Archive for the ‘Our Bodies Ourselves’ Category

February 28, 2013

Delivery of “Our Bodies, Ourselves” to Members of Congress Launches on Capitol Hill

Erin Thornton, Judy Norsigian, Rep. Jim McGovern, and Christy Turlington Burns

Last fall, following a sex-ed road trip with The Ladydrawers to deliver “Our Bodies, Ourselves” to former Rep. Todd Akin (of “legitimate rape” fame), Our Bodies Ourselves launched Educate Congress, a campaign to deliver the book to all members of Congress and key administration officials.

The basic premise: Everyone deserves access to accurate information concerning women’s reproductive and sexual health — especially those who write the laws.

Today OBOS kicked off delivery of the book, as Judy Norsigian, OBOS executive director and one of the original authors of “Our Bodies, Ourselves,” hand-delivered copies of the newest edition to about 20 legislators and staff members.

The point was made that the problem isn’t just poorly chosen words; rather, a lot more needs to be done to advance evidence-based health policy.

Norsigian walked the halls of Capitol Hill with Christy Turlington Burns, founder of Every Mother Counts, and EMC’s executive director, Erin Thornton. They submitted EMC’s petition to female members of Congress, asking them to support policies that protect the health and well-being of girls and women around the world, especially those that will reduce infant and maternal mortality rates.

Doing this on the day that the House finally passed the Violence Against Women Act made it particularly poignant.

NWHN interns Allyson Reddy and Grace Adofoli with Judy Norsigian and Rep. Chellie Pingree

Thanks to Allyson Reddy and Grace Adofoli, interns at the National Women’s Health Project, the book launch was a success. More books will be delivered in the coming weeks, until every member of Congress has, in their office, up-to-date information they can rely on when drafting bills that have a real impact on girls and women.

A big thank you to the supporters of Educate Congress! And a special shout out to fellow road-trippers Anne Elizabeth Moore, Rachel N. Swanson, Nicole Boyett and Sara Drake; Congress scheduler Christina Knowles; everyone who participated in the making of the Educate Congress video, especially Paul Noble and Anthony Cupaiuolo (bro!); and Malcolm Woods, who helped organize the Educate Congress launch at the National Press Club and kept the word going on Twitter (with the aid of “The West Wing” staff). All of you made this happen!

Erin Thornton, Christy Turlington Burns (holding the film “No Woman, No Cry”) Rep. Gary Peters, Judy Norsigian, Allyson Reddy, and Grace Adofoli


February 26, 2013

Women’s History Makers: “Our Bodies, Ourselves”

Boston Women s Health Book Collective MAKERS

Makers: Women Who Make America,” the PBS/AOL documentary, debuts tonight on PBS at 8 p.m. (check local listings). If you’re on Twitter, join the discussion during the broadcast at #MAKERSchat.

Narrated by Meryl Streep, the film covers the last 50 years of the women’s movement — the accomplishments and setbacks that followed the publication of “The Feminine Mystique.”

“Most of us have seen the old television commercials before, those 1950s ads that marketed products by telling women how stupid and disappointing they were. So, in the beginning, this program feels like old news (one generation has seen it all before, and the other doesn’t care), but the narrative quickly comes together and still has the power to astound,” writes Anita Gates in The New York Times.

Extended Interviews Online
“Our Bodies, Ourselves” founders Judy Norsigian and Miriam Hawley were interviewed for Makers about the medical and social conditions that prompted a group of women to research, publish and distribute their own findings on women’s health and sexuality. Their interviews are available online.

“You have to understand that back in the late 60s, 98 percent of OB-GYNS were male. About 90 percent of all physicians were male. There was a tremendous amount of condescencion and paternalism,” says Norsigian, who is also executive director of the organization Our Bodies Ourselves.

“I remember one doctor saying to me, dear dear, you’re a smart intelligent woman — you ought to have more children,” says Hawley, later noting, “I kept saying we’re going to sell a million copies. And people kept laughing till we did.”

