Archive for the ‘Activism & Resources’ Category

March 12, 2014

Teen Voices Magazine is Back, Improving the World for Girls Through Media

For 25 years, Teen Voices magazine has provided a place for journalism and other writing created by and for teenage girls. This great publication, originally based in Boston, was on the brink of shutting down last year, but Women’s eNews took it under its wing, with plans to build upon its mission of improving the world for female teens through media.

The first stories published by the new Teen Voices are now online and tackle diverse issues including recovering from anorexiawhy some women wear hijab and others don’tfeeling unworthy; and letters to celebrities as role models.

design contest for the new Teen Voices logo is currently open to 12-19 year olds; the deadline is April 3. You can also follow Teen Voices on FacebookTwitter and tumblr.

And if you’d like to support Teen Voices, there’s an IndieGoGo campaign running now through the end of March to raise funds for a “virtual newsroom,” including mentorship and paid writing assignments for teen girls.

We’re excited to see Teen Voices not only keep going, but expand the opportunities for its writers. Women’s eNews explains the need for this program and the goals:

Teen Voices at Women’s eNews will provide opportunities for education and interaction so that young women can develop and amplify their voices and contribute to issues that personally affect them.

Young women in the U.S. and around the globe often have limited knowledge of the policies, practices and rituals that influence their lives directly, giving them little opportunity to voice their approval or objection. Consider this:

  • Alongside nudity and hypersexualization in film, female teens and women between the ages of 13 and 20 are more likely than others to be referred to as “attractive” as their main attribute, according to theWomen’s Media Center’s 2012 Status of Women in the U.S. Media report.
  • Young female characters are outnumbered by boys 3-to-1 among the top-grossing G-rated family films, according to the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in the Media. This trend makes young women invisible, removes role models and results “in negative gender stereotypes imprinting over and over.”
  • Female teens surveyed by the Girl Scouts in 2011 accepted that their lives should be like that of women on reality TV shows and expected a higher level of drama, aggression and bullying in their own lives. The media is influencing young women to believe that “it’s in girls’ nature to be catty and competitive with one another.”

Teen Voices at Women’s eNews will provide honest and objective information about issues directly affecting female teens around the world, and serve as a powerful outlet for young women to express their views on issues of particular concern to them.

The project is being led by Lori Sokol, Ph.D., the new publisher of Teen Voices at Women’s eNews, theWomen’s eNews editorial, marketing and development staff and a diverse board of teenagers who will consult and advise on the issues being covered.

Don’t forget to check out the IndieGoGo campaign today!
Also! Our Bodies Ourselves has multiple back issues of the print edition of Teen Voices that we would like to give away. They are available for the cost of postage, $13 per box. If you are interested, send a check made out to “OBOS” to: Our Bodies Ourselves, 5 Upland Road #3, Cambridge, MA 02140. Be sure to include the address where the magazines should be sent. For more information, email: office AT bwhbc.org


January 27, 2014

Bill Regulating Certified Professional Midwives Needs a Push

Once again, a bill that would license and regulate certified professional midwives, or CPMs, has been introduced in the Massachusetts legislature. And it’s time for the Commonwealth to join the 28 other states in this country that already have adopted such regulation.

CPMs are educated to develop hands-on expertise in the home or birth center setting. Maternity care professionals with many decades of experience as well as prominent consumer organizations are supporting this bill because they believe it will increase the safety of home birth for families choosing this option.

Among these professionals writing to the legislature are pediatricians, obstetricians, midwives and academic researchers. Below are excerpts from some of their letters:

Martha Richardson, MD, practicing obstetrician in the Boston area for 33 years: “Home birth is an option in some states and in many countries including some where the overall birth outcomes are better than in the U.S. Bringing home birth under public surveillance in Massachusetts is unlikely to worsen outcomes and could help us address our lack of reliable information.”

Robyn Churchill, former director of midwifery at Mt. Auburn Hospital: “I am a Certified Nurse Midwife with over 20 years of clinical and research experience in maternal health care. I…am now at the Harvard School of Public Health, working on a large trial of the WHO Safe Childbirth Checklist in India … My experience and research has shown that safe childbirth can occur in many settings, within a well-coordinated system, with regulation and oversight of providers.”

Lisa Paine, a certified nurse-midwife and DrPH long involved at the national level with policy development to improve health education and regulation: “For nearly 30 years I have been involved in a variety of clinical, academic and administrative roles related to maternity care, midwifery and public health … My policy and advocacy experiences are numerous and have led to several publications and testimonies, including undertakings directly relevant to my support of this legislation … these fully support House Bill 2008/Senate Bill 1081.”

In its testimony opposing this legislation, the Mass Medical Society (MMS) makes several incorrect statements. For example, it asserted that “CPMs have not adopted a set of criteria based on generally accepted medical evidence or public safety for patients who may be appropriate candidates for home birth, relying instead on the decision of the individual midwife and patient.”

This is not true. Although CPMs respect a women’s right to informed consent in childbirth (as all health professionals should do), the CPM profession, through the National Association of Certified Professional Midwives, has clearly defined professional guidelines and standards. Also, many state midwifery organizations have developed extensive practice guidelines because licensure laws were passed in their states.

