Tag Archives: birth control

Women: Second Class Citizens

First off- my apologies for the lack of updates; I’m still adjusting to my new work schedule- finding time for updates had been on the back burner. Now on to the infuriating article ahead.

For those of you paying attention to political parties these days, or to new and interesting laws seeming to creep up without the public ever knowing about their creation, this article will serve as a blood-boiling recap of the absurd and disgusting politics surrounding women and women’s health. If you have not been paying attention- hold on to your pantyhose, because you are not going to believe this sh*t.

10 Reasons the Rest of the World Thinks the U.S. Is Nuts

This week the Georgia State Legislature debated a bill in the House, that would make it necessary for some women to carry stillborn or dying fetuses until they ‘naturally’ go into labor. In arguing for this bill Representative Terry England described his empathy for pregnant cows and pigsin the same situation.

I have a question for Terry England, Sam Brownback, Rick Santorum, Rick Perry and too many others: I have three daughters, two of them twins. If one of my twins had been stillborn would you have made me carry her to term, thereby endangering both the other twin and me? Or, would you have insisted that the state order a mandatory fetal extraction of the living twin fetus from my womb so that I could continue to carry the stillborn one to term and possibly die myself? My family is curious and since you believe my uterus is your public property, I am, too.

Mr. England, unlike the calves and pigs for which you expressed so much empathy, I am not a beast of burden. I am a woman and I have these human rights:

The right to life.
The right to privacy.
The right to freedom.
The right to bodily integrity.
The right to decide when and how I reproduce.

Mr. England, you and your friends do not get to trade these rights, while “dog and hog hunting,” in return for a young man’s chickens.

My human rights outweigh any you or the state corruptly and cynically seek to assign to a mass of dividing cells that will eventually turn into a ‘natural’ person. Personhood-for-zygote based bills and related legislation, like Georgia’s and hundreds and hundreds of others, bills and laws that criminalize pregnancy and abortion and penalize women for being women, violate my human rights.

Just because you cannot get pregnant does not mean I cannot think clearly, ethically, morally, rationally about my body, human life or the consequences of my actions. Just because you cannot get pregnant does not mean that I do not have rights when I am pregnant. I have responsibility but am powerless. You have power but are irresponsible with my rights.

By not trusting me, you force me to trust you. And YOU are not trustworthy.

I gestate humans, you do not. I know how it feels to be pregnant. You do not. I know what happens to a fetus in a womb. You do not. I have carried three fetuses to term. You have not. What I experience when I am pregnant is not empathy. It is permeability. The fetus is me. And the state is you, apparently. But, no matter what you say or do I have fundamental human rights. What makes you think that you, who cannot have this fully human experience, can tell me anything about gestation or how I experience it? Especially when you compare my existence and experience to that of brutish animals.

The rest of the civilized world thinks this country has lost its mind. It’s no wonder. Look at this list of frenzied misogyny:

1. Making women carry still-born fetuses to full term because cows and pigs do. This week, Mr England, you supported a bill, the net effect of which, taken tandem with other restrictions, will result in doctors and women being unable to make private, medically-based, critical care decisions and some women being effectively forced to carry their dead or dying fetuses. Women are different from farm animals, Mr. England, and this bill, requiring a woman to carry a dead or dying fetus is inhumane and unethical. By forcing a woman to do this, you are violating her right not to be subjected to inhuman treatment and tortured. And, yes, involuntarily carrying a dead fetus to term, although not torture to you or to a pig, is torture for a woman. It is also a violation of her bodily integrity and a threat to her life and as such violates her right to life.

2. Consigning women to death to save a fetus. Abortions save women’s lives. “Let women die” bills are happening all over the country. There is no simple or pretty way to put this. Every day, all over the world, women die because they do not have access to safe abortions. Yet, here we are, returning to the dark ages of maternal sacrifice. Do really have to type this sentence: this is a violation of women’s fundamental right to life.

3. Criminalizing pregnancy and miscarriages and arresting, imprisoning and charging women who miscarry with murder, like Rennie Gibbs in Mississippi or at least 40 other similar cases in Alabama or like Bei Bei Shuai, a woman who is now imprisoned, is charged with murder after trying to commit suicide while pregnant. Pregnant women are becoming a special class subject to “special” laws that infringe on their fundamental rights.