Produced by filmmakers Dyllan McGee, Betsy West and Peter Kunhardt, the Makers website proclaims to have the largest video collection of women’s stories. It is quite a mix. Browse through the offerings and you’ll find author Alice Walker, food pioneer Alice Waters, racecar driver Danica Patrick, artist/architect May Lin, comic creator Cathy Guisewite, actress Rita Moreno, former college president Ruth Simmons, and coal miner Barbara Burns, who fought sexual harassment in the workplace.

And, of course, Gloria Steinem.

And, suprisingly, Phyllis Schlafly.

Women’s Health Activism
Some of our colleagues in health activism are featured, including Susan Love, who discusses innovative breast cancer research as well as her own coming out story:   “Living out loud really allows you to be who are and to get into the work you need to do as opposed to spending a lot of time trying to protect yourself.”

Byllye Avery, founder of the Black Women’s Health Project (now the Black Women’s Health Imperative) and co-founder of Raising Women’s Voices, discusses access to abortion and opening a women’s health clinic in Florida — and working to “de-medicalize” the interior with shag carpeting, posters on the ceiling, and pot holders on the stirrups (to eliminate the chill). She also addresses the importance of community and self-care on multiple levels.

“Once you can get the emotional stuff straight, then you can start talking about the body,” says Avery. “Because if I’m worrying about someone coming home and beating me, I’m hardly thinking about I haven’t had a pap smear in five years.”

Sharing personal stories, Avery reminisces about her late husband, who died suddenly of a heart attack in 1970. Before his death, he recommended “The Feminine Mystique,” which he thought she would appreciate.

“I hated that I didn’t read it before he died so we could have had some discussions, ’cause I could have confronted him about the dishes,” she said.

New Voices, New Issues
Makers.com is a historian’s treasure trove, yet it also covers history in the making with the inclusion of younger women like media creator Tavi Gevinson, editor of Rookie magazine (Gevinson praised the new “Our Bodies, Ourselves“), feminist organizer Shelby Knox, and youth organizer Maritza Alarcón, whose energy about her work is infectious.

The Makers blog has pulled together quotes around timely themes, such as “5 Views on Job Flexibility” and “5 Views on Women in Film– Past, Present and Future.”

One of Norsigian’s online interview segments addresses finding support, and she concludes with this advice:

“Don’t go it alone, if possible. Get in place the kinds of friends and families around you that will make it possible to be a good parent, a good co-worker, and to contribute to the community around you. I think it’s important that we find space to be part of a larger community, that we don’t just see ourselves as part of a nuclear family.”

Updated to reflect that the OBOS interviews are available online and not in the film itself.


December 13, 2012

Our Bodies Ourselves Goes to Nepal: Women’s Health Activists Discuss Cross-Border Surrogacy

Women in Udaipur, eastern Nepal with WOREC founder Dr. Renu Rajbhandari (far left) and the OBOS Nepali booklets to which they contributed. Photo / Judy Norsigian

In early October, I had the honor of co-leading a workshop in Kathmandu on the growing popularity of cross-border surrogacy arrangements with two colleagues from the New Delhi-based Sama Resource Group for Women and Health and Dr. Renu Rajbhandari, founder of the Women’s Rehabilitation Centre (WOREC).

Already a booming business in India, where estimates suggest that 25,000 couples a year travel to arrange surrogacy contracts and there are about 1,000 surrogacy centers, this practice is soon expected to extend to Nepal, where poor women with limited economic opportunities will likely be attracted by the prospect of earning money by bearing children for others.

In some parts of India, women are now offered fees ranging from $5,000 to $7,000, amounts that represent up to 10 years of earnings for people in rural areas.

The workshop, hosted by WOREC, OBOS’s global partner in Nepal, brought together women’s right activists from across the country to better understand the growing market in cross-border reproductive health care, its implications for Nepal, and the most effective strategies to educate and empower women.

Surrogacy Legislation in India
Participants included two nurses from the Kathmandu-based IUI (intrauterine insemination) clinic, several health counselors, a psychosocial counselor for women with fistulas, a family planning coordinator, the editor of a quarterly women’s magazine, several members of Women’s Human Rights Defenders, a nursing professor, an advocate with Save the Children, and a staff person from a rural women’s radio station in eastern Nepal. Languages used during the workshop were primarily Hindi and Nepali, with English translation offered as needed.