One good example is New Mexico, where CPMs are regulated and licensed by the Department of Health. Extensive clinical guidelines have been developed by the state midwifery association and are enforced by the New Mexico state licensing and disciplinary authority. House Bill 2008/Senate Bill 1081 would allow Massachusetts to place similar guidelines on CPM practice here.

No state adopting the regulation and oversight of CPMs has reversed its policy. Some states — Texas, Colorado, and California, for example — have more recently reaffirmed these earlier legislative decisions.

CPMs are specifically educated to develop hands-on expertise in the home or birth center setting.  The CPM credential is overseen and certified by the same national organization that validates the CNM credential for nurse-midwives.

The Massachusetts Medical Society also states: “The curriculum, clinical skills training, and experiences of CPMs have not been approved by any authority recognized in certifying knowledge and skills associated with the practice of obstetrics, including the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology, the American Midwifery Certification Board (AMCB), and the American Board of Family Medicine.”

These three entities do not engage in the approval of curricula for other professionals in their fields, so this comment is not actually relevant.

The Committee on Public Health should report this bill out favorably, so it can advance to the next step in the legislative process, and eventually be released to the floor for a vote and enable the state to oversee this growing health profession. 

Failure to license CPMs will make the several hundred home births that occur in Massachusetts every year less safe by failing to create an integrated maternal health care system with enhanced collaboration among all care providers. This bill would affirm that all Massachusetts maternal health care providers are committed to practicing with state oversight and public accountability.

Please make your voice heard by contacting your legislator and by signing a petition in support of the Massachusetts Midwifery Bill, sponsored by the Massachusetts Midwives Alliance and the Massachusetts Friends of Midwives.

This article was originally posted at Cognoscenti, WBUR Boston’s ideas and opinions section, and is re-posted with permission.


January 23, 2014

Free, Online Course on International Women’s Health and Human Rights

International Women's Health and Human Rights Course

Interested in learning more about women’s health and human rights? A free, online course offered by Stanford University kicks off Friday, Jan. 24.

The course is open to everyone — you just need an interest in health and social justice and an online connection.

Anne Firth Murray, founding president of the Global Fund for Women and a consulting professor in human biology at Stanford, is leading the course. A contributor to “Our Bodies, Ourselves,” Murray moderated a panel on global activism at OBOS’s 40th anniversary symposium.

Participants can join in as their schedule allows. Course materials will be released Friday afternoons at 5 p.m. PST, and you can watch lectures and interviews with scholars and NGO leaders, complete interactive activities, and join fellow students in the forum on your own time.

In the video below, Murray explains how this class uses a lens of human rights to look at health issues, going beyond the traditional material on maternal and infant health.

“I knew there were many more issues than that, that women were concerned with,” says Murray.

Here’s the course write-up:

This course provides an overview of women’s health and human rights, beginning in infancy and childhood, then moving through adolescence, reproductive years and aging. We consider economic, social, political and human rights factors, and the challenges women face in maintaining health and managing their lives in the face of societal pressures and obstacles.

We focus on critical issues, namely those that may mean life or death to a woman, depending on whether she can exercise her human rights. These critical issues include: being born female and discrimination; poverty; unequal access to education, food, paid work and health care; and various forms of violence. Topics discussed include son preference, education, HIV/AIDS, reproductive health, violence in the home and in war and refugee circumstances, women’s work, sex trafficking, and aging.

Our open online course (often abbreviated as a “MOOC”) will have a special focus on creating an international network of engaged students. We will ask students to take part in interactive discussions and cooperative exercises and to share their own experiences. We also ask students to engage with the communities they live in, in order to deepen their understanding of the issues and tie academic ideas to real-life circumstances.

The course textbook will be Murray’s book “From Outrage to Courage: Women Taking Action for Health and Justice,” a terrific resource that Our Bodies Ourselves Executive Director Judy Norsigian used when teaching a women’s health advocacy course at Suffolk University. Individual chapters will be posted online.

Participants who complete the course will receive a statement of accomplishment from Stanford University.

Interested? Learn more at InternationalWomensHealth.org.

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January 22, 2014

On The Anniversary of Roe v. Wade, Get Informed and Get Active

Today marks the 41st anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision making abortion legal throughout the United States.

As we have seen, however, legality does not equal access. Many states have chipped away at Roe v. Wade; in 2012 alone, 22 states enacted 70 new abortion restrictions, making abortion much more difficult to obtain

There have been numerous stories lately on state abortion battles and where the push will be in 2014 to further reduce abortion access, as (mostly male) politicians, seeking to boost their midterm election profiles, will try to enact more barriers.

Abortion rights activists are going on the offensive. So should you.

For this anniversary of Roe, make a plan to support reproductive choice in 2014. Connect with supporters in your area.

Contact your senators and representatives and let them know you support the Women’s Health Protection Act (S 1696/HR 3471), which would prohibit many restrictions that intrude on a woman’s decision and make it more difficult for physicians to provide abortion services.

Learn about abortion restrictions in your state, and check to see if bills proposing new restrictions have been introduced.

