Birth Control, Emergency Contraception, feminism, gender politics, health care, pro-choice, reproductive rights

Rush’s Sponsors Stand up for Women

               Ever since the birth control mandate debate has erupted, I have been wondering if those opposed to it really understand how health insurance works. You see they keep complaining about how Catholics (while others may also be opposed it seems to be Catholic leaders who are most vocal in their opposition) who are morally opposed to birth control shouldn’t have to pay for other people to use birth control. Except that isn’t how this works, even if you are an employer you are not paying for birth control. While it is true that some employers pay a higher percentage of their employees health insurance premium, in nearly all circumstances the employee also pays part, if not most, of their premium. This buys them an insurance plan. Period. The only thing the premium pays for is an insurance plan. What that plan covers is paid for by the insurance company, what it doesn’t is paid for out of pocket by the plan recipients. No One is paying for anyone else’s birth control.

                Even big names in conservative media don’t seem to grasp that. Cue Rush Limbaugh, who entered the fray with a bang last week by attacking a Georgetown law student who testified in a panel on the birth control mandate. Her testimony included the story of a fellow student who was taking birth control pills for a health related matter but who couldn’t afford her prescription because the school refuse to cover birth control under their health care plan. Rush then called her a “slut” and a “prostitute” who wants American taxpayers to pay her to have sex because he is under the impression that taxpayers are somehow involved in paying for other people’s private health insurance plans. He even went so far as to say that if taxpayers are going to pay her to have sex, then they should be able to watch it and she should post videos of herself and her partner being intimate on youtube. Classy, right?

                Except, that isn’t how insurance plans work and taxpayers are not paying for other people’s private health plans, they pay for their own plans. While it’s true that taxpayer money does fund contraception through programs like Title X and Medicaid, this is nothing new. The debate has focused on private insurance plans. So not only is Rush wholly wrong in the argument he is making, he does it while being beyond rude, misogynistic and offensive to anyone who has used contraception and particularly to Sandra Fluke, whom he could not gather enough respect for to get her name correct.

                His offensive remarks last week brought out the ire of women and men throughout the country who have been calling on his sponsors to pull their advertising dollars. So far, 7 of them have listened and pulled their ads from his program; including online storage company Carbonite, who pulled funding after Rush issued a farce of an apology.  Hopefully this will garner enough attention to get the attention of other conservatives who keep trying to frame the debate in terms of slut shaming instead of in terms of health care, but considering both Romney and Santorum (the two current Republican primary front runners) have issued statements criticizing only the language Rush used and not the sentiment behind the language, I won’t be holding my breath.

Abortion Rights, anti-abortion, gender politics, Government Policy, pro-choice, reproductive rights

CPC’s Deceptive Advertising Challenged in San Fran

                Crisis Pregnancy Centers are notorious for using misleading advertising to get women into them and then outright lying to the women once they come in. They list themselves as “abortion counseling” despite the fact that the only counseling provided is to shame and guilt them from having an abortion. One CPC in San Francisco, First Resort, even pays to have itself listed as a result in a Google search of “abortions in San Francisco.” Law makers in the city have decided enough is enough when it comes to the deceptive advertising from such centers and have passed an ordinance requiring they be clear about the fact that they don’t provide abortion services or referrals.

                First Resort’s mission statement says outright that their goal is to work towards “an abortion free world.” It makes sense that they would advertise in an ambiguous manner because if their goal is to stop women from having abortions, well they need to actually reach women who are thinking about it. That doesn’t justify using deceptive advertising. According to this definition deceptive advertising doesn’t have to be intentional to be illegal, it just has to implicitly or explicitly lead a consumer to believe a “claim that they might not realize is false.” While I seriously doubt First Resort isn’t intentionally advertising themselves as abortion providers it is easy to see why a consumer would believe they are. Not only do they come up in a search for “abortion in San Francisco,” their website states that they “provide counseling and medical care to women who are making decisions about unplanned pregnancies.” These practices clearly qualify as deceptive advertising and should be stopped.

                Similar laws in both New York City and Maryland have been overturned at the court level with the reasoning that they are unconstitutional. These laws both required CPC’s to state that they do not provide abortion services or referrals in their advertising so I can see the ambiguity of the laws. However I see no reason why they should be allowed to continue to mislead women in already stressful situations into their offices to try and cajole them out of having a safe and legally allowed procedure.