Sarojini and Preeti, our colleagues at Sama, provided an excellent overview of surrogacy in India, including a description of assisted reproductive technology (ART) legislation now being hotly debated in Parliament. One provision in the controversial bill would require that a woman entering into a contract surrogacy agreement undergo an embryo transfer rather than be inseminated with the intended father’s sperm.

Since insemination would be much safer, many workshop participants felt that a choice should be offered. An embryo transfer places the woman at greater risk by exposing her to powerful hormones that prepare her body for the pregnancy and to surgical procedures required to physically transplant the embryo into her uterus.

The proposed law assumes that a woman using her own eggs will be more likely to change her mind at birth and decide she wants to keep the baby than a woman who becomes pregnant with an embryo created with another woman’s eggs. There is poor evidence to support this assumption.

Participants at the Kathmandu workshop on cross-border surrogacy arrangements.

Preparation in Nepal
By their very nature, commercial surrogacy arrangements are created by contracting couples and agencies whose primary interests typically do not reflect the needs and concerns of women recruited as gestational mothers.

This is why groups like Sama and WOREC are advocating for public policies that will protect gestational mothers and ensure they receive evidence-based information about risks and benefits in a manner they fully understand. Policies must also ensure follow-up care and effective recourse if things go wrong.

The women at the workshop want to be better prepared in case a similar bill is introduced in Nepal. Sarojini, Preeti and I shared practical information about the various ART techniques involved in surrogacy and explored, with our Nepali colleagues, ways to preserve the health and rights of women agreeing to be surrogates. Most participants were quite unfamiliar with the whole topic of ARTs and asked many questions about the medical, social and economic impacts.

Why Language Matters
We also screened two documentary films about surrogacy – Made in India, by New York City-based filmmakers Vaishali Sinha and Rebecca Haimowitz, and Would Like to See Baby Bump Please, a new film just released in India by Sama — and discussed the importance of using language sensitive to all the parties involved in a surrogacy arrangement.

For example, the term “reproductive tourism” carries the image of couples vacationing in their pursuit of parenthood. In most cases, these trips are stressful and a far cry from the typical tourist experience. Using alternative language such as “cross-border commercial surrogacy” is one way to avoid such innuendo.

Similarly, referring to a gestational mother as a “surrogate mother” or “gestational carrier” can belittle and objectify her central role as the woman carrying a pregnancy for nine months and then giving birth. Many at the workshop preferred the descriptive, less diminishing term “gestational mother.”

At the end of the workshop, we developed a number of recommendations for moving forward.

Meeting Local Activists
After the workshop, I traveled with Renu to Udaipur in eastern Nepal, where she introduced me to many younger women at the WOREC center, including some who contributed to WOREC’s set of six Nepali health booklets, recently adapted from Our Bodies, Ourselves.

I also visited a group of young women who are the sole staff for a radio station in Udaipur, where egg cartons provide the sound proofing in their recording studio. They frequently address women’s health topics in their programming and invite community conversations about sexuality, domestic violence and the environment.

Although I had met Renu briefly when she traveled to Boston for OBOS’s 40th anniversary symposium in 2011, the many hours of chatting while we drove over mountainous terrain cemented a special friendship I now treasure. I have a new appreciation of her remarkable leadership over the past several decades and was deeply impressed by her efforts to pass the torch to a younger generation.

A trip to a fairly remote mountain village was particularly inspiring. The women had successfully lobbied for village development council funds to create a small multipurpose women’s center. Though a bit run-down, it was getting a lot of use and clearly a sign of how effective some women’s groups have been over the past decade.

The provisional constitution for the country still has not passed, but its contents – including funding for legal abortion – offer great hope for the future of women’s reproductive rights and justice in Nepal.

This article was originally published in the winter 2012/2013 Our Bodies Ourselves newsletter. View the full newsletter.


December 13, 2012

From Prevention to Palliative Care: Changing the Face of HIV/AIDS Outreach in Rural Nigeria

By Eyitemi Mogbeyiteren

In 2011, three members of our outreach team were kidnapped in the Delta State of Nigeria. We were held captive for several weeks, during which we were repeatedly raped, and only released after a ransom was paid to the kidnappers. Soon after, we learned that all three of us had tested positive for HIV.

