Posts by Kiki

September 21, 2012

Ley de Equidad para Trabajadoras Embarazadas Presentado en el Senado

Escrito por Rachel. Traducido del orginial en inglés Sept. 21, 2012.

Los senadores Bob Casey (Demócrata, Pennsylvania) y Jean Shaheen (Demócrata, New Hampshire) presentaron introdujeron la Ley de Equidad para Trabajadoras Embarazadas esta semana para extender protecciones legales a trabajadoras embarazadas contra la discriminación, protecciones a las que provee el Acta de Americanos con Descapacidades (que no cubre el embarazo) .

Muchas mujeres embarazadas necesitan arreglos sencillos en el trabajo: el permiso de trabajar sentadas, o descansos de baño mas frecuentes. Pero estos arreglos no están protegidos bajo las leyes actuales. Como ejemplo, una trabajadora fue despedida después de cargar y beber agua de una botella, ya que el negocio donde trabajaba tenia una regla prohibiendo empleados de comer y beber durante el trabajo.

Dijo Casey:

Trabajadoras embarazadas enfrentan discriminación en el trabajo todo los días, lo que es un detrimento sin excusa a las mujeres y familias trabajadoras de Pennsylvania y por toda la nación.  Esta ley finalmente extenderá equidad a las mujeres embarazadas para que puedan continuar a contribuir a una economía productiva mientras que progresan con un embarazo sano.

La ley se presentó en la Cámara de Representantes previamente en este verano por el Rep. Jerry Nadler (Demócrata Nueva York) y tiene más de 100 copatrocinantes. Sin embargo, no ha progresado mucho, menos ser referida a varios comités– provocando el comentario de Sheila Bapat de RH Reality Check, “ la ley no estaba yendo a ningún lugar.”

Bapat también nos clarifica las razones por la cuales la Ley de Equidad para Trabajadoras Embarazadas tiene importancia, aunque una Acta contra Discriminación en el Embarazo ha existido desde 1978:

Ya existen leyes que protegen mujeres embarazadas contra la discriminación, pero no han sido interpretado en términos de proteger mujeres que buscan modificaciones a sus responsabilidades en el trabajo. El Acta contra Discriminación en el Embarazo (PDA) se aprobó hace 20 años, y previene la discriminación “a base de embarazo, parto, y condiciones médicas relacionadas.” Pero esta ley ha sido interpretada a proteger solamente a las mujeres que están embarazadas pero que no necesitan modificaciones en su trabajo para continuar, o mujeres embarazadas que ya no pueden seguir trabajando y que necesitan baja por maternidad.

Defensores Nacionales para Mujeres Embarazadas tiene una guía a las leyes que afectan la discriminación contra las mujeres embarazadas en el trabajo en la red  un buen punto de partida para comprender las protecciones que ya existen y los huecos en las leyes actuales, como el Acta de Americanos con Descapacidades y el Acta de Baja Médica y de Familia (“ADA” y “FMLA” en sus siglas ingleses”.

El Centro Nacional de Ley de Mujeres (National Women’s Law Center) está promoviendo la aprobación de la ley, y tiene varias entradas útiles en su blog para profundizar conocimiento sobre el tema. Entradas excelentes incluyen “It Shouldn’t Be A Heavy Lift: Pregnant Workers Fairness Act Introduced in Senate,” y “The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act: What It Means for Low-Wage Working Women.”


December 21, 2011

The Health Cost of Black Women’s Hair Products

by Kat Friedrich

There is a striking lack of mainstream news coverage of the health hazards posed by beauty products, such as hair relaxers and skin lighteners, that are commonly used by black women. African-American women spend more on beauty products than white women do, but far too little research has looked at how women use these products.

So when the New York City-based WE ACT for Environmental Justice set out to survey African, African-American, and Latina women this year to find out how they use beauty products and what they know about them, it was an important step toward increasing awareness of a long-standing women’s health issue.

“We noticed that groups conducting surveys around this have focused on middle-class white women,” Ogonnaya Dotson-Newman, campaign director for WE ACT in Harlem, told The Uptowner. “But there is a whole area of hair products that you wouldn’t know about unless you live in certain urban areas.”

Rochelle RitchieStraight hair has often — and unfairly — been an occupational requirement for black women. TV journalism is one of the most problematic fields (see the Maynard Institute’s historical view of “good hair” on the TV news). Reporter Rochelle Ritchie’s 2010 story (right) about going natural with her hair — and doing so publicly — made headlines and is included in the Body Image chapter in the new “Our Bodies, Ourselves.”

