Archive for the ‘Motherhood’ Category

May 31, 2013

Reproductive Justice: The Movement Whose Time Has Come

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

August 31, 2012

Dear Researchers, Your Gender Bias is Showing

Yesterday I came across a press release that nearly gave me an eyeroll injury. It covered a paper that looks at data on the differing amounts of time women with and without paid jobs spend doing various activities related to food and their children, such as grocery shopping, cooking, eating with children, playing or exercising with children, and supervising or caring for children (inexplicably two separate categories).

From the release:
“When it comes to cooking, grocery shopping and playing with children, American moms with full-time jobs spend roughly three-and-half fewer hours per day on these and other chores related to their children’s diet and exercise compared to stay-at-home and unemployed mothers.” Overall, according to the full paper, they found that “The average number of total minutes per day spent with children is 410 min for non-working mothers and 277 min for working mothers.”

Now for the eyeroll.

As the second paragraph explains, “Employed fathers devote just 13 minutes daily to [chores related to children's diet and exercise] and non-working fathers contribute 41 minutes.”

So what’s the headline? “Fathers providing very little help in child care activities, regardless of employment status?” How about, “Fathers neglecting duties related to childhood obesity?”

Nope. Predictably, moms get the focus, and the blame, with “Working moms spend less time daily on kids’ diet, exercise, study finds.” The authors state prominently in the  paper’s abstract that these findings “suggest plausible mechanisms for the association between maternal employment and childhood obesity.”

The author actually did concede in a quote that maternal supports are needed and he’s not encouraging women to exit the workforce:

“It’s inaccurate to pin rising childhood obesity rates on women, given that husbands pick up so little of the slack,” cautioned lead author John Cawley, professor of policy analysis and management and of economics at Cornell’s College of Human Ecology.

This is a “what you said vs. what you did” problem. When your research indicates that the time fathers – working or not – spend on activities related to kids’ eating and exercise is in the tens of minutes, while the time mothers – working or not – spend is in the hundreds of minutes, suggesting that moms are to blame shows clear gender bias about expected household activities and contributions to childcare. The whole focus on women’s activities — with men’s as an afterthought — reeks of blaming working women.

So where are the fathers in this study (which focuses only on female/male partnerships)? In a section on “offsetting behavior by husbands/partners,” the researchers concede: “Time allocation decisions may be made jointly to maximize the household’s objective function, implying that some of the decreases in time by mothers may be offset by increases in time by fathers.” They provide multiple citations for the idea that household decisions are made jointly, suggesting that readers need evidence that this is actually true.

Framing the participation of fathers as “offsetting” behavior just emphasizes the biased notion that fathers are naturally secondary players in child care. Yes, we may know from the data that fathers spend less time than mothers on household work and child care. But the researchers’ interpretation of the data suggests and accepts that any potentially adverse events in the children’s health are the result of how working mothers are spending their time. They fail to point to another possible conclusion: that perhaps fathers lack of participation in children’s eating and exercise activities may affect the children’s health.

The authors also find that women tend to spend the most time on these activities when their children are young and less able to do things for themselves. (Note the lack of framing the issue as “women invest considerable effort to ensure care of youngest children,” or “younger children create greater time pressures on working women.”)

Look, I know the study is called “Maternal employment and childhood obesity: A search for mechanisms in time use data.” The researchers intended from the outset to focus on how much women’s working outside the home might be to blame for children’s obesity. But what they found is actually pretty minimal, in terms of the difference between working and non-working mothers, even if it’s statistically significant – 17 fewer minutes cooking, 10 fewer minutes eating with children, and 12 fewer minutes playing with children per day.

And, more importantly, they didn’t actually look at ANY health outcomes for the children involved. The researchers simply propose that these fewer minutes of motherly focus might contribute to childhood obesity.

Have you seen similar examples of gender bias in health research and related media coverage? Share your examples in the comments!

July 2, 2012

How I Talk About Sex With My Kids

By Annie Brewster

My 13-year-old daughter is now in the throes of seventh grade Sex-Ed. Yesterday, while lingering at the table after dinner, just the two of us left, she asked: “Rubbing the clitoris is what makes sex feel good, right?”

I swallowed hard, hesitated for half a second, and then said “Yes. That’s a big part of it.” And the door was open for further discussion. What are the other ingredients of sex that “feel good”?

We have always talked openly about sex and the human body. I am not squeamish on these topics, perhaps in part because I am a doctor, and when my children (now ranging in age from 5 to 15) ask questions, I believe in answering directly and honestly.

My now 13-year-old, a relatively uninhibited and curious child, asked about how babies are made when she was 3. Her favorite book was “It’s So Amazing” by Robie Harris, and she begged me to read it to her over and over again, so I did. She asked questions, and I answered. We talked about the sperm and the egg, the penis and the vagina, and how the sperm and egg meet up (i.e., the penis goes into the vagina), and for a while, we stopped there.

At some point, she discovered my diaphragm in the bathroom drawer, and, more than once, I found her using it as a frisbee. “That’s not a toy,” I would tell her. “That’s mommy’s.”

For a while, that was enough, and she would obediently put it away. It was a few more years before she pressed for more details, and I told her about birth control, after explaining that grown-ups sometimes have sex even when they don’t want to make babies. Now, we have moved on to the clitoris and the concept of pleasure.

In our house, we are not shy about nakedness, or at least I’m not. And I am not ashamed of how my body works. All of my children, at a young age, have watched me change a tampon–not a planned demonstration, but an incidental one–and have asked about what it is I am doing. Why the blood? I want my daughters, and my son, to know that menstruation is a normal, healthy part of growing up for females.

“This is something that happens to teenage girls and women about once a month,” I tell them. “It doesn’t hurt, and it is a good sign that my body is working the way it is supposed to.”

Listen to your body. Love your body. Respect your body, and respect others, too. This is part of my message, and I want my children to hear it, loud and clear.

