Tag Archives: contraception

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

 

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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


Sorry Ladies, You’re Too Stupid To Follow Directions

Presenting two pieces today. The first article (though the title suggests differently) touches briefly on president Obama’s support of the rejection on the Morning After pill, and his reasoning. The second piece is a much more biting response to the decision. It all seems to boil down to “someone might not follow the directions correctly and hurt herself”- which is just as preposterous as it sounds. What do you think of the decision on the sale of the Morning After pill?

Obama Backs Limit on Sale to Teenagers of Morning-After Pill

WASHINGTON — President Obama, noting that he was the father of two daughters, threw his wholehearted support on Thursday behind a decision by his health and human services secretary, Kathleen Sebelius, not allow emergency contraceptives to be sold over the counterto young teenagers.

“The reason Kathleen made this decision is that she could not be confident that a 10-year-old or an 11-year-old going to a drugstore should be able — alongside bubble gum or batteries — be able to buy a medication that potentially, if not used properly, could have an adverse effect,” Mr. Obama said to reporters at the White House.

“And I think most parents would probably feel the same way,” the president added.

Mr. Obama insisted that he was not involved in the decision, on a contraceptive pill known as Plan BOne-Step. The decision by Ms. Sebelius, announced on Wednesday, was an extremely rare case of an administration official’s publicly overruling the Food and Drug Administration, which had concluded after extensive research that the medication was safe to be sold to teenagers 16 and younger without a prescription.

The bluntly personal nature of the president’s response suggested that the White House is well aware of the political sensitivities, going into an election year, of allowing broader distribution of the contraceptive, whatever the Food and Drug Administration’s scientific arguments in favor of it.

Mr. Obama’s comments came in a combative appearance that followed the Senate’s rejection of his nominee to head the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Richard Cordray. The decision, the president said, “makes absolutely no sense,” leaving millions of Americans without adequate protection in their dealings with financial institutions, including payday lenders and debt collectors.

But Mr. Obama also used the occasion to address a range of issues, rejecting charges by Republican presidential candidates that he practices a foreign policy of appeasement, particularly in the Middle East.

“Ask Osama bin Laden and the 22 out of top 30 Al Qaeda leaders who have been taken off the field whether I engage in appeasement — or whoever’s left out there, ask them about that,” the president said.

Later, Mr. Obama argued that his administration had “systematically imposed the toughest sanctions ever in Iran.” He said the pressure campaign had left Iran isolated and unified world opinion against its leaders.

He also delivered some of his most urgent language yet on the European debt crisis.

As European leaders struggle to fashion a response to the deepening debt crisis, Mr. Obama suggested that time was running short, saying, “I am obviously very concerned about what’s happening in Europe.”

“I think they now recognize the urgency of doing something serious and bold,” the president said of Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and other leaders. “The question is whether they can muster the political will to get it done.”

“Europe is wealthy enough that there’s no reason they can’t solve this problem,” Mr. Obama said. “It’s not as if we’re talking about some impoverished country that doesn’t have any resources and is, you know, being buffeted by the world markets and they need, you know, to come hat in hand to get help.”

On Wednesday, Mr. Obama spoke with Mrs. Merkel by phone. He said she had made some progress in pushing other European nations toward a “fiscal compact” that would prevent a repeat of the fiscal profligacy that had gotten Greece and other countries into trouble, and set off the broader crisis of confidence. But Europe’s first priority, Mr. Obama said, was to settle financial markets.

“We’re going to do everything we can to push them in a good direction on this,” he said, “because it has a huge impact on what happens here in the United States.”

Hmmmm, I do believe that saying “The reason Kathleen made this decision is that she could not be confident that a 10-year-old or an 11-year-old going to a drugstore should be able — alongside bubble gum or batteries — be able to buy a medication that potentially, if not used properly, could have an adverse effect”  and then reading  “The decision by Ms. Sebelius, announced on Wednesday, was an extremely rare case of an administration official’s publicly overruling the Food and Drug Administration, which had concluded after extensive research that the medication was safe to be sold to teenagers 16 and younger without a prescription” kind of shows an emotional spin over scientific data- data which, by the way, continues to show that your ‘moral’ standing on the subject does not make the pill less safe. The FDA says “it’s safe”, and then a talking head says “Oh you silly goose! You and your research… We know better!” that doesn’t sound like we get a choice here….

