York Times op-ed: This Is What an Abortion Looks Like, by Merritt Tierce:
I MET Wendy Davis, the Texas state senator and Democratic candidate for governor, for the first time last week, and I told her how much it meant to me that she wasn’t afraid to talk about abortion. But we need a much larger conversation about abortion — one that also includes, without prejudice, the stories unlikely to generate much sympathy. Stories like mine.
Ms. Davis’s background feels familiar to me. She became a single mother at 19, her first marriage lasted only two years, and she worked as a receptionist and waitress until she could afford to go back to school. I had two children by the time I was 21, filed for divorce at 23, and worked as a secretary and waitress. Thanks to the support of friends and family, and especially my ex-husband, the father of my children, I was able to go back to school in 2009. And like Ms. Davis, I have also had two abortions. . . .