Archive for the ‘Media’ Category

June 16, 2009

RH Reality Check Launches “Common Ground” Forum for Discussion on Abortion

RH Reality Check launched a new forum today for discussion related to finding “common ground” on abortion and reproductive health.

The forum moderator is Christina Page, author of “How the Pro-Choice Movement Saved America: Freedom, Politics and the War on Sex.” Contributors will include Rachel Laser of Third Way; Kirsten Day of Faith in Public Life; Steven Waldman, editor of Beliefnet; Chris Korzen of Catholics United; and Sarah Stoesz, CEO of Planned Parenthood of North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota.

The section was created in response to President Obama’s challenge to those with divergent views about abortion to find opportunities for identifying common ground. In her introductory post, Christina Page writes:

Shortly before Dr. Tiller’s murder, President Obama had just begun to usher this movement through the White House doors. His appointees had started calling together leaders from both sides to sit at the same table. His argument has been that the two sides can disagree sharply on a fundamental issue and yet still find areas of agreement on which they can work together.

The brutal murder of Dr. Tiller threatens to poison the nascent dialogue Obama initiated. More pervasively, it threatens to make cynicism about another’s motives acceptable even rational. After such a heinous act it is easy to grow remote, to give up on efforts of understanding, to believe the worst of one another.  The violence perpetrated against Dr. Tiller is an attack on common ground, too, whether intended or not.

But, especially in the aftermath of the murder, a common ground movement must persist, and grow stronger. If not, we surrender reasoned and civil debate at gunpoint. If we retreat to our respective corners, we cede control of the dialogue to extremists, and with it any hope for a better and a different, more constructive way of reconciling, and living with differences.

Initial posts include:

Check it out …

June 5, 2009

How to Manufacture an Artificial Cat Fight

Far be it from us to add to unfriendly female fodder, but does it really make sense to call out “Our Bodies, Ourselves” for not focusing more on female consciousness raising parties — or for the book cover being pink?

Granted, most modern activism doesn’t involve mirrors, but has the author read feminist blogs or seen Twitter and Facebook? There’s plenty consciousness-raising happening, and plenty of feminist media critiquing our all-too critical culture.

Plus: Speaking of a consciousness raising party, if you’re lucky enough to be in New York on June 12, go celebrate Feministing’s 5th Anniversary. Happy early birthday, ladies!

June 2, 2009

Writings About George Tiller and Where We Go From Here

There’s so much important policy analysis and moving stories about Dr. George Tiller that we wanted to try to bring you a snapshot of it all here. We’ll continue to add to this post — please also leave suggestions for additional reading, or your own thoughts, in the comments.

In our previous post on Tiller’s murder, we included Tiller’s own story about becoming an abortion provider. He learned his father had provided medically safe abortions for women who had no place else to turn prior to Roe v. Wade only after taking over his father’s practice. Tiller decided to continue to provide the service for women, despite great risk to him and his family. If you haven’t already, read the whole piece, published at Physicians for Reproductive Choice & Health.

Since then, Judy Norsigian, Our Bodies Ourselves executive director, expanded on her blog post about how to show support for abortion providers with three things everyone can do. And we continue to support the efforts of and the George Tiller Memorial Abortion Fund.

Analysis & Public Policy

Abortion Wars, the First Time Around: On The New York Times op-ed page, Kate Manning writes: “Dr. Tiller is just the latest in a line of brave people who have died for providing abortions. Perhaps the most infamous of these was a midwife named Ann Lohman, who killed herself in New York in 1878 after decades of harassment.”

The Legacy of George Tiller: Carole Joffe, author of “Dispatches from the Abortion Wars: The Costs of Fanaticism to Doctors, Patients, and the Rest of Us” (Beacon Press, forthcoming January 2010), writes that another response to Tiller’s murder “must be to demand that the mainstream medical community acknowledge the reality that there will always be some women who need abortions later on in pregnancy. Local medical institutions must make provision for these cases — especially since these women can no longer be sent off to Kansas, out of sight and mind of ‘respectable’ doctors and hospitals.”

Anti Abortion Rhetoric Still Strong: Journalism professor Cynthia Gorney, author of “Articles of Faith: A History of the Abortion Wars” discusses the state of the abortion debate on NPR.

A History of Violence on the Antiabortion Fringe: Excellent overview by Richard Fausset in the L.A. Times of the degree of violence against abortion clinics and providers.

Abortion Provider George Tiller Murdered at Church: Writing at Religion Dispatches, Frances Kissling ponders the likely outcomes “when people are treated to an unrelenting barrage of religious claims that abortion is murder, that doctors who perform abortion should be charged with crimes and sent to prison, and when pickets outside clinics pray the rosary and display mangled fetuses on crosses as if they were Jesus Christ himself.”

In Memory of Dr. George Tiller: A Tireless Supporter of Women’s Dignity: “I am tired of a public debate that treats seriously the claim that pregnant women, mothers, and the people who support them are killers,” writes Lynn Paltrow, executive director of  National Advocates for Pregnant Women. “I am tired of a debate that trivializes genocide by saying that what women do to deal with their reproductive lives is worse.”

Why Clinic Violence is Obama’s Problem: Ann Friedman at The American Prospect calls Tiller’s death “a wake-up call to the fact that our existing laws and regulatory bodies to protect against clinic violence aren’t working as well as they should. As written, FACE provides a lot of protection for reproductive health providers. But we need an active task force — or some other means of accountability — to make sure the law is fully enforced.”