Keonte Coleman, an assistant journalism professor at Bennett College, has more on Ritchie’s backstory and decision to cut her hair on TV, and the standards to which black women in professional media positions are often held.

“Maybe there aren’t any guidelines preventing natural hairstyles, but there is a culture in place that fosters the need for black women to look like their white counterparts,” writes Coleman.

The ingredients of hair relaxers, which many black women use to straighten their curls, are anything but relaxing. Almost all of the samples of currently available hair relaxers tested by Environmental Working Group (EWG) were ranked highly toxic, although limited information was available. Allergic reactions, hormone disruption, immune system toxicity and organ toxicity were four of the main risks.

In contrast, hair straighteners, which are more commonly used by white women, have generally been considered to be relatively safer. EWG’s website shows most of these products are medium-risk with the highest concerns being allergic reactions, immune toxicity and hormone disruption. These risks are similar to those of the hair polishers which are used by women of color.

That was the thinking, at least, until 2010, when concern about formaldehyde in Brazilian keratin hair straighteners made headlines after salon workers in Oregon and internationally complained of breathing problems and eye irritation. Formaldehyde is an industrial chemical that can cause a host of health problems, including an increased risk of cancer.

In response, the FDA this year sent a warning letter to the makers of the hair straightening product Brazilian Blowout, which was found to contain formaldehyde even though it was labeled “formaldehyde free.” (The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics provides a timeline and status update since complaints were first lodged.)

It’s interesting that the formaldehyde in Brazilian Blowout drew criticism from the FDA, while the many ingredients in hair relaxers African-American women use have remained under the radar. These relaxers, as well as costly hair extensions, have been on the market for a long time.

Yumna Mohamed, reporting for The Uptowner, summarized some of the research on black women’s hair products:

While hair dyes, bleaches and relaxers have already been linked to skin problems (including rashes, burns, itching and hair loss), a number of national studies are being conducted to determine whether women of color face higher risks of breast and lung cancer from beauty product exposure.

Dr. Mary Beth Terry, a Columbia University epidemiologist, published a study in May in the Journal of Immigration and Minority Health showing that African-American and African-Caribbean women were more likely to be exposed to hormonally-active chemicals in hair products than white women, and used them more often.

“These products are often used daily and over the course of many years,” Terry says. “A number of these commonly-used products contain endocrine disruptors and placenta, and exposure to these could cause women to be more susceptible to hormone-sensitive diseases such as aggressive breast cancer.”

WE ACT expects to release its survey findings in January. It will use the information to lobby the cosmetics industry and advise women about the dangers in hair products.


Kat Friedrich is an environmental journalist whose work focuses on urban communities. She lives in Boston, uses Twitter, and blogs at Science Is Everyone’s Story.


October 1, 2011

The flood of relief I felt at that moment, and the power that came from the sense of not being alone, really did change my life …

by Ruth Bell Alexander

In late 1969, a couple of months away from delivering my first baby (my son, who is now 41), I was 25 years old, living out in the country suburbs of Boston 3,000 miles away from my family, with a husband who went off to Cambridge every weekday for work.

It was a pretty lonely existence. I knew almost no one. But when my husband came home one day and told me he had met some people at work who knew about a women’s group that was starting, my life began to change. They were offering a class after hours at MIT about women’s issues. I remember the class being called Women and Their Bodies, but that’s with 42 years hindsight, so I may be wrong about the original title.

I do remember with startling clarity that although I knew only one person there, and even she I knew only barely, the roomful of women I walked into was very welcoming. The “class” was presented in a series of lectures about topics that ranged from women’s “roles,” to women’s work, health, legal issues pertaining to women, etc. — one topic per week for 12 weeks.

Each week had a “presenter,” and everyone in the room was invited to ask questions, offer comments, and discuss the issue at hand. I remember the Pregnancy class most clearly of course, and most specifically I remember raising my hand, with some trepidation, to ask about nightmares. During my pregnancy I had been having troubling nightmares, one of the issues that led me to brave the New England winter nights to drive 20 miles into Cambridge for the class. So I raised my hand and asked, “Has anyone experienced nightmares during pregnancy?”

Remembering this brings tears to my eyes even now at age 67, because my question was met with such loving responses that I felt embraced by the warmth and power of the experience and a deep connection to every woman in that room. No one patted me on the head and told me not to worry, as my doctor had done. No one scoffed at me. Instead, they listened and they responded from their hearts. And several of them had nightmares during their pregnancies, and they told me it was a fairly common experience for pregnant women to have strange dreams.