Katha Pollitt doesn’t seem too happy with this decision either, and put in her two cents:

HHS: Let’s Treat ALL Women Like Children

Did you assume the politicization of science was gone with the Bush administration and the reality-based community was back in charge? Think again. In a surprise move that has outraged women’s rights activists, HHS head Kathleen Sebelius overruled the FDA’s proposal to make Plan B One-Step, a single-pill form of emergency contraception, available over the counter. According to the New York Times, this is the first time in our history that a health secretary has overruled the FDA.

Sebelius claims that her reason is that the FDA didn’t show that 11-year-old girls, some 10 percent of whom are fertile, understand how to follow the EC directions. Here are the instructions, courtesy of an alert commenter at http://www.nytimes.com:

“Plan B One-Step dosage consists of a single tablet taken once. A second tablet or dose is not required. The Plan B One-Step tablet should be taken as soon as possible and not more than 72 hours (3 days) after unprotected intercourse or contraceptive failure.”

If a sixth grader can’t understand those elementary, crystal-clear instructions, we should just move back to the caves, because civilization is finished. As has been pointed out, we assume middle-schoolers can handle Tylenol, which is not only easy to overdose on but has been used in suicides. If Sebelius is really worried about what kids can purchase at Duane Reade, she should start with products that actually can be used dangerously.

Barack Obama says that as the father of two daughters, he wants the government to “apply common sense” to rules about over the counter medications. Well, I too have a daughter, and so many many pro-choice women. Who died and made Barack Obama daddy in charge of teenage girls? Would he really rather that Sasha and Malia get pregnant rather than buy Plan B One-Step at CVS? And excuse me, Mr. President, thanks to your HHS, acquiring Plan B is prescription-only not just for 11-year-olds but for the 30 percent of teenage girls between 15 and 17 who are sexually active, and is a cumbersome process for all women, who have to ask a pharmacist for it and, as many news stories have reported, be subjected to fundamentalist harangues and objections. Apparently, it’s okay with you if Michelle is treated like a sixth-grader. I’m trying to think if there are any laws or regulations affecting only men in which unfounded fears about middle-school boys deny all men normal adult privileges. Needless to say, no one suggests that underage boys get a prescription if they want to use condoms, or that grown men have to ask the pharmacist for them and maybe get a lecture about the evils of birth control and promiscuity.

This is politics. Pure politics. The Obama administration values the Catholic bishops, the Family Research Council, Rush Limbaugh and the swing voters of Ohio more than the pro-choice Democratic women who make up way more than their share of his base—women who campaigned for him, donated to him, knocked on doors for him, left Hillary Clinton for him. He must be assuming that we are captive voters—we have no place to go. That may be true, but there’s trudging to the polls and there’s passion. Obama is never going to get passion from anti-choicers and swing voters. And it looks increasingly likely that he won’t get it from pro-choice women either.

Yes, you read that correctly, “Plan B One-Step dosage consists of a single tablet taken once”. Yep those sure are tricky directions! I guess I best kick off my shoes and get back in the kitchen- all my decisions are already made for me! Unbelievable.

 

Article one Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/09/us/politics/obama-expresses-support-for-plan-b-decision.html?_r=2&src=tp&smid=fb-share

Article two Source: http://www.thenation.com/blog/165071/hhs-lets-treat-all-women-children


Upsetting HIV Trends

A friend forwarded this article- and it is distressing to say the least. The struggles to combat the ravages of HIV and AIDS in Africa are beginning to seem insurmountable, and this new trend in infection rate is yet another blow to the continent. This article was written by Pam Belluck and can be found in the New York Times.

Contraceptive Used in Africa May Double Risk of H.I.V.

The most popular contraceptive for women in eastern and southern Africa, a hormone shot given every three months, appears to double the risk the women will become infected with HIV, according to a large study published Monday. And when it is used by H.I.V.-positive women, their male partners are twice as likely to become infected than if the women had used no contraception.