Research backs me up. A 2009 study on parent-child talks about sex and sexuality found that “more than 40 percent of adolescents had had intercourse before talking to their parents about safe sex, birth control or sexually transmitted diseases.” Time magazine reported on the research noting:

That trend is troublesome, say experts, since teens who talk to their parents about sex are more likely to delay their first sexual encounter and to practice safe sex when they do become sexually active. And, ironically, despite their apparent dread, kids really want to learn about sex from their parents, according to study after study on the topic.

“The results didn’t surprise me,” says Dr. Mark Schuster, one of the authors of the new study, published in Pediatrics, and chief of general pediatrics at Children’s Hospital Boston. “But there’s something about having actual data that serves as a wake-up call to parents who are not talking to their kids about very important issues until later than we think would be best.”

I understand the “sex talk” is tough, and I know not everyone is comfortable with my approach. When I brought home a how-babies-are-made book from the library at age 5, my mother had an uncontrollable laughing fit. When my 13-year-old asked my husband about his own puberty last night, he was embarrassed and slightly stunned.

“What was the hardest thing for you to adjust to in puberty, a) facial hair; b) your voice changing; or c) ejaculation?” she asked.

Hmmm. His initial response was that none of these things were hard (unhelpful, in my daughter’s opinion). But he later came around to “facial hair” because this required a behavior change (i.e., the onset of shaving). Still wanting, my daughter told me about this discussion, and we talked more about the potential challenges of adjusting to change.

Some parents don’t believe that conversations about sex are appropriate for young children, and, understandably, they want to decide when these conversations take place. I respect this, but I am not sure silence is the answer. Sex is everywhere in our society, and kids are going to hear about it one way or another, either from friends or from the media. Isn’t it better for us, as parents, to help them make sense of what they are hearing?

Frankly, I am much more comfortable talking about sperm and egg, penis and vagina with my 5-year-old than I am hearing her parrot the pop song “I’m Sexy and I Know it,” after listening to the radio with her teenage sisters in the car. Disturbing images of “Toddlers in Tiaras” come to mind.

On the one hand, our prudish silence suggests to kids that sex is shameful. On the other hand, the over-sexualized media portrays sex as power. What about everything in between these extremes? What about nuance? As parents, it is our job to help kids interpret what they are hearing, and formulate new definitions. This is an opportunity. Silence isn’t going to shield our children from hearing about sex, in the same way that preaching abstinence isn’t necessarily going to stop teenagers from having sex.

According to a 2009 study in a large urban school district, 12 percent of 12-year-olds had had vaginal sex, 7.9 percent oral sex, 6.5 percent anal sex, and 4 percent all three types of sex. By age 19, 7 in 10 teenagers have had sexual intercourse. Moreover, 15- to 24-year-olds account for nearly half of the 19 million new sexually transmitted infections each year.

And let’s not forget teen sexual violence, and teen pregnancy. Our job is to give kids the tools they need to protect themselves and to make smart choices, and this requires dialogue. Healthy knowledge can be power.

Here’s what I want my children to know: Sex is not shameful. Sex between two mature, consenting, caring (ideally, loving) individuals can be a beautiful thing, but sex is intimate and vulnerable, emotional as well as physical, and should be respected. Sex requires maturity. Listen to your own voice. Trust yourself. Never compromise yourself.

Bottom line: We need to talk to our kids. I am not suggesting parents should give impromptu lectures on sexuality and human development. Rather, we should follow our children’s lead. They will ask the questions when they are ready for the answers.

Annie Brewster is a Boston internist and a former Our Bodies Ourselves board member. This blog entry was previously published at CommonHealth and is reposted with permission.

May 13, 2012

What Mothers Really Want: Right to Care for Family Members and Selves

by Ellen Bravo

My favorite Mother’s day gifts from my sons were their original stories, songs and poems. But what I needed when they were infants and toddlers was something children can’t deliver: affordable time off when they were born and when they were sick.

So for all those candidates and elected officials interested in the women’s vote and eager to prove their support for motherhood and families, here’s a sampling of what mothers want and need, not just one day a year but every day:

The right to care for a sick child or personal illness without losing our paychecks or our jobs. Moms need leaders to actively support the right for workers to earn paid sick days and champion local, state and federal policies that would guarantee this protection. Make sure no one has to choose between being a good parent and being a good employee — and that no one has to serve you flu with your soup.

The right to coverage under the Family and Medical Leave Act. Half of private sector workforce employees aren’t covered by this law because they work for an employer with fewer than 50 workers, haven’t been on the job for at least 12 months or work less than 25 hours a week. Moms need Members of Congress to work to expand FMLA to cover all employees after 90 days of employment.

The ability to afford leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act. Many who are covered under FMLA can’t afford to take the time without pay. As a result, nearly 3 million eligible workers a year who need leave to care for their health or the health of a loved one don’t take it, according to a 2000 Labor Department survey. And nearly 9 percent of those who do (including 20 percent for low-income families) are forced to rely on public assistance to keep food on the table, according to a 1995 Department of Labor report. Moms need leaders to voice their support for policies to create family leave insurance funds like those that are working in California and New Jersey so that caring for a new or seriously ill child doesn’t trigger financial catastrophe.

The right to care for one’s partner regardless of their gender. Being able to marry who you love — and being able to care for one another in sickness as well as in health — shouldn’t be a gift, it should be a right. Moms are glad to see more of our leaders standing up for the rights of all families by supporting marriage equality legislation and bills to expand FMLA access to same-sex partners.

The right to attend children’s school activities. Far too many children in this country never see their mom at a school play or sporting event because employers won’t let them take off work or rearrange their schedules. Mothers need leaders to support the right to use family leave to do what’s best for raising our children.

A recognition that men are parents, have parents and also need time to care. All the policies listed above are gender-neutral. Moms — and dads — need leaders to end on-the-job punishment of men who want to be good fathers, sons and husbands. That will also boost women’s efforts to get men to share the work at home.

This list flows from deeply held American values: that no one should have to risk a job to be a good family member or put a loved one at risk in order to keep a job. Mothers want basic standards that guarantee these rights to everyone.