We need to talk more openly about abortion as a health issue for women, and we need to work together to ensure it remains a legal option in the years to come.


November 7, 2013

Guides to Breastfeeding and Working

The American College of Nurse-Midwives recently published a free guide to breastfeeding and working, which carries tips for preparing to go back to work full-time, what to look for in a breast pump, how often to pump, and how to store milk.

The suggestions are very practical, although some — such as working part-time or working from home for a while — are not realistic for many women, especially in non-office or hourly jobs.

Newer legal protections for breastfeeding workers, however, should make some aspects of breastfeeding and work a little easier to manage. One rarely mentioned benefit of the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) is that the act amended the Fair Labor Standards Act to require employers to provide breaks for nursing mothers to express breast milk for a year after the child’s birth.

Workplaces with 50 or more employees are required to provide “a reasonable amount” of break time for expressing milk as often as needed, as well as a functional space for pumping that is *not* a bathroom.

The employers are not required to pay for the time of these breaks. Employers with fewer than 50 employees might be exempt if they claim it creates a “hardship,” so it’s important to check on if you work for a small business. The Department of Labor provides more resources on this topic for workers and employers.

Some states also have laws that protect breastfeeding women in the workplace. Where the state law does a better job of protecting workplace breastfeeding/pumping, the state law is what applies.

See also: Previous posts and excerpts from “Our Bodies, Ourselves” on breastfeeding.


October 10, 2013

All Pinked Out in October? There’s a Cure for That! Join the Think Before You Pink Campaign

by Annie Sartor
Policy and Campaigns Coordinator, Breast Cancer Action

Why is the breast cancer epidemic still raging after 30 years of “awareness” and pink ribbon products?

Each year, corporations pack the shelves with pink ribbon products, surrounding us with “breast cancer awareness” messages. These products help to raise billions of dollars in the name of breast cancer, and yet more than 40,000 women in the United States still die of the disease every year.

And many corporations sell pink ribbon products in the name of breast cancer that actually contain chemicals linked to an increased risk of the disease. At Breast Cancer Action, we call this blatant hypocrisy “pinkwashing.”

For 12 years, Breast Cancer Action’s Think Before You Pink campaign has held corporations accountable for their toxic pink ribbon products. This year, it’s time to say we’ve had enough. Instead of targeting pinkwashers one at a time, it’s time to go straight to the source — the chemicals in these products that are making us sick in the first place.

Do you have any idea how many toxic chemicals are in the average pink ribbon product? Nope? Neither do we. Nor does anyone!

Toxic Time is UpAll anyone knows for certain is that only a small handful — about 200 of the over 80,000 chemicals in use in the United States — have been tested for human safety. And that’s a serious problem for all of us.

These chemicals are found in everyday consumer products such as plastics, paint, clothing, and cleaning supplies, including an unknown number of pink ribbon products being sold in the name of breast cancer.

Evidence of the links between environmental toxins and cancer continues to mount. In 2010, the President’s Cancer Panel reported that “the true burden of environmentally induced cancer has been grossly underestimated [and] … the American people — even before they are born — are bombarded continually with myriad combinations of these dangerous exposures.”

And just this week, yet another study came out showing an even stronger link between BPA and breast cancer than we’d previously thought.

Why is pinkwashing so prevalent, and even possible in the first place? Our current chemical policy, the Toxic Substances Control Act, is extremely outdated and woefully inadequate to protect public health from hazardous chemicals in our daily lives.

Thanks to a large coalition of health activists, environmentalists, scientists, and thousands of others, pressure has continued to mount for reform of this outdated and toothless law. If strong TSCA reform legislation moves forward this fall, we will have a real opportunity to enact a bill that could make history and be the biggest win for cancer prevention we’ve ever seen.

We refuse to waste another October watching corporations make money off pink ribbon products that contain toxins linked to breast cancer.

Please join us in taking a stand to protect all of us from toxic chemicals that are making us sick, because the manufacturers of pink ribbon products certainly won’t. Sign our petition to end pinkwashing once and for all via strong chemical regulations. It’s time to turn our outrage over pinkwashing into action and ban the toxins that make us sick in the first place.


September 23, 2013

Take Action: Reproductive Rights Campaigns

1 in 3 Campaign

Draw The Line – #UniteTonight | Sept. 25
The Center for Reproductive Rights is holding #Unite Tonight events around the country on Wednesday, Sept. 25. Flagship events will be held in New York and Los Angeles.

If you’re interested in hosting an event in your home and rallying friends to support reproductive rights, sign up to be an Ambassador. The Center will host a live, interactive online presentation for participants.

And if you haven’t already signed the Bill of Reproductive Rights, what are you waiting for?

1 in 3 Campaign Week of Action | Oct. 22-29
The 1 in 3 Campaign, a project of Advocates for Youth, is sponsoring a Week of Action to encourage conversations about abortion access around the country. Community events include tabling, dinner parties, book clubs, and campus events.

Student groups, organizations and individuals can sign up online to register an event and to receive info from the Campaign to help get the conversations started.