4. Forcing women to undergo involuntary vaginal penetration (otherwise called rape) with a condom-covered, six to eight-inch ultrasound probe. Pennsylvania is currently considering that option along with 11 other states. Trans-vaginal ultrasounds undertaken without a woman’s consent are rape according to the legal definition of the word. This violates a woman’s bodily integrity and also constitutes torture when used, as states are suggesting, as a form of control and oppression. Women have the right not to be raped by the state.

5. Disabling women or sacrificing their lives by either withholding medical treatment or forcing women to undergo involuntary medical procedures. We impose an unequal obligation on women to sacrifice their bodily integrity for another. For example, as in Tysiac v. Poland, in which a mother of two, became blind after her doctor refused to perform an abortion that she wanted that would have halted the course of a degenerative eye disease. If my newborn baby is in need of a kidney and you have a spare matching one, can I enact legislation that says the state can take yours and give it to her? No. We do not force people to donate their organs to benefit others, even those who have already been born. One of the most fundamental of all human rights is that humans be treated equally before the law. Denying a woman this right is a violation of her equal right to this protection.

6. Giving zygotes “personhood” rights while systematically stripping women of their fundamental rights. There is too much to say about the danger of personhood ideas creeping into health policy to do it here. But, consider what happens to a woman whose womb is not considered the “best” environment for a gestating fetus in a world of personhood-for-zygote legislation: who decides the best environment — the state, her insurance company, her employer, her rapist who decides he really, really wants to be a father? Anyone but a woman.

7. Inhibiting, humiliating and punishing women for their choices to have an abortion for any reason by levying taxes specifically on abortion, including abortions sought by rape victims to end their involuntary insemination, imposing restrictive requirements like 24 hour wait periods and empowering doctors to lie to female patients about their fetuses in order to avoid prosecution. In Arizona, Kansas, Texas, Virginia, Colorado, Arkansas and other states around the country bills that make women “pay” for their choices are abounding.

8. Allowing employers to delve into women’s private lives and only pay for insurance when they agree, for religious reasons, with how she choses to use birth control. In Arizona, which introduced such a bill this week, this means covering payment for birth control as a benefit only when a woman has proven that she will not use it to control her own reproduction (ie. as birth control). As much as I am worried about women and families in Arizona though, I am more worried about those in Alabama. You see, as recently revealed in a public policy poll in Alabama, conservative, evangelicals who support “personhood” related “pro-life” legislation and are fighting for their “religious liberty” — 21 percent think interracial marriage should be illegal. So, what if they decide that an employee involved in an interracial marriage should not, by divine mandate, reproduce? Do they switch and provide birth control for this employee? Do they make contraception a necessary term of employment for people in interracial marriages? This violates a woman’s right to privacy. My womb is one million times more private than your bedrooms, gentlemen.

9. Sacrificing women’s overall health and the well-being of their families in order to stop them from exercising their fundamental human right to control their own bodies and reproduction. Texas just did that when it turned down $35million dollars in federal funds thereby ensuring that 300,000 low-income and uninsured Texas women will have no or greatly-reduced access to basic preventive and reproductive health care.

10. Depriving women of their ability to earn a living and support themselves and their families. Bills, like this one in Arizona, allow employers to fire women for using contraception. Women like these are being fired for not.

You presume to consign my daughters and yours to function as reproductive animals.

This is about sex and property, not life and morality. Sex because when women have sex and want to control their reproduction that threatens powerful social structures that rely on patriarchal access to and control over women as reproductive engines. Which brings us to property: control of reproduction was vital when the agricultural revolution took place and we, as a species, stopped meandering around plains in search of food. Reproduction and control of it ensured that a man could possess and consolidate wealth-building and food-producing land and then make sure it wasn’t disaggregated by passing it on to one son he knew was his — largely by claiming a woman and her gestation capability as property, too.