And candidates, if you don’t believe me, check the polls. More and more voters — from all political perspectives — say they’re more likely to support candidates who’ll make sure family values don’t end at the workplace door, and who understand that for the economy to recover, we need policies like these to help people stay employed and have money to spend at local businesses.

Doing the politically smart thing for moms is also doing the right thing for families and for our nation.

Ellen Bravo directs Family Values @ Work, a network of state coalitions organizing to win paid sick days and paid family leave. The former director of 9to5, National Association of Working Women, Ellen also teaches Women’s Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Her most recent book is “Taking on the Big Boys, or Why Feminism is Good for Families, Business and the Nation” (Feminist Press, 2007).

May 7, 2011

Celebrating All Mothers, Everywhere

Motherhood and Justice: This special series, published at RH Reality Check in partnership with Strong Families, examines various issues at the intersection of justice and motherhood.

Recent stories include: “The Up and Down Journey of Motherhood: Let’s Lift As They Climb,” by Marlene Sanchez; “Supporting Her Journey: A Full-Spectrum Doula’s Look at the Politics of Motherhood,” by Lauren Guy-McAlpin; and “Mother’s Day 2011: Why Reproductive Justice Is a Black Thing,” by Walidah Imarisha.

Strong Families, a project of Asian Communities for Reproductive Justice, is a national initiative to change the way people think, feel and act in support of families. Read more accounts of motherhood at the ACRJ blog, and view some of the amazing stories Strong Families has collected, along with this video:

Beyond Flowers for Mom: Want a new way to honor mothers? How about doing something that saves the lives of women around the world?

Nicholas Kristof writes about the work of Edna Adan, who runs a maternity hospital in Somaliland. The hospital is supported in part by the Friends of Edna Maternity Hospital, who were prompted to get involved by this 1999 article about Adan’s work. From Kristof’s recent column:

On a continent where hospitals are often dilapidated and depressing, Edna’s is modern, sterile and hums with efficiency. She lives in an apartment above the hospital so that she is available 24/7, and she accepts no salary. She also donates her U.N. pension each month to help pay hospital expenses.

So far, the hospital says it has delivered about 10,000 babies, some of them after the woman was rushed to the hospital gate in a wheelbarrow. Edna has also used her hospital to train Somali midwives to serve in remote areas. Training a midwife at Edna’s hospital costs $215 a month for 18 months — and then that midwife will save mothers and babies for many years.

If there’s ever a time when the needless deaths of women in childbirth — one every 90 seconds or so somewhere in the world, according to the United Nations — should be on our radar screen, it’s at Mother’s Day. And we know how to save those lives.

Continue reading for more information about organizations doing great work, such as CARE, Save the Children (see its new report, “State of the World’s Mothers“), the Fistula Foundation and Mothers’ Day Movement — which was was founded by six women who were shocked to learn that $14 billion was spent in the United States in 2010 on Mother’s Day celebrations. They’d like to see a portion of that money donated to spending on programs and services for those in need.

Update to Amnesty Report on Maternal Health Crisis: Amnesty International has released an update to its 2010 report, “Deadly Delivery: The Maternal Health Care Crisis in the USA“ (both are pdf’s) that highlights important new studies and legislative developments.

Visit Amnesty’s section on maternal health is a human right for more information and links, including info about the Maternal Health Accountability Act of 2011.

Over at Human Rights Now, AI’s blog, be sure to read “Why Midwives And Maternal Health Need To Go Hand-In-Hand,” by Jennie Joseph, a midwife in Winter Garden, Fla. Joseph is clinical director of The Birth Place, a full-service midwifery clinic and birth center, and developer of the JJ Way, a midwifery curriculum geared toward eliminating disparities.

She is featured in Christy Turlington Burns’ documentary film “No Woman, No Cry,” which tells the stories of at-risk pregnant women in four parts of the world. “No Woman, No Cry” makes its debut this weekend on the OWN network (as in Oprah’s). One more clip:

Plus: Finally, on a lighter note — what six words describe your mom? The New York Times is hosting a contest. View all submissions and read the rules here. Amid the many joyful descriptions, some are heartbreakingly painful. Here’s one I could really identify with: Clenched teeth: “Deborah Ann, what now?”

May 9, 2010

Congratulations to the Mother of the Decade!

Happy Mother’s Day!

Mother of the Decade

Who does Michelle Obama think should be “Mother of the Decade”? That’s up to you!

Click here to enter the name of a favorite family member or friend, and it will appear in a customizable video. Your mom will make headlines in a faux news story and be featured on a movie marquee. America Ferrara and Hillary Clinton are among the celebrities waiting to offer their congratulations.

*Brought to you by MomsRising, which has been working since 2006 to build a more family friendly America by focusing on issues such as healthcare, paid family leave and fair pay.

April 20, 2010

Nurse, Mother & Friend: Kathleen Ward

View all Women’s Health Heroes. Voting closes May 14. Background info here.

Entrant: Meghan Ward
Nominee: Kathleen Ward, Nurse, Mother, Friend

“God couldn’t be everywhere, therefore He created mothers.” – Yiddish Proverb

Recently, I lost my grandmother after a period of failing health. She passed away in hospice care, in the hospital surrounded by family and friends. I have always believed that it is in times such as those that people’s true character is seen, and it was during this time that I came to know my own mother as a health hero in every sense of the word.

As my grandmother lay in her bed — sick, confused, and not knowing who was with her or what was going on — the one thing that remained constant was my mother’s presence. My mother was the one who sat with my grandmother in the middle of the night, just to hold her hand, making sure that she was comfortable and calm. It was my mother who sacrificed night after night of sleep to be with her in the hospital. It was my mother who recognized if she was in any pain, advocating for her and ensuring her that she was not alone. It was my mother who was with her when she took her last breath.