The findings potentially present an alarming quandary for women in Africa. Hundreds of thousands of them suffer injuries, bleeding, infections and even death in childbirth from unintended pregnancies. Finding affordable and convenient contraceptives is a pressing goal for international health authorities.

But many countries where pregnancy rates are highest are also ravaged by H.I.V., the virus that causes AIDS. So the evidence suggesting that the injectable contraceptive has biological properties that may make women and men more vulnerable to H.I.V. infection is particularly troubling.

Injectable hormones are very popular. About 12 million women between the ages of 15 and 49 in sub-Saharan Africa, roughly 6 percent of all women in that age group, use them. In the United States, it is 1.2 million, or 3 percent of women using contraception. While the study involved only African women, scientists said biological effects would probably be the same for all women. But they emphasized that concern was greatest in Africa because the risk of H.I.V. transmission from heterosexual sex was so much higher there than elsewhere.

“The best contraception today is injectable hormonal contraception because you don’t need a doctor, it’s long-lasting, it enables women to control timing and spacing of birth without a lot of fuss and travel,” said Isobel Coleman, director of the women and foreign policy program at the Council on Foreign Relations. “If it is now proven that these contraceptions are helping spread the AIDS epidemic, we have a major health crisis on our hands.”

The study, which several experts said added significant heft to previous research while still having some limitations, has prompted the World Health Organization to convene a meeting in January to consider if evidence is now strong enough to advise women that the method may increase their risk of getting or transmitting H.I.V.

“We are going to be re-evaluating W.H.O.’s clinical recommendations on contraceptive use,” said Mary Lyn Gaffield, an epidemiologist in the World Health Organization’s department of reproductive health and research. Before the meeting, scientists will review research concerning hormonal contraceptives and women’s risk of acquiring H.I.V., transmitting it to men, and the possibility (not examined in the new study) that hormonal contraceptives accelerate H.I.V.’s severity in infected women.

“We want to make sure that we warn when there is a real need to warn, but at the same time we don’t want to come up with a hasty judgment that would have far-reaching severe consequences for the sexual and reproductive health of women,” she said. “This is a very difficult dilemma.”

The study, led by researchers at the University of Washington and published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases, involved 3,800 couples in Botswana, Kenya, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia. In each couple, either the man or the woman was already infected with H.I.V. Researchers followed most couples for two years, had them report their contraception methods, and tracked whether the uninfected partner contracted H.I.V. from the infected partner, said Dr. Jared Baeten, an author and an epidemiologist and infectious disease specialist.

The research was presented at an international AIDS conference this summer, but has now gained traction, scientists said, with publication in a major peer-reviewed journal.

The manufacturer of the branded version of the injectable, Depo-Provera, is Pfizer, which declined to comment on the study, saying officials had not yet read it. The study’s authors said the injectables used by the African women were probably generic versions.

The study found that women using hormonal contraception became infected at a rate of 6.61 per 100 person-years, compared with 3.78 for those not using that method. Transmission of H.I.V. to men occurred at a rate of 2.61 per 100 person-years for women using hormonal contraception compared with 1.51 for those who did not.

While at least two other rigorous studies have found that injectable contraceptives increase the risk of women’s acquiring H.I.V., the new research has some strengths over previous work, said Charles Morrison, senior director of clinical sciences at FHI 360, a nonprofit organization whose work includes researching the intersection of family planning and H.I.V.

Those strengths include the fact that researchers followed couples and were therefore able to track transmission of H.I.V. to both men and women. Dr. Morrison said only one other less rigorous study had looked at whether hormonal contraception increased the risk of infected women’s transmitting the virus to men.

“This is a good study, and I think it does add some important evidence,” said Dr. Morrison, who wrote a commentary accompanying the Lancet article.

Although the study has limitations, including its use of data not originally intended to determine the link between contraceptive use and H.I.V., “I think this does raise the suspicion” that injectable contraceptives could increase transmission risk, he said.

Why that would occur is unclear. The researchers recorded condom use, essentially excluding the possibility that increased infection occurred because couples using contraceptives were less likely to use condoms.