This is not about freedom of religion. If it were, we would, for example, allow Christian Scientists to refuse to pay for coverage of life-saving blood transfusions for employees. Religious freedom means I get to chose whether or not to be religious and if so, how. It does not mean that I get to impose my religion on others. Paying for insurance is part of the way we compensate employees, even when they use their insurance in ways we don’t agree with and are in contravention of our own personal beliefs. I think that it is stupid, dangerous and immoral to chain smoke, especially around children whose lungs it irreparably harms. But, I still have to pay for an employee to have access to lung scans, nicotine patches and oxygen tanks. I do not get to say that my religious beliefs, which include keeping bodies as healthy as possible, make it possible for me to withhold payment of this employee’s insurance. Guaranteed coverage of contraception and reproductive health care has overwhelming benefits for society, including reducing unwanted pregnancies and abortions. By inserting your religious beliefs so egregiously into government legislation and my life, you are imposing your religious beliefs on me. You don’t like mandated insurance coverage for basic reproductive health humans with two X chromosomes? I don’t like being bred by state compulsion like Mr. England’s farm animals. I have a MORAL OBJECTION to being treated like an animal and not a human. You do not have to use contraception, you do not have to use birth control. But, that does not mean you have any right to tell me that I cannot if I chose. That is my right.

Property, control, sex, reproduction, morality, defining what is human. Sounds a lot like issues surrounding slavery 170 years ago. It is no surprise that of the 16 states that never repealed their anti-miscegenation laws, but rather had them overturned by the Supreme Court in 1967 more than half have introduced personhood bills. Like anti-miscegentation laws, anti-choice laws and bills that humiliate women, that treat them like beasts, that violate their bodily autonomy, are based on ignorance, entitlement and arrogance. These laws are not about “personhood” but “humanity.” That women of color are massively, disproportionately affected by these assaults on their bodies and rights should also come as no surprise – their rights and their bodies have always been the most vulnerable assault.

This is about keeping women’s wombs public and in other people’s control — the exact opposite of private and in their own control.

And, yes, I do know how complicated the ethics, bioethics and legal arguments related to these decisions are. You, apparently, do not. If you were truly concerned with sustaining life and improving its quality or in protecting innocent children, you would begin by having compassion and empathy for living, born people that require and deserve your attention. You feed them, educate them, lift them from poverty and misery. You do not compound these problems as you are with twisted interpretations of divine will. Only after that do you have the moral legitimacy to entertain the notion of talking to me about my uterus and what I do with it. By then, fully functional artificial wombs should be available and you can implant your own, since you are so fond of animal analogies, as was completed with this male mouse. What you are doing is disgraceful, hypocritical and morally corrupt.

And, no, I am not crazy. I am angry.

Mr. Santorum, Mr. England and Mr. Brownback and Mr. Perry you should consider not clinging so dangerously and perversely to the Agrarian Revolution ideas. Birth control and safe abortions are life-saving technologies. These archaic bills and laws, wasteful of time, money and lives, obscure an enduring and unchangeable truth: safe and effective family planning is the transformative social justice accomplishment of the 20th century. They will not go away. This is a revolution, too.

In an 1851 speechin which she argued for equal rights for women, Sojourner Truth said the following: “The poor men seems to be all in confusion, and don’t know what to do. Why children, if you have woman’s rights, give it to her and you will feel better. You will have your own rights, and they won’t be so much trouble.”

Do you, Terry England, Sam Brownback, Rick Santorum and friends even know who Sojourner Truth is?

This post has been updated since its original publication.

 Follow Soraya Chemaly on Twitter: www.twitter.com/schemaly



Women’s Rights Go Back in Time

There has been a lot of press around women’s health, and women’s rights recently, and I’d like to repost some of the more upsetting pieces. This one is pretty astounding. I guess everyone would be more at ease if I took off my shoes, quit my job and stood around in the kitchen with a baby in my arms.

How The GOP Went Back To The 1950s In Just One Day

Very neatly, and on three separate fronts, conservatives in America turned the clock back to the 1950s with their rhetoric about women’s rights Thursday, according to women in politics on both sides of the aisle. This could be a big problem for the GOP when the calendar reaches November.

Let’s take a look at Thursday, February 16, 2012, the day Washington fell into a time-warp.