As my grandmother became sicker, the responsibilities of caring for an elderly relative weighed heavily on my family. However, it was my mother who was there, constantly. It was my mother who visited her in the middle of the night, during snowstorms and times of health crises. It was my mother who brought her dinner and made sure she ate, and it was my mother who was there during times of great sadness and loneliness. It was my mother who took her to the hospital time after time, before her final days. It was my mother who bathed and cleaned her when she could no longer do it herself, and it was my mother who held her when she died.

My grandmother who passed away was my mom’s mother-in-law; however, I believe my mother was more like a daughter than a daughter-in-law to her. Being married to her son, my mother was welcomed into the family by my grandmother, who herself was widowed with five children to raise on her own during the 1960s. Both women — strong, resilient and kind — exemplify the kind of woman I strive to be every day. I am incredibly proud of both my grandmother and my mother, and I feel this nomination as a women’s health hero does not begin to adequately thank my mother for all she done, for me and for my family. I am truly honored to be her daughter.

My mother is many things. She is a nurse, she is a daughter, she is a sister, she is a grandmother, she is a friend, she is a caretaker, and most importantly, she is my hero. She is someone who cares for others whenever they are alone and in need. She is the kind of woman who will simply sit with someone as they die, so they are not alone. She is kind, comforting, caring, selfless, and incredibly strong. She is the kind of woman deserving of the title of health hero, for herself and on behalf of mothers everywhere.

September 23, 2009

“Moms’ Crying Need” for Better Maternity Care

Women’s eNews currently features a piece, Black Infant Mortality Points to Moms’ Crying Need, which outlines the health disparities and systemic forces that stand between Black women and their babies and health. Author Kimberly Seals Allers argues that “If African American, Latino and Native American babies are too often in jeopardy, that means that this country is miserably failing women of color, and black women in particular, in the process of birthing healthy babies.”

She explains:

African Americans have 2.3 times the infant mortality rate as non-Hispanic whites, according to the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control, or the CDC. In 2000, the United States had a national average of 6.9 deaths per 1,000 live births, but the rate among blacks was 14.1 deaths. Compared to non-Hispanic white infants, black babies are four times as likely to die as infants due to complications related to low birth weight, the CDC also said.

Compounding this problem, she writes, is “what isn’t known about black maternal health” including ob/gyns “who aren’t aware that their black patients are at a greater risk during pregnancy, regardless of their socioeconomic status,” and “a woeful lack of research on the racial and ethnic differences affecting certain diseases and their treatment.”

The entire essay is well worth a read.

In addition to the moral or social justice argument for eliminating health disparities, a recent report on the economic burden of these disparities makes a money-saving argument for eliminating them, estimating that doing so “would have reduced direct medical care expenditures by $229.4 billion,” money that some suggest could be used to pay for health reform. HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius reportedly responded to the findings: “There is no question that reducing the health disparities can save incredible amounts of money. But more importantly it saves lives and it makes us a healthier and more prosperous nation.”

The agency released it’s own brief report on health disparities earlier this year, “Health Disparities: A Case for Closing the Gap.

July 27, 2009

Double Dose: The Reproductive Health, Rights and Technology Edition

Before I start a week-long vacation Aug. 3, I’m attempting to clear out my bookmarks by posting several theme round-ups this week.

An Abortion Battle, Fought to the Death: The New York Times takes an in-depth look at the life and work of Dr. George Tiller, and the longstanding battle against him and his abortion clinic that ended with Tiller’s murder in May.

David Barstow writes about Tiller’s committed stance — quoting the doctor as having said: “If a stake has to be driven through the heart of the anti-abortion movement,” he said, “I want to have my hand on the hammer” — and what his death has meant to the abortion debate:

Scott Roeder, an abortion foe with the e-mail name “ServantofMessiah,” awaits trial in the murder. In a jailhouse interview, Mr. Roeder did not admit guilt but told a reporter that if he is convicted, his motive was to protect the unborn, a goal seemingly advanced when the Tiller family closed the clinic. But in the weeks since the killing, supporters and opponents of Dr. Tiller have been measuring the larger ramifications. Implacably divided for so long, they now agree on a fundamental point: Dr. Tiller’s death represents an enormous loss for each side. is still collecting stories. Visit the site or follow on Twitter.

Also, here’s another New York Times story, “The Deadly Toll of Abortion by Amateurs,” which presents these startling statistics:

Worldwide, there are 19 million unsafe abortions a year, and they kill 70,000 women (accounting for 13 percent of maternal deaths), mostly in poor countries like Tanzania where abortion is illegal, according to the World Health Organization. More than two million women a year suffer serious complications. According to Unicef, unsafe abortions cause 4 percent of deaths among pregnant women in Africa, 6 percent in Asia and 12 percent in Latin America and the Caribbean.

this_lonely_life Born Too Soon: Vicki Forman, author of “This Lovely Life: A Memoir of Premature Motherhood,” writes in her new book: “My husband and I had tried for two long years to conceive these twins, had lived through miscarriages and fertility treatments to bear them. When I learned they were coming so early and so fragile, I had only one wish: to let them go.”

Salon interviews Forman about her reaction to delivering twins at 23 weeks, how her wishes conflicted with hospital policy, and the joy and heartache that resulted. Read her story.

Surrogate Pregnancies, the Update: “Much has changed in surrogacy in the two decades since the high-profile Baby M case, in which the surrogate was the baby’s biological mother and unsuccessfully sought custody after the birth,” writes Jane Brody in The New York Times.

“The legal proceedings in that case markedly changed the conversation about the validity of surrogacy contracts. Some states have laws that protect the commissioning parents in surrogate pregnancies. And in a vast majority of surrogate pregnancies today, the surrogate has no genetic link to the baby.”

A Victory, of Sorts: National Advocates for Pregnant Women reports on a New Jersey case involving a question of consent for pregnant women:

Last week, a mid-level court of appeals in NJ avoided deciding the question of whether or not a pregnant woman’s decision-making during labor and childbirth may be the basis for a finding, under state civil child welfare laws, of abuse and neglect. While the decision is a victory of sorts, it nevertheless reveals how extraordinarily unsettled and contested pregnant women’s rights are.