George Tiller Needs More Than Candlelight Vigils: Former Planned Parenthood Federation of America President Gloria Feldt has written a powerful piece remembering past acts of clinic violence and explaining why “candlelight vigils alone will never be enough.”

The Murder of Dr. George Tiller, A Foreshadowing: Cristina Page at RH Reality Check writes: “For those who would like to think today’s murder in church of Dr. George Tiller, an abortion provider, is an isolated incident: here’s the horrifying news: You are wrong. The pattern is clear and frightening.”

Who killed George Tiller?: Jill Filipovic of Feministe writes: “… this latest act of terrorism is, sadly, not an anomaly. It is part of a clearly-established pattern of harassment, intimidation and violence against abortion providers and pro-choice individuals.”

I Write Letters: Melissa McEwan at Shakesville’s open letter to President Obama, including this direct response to his statement on the matter: “Mr. President, if you had been paying the slightest bit of attention to the realities of the front line of the fight to protect women’s bodily autonomy, you would not be shocked. This wasn’t even the first attempt on Dr. Tiller’s life; it was the merely the first successful one.”

What Should Change in Wake of Tiller Murder: GRITtv with Laura Flanders hosts a discussion about the media coverage. Guests include Lynn Paltrow of National Advocates for Pregnant Women, Jennifer Pozner of Women In Media & News (WIMN),  and Sunsara Taylor, a writer for Revolution Newspaper and an abortion provider.

What Happens Next

News coverage and updates from the Wichita Eagle:

Tiller Family: Clinic Will Close: The family’s lawyers said in a statement that the clinic, Women’s Health Care Services, will be permanently closed, effective immediately.

Sad News in Closing of George Tiller’s Clinic: “Who can blame George Tiller’s family for declining to re-open his clinic?” asks Barb Shelly, Kansas City Star editorial page columnist. “But the clinic’s closing means the killer has achieved his objective. That’s a thought akin to an open wound. The decision also means, for Kansas women in crisis, a yawning gap between abortion clinics in the Kansas City area and Denver.”

Closed Clinic Leaves Abortion Protesters at a Loss: “Over almost 20 years, a vocal, diverse constellation of anti-abortion forces has grown up in this conservative city with an intensity rarely seen elsewhere, converging around Dr. Tiller’s practice. With his death, its future suddenly seems uncertain, too,” writes Monica Davey at The New York Times.

Why I Plan to Emulate Dr. George Tiller: Rozalyn Farmer Love, a third-year medical student, writes at the Atlanta Journal Constitution about her plan to become an obstetrician-gynecologist. “I dream of delivering healthy babies, working with families and supporting midwifery. But as part of my practice, I also envision providing abortions to women who need them.”

The Circle Continues: “Dr. Leroy Carhart, a physician who provides abortions for women in need and who for many years provided later term abortions in his home state of Nebraska, will temporarily take over Dr. Tiller’s medical practice in Kansas,” reports Amie Newman at RH Reality Check. “Dr. Carhart, still a practicing provider, is most well known for his involvement in two Supreme Court cases, Stenberg v. Carhart and Gonzales v. Carhart, which challenged and then upheld the ban on the politically termed “Partial Birth Abortion.”

The Compassion of Dr. Tiller: “There are two other clinics that do late-term abortions, but neither are known for taking patients regardless of their ability to pay or for ministering so comprehensively to their emotional needs. Tiller’s murder leaves a void that could imperil women across the country,” writes Michelle Goldberg at The American Prospect.

Attorney General Directs U.S. Marshals to Protect Women’s Health Clinics, Providers: “U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder dispatched the U.S. Marshals Service to protect “appropriate people and facilities around the nation” in the wake of the killing Sunday morning of late-term abortion provider Dr. George Tiller in Wichita, Kansas,” reports Ernest Luning.

Recollections From Tiller’s Patients

The George Tiller I Knew: A diary entry at Daily Kos.

A Friend Recalls Her Visit to Tiller’s Clinic and Another Memory of Visiting Dr. Tiller: Both posted at DoubleX.

Where Will Women Go Now?: Over at Salon’s Broadsheet, Kate Harding quotes from a number of personal narratives posted online.

A Heatbreaking Choice: Kansas Stories Guest Book

Statements from Reproductive Rights Groups

Planned Parenthood Federation of America; Planned Parenthood is also excerpting additional statements from groups and public officials.

NARAL Pro-Choice America

Association of Reproductive Health Professionals

June 1, 2009

Women’s Health Toolkit Helps You Evaluate Online Health Information

Women’s Health Matters (Canada) has created a guide to finding and evaluating health information online, “Women Wading Through the Web: A Health Toolkit,” [PDF] intended “to assist the many women who have asked us for help in navigating this often confusing maze of health information on the Web.”

The online document provides a good basic introduction to searching for information, judging website and information quality, interpreting medical research, and understanding media and web-based reports on health topics.

In addition to the guidance provided, the document includes links to a number of useful resources throughout, including various search engines, tutorials on searching the web, guides to evaluating health information online, sites for accessing medical news or literature, guides to understanding medical research, and other recommended websites.

For more on this topic, see the OBOS article  How to Evaluate Health Information on the Internet.

May 30, 2009

Political Diagnosis: Conservative Groups Fight Health Care Reform; Bills May Split Over Public Option; High Cost of Care in Texas and More …

Looking for Supreme Court news? See our separate post on discussions surrounding Judge Sonia Sotomayor’s nomination and an interview with Georgetown University Law Professor Emma Coleman Jordan.