My name is Eyitemi Mogbeyiteren, and I work with Women for Empowerment, Development and Gender Reform. Our goal is to ensure that poor grassroots women in the South-West region of rural Nigeria have information on their bodies and health, adapted from the trusted book Our Bodies, Ourselves, so they make choices that protect their reproductive and sexual needs and dignity.

HIV is rarely talked about in our community, and people living with the virus are inevitably discriminated against and cast out by their friends and family. Over the years, our organization has worked hard to unravel myths about the virus — its transmission, prevention and treatment — and fight the terrible stigma and isolation faced by those infected.

But as more people become ill, we continue to see families despair and grieve as their loved ones die without medicines, care and support. Drugs cost approximately $15,000 per person in my community — an amount that is beyond the grasp of many people!

After being diagnosed, I experienced a lot of the same discrimination and isolation. I was shunned in my community and my family stopped speaking to me for a long time. With my own health failing, there were many moments when I felt I could not live, could not stand people saying things about me.

It felt like the end of the road, until I decided to raise my voice and change the fear and shame into something positive.

We are now expanding our HIV/AIDS outreach to include palliative care — care that relieves not only the physical but also the emotional, spiritual and socially generated suffering faced by a person infected with the virus. It is one of the most valuable services that can be offered to someone with terminal illness and their family. Unfortunately, it’s availability in my community is zero!

Using Our Bodies, Ourselves as our tool yet again, our plan is to train ourselves on this holistic and critical model of care, and bring our services to our women via support groups and home visits. We will also develop a training manual for other caregivers, including family and community health workers, so they can comfort their loved ones and clients.

And, to get word out, we will organize an “itinerant exposition” on board a bus. This vehicle — our Anti-Rape, Anti-Kidnap and HIV/AIDS Bus — will carry 12 activists around the country for 18 months, unleashing our materials, our knowledge and our passion. It will allow us to serve women beyond our community, to empower them with information on HIV/AIDS and self-defense skills to protect them from rape and kidnap.

And if we are able to raise the funds, we will distribute the drugs needed to prolong life — drugs that are the right of every human being to access, drugs that are impossible to find in my community.

OBOS is assisting Eyitemi and her colleagues at WEDGR with strategies, promotion and in-kind donations, and by generating funds for this critical work. If you would like to help with this effort, contact Ayesha Chatterjee at ayesha AT bwhbc.org.

This article was originally published in the winter 2012/2013 Our Bodies Ourselves newsletter. View the full newsletter.


December 11, 2012

Lies Straight From the Pit of Hell and Other Comments on Biology and Women’s Health

“All that stuff I was taught about evolution and embryology and the Big Bang Theory … all that is lies straight from the pit of Hell.”

“If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

Comments like these are what spurred us to create Educate Congress, a campaign to deliver “Our Bodies, Ourselves“ to every member of the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate. Because these comments really were spoken by members of Congress.

And that’s not the only problem. Misinformation is too often used as the basis for crafting bad policy, which is why we’re working to show how Congress can advance evidence-based reproductive health policy, based on science and fact. Reproductive health policy pertains to issues such as birth control, abortion, breast and ovarian cancers, the effects of environmental toxins on women’s health and fetal development, and more.

We’re into our final countdown, with just eight days left to reach our goal of raising $25,000 to deliver books to every member of Congress and key members of the administration and government agencies whose work involves health care policy.

You can select a specific representative or senator to receive the book or donate to the general fund. There are great perks to show our thanks, including stickers, tote bags, signed copies of “Our Bodies, Ourselves” by OBOS founders and Gloria Steinem, and a signed Legitimate Road Trip poster commemorating the drive from Chicago to St. Louis with The Ladydrawers to rush sex-ed materials to Rep. Todd Akin.

Please help us reach our goal — because, really, doesn’t everyone deserve access to comprehensive sex-ed?


December 10, 2012

PBS American Voices: Our Bodies, Ourselves and the History of the Women’s Health Movement

Watch American Voices: Our Bodies Ourselves on PBS. See more from Need To Know.

The most recent episode of the PBS news show “Need to Know” featured an excellent yet disturbing segment about state legislatures slashing funding to women’s health clinics.