                It seems certain that if San Francisco vigorously pursues these new regulations, First Resort and other CPC’s will likely seek to have the law blocked from being enforced just as those in NYC and Maryland. It would be shameful if they succeeded, after all if a major soda company can’t imply their products cure cancer, CPC’s shouldn’t be allowed to imply that they provide abortions.

gender politics, women's health

Teaching teens that “Love is Not Abuse”

Since 1991 Liz Claiborne Inc. has been using their Love is not Abuse campaign to raise awareness of domestic violence in the U.S. The company is also a part of the Corporate Alliance to end Partner Violence and is no stranger to sponsoring national campaigns. Their most recent contribution to the anti-domestic violence front is an iPhone app.

This new app, called the Love is not Abuse (LINA) app, is targeted towards parents with the intent of teaching them what warning signs to look for from their child’s romantic partner. How the app works is pretty simple, it simulates an abusive relationship for the parent to experience what their child(ren) may  be going through. It focuses on technology based abuses, for example it will send abusive texts, threatening voice messages and even “spy” on their Facebook page. The intent is to show parent the types of scenarios that are actually happening in teen relationships such as threats to post embarrassing pictures online, harassing text messages, even pressure to un-friend people in social network settings. “Parents are trained through the app which was developed with the help of psychotherapist Jill Murray, to understand and identify characteristics f an abusive relationship.”

Many critics of the app ask why anyone would voluntarily invite such harassment into their lives, but the sad fact is most parents don’t talk to their children about dating violence. According to recent research 25% of teens say they been called names, harassed or been put down by their partner through cell phones or texting. 10% admit to having been hit, slapped or physically hurt by a boyfriend or girlfriend. Despite this parents are still more likely to spend time educating their children about sex, drugs and alcohol; but NOT dating violence. If this app serves as nothing more than a “Hey Jenny, look at this crazy app I just got!” conversation starter then it is already more effective then silence.

Another critique I noticed while reading about the app, one that I wholeheartedly agree with, is why it is directed solely at parents. Given the nature of the app, it could be used as a very informative teaching tool for teens themselves to recognize warning behaviors in their partners as well as friends. The more all people understand the dangers and warning signs of an abusive relationship the sooner they can provide help; to both the abuser and abused.

child birth, gender politics, Government Policy, health care

Teen Pregnancy Rates Drop

For most of the past 20 years teen pregnancy and birth rates have steadily dropped. Until the 2005-2007 time frame at least. During those three years, teen pregnancy and birth rates rose. In 2008 they started dropping again, this time at a much higher rate than prior years. There are many competing theories as to why. Some people claim that the poor economy are driving teens to have less sex and others claim comprehensive sex education is behind the trend.

Looking at the numbers it seems clear that comprehensive sex education is at least a major factor if not the primary driving force behind the drop. Texas has the highest number of abstinence only programs AND has the highest teen birth rate. Meanwhile states with more comprehensive sex education programs like Connecticut and Vermont, have the lowest birth rates. Call me crazy but that seems like clear evidence that abstinence-only sex education just does not work.

Perhaps more importantly, abstinence only programs may actually be dangerous to a teen’s health. Researchers found that students who signed a virginity pledge were just as likely to be having sex at the same age as teens that did not, however they are LESS likely to use condoms or other contraceptives leaving them more vulnerable to pregnancy and STD’s. Considering that almost half of all newly reported STD infections are among people under the age of 25, not using condoms during sex is really a bad idea. The rates go even higher with HIV, 50% of all new HIV cases are under the age of 20.

Luckily across the board these rates are trending down. According to one study the rate of teens that had sex without contraception dropped from 16% to 12% and the rate of teens using two forms of contraception, such as condoms and birth control pills, rose from 5% to 9%. This is likely thanks in part to the teen pregnancy prevention initiative launched by the Obama administration; which awarded $110 million to programs with proven effectiveness.

Considering that 45% of Americans have had sex by the time they turn 18, it is unrealistic to think that an abstinence only education will provide teens with the information they need to protect themselves. Yes, not having sex is the only 100% way to not get pregnant, but clearly that’s not the reality of our society. According to a study in 2002, 95% of Americans between the ages of 15 and 44 had sex before marriage. It’s time people stopped pretending that sex doesn’t happen and start teaching ALL teens about safe sex, not just the ones who are lucky enough to live in more progressive states.

feminist policy, gender politics, Government Policy, women's issues, women's rights

Need Help Taking a Stand Against Dating Violence? There’s an app for that!

