Archive for the ‘GLBTQ’ Category

April 7, 2009

Vermont Legalizes Same-Sex Marriage; Legislature Overturns Governor’s Veto

AP photoNine years after becoming the first state to offer civil unions, Vermont is now the fourth state to allow same-sex marriage.

Lawmakers voted this morning to override Gov. James Douglas’ veto of a bill allowing gays and lesbians to marry.

In doing so, Vermont became the first state to allow same-sex marriage through a legislative ruling instead of a court order. The law takes effect Sept. 1.

The vote was 23-5 to override in the state Senate and 100-49 to override in the House. The vote went down to the wire in the House: Two-thirds was needed for an override, and the outcome wasn’t clear until the final moments of the roll call.

“We are not done yet until every lawmaker who voted yes gets 1,000 thank you cards,” Beth Robinson (pictured above in the center), an attorney with the group Vermont Freedom to Marry, said at a rally after the vote. “We’re not done yet until every person who voted for this is reelected in 2010.”

Other states permitting same-sex marriage are Massachusetts, Connecticut and, as of last week, Iowa.

This New York Times story includes a look at the Northeast as the main battleground over gay marriage:

Massachusetts became the first state in the country to make same-sex marriage a reality in 2004 when its supreme court ruled that it was required under the state’s Constitution, which contains an equal-protection clause. Connecticut followed in April 2009.

Two other states in the region recognize civil unions — New Jersey and New Hampshire — and gay rights advocates have waged a campaign in hopes of making same-sex marriage legal in every state in New England by 2012. Before Tuesday, Vermont, like New Jersey and New Hampshire, had also allowed civil unions, a step that gay rights advocates say helps ease the transition to laws allowing same-sex marriage. Just last month, the House of Representatives in New Hampshire voted narrowly to approve a bill to legalize such marriages, which moves to the state Senate and could be considered there as early as this week.

But organizers in Maine and Rhode Island have opposed the civil-union approach, which they say makes same-sex couples appear unequal. Instead, they have sought to change the laws directly. In Rhode Island, for example, gay rights advocates plan to wait until 2011, when the Republican governor, Donald L. Carcieri, who opposes gay marriage, leaves office.

April 5, 2009

Double Dose: Iowa to Allow Same-Sex Marriage; Mammogram Benefits Under Debate; The Search for a Kidney Donor; Women and the High(er) Cost of Health Insurance …

I was away last week, so no Political Diagnosis, but it’ll be back to business on Monday …

Court Strikes Down Iowa Law Banning Same-Sex Marriage: The unanimous state Supreme Court decision means same-sex couples will be allowed to marry in Iowa by the end of the month — and the doors will be open to couples from other states. The decision seems pretty solid for now. Unlike California, voters in Iowa cannot directly initiate constitutional amendments. Instead, an amendment would have to be taken up by the state Legislature, and Democrats, who control both chambers, show no interest in making it a priority.

Here’s the Supreme Court summary and the full decision (both pdf).

Mammogram Benefits Under Debate: “The conventional wisdom about breast cancer screening is coming under sharp attack in Britain, and health officials there are taking notice,” writes Roni Caryn Rabin in The New York Times. “They have promised to rewrite informational fliers about mammography after advocates and experts complained in a letter to The Times of London that none of the handouts ‘comes close to telling the truth’ — overstating the benefits of screening and leaving out critical information about the harms.”

Do People Who Support “Traditional Values” Value Pregnant Women?: Lynn Paltrow writes at Huffington Post –  “I have to thank Andrea Lafferty, of the Traditional Values Coalition for her response to a piece I wrote opposing Personhood USA’s efforts to give full constitutional rights to the unborn from the moment of fertilization. In her commentary she hopes to discredit my organization, National Advocates for Pregnant Women (NAPW) by exposing our commitment to all pregnant women, including those who love their children but are unable to overcome a drug problem in the short term of pregnancy …”

The Search for a Donor: Frances Kissling, the former president of Catholics for a Free Choice and a visiting scholar at the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania, will soon need a kidney. This is her story about learning how to ask.

Birth Centers Advocacy Update: As we previously mentioned, American Association of Birth Centers was looking for 100 physicians to sign a letter in support of legislation to mandate the facility fee in Medicaid. There are 102 signatures so far and counting

Women Pay Higher Price For Health Insurance: NPR reporter Sarah Varney writes about a past experience seeking health insurance (a completely frustrating process) and the higher insurance rates women pay in some states. The piece concludes with some important news for workers laid off after Sept. 1, 2008:

If you had employer-sponsored health insurance and qualified for COBRA coverage, under the new stimulus bill, the federal government will pay 65 percent of your premium for up to nine months.

And that even includes laid-off workers who initially turned down COBRA coverage because they thought it was too expensive. They now have a second chance to sign up.

Plus: Also from NPR — the hidden costs of cancer treatment, even with insurance. And The New York Times offers tips for people with pre-existing conditions, whether you’re currently covered or shopping for insurance.

Congress Approves Budget: The House and Senate approved budget blueprints on Thursday that include funding for expansion of health care coverage; now the hard work begins in conference committee.

America Going Quiet on HIV/AIDS: A new Kaiser Family Foundation survey found that the percentage of people in the United States who say that they have seen, heard or read a lot about HIV/AIDS in the United States has fallen from 34 percent five years ago to just 14 percent today. The percentage of African Americans reporting this has fallen from 62 percent to 33 percent.

Global Women & Health Salon: President Obama this year has signed executive orders eliminating the “Global Gag Rule” and restoring U.S. funding for the United Nations Population Fund. “Now that [these two goals] have been met what else should the Obama administration do to promote the health and welfare of women worldwide?” asks Mark Goldberg, in the kick-off post for the After the Gag Rule Salon sponsored by RH Reality Check and UN Dispatch.

Afghan Law Criticized: UN and Western aid agencies are urging Afghan President to repeal a law he signed last month that reverses freedoms won by Afghan women, reports BBC News. Human rights activists say the law legalizes rape within marriage, and women will need permission from their husbands to leave their homes.

January 17, 2009

Our Small Town, Ourselves: The Return of “Friday Night Lights”

Just in time for the third season of “Friday Night Lights,” BuzzSugar looks at the five most essential episodes, including the one where Landry tries to impress with a copy of “Our Bodies, Ourselves.”


I’ve already watched the third season on DirecTV, and it’s a triumphant return to the themes of season one (season two was overly melodramatic; it was a bad call, to use the appropriate sports metaphor).

The cast of “FNL” includes a number of young women with agency and the best working mother — school principal Tami Taylor (Connie Britton) — on TV.

I recommend adding it to your viewing schedule this year (NBC, Fridays at 9 p.m. EST; the first episode aired last night, Jan. 16). You can also view episodes online.