The flood of relief I felt at that moment, and the power that came from the sense of not being alone, really did change my life. The course ended after my baby was born, but I remember being at the last class when anyone there who wanted to participate in the writing of the lecture series into a book was invited to come to the next meeting.

I did show up at that next meeting and I have been involved with the OBOS collective since then. Happy 40th Anniversary, “Our Bodies, Ourselves.”

Do you remember when you first read “Our Bodies, Ourselves”? Take part in OBOS’s 40th anniversary by sharing how “Our Bodies, Ourselves” made a difference in your life. View more stories and submit your own.


October 1, 2011

OBOS was my midwife — always informative, always encouraging me to hear and express my own voice …

by Maura Ann Dowling

In 1986 I was a senior in college, had just ended a relationship with my boyfriend who had anger management challenges from some unresolved issues in his past. Then I found out I was pregnant. My parents were very concerned with image — so this was not an event they were able to open their hearts to for many months.

Fortunately I owned a copy of “Our Bodies Ourselves,” because my mother had planted a seed in me to question the medical establishment, and one of my professors in college was part of the generation of 1968 in France and she had raised my feminist consciousness. Neither my mother nor my professor had the ability to advise me in this, so OBOS gave me that mentoring supportive voice that I needed.

For me, an abortion was not an option. I always knew I would carry my pregnancy to term and raise the baby on my own. And OBOS continually gave me the women’s wisdom I needed. I was 24 at the time but looked about 17 — and when I went to physicians’ offices, I noticed the disconnect between what I wanted to be a positive nurturing pre- and post-natal experience.

Just the forms I filled out asking for the “father’s name” even before my name was appalling. Then the “meet-the-doctor-naked-in-a-paper-gown” was uncomfortable. And then the insistence on ultrasounds and tests that I didn’t agree with. All through this OBOS was my midwife — always informative, always encouraging me to hear and express my own voice.

I declined prenatal tests with 30 percent failure rates. I requested to meet and speak with my physician clothed and with questions about their practice. I discussed natural childbirth and what reasons would cause them to use medical interventions. Once I was faint on the examining table and the female physician asked if I always acted this way! I changed physicians four times through my pregnancy because of the way they handled my taking the lead in me and my baby’s care.

Through all of this, my family went through all manner of projecting judgment and fear on to me — my father didn’t speak to me for four months, my mother made inquiries into an unwed mother’s home, my brother asked why I wasn’t getting an abortion, my Godmother told me I could never wear a white dress at a wedding in future. OBOS validated me while my family heaped their shame on me.

I kept up a full-time course load, and waitressed part-time until I was eight months pregnant. Then the physician I had come to trust told me my baby was breech and that she would schedule me for a C-section. After I had gotten dressed and met her in her office, I knew enough to ask questions because of my intense reading of OBOS. Formulating the question in the heat of the moment was very challenging because this news came at me so suddenly.

I managed to ask why we wouldn’t wait until I went into labor to plan the C-section, because then we would have a clear indication that the baby was ready to be born.

Her response stunned me. She asked, “Why would you want to go into labor — it’s no fun.”

I drove straight home and pulled out OBOS. I searched for some answer — this didn’t feel right. My father stopped by, he was speaking to me now and I told him what had happened. He was an HR executive, and he told me that the major medical health insurance I had paid a physician a higher rate on a C-section than a natural birth.

Since midwives were discussed, I decided I needed advice from one. I obtained a phone number of a midwives association in the New York City area where I was — and when I discussed what had transpired with the midwife, she asked how I knew to call them. I told her about OBOS! She was so supportive of me and encouraged me for standing up for myself — then she gave me three physician’s names and why she thought they were worth a try in my case. She did warn me that changing physicians at almost nine months was tricky due to the way insurance pays.

The second physician’s office took me in for an appointment. My mother went with me and told me I was being vain to avoid a C-section. I reached behind her seat in the car and handed her a copy of “The Silent Knife” that OBOS had recommended and told her the page number to read where they described a C-section step-by-step. My mother had been an RN so I knew she would understand after she read — she did, and she stopped resisting my medical choices. The new physician was willing to discuss ways for the baby to adjust position before birth, as well as manual ways to change her position and he reassured me that a C-section would be a last resort.