On Capitol Hill, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) held hearings on contraception and religious freedom that produced the now-famous picture of a table full of men called to weigh in on access to contraceptives. Democrats wanted a woman — a Georgetown law student with a friend who lost an ovary because the university doesn’t cover birth control — to say her piece at the hearing, but Issa wouldn’t let her on the panel. He said she wasn’t “appropriate or qualified” to discuss the topic at hand.

Jaws dropped in the women’s rights community.

“She didn’t have the right credentials?” NOW President Terry O’Neill scoffed. “I’m thinking to myself, ‘Buddy, you and your little panel over there don’t have the right anatomy to talk about birth control.’”

Politico published a story about a right wing firestorm that had been burning for days: Did the young women who attended this year’s CPAC wear skirts that were too short? The days following the massive conservative conference, which closed Saturday, were filled with tweets and blog posts weighing in on what conservative pundit Melissa Clouthier called outfits that made the college-age women at CPAC look either “frumpish” or “like two-bit whores.” CPAC needs these women to survive — 55% of attendees at the 2011 conference were under 25 — but apparently conservatives want to make sure they don’t show too much of their legs lest they detract from the solemnity of the proceedings. The general agreement among conservatives after days of debate: a CPAC dress code would go too far — but ladies, please.

• Foster Friess, the billionaire backer of Rick Santorum’s campaign, became an instant celebrity when he went on Andrea Mitchell’s MSNBC show and said, “Back in my day, they used Bayer aspirin for contraceptives. The gals put it between their knees and it wasn’t that costly.” Here’s what that looked like:

Friess’ comment was astonishing in two ways. First, it derailed the entire contraception debate that Republicans have been desperate to keep about “religious freedom” rather than make it about, well, who does or does not keep her knees together. Second, there wasn’t a woman around who didn’t have a guttural reaction.

“I want to punch that guy in the face,” said one female operative who called me on an entirely unrelated matter. Phone calls and IM conversations for the rest of the day included similar appraisals of Santorum’s biggest financial backer.

So there you have it: modern women being told by Republicans that they’re not qualified to talk about their own sexual health, are dressed like “whores” and probably need birth control because they’re so slutty. And this is just in one day.

Democratic women say this is all part of a general pattern that began in 2010 when the tea party helped Republicans win a congressional election based on jobs and deficits and the Republicans then set about passing new anti-abortion legislation and declaring war on Planned Parenthood once in office. They agreed Thursday stood out, though.

“Republican policies have been stuck in the 50s for a while now. I guess this week they decided they wanted the whole retro package,” said Jess McIntosh, communications director at EMILY’s List. “Darrel Issa, you are no Jon Hamm.”

Republican women were not any more impressed. One GOP operative I talked to laughed out loud at the CPAC controversy. “Who the hell cares?” she said.

Another Republican operative defended her party for fighting the fight on contraception access, which she said was an important pushback on White House overreach and electoral winner in states with heavy Catholic populations. But she said the “optics” of the Issa hearing were “probably bad.” And she wasn’t thrilled with the image of Republicans that the likes of Santorum and Friess were presenting.

“Some will see it as reinforcing the impression a lot of people have of Rick Santorum as the candidate straight out of the 1950’s. I bet it gets played up that way,” she said. “I think most of us know you can keep your knees together and still, um, do it.”

Will the GOP’s rhetoric Feb. 16 have ramifications felt on Nov. 6? The women on both sides of the aisle agreed that it could — and the polls back them up. After months of Republican fighting about abortion, and weeks of the GOP talking about contraception, Greg Sargent reported on a polling memo showing Obama was leading Mitt Romney 65-30 among unmarried women.

And women’s advocates say Thursday did little to change things.

“There’s a deep, righteous anger,” O’Neill said. “It is very deep-rooted anger and it will be hard for these men now to avoid that anger because it has struck such a chord.”

If you would like to get women’s health issues decided on by women, please sign the petition here: http://emilyslist.org/action/stand_up_to_anti_woman_forces_in_congress/

SOURCE: http://2012.talkingpointsmemo.com/2012/02/how-the-gop-went-back-to-the-1950s-in-just-one-day.php?m=1

“All Natural” is Not “All Safe”

How many times have you heard the phrase, “It is safe! It’s all natural“?  This statement (usually expressed by a doped consumer) is probably my most dreaded conversation starter. There are plenty of “all natural” things that are not good for you; castor beans, hemlock, corn lily, various mushrooms- these natural items all have an upsetting side effect called “death”.