Medical Students for Choice Conference on Family Planning | Nov. 9-10 
If you’re a medical student or a student of another health profession interested in reproductive healthcare, consider attending Medical Students for Choice’s annual conference in Denver. Topics will include contraception, abortion, advocacy, and other issues.

As the website notes, “From hands-on opportunities to learn techniques to thoughtful explorations of personal issues related to providing abortion, MSFC’s Conference on Family Planning provides a safe environment for learning and networking with fellow students and mentors.”


August 16, 2013

A Guide to Cervical Cancer Screening & HPV Vaccines

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI) in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “nearly all sexually-active men and women will get at least one type of HPV at some point in their lives.”

But the virus usually clears on its own, without causing any damage — and often without showing any symptoms.

The HPV vaccine can prevent infection, but it’s not for everyone. We’ll tell you what you need to know about the virus and the vaccine.

What are the risks from HPV?

In both men and women, HPV infection can lead to warts or cancer in the person’s genitals, mouth, or throat. There are more than 150 types of HPV, but two (types 16 and 18) are thought to cause almost two-thirds of all cervical cancer cases, and close to half of all vaginal, vulvar, and penile cancers.

What are the current recommendations for cervical cancer screening?

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends that women who have a cervix have a Pap test (which looks for pre-cancerous cells to screen for cervical cancer) every three years between ages 21 – 65.

Every five years, starting at age 30 and until age 65, women are advised to get a Pap test plus HPV DNA testing to screen cells for certain high-risk types of HPV.

The USPSTF does not recommend cervical cancer screening for women under 21 (i.e., neither Pap nor HPV DNA tests), because the tests are unlikely to find any problems. Similarly, the USPSTF does not recommend HPV DNA tests for women under 30, because almost everyone will test positive for the virus at least once. Even though the virus almost always goes away on its own, a positive HPV test increases people’s health care costs and anxieties.

Some clinicians may order a HPV test as follow-up to an abnormal Pap test, but HPV DNA test is not meant for general screening or simply to determine HPV status.

Can HPV be prevented?

There are two vaccines — Cervarix and Gardasil — that prevent infection with the most common types of HPV, thereby reducing the risk of cervical and other cancers that are associated with high-risk strains of HPV.

Cervarix protects against HPV types 16 and 18, the highest-risk strains of HPV, and is approved for girls ages 9 – 26.

Gardasil protects against HPV types 16 and 18, as well as types 6 and 11, which provides additional protection against genital warts and anal cancer; it is approved for both girls and boys ages 9 – 26.

While studies have shown vaccine efficacy over five to six years, longer-term data is not yet available to determine exactly how long the vaccines work to protect people.

How safe are the vaccines? What side effects can they cause?

The CDC notes that the United States “currently has the safest, most effective vaccine supply in history. Years of testing are required by law before a vaccine can be licensed. Once in use, vaccines are continually monitored for safety and efficacy.”

The HPV vaccines are considered to be very safe, although reactions like dizziness, fainting, and soreness around the injection may occur.

More information is available about Gardasil than Cervarix because it was approved first, but on-going safety studies are being done on both vaccines. As with any vaccine, patients should carefully review whether they have allergies to any of the ingredients before getting the vaccine. (The CDC has also published a guide to vaccine safety, written especially for parents.)

When should vaccines occur?

For greatest protection, the CDC recommends vaccination around age 11-12, so it has time to become effective before sexual activity begins. (There is no evidence that having the HPV vaccine encourages a person to become sexually active.)

For people under age 26 who are already sexually active, the HPV vaccine won’t affect any existing HPV infections, but it may prevent infection from a different HPV type if it’s also covered by that vaccine. Likewise, the vaccine doesn’t mean you no longer need cervical cancer screening; if you have a cervix, you should still follow the USPSTF’s screening recommendations.

Can pregnant women get vaccinated?

There have not yet been adequate studies to establish the vaccine’s safety for use by pregnant women, and neither vaccine is recommended for use by pregnant women.

Women who got the vaccine and then find out they were pregnant at the time of vaccination should call the manufacturer’s “HPV in pregnancy registry” to contribute to efforts to learn more about pregnant women’s response to the vaccine (800-986-8999 for Gardasil; 888-452-9622 for Cervarix).

Where can I get the vaccine, and how much does it cost?

The vaccine is available from pediatricians, family doctors, ob/gyns, public health clinics, and family planning clinics. It is given in a three-dose series that may cost more than $500 in total.

Insurance may cover the vaccine’s cost; uninsured children and young adults may be eligible to get it at low cost from public health departments and clinics.

Do I need my parents’ permission to get vaccinated?

The rules vary from state to state. In many states, teens are explicitly allowed to get reproductive health care (like family planning and STI treatment and prevention services) without a parent’s or guardian’s knowledge or consent. These laws are in place to reduce barriers to young people getting sensitive health care services.

If you get the vaccine from your provider using your parent’s insurance, keep in mind that they will get an “Explanation of Benefits” form that describes the services received.

Scarleteen has published an excellent HPV Vaccine FAQ with advice for talking with parents who have concerns about the vaccine.

What does the National Women’s Health Network think about the vaccines?

The NWHN supports cervical cancer screening to identify pre-cancerous conditions and timely access to treatment and care, which will prevent cancer from developing. The NWHN has determined that the vaccines are an important option for filling the gap where regular access to health care — including Pap tests and follow-up ­– is not viable. This is particularly the case where women face barriers to health care due to poverty, ethnicity, language, and/or other factors.

Nonetheless, more research is needed on the vaccines’ safety, long-term effects, and use in sub-groups such as older women.

For more information:

* * *
This post was adapted from an article by Rachel Walden that first appeared in the July/August 2013 edition of NWHN’s The Women’s Health Activist.


August 6, 2013

Got Health Insurance? New Site Explains Options, Provides Resources for Women

Raising Women's Voices

Raising Women’s Voices (RWV) launched a new website on Monday that aims to help the 19 million uninsured women in the United States learn more about and apply for health coverage available through the new health insurance marketplaces, or “exchanges.”

Enrollment for these exchanges, created as part of the Affordable Care Act, begins Oct. 1.

The RWV site offers detailed information on who’s eligible, how to choose a plan, and how to apply for the new coverage. It also provides useful links to additional information on the marketplace and insurance coverage.

“Women are the primary health care decision-makers for many families and will probably be doing a lot of the shopping for health insurance in the new marketplaces,” Cindy Pearson, co-founder of Raising Women’s Voices, said in a statement. “That’s why it is especially important that women get the help they need in learning how to use the new marketplaces.”

Raising Women's Voices website: no co-payRWV offers resources for advocates involved in outreach to uninsured women, including a fact sheet (pdf) that you can print and post to let uninsured women know about enrollment. The site also includes details on coverage available to LGBT women, women of color, students, and new mothers.

Founded in 2007, Raising Women’s Voices is a national initiative that has been working to ensure women’s voices are heard and women’s concerns are addressed as policymakers put the health care law into action. Participating organizations include the Black Women’s Health Imperative, the National Women’s Health Network and the MergerWatch Project of Community Catalyst

For more information on health insurance, the government website Healthcare.gov provides details on the marketplace and ACA coverage.


July 30, 2013

Egg Donors Create Support Group for Women and Push for More Safety Data

We Are Egg Donors website

by Raquel Cool
co-founder of We Are Egg Donors

I recently decided to retire as an egg donor.

This choice is clearly right for me, and although I speak for myself and note that the views expressed below are my own, I know that there are others who share my concerns.

Months ago, I viewed a slideshow by Dr. Jennifer Schneider in which she said that donors are treated more like vendors than patients [Ed note: Schneider's daughter, a three-time egg donor, died of colon cancer at age 31]. That statement has stayed with me. In my experience, the egg extraction process is streamlined, impersonal and automated.

Each busy specialist has a designated purpose and only stays in the room long enough to get what they need, whether it’s blood drawn, a cervical swab, a snapshot of my ovaries, etc. It can be a very draining process, and egg donors have no one to reach out to in these instances because we’re supposed to be “professional.” Even the psychologist is hired to assess — not counsel — the donor.

With the financial component, the donor’s role is more like a professional vendor. This furthers the likelihood that we won’t want to speak up about medical, psychological or health concerns, because the expectation is that we should defer to medical authorities and keep the process efficient.

I’m also troubled by the fact that most donors do not recognize a serious conflict of interest — relying on the advice of fertility doctors whose primary patients are the individuals seeking assisted reproductive technology (ART) services.


OBOS is publishing a series of posts on egg donors and the egg donation process. Previously, Ryann Summers weighs the pros and risks of donating her eggs to a friend.


Egg donors, when viewed as “instruments” for achieving other people’s fertility goals, may have their own important needs neglected, and the financial incentives now in place for medical professionals don’t require paying close attention to the health and well-being of egg donors. Everything is structured to first benefit the agency/fertility center, and then the patients seeking to have a baby. The considerations of the egg donor are last.

For example, I recently worked with an agency/broker that did not inform me that I had the right to choose my own lawyer — they simply told me that my lawyer (who is also the lawyer for the recipient couple using my eggs) would be contacting me.

That lawyer emailed me a document to sign that would waive the “inherent conflicts of interest” of having one legal group represent both parties. I ended up choosing my own lawyer, although the broker resisted (“Well, you can do that, but none of our egg donors ever have.”).

Ultimately, I ended up canceling the process. I realized that I no longer have it in me to participate in an industry that has resisted researching donor health for decades.

I recently spoke with a two-time egg donor who was diagnosed with an advanced case of endometriosis only six months after her last donation. When she reported her diagnosis to the egg donor agency, they invited her to use their services to treat her infertility. They said that many former egg donors have turned to them, years later, being diagnosed with infertility themselves. This saddens me deeply.

I would be open to donating if the health risks were better understood, and if the industry’s practices were designed to value the health and well-being of the egg donor.

The group I recently co-founded, We Are Egg Donors (WAED), has a mission to provide legal, emotional and advocacy support for women considering or providing eggs for fertility purposes. We offer a neutral space where women can engage in transparent conversations about their experiences — without the presence of a commercial or political agenda “guiding” their personal narratives.

Every donor’s perspective is different; this is mine. WAED doesn’t want to create a one-size-fits-all political voice for all egg donors, but we do share a passion for making sure that women who choose to do it are informed, supported, safe, and connected to agencies who will advocate for them.

We are compiling a digital library of information so women have access to more evidence-based information on the process. We are also promoting awareness of and participation in the only national voluntary registry that is tracking the long-term health of those involved in ART procedures: the Infertility Family Research Registry, based at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center in Hanover, N.H.

We welcome the inclusion of additional resources for our website, and I hope to hear from those who share our mission. Please contact me (raquel AT weareeggdonors.com). To learn more about WAED, visit WeAreEggDonors.com.


Young women are increasingly being recruited to donate eggs for infertility and research purposes, though numerous health questions remain unanswered. Our Bodies Ourselves is calling for the creation of a mandatory health registry to facilitate long-term tracking and studies to better understand the risks of egg extraction.

Please support the Petition for Human Egg Extraction Health Registry & for Warnings on Ads and Notices Seeking Egg Donors, started by OBOS, the Alliance for Humane Biotechnology, Pro Choice Alliance for Responsible Research, and the Center for Genetics and Society, and endorsed by other organizations.


July 26, 2013

Clear Channel Won’t Run Ads for Women’s Health Clinic, Cites “Decency Standards”

Following a successful campaign urging Facebook to apply its community standards toward pages and groups promoting rape and other violence against women, Women, Action & the Media (WAM!) has launched a new effort: calling on Clear Channel to lift a ban on radio ads promoting a Wichita, Kan., women’s health clinic that provides abortions.

“At a time when access to reproductive health services, including but not limited to abortion, is under ever increasing attack by politicians and antichoice extremist groups alike, it’s ever more critical that women learn about the services that are still available to them,” said Jaclyn Friedman, executive director of WAM!.

The South Wind Women’s Center recently opened to provide a full range of sexual and reproductive health services, including well-woman exams, cancer screenings, contraception and pregnancy-options counseling. It is one of just just three facilities in all of Kansas that provide abortion care — and one of only three clinics in Wichita (which has a metropolitan population of 650,000) that provide subsidized birth control for low-income individuals.

The clinic is run by Julie Burkhart, a colleague of Dr. George Tiller, the abortion provider who was murdered in his church by an anti-abortion advocate in 2009. Burkhart founded Trust Women, which supports South Wind, to continue Tiller’s vision of entrusting women to make their own decisions for their health and their families. It does not perform late-term abortions as Tiller did.

In defending pulling the ads, Clear Channel claimed the ads are “divisive” and violate “decency standards.”

How “divisive” are the ads?

They never use the terms “abortion,” “pro-choice,” or “reproductive rights.” The first ad is completely innocuous and mentions the expertise and experience of the clinic’s family medicine and ob/gyn providers.

The second ad might be considered more provocative — but only to those who refuse to trust women with their own health decisions. While it never explicitly mentions Tiller’s murder, it reminds listeners that the clinic was “founded to re-establish access to full spectrum reproductive health care.”

Sadly, the most controversial message in these ads may be that the Center is “entrusting women with their own medical decision-making.”

The WAM! campaign also points out the irony in Clear Channel’s advertising: “Wichita’s Clear Channel stations happily play ads for a local sex shop. How is blocking access to information about where to get maternity care and cancer screenings less ‘divisive’ than running sex ads in a conservative Christian town?”

On Thursday, Wichita’s Clear Channel General Manager Rob Burton told a reporter: “As members of the Wichita community, KZSN has a responsibility to use our best judgment to ensure that advertising topics and content are as non-divisive as possible for our local audience.”

Tell Clear Channel that you’ll #changethechannel (hashtag for the campaign) unless it starts running South Wind’s ads. Here’s how you can get involved:

  • Sign SWWC’s petition to Clear Channel calling on the company to run the ads and stop blocking women’s access to health care information.
  • Contact Clear Channel to tell them you’ll #changethechannel unless it agrees to run SWWC’s ads:
    • Call Wichita General Manager, Rob Burton, at 316-494-6601, and Wendy Goldberg, Clear Channel’s senior vice president for communications, at 212-549-0965. Tell them:
    • -Women deserve to know about and have access to legal, safe healthcare.
    • -Refusing to run these ads is what’s truly “divisive.”
    • -Clear Channel is restricting free enterprise, and hurting women by restricting their access to health care.
    • -Clear Channel is letting a tiny minority of anti-choice extremists dictate what women will and will not have access to.
    • -You’ll #changethechannel unless Clear Channel lets South Wind Women’s Center’s ads run.
  • Ask your friends to do the same!


July 3, 2013

Egg Donation is Made to Look Easy, but Questions and Health Risks Remain

First in a series on egg donors and the egg donation process.

by Ryann Summers

Recently, a former co-worker and his romantic partner sent me a text message that left me reeling.

It essentially read: Hey, can I have ur eggs? Thx.

Few couples would be better equipped to raise a well-loved child than these two men, and I fully supported their decision to start a family. But I wondered how we had arrived at the point where this request has become so casual that it can be communicated in fewer than 140 characters. At least take me out to dinner.