In this case, called New Jersey Division of Youth and Family Services v. V.M. and B.G., In the Matter of J.M.G., (view a pdf of the decision) a woman’s refusal to sign a consent form for cesarean surgery led to hospital interventions and a report of abuse to child welfare authorities. This resulted in a child welfare investigation, the state’s decision to remove the child from her parent’s custody at birth, and a court finding that both parents had committed medical neglect. Ms. M., by the way, would have consented to cesarean surgery when and if it became necessary, never in fact needed cesarean surgery and delivered a health baby, vaginally.

Repeat C-Section, or Vaginal Birth?: Amie Newman reports on the safety and costs of having a vaginal birth after a previous c-section, instead of having a repeat c-section.

“What we know is that, making allowances for the overuse of medical interventions during childbirth, vaginal birth in the United States carries inherently less risk to the mother than c-sections do and can lay the foundation for more choices for future childbirth options as well,” writes Newman. “Now, with this new study, the evidence also suggests that babies born via c-section have poorer health outcomes than do newborns born vaginally.”

Protect Pregnant Prisoners: In May, the New York State Legislature passed an anti-shackling measure prohibiting correctional authorities from using restraints on a pregnant inmate who is in labor and is being transported to the hospital. It’s time for Gov. David Patterson to sign the bill into law.

Here’s one woman’s story, as reported in The New York Times earlier this month:

One day last November, the first shudders of childbirth woke Venita Pinckney before dawn. She was well into her ninth month of pregnancy. She was also incarcerated at Bedford Hills Correctional Facility, a state prison.

Before she left for the hospital, Ms. Pinckney said, a corrections officer wrapped a chain twice around her waist and handcuffed her to it. Then he covered the handcuffs with a locked black box to further limit her range of motion. Finally, her ankles were shackled.

“You can’t walk like a normal human being,” said Ms. Pinckney, 37. “When you’re pregnant, you have a hard time keeping your balance to begin with.”

At least once a week, somewhere in one of New York’s prisons or jails, a pregnant women goes into labor. Nearly all of them, including Ms. Pinckney, are behind bars for drug offenses. Even so, they are often as severely restrained in the final hours of pregnancy as the most nimble and dangerous of criminals. While their bodies heave toward childbirth, they become walking, clanking jail cells.

Continue reading

Later in Life: This Detroit Free Press story about fertility problems and increased health risks for children born to older mothers and fathers quotes Dr. Kristen Wuckert, an ob-gyn at Mission Obstetrics and Gynecology in Warren, Mich., who has seen an increase in the number of older mothers over the years:

“It makes sense that women are waiting longer to start families — college, careers, not meeting the right person earlier in life [...] Another reason women wait is because they can. We have a lot more options, albeit expensive ones, to help in getting pregnant. It has also become more the norm than the exception.

“We see celebrities in their 40s and older doing it — why not us?” she adds.

Why not, indeed — the story presents a sidebar feature on at least seven celebrity “mature mommas.”

July 16, 2009

New Anthology on Mothering & Hip-Hop Culture: Call for Papers

mother_knows_best_anthologyDemeter Press, the publishing division of the Association for Research on Mothering, is seeking submissions for an edited collection on mothering and hip hop to be published in 2011. The editors are Maki Motapanyane and Shana Calixte.

Previously published anthologies by Demeter Press include “Mothering and Blogging: The Radical Act of the MommyBlog,” and “Mother Knows Best: Talking Back to the “Experts.”

Additional upcoming titles focus on intersections of mothering and disability, adoption and identifying as Latina/Chicana. One collection due out in 2010 that I definitely won’t miss: “The Palin Factor: Political Mothers and Public Motherhood in the 21st Century.”

Here’s the call for papers for the new book on mothering and hip hop. Contact information is at the bottom:

Motherhood is an experience that has been ever‑present yet invisible in the global music genre of Hip-Hop. Yet this aspect of women’s experiences within the movement has garnered little or no interest from journalists, writers and scholars of Hip-Hop culture. Nor do we have any understanding of how mothers who remain Hip-Hop enthusiasts negotiate their relationship to the culture of Hip‑Hop and its music with their children.

What are the spaces that motherhood occupies in Hip-Hop? Are there ways of understanding mothering in Hip-Hop along a historical continuum? What are some of the ways that motherhood complicates the very masculinist discourses around hip hop? How can we create an empowered and feminist Hip-Hop mothering, what would it look like and how would it challenge the status quo? How are mothers engaging with Hip-Hop, both locally and globally?

The aim of this collection is to give motherhood within Hip-Hop culture an intellectual point of entry into an existing field of academic debates. Themes that submitted proposals engage may include:

* Hip-Hop histories
* Masculinity
* Misogyny and violence
* Consumerism and capitalism
* The globalization and/or transnationality of Hip-Hop
* Cultural appropriation
* Political subversion
* Cultural diversity
* Feminist mothering
* Heterosexualities
* Queer identities and sexuality
* Aesthetic continuity and change
* Representation and the marketing of identities
* Other themes not mentioned here

We seek both creative and academic submissions that tackle the complex ways in which motherhood and Hip-Hop frame these and other discussions. Abstracts are welcome from a variety of academic disciplines and perspectives.

Abstracts: 250 words in length.
Deadline for Abstracts: August 1, 2009
Papers: 15-18 pages
Deadline for Papers: January 7, 2010

Please submit proposals to: Maki Motapanyane (maki AT and Shana Calixte (scalixte AT

June 16, 2009

Juno’s Alternative Reality: MTV’s “16 & Pregnant”

16_and_pregnantMTV’s new documentary series “16 & Pregnant” makes its debut Thursday, June 18, at 10 p.m. (EST).  The episodes are also available online.

I watched some of episode one; Maci, the mom shown here with her boyfriend, Ryan, and their son, Bentley, is amazing. She basically gives up everything to take on this new responsibility, with little help from Ryan. I was a bit surprised, though, to read her update describing her life now in far more upbeat terms. I’m thrilled for her, of course, but I do wonder if some teenage viewers will be conflicted.