Mona Iskander looks at the effects this is having on women — particularly low-income women — and their ability to obtain birth control, STI screenings, and other reproductive health care services. Our own Judy Norsigian, OBOS’s founder and executive director, weighs in at the end about women’s health activism.

As part of the show’s online series “American Voices,”  Judy covers the beginnings of the women’s health movement in the United States and the launch of “Our Bodies, Ourselves.” She discusses the long history of denying women access to services as well as information about their bodies, and notes the effects of so many years of misinformation:

Over the years, we saw repeated attacks on good sex education. So much so that we then ended up with federally funded abstinence-only sex education in many of our schools. And the damage done there is still showing, well into the 21st century. I’ve met professors at medical schools who have said incoming medical students have said that using condoms promotes HIV/AIDS. And that comes straight from their abstinence only sex education in high school.

Watch the video above (just 3.5 minutes) for a look at how hard women have worked to ensure access to accurate, evidence-based information, and why it’s more important than ever  that politicians use this information when setting health care policy.

Want to help educate Congress? Send a copy of “Our Bodies, Ourselves” to your favorite representative or senator. It makes a great holiday gift!


December 7, 2012

Judy Norsigian on PBS “Need to Know”: Women’s Health in Texas

As attacks on women’s access to reproductive health care continue, some states are slashing their budgets for family planning clinics.  The PBS news show “Need To Know“ examines the effects of these cuts on women in Texas.

The episode features Our Bodies Ourselves Executive Director Judy Norsigian, who offers an historical perspective of the fight for women’s reproductive freedom.

The episode airs today and tomorrow on various PBS stations. Click here to find your local station and air times. Here’s the full summary:

Need to Know examines how the Texas legislature has slashed funding to family planning programs because conservative lawmakers believe these programs may encourage women to get abortions.

Anchor Scott Simon interviews Pam Belluck, a health and science writer for The New York Times, who looks at what’s happening to these programs in other states.

And from “American Voices,” Judy Norsigian, one of the authors of “Our Bodies, Ourselves,” provides an historical account of women’s health policy debates over the past 40 years.


November 19, 2012

What Do You Want Congress to Know About Women’s Bodies & Health?

We’ve been amazed by — and grateful for — the comments left by supporters of the Educate Congress campaign about why the site matters to them and what they want Congress to know about reproductive and sexual health.

During the recent election cycle it became all too apparent that there is a *lot* that some members still need to learn. Speaking from my experience, I want Congress to understand more about the science behind conception. Rep. Paul Ryan was a co-sponsor last year of HR 212, the Sanctity of Human Life Act, which states that “human life shall be deemed to begin with fertilization.”

I’m hoping members of Congress will stop proposing “personhood” legislation that would potentially ban some forms of contraception, such as the birth control pill, and threaten the health of women and their families in numerous ways (see this fact sheet from the Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice, a group that formed to fight personhood legislation in that state).

What do you think Congress should know about women’s bodies and health?

Tell us what you  think Congress should know when you join our campaign to Educate Congress. It can be something based on your health, the health of a family member or friend, or a community need or policy change.

Then make sure to share your message here on the blog, post it on our Facebook page, or tweet it using the hashtag #EducateCongress.

Our Bodies Ourselves has long believed that women’s stories and experiences inform what we know about women’s health. Who better to educate Congress than all of us?


November 2, 2012

Indiegogo Promotes Educate Congress Campaign!

En Español

Indiegogo homepage

We are over-the-moon thrilled today to announce that Indiegogo is featuring the Educate Congress campaign on its homepage. What an honor for Our Bodies Ourselves!

A huge thanks to all our supporters for donations and driving attention to our efforts — all of you helped to rock the gogofactor!

More good news: we’re also almost one-third of the way to our goal of $25,000! Think we can reach 40 percent this weekend? With your help, we may make it!

There’s no shortage of reasons to educate Congress, starting with the most blatant and insulting comments about rape, abortion, and women’s health that legislators and political candidates just can’t seem to stop making (welcome to the club, John Koster).

We’re also concerned about numerous policy issues and legislation affecting reproductive health that don’t reflect evidence-based information. As one supporter wrote:

As a registered nurse in community health I know how vital accurate information is. … Join me to improve public health by educating our most vulnerable and underserved congressional representatives!