By the time I had an ultrasound to check, the baby had moved with the exercises. My former physician called me to see why I was terminating our relationship, and when I explained she went on the fear-path, telling me how big my baby was. I just quoted something from OBOS and told her I felt natural childbirth was the right path for me to pursue.

My beautiful daughter, Maia, was born a few days later after a long and vigorous labor with no drugs or surgery. I spent one night in the hospital (my choice) and took her home, and we were a champion nursing team. She lost 2 ounces, and then gained weight at a robust clip. She was born on a Monday and then on Wednesday evening my mother and aunt babysat for a couple of hours so I could go to my feminist economics class where I got so much positive support along with my trusty OBOS.

My daughter and I thank you — all of you past and present! And for many years now my daughter and her father have cultivated a deep and growing relationship. We are a family that started with bumps, but have found resolution, love and peace.

Do you remember when you first read “Our Bodies, Ourselves”? Take part in OBOS’s 40th anniversary by sharing how “Our Bodies, Ourselves” made a difference in your life. View more stories and submit your own.


October 1, 2011

Midwives are the guardians of normal and natural birth …

by Whitney Pinger

As a young teen in the 1970s, OBOS taught me that women’s health was ours, and that we did not have to give up or strength and power.

I learned that midwives are the guardians of normal and natural birth and that is what I have come to incarnate.

I have been learning to be a midwife since I opened my first copy of OBOS … my journey took me many places but I am now the Director of Midwifery at The George Washington University.

I was an OBOS Women’s Health Hero in 2010.

My entire life has flowed from OBOS.

Do you remember when you first read “Our Bodies, Ourselves”? Take part in OBOS’s 40th anniversary by sharing how “Our Bodies, Ourselves” made a difference in your life. View more stories and submit your own.


July 21, 2011

Share Your “Our Bodies, Ourselves” Story and Win a Free Book!

We’ve been gathering stories all this year (read ‘em!), and we’d like to expand the incredible story collection to include videos. Here’s your chance to tell audiences about your OBOS experience.

The details:

1) Record your video response.

2) Answer one or two of these questions:
• When did you first find out about or read “Our Bodies, Ourselves”? What did you learn from reading it?
• What impact has “Our Bodies, Ourselves” had on your life?
• How would you say “Our Bodies, Ourselves” has impacted women’s lives/rights? How has it impacted the way men and women relate to each other?
• What role do you think “Our Bodies, Ourselves” should play in the world today?
• What is the biggest challenge for women’s health today?
• Where do you think women’s health stands today compared to 40 years ago? What has changed? Where do we go from here?
• What crazy/unexpected/funny/revealing thing did YOUR mother (aunt, sister, etc.) say to you because of “Our Bodies, Ourselves”?
• If there was one thing you could say to people watching this video about the importance of “Our Bodies, Ourselves,” what would it be?
• OR, come up with your own question!

3) Wish us a happy birthday!

4) Send us an email at OBOS40th@gmail.com so we can send you a release form and information about uploading your video to our dropbox account.

Only videos with accompanying release forms will be shown online and at OBOS’s 40th anniversary symposium in Boston on Oct. 1 (read more about the symposium here — you’re all invited!).

Don’t want to go on camera? We’re also continuing to publish written submissions from women and men (check out this new story from a father of two young girls who describes being “paradoxically humbled and empowered” by “Our Bodies, Ourselves” when he was in college).

All video and written submissions will be entered into a drawing for a free, signed copy of the newly revised ninth edition of “Our Bodies, Ourselves,” due out on Oct. 1. Previously submitted stories will automatically be entered. Three winners will be announced on or around Oct. 1, 2011.

Questions? Email OBOS40th@gmail.com. Thanks for considering this, and please share the news!


December 3, 2010

New Recognition for Nurses Dedicated to Evidence-Based Model of Care

by Nekose Wills | OBOS program assistant

The Coalition for Improving Maternity Services (CIMS) has started the Mother-Friendly Nurse Recognition Initiative, which aims to recognize nurses who are dedicated to using an evidence-based model of care to improve health outcomes of birthing women and their babies.

CIMS will confer recognition to nurses who provide maternity care services consistent with the 10 Steps of the Mother-Friendly Childbirth Initiative (pdf). These nurses keep the best interest of women and babies at the forefront while embracing the MCFI as their guiding philosophical approach to the care of birthing women.

This handy FAQ page explains the program’s goals and application process. The application is available here.

Given the vital role nurses play in patient care and satisfaction, we are glad that CIMS recognizes their importance as well as the purpose of evidence-based care, even when it is not the popular choice.