Conservative Groups Protest Health Care Reform; Progressives Fire Back: A 30-minute documentary-style advertisement titled “End of Patient’s Rights — The Human Consequences of Government-Run Health Care” is scheduled to run on Washington’s NBC affiliate on Sunday morning, following “Meet the Press.”

The SEIU and other progressive groups are urging NBC not to air the infomercial because of false and misleading claims by Conservatives for Patients’ Rights, the group behind the video., run by the nonpartisan Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania, called CPR’s previous advertisement “misleading.”

Some background: CPR is led by ex-hospital CEO Rick Scott, who is, well, kind of sleazy. Scott was head of Columbia/HCA healthcare company, the largest for-profit U.S. healthcare company, until the board of directors ousted him in 1997 amid a  government fraud investigation. Columbia/HCA Healthcare ended up pleading guilty and paid a record $1.7 billion in fines. Scott was never charged; today his investment firm owns a chain of walk-in urgent-care clinics in Florida, among other ventures.

“Having Scott lead the charge against healthcare reform is like tapping Bernie Madoff to campaign against tighter securities regulation,” Christopher Hayes wrote in The Nation earlier this month.

In other words, the current health care system works just fine for him.

Plus: Political Hotsheet reports that the nonprofit Americans for Prosperity Foundation launched a new campaign called Patients United Now “to educate citizens about the threat of government controlled health care.”  Media Matters fact-checks those claims. The group previously enlisted Sam “Joe The Plumber” Wurzelbacher in its campaign against the Employee Free Choice Act, a pro-union bill.

Kennedy to Unveil Health Care Bill on Monday: “Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) is circulating the outlines of sweeping health-care legislation that would require every American to have insurance and would mandate that employers contribute to workers’ coverage,” writes Ceci Connolly at the Washington Post.

The plan in the summary document, provided by two Democrats who do not work for Kennedy, closely resembles extensive changes enacted in the senator’s home state three years ago.

In many respects it adopts the most liberal approaches to health reform being discussed in Washington. Kennedy, for example, embraces a proposal to create a government-sponsored insurance program to compete directly with existing private insurance plans, according to one senior adviser who was not authorized to talk to reporters.

Split Between Democrats: The New York Times looks at the split between Kennedy, who is championing a public health plan, and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, who will probably play down the public option in favor of bipartisan support.

One possible compromise is what has become known as the trigger option — the public plan kicks in only if private insurance companies fail to make affordable coverage available to all Americans within a certain timeframe. It’s kind of difficult, however, not to argue that the timeframe has already expired. Robert Pear writes:

Passage of comprehensive health legislation this year is a top priority for Mr. Baucus and Mr. Kennedy, the chairman of the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. So they may be able to resolve their differences, aides said.

The split reflects not only political differences between the two men but also differences between their committees, racing to write the most ambitious health care legislation in the nation’s history.

Over all, Democrats on the Finance Committee tend to be more moderate than those on the health committee, which includes more Democrats who identify themselves as liberals or progressives. The two Senate panels are drafting separate bills that are to be merged before going to the Senate floor.

Meanwhile, on the House side, Rep. Charlie Rangel, chair of the Ways and Means Committee, said earlier this week, “It’s my political judgment a plan without the public option would not be able to pass the House.”

The Root of the Problem: Atul Gawande’s New Yorker story on the high cost of health care, told through the lens of a small Texas town, is drawing high praise.

American Prospect-turned-Washington-Post-blogger Ezra Klein calls it “the best article you’ll see this year on American health care — why it’s so expensive, why it’s so poor, what can be done.” Commenters seem to agree.

(Side note: Congrats to Klein on the move, but I’m sorry that his blog tagline went from “Momma said wonk you out” to “Economic and Domestic Policy, and Lots of It.” Nothing better at WaPo?)

Wonk on This: Health Wonk Review is a bi-weekly compendium of health policy blogs. This week’s round-up is posted at Boston Health News, a new-ish blog by freelance health and science writer Tinker Ready (I’m already in love with her name). Want to participate? Look here.

The FDA as Public Health Agency: Scott Hensley at Covering Health points to a New England Journal of Medicine article by new FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg and Deputy Commissioner Joshua Sharfstein. Hensley notes that this public health manifesto is supported by a single footnote — “a reference to a Supreme Court decision in 1969 that affirmed the FDA’s broad authority and its constant  ‘overriding purpose’: the protection of public health.”

Insurance That Comes With a Cost: “Is your medical insurance bad for your health? If you have a high-deductible plan, the answer may be yes,” begins this New York Times Patient Money column on the pitfalls of high deductibles. Walecia Konrad continues:

The investment firm Fidelity recently surveyed employees at various companies who had opted for a high-deductible health plan linked to a health savings account. About half of those workers said they or a family member had chosen not to seek medical care for minor ailments as many as four times in the last year to avoid paying the out-of-pocket expenses.

As any doctor will tell you, small health problems left untreated can become big problems, warns Kathleen Stoll, director of health policy at the health care advocacy group Families USA. “This is just one of the many high-deductible pitfalls consumers need to watch out for,” Ms. Stoll said.

Read on for more.

April 27, 2009

Double Dose: How Effective is Your Treatment?; History of Women, in Four Volumes; High Cost of Insurance Scares Off Buyers; Tips for Writing About Violence Against Women …

Being “Maddy”: Jennifer Finney Boylan wrote a beautiful piece about her relationship with her sons as she transitioned from male to female. Published as a New York Times “Modern Love” column, the essay was adapted from “The Book of Dads,” to be published in May by Ecco.