Another shared why he’s backing Educate Congress:

I am particularly pleased to support this cause because I am male, and I want to make it clear to those who would consider this a self-serving cause for females that enlightened males recognize how much “Our Bodies, Our Selves” contributes to the well-being of all humans, regardless of gender.

You can view more messages and add your own by clicking the comments tab at Educate Congress. We’re so grateful for the enthusiasm we’re getting from all corners — including Indiegogo!

 *******

Indiegogo Promueve Nuestra Campaña para educar al Congreso!

Hoy estamos muy emocionadas por anunciar que el sitio Indiegogo tiene nuestra campaña de Educate Congress (Educar al Congreso) (enlace en inglés) en su página principal.  ¡Que gran honor para Our Bodies Ourselves!

Queremos agradecer a todos aquello/as que nos han apoyado. Gracias por sus donaciones y por atraer atención hacia nuestros esfuerzos. ¡Todo/as ustedes nos ayudaron a llegar tan lejos!

Más buenas noticias: ¡Ya tenemos casi un tercio de nuestra meta de $25,000! ¿Crees que podamos llegar a 40% este fin de semana?  ¡Con tu ayuda, si podemos!

No hay falta de razones para educar al Congreso, empezando por los insultos más obvios sobre las violaciones, el aborto, y la salud de las mujeres que los legisladores y candidatos políticos no paran de decir (bienvenido al club, John Koster).

También estamos preocupadas sobre el gran número de políticas y leyes sobre la salud reproductiva que no reflejan información basada en buena evidencia. Como ha dicho una persona que nos apoya:

Siendo una enfermera de salud comunitaria entiendo lo importante que es la información. ¡Unete a mi para mejorar la salud pública educando a aquellos que son más vulnerables y a representantes del congreso que no se merecen su puesto!

Otro seguidor compartió porque él también apoya nuestros esfuerzos:

Me gusta esta causa particularmente porque soy hombre, y quiero que sea claro para aquellos que consideran que esta es una causa exclusiva para mujeres que hay hombres cultos que reconocen cuanto “Our Bodies Ourselves” contribuye al bienestar de todos los humanos, sin tener en cuenta el género.

Puedes ver mas mensajes y añadir uno si haces click en los comentarios de Educate Congress. Estamos muy agradecidas por todo el entusiasmo por todos lados – incluyendo Indiegogo!


October 31, 2012

What’s Scarier, Creepy Cats or an Uneducated Congress? Take the Quiz!

by Rachel Walden & Christine Cupaiuolo

This Halloween, ask yourself: Which is scarier — Furry creatures that scamper in the night? Or a Congress ignorant of how reproduction and women’s bodies work?

Unsure? Take a quick quiz to find out which frightens you more!

1. (A) Possessed Vampire Kitty

Possessed Vampire Kitty

OR

(B) Legislators claiming that pregnancy from “legitimate rape” is really rare because women’s bodies can just “shut that whole thing down,” and suggesting that pregnancies resulting from rape are “something that God intended to happen.”

2. (A) Golden-Eyed Vampire Kitty

Golden-Eye Vampire Kitty

OR

(B) A member of Congress believing that thanks to ”modern technology and science, you can’t find one instance” of abortion being necessary to protect the health or save the life of the mother.

3. (A) Fork-Tongued Vampire Kitty

Forked Tongue Vampire Kitty

OR

(B) Forcing women to undergo unnecessary and medically unwarranted procedures,  such as a transvaginal ultrasound, in order to obtain an abortion [HR 3805]. (If you’re in Pennsylvania and you don’t want to view the images, just close your eyes!)

4. (A) Lord Cattula

Lord Cattula

OR

(B) Holding a Congressional hearing on contraception with no women present?

From left, Reverend William E. Lori, Roman Catholic Bishop of Bridgeport, Conn., Reverend Dr. Matthew C. Harrison, President, The Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, C. Ben Mitchell, Graves Professor of Moral Philosophy Union University, Rabbi Meir Soloveichik, Director Straus Center of Torah and Western Thought, Yeshiva University and Craig Mitchell, Associate Professor of Ethics of the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, testify on Capitol Hill. | AP Photo


If you consistently selected “B,” then you’re more scared of misinformed policy and inaccurate statements about how women’s bodies work!