The progestin in injectable contraceptives appears to have a physiological effect, scientists said. Renee Heffron, an epidemiologist and co-author of the study, said research examining whether the hormone changes genital tissue or vaginal mucous had been inconclusive. Studies in macaques found that progestin thins vaginal tissue, she said, “but studies among women didn’t show the same amount of thinning.”

It could be that progestin causes “immunologic changes in the vagina and cervix” or could increase the H.I.V.’s “ability to replicate,” Dr. Morrison said.

At one point, the researchers measured the concentration of H.I.V. in infected women’s genital fluid, finding “there was more H.I.V. in the genital fluid of those using hormonal contraception than those who aren’t,” Dr. Baeten said, a possible reason men might have increased risk of infection from hormonal contraceptive users. Those women “don’t have more H.I.V. in their blood,” he said.

The researchers also found that oral contraceptives appeared to increase risk of H.I.V. infection and transmission, but the number of pill users in the study was too small to be considered statistically significant, the authors said.

Previous research on the pill has been more mixed than with injectables, which could have a greater impact because they involve a strong dose meant to last for three months, Dr. Baeten said.

In another troubling finding, results from the same study, published separately, showed that pregnancy also doubled the risk of women’s contracting H.l.V. and of infected women’s transmitting it to men. That may partly be due to increased unprotected sex, but could also relate to hormones, researchers said.

But there are no simple solutions, the authors acknowledge. Any warning against such a popular contraceptive method may not only increase complications from pregnancy but increase H.I.V. transmission, too, since pregnancy itself may raise a woman’s risk of H.I.V. infection.

First, the researchers and others say, greater emphasis should be placed on condom use along with hormonal methods.

Some experts, like Dr. Morrison, favor a randomized controlled trial for more definitive proof, but others question how to “randomize women who may have strong preferences about their contraception,” he added.

Dr. Ludo Lavreys, an epidemiologist who led one of the first studies to link injectable contraceptives to increased H.I.V. risk, said intrauterine devices, implants and other methods should be explored and expanded. “Before you stop” recommending injectables, he said, “you have to offer them something else.”


Sexual Assault Care in Question

This article is a little out of the realm of what I usually like to cover on this blog- A friend shared this article with me, and I needed to share it with all of you. Though a large portion of this article discusses abortion, I’m focusing more on the issues surrounding survivors/victims of rape and violence. Being an instructor for Self Defense, namely Women’s Self Defense, and having presented many seminars on protection, safety, awareness, and defense techniques I get to see a very different side to women- I am also a Confidential Sexual Violence Advocate. As an advocate, I am privy to a wide range of horrible life experiences and violent crimes perpetrated against women. Having experience on both ends of the ‘violence spectrum’, I can tell you that many women live day-to-day in fear; regardless of their level of training, or their exposure to sexual or domestic violence. One woman described her daily existence as feeling like ‘a bread-cart being wheeled through an alley of starving mouths’, this description (I think) embodies perfectly, the fear that women experience simply existing as women. With this is mind, it is very difficult for me to understand how a policy-maker could compare preparing for rape, as one would prepare for having a flat tire. I find this article to be a painful reminder of the way survivors/victims are dismissed in our society.

Abortion debate trivializes rape

By LZ Granderson, Special to CNN

Grand Rapids, Michigan (CNN) — Well, now that Oprah’s finally said goodbye, maybe women can get back to the important business of planning to be raped.

What’s that? You have no idea what I’m talking about?

That’s exactly what some politicians are hoping for — women’s lack of attention to what is being said about them, women being unaware of what is being decided about them.

I’m a dude, so I don’t really have a dog in this race, but I thought an elected official suggesting women should be prepared to be raped the way he is prepared for a flat tire would draw more attention than Arnold Schwarzenegger’s love child. But once again, I’ve overestimated the public’s ability to prioritize.

Earlier this month, Kansas State Rep. Pete DeGraaf made some ratehr outlandish comments during a debate centered on banning insurance companies in Kansas from offering abortion coverage as part of their general health plans unless a woman’s life were at risk. The bill, which the governor signed into law last week, would require a woman to carry a separate policy for abortions. When Rep. Barbara Bollier voiced concern for women who may become pregnant as a result of rape or incest, this exchange followed:

DeGraaf: “We do need to plan ahead, don’t we, in life?”