This article released by the National Council on Strength and Fitness adds 5 more hazardous “all natural” supplements to the list of things to avoid.

Five Risky “All Natural” Herb Supplements

The common health claim “all natural” has been exploited on product labels with the purpose of clouding association as most consumers believe that “natural” must equate to healthy and safe. The claim is being used on a growing number of foods, cosmetics, cleaning products, and over-the-counter herbal remedies/supplements. Herbal medicine suggests the use of plants or plant parts for medicinal purposes. Herbal supplements are either ingested or applied to the skin in forms such as ointments, oils, tablets, or teas. The consumer must understand that even though herbal/dietary supplements are fundamentally considered “natural”, they not regulated by the FDA like prescriptions and registered medicinal drugs; and therefore are not always completely safe to use without first referring to a legitimate health care provider. Potentially dangerous herbs may be readily available in stores, online venues, gas stations, and social locals such as coffee shops due in part to lack of governmental oversight and control.

Furthermore, consumers should be aware that many herbal supplement claims:

  • Are not backed by validated scientific study
  • Portray research findings in a way that makes the product appear effective when the findings do not necessarily apply to the product for the population that will use it
  • Declare unrealistic effects or benefits
  • Would never be recommended by legitimate medical physicians

Adriane Fugh-Berman, MD, an expert on medicinal herbs and dietary supplements and professor at Georgetown University School of Medicine explains, “Some people think herbal supplements really work and that they are harmless; but if it acts like a drug in the body, then it can also have a negative effect.” She goes on to explain that most herbs sold in the US are relatively benign, but some can be dangerous if consumed in high quantity or used incorrectly. Common logic should dictate that any compound which works like a drug is going to provide some risks. According to authors on the subject, the most common risks associated with herbal supplementation are liver and kidney damage or dangerous drug interactions. Five common herbs with known risks are addressed below.

St. John’s Wort

St. John’s Wort can ease mild to moderate depression, but there is not enough evidence to suggest it helps with major depression. Depression cannot usually be treated by simple herbal supplementation, but rather through comprehensive healthcare assistance. In fact, routine exercise has demonstrated to be an effective component in the therapy. The major risk of St. John’s Wort supplementation is the potential for drug interactions as the plant can make many other drugs less effective. There have been cases of unintended pregnancies among women also taking birth control pills and cases of organ rejection among those taking anti-rejection drugs after a transplant. Andrew Weil, MD, the founder of the Arizona Center for Integrative medicine at the University of Arizona warns, “If you are taking any prescription drug and are interested in trying a course of St. John’s Wort for mild to moderate depression, first discuss possible interactions with your doctor or pharmacist.”


For some individuals, kava appears to be able to reduce anxiety just as efficiently as prescription anti-anxiety pills. It should be noted that the compound has been shown to work in as little as one week among women experiencing anxiety during menopause, whereas in other populations has taken up to eight weeks to exert its effects. Despite its potential benefits, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the FDA urge people to refrain from supplementing the compound due to the associated risk for serious illnesses, liver damage, and even death which has been seen during short-term use at normal dosages. Kava use has been directly linked to:

  • Liver transplants
  • Nerve damage
  • Skin changes
  • Worsening of depression
  • Premature death (with 1-3 months of use)

Kava is also not safe for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding and should not be combined with alcohol. A number of prescription drugs should not be combined with kava; the two drugs with the greatest risk for drug interactions include Xanax (anxiety medication) and sedatives. Weil recommends limiting kava use to a maximum of three to four weeks among healthy patients with healthy livers; providing the warning, “I do not recommend kava for people at risk for or who have liver disease, regularly drink alcohol, or take drugs with known adverse effects on the liver, including statins and acetaminophen.” Other experts have completely ruled out kava use based on its potentially unfavorable benefit to risk ratio.


