Friday, May 30, 2008

Last Chance to Restore Affordable Birth Control!


Tired of out of control birth control prices? Good news is that there may be light at the end of this dark tunnel that can lead us to affordable birth control. But it could easily slip through our fingers, unless you do your part.

As you may know, access to affordable birth control has been difficult to obtain since the passing of the Deficit Reduction Act (DRA) , which was created to help reduce taxes and government spending. One way for the DRA’s sponsors met this goal was to close a loophole in the Medicaid drug-rebate law. Unfortunately, while eliminating this problem, the DRA unintentionally eliminated access to affordable birth control at community and college health clinics across the country.

Now there is a chance to regain access to affordable birth control! An initial victory came last week when the Senate passed a supplemental war-funding bill that includes a provision that will fix the pricing of birth control. If the bill passes, low-income women and college students will once again have access to affordable birth control.

However, as the bill enters the House, the birth control provision may be edited or removed. It is crucial for pro-choice activists (Yes, I’m talking to you!) to get in touch with their representatives to voice their support for the birth control provision. In order for the bill to pass in its entirety, we MUST drown out the anti-choice minority!

Many people, including myself, have speculated that the reason Congress has been so unmotivated to fix this problem is directly related to the fact that young, low-income, and minority women are the people most affected by the consequences of the DRA. Seriously, I’m a college student that works part-time. If I purchase birth control from my campus health center, I’m looking at about $50-$60 today compared to the $10 it was before the DRA. Let’s face it, low-income, young, and minority women have rarely had any influence over politicians. Unfortunately, politicians don’t care about your issues until you demand their attention. Let your voice be heard and tell your Representative that it is imperative that the birth control provision remains in the supplemental war-spending bill.

Contact your representatives today! TAKE ACTION here

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Overturned VA Abortion Ban Proved To Be Worse Than Federal Abortion Ban


Kudos to Virginian activists and their victory over the state law that would have prohibited certain abortion procedures after twelve weeks. The appeal decision was based on the upholding of the Federal Abortion Ban Act in April 2007.

Thanks to Judge M. Blane Michael and Judge Diana Gribbon Motz for the majority 2-1 rule on Richmond Medical Center v. Herring agreeing that the Virginia ban is much more restrictive than the already strict Federal Abortion Ban (FAB). Since the FAB was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in Gonzales v. Carhart, organizations like the Center for Reproductive Rights have been fighting across the U.S. to prevent similar, and in several cases even more restrictive, state laws from being enacted. One example is South Dakota’s attempt with the Women’s Health and Human Life Protection Act. Virginia and South Dakota have attempted to introduce their bills back into the house after repeatedly being defeated by the pro-choice majority. Both the Virginia ban and the FAB fail to include provisions for the mother’s health. However, Virginia’s ban would have created even more restrictions for doctors performing an abortion after 12 weeks. By placing greater limitations on doctors, this law would greatly impact a woman’s access to safe abortion procedures. If the Virginia ban were approved, doctors would no longer have the authority to perform the procedure they determine to be the safest. Thankfully, the decision to overturn this ban proves that Virginia will not tolerate the far right’s repeated attempts to allow politicians to act like medical doctors.

Judge Paul V. Niemeyer disagreed with the outcome, stating that the, “minor differences in both bans were exploited.” It seems that Judge Niemeyer has little regard for a women’s health, as what he considers to be minor differences translate into major changes for doctors and women. Judge Niemeyer has proven that the health and safety of women are not high on his priority list. At least not as important as confirming that he is willing to proudly stand by his conservative base, regardless of the cost.
Even though the Federal ban is still in existence—there are many women and doctors in the state of Virginia that are a little safer thanks to the actions of the Virginia courts.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

No Privacy for Pregnancy at HoCo Public Schools


After reading several articles about the issue involving Howard County and the Pregnancy Notification Policy—I wonder what’s next on the agenda for HoCo Public schools. Maybe removing the walls from bathroom stalls? Who needs privacy anyway?

The Howard County Public School system will implement a policy effective July 1,2008 that blatantly disregards students right to privacy. Students, be wary, as school staff will be obligated to notify parents if they learn that a female student is pregnant. Back in February, the board voted 7-1 to carry out the policy. Since the lone vote came from a student representative, the outcome clearly demonstrates the lack of concern for the confidentiality and privacy rights of students by the Howard County Board. According to Feminist.org, the student representative conducted a unanimous poll of students—they all opposed the policy saying, “It was unfair to students.” Trust is definitely an issue to these students who feel that the policy is a direct threat to their privacy.

Apart from concerned Howard County students, health experts are also questioning the tactics of the Howard County Board of Education. According to Ms. Magazine, Howard County’s health officer Peter Beilenson states that, “there’s no question the notification requirement will deter pregnant students from seeking medical care.” Ms. Magazine also mentions that, “Critics say the pregnancy notification policy violates student’s rights to privacy as well as state laws that allow minors access to pregnancy tests and contraception without involving parents.”

As a young woman who attended public school, I’m completely shocked and appalled by this blatant invasion of privacy. In reality, the vast majority of teen girls facing an unintended pregnancy turn to their parents. But, unfortunately, there are several reasons why a young girl may not go directly to her parents, including fear for her personal safety. Throughout our young lives, we are repeatedly told that if we feel unable to talk with our own parents, teachers, counselors, and sport coaches should be seen as a trusted alternative. Carrying out the Pregnancy Notification Policy will be detrimental to young woman who now feel they can no longer seek support at school. Knowing that her privacy will, without a doubt be invaded, this policy is likely to discourage her from seeking the counsel of an otherwise trusted staff member. As young women are already less likely to receive prenatal care, more likely to have a second trimester abortion, and more likely to deliver premature and underweight babies, this added deterrent may be very dangerous for teenