Archive for the ‘Disability’ Category

May 31, 2013

Reproductive Justice: The Movement Whose Time Has Come

The Reproductive Justice: Activists, Advocates, Academics in Ann Arbor (“A3 in A2″) conference taking place this week aims to foster learning, dialogue and collaboration around reproductive justice issues. OBOS Executive Director Judy Norsigian, one of the conference advisory board members, is leading a session on informed consent and moderating Friday’s final panel.

Until recently, the term reproductive justice was used mainly by a relatively small number of people involved with abortion rights and women’s reproductive health (read about its history at SisterSong). The phrasing is more inclusive than abortion rights and takes into account all aspects of women’s ability to control their own reproduction, including social inequalities that affect the ability and right to have or not have children and to parent children in healthy environments.

The term has been discussed, and debated, quite a bit lately. Over at RH Reality Check, Jon O’Brien, president of Catholics for Choice, recently argued why reproductive justice cannot be a substitute for the terms “choice” or “pro-choice,” prompting this response from reproductive justice activists (who, it should be noted, consider Catholics for Choice an ally). Their response notes in part:

Women of color struggled within the pro-choice movement to bring their needs to the forefront, and they also created new organizations built on a broad, intersectional analysis and understanding of reproductive rights and health. The shift from choice to justice does not, as O’Brien says, devalue the autonomy of women who face obstacles. Instead, locating women’s autonomy and self-determination in human rights rather than in individual rights and privacy gives a more inclusive and realistic account of both autonomy and what is required to ensure that all women have it. Advocating for reproductive justice was not counter-posed against being “pro-choice” or supporting abortion rights. Rather, reproductive justice re-framed and included both.

The push toward a more comprehensive understanding of reproductive rights has also been adopted by the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) of Congregations. Delegates at last year’s General Assembly meeting selected “Reproductive Justice: Expanding Our Social Justice Calling” as the 2012-2016 Congregational Study/Action Issue — meaning congregations and districts are invited to engage and reflect on it, in any way they see fit — and the subject will be the focus of this summer’s GA meeting.

Earlier this year, Billy Moyers invited Jessica González-Rojas, executive director of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, and Lynn Paltrow, founder and executive director of National Advocates for Pregnant Women, to discuss the topic.

“What’s happened is that women are beginning to recognize that what’s at stake is more than abortion,” said Paltrow. “It is their personhood — their ability to be full, equal, constitutional persons in the United States of America.”

For more information: Check out the Reproductive Justice Briefing Book. Produced by the Pro-Choice Public Education Project, it offers a comprehensive look at a variety of topics, including sex education, abortion, adoption, pregnancy, disability, incarceration, immigrants, LGBT issues, race, and class.

October 14, 2009

New Feminist Disability Blog Launched, and Disability Info on Twitter

A new blog, FWD/Forward, has recently launched.  The About section of the site explains:

FWD/Forward is a group blog written by feminists with disabilities. It is a place to discuss disability issues and the intersection between feminism and disability rights activism. The content here ranges from basic information which is designed to introduce people who are new to disability issues or feminism to some core concepts, to more advanced topics, with the goal of promoting discussion, conversation, fellowship, and education.

Although the site just launched on October 6th, there are a number of posts up already on a variety of topics, such as inclusionary language and the use of words such as “lame” and “hysterical.” One post that particularly caught my eye was this one on outrage about pre-existing condition exclusions in health insurance, noting the attention c-sections and domestic violence have recently received as compared to many other conditions that lead to such exclusions.

The blogroll is also well worth exploring; the site contributors explain that it is focused on including blogs that cover disabilities and feminist sites that explore disability issues fairly often.

For other disability resources, you might check out Primarily for a U.S. audience, this government-run website provides information on disability laws and benefits, assistive technology, filing complaints related to civil right/ADA violations, emergency preparedness, health care, grants, education and scholarships, housing, transportation, and other topics.

There is also an associated Twitter account, @disabilitygov, which provides news and resources on a number of disability-related topics.

June 29, 2009

Two Hospitals to Address Access to Care for Patients with Disabilities

Despite ADA regulations regarding accessibility of public buildings, people with disabilities often face barriers to accessing healthcare that are not addressed by the law, including a lack of appropriate staff training and accessible equipment. A report in Friday’s Boston Globe indicates that two nationally known, Harvard-affiliated area hospitals – Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women’s Hospital – will be spending millions of dollars over the next several years to make their services more accessible to people with disabilities.

Disability activists worked with Greater Boston Legal Services and the Boston Center for Independent Living to inform hospital leadership of the barriers patients were facing in accessing care. These included patients who could not be weighed (because there were no scales that could accommodate a wheelchair), making  it difficult for their chemotherapy or other drugs to be properly dosed; patients who were unable to receive needed mammograms; and patients who were asked by hospital staff if they were “sure” they couldn’t walk or who were branded as uncooperative because of their disabilities.

Under a new agreement between the hospitals and the advocacy groups, the hospitals will survey and remove physical/architectural barriers to care, purchase accessible medical devices and equipment (including mammography equipment), review and modify hospital policies, provide appropriate training to staff.  The hospitals must regularly report to patients and their advocates on the progress they are making. According to the Globe, advocates hope that the changes to be made at these facilities will serve as an example for hospitals across the country.

For more on the topic of disabilities and access to care, check out some of the following resources (and feel free to leave links to more in the comments):

May 6, 2009

Blogging Disability

May 1 was Blogging Against Disablism Day 2009, and nearly 200 people contributed posts that have been rounded up at Diary of a Goldfish. The entries deal with a number of topics of concern to women with disabilities and disability rights advocates, including employment, education, parenting, health care, and sex.

Some of women-specific posts include:

A few of the blogs by and for women on disability:

There’s also a disability blog carnival.

For more on this topic, please see our list of recommended resources on disability, chronic illness and chronic pain. Please feel free to suggestion additional blogs and resources in the comments as well!

March 28, 2009

Double Dose: New Books on Reproduction, Christian Patriarchy; Michelle Obama’s Garden; The Economy’s Impact on Women; “Friday Night Lights” Scores With Sex Talk …

means_of_reproductionReading List: Anna Clark interviews Michelle Goldberg, author of “The Means of Reproduction: Sex, Power, and the Future of the World,” at Bitch magazine (and happy birthday to Anna’s blog, Isak!).

Kathryn Joyce, author of “Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement,”  talks with Religion Dispatches. An excerpt of her book can be read here.

Planting a Future: Melissa Harris Lacewell digs through the meaning of Michelle Obama planting the new White House vegetable garden. More historians, authors and gardeners weigh in at the Washington Post.

Plus: Sharkfu on nutrition, cost and Alice Waters; Mark Bittman on eating healthy, organic or not.

Dealing with the Recession: Over at Writes Like She Talks, Jill Miller Zimon put together a list of articles that provide perspective on the recession, job loss and the economic impact on women. At Women’s eNews, Mimi Abramovitz explains three new rules about jobless benefits in the stimulus package that will help women and correct a major gender bias.

Pregnant? Here’s a Pink Slip: “Last year the number of pregnancy-based discrimination charges filed with the E.E.O.C. was up nearly 50 percent from a decade earlier, to a total of 6,285. That number seems likely to rise even higher this year,” writes Lesley Alerman in The New York Times.

“Some employers are using the economy as a pretense for laying off just one person,” said Elizabeth Grossman, a lawyer for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. “And very often that person is pregnant or the oldest employee on staff. The economy may be the legitimate cause — or there may be discrimination.”

Tenn. Senate Passes Abortion Amendment: The Tennessee Senate passed a constitutional amendment that states in part, “nothing in Constitution of Tennessee secures or protects right to abortion or requires the funding of an abortion.”

Rachel writes: “Supporters keep insisting that the bill does not make abortion illegal, while not addressing the fact that if this ultimately succeeds (there are several more steps for this Constitutional amendment), it makes room for the numerous restrictions often supported by anti-choice folks — such as waiting periods, forced ultrasounds, required ‘informed consent’ scripts that are not medically accurate, and so on. It also makes room for an abortion ban in the event that national protections vanish.”

Meanwhile, “Illinois could be on the verge of passing one of the most progressive reproductive health bills, the Reproductive Health and Access Act, any state has seen in a long time,” writes Veronica Arreoloa. Here are the groups supporting  the bill. If you’re a resident of Illinois, contact your legislator and voice your support.

Cost of Domestic Abuse: Women who are abused by their partners spent 42 percent more on healthcare per year than non-abused women, according to a long-term study of more than 3,000 women published online in the journal Health Services Research.  The study, summarized in this press release, also found that the increased costs don’t end when the abuse does. Women who suffered physical abuse five or more years earlier still spent 19 percent more per year on health care than women who were never abused.

Recognition for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities: “We are living in a new era for persons with disabilities,’ writes Myra Kovary at On the Issues Magazine. The story details the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which was adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations and has been signed by 50 nations so far.  The U.S. has yet to sign it, but President Barack Obama has said he will do so.

Facts of Life: Sarah Seltzer praises “the sex talk” on one of my favorite television shows, “Friday Night Lights,” and compares it to a conversation from over a decade ago on “My So-Called Life.”

December 14, 2008

Double Dose: Have We Reached the Tipping Point on Health Care?; Open Conversation on Reproductive Health Agenda; Vatican Issues Instructions on Bioethics; On-Screen Same-Sex Kisses; Wombs for Rent …

Necessary Medicine?: “President-elect Barack Obama placed a heavy bet last week that the recession-wracked country he is about to inherit has finally reached its tipping point on health care,” writes Kevin Sack at The New York Times.

It might seem counterintuitive to gamble that political and economic forces would converge at such a low point after more than half a century of failure. The Treasury has never been so overcommitted, and providing “affordable, accessible health care for every single American,” as Mr. Obama describes his goal, would require substantial resources up front.

But Mr. Obama, like others, sees political opportunity in the country’s economic distress, and he threw in last week with those who argue that the financial crisis has only made it more imperative to remake the health delivery system — that, in fact, economic recovery depends on it.

Plus: Go read “Ready or Not: Obama Transition Team Publishes Reproductive Health Community’s Agenda,” by Emily Douglas at RH Reality Check, and then check out the document on advancing reproductive rights and health at It’s pretty amazing that such an open conversation is taking place.

And, while you’re there, you can sign up to lead a health care discussion in your neighborhood.

U.S. Health Stagnates for Fourth Year in a Row: During the 1990s, health improved at an average rate of 1.5 percent per year, but improvements against national health measurements have remained flat for the last four years, according to the recently released “America’s Health Rankings.” The report cites smoking, obesity and the uninsured are the nation’s three most critical challenges. Vermont ranks as the healthiest state; Louisiana is the least healthiest.

Vatican Issues Instruction on Bioethics: “The Vatican issued its most authoritative and sweeping document on bioethical issues in more than 20 years on Friday, taking into account recent developments in biomedical technology and reinforcing the church’s opposition to in vitro fertilization, human cloning, genetic testing on embryos before implantation and embryonic stem cell research,” reports The New York Times. The picture is worth 1,000 Hail Mary’s (click on the pic to see the full-size image at the NYT).

Kelly Hills has read the full document and shares her thoughts at Women’s Bioethics Blog:

Reading the Dignitatis Personae is an exercise in patience and self-control; it’s hard to resist the urge to go wake someone up to have someone to discuss such wince-inducing logic as this: This ethical principle, [ed- that life begins at conceptions] which reason is capable of recognizing as true and in conformity with the natural moral law, should be the basis for all legislation in this area.

I can tell you with full certainty that such ‘reasoning’ (a term I use loosely) would fail a philosophy 101 test. But if you can get through the document, you’ll learn that the fresh-off-the-newstands update to Catholicism forbids any reproductive act that does not result in fertilization and implantation happening as a result of the sexual act between a married couple. Or put more simply: if the technology assists in intra-uterine conception, YAY! If conception occurs outside the uterus, BOO!

Read the full analysis here.

Why Can’t a Kiss Just be a Kiss: “We live comfortably, if strangely, in a pseudo-Sapphic era in which seemingly every college woman with a MySpace page has kissed another girl for the camera; but for men who kiss men, it’s still the final frontier,” writes Hank Steuver in the Washington Post. A good look at some recent films, including “Milk.”

OBOS Reference of the Week: A Harvard grad (’82) remarks at a sex talk put on by Harvard’s Peer Contraceptive Counselors: “This wouldn’t have happened 10 to 15 years ago. Except for ‘Our Bodies, Ourselves” — we would steal our girlfriends’ copies.”

Beyond 16 Days: Feminist Peace Network wraps up 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence with a look at some excellent campaigns, including Madre’s 16 Days/16 Entries (read them in the violence against women section).

Hidden Victims of Abuse: “Women in the United States with disabilities are significantly more likely to suffer from domestic violence than are other women,” writes Annemarie Taddeucci at Women’s eNews, adding that “many battered women’s resources are not accessible to people with disabilities. Safe havens and the legal system may not be equipped to deal with a victim who is deaf or cognitively impaired, for example.”

The Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women will meet in Nashville, Tenn., Dec. 16-17 to discuss improving coordination between disability-service providers and institutions involved with domestic violence, including battered women’s shelters, the police and the courts.

Wombs for Rent: Jill at Feministe probes the complexities of Alex Kuczynski’s magazine story about surrogacy, “Her Body, My Baby. Many of the commenters offer similarly thoughtful responses. Also see this response by NYT public editor Clark Hoyt.

Because It’s That Time of Year …: Time Magazine is featuring the Top 10 of Everything 2008, including the Top 10 Medical Breakthroughs. Or you could just skip right to the Top 10 Awkward Moments or Top 10 Fleeting Celebrities.

June 10, 2008

Constructing the First Lady: Ida McKinley and “Fragile Beauty”

Press speculation is now underway about the type of first lady Michelle Obama might be (comparisons to Barbara Bush? Please).

Writing at Disability Studies, Penny L. Richards, a research scholar at the UCLA Center for the Study of Women, acknowledges that she’s usually not interested in discussing the role of the first lady, but she offers an informative analysis of how the physical disabilities of First Lady Ida McKinley helped shaped the press coverage of her husband’s presidency.

Throughout her adulthood, McKinley had epilepsy, intense headaches and phlebitis, which made walking difficult. She was also under great emotional stress: Both her daughters died young in the 1870s; her only brother was murdered. Richards notes that she was probably overmedicated with sedatives.

A discreet press was mostly silent about her “fainting spells,” and “a special campaign biography” of her was released to frame her health in the most gentle terms. Reporters, forbidden to write about her health, instead focused on her gowns. Her husband, President William McKinley, was devoted to Ida’s care: like many partners, he could see the subtle signs of an impending seizure, and knew how to cover for her during required periods of rest. And that devotion became part of his public reputation. Even her absence on the campaign trail was seen as helpful — a gap that reminded voters of the candidate’s tender personal life. Her “frailty” was held up as ladylike and unthreatening, in contrast to Mary Baird, Mrs. William Jennings Bryan, the trained lawyer and reform-minded woman who was rumored to write her husband’s fiery speeches. [...]

Privately, some in Washington read Ida McKinley as a manipulative “invalid,” using her perceived delicacy to demand indulgences (think of Zeena in Ethan Frome for a well-known literary version of this archetype). She would appear at state events propped in a velvet chair, with the understanding that she would neither rise from her seat nor shake hands. She wore luxurious lacy gowns and jewels, to enhance her persona as a fragile beauty. (She was the first First Lady to appear in newsreels, so she had a much wider audience for her fashion choices than previous First Ladies). Ida McKinley crocheted a lot — a fine sickbed tradition; while in the White House she reportedly made 3500 pairs of slippers to raise money for charities. There’s some evidence that she was sedated not only for medical necessity but to control her “irrational” personality.

Despite her husband’s devotion, the story of Ida McKinley seems to be a lesson in the early power of image and how the first lady becomes the most acute projection of our gendered desires.

For additional reading, Richards lists sources on McKinley and on the representation of feminine illness.

* * * * * *
In other news …

- “Three islanders from Lesbos told a court Tuesday that gay women insult their home’s identity by calling themselves lesbians,” reports the AP. “The plaintiffs — two women and a man — are seeking to ban a Greek gay rights group from using the word ‘lesbian’ in its name.”

- Some great feminist events in New York this week, via Feministing.

- Following up on the study we mentioned last week on how well journalists cover health news, I wanted to mention that the study’s lead author, journalism professor Gary Schwitzer, has his own blog, in addition to publishing Health News Review.