Baltimore Sun critic David Zurawik highly recommends the series and praises the realism: “Parents who don’t go out of their way to see or record this six-week series of profiles of pregnant teenagers are making a big mistake. If you have no other involvement in your kids’ media lives, make them see this.”

Plus: When it comes to sex-ed, who’s the voice of reason?

May 19, 2009

Oprah is Not Your Doctor and Much, Much More

The Double Dose/Political Diagnosis catch-up edition …

Taking Medical Advice From Oprah: In a word, don’t.

Blogging the Common Ground: CNN’s “blogger bunch” discussion on abortion, following President Obama’s speech at Notre Dame, includes our fave Ann Friedman of Feministing and The American Prospect.

Supreme Court Rules 7-2 Against Women Workers: Women whose pension payments are reduced because they took pregnancy-related leave in the 1960s and 1970s, when pregnancy discrimination wasn’t illegal, aren’t entitled to full pension benefits now, the Supreme Court ruled Monday. The women lost an appeal aimed at forcing AT&T to grant compensatory service credits to boost their pensions.

Motherhood, a Discussion: A new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report released this month found that the percentage of children born to unmarried women rose to nearly 40 percent of births in 2007, up from 34 percent in 2002. The New York Times invited five experts to weigh in: Silvia Henriquez, National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health; Stephanie Coontz, Council on Contemporary Families; Corinne Maier, author; Mark Regnerus, sociology professor; and Libertad González Luna, economics professor.

FEMA’s Healthier Housing?: From NPR: The Federal Emergency Management Agency has unveiled new models of temporary housing designed to provide shelter for people displaced by natural disasters. A serious plus: They have been built with as little formaldehyde as possible, unlike the trailers FEMA provided to Hurricane Katrina victims.

New CDC Director: President Obama on Friday appointed New York City Health Commissioner Thomas Frieden as director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Dr. Frieden, a 48-year-old infectious disease specialist, has cut a high and sometimes contentious profile in his seven years as New York’s top health official under Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg,” reports The New York Times. “He led the crusade to ban smoking in restaurants and bars, pushed to make H.I.V. testing a routine part of medical exams, and defended a program that passes out more than 35 million condoms a year.”

Medicaid as a Platform for Heath Reform: Kaiser Family Foundation released a package of research papers last week that examine opportunities for expanding Medicaid to cover more low-income and high-need people in ways that would enable the program to serve as a platform for larger national health reform efforts. The papers were released at a public briefing on Medicaid as a Platform for Broader Health Reform. A webcast of the briefing is available.

Plus: Also from Kaiser — an expert panel examined the global health aspects of Obama’sFiscal Year 2010 budget, including allocations for the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI). The panel, part of KFF’s new “U.S. Global Health Policy: In Focus” live webcast series, also discussed what the next steps are for the budget with Congress. The webcast and podcast is available.

Max Baucus is for Health Care Reform: But Democrats aren’t entirely sure which side the Montana senator and Finance Committee chairman is on, reports Politico. “Baucus puts a premium on bipartisanship, and if he insists on winning more than a handful of Republican votes, the final product could look vastly different than a bill passed through the Senate with only a simple majority.”

Meanwhile, centrist Democrats have raised concerns with House leaders over a health reform bill that includes a public insurance plan that competes with the private insurance market … Hospitals and insurance companies want to reduce the growth of health care spending, but not like that … James Ridgeway wrote earlier in the week at Mother Jones that “the underlying purpose of this PR stunt is to slow or block any meaningful health care reforms, which could actually improve care while reducing the price tag by a lot more than 1.5 percent.” … The Washington Post deconstructs the White House email on health care reform … And Covering Health, the blog of the Association of Healthcare Journalists, asks: Have reporters written off single-payer system?

Single Payer Would Have Been Nice, But …: If the country were building a health care system from scratch, a single-payer system would be the way to go, Obama said in response to a question about single-payer health care at a town-hall style meeting in New Mexico last week. But at this point, with a tradition of employer-based health care already in place, the goal is simply to improve the current system. Here’s the discussion:

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.

November 28, 2008

Double Dose: Surrogacy, Adoption and Privilege; Terror’s Many Forms; Can Some Breast Cancers Go Away on Their Own?; Meet the 5-Year-Old Dribbler …

Her Body, My Baby: Here’s an article sure to spark some discussion about class, privilege and maternal desire. Writing in the Sunday New York Times, Alex Kuczynski explains why – and how — she chose a surrogate mother and describes the relationship that developed between them.

Feminist Lens on Adoption: More on reproductive rights and who has access to those rights … Katie Leo, who was adopted from Korea, writes in Minnesota Women’s Press that her personal story and research on adoption inform her perspective on international adoption: “Could I call myself a feminist and social justice advocate and still adopt? I realized that for me, the answer was no.”

What is Terror for Women?: The fall issue of On the Issues magazine is about violence against women in all its forms. Included are stories on how anti-immigrant fervor translates to terror for women; the violence and stigma that continue to drain abortion patients and providers; and the dangers of giving birth in Somaliland, where maternal mortality rates are high and access to safe care is limited.

There are some inspirational stories as well. Ariel Doughtery looks at how women are using media to tell their own stories and as a vehicle for finding peace and reconciliation.

“To counteract these war horrors, media women armed with video cameras and other media tools have taken up the struggle to bring the women’s stories to larger audiences. They serve as a means of healing, and also as witnesses to the crimes against women,” writes Doughtery.

Plus: Jessica E. Slavin has thoughts about violence against trafficked women, specifically the weaknesses in, and under-utilization of, the T visa program, which was created to provide protection for victims of human trafficking.

Woman Sues Radio Station After “Prize Date” Assaults Her: “A Lake County woman who won a date with a man a radio station called a ‘great’ catch is suing the station for promoting the man, who had a criminal history and allegedly sexually assaulted her on the date she won,” reports the Chicago Tribune. Here’s more from the Daily Herald.