I don’t fault my co-worker; his question mirrors how the issue is presented in our culture. As a woman in her early 20s, I am bombarded by advertisements seeking my eggs.

Recently when I was riding the T in Boston, I found myself staring at the face of a smiling baby, and a dollar amount. It seems, well, easy.

Egg donation payments range anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000; some solicitations offer amounts as high as $20,000, or even $100,000, for donors with specific characteristics. I could definitely benefit from thousands of dollars, and hey, I probably have eggs to spare, right?

These attractive compensation offers lack any balancing information about risks and hazards, creating a deus ex machina temptation: As far as I know, I have the potential to help create life for a deserving future parent — and make a staggering profit.

These two potential outcomes are, in fact, quite possible. It can be life-changing and rewarding to help others realize their dream of having children. The sky-high payment — sky-high, at least, to many college students, the prime demographic — is just gravy in this scenario.

But in a different light, it can be a bit like putting a price on the creation of life. Or, tilt again, and it’s simply reimbursement for the donor’s time, as well as the physical risk and discomfort.

So I dug a little deeper, and what I found is while the perspective may shift, there are some immutable realities that are rarely included in donor discussions.

Unlike the process men undergo to donate sperm, the preparation and procedure involved in egg donation require a longer-term commitment — a woman’s body is hormonally altered through the process, and she undergoes surgery.

I’d like to see ads note that fact, along with the known risks of egg donation. The ads don’t mention ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS), a condition that causes the ovaries to swell and become painful in about one-fourth of women who use injectable fertility drugs. (OHSS generally goes away after a week or so, but in severe cases it can cause rapid weight gain, abdominal pain, vomiting and shortness of breath.)

Nor do they mention that the surgery to remove the eggs can sometimes lead to complications, including cramping, bleeding and infection.

Egg donors also need to be told that the long-term risks of egg donation remain largely unknown. There is little long-term safety data on the infertility drugs commonly used to stimulate egg production, and there have been no follow-up studies on women who have donated their eggs.

This lack of safety information has led Our Bodies Ourselves and other women’s health advocates to call for a mandatory egg donor registry that will allow researchers to track the long-term health of women who have donated eggs. The Infertility Family Research Registry, a voluntary registry, is based at the Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center (see below for more more information).

In addition to physical risks, there are the possible psychological reactions to consider. While donors generally undergo both physical and psychological testing before the process begins, it is impossible for donors to predict with certainty the emotional impact of this procedure.

A 2008 study on egg donors’ experiences published in Fertility and Sterility found that almost one in five women reported lasting psychological effects, some positive and some negative, including “concern for and/or attachment to their eggs and/or potential offspring, concern that the donor or resultant child might want a relationship with them in the future” and “stress resulting from the donation process as a whole.”

“Women need to look at the risk involved very carefully, and pay attention to what they’re being told about risks, not just to what they’re being offered to do it,” Nancy Kenney, co-author of the study, told HealthDay News.

As a member of the target demographic, I want complete and balanced information. With the prospect of such a permanent and life-altering decision, I need to know the risks and rewards.

Other women do, too. Three women who donated their eggs have begun collecting personal stories from fellow donors with the hope of creating a self-advocacy group.

“Some of us consider egg donation to be the best thing we’ve ever done. Others do not feel that way at all. Whatever her stance, each donor’s story is welcome here,” they write in the mission statement at WeAreEggDonors.com.

I personally decided against donating my eggs. I sympathized with the overwhelming process my former co-worker and his partner were experiencing, but I told them that I personally did not feel that egg donation was the right choice for me.

I knew very little about egg donation back then, but I did know enough not to match his casual request, delivered via text, with a casual promise that might worry me for years to come.

Plus: OBOS is actively encouraging infertility clinics and centers across the country to promote awareness of the Infertility Family Research Registry based at the Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center. Learn more about ongoing studies.

Read more about issues and concerns related to egg donation, particularly from a nursing perspective, in this article from MCN, The American Journal of Maternal/Child Nursing.

A Boston College alumna, Ryann Summers served for two years as a bilingual program advocate at Voices Against Violence, providing counseling and advocacy services to Spanish-speaking survivors of domestic violence. As an undergraduate, she founded and facilitated a support group for student survivors of sexual assault. An avid yogi and writer, Ryann aims to explore women’s public health themes regularly for OBOS.


July 1, 2013

Keeping Up With Anti-Abortion Attacks in the States

Following up on the amazing filibuster by Texas State Sen. Wendy Davis, Republican Gov. Rick Perry has called for a second special session, beginning today, in which he hopes to push through abortion restrictions.

Texas Tribune will once again provide livestreaming; here’s a seating chart for understanding who’s who in the state Senate.

For continued updates, follow the Twitter accounts of scATX and naraltx and the hashtag #standwithTXwomen. There’s also a virtual march event page on Facebook and a livestream of the rally outside the Statehouse.

For more good commentary from Texas that helps to put the Davis’s filibuster in context, read these columns from the Texas Tribune: “‘Ruly Mob’ Was Prompted by Civic Duty” and “Protest Caused by Unruly Bunch in Control.”

