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.
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?
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!
(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
(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!)
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 …
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
As 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 stickers — order stickers here for a minimal donation to OBOS (3 stickers for $10!).
* A new website, OurBodiesOurVotes.com, with information on contraception and abortion, along with resources on reproductive health and justice.
The 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.
BarbaraSeaman, co-founder of the National Women’s Health Network, noted feminist, women’s health activist, and author, died in 2008, but her work advocating for women’s health remains as an influence and inspiration.
Seaman’s influential works include her 1969 book, “The Doctors’ Case against the Pill,” which led to Congressional hearings on oral contraception and ultimately to the labeling of birth control pills, and her 2003 book, “The Greatest Experiment Ever Performed on Women: Exploding the Estrogen Myth,” an important work on estrogen use and misuse.
A new book, “Voices of the Women’s Health Movement,” edited by Seaman with Laura Eldrigde, has just been published. The book, the second in a two-part series, includes classic essays and contemporary works on topics including birth control, pregnancy and birth, aging and menopause, abortion, LGBT health, sex, mental health, chronic illness, violence against women, and body image. The role of the Boston Women’s Health Book Collective and Our Bodies, Ourselves in the women’s health movement is also addressed.
The book features more than 200 contributors, including Jennifer Baumgardner, Susan Brownmiller, Phyllis Chesler, Angela Davis, Barbara Ehrenreich, Germaine Greer, Shulamith Firestone, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Erica Jong, Molly Haskell, Shere Hite, Susie Orbach, Judith Rossner, Alix Kates Shulman, Gloria Steinem, Sojourner Truth, Rebecca Walker, and many others, including Seaman herself.
Library Journal called it “a valuable work for anyone interested in the women’s health movement.” OBOS co-founder Judy Norsigian adds, “Barbara was one of the founding mother’s of the current women’s health movement and her prolific writings remain as testimonials to her indefatigable spirit and ability to inspire others to much-needed action.”
We are offering signed copies of both “Voices of a Women’s Health Movement” and the new edition of “Our Bodies, Ourselves” for donations of $150 or more. To receive your copies, donate online and then email your name and mailing address to email@example.com.
Saturday, March 10, 8:45 a.m.-2 p.m.
University Club, 123 University Place, Pittsburgh, PA 15213
“Women, HIV, and the 40th Anniversary of Our Bodies, Ourselves,” an inter-generational symposium featuring Judy Norsigian, executive director of Our Bodies, Ourselves; in observance of National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day and in celebration of the 40th anniversary of the book that inspired the women’s health movement. $35 registration includes luncheon.
We are delighted and honored that Good Vibrations selected Our Bodies Ourselves as one of four nonprofit organizations it’s promoting during the months of February and March. That means shoppers can select OBOS during checkout online and in stores and make a donation that goes entirely to the organization.
We’re in excellent company! From the Good Vibrations press release:
From February 1st to March 31st, Good Vibrations’ customers can support these regional nonprofits in Good Vibrations retail locations: San Francisco, Berkeley, Oakland, Boston and online. Shoppers can make a financial gift at the time of their Good Vibrations purchase and 100% of your contribution goes to the nonprofit of your choice. [...]
Staff Sexologist Dr. Carol Queen says, “With people celebrating romance and connectedness during Valentine’s Day, we invite them to experience the pleasure of generosity to these worthwhile organizations that support people through some of the more difficult aspects of relationships and sexuality. We are honored to be able to bring the GiVe program to this remarkable group of non-profits.
And if you’re in the Boston area, you can join Dr. Queen and OBOS’s Judy Norsigian this Sunday, Feb. 12, at a special pre-Valentine’s Day Mixer and Info Tour at Good Vibrations in Brookline!
It’s a free event, and you’ll enjoy a light reception and store tour led by Dr. Queen. This is a great opportunity to learn everything you ever wanted to know but were afraid to ask.
Pease RSVP (office AT bwhbc.org or call 617-245-0200) so we can provide Good Vibrations with an accurate number for refreshments. Here are the details:
Sunday, Feb. 12, 3 – 5 p.m.
Good Vibrations Brookline Store
308A Harvard Street Brookline, MA
On Monday night, OBOS Executive Director Judy Norsigian discussed the politicization of women’s health on Al Jazeera with Hadley Heath, a senior policy analyst with the Independent Women’s Forum, and Tara McGuinness, senior vice president for communications at the Center for American Progress.
“Inside Story” host Shihab Rattansi was well prepared for what turned into a very interesting discussion. The questions on the table included: Is women’s health being damaged by politics in the U.S.? Has the controversy over funding to Planned Parenthood for breast cancer screening underlined the extent to which conservative groups now influence women’s health access?