According to the civil suit, Travis Harvey, 46, drugged and raped the 23-year-old woman. Harvey didn’t confess to the rape, but last week pleaded guilty to a criminal sexual abuse charge last week in connection with the assault. He received 24 months probation. According to the woman’s attorney, she didn’t seek medical attention right away so there was no physical evidence to pursue more serious charges.

It’s amazing that the radio station didn’t do a basic background check of Harvey, who had prior felony and misdemeanor convictions for violating domestic violence orders of protection, according to the civil suit. As one friend put it, it’s also amazing that Harvey initiated the contest himself by emailing the station for help getting a date. Hope no one else gets the idea.

A Closer Look at the Healthiest Cities: CDC survey results put Burlington, Vt., at the top of the list of healthiest cities, but a number of other cities are statistically tied for the honor. This L.A. Times story looks at the rankings, as well as the regions where pressure to be thin is tied to looking good (think California) and where there’s a culture of being active (think Boulder, Colo.).

Rate of New Cancer Cases Declines: The rate of new cancer cases is on the decline among Americans for the first time. Less smoking and an increased use of preventative measures is credited.

The findings come from the annual report on cancer produced by the American Cancer Society in conjunction with the National Cancer Institute, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries. Here’s an excerpt from NPR’s coverage:

Part of the decrease in cancer incidence is due to the fact that lung cancer rates among women have leveled off in recent years. Lung cancer incidence among men has been decreasing for several years.

“Everybody’s been waiting for the lung cancer incidence and death rates in women to begin to go down,” says Dr. Michael Thun of the American Cancer Society.

Experts see signs that this is beginning to take place. It might have happened earlier, Thun says, except for something that occurred more than three decades ago: the advent of cigarette brands targeted to young women.

“The big marketing of Virginia Slims that caught the people who were passing through adolescence in the ’60s really boosted smoking rates in that age group,” Thun says.

The decline in the number of  menopausal women taking hormone replacement therapy is partly responsible for the decline in the number of new breast cancer cases. A leveling off the number of mammograms may also be contributing to the decrease, said Thun.

Dr. Tim Byers, a cancer epidemiologist at the University of Colorado, tells NPR the “most striking thing about lung cancer in this report is the enormous variation between states in getting lung cancer and dying from it.”

“One of the questions that this observation raises in my mind is whether or not we should be thinking about the control of tobacco as more of a federal or national program,” said Byers. “Up to now we’ve left it to the states, which is why we’re seeing this enormous state-by-state disparity.”

In separate news, a study published Tuesday in The Archives of Internal Medicine found that breast cancer rates increased in four Norwegian countries after women began undergoing mammograms every two years instead of every six, suggesting that some cancers might have gone away on their own had they not been discovered and treated. Here’s the press release summarizing the study.

Not everyone is convinced by the results, reports The New York Times, but Robert M. Kaplan, chairman of the department of health services at the School of Public Health at the University of California, Los Angeles, said the implications are enormous:

If the results are replicated, he said, it could eventually be possible for some women to opt for so-called watchful waiting, monitoring a tumor in their breast to see whether it grows. “People have never thought that way about breast cancer,” he added.

Dr. Kaplan and his colleague, Dr. Franz Porzsolt, an oncologist at the University of Ulm, said in an editorial that accompanied the study, “If the spontaneous remission hypothesis is credible, it should cause a major re-evaluation in the approach to breast cancer research and treatment.”

Plastic Surgery Procedures Are Down: “Half of plastic surgeons report their practices were down last year,” writes Margaret Morganroth Gullette at Women’s eNews. ”That was before the worst of the recession, so it’s not just a matter of cost or insurers who only cover operations that fix ‘deformities’ or improve healthy functioning.”

From 2004 to 2005, liposuction was down 5 percent; eyelid surgery down 20 percent. Even less-invasive procedures such as microdermabrasion and chemical peels were down in that same time period, by 7 percent and 50 percent respectively, according to the American Society for American Plastic Surgery.

It’s also a matter of growing cultural aversion toward the results. “Scary” is emerging as an increasingly common adjective for the surgeons, procedures and — more frequently — the results.

Meet My New Hero: Milan Simone Tuttle. She plays basketball. She’s 5 years old. And she’s awesome. Milan appeared on the Ellen Degeneres Show on Thursday. Be sure to check out the video below (via Because I Played Sports).

September 20, 2008

Double Dose: Know Any Great Leaders?; Comment on HHS “Conscience Clause”; It’s Not Just About the Rape Kits; Journal Issue Looks at Abstinence-Only Education Programs; World Wide Web of Pesticides; The Price of Beauty …

Nominate a Great Leader: Know an advocate for women who deserves worldwide attention? Women’s eNews has issued a call for 21 Leaders for the 21st Century. Send your nominations to The deadline is midnight on Oct. 6, 2008. Learn about past award recipients here.

Countdown to Conscience Clause Regulation: You’ve heard about the proposed Health & Human Services regulations that would allow federal health officials to withdraw funding from medical providers and services receiving HHS support that do not let employees opt out of providing basic health care — and information — they find objectionable. Now’s your time to act.

Rachel has written extensively about HHS Secretary Michael Leavitt confusing the public (and health experts) with his justification for the regulations — which would affect not only abortion and contraception, but a whole range of health care services — and she wrote a terrific analysis this week at RH Reality Check on the roadblocks Leavitt and HHS have imposed, making it difficult to get information about the rule and delaying the posting of comments for public viewing.

Sen. Hillary Clinton and Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund and Planned Parenthood Federation of America, joined forces this week to write a great op-ed in The New York Times that asked: “The Bush administration argues that the rule is designed to protect a provider’s conscience. But where are the protections for patients?”

The public comment period ends Sept. 25. You can submit your comments directly (although as of this morning the site was done for “planned system maintenance,” scheduled to return at 1 p.m.). Planned Parenthood and the ACLU have both set up customizable comment forms.