Bollier: “And so women need to plan ahead for issues that they have no control over with pregnancy?”

DeGraaf: “I have a spare tire on my car.”

“I also have life insurance,” he added. “I have a lot of things that I plan ahead for.”

Ladies and gentleman of the great state of Kansas, your tax dollars at work.

It shouldn’t really matter which side of the fence you stand on regarding abortion: that tone, that rationale, has no place in the debate. That more people, more women, were not angered by DeGraaf’s statements only highlights just how little we are paying attention to lawmakers.

Tea partier Sharron Angle raised eyebrows during the 2010 midterm election by suggesting rape and incest victims who become pregnant and do not have an abortion made a “lemon situation into lemonade” — but at least she lost and cannot mandate that rape victims make lemonade. These guys are in office and affecting policy. Last month, while debating a similar ban, Iowa State Rep. Brent Crane said rape was the “hand of the Almighty” at work.

Yep, that’s right ladies, being raped could be part of God’s plan.

It’s one thing to discuss whether or not life begins at conception but to go so far as to trivialize one of the most horrific crimes anyone could ever experience is nothing more than an extension of the chauvinistic blame-the-victim mentality that has always tainted the conversation on rape.

I wonder who DeGraaf believes has the greatest risk of being raped, and thus should purchase insurance accordingly? I wonder if Degraaf believes rape is inevitable as death and that’s why he mentioned he made the correlation with his life insurance policy.

Am I making too much of a big deal about this?

Not when you look at the mentality of Indiana Rep. Eric Turner, who earlier this year introduced a bill that would make abortions illegal after 20 weeks instead of 24 weeks. When Rep. Gail Riecken proposed an amendment to that bill exempting women who are the victims of rape or incest, Turner said Reicken’s proposal would encourage women to lie in order to get an abortion.

“I don’t want to disparage in any way someone who has gone through the experience of a rape or incest — but someone who is desirous of an abortion could simply say that they’ve been raped or there’s incest,” he said.

True, but does that mean the overall mental health of someone who was a victim, someone who was not lying, suddenly doesn’t matter? I tend to think the only person who would make that kind of a statement is someone who tends to believe the number of women who lie about being sexually assaulted are far greater than the ones who actually are.

These are the kind of people, the kind of men, who are involved in shaping the conversation about abortion. This is why it is imperative that women, and not just those affiliated with groups like NOW, pay attention to what is being said and done. The issue at hand is not simply the morality of having an abortion, that’s one aspect of it. But the other wrinkle to this conversation, the one all women — regardless of political affiliation –should be able to rally around, is addressing the attitude and tone of the conversation. If men feel comfortable enough to be on the legislative floor and suggest that women and girls lie about rape, or recommend that it is something they should prepare for, one can only imagine what is being said behind closed doors.

Remember in April when federal funding for Planned Parenthood was being debated, Sen. John Kyl boldly stated that 90% of the organization’s services were providing abortions — when in fact the procedure only represented 3% of Planned Parenthood’s functions? Of the more than 11 million services provided in 2009, more than 4 million fell under contraception and nearly 4 million fell under sexually transmitted disease testing. Nearly 2 million were for cancer screenings. A little more than 300,000 were abortions.

Late night TV had a good laugh at Kyl’s expense when his staff later said the number was not supposed to be “factual.” What isn’t funny is the thought of just how many measures regarding a woman’s body that Kyl supported or pushed forward.

When it comes to the topic of abortion, a politician’s view is often shaped by his or her religion. What it should not be shaped by is sexism and flat-out lies.

The notions that rape is a possibility that women should plan for, or that abortions should not be provided to victims of rape or incest because some women might lie about an attack to get their insurance company to pay, reek of misogyny. Female voters need to pay closer attention to this rhetoric and be more vocal in challenging it, because ultimately it’s not the Kyls, DeGraafs and Turners who are losing control over their bodies. It’s them.

The opinions in this commentary are solely those of LZ Granderson.


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