Texas is not the only state suffering from anti-abortion attacks. Mississippi is implementing a law that will make it much harder for women to have medical abortions. The law requires women to take the necessary pills in the presence of a doctor and schedule a mandatory follow-up a couple of weeks after the abortion.

In Ohio, Gov. John Kasich, flanked by a group of white male legislators, signed a state budget Sunday evening that included several abortion-related laws, including measures to strip funding from Planned Parenthood, divert money to right-wing crisis pregnancy centers, and defund rape crisis centers that provide women with information about abortion services. (You might recall that the Supreme Court last week decided the U.S. government could not refuse funding for global programs that do not take an anti-prostitution pledge; it will be interesting to see if Ohio can block funding for programs that share information about legally available options for rape survivors.)

Meanwhile, North Dakota’s extremely restrictive new laws will go into effect one month from today.

Today’s Women’s Health Policy Report has more news about other states, including North Carolina. And the Guttmacher Institute has an overview of the new wave of laws intended to shut down abortion providers and seriously restrict access. It’s going to be one long, hot summer.


June 28, 2013

Ask the FDA to Approve *All* Emergency Contraception Pills for OTC Access

Many readers are already aware of the developments over the past few months regarding prescription-free access to emergency contraception,  including the FDA’s recent approval of Plan B One Step with no age restrictions.

While unrestricted access to Plan B One-Step is great news for women and girls needing timely access to emergency contraception, there are concerns that the cost — between $35 and $60 — puts it out of reach for many users. Unfortunately, the FDA’s approval focused specifically on that one product, and left out generic two-pill versions that would likely cost less.

In his response to the FDA’s plan, U.S. District Judge Edward R. Korman noted that he “did not order the defendants to make the brand-name Plan B One-Step available over-the-counter without age or point-of-sale restrictions,” but instead instructed the FDA “to make levonorgestrel-based emergency contraceptives available without a prescription and without point-of-sale or age restrictions.”

Korman had allowed, however, that if the FDA believed there was a real difference between the newer one-pill and two-pill products, it could limit its approval to the one-pill form. The FDA did just that, citing the need for additional studies to determine whether women under age 17 could read a two-pill label and correctly take the pills 12 hours apart.

In his initial ruling, Korman said that such data was already available and there is very little risk in varying the 12-hour timing, but added that “if the FDA actually believes there is any significant difference,” it could just approve the one pill version. In his more recent response, Korman called the FDA’s claims “far fetched.”

Our Bodies Ourselves and other women’s health advocates disagree with the FDA’s finding, noting that there is a lack of scientific evidence for the distinction between the one-pill and the two-pill versions.

The National Women’s Health Network has posted a letter, which we encourage you to sign, asking FDA Commissioner Peggy Hamburg to remove  barriers to more affordable, generic EC products. It reads in part:

The FDA’s own scientists concluded that age restrictions were unnecessary for all EC products, and the medical community consensus supports that as well. We urge you to allow the makers of generic EC products to revise their labels to make them available without age or point of sale restrictions.

Leaving lower-cost generics behind the pharmacy counter will disproportionately affect low-income women, racial minorities, and younger women for whom cost is a greater barrier. Withholding more affordable generic options from women could contribute to persistently high unintended pregnancy rates in the United States as compared to other developed countries and to adverse health outcomes among vulnerable populations.

All women deserve access to emergency contraception. Please add your name to the FDA letter today!

Plus: For tips on saving money on the cost of OTC emergency contraception, visit the Emergency Contraception website, a project of the Office of Population Research at Princeton University and by the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals.

And, if you have health insurance coverage, learn more about getting a prescription for emergency contraception, which may reduce the cost to nothing.


June 11, 2013

Obama Administration Will Stop Trying To Block Some Emergency Contraception Access

Best news all day: ”The Obama administration has decided to stop trying to block over-the-counter availability of the best-known morning-after contraceptive pill for all women and girls.”

The administration is withdrawing its appeal of a ruling that requires emergency contraception pills to be made available without prescription, regardless of age. This is good news for access to the one-pill form of emergency contraception.

In not-so-good news, the administration may still interfere with over-the-counter access to the two-dose form of the drug.

Although the previous ruling required that the two-pill form be made available even before the intended appeal was heard, the Justice Department’s letter indicates that it may still try to require additional data specific to safety of the often more affordable, generic two-dose form in younger adolescents before approving the change.

As SCOTUSblog explains, “the FDA is interpreting Judge Korman’s April order as giving it permission to choose between Plan B One-Step and the two-pill version so that just one of them would be open without restrictions to women of all ages.”

The Center for Reproductive rights, which has been heavily involved in the court cases around this issue, responded:

Now that the appeals court has forced the federal government’s hand, the FDA is finally taking a significant step forward by making Plan B One-Step available over the counter for women of all ages. But the Obama Administration continues to unjustifiably deny the same wide availability for generic, more affordable brands of emergency contraception.

Congratulations and thanks to everyone who has worked for more than a decade to call attention to this important issue. While more work is still needed to make emergency contraception fully accessible to women and girls when they most need it, this recent news puts us much closer to that goal.