Determining Which Medical Therapies Work: “Good luck trying to learn what medical treatment works best to relieve low back pain, alleviate depression or prevent the spread of prostate cancer. The information isn’t available — to you or your doctor — because studies comparing potential treatments and how effective they are haven’t been done,” writes Judith Graham at the Chicago Tribune.

The story looks at the government’s plan to invest $1.1 billion in “comparative effectiveness” research and evaluate potential therapies head-to-head. Four medical experts weigh in on conditions they consider most deserving of research on comparative effectiveness. Rachel previously wrote about public input sought on research priorities.

marilyn_french_history_of_wThe War Against Women: Writing at The New York Review of Books, Hilary Mantel discusses the four volumes of “From Eve to Dawn: A History of Women in the World,” by Marilyn French. The collection is published by Feminist Press.

Words Matter: Feminist Peace Network has posted useful tips for reporting about domestic violence and sexual assault. It’s a good resource for bloggers, journalists and anyone writing about these issues.

Sticker Shock: “A new national poll, conducted by NPR, the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health, shows that what most uninsured people are willing to pay is a long way from what insurance really costs,” reports NPR’s “Morning Edition.”  “Two out of three uninsured Americans say they’d be willing to pay no more than $100 a month for coverage. But, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, the average individual health plan costs about $400 a month, and a family policy costs more than $1,000.”

When Accidents Happen: According to the Guttmacher Institute, more than half the pregnancies in the United States each year are unintended; poor women are four times as likely to have an unplanned pregnancy compared with higher-income women. NPR’s “Morning Edition” looks at the use of and access to contraceptives. Reporter Brenda Wilson notes that “the health system often throws up barriers to contraception, especially for young women who are the most vulnerable.” The story, however, focuses more on one woman’s situation.

Call for More Family Planning Aid: Dominique Soguel writes at Women’s eNews about a report released Tuesday calling for aggressive investment in family planning to curb population growth, poverty and maternal mortality. Five former directors of the population and reproductive health program of the U.S. Agency for International Development recommend the United States increase its spending to $1.2 billion in the next year’s funding round from $475 million in 2008.

Also from Women’s eNews: Five women will be recognized this week for their scientific discoveries.

“There is still a very big glass ceiling for women in science,” said Milbry Polk, director of Wings WorldQuest, which runs the awards. “You don’t find them in the history books. Women are left out. Their projects aren’t.”

Search Me: One of my favorite reads last week was Dahlia Lithwick explaining how Supreme Court justices can act like total dingbats:

When constitutional historians sit down someday to compile the definitive Supreme Court Concordance of Not Getting It, the entry directly next to Lilly Ledbetter (“Court fails utterly to understand realities of gender pay discrimination”) will be Savana Redding (“Court compares strip searches of 13-year-old girls to American Pie-style locker-room hijinks”). After today’s argument, it’s plain the court will overturn a 9th Circuit Court of Appeals opinion finding a school’s decision to strip-search a 13-year-old girl unconstitutional. That the school in question was looking for a prescription pill with the mind-altering force of a pair of Advil — and couldn’t be bothered to call the child’s mother first — hardly matters.

Read the rest.

March 20, 2009

Uncovered: Quilts That Say More Than Sleep Well

quilters_homeHere’s a story I meant to mention last week — the Washington Post covers the steamy side of quilting.

Yep. The March/April issue of Quilter’s Home magazine is wrapped up in plastic like Playboy and JoAnn Fabric and Crafts has refused to sell it.

So what’s inside? Monica Hesse has the goods:

Flip past the ads for stencil companies and portable ironing tables to Page 24. Behold, seven straight pages of shocking quilts. We’re talking fabric phalluses. Gun-toting Jesuses. A newborn peering out from his mother’s lady parts (constructed out of lots of soft, embroidered orange cloth).

Some of the images are disturbing — and moving — like quilter Gwen Magee’s “Southern Heritage/Southern Shame,” which depicts five lynching victims hanging in front of a Confederate flag.

Others are whimsical. Consider “Helping Hands,” a Charlottesville quilter’s ode to Viagra. The work was inspired by a present from a friend: “A fat quarter of fabrics with all these itty-bitty penises and sperm,” says Mary Beth Bellah, describing the pile of remnants with delight.

The finished product is asymmetrical and somewhat abstract: dozens of little blue pills spiraling out from a central hand. It’s nothing like what you could buy in Amish country, although it does seem appropriate as a wedding quilt. Bellah considers herself an artist and has displayed her quilts in private shows. At a recent show in a hospital, “Helping Hands” ended up stashed in a closet after a few complaints.

Of course quilting had always been tied with social and political history. Rarely, though, do we hear of quilters making waves.

I appreciated the quotes featured at the end. While these works would hardly be considered “daring” if created using another artistic medium, in the world of quilting, they’re unsettling, and the quilters know their potential impact:

Magee says that the contrast between her soft fabrics and her harsh social messages is exactly what makes her work effective. She did see a letter from one guy protesting her quilts, asking, “Who would want to cuddle under such a thing?” “He had no concept that this wasn’t that kind of quilt,” Magee says.

You can see a close-up of  “Helping Hands,” the ode to Viagra, at Mary Beth Bellah’s website, where she writes: “I personally think the topic is ideal for a hospital setting and someday hope it finds a permanent home in an ED specialist’s office or clinic.”

February 12, 2009

Women, Action & The Media: Register Now for WAM!