When I go out on a date with a new guy, I always make sure at least one of my friends has his name, where we are going, and if I have it- the make and model of his car. I also give them a time frame by which they can expect to hear from me. If they should ever not hear from me, they know to start sounding the alarm until they are sure that I am ok.

It may sound a little overly cautious to some, but I do it because 1 in every 4 women will experience domestic violence in her life. One in every 6 will have experienced sexual assault. Approximately 80% of these victims are under the age of 30. Those are some scary numbers if you ask me. Some more scary numbers: One in 33 men will have experienced rape or attempted rape; 1 in 12 women and 1 in 45 men will be stalked at some point in their lives.

The past two decades have shown increasing awareness about dating violence and sexual assault on a political level, starting with the Violence Against Women Act of 1994. Sponsored by then Senator, now Vice President Joe Biden; it made a crucial mark on encouraging an end to violence against women. It created numerous federally funded programs that help raise awareness of the issue, as well as teaching about how to prevent violence against women.

Vice President Biden has taken his commitment to ending violence against women to a new medium by releasing a new awareness initiative. With the assistance of Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services, they have released the Apps against Abuse challenge, which encourages developers to create Smartphone apps that will encourage prevention and awareness of dating violence. The apps target demographic would be teenagers and people in their early 20’s.

The goal of the app is to provide a “way to connect with trusted friends in real-time to prevent abuse or violence from occurring… it will also allow friends to keep track of each other’s whereabouts and check in frequently to avoid being isolated in vulnerable circumstances.”

Anti-violence advocates have used various aspects of teen focused pop culture to raise awareness of the issue within that demographic for decades. Some of the more effective mediums have been through music, music videos, television shows and movies. Vice President Biden is using this trend and taking it to a brand new level by taking advantage of the wide-spread popularity Smartphone apps have amongst teenagers and college-age Americans.

Submissions are being taken through October 17th and a winner will be announced October 31st. There is no date set for when the app or apps created would be available for wide-spread use, but I freely acknowledge I will be among those that download it, will you?

Abortion, Abortion Rights, feminism, gender politics, pro-choice, reproductive rights, women's rights

Louisiana’s “Pro-Information” Bill

On July 6th Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal signed the “Pro-Information” bill into law and gave a speech about it in front of a Baptist Church. During the speech he made a statement comparing women seeking abortions to criminals that sparked controversy among pro-choice advocates.

 The “Pro-Information” bill (HB 586) was introduced by Rep. Frank Hoffman and stipulates that abortion providers must hang signs that inform women of their rights when it comes to pregnancy. Specifically that they cannot be forced to have an abortion, that there are organizations that can help them carry to term as well as provide for a child once born, that the father of the child is responsible for child support even if he offered to pay for the abortion, and that the law permits adoptive parents to pay for medical coverage during the pregnancy and birth. The signs must also provide a link to a website for more information and resources. The stated purpose of the sign is to ensure that women deciding to have abortions know all of their options in case it changes their mind. Apparently Louisiana lawmakers think women are incapable of making decisions about what is best for their lives without being force fed on a conservative agenda.

The part that really got people talking was a statement Gov. Jindal made about informing women of their rights:

                “We already make sure criminals know their rights. Before police arrest someone they inform them of all their rights under the law, so it’s only common sense that we would do the same for women before they get an abortion…”

 Pro-choice activists are concerned this may have been an intentional analogy intended to imply women seeking abortions are equivalent to criminals and that he himself feels they should legally be considered criminals. Defenders of the bill think this concern is based on a misconstrued interpretation of what Gov. Jindal said and that the statement was merely intended to show that women deserve to know their options.

I doubt the statement was intentionally meant to be offensive. Gov. Jindel likely uses speech writers, as do most politicians; he probably read the speech and didn’t think twice about the comparison. Even if he wrote it himself, he probably just took the first comparison he thought of and ran with it. It is that lack of concern that is the problem. Had this bill been pro-information for Veteran’s Rights, it is unlikely anyone would have considered comparing Veterans right to knowledge with a criminal’s right. It would have been deemed, at a minimum, unseemly. Maybe even all out rude. The group being equated wasn’t veterans though, it was women seeking abortions, and that seems to make it ok to put them in the same category as criminals. At least as far as Gov. Jindal and his speech writers are concerned.

Whether the comparison was intentional or not, it speaks volumes about how little Gov. Jindel thinks of the women of the state; that they do not even warrant the time to find a less sensitive analogy.