Comfrey is believed to reduce the recovery period of tissue injuries such as bed sores, bruises, sprains, and bone fractures. It reduces swelling and inflammation-related symptoms that occur with injury in general. However, due to the risk for severe liver and possibly lung damage, experts strongly suggest that comfrey should never be taken orally. In 2001, the FDA recommended that manufacturers remove comfrey products from the market, but the compound is still easy to find. For example, some coffee shops still serve comfrey tea – even after clear evidence pointing towards the risk for liver toxicity. Weil recommends only applying comfrey to the skin for the benefit of wounds that do not heal easily, such as diabetic ulcers. On the other hand, the U.S. Pharmacopeia, a scientific organization that sets standards for dietary supplements, advises against even using comfrey on broken skin as toxins that negatively affect the liver can still be absorbed. The risk to benefit ratio for using comfrey appears unfavorable when all of the data is examined.


Chaparral is claimed to reduce pain, inflammation, and general skin irritation as well as function as a cancer-fighting herb. According to the American Cancer Society and herbal experts however, these claims are unfounded. In fact, chaparral has been shown to cause serious drug interactions with prescription and over-the-counter drugs including:

  • Blood thinners
  • Anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen
  • Diabetes medications
  • Certain antidepressants

The compound is easily found online in many forms even though it is listed in the FDA’s poisonous plant database due to the risk of severe, and in some cases, irreversible liver damage.


Pennyroyal oil has not been proven effective for any suggested uses. It was first used as an agent for noninvasive abortion, but the large dosages required placed the mother’s life at risk, or had the potential to cause irreversible damage to the liver and kidneys, according to the NIH. The compound is not considered safe for any population at any dosage, and it is unknown whether pennyroyal tea is safe. Fugh-Berman warns, “It’s a mint, and you don’t get that much poison in a tea, but I wouldn’t risk it. Go for spearmint. Why go for the liver-toxic mint?” The herb is also listed in the FDA’s poisonous plant database.

What Steps Can a Consumer Take to Choose a Safe Herbal Supplement?

The first question one has to ask is – what is the purpose of the herbal supplement? The second is, if an herb is applicable for a particular purpose. In almost all cases, the best course of action is to ask a qualified medical doctor; many people represent themselves as experts but lack the training to make prudent and intelligent decisions regarding these products. Consumers should investigate the product of interest and critically examine claims applied to herbal supplements, including the “scientific evidence” that supports the claims. Ask yourself:

  • Does peer reviewed research demonstrate that the product it is safe and effective?
  • What dosage has been shown to promote the claimed benefits?
  • What part of the plant exerts the beneficial effects (root, stem, leaf), and is that component actually in the marketed product?
  • Is the manufacturer credible

Again deciding on an herbal supplement involves collaboration with one’s health care team. It is recommended to discuss whether the supplement of interest is safe and effective in general, and for the individual specifically. Healthcare providers may be able to specify if any current conditions or prescription/over-the-counter medication being used may negatively react with the herb. If the herb is approved by the physician one must then identify and properly select a quality product. The herb supplement label should be checked for the following:

  • That the beneficial component of the plant is being used (stem vs. leaves)
  • A quality seal such as the USP seal (US Pharmacopeia), the NSF seal (National Sanitation Foundation) or the CL seal (Cooperman’s Consumer Lab)
    • Each of these seals indicate that the ingredients match the label and if there are contaminants present, they do not exceed safe levels
    • The USP and NSF ensure that the product meets Good Manufacturing Practices set by the FDA
    • The CL holds to standard set by the state of California, which are more rigorous than those enforced by the FDA

It is also recommended to purchase supplements from larger companies such as major store brands or manufacturers of FDA-regulated drugs, as they will be more likely to uphold quality standards. The final and potentially extra step involves pre-testing the supplement, if in tablet form, to see if it will break apart in the body to release the potentially beneficial ingredients. Herbals in powder-form capsules do not need to be tested, but tablets can be placed in body-temperature water for 45 minutes to see if they fall apart. If the tablet does not fall apart during the test, it will probably stay relatively intact within your digestive tract limiting the absorption rate.

When investigating your supplements, do not simply take the first internet article you find as truth- check MULTIPLE, peer reviewed, scientific sources. When a product is involved, your health is not an interest to the seller, only your money.

source: http://www.ncsf.org/enew/articles/articles-FiveRiskyAllNaturalHerbSupplements.aspx

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