Time is running out for early registration for the annual Women, Action & the Media (WAM!) conference in Cambridge, Mass., March 27-29.

This is not your ordinary conference. WAM! has an inspiring goal: “to bring together everyone who has a stake in achieving gender justice in media, in order to share facts and ideas, develop skills, build collaborations, bridge differences and create action plans.”

It does so by presenting more than 40 sessions and workshops and by facilitating collaboration between sessions — there are parties, film screenings, lunch caucuses, quiet spaces and more. A new addition this year is the Genius Bar, where experts will be available to answer questions, one-on-one.

WAM! is sponsored by the Center for New Words and MIT’s Program in Women’s Studies. Registration is $145 ($45 for students and $80 for seniors) if you register on or before Feb. 13 (yep, that’s tomorrow). After that, fees increase to $165/$55/$95. To reserve your spot, call CNW at 617.876.5310 or register online.

This year’s keynotes include a panel of women journalists reporting from the global frontlines and Cynthia Lopez, vice president for American Documentary | P.O.V.

Sarah Haskins, a Second City alum and writer and performer for the Current TV show “infoMania,” will perform on Saturday night. Her “Target Women” segment skewers media aimed at women and, let’s just say it: Sarah rocks.

I’ve been an enthusiastic WAM! supporter since the first go-around, back in 2004. This year I’m running a half-day workshop, “Creating, Designing and Promoting Your Own Blog.” Yes, participants will do all that and more, including learning how to incorporate social media tools (like and Twitter).

Kiki Zeldes, Our Bodies Ourselves editor and webmaster extraordinaire, is also presenting. She’s on the panel titled “New Administration, New World Order: The Top Five Reproductive and Sexual Health and Rights Stories You’ll Want to Track — And How,” along with a super smart crew: Dana Goldstein, an associate editor at The American Prospect; Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas, deputy director of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health; and Emily Douglas, an editor at RH Reality Check.

Hope to see you there!

January 24, 2009

Commodifying the First Daughters

The first daughters have hit the market.

For just $9.99, you can own your own set of “Sweet Sasha” and “Marvelous Malia” dolls.

“They’re such adorable girls,” Ty Inc. spokeswoman Tania Lundeen said Wednesday of the Obama sisters — Sasha, 7, and Malia, 10. “How can we resist?”

But by the end of the week, Ty Inc. — the company that created Beanie Babies — announced the names were chosen because “they are beautiful names,” not because they resemble the first daughters.

Whatever. Sadly, these dolls lack agency in their own world. Malia doesn’t even have her own camera.

Instead, they “come with a password to an online ‘virtual world’ where real girls can decorate their dolls’ room, change their clothes or go shopping,” reports the Chicago Sun Times.

Michelle Obama is not impressed with the 12-inch pseduo-replicas.

“We believe it is inappropriate to use young private citizens for marketing purposes,” Obama’s press secretary, Katie McCormick Lelyveld, said in a statement today.

Also this week, Mattel announced it will launch its first complete line of African-American Barbie dolls.

Plus: There’s a new blog on girls as media producers. Mary Celeste Kearney writes that she created Girls Make Media “because I’ve been researching girls’ media production for over a decade now, and wanted to pull together in one place information about girl media producers, as well as programs for and research about girls’ media-making.”

Kearney — an associate professor of radio, television and film, and women and gender studies at the University of Texas at Austin — is looking to link to other programs (in and outside of the United States), so let her know if you doing something interesting in this field.

cross-posted from PopPolitics

January 13, 2009

New Moon Seeks Nominations for Beautiful Girls

New Moon, the terrific magazine for girls age 8-12, is seeking nominations for its annual 25 beautiful girls issue. Maybe you know someone you’d like to recommend.

The deadline is midnight (CST) on Monday, Jan. 19, so get going now. Here’s the lowdown from New Moon founder Nancy Gruver:

Each girl has her own inner beauty: the beauty of action, caring, creativity, passion. Tell us about the inner beauty of your daughter, granddaughter, niece, neighbor or student and help us to inspire girls everywhere with their own unique inner beauty.

Every year since 2000, the May/June issue of New Moon Girls magazine features 25 girls ages 8-12 who are beautiful inside. Our Girls Editorial Board selects 25 girls (from those who are nominated) who represent many different aspects of inner beauty. Those girls are featured in the magazine. All the other girls who are nominated receive special recognition and are honored at

Anyone can nominate a girl – her family, someone in the community, another girl. And girls can also nominate themselves! I encourage you to nominate one or more girls by downloading the short form. Then complete the form and email it as an attached document to

December 4, 2008

Want to Help Empower Girls? Volunteer/Intern with Teen Voices

Teen Voices, an awesome leadership program for girls built around the production of Teen Voices magazine, is looking for mentors and interns. More details about the various positions and application information can be found here.

* *  * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Mentors: Teen Voices is looking for women in the Boston area who want to mentor teen girls while creating an amazing international teen magazine. It’s a rewarding opportunity that you won’t regret!

As an editorial mentor, you work with teens in the after school program to develop a section of the magazine. You will guide them through the editorial process, from submission review to research, writing, editing, fact checking, interviewing and more.

Journalism or writing experience, and experience or interest working with teens preferred. Mentor positions run for 10-12 weeks during Spring semester. 6-8 hours/week minimum commitment.

Interns: Volunteer as an intern and get the opportunity to work on a variety of projects and learn more than you ever imagined! Our internships provide a great environment for college students to hone their skills and gain concrete experience in marketing, development, editorial, youth work, technology, administration, and publishing.