On the subject of Komen backpedaling on its controversial decision to stop making grants to Planned Parenthood, Nosigian said: “What we see here is a conservatizing trend in this country that I think has emboldened many … I saw the reversal of the decision simply as damage control. I do not think there has been a profound change in perspective at all.”
McGuinness made this valuable point: “This was an effort to politicize what is not a political thing … I think when it comes to women’s health, there aren’t two sides to this issue.”
Even though Komen executive Karen Handel, who drove the decision to cut off funding to Planned Parenthood, resigned this morning, the controversy is far from being closed.
Early in the day, Jaclyn Friedman, the symposium’s mistress of ceremonies, explained her belief that women’s health activism moves in a spiral, not a circle, because while we are connected to our beginnings, we are also continually moving forward. The day’s discussions provided a perfect demonstration of that concept.
If you weren’t able to join us for those discussions, check out video from the event, including presentations from Byllye Avery, Loretta Ross, a welcome message from Governor Patrick Deval, panels with our global partners, and more.
If you haven’t checked out the NWHN site lately, go take a look – it has been redesigned to a spiffy new look, with news and blog posts, connections to social media, and lots of great information about the organization and the health issues they work on.
“I did training for more than 5,000 women across the country, and all their stories and all their experiences are in Our Bodies, Ourselves. Along with the stories and political activism, we started brokering power at the personal as well as at the political level. As of this moment, we have something to celebrate.”
Those words were spoken by Renu Rajbhandari, a prominent women’s rights activist in Nepal, during our 40th anniversary symposium, Our Bodies, Our Future: Advancing Health and Human Rights for Women and Girls, on Oct. 1. Co-hosted with Boston University, the event marked four decades of activism and celebrated our evolution from a small group around a kitchen table in the United States to a vibrant network of social change activists at the table in countries around the world.
Many women talked about the cultural, political and social challenges to their activism and the relationships and networks they have built in order to effect change. (View videos from symposium, including the global panels.)
The book’s impact and legacy was described by many speakers, including local luminaries. In a video welcome, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick recalled how he was 15 years old when “Our Bodies, Ourselves” was first published; it was considered “racy,” yet filled with information that made him “a better person, and certainly a better partner.”
Robert Meenan, dean of Boston University School of Public Health, offered a formal welcome, followed by an all-star cast of women’s health advocates, including Byllye Avery, founder of the Avery Institute for Social Change and the Black Women’s Health Imperative, and Adrienne Germain, president emerita of the International Women’s Health Coalition. Marie Turley, executive director of the Boston Women’s Commission, brought greetings from Mayor Tom Menino, who had declared Oct. 1 Our Bodies Ourselves Day in the city of Boston.
These terrific presenters, and our energetic emcee, Jaclyn Friedman, executive director of Women, Action and the Media and a contributor to the new edition, spoke about the personal impact “Our Bodies, Ourselves” has had on their lives and the important role played by organizations like OBOS in realizing health equality and human rights, while at the same time reminding the audience of the sizeable challenges ahead.
“My mom viewed birth as an experience that has the power to change and define the life of a woman,” Sam said, “and her spirit of embracing and celebrating these major life events, which we sometimes may welcome and sometimes greet with trepidation, is something I’ve always admired.”
In his remarks about Esther completing the manuscript of “Sacrificing Ourselves for Love” just before her death in 1995, Judah said: “Watching my mom through the final months of her life was very painful for me, but it taught me how to live.” He told the audience he had hoped that her legacy would live on, adding, “I can tell from the energy in the room that it does.”
Our courageous global partners have used “Our Bodies, Ourselves” to develop and bring culturally unique health and sexuality information to their own communities. In addition to the challenges they encounter, they also discussed their success negotiating with power brokers – from men and matriarchs in the family, to religious leaders and heads of institutions.
Their stories of transformation, in Tanzania, Turkey, Japan, Israel, Serbia, India, Nepal, Senegal and Latin America, were reminiscent of the journey taken by OBOS founders 40 years ago. The parallel between the two groups of women was palpable and confirmed that not only has the book gone global, but it continues to inspire movement building by and for women and girls in every region of the world.
Loretta Ross, national coordinator of SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective, closed the day, firing up the audience by reminding everyone of the very real threats to women’s reproductive and sexual rights in the United States and around the world. Even so, she said the global partners’ activism and their use of the human rights framework made her “excited and optimistic” about the future.
As the day started with reminiscences of the 1960s and 70s, it ended with a freshly-stoked fire in the belly. OBOS is at the forefront of changing the lives of women and girls and will continue this work in the U.S. and around the world — into the next 40 years and beyond.
June Tsang is the program associate for the Our Bodies Ourselves Global Initiative