What can you do to change the conversation and protect yourself from misinformation? Join the Educate Congress campaign!

We’re delivering copies of “Our Bodies, Ourselves” to every senator and representative so they have access to accurate, evidence-based information about reproductive health — and you can be part of this important effort.

Because nothing is more scary than legislators drafting policy that harms women — not even Meow Mix …


Credit: Cat photos

1. Possessed Vampire Kitty / Opacity on Flickr
2. Golden-Eyed Vampire Kitty / Digidave on Flickr
3. Fork-Tongued Vampire Kitty / mohd fahmi on Flickr
4. Lord Cattula / sgatto on Flickr

 


October 29, 2012

She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry: New Documentary on History of the Women’s Movement

A new documentary, “She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry,” chronicles the history of the women’s movement from 1966 to 1972, including the genesis of Our Bodies Ourselves, the founding of NOW, and other historical milestones.

The filmmakers are running a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds to finish the project, and have a little more than a month to go. Check it out to learn more about the project and consider supporting their efforts.

The creators note that the film doesn’t aim to romanticize the women’s movement and will cover controversies “over race, sexual orientation and leadership that arose.”

Here’s a clip with the founders of Our Bodies Ourselves talking about their perspectives on women’s health and women’s bodies more than 40 years ago. Included is a discussion of their first women’s health course, organized when they were in their 20s, and turning their collective knowledge into a book. (Neat fact: the first version they distributed was run off on a copying machine, making it perhaps the first zine ever.) The clip includes lots of images from the early editions. of “Our Bodies, Ourselves.”

 


October 22, 2012

Why We Need to Educate Congress

Should medical associations really have to correct members of Congress?

As recent events have shown, clearly they do. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) has issued two statements in the past two months correcting false information about pregnancy and abortion that was promoted by elected officials.

In late August, ACOG responded to Rep. Todd Akin’s comment, “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down,” that sparked the Missouri Sex-Ed Road Trip. ACOG said his comments were “medically inaccurate, offensive, and dangerous.”

Then on Saturday, ACOG responded to Rep. Joe Walsh’s comment that thanks to “modern technology and science, you can’t find one instance” where an abortion was required to save the life of a mother.

ACOG refuted Walsh, noting: “In fact, many more women would die each year if they did not have access to abortion to protect their health or to save their lives.”

Unfortunately, these legislators’ blatant misrepresentations of women’s bodies, while extreme, highlight a larger, more universal problem: Policies and legislation related to women’s reproductive health are not always based on accurate, evidence-based information.

That’s what spurred us to create Educate Congress , a campaign to deliver “Our Bodies, Ourselves” to every member of the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate. We’ve raised over $3,000 — more than 10 percent of our goal — in just the first few days.

Today at 1 p.m. , the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., is hosting a Newsmaker event to announce this effort and to discuss the central importance of evidence-based reproductive health policy in women’s lives.

Speakers include Judy Norsigian, OBOS’s founder and executive director; Erin Thornton, who is representing Every Mother Counts (Christy Turlington, EMC’s founder, was scheduled to be here but can’t make it — we’ll miss her!); and Vivian Pinn, the former director (now retired) of the Office of Research on Women’s Health at the National Institutes of Health.

Diana Zuckerman, president of the National Research Center for Women & Families, and Cindy Pearson, executive director of the National Women’s Health Network, will also be available to answer questions about what Congress can do to improve women’s health.

We prepared a fact sheet showing how Congress can advance evidence-based reproductive health policy — the full list of recommendations is available at OurBodiesOurselves.org/congress-fact-sheet.asp.

Let us know what other issues you’d like to see Congress take on, using the best evidence-based information available. Leave your comments and we’ll share them on Facebook and Twitter. We’re all in it together to keep members of Congress from saying — and doing — anything else that hurts women.


August 30, 2012

Our Bodies, Our Votes: Protecting Women’s Access to Reproductive Health Services

Our Bodies Our Votes

Judy Norsigian, OBOS executive director, wrote the lead article today in Cognoscenti, a new public opinion space at WBUR, Boston’s NPR’s station, that aims to foster conversations about issues that matter.