Become part of a positive and empowering environment. Make a difference for your career and help change the world for girls. Don’t wait! Internships require a 10-12 hour/week minimum commitment.

December 3, 2008

Striking the Work-Life Balance with Campbell Brown

Television newcomer Rachel Maddow is the best thing to happen to cable television this year. Campbell Brown, veteran political reporter, is a close second.

During the campaign, Brown took on sexist treatment of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. Before that, she held the line during an interview with Tucker Bounds, spokesman for the McCain campaign, about Palin’s lack of foreign policy experience. That interview made me an eternal fan.

On “No Bias, No Bull,” a daily show on politics, Brown calls it like she sees it. And more often than anyone else on television, she’s sees the sexist comments and attitudes that seem to escape most political reporters and pundits (not surprising, since most of them are men and some have been known to tilt sexist themselves).

Brown latest commentary addresses assumptions about women and work, prompted by some not-so-smart comments Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell made about the selection of Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano’s to lead Homeland Security. Here’s what Rendell said during a casual conversation held next to an open microphone:

Janet’s perfect for that job. Because for that job, you have to have no life. Janet has no family. Perfect. She can devote, literally, 19-20 hours a day to it.

Which prompted Brown to respond:

Wow. Now, I’m sure Gov. Napolitano has many qualifications for the job beyond having no family, and therefore the ability to devote 20 hours a day to the job.

But it is fascinating to me that that is the quality being highlighted here as so perfect. C’mon. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff is married with two grown children. His predecessor, Tom Ridge, had a family. Anybody remember a debate about whether they would have trouble balancing the demands of work and family?

While Rendell got his lesson in mic etiquette, Brown also made sure the governor and anyone else who assumes women with families aren’t capable of taking on demanding jobs, and women without families have no life, understand how those assumptions hurt everyone. Watch the video (if you’re an IE user; can’t get it to work in Firefox, though you can view it at CNN) — another excerpt from the transcript is below.

Question one: If a man had been Obama’s choice for the job, would having a family or not having a family ever even have been an issue? Would it have ever prompted a comment? Probably not. We all know the assumption tends to be that with a man, there is almost always a wife in the wings managing those family concerns.

Question two: As a woman, hearing this, it is hard not to wonder if we are counted out for certain jobs, certain opportunities, because we do have a family or because we are in our child-bearing years. Are we? It is a fair question.

Three: If you are a childless, single woman with suspicions that you get stuck working holidays, weekends and the more burdensome shifts more often than your colleagues with families, are those suspicions well-founded? Probably so. Is there an assumption that if you’re family free then you have no life? By some, yes.

Again Gov. Rendell, I don’t mean to rake you over the coals. I know what you meant to say. But your comments do perpetuate stereotypes that put us in boxes, both mothers and single women. In government and beyond, men have been given the benefit of the doubt when it comes to striking the right work-life balance. Women are owed the same consideration.

October 7, 2008

New York Times on Advocating for Your Health

The New York Times recently published a special series to help individuals advocate for their own health. The series included information on reliable health information websites, patients’ use of the Internet for self-education about their symptoms and diagnoses, how to understand a medical research report, what FDA approval really means, and several other topics.

Importantly, the Times pieces represented a largely positive take on patients becoming informed and active in their own healthcare, recommending that people seek second opinions when needed and become informed about what constitutes reliable medical evidence by gaining a basic knowledge of good study design. One physician interviewed, with regards to the tendency to go online for additional information, said:

“We have to acknowledge that patients do this research. It’s important that instead of fighting against it, that we join them and become their coaches in the process.”

The pieces make a stark contrast to the historical (and sometimes current) experiences of many women, who may have experienced hostility and condescension from physicians who took a more paternalistic approach. Taken as a whole, the Times pieces encourage individuals to learn and understand, rather than leaving everything to the doctors.

In touching on the estrogen problem as well as the reliability of research, the pieces also remind us that women have too often been on the receiving end of medical practices and traditions that have not been well-supported by the evidence. From individual practices such as previously routine episiotomies and hormone replacement to broader policies such as those that discourage hospitals from allowing vaginal births after a cesarean, individual women may receive care in environments that don’t support the reliance on evidence, questioning and self-education the Times pieces recommend.

For further details, visit any of the following articles from the Times (or this section page):

Of course, OBOS has been recommending that women become informed about and advocate for better healthcare for quite a long time – see our content on Navigating the Health Care System for examples, as well as any of the full OBOS books.

July 9, 2008

Gardasil and Fear-Mongering

Combine girls, vaccines, and sex, and you apparently get a recipe for sensationalism and poor reporting. CNN yesterday featured a piece, “Should parents worry about HPV vaccine?” which notes that “Gardasil has been the subject of 7,802 ‘adverse event’ reports from the time the Food and Drug Administration approved its use two years ago.”

What the article doesn’t explain is how the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) system works. Reports to VAERS can be submitted by anyone, and are not verified or definitively linked to the vaccine without further investigation. This understanding was not demonstrated by the piece, which simply conceded,

“The company said in a statement that an adverse event report ‘does not mean that a causal relationship between an event and vaccination has been established — just that the event occurred after vaccination.’”

This phrasing makes it seem as though it’s just the company (that stands to make money) that believes that reports don’t indicate a causal relationship – it seems designed to make the average reader believe that this characterization is just the vaccine maker protecting its financial interests. While OBOS often points out ways in which pharmaceutical companies and medical device companies prioritize their own financial interests above people’s health, in this instance the company is simply explaining how the reporting system works.