And, while you’re at it, you might nominate HHS Secretary Leavitt for Ellen Goodman’s annual Equal Rites Awards.

It’s Not Just the Rape Kits: On the subject of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin approving billing sexual assault victims for the cost of forensic rape examinations when she was mayor of Wasilla, Amie Newman writes: “There is good reason to hunt down the facts about the rape kits.  But the larger issue — of rape, sexual assault and how we deal with violence against women in this country — has been overlooked.”

Stop Me if You Think You’ve Heard This One Before: The September 2008 issue of Sexuality Research & Social Policy reviews federally funded abstinence-only programs and finds — surprise — that such programs don’t delay teens from having sex and their continued use is not warranted.

The articles in this special issue were selected from research presented at a January 2007 conference, “Human Rights, Cultural, and Scientific Aspects of Abstinence-Only Policies and Programs,” sponsored by the Heilbrunn Department of Population and Family Health at Columbia University, with the support of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.

From the introduction:

Taken as a whole, these articles build a strong scientific and human rights case against AOE. Together, they find that the very idea of an abstinence-only approach to sexuality education is scientifically and ethically flawed. Such programs reflect a religious and cultural belief system of socially conservative groups who have attained considerable political leverage at both state and federal levels. AOE programs not only fail the usual public-health standard of program efficacy but also actively restrict lifesaving information and promote misinformation about scientifically accepted public-health strategies such as condom use.

As the articles in this special issue show, science should drive public-health decision making — which, in turn, should inform public policy on health promotion and disease prevention (Koplan & McPheeters, 2004). In the case of AOE, politics and ideology have influenced public health policy and undermined scientific evidence about the best approaches to preventing unwanted outcomes regarding adolescents’ sexual behavior. Science, not ideology, should shape the future of public-health prevention policies for youth.

Plus: Kaiser Family Foundation has released a new fact sheet (the first update since 2006) on sexual health topics facing teens, including general sexual activity; sexual partners and relationships; sex, substance abuse and violence; pregnancy; contraception and protection; STDs; and access to health care services.

World Wide Web of Pesticides: The Center for Public Integrity’s latest investigation, “Wide Web of Pesticides Can Endanger Consumers,” looks at the practice of selling pesticides over the internet, which allows consumers to circumvent regulations meant to protect the public from harmful chemicals.

The dangers of online pesticide sales are many: little accountability on the extent of the practice; lack of training for those who purchase professional grade chemicals online; overexposure to dangerous chemicals and whether they are being properly used. For most states, the lack of resources prevents them from effectively monitoring online pesticide sales. While Colorado, New York, Michigan, Minnesota, California, and Nebraska are recognized as states working consistently to stem illegal Internet sales, many argue that the EPA should be doing more, highlighting the challenge regulators face of trying to control an online global marketplace where buyer and seller often never meet face to face.

This is the second article in the Center’s new series The Perils of the New Pesticides. The first, “A Checkered Past,” looks at the EPA’s flawed efforts to monitor poisonings by pesticides deemed safe. In addition to the excellent coverage, visitors can search pesticide incidents on file with the EPA by state and by year.

“The EPA’s pesticide incident-reporting system has not been public until now. Called one of the ‘Ten Most Wanted Government Documents‘ by the Center for Democracy and Technology, the database was released under the Freedom of Information Act to the Center for Public Integrity in early 2008,” according to the introduction.

Going Greener: “Innovations in designing green chemicals are emerging in nearly every U.S. industry, from plastics and pesticides to toys and nail polish. Some manufacturers of cosmetics, household cleaners and other consumer products are leading the charge, while others are lagging behind,” writes Marla Cone in the L.A. Times.

Part 2 of the series on a greener future looks at industries that remain dependent on hazardous substances.

The Price of Beauty: Having trouble getting a medical appointment with your dermatologist? Have you mentioned that you’re interested in Botox?

“Like airlines that offer first-class and coach sections, dermatology is fast becoming a two-tier business in which higher-paying customers often receive greater pampering. In some dermatologists’ offices, freer-spending cosmetic patients are given appointments more quickly than medical patients for whom health insurance pays fixed reimbursement fees,” writes Natasha Singer in The New York Times.

“In other offices, cosmetic patients spend more time with a doctor. And in still others, doctors employ a special receptionist, called a cosmetic concierge, for their beauty patients.”

Doctors Have Babies, Too: “For the growing number of women entering medicine, becoming a doctor increasingly includes a complication: pregnancy,” writes Liz Kowalczyk in the Boston Globe.

In the last 10 years, most teaching hospitals have adopted maternity leave policies for residents. Even so, new moms face a range of difficulties beyond exhaustion, from time limits placed on maternity leaves by boards that certify physicians in their specialties to resentment from fellow residents who must shoulder extra work while they’re gone. Academic medical centers also feel the pressure when a resident gets pregnant, because they depend on these physicians-in-training to provide most of the round-the-clock care to patients, especially in Massachusetts with its large number of teaching hospitals.

“As far as we’ve come, there still are significant barriers to parenting during residency,” said Dr. Debra Weinstein, vice president for graduate medical education for Partners HealthCare System, the parent organization of Mass. General and the Brigham.

Ain’t I a Mommy?: Great piece at Bitch by Deesha Philyaw, who wonders why with so many motherhood memoirs, so few of them are penned by women of color.

“The absence of black mommy memoirs mirrors the relative absence of black women’s voices in mainstream U.S. media discourse about motherhood in general,” writes Philyaw. “The abundance of ink and airtime devoted to a vocal minority of women promotes the idea that this minority’s experience is somehow universal. Low-income and working-class women, black women, and other women of color don’t see their mothering experiences and concerns reflected in the mommy media machine, and we get the cultural message loud and clear: Affluent white women are the only mothers who really matter.”

Motherhood, Activism and Politics: Writing at The American Prospect Online, Kara Jesella looks at maternalist politics, which have a long history in American culture.