And what matters right now? Women’s access to reproductive health services.

In her column titled “Our Bodies, Our Votes,” Judy discusses the unprecedented level of attacks on women’s access to care. She points to recently enacted laws that restrict abortion and contraception and addresses the importance of defeating attempts to rescind the Affordable Care Act, which benefits millions of women by mandating that insurance companies cover preventive health care, including birth control, without additional co-pays.

For many of us who have been working in women’s health for decades, it is both surreal and discouraging to bear witness to these recent setbacks. What can we do, especially in this critical election year, to reverse these trends and to preserve the gains established in the ACA? We can start by making people, especially young people, aware of the increasing threats to women’s health and family planning.

Head over to Cognoscenti to read the rest. Then find out what you can do to help protect women’s reproductive rights at OurBodies,OurVotes.com.


June 27, 2012

“Our Bodies, Ourselves” Part of Library of Congress’s “Books that Shaped America” Exhibit

The original edition of “Our Bodies, Ourselves” has been named one of the Library of Congress’s “Books that Shaped America,” a list of important works “intended to spark a national conversation on books written by Americans that have influenced our lives.”

As the LoC press release describes:

In the early 1970s a dozen Boston feminists collaborated in this groundbreaking publication that presented accurate information on women’s health and sexuality based on their own experiences. Advocating improved doctor-patient communication and shared decision-making, “Our Bodies, Ourselves” explored ways for women to take charge of their own health issues and to work for political and cultural change that would ameliorate women’s lives.

If you’ll be in Washington, DC between June 25th and September 29th of this year, there will be an accompanying exhibit, part of a multi-year “Celebration of the Book.”

OBOS fans everywhere can complete the LoC’s survey about the list, your chance to pick OBOS from the list as a book that shaped America and personally touched your life.

To learn more about our history, check out this page and accompanying timeline. We also encourage fans of the work to check out our latest, 40th anniversary edition!


June 25, 2012

Our Bodies, Our Votes: Fight Back Against Lawmakers Restricting Women’s Access to Reproductive Health Care

Our Bodies, Our Votes photo submissionAs OBOS readers are all too aware, politicians have consistently prioritized their own agendas over women’s health — and never more so than in the past couple of years. With lawmakers stepping up efforts to impose severe restrictions on contraception and the full range of reproductive health services, a woman’s access to basic health care in the United States is not guaranteed.

Our Bodies Ourselves is responding to these attacks with a national education campaign — Our Bodies, Our Votes — that urges everyone to use their political power to thwart attacks on women’s reproductive rights and access to essential health services.

We hope you’ll join us and spread the word! Here’s a handy press release in an easy-to-share format, and if you’re on Twitter use #obov2012.

We’re kicking off the campaign with:

* Our Bodies, Our Votes bumper stickersorder stickers here for a minimal donation to OBOS (3 stickers for $10!).

* A Tumblr site, OurBodiesOurVotes.Tumblr.com, where people can post photos of Our Bodies, Our Votes stickers appearing across the country.

* A new websiteOurBodiesOurVotes.com, with information on contraception and abortion, along with resources on reproductive health and justice.

Our Bodies, Our Votes photo submissionThe uptick in laws affecting women’s health isn’t only frustrating patients. As Rachel noted earlier today, physician and abortion provider Deborah Oyer has a letter in The New England Journal of Medicine — “Playing Politics with the Doctor–Patient Relationship” — that outlines how laws restricting abortion access threaten the relationship between doctors and patients.

It’s a point Marcia Angell, former editor-in-chief of The New England Journal of Medicine, made in today’s press release announcing Our Bodies, Our Votes:

Requiring doctors to perform procedures that are not medically indicated, or to provide false information about medical evidence, violates women’s rights and leaves doctors with an untenable dilemma: Violate state law, or betray their professional obligations to patients.

At OurBodiesOurVotes.com, we’ve compiled historical and current information about abortion and contraception, including helpful phone numbers and resources. And there are a number of news organizations and advocacy groups listed that provide smart coverage and analysis of reproductive health issues.

Tell us what you think! We welcome your involvement in making Our Bodies, Our Votes a campaign for change.