The piece also doesn’t address how this figure compares to anticipated adverse events estimated from the original studies, how it compares to the rates of adverse events for other vaccines, or that, due to the current system, there are always more/different side effects reported after a drug is approved (in the “post-marketing” period) due to the numbers of individuals involved. For example, if a drug causes death in 1 in 500,000 people, and was tested in 2,000, the possibility of the drug causing death is not likely to be realized until it is on the market and prescribed to a large population.

On the other hand (and unmentioned in the CNN article), many adverse events may occur that are not reported. “Post-marketing surveillance” – including analysis of reports from those who have received the drug or vaccine after it has been approved – is a crucial aspect of safeguarding the public from dangerous drugs. Because individuals and physicians may not associate an outcome with the vaccine, and many individuals may not realize that they are allowed to submit reports directly, underreporting of effects is both possible and likely. The FDA uses this surveillance system to make changes to labels, educate physicians about risks, and re-evaluate their approval of a drug or vaccine, so it remains important that adverse outcomes are reported, despite the cautions about making judgments based on raw numbers of reports and difficulties in later determining which of those outcomes were directly linked to a specific drug, vaccine, or other product.

Habladora at Feministe has an excellent summary of how CNN’s piece omitted crucial information in favor of drumming up parental anxiety, touching on many of these same issues. She notes:

“Finally, CNN presents us with the terrifying story of a teenager who developed pancreatitis not long after taking the vaccine. While I am not insensible to how horrifying such a serious illness would be for a young girl and her family, it should be CNN’s responsibility to verify whether or not her fear that it was related to the vaccine could be founded – by researching how many of those incident reports dealt with pancreatitis, for example, or other autoimmune diseases. This type of reporting is important, after all, since it could impact women’s decisions and, consequently, their health.”

This approach is not limited to CNN – Judicial Watch is currently featuring the large, bolded headline, “Judicial Watch Uncovers New FDA Records Detailing Ten New Deaths & 140 ‘Serious’ Adverse Events Related to Gardasil.” However, the CDC has reported that of the 10 deaths they have analyzed, they could not establish a causal relationship between the vaccine and the deaths, and notes that “While Gardasil was being tested in the U.S. before it was licensed, 10 people in the group that received the HPV vaccine and 7 people in the placebo group died during the trials. None of the deaths was considered vaccine-related.”

In their report, Judicial Watch also suggests that Gardasil wasn’t adequately tested for adverse effects because the comparison placebo vaccine contained an aluminum “reactive, potentially harmful substance.” Without reading the original studies, this probably makes the comparison more valid instead of less, because the real vaccine also contains an aluminum compound (as do many other vaccines), and omitting it from the placebo vaccine would have skewed the comparison by confusing adverse effects of the aluminum with adverse effects of the actual vaccine substance.

I have to wonder if we’d be seeing the same level of fear-mongering if this were another vaccine, if opponents hadn’t suggested that it would cause young girls to become sexually active and that girls from “good homes” don’t get HPV. Yes, of course we should keep watch when a new drug, vaccine or product is approved and is targeted to women. Of course we should attempt to tease out real and serious side effects that didn’t appear in the smaller trials, and be wary of the financial motives companies have to put the best light on their product. Of course we should be aware of mandates for vaccination and ensure that adequate information and opt-out provisions are available. It may still turn out that there are serious issues with Gardasil that warrant a different assessment of the risks and benefits. However, incomplete and inaccurate reporting and misrepresentation of the science does nothing to assist women and families in making decisions about vaccination and safety.

For further discussion, see Gardasil: What you need to know about the HPV vaccine and this previous OBOS blog post.

June 28, 2008

Double Dose: Planned Parenthood Expands Reach; Pack Journalism in Search of a Pregnancy “Pact” in Gloucester; Teen Pregnancies at 30-Year Low; Mandating Insurance Coverage for Anorexia; Will Women Give Hormone Maker a Second Chance? …

Planned Parenthood Expands its Reach: “Flush with cash, Planned Parenthood affiliates nationwide are aggressively expanding their reach, seeking to woo more affluent patients with a network of suburban clinics and huge new health centers that project a decidedly upscale image,” reports the Wall Street Journal.

Unfortunately the full story is available to subscribers only, but the WSJ health blog has a summary that includes these remarks:

Despite some critiques to the contrary, Planned Parenthood insists it’s not compromising is long-held focus on serving the poor with birth control, sexual-health care and abortions. Officials there say they take a loss of nearly $1 on each packet of birth-control pills distributed to poor women under a federal program that funds reproductive care. But they make a profit of nearly $22 on each month of pills sold to an adult who can afford to pay full price. That money helps subsidize other operations, including care for the poor as well as pursuing Planned Parenthood’s political agenda.

“It is high time we follow the population,” said Sarah Stoesz, who heads Planned Parenthood operations in three Midwest states. She recently opened three express centers in wealthy Minnesota suburbs, “in shopping centers and malls, places where women are already doing their grocery shopping, picking up their Starbucks, living their daily lives,” she said.

Pregnant in Gloucester: Concerning the 18 high school students pregnant in Gloucester, Mass, that have received national news coverage for supposedly choosing to get pregnant and raise their children together, Kelly McBride, who covers media ethics for Poynter Institute, has an excellent piece on pack journalism in search of a “pact..” Meanwhile, the high school principal who first said their was evidence of a pact defends his comments and his memory.