Plus: “The L Word,” a true guilty pleasure, begins its sixth and final season Sunday on Showtime. Ginia Bellafante has more.

January 10, 2009

Double Dose: House Passes Bills Improving Access to Equal Pay; Blogging for Lesbian Health; Is There an Easy-Bake Oven in Your Vagina?; Nine Easy Steps to a New You (Ha!); And Much, Much More

Job Bias Bills Pass the House: The House on Friday passed two bills related to sex discrimination and workers’ pay. From The New York Times:

One, approved 247 to 171, would give workers more time to file lawsuits claiming job discrimination.

The bill would overturn a 2007 decision by the Supreme Court that enforced a strict 180-day deadline, thwarting a lawsuit by Lilly M. Ledbetter, a longtime supervisor at the Goodyear tire plant in Gadsden, Ala. Three Republicans voted for the bill.

The other bill — passed 256 to 163, with support from 10 Republicans — would make it easier for women to prove violations of the Equal Pay Act of 1963, which generally requires equal pay for equal work.

President Bush threatened to veto both bills, saying they would “invite a surge of litigation” and “impose a tremendous burden on employers.”

The sentence that follows the Bush quote is the best: “Congress will not give him the opportunity.”

That’s because in less than two weeks there will be a new president in town who is enthusiastic about signing both bills.

Plus: Jill Miller Zimon has a good wrap-up and points to this NWLC page, from which you can contact your senator and urge support for these bills.

Health Issues at the Top of the List: Women’s eNews looks at the to-do list of the Congressional Caucus for Women’s Issues. In addition to reintroducing a bill to address heart disease in women, the Caucus intends to focus on human trafficking, sexual and domestic violence against women, women in the military and the backlog of DNA evidence in rape cases.

Lesbian Health Day & Summit: Jan. 5 was Blog for Lesbian Health Day. In response, Jane, a community health nurse and nurse practitioner student who blogs at Fallacy Findings, wrote an excellent post that includes discussion of “lesbian neglect” — which “refers to the fact that many lesbians fail to get Pap smears, do not get them regularly, and/or do not think they need to get them” — and lesbian health as a much-needed topic in nursing and medical schools.

The blogging event was organized as a lead-up to the National Lesbian Health Summit 2009 taking place March 6-8. Organized by the Lesbian Health & Research Center at the University of California, San Francisco, among other groups, the summit “approaches health issues from the perspective of those who face disparities and discrimination and who also generate health and resilience everyday. We will engage in deep thinking and extended discussion to create new responses and innovative programming that reflect our lives.”

Should a TV Doctor be Surgeon General?: Well looks at what health and science blog are saying in response to the news that Sanjay Gupta, a neurosurgeon and CNN’s chief medical correspondent, is Obama’s pic for U.S. surgeon general. Rachel weighs in with some concerns. Here are more links from Shakesville.

The Easy-Bake Oven in My Vagina: Over at Womanist Musings, a reflection on motherhood, race and class includes this gem:

How many of you have run across the vagina equals Betty Crocker syndrome? If you have not, then you probably soon will.  The education system seems to think that this is still 1950 and that mothers are at home with tons of time on their hands to participate in bake sales.  This request is never gender neutral, even though Daddy has two perfectly good hands himself.  Why is this still the norm when most women work a double day?  Even if a woman is a stay at home mother how does a vagina translate into the ability to bake? Do I have an easy bake oven stashed somewhere in my vaginal opening that I was not aware of?

Pull Up a Chair: On my to-do list was to write about the blog The Kitchen Table, a dialog between Princeton University professors Melissa Harris-Lacewell and Yolanda Pierce. Miriam beat me to it and sums up why it’s an essential read.

In this post, Harris-Lacewell discusses violence against gays and lesbians, in the context of the movie “Milk” and the brutal gang rape of a woman who may have been targeted because she is openly lesbian. She writes:

As much as I appreciated Milk, the story has the unfortunate effect of reinscribing an image of gay identity as primarily white, male, urban, and childless. The American imagination of “gay people” as childless, white, men living in cities can render invisible lesbian mothers of color like the woman attacked in Richmond. [...]

Harvey Milk understood that “straight folks” needed to feel our interconnections with gay men and lesbians. We have to know that our destinies our intertwined. We cannot be a great and free country while we sanction violence against and degradation of our neighbors. I consider it a sacred and politically necessary task to speak out for the rights and equalities of others, because they are not truly other. We are all one.

Information on sending contributions or cards of sympathy and solidarity is also provided. Four suspects in the case were arrested last week.

Eye-Rolling Quote of the Week: Ann Coulter refers to single motherhood as “a recipe to create criminals, strippers, rapists, murderers.” Remind me again why she is considered a suitable interviewee?

The Deeper Truth: A new study that looked at the five most popular women’s magazines in Canada found that articles commonly portray cosmetic surgery as an empowering option that improves women’s emotional health, even though there’s no scientific consensus that it does anything of the sort. Here’s Reuters’ take, and the abstract:

Content analyses show the articles tend to present readers with detailed physical health risk information. However, 48% of articles discuss the impact that cosmetic surgery has on emotional health, most often linking cosmetic surgery with enhanced emotional well-being regardless of the patient’s pre-existing state of emotional health. The articles also tend to use accounts given by males to provide defining standards of female attractiveness.

Inside the Medicine Cabinet: Chicago Tribune health writer Julie Deardorff lists essential items to keep in your medicine cabinet (courtesy of the American College of Emergency Physicians) and chemicals found in personal care products that you might want to consider keeping out.

Look Your Best in the New Year: Writing in The New Yorker, Amy Ozol reveals her secrets to “a trim and attractive physique” in just nine easy steps. She spent years perfecting this system, as you can tell. A sampling:

Step 5: Surround yourself with thin people. This will naturally encourage you to emulate their healthy habits. Weigh your friends on a regular basis, then weigh yourself. Do you have a friend who weighs less than you? If so, consider gastric bypass surgery.

January 3, 2009

Double Dose: More Proof Virginity Pledges Don’t Work; Genetic Testing and Ambiguity; Cut Health Care Costs, Not Care; The Year in Medicine …

Well, it Wasn’t All Bad: “Although the number of uninsured and the cost of coverage have ballooned under his watch, President Bush leaves office with a health care legacy in bricks and mortar: he has doubled federal financing for community health centers, enabling the creation or expansion of 1,297 clinics in medically underserved areas,” reports The New York Times. Kevin Sack writes:

For those in poor urban neighborhoods and isolated rural areas, including Indian reservations, the clinics are often the only dependable providers of basic services like prenatal care, childhood immunizations, asthma treatments, cancer screenings and tests for sexually transmitted diseases.

As a crucial component of the health safety net, they are lauded as a cost-effective alternative to hospital emergency rooms, where the uninsured and underinsured often seek care.

Despite the clinics’ unprecedented growth, wide swaths of the country remain without access to affordable primary care. The recession has only magnified the need as hundreds of thousands of Americans have lost their employer-sponsored health insurance along with their jobs.

In response, Democrats on Capitol Hill are proposing even more significant increases, making the centers a likely feature of any health care deal struck by Congress and the Obama administration.

(Another) Survey Says: Abstinence Pledges Ineffective: “The new analysis of data from a large federal survey found that more than half of youths became sexually active before marriage regardless of whether they had taken a ‘virginity pledge,’ but that the percentage who took precautions against pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases was 10 points lower for pledgers than for non-pledgers,” reports the Washington Post.

“Taking a pledge doesn’t seem to make any difference at all in any sexual behavior,” Janet E. Rosenbaum of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, whose report appears in the January issue of the journal Pediatrics, told WaPo. “But it does seem to make a difference in condom use and other forms of birth control that is quite striking.”

Abortion Battle Brewing in South Carolina: “Abortion foes in the Legislature have sown the seeds of what could develop into another battle over regulating abortion in South Carolina,” reports The State. “Seven S.C. House lawmakers have prefiled a bill that would require women seeking abortions to be given a list of clinics and other facilities that provide free ultrasounds. That list could include pregnancy crisis centers — many run by antiabortion groups — that actively discourage abortion and encourage women to choose other alternatives.”

Genetic Testing and Ambiguity: “‘Information is power,’ has become a common mantra. But for many people seeking answers through genetic testing, all the DNA probing ends in this twist: Less certainty, not more,” begins this NPR report. The story focuses on Nashville novelist Susan Gregg Gilmore, who sought testing for mutations in the genes BRCA 1 and BRCA 2, which are associated with an increased risk of breast and ovarian cancers.

Cut Costs, Not Care: The L.A. Times has published the first installment of an ongoing feature on reducing health care costs. Part one covers drugs, doctor visits, surgery, flexible spending accounts, preventive care and insurance. Scroll down for links to online resources.

The Year in Medicine A-Z: Time magazine offers its annual alphabetical roundup of health stories and breakthroughs that made the news. (Ed. note – reading through it all requires clicking through 37 pages. “Single page” feature, anyone?)

Don’t Blink: Via Feminist Peace Network: “As we come to the final stretch of 2008, plagued as we are with the usual collection of horrors–Gaza burning, Tennessee buried in toxic ash, women and children being raped and killed in the Congo, and on and on, I’m sure y’all were just as relieved as I was to know that the FDA is considering approval of a glaucoma drug for eyelash enhancement, an idiocy I would have previously thought would be confined to the cable shopping networks.”

Missing on TV: GLBTQ Women: “Though 2008 comes to a close with word of possible new queer female characters on the horizon in the coming year, the prospects for lesbians and bisexual women on television over the last twelve months have been somewhat grim,” writes Karman Kregloe at “This has been particularly true for lesbians, whose numbers on scripted network television have now dwindled to zero.”

Deep Thoughts for the New Year: “As the country plunges into recession, will financial hardship demote the pursuit of physical perfection?” asks The New York Times. A classic response:

“There comes a point when you are putting too much time and money into your vanity,” said Peri Basel, a practice consultant in Chappaqua, N.Y., who advises cosmetic doctors on marketing strategies. “For me, the vanity issue is: Where does it stop? If you are going for buttock implants, do you really need that?”

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.

December 10, 2008

Day Without a Gay

Did you call in gay today?

Day Without a Gay, a loosely organized protest created to draw attention to anti-gay ballot initiatives — including Prop 8, which repealed the right of gays to marry in California – is part economic boycott and part service project. Gays and lesbians are encouraged to spend the day volunteering for a nonprofit organization or worthy cause.

Not everyone can take the day off, so here are four things you can do to participate without missing work. There are also rallies being held around the country. In Chicago, the Gay Liberation Network is holding a rally to call for granting marriage licenses to same-sex couples. In San Francicso, a rally and march will be held this evening in the Mission District.

December 6, 2008

Double Dose: Lesbians in the Funny Pages; Future of Reproductive Health and Rights; Certified Organic Male?; You Know the Healthcare System is Broken When …

Lesbians Star in the Funny Pages: In case you missed it, Alison Bechdel’s “The Essential Dykes to Watch Out For” got a fab review in The New York Times. Dwight Garner not only heaps tons of praise, but he writes like a genuine fan, and the review is very enjoyable to read.

Even Bechdel is impressed. She wrote on her blog: ”Lemme tell you whippersnappers. I can remember when the Times wouldn’t even print the word ‘dyke.’ In fact, somewhere in my vast archives I have a tiny clipping from 1983 or so … maybe even later … containing the first instance of the Times using the word ‘gay,’ as opposed to ‘homosexual.’ I’m just saying.”

Here’s a sampler from the book.

What Will the Future (of Reproductive Health and Rights) Look Like?: RH Reality Check is sponsoring a live chat Wednesday, Dec. 17, at 1 p.m. on reproductive health issues in the Obama administration. Join experts Marilyn Keefe, National Partnership for Women & Families; William Smith, SIECUS; Heather Boonstra, Guttmacher Institute; Cristina Page,; and Kay Steiger, RH Reality Check. Learn more or submit questions in advance here.

Healthcare Overhaul Remains a Priority: “Former Sen. Tom Daschle, who is slated to oversee health-care policy in the Obama administration, is kicking off the effort to pass a comprehensive health-care plan,” reports the Wall Street Journal. And that effort includes you:

Mr. Daschle, who Obama transition officials say will be nominated secretary of Health and Human Services, will suggest that Americans hold holiday-season house parties to brainstorm over how best to overhaul the U.S. health-care system. He will promise to drop by one such party himself, and to take the ideas generated to President-elect Barack Obama.

The parties are part of an effort by the new administration to apply organizing tools from the presidential campaign to the more-complex task of governing. “What’s next for our Health Care Team? You are,” Mr. Daschle will say at the 2008 Colorado Health Care Summit, an event organized by Sen. Ken Salazar (D., Colo.).

Plus: Sign the petition to make breastfeeding a priority for the new administration. Via the U.S. Breastfeeding Committee.

What Women Want: YWCA USA recently released a national survey (PDF) of American women and their priorities for the new administration, including opinions on the financial crisis, healthcare reform and racial justice. Here’s a summary of the key findings. The survey was released in conjunction with the YWCA’s 150th anniversary.

You Know the Health Care System is Broken When …: A company sells you insurance to protect your right to buy health insurance. Read more.

Dream Big in 2009: This 2009 Dreams for Women Calendar features 12 postcards designed by people around the world in response to the question: What is your dream for women?

Funds raised from the sale of the calendar go to the Antigone Foundation, which encourages political and civic engagement for young women. The calendars are also available to women’s organizations to use as part of their own fundraising efforts.

Recommended Reading: And a Doula, Too recommends a number of books and online resources about pregnancy and birth, including OBOS’ own new book on the subject. When it comes to baby books, she offers this sage advice:

Be warned that every baby book I’ve ever seen or heard about has an agenda about how you should raise your child, and friends (and indeed strangers) will probably go nuts telling you they “swear by” such-and-such a book or method that probably isn’t a perfect fit for your family (especially when it comes to the touchy and highly individual subject of “sleep solutions”). I worry that we’re setting ourselves up for failure if we do anything other than learn a lot, trust ourselves, and find a pediatrician who shares and understands our values and ideas about pediatric care.

This concern extends to apparently objective books like the big American Academy of Pediatrics one (Caring for Your Baby and Young Child); it’s not that it’s bad to have or anything, but I’m glad that my partner and I feel confident enough to do our own research and disregard any book’s advice when appropriate for our own situation.

Birthing Practices in Bolivia: From Women’s eNews: Jean Friedman-Rudovsky reports that Bolivia has stemmed maternal and infant death rates by providing free medical care during pregnancy and childbirth. But many women prefer to labor at home rather than take free care at hospitals that comes packaged with birthing horror stories.

Certified Organic Male?: Alan Greene, a pediatrician in California, has performed an experiment of sorts on himself — all the food he’s eaten for the past three years has been organic. I loved this part:

The biggest surprise of the whole experience, he says, was that many people still don’t know what “organic” means.

“It’s surprising to me how few people know that organic means without pesticides, antibiotics or hormones,” he said. “In stores or restaurants around the country, I would ask, ‘Do you have anything organic?’ Half the time they would say, ‘Do you mean vegetarian?’”

Skin Deep: Nanophobia: “It sounds like a plot straight out of a science-fiction novel by Michael Crichton. Toiletry companies formulate new cutting-edge creams and lotions that contain tiny components designed to work more effectively. But those minuscule building blocks have an unexpected drawback: the ability to penetrate the skin, swarm through the body and overwhelm organs like the liver,” reports The New York Times. Um, yeah.

Don’t Worry – It’s Contagious: A study published in the British journal BMJ found that happiness really can be passed on to others. Here’s a related commentary and editorial, plus more from the AP. Cheers to you this weekend!

December 4, 2008

Thursday Morning Sing-A-Long: Prop 8 -The Musical

Allison Janney, Neil Patrick Harris, John C. Reilly, Maya Rudolph, Kathy Najimy and many more actors you know star in this send-up of religious objections to same-sex marriage. Did we mention Jack Black is Jesus?

“After being so angry and confused about this horrible and unconstitutional public shaming, it was amazing to go out there and do what we do best in protest: sing and dance,” said Adam Shankman, who staged and produced the video. The music and lyrics were written by Marc Shaiman, who won a Tony Award for “Hairspray” and who also wrote the score for “Southpark,” among other films.

The video ends with a message to visit Join the Impact for more information. Join the Impact coordinated the Nov. 15 National Day of Protest to repeal Proposition 8 and is now working toward becoming a clearinghouse for grassroots events related to gay rights.

Plus: From Pam’s House Blend, GLAAD/Harris post-election survey: Americans favor adoption and partner rights for same-sex couples

November 8, 2008

Double Dose: Ending Eight Years of Failed Women’s Health Policies; State Ballot Initiatives; More Analysis on Prop 8; Sarah Palin and Feminism – Once More for the Road

Sure we’ll be back to other health news soon, but first here’s a wrap on presidential politics and women’s health priorities. And, just to remind you that voting feels oh-so-good, Babeland’s voter discount continues through Nov. 11. Enjoy!

Yes We Can … End Eight Years of Failed Women’s Health Policies: Sign the RH Reality Check petition, which asks President-elect Barack Obama to:

  • Defund failed abstinence only programs in favor of proven, effective comprehensive sex ed programs,
  • Reinstate global family planning funds that save women’s health and lives and overturn the Global Gag Rule,
  • Take action on ensuring availability of publicly funded contraception for low-income women and women in poverty,
  • Immediately implement your HIV/AIDS domestic agenda,
  • Pass FOCA (Freedom of Choice Act) that overturns dangerous anti-choice state legislation, and
  • Protect Roe v. Wade.

Plus: Theresa Braine, writing at Women’s eNews, notes that women’s groups aren’t wasting any time organizing around priorities: “From fixing the domestic health-care system and the economy, to making child care more accessible to working mothers, to rescinding the so-called global gag rule that cuts off foreign aid to groups that provide abortion or counseling, or even lobby for changes in abortion laws, women’s groups started exercising the type of grassroots activism that political analysts say helped bring the Democrats to power on Tuesday.”

What’s On the Agenda (So Far): Here’s the new Obama-Biden administration’s agenda on issues addressing women. Health care is up there at the top.

And when it comes to the administration’s hiring policy, it’s nice to see that gender identity is included in the nondiscrimination clause. (via Feministing)

Health Care Ballot Initiatives: A wrap-up of several health care measures that passed on state ballots.

Why Prop 8 Won: “If exit polls are to be believed, some 70 percent of African-Americans voted Yes on 8, as did 52 percent of Latinos and 49 percent of Asians; each of these demographics went heavily for Obama, blacks by a 94-to-6 margin,” writes Richard Kim, associate editor of The Nation.

The easy, dangerous explanation for this gap, and one already tossed around by some white gay liberals in the bitter aftermath, is that people of color are not so secretly homophobic. But a more complicated reckoning — one that takes into account both the organizing successes of the Christian right and the failures of the gay movement — will have to take place if activists want a different result next time. First, there’s the matter of the Yes on 8 coalition’s staggering disinformation campaign.

Plus: I’m still reeling after reading Proposition Hate over at NoFo (via Gapers Block).

The Mom on the Bus: Jodi Kantor has a great piece up at the The Caucus blog about covering the presidential and raising her daughter, Talia, who is almost 3.

Sayonara, Sarah: Katha Pollitt bids good-bye to Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, but not without first explaining how Palin was a gift to feminism –

[T]he first way Palin was good for feminism is that she helped us clarify what it isn’t: feminism doesn’t mean voting for “the woman” just because she’s female, and it doesn’t mean confusing self-injury with empowerment, like the Ellen Jamesians in The World According to Garp (I’ll vote for the forced-childbirth candidate, that’ll show Howard Dean!). It isn’t just feel-good “you go, girl” appreciation of female moxie, which I cheerfully acknowledge Palin has by the gallon. As I wrote when she was selected, if she were my neighbor I would probably like her — at least until she organized with her fellow Christians to ban abortion at the local hospital, as Palin did in the 1990s. [...]

Second, Palin’s presence on the Republican ticket forced family-values conservatives to give public support to working mothers, equal marriages, pregnant teens and their much-maligned parents. Talk-show frothers, Christian zealots and professional antifeminists — Rush Limbaugh and Phyllis Schlafly — insisted that a mother of five, including a “special-needs” newborn, could perfectly well manage governing a state (a really big state, as we were frequently reminded), while simultaneously running for veep and, who knows, field-dressing a moose. No one said she belonged at home. No one said she was neglecting her husband or failing to be appropriately submissive to him. No one blamed her for 17-year-old Bristol’s out-of-wedlock pregnancy or hard-partying high-school-dropout boyfriend. No one even wondered out loud why Bristol wasn’t getting married before the baby arrived. All these things have officially morphed from sins to “challenges,” just part of normal family life. No matter how strategic this newfound broadmindedness is, it will not be easy to row away from it.

October 29, 2008

Election Day, 2008: What It Means for Your Health

With less than one week to go until Election Day, we’re taking a look at some of the women’s health issues at stake. Want to add more? Leave links to blog entries or other resources in the comments.

One other note — I can’t believe some folks aren’t voting. If you know anyone who plans on sitting this one out, please urge them to consider the importance of their vote on local and state issues, in addition to what’s obviously a national turning point for women’s reproductive rights and access to health care.

Still wondering about the differences between the health care reform proposals of senators John McCain and Barack Obama? You might want to review this non-partisan report, “Health Care Reform and the 2008 Election – A Guide for Women.”

Through the stories of seven “fictional women,” each with a different set of health problems and insurance coverage, readers can understand what each candidates’ health reform plan means to them. The report was published by the Connors Center for Women’s Health and Gender Biology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

And don’t forget Kaiser Family Foundation’s excellent, which includes in-depth comparisons of the candidates’ health care plans and positions on issues.

Turning to ballot propositions, USC’s Initiative and Referendum Institute (IRI) offers a good overview (PDF) of the 153 ballot propositions before voters in 36 states, including headline issues of same-sex marriage and abortion (also the subject of discussion on Monday’s “Talk of the Nation”).

Measures to ban gay marriage are on the ballot in California, Arizona and Florida, with most eyes on California, which the IRI refers to as a “critical firewall in the battle over gay marriage.” This document (PDF) analyzes the likelihood of passage in each of the three states, and it features a list of all same-sex marriage propositions. Did you know that 29 of 30 measures banning same-sex marriage — some proposed by initiative, others by state legislatures — have passed? is another comprehensive site. It’s easy to search and it does a nice job of listing initiatives by category, including abortion, marriage and health care. These pages include not only this year’s ballot items, but also initiatives coming up next year — and even those that failed to get on the ballot. Very cool.

Here’s a look at some of the discussions on three specific ballot items:

1. Colorado Amendment 48 Definition of Person: This amendment seeks to define “person” and grant constitutional rights from the “moment of fertilization.” It’s also been tied to “Horton Hears a Who” (”a person’s a person, no matter how small”) — much to the consternation of thinking Dr. Seuss fans everywhere.

Protect Families, Protect Choices has a good fact sheet about the far-reaching consequences of this amendment, including:

  • Emergency contraception for rape and incest victims would be banned. By giving legal rights to fertilized eggs, this amendment could ban birth control options like the Pill and IUD’s. (These kinds of birth control can prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus.)
  • Establishing rights from the moment of fertilization would ban some stem cell research being used to find cures for chronic disease and disabilities. In vitro fertilization could be banned since fertilized eggs used in these processes would have full legal rights.
  • A woman with cancer could be denied access to life saving medical treatment because it could endanger a fertilized egg.

Former U.S. Rep. Patricia Schroeder recently wrote: “Years ago, when I was asked how I could be both a mother and a Congresswoman, I replied, ‘I have a brain and a uterus and I use both.’ On November 4, I urge Coloradans to use their brains and protect women’s uteruses. Vote no on Amendment 48.”

2. South Dakota Abortion Ban Initiative: Following South Dakota’s failed attempt in 2006 to ban abortion, this kindler, gentler initiative “now makes convoluted exceptions for rape, incest and, when there is a full moon and Mount Rushmore spouts Strawberry Quik, the health or life of the woman.” It’s being pushed by anti-choice activist Leslee Unruh, who has trouble following the facts of life (including her own).

South Dakota Campaign for Healthy Families has an incredible amount of useful information, including statements in opposition to the initiative submitted by the South Dakota State Medical Association and the South Dakota section of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

Plus: Katha Pollitt this week spotlights Women Run! South Dakota, the umbrella organization for progressive pro-choice Native American women running for the state legislature.

3. California Proposition 4 (”Sarah’s Law)”: In an editorial, the L.A. Times came down against this parental notification proposal, noting:

The initiative purports to protect California girls from dangers associated with abortions by requiring that their parents be notified. But Proposition 4 attempts to solve something that isn’t much of a problem. There’s no evidence that California’s teenage girls are harmed by abortions with any frequency, whether or not their parents have been notified. [...]

In fact, under the guise of protecting underage girls, this proposal really is just the latest attempt to impose any obstacle in the exercise of reproductive freedom. This represents the third try in recent years to pass such a measure. California should reject it again.

The editorial goes on to note, in no uncertain terms, the ridiculousness of the measures included to protect girls in abusive situations:

Proposition 4’s writers say they crafted a measure that would permit girls in potentially abusive situations to get an abortion without their parents being notified. To do so, they would need to tell another adult relative. But a girl can use this option only if she makes a written accusation alleging that her parents are repeat child abusers, with the complaint to be turned over to authorities. Spoiler language like this makes it hard to believe that Proposition 4 is chiefly about girls’ safety.

Read more editorials against Proposition 4. Planned Parenthood has posted a number of videos about how the proposition would endanger teens, including the one below, “Jane’s Journey,” which shows the complexity of the judicial maze that teens would be forced to navigate if they can’t talk to their parents.

October 23, 2008

We Heart Ellen DeGeneres

Did you see Ellen weigh in on Sarah Palin and same-sex marriage? It’s one minute and 28 seconds of total goodness:

I doubt if anyone else could have touched on so many valid points in under 90 seconds — and with a truly humorous twist. Read the full transcript.

October 11, 2008

Double Dose: Gay Marriage Legal in CT; Ad Council Introduces First Campaign on Gay/Lesbian Issues; CCR Sues Over Required Ultrasound in Oklahoma; South Dakota Abortion Ban 2.0; One-Year Update on Gardasil

Gay Marriage Legal in California, Massachusetts and now Connecticut: The Connecticut Supreme Court on Friday struck down the state’s civil union law with a 4-3 ruling that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry. From The New York Times:

The ruling, which cannot be appealed and is to take effect on Oct. 28, held that a state law limiting marriage to heterosexual couples, and a civil union law intended to provide all the rights and privileges of marriage to same-sex couples, violated the constitutional guarantees of equal protection under the law.

Striking at the heart of discriminatory traditions in America, the court — in language that often rose above the legal landscape into realms of social justice for a new century — recalled that laws in the not-so-distant past barred interracial marriages, excluded women from occupations and official duties, and relegated blacks to separate but supposedly equal public facilities.

View the full ruling here (PDF). Opponents spoke of steps to enact a constitional ban on same-sex marriage, but on Friday night the plaintiffs in the original court case filed four years ago and their supporters were jubilant.

Garret Stack, 59, introduced his partner, John Anderson, 63, and said: “For 28 years we have been engaged. We can now register at Home Depot and prepare for marriage.”

Group Sues Over Required Ultrasound: The Center for Reproductive Rights has filed a challenge to an Oklahoma law that mandates a woman must have an ultrasound and listen to the doctor describe what her fetus looks like before she have an abortion. And that’s not all:

At the same time, the law prevents a woman from suing her doctor if he or she intentionally withholds other information about the fetus, such as a severe developmental defect. The statute also requires doctors to use a specific regimen for administering the medical abortion pill, despite that regimen being less effective and more costly than the one strongly recommended by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG).

The lawsuit, filed Thursday in Oklahoma County District Court, says the requirement intrudes on a woman’s privacy, endangers her health and assaults her dignity.

Set to go into effect on Nov. 1, the law would make Oklahoma the fourth state to require the viewing of ultrasounds before an abortion. The other states are Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi.

South Dakota Abortion Ban 2.0: Lynn Harris of Broadsheeet offers a full, and funny, assessment:

Remember how South Dakota’s 2006 Margaret Atwood honorary abortion ban was defeated in referendum by a (none-too-cushy) 55-44 margin?

The ban’s primary liability, according to polls, was that it contained virtually no exceptions. But as ringleader Leslee Unruh of Vote Yes for Life said at the time, like Jason popping up out of Crystal Lake, “We started something here in South Dakota.” And now, as you may have heard, abortion opponents there are aiming to get the job done. Which means: The ban is back (PDF), in sheep’s clothing. It now makes convoluted exceptions for rape, incest and, when there is a full moon and Mount Rushmore spouts Strawberry Quik, the health or life of the woman.

Unruh (who says that over 90 percent of women seeking abortion are using it as “birth control”) calls Abortion Ban 2.0 “more moderate, more reasonable, more of a middle ground.” Yeah … no.

Plus: Visit South Dakota Campaign for Healthy Families for more information.

Birth Control Watch: While some voters think access to birth control is not a political issue, those of us who follow the activities of the Bush administration and legislatures around the country know better. Birth Control Watch has a great section on federal and state proposals that will limit our individual decision making and access — it’s called extreme schemes.

An excellent resource to pass along, it includes information on Colorado Proposition 48, a constitutional amendment that seeks to establish legal personhood from the moment of fertilization (which even self-described “pro-life” Catholic Gov. Bill Ritter opposes), and the proposed HHS regulations that would limit patients’ access to information and services.

The two-minute activist gives a concise run-down of actions you can take, and the press room tracks related stories.

Speaking of the HHS regulations, more than 150 Congressional Democrats stated their opposition in letters to HHS. The Senate letter concludes that the proposed rule is “damaging to the health care needs of women, their families and all Americans and will only serve to cause havoc, not clarity, among employers and employees in the health care field.”

Courts Failing Domestic Violence Victims: “For every man convicted in a Cook County court of beating his wife or girlfriend, five men brought in on similar charges walk away legally unscathed. And despite official promises to help women pursue abuse complaints, that conviction rate is only getting worse,” reports the Chicago Tribune.

The Trib also looks at a specialized unit of the Cook County state’s attorney office with a much higher conviction rate. The unit, Target Abuser Call, employs a more intensive investigatory approach for the most serious cases.

Plus: Programs for batterers are underfunded but should be supported to break the habit of abuse, say domestic violence experts. “No matter how many women you take in, it isn’t going to cure the problem,” said Toby Myers, vice chair of the National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence.

Plus: A judge in Canada tells a woman not to bother calling police if she goes back to her partner. via Feministing

Nobel Prize Winners: The 2008 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine went to Harald zur Hausen of Germany, who discovered the human papilloma viruses that causes cervical cancer, and Luc Montagnier and Francoise Barre-Sinoussi, French researchers who discovered HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

Montagnier and Barre-Sinoussi later told President Nicolas Sarkozy that they fear the world financial crisis will affect funding to fight AIDS.

One-Year Distribution Update On Gardasil: “About a quarter of the nation’s teenage girls received the controversial cervical cancer vaccine Gardasil last year in its first full year of distribution, federal authorities said Thursday,” reports the L.A. Times.

The Realities of Addiction: Writing in the Washington Post, Jacqueline M. Duda shares the painful story of her daughter’s drug addiction and death — including the difficulty the family had finding adequate medical treatment for addiction.

“Surely, we thought, college-educated suburbanites like us could locate professional help: drug counselors, doctors, therapists specializing in addiction. Surely detoxification centers would treat desperate addicts and work out a payment plan. Surely we could check her into some kind of residential treatment program with a minimum of delay,” writes Duda. “We were wrong.”

PSA to Raise Awareness Around “That’s So Gay”: “For the first time since the Advertising Council was founded in 1942, the organization — which directs and coordinates public service campaigns on behalf of Madison Avenue and the media industry — is introducing ads meant to tackle a social issue of concern to gays and lesbians,” writes Stuart Elliot in The New York Times.

The campaign, created pro bono by the New York office of Arnold Worldwide, urges an end to using derogatory language, particularly labeling anything deemed negative or unpleasant as “so gay.” That is underlined by the theme of the campaign: “When you say, ‘That’s so gay,’ do you realize what you say? Knock it off.”

There will be television and radio commercials, print and outdoor ads and a special Web site devoted to the campaign ( Some spots feature celebrities, the young actress Hilary Duff and the comedian Wanda Sykes, delivering the message.

Check out the Wanda Sykes PSA below:

September 6, 2008

Double Dose: An Open Letter to Gov. Sarah Palin; Transgender Employees Find More Workplace Support; High Rate of C-Sections in Washington; Latest Breast Cancer Rates; Videos You May Have Missed from the RNC …

Dear Gov. Sarah Palin: Lynn Paltrow, executive director of National Advocates for Pregnant Women, wrote an open letter to the newly picked vice presidential candidate that begins with this:

Many Americans agree with your position regarding abortion — they do this as a matter of faith, ethics, personal experience and sometimes politics. I am just wondering though, if you have thought about what would happen if you succeeded in getting your position — that fetuses have a right to life — established as the law of the land? Did you know that it not only threatens the lives, health and freedom of women who might want or need someday to end their pregnancies, it would also give the government the power to control the lives of women — like you who — go to term?

Go read the rest. Seriously. It’s amazing.

The Privilege of White Woman’hood/ Mommy’Hood: “Sarah Palin wants to put herself out there as ‘every woman.’ She wants to be seen as ‘just your average hockey mom,’ and other mommies see themselves and their reality reflected through Palin, except, mamis of color, that is,” writes Maegan “La Mala” Ortiz at Racialicious (and at her site, Mamita Mala).

What Women Want: There’s video up from the This Is What Women Want speakout in Boston (Aug. 21), including Rita Arditti advocating for health care as a universal right; Cynthia Enloe on lifting the global gag rule; and Kety Esquivel on treating immigrants as human beings.

The next speakout is Sept. 25 in Oxford, Miss. But you can always speak out right now, right here.

Smoother Transitions: “Across the country, particularly at larger companies, transgender workers are being protected and assisted in ways that were hardly imaginable a few years ago,” writes Lisa Belkin, author of the Life’s Work column in The New York Times.

Currently, 125 of the Fortune 500 companies include “gender identity” in their nondiscrimination policies, compared with “close to zero” in 2002, according to Jillian T. Weiss, an associate professor of law and society at Ramapo College of New Jersey, and an expert on transgender workplace diversity. [...]

“It is a different world,” said Dr. Weiss, who attributes the change, in part, to the slow adoption of laws banning discrimination on the basis of gender identity (20 states and roughly 100 cities have such laws), but mostly to the work of the Human Rights Campaign, the largest gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization in the nation.

Yes, HRC, which releases the Corporate Equality Index — a measure of how receptive a company is to diversity. Questions concerning gender-identity protection and transgender benefits have been included since 2002.

High Rate of C-Section Births is Health Concern for Women: “One in four Washington mothers now give birth through C-section, according to the Department of Health, and the rate of the surgical procedure has been increasing by 6 percent every year for nearly a decade,” reports the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

“The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says we should have no more than 15 percent of low-risk births delivered by C-section,” said Joe Campo, director of research at the [state agency's Center for Health Statistics]. “It’s important for us to know what’s driving this increase.”

About 13,300 of the 21,800 total C-sections are first-time procedures and about 8,500 are repeat procedures, Campo and his colleagues found. Of the total, state officials believe at least 2,200 are clearly unnecessary. A fairly sophisticated analysis of the C-section rates allowed for a geographic comparison that found an especially pronounced increase in the use of the surgical procedure in the Puget Sound region.

Plus: In a guest column penned in response to the SI story, Sara L. Ainsworth, senior legal and legislative counsel at Northwest Women’s Law Center, wrote that the high rate of caesarean sections “raises alarms for those who care about women’s reproductive health and patients’ rights.”

In addition to the potential health risks of the surgery, women who have C-sections face consequences that even conscientious health care providers may not recognize or discuss with their patients.

In many parts of this state, having one C-section delivery will require another at a subsequent birth, even over the objection of the pregnant woman and her doctor. Several Washington hospitals refuse to allow doctors to provide labor and delivery services to pregnant women who have had a previous C-section unless those women submit to a second C-section delivery.

Breast Cancer Rates: The Kaiser Family Foundation has published a state-by-state breakdown of breast cancer incidence rate per 100,000 women in 2004. Massachusetts has the highest rate (134 per 100,000 women), followed by Oregon, Washington, Rhode Island and Connecticut. Arizona has the lowest rate (102.9), followed by Idaho, Arkansas, Nevada and Indiana.

Plus: Feminist Peace Network reports on Molecular Breast Imaging (MBI), a new procedure that may be useful for women with dense breasts who have a higher risk of breast cancer. The downside? Patients receive 8 to 10 times more radiation from MBI’s than from mammograms.

With Child, With Cancer: The New York Times Magazine profiles women who are undergoing cancer treatments during pregnancy and covers the medical history of treating pregnancy-associated breast cancer.

Health Reporters Not Helping Readers: A study by University of Missouri journalism professors found that “the majority of health journalists have not had specialized training in health reporting and face challenges in communicating new medical science developments.”

Of the journalists surveyed, only 18 percent had specialized training in health reporting and only 6.4 percent reported that a majority of their readers change health behaviors based on the information they provide. The journalists had an average of 18 years of journalism experience and seven years experience as health journalists.

“Health journalists play an important role in helping people effectively manage their health,” [assistant professor Maria] Len-Ríos said. “However, we found that many journalists find it difficult to explain health information to their readers, while maintaining the information’s scientific credibility. They have to resist ‘bogging down’ the story with too much technical science data and ‘dumbing down’ the story with overly simplistic recommendations.”

Journalists reported quoting medical experts, avoiding technical terms, and providing data and statistics as the three most important elements to making health information understandable. However, understanding numbers is a challenge for many people, [assistant professor Amanda] Hinnant said.

Celebrate the Anti-Wedding: Read what happens when death and taxes decide to get married and stage a protest against weddings. And there’s video.

Returning for the Final Time to the Republican National Convention: Jon Stewart drives home the hypocrisy of Republican attitudes toward reproductive rights with guest Newt Gingrich, while Samantha Bee tries to remember what that word is …

August 29, 2008

Double Dose: Sarah Palin’s Priorities; Are All Women “Pre-Pregnant”?; New Data on the Uninsured; Mexico City Abortion Law Upheld …

The unavoidable news today is John McCain’s VP pickSarah Palin, the 44-year-old first-term governor of Alaska, who couldn’t be anymore unlike Hillary Clinton in terms of her position on social issues, universal health care and advocacy for women.

Palin believes abortion is only acceptable if a woman’s life is in danger. During a debate in 2006, the candidates were asked what they would do if their own daughters became pregnant through rape. Palin’s response: “I would choose life.”

I don’t think I’ve heard Pat Buchanan say the word “feminist” on television so much in one day, or with so much enthusiasm. He was, of course, referring to Palin being a member of Feminists for Life, an anti-abortion group Ruth Rosen describes so well here.

“I don’t think a Hillary person would ever move to her, based on the issues,” Jean Craciun, a strategic research and planning consultant in Alaska who has done political polling for Democrats and Republicans, told The New York Times. “I don’t think before today I would have ever heard someone call her a feminist.”

More reading: Alex Blaze at The Bilerico Project provides a rundown of Palin’s legislative history; Tanya Melich, a co-founder of the National Women’s Political Caucus, has analysis on the symbolism of Palin and the GOP; and Ann Friedman writes about the inherent sexism in the choice for VP.

Now a look at the rest of the week …

Do Doctors View Women as Pre-Pregnant?: New York Times readers give the paper of record a lesson in language when it comes to discussing women of childbearing age. Writer Tara Parker-Pope also talks with Cindy Pearson, executive director of the National Women’s Health Network, about attitudes toward women’s health. Best phrase for describing the focus on women’s reproductive organs: “bikini medicine.”

And be sure to read this comment from a woman whose doctor deliberately didn’t tell her she was pregnant because he was afraid she might terminate the pregnancy. Unfrackinbelievable.

Del Martin, 87, Dies in San Francisco: You may recall when San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom married same-sex couples in 2004, Del Martin and her longtime partner Phyllis Lyon were the first to say, “I do.” They were first again on June 16 of this year, when same-sex marriages were legalized in California (watch the video of their 2008 wedding here).

Sadly, Martin, an author, organizer and leader in feminist and civil rights causes, died Aug. 27 after a long period of declining health, reports the San Francisco Chronicle.

“Ever since I met Del 55 years ago, I could never imagine a day would come when she wouldn’t be by my side,” Lyon, 83, said in a statement. “I am so lucky to have known her, loved her and been her partner in all things.

“I also never imagined there would be a day that we would actually be able to get married,” Lyon said. “I am devastated, but I take some solace in knowing we were able to enjoy the ultimate rite of love and commitment before she passed.”

The College Girl’s Guide to Anti-feminist Sex: Jessica at Feministing extracts the best excerpts from “Sense & Sexuality,” a new guide published by the conservative Clare Boothe Luce Policy Institute.

New Data and Study on the Uninsured: New data released by the Census Bureau shows a drop in the number of uninsured Americans, to 45.7 million in 2007 from 47 million in 2006. From Raising Women’s Voices (which now has a blog!):

The percentage of women with no health insurance was 13.9 percent in 2007, down from 14.2 percent in 2006, but still higher than the rate in any other year since 1999 (which is as far back as the Census Bureau’s current set of historical tables go). The un-insurance rate in 2007 was far higher for women of color (Black women, 17.9 percent; Hispanic women of all races, 28.9 percent; and Asian-American women 15.7 percent) than for white non-hispanic women (9.6 percent).

Census bureau spokesman David Johnson acknowledged at a press conference today that the decline in the number of uninsured Americans could largely be attributed to increases in the number of children receiving coverage under government health insurance programs. The State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) has been the subject of an ongoing battle between the administration and those members of Congress and Governors who want to increase the numbers of children covered by SCHIP.

“The numbers released today show the potential power of public insurance programs to provide desperately-needed coverage to uninsured Americans,” said Lois Uttley, Director of the MergerWatch Project and co-founder of Raising Women’s Voices for the Health Care We Need (RWV). She pointed out that women also benefit significantly from public health insurance programs.

The percentage of women who relied on government health insurance of any type (Medicaid, Medicare or military insurance) in 2007 was 29.8 percent, compared to 25.7 percent for men. A higher percent of women relied on Medicaid than did men (14.2 percent for women, compared to 12.2 percent for men), and the same was true for Medicare (15.4 percent of women had Medicare coverage, compared to 12.2 percent for men.)

Plus: The Kaiser Family Foundation has also published a new study examining spending on health care for the uninsured, and it projects the costs of care if the population were insured.

Leslee Unruh’s Facts of Life: Amanda Robb, niece of Bart Slepian, the obstetrician-gynecologist who was killed by an anti-abortion activist, profiles South Dakota anti-choice activist Leslee Unruh, executive director of the Vote Yes for Life Campaign, in the September issue of More magazine. Though they bond in some strange way, Robb uncovers the truth about Unruh’s first marriage, and the story includes reactions like this from Unruh:

I asked why she refused to work with Planned Parenthood on teen pregnancy prevention programs or contraceptive initiatives. Leslee Unruh, the media’s go-to resource on abstinence, whose views have been solicited by MTV, CNN, ABC, NPR, and more than 100 newspapers and magazines, answered that Planned Parenthood wants to sexualize children and that taking oral contraceptives is like ingesting pesticides. She went on to tell me that masturbation is dangerous, that abortion increases the risk of breast cancer, and that young girls should pledge to give themselves as a “wedding gift” to their husbands.


Mexico City Abortion Law Upheld: “The Supreme Court upheld Mexico City’s abortion law by an 8-to-3 vote on Thursday, allowing unrestricted abortions during the first trimester of pregnancy,” reports Elisabeth Malkin in The New York Times. Earlier in the week, Malkin reported on the struggle women face in securing an abortion in Mexico City, even though abortion was made legal last year.

“Since the city’s legislature voted for the law in April 2007, some 85 percent of the gynecologists in the city’s public hospitals have declared themselves conscientious objectors,” notes Malkin. “And women complain that even at those hospitals that perform abortions, staff members are often hostile, demeaning them and throwing up bureaucratic hurdles.”

Plus: Also this week, Mexico City’s legislature passed a law “making it easier for transsexuals and transgender people to legally change their names and obtain revised birth certificates that reflect their gender identification,” reports the AP.

More From the Abortion and Politics Files: “A new anti-abortion group has its sights set beyond just running ads and launching viral Internet attacks on Barack Obama. The group wants to overturn the federal election law that could rein in not only its own activities but those of any so-called issue advocacy groups,” writes Marianne Lavelle at the Center for Public Integrity’s blog, Paper Trail.

Labor Day Reminder: “On Labor Day weekend, consider this: As many as 43 percent of American workers in private industry don’t have paid sick days, according to 2007 data from the federal government. If they call in sick, they lose their pay and, sometimes, their jobs,” writes Shari Roan of the L.A. Times.

“That number has risen over the years, part of a larger trend to cut back on sick leave. Among workers who do still have the once-venerable benefit, many have found their days reduced or lumped together as part of their vacation time. The United States — unique among industrialized countries — doesn’t mandate a minimum number of paid sick days for workers.”

The numbers are even higher among low-wage and part-time workers; close to 80 percent of each group do not have paid sick time, according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.

And with that, hope everyone enjoys the weekend!