Plus: Courtney Macavinta of Respect RX discusses her own sex “pact” at age 15 and the cycle of disrespect that leads girls who don’t value themselves to make choices “in which the fine print (that life is about to get even harder) is written in invisible ink.”

Teen Pregnancies at 30-Year Low: Writing in the Chicago Tribune, Lisa Anderson reports on the latest pregnancy statistics released by the Guttmacher Institute.

Pregnancies — whether they end in birth, miscarriage or abortion — among women age 15 to 19 dropped to 72.2 per 1,000 women in 2004, down from a peak of 117 per 1,000 women in 1990 [...]

While some 700,000 women age 15 to 19 become pregnant every year, the rate has declined 36 percent since it peaked in 1990. The rate of abortions among teens also plummeted, to 19.8 per 1,000 women in 2004 from a high of 43.5 per 1,000 in 1988.

But researchers are keeping a close eye on the numbers, as there are some signs that the drop may be reversing:

Despite decades of improvement and for reasons yet unknown, there is statistical evidence that the drop in pregnancy rates, the age of first sexual activity and contraceptive use among teens stalled after 2001.

The exception may be in the teen birthrate. After a 14-year decline, the birthrate, meaning the number of live births, among women age 15 to 19 rose 3 percent in 2006 to 41.9 per 1,000 women from 40.5 per 1,000 women in 2005, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Until more data are compiled, it is unclear whether the 2006 uptick in births was an isolated blip or the harbinger of a more significant and negative change on the teen reproductive landscape, according to David Landry, a senior research associate at the Guttmacher Institute.

Mandating Insurance Coverage for Psychiatric Ailments: Illinois will become the 17th state to mandate insurance coverage for treatment of anorexia and bulimia, assuming the governor signs a bill recently approved by the state Legislature.

Bonnie Miller Rubin and Ashley Wiehle of the Chicago Tribune write:

The measure is part of a larger national debate about addressing inequities in insurance coverage between psychiatric and physical ailments.

More than 12 million Americans, mostly young women, have eating disorders in their lifetime, according to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders. The organization ranked risk of death as higher with anorexia than with any other mental illness. Among patients with anorexia, almost half of all deaths are suicides, according to ANAD. Yet many insurers balk at covering the tab, which can run as high as $2,500 a day.

“I’ve met so many parents who have had to refinance their homes,” said Rep. Fred Crespo (D-Hoffman Estates), one of the bill’s sponsors.

But others cite the financial cost of such a law. Richard Cauchi, health program director for the National Conference of State Legislatures, said Illinois has taken “an unusual action” for 2008, when the trend is to move away from mandates on business and governments.

“There’s more pressure now to repeal and restrict mandates than to enact new ones,” he said..

“Neglected Infections of Poverty”: “Despite plummeting mortality rates for most infectious diseases over the last century, a group of largely overlooked bacterial, viral and parasitic infections is still plaguing the nation’s poor, according to a report released this week,” writes Wendy Hansen in the L.A. Times.

“Many of the diseases are typically associated with tropical developing countries but are surprisingly common in poor regions of the United States, according to the analysis, published in the Public Library of Science journal PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases.”

The study’s author, Dr. Peter Hotez, chairman of George Washington University’s department of microbiology, immunology and tropical disease, says there are 24 diseases affecting at least 300,000 Americans, and possibly millions. Poverty-stricken regions, including Appalachia, inner cities, the Mississippi Delta and the border with Mexico, are the areas most severely affected.

Will Women Give Hormone Maker a Second Chance?: “Can Wyeth win back the 40 million Premarin and Prempro users it’s lost since 2002 — along with $1 billion a year in profits — with a new menopause drug? Or will the once-bitten women who have filed more than 5,000 lawsuits claiming the hormones gave them cancer feel fooled twice?” asks Martha Rosenberg at, in this look at Wyeth’s hope of marketing Pristiq as the first nonhormonal treatment for menopause symptoms.

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Affects Women More: “The Army and Air Force discharged a disproportionate number of women in 2007 under the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that prohibits openly gay people from serving in the military, according to Pentagon statistics gathered by an advocacy group,” reports The New York Times.

While women make up 14 percent of Army personnel, 46 percent of those discharged under the policy last year were women. And while 20 percent of Air Force personnel are women, 49 percent of its discharges under the policy last year were women. By comparison for 2006, about 35 percent of the Army’s discharges and 36 percent of the Air Force’s were women, according to the statistics.

The information was gathered under a Freedom of Information Act request by the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, a policy advocacy organization.

Gardasil Not Approved for Older Women: “U.S. regulators have told Merck & Co they cannot yet approve Merck’s application to expand marketing of its cervical cancer vaccine Gardasil to an older group of women, the drugmaker said on Wednesday,” reports Reuters.

“Merck had applied for the use of Gardasil in women ages 27 through 45. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said in a letter regarding the application that it has completed its review and there are ‘issues’ that preclude approval within the expected review time frame, Merck said.”

Exercise as a Tonic for Aging: The New York Times reports on an updated series of physical activity recommendations for older adults from the American Heart Association and the American College of Sports Medicine, which are expected to match new federal activity guidelines due in October from the United States Health and Human Services Department.

“Contrary to what many active adults seem to believe, physical fitness does not end with aerobics,” writes Jane Brody. “Strength training has long been advocated by the National Institute on Aging, and the heart association has finally recognized the added value of muscle strength to reduce stress on joints, bones and soft tissues; enhance stability and reduce the risk of falls; and increase the ability to meet the demands of daily life, like rising from a chair, climbing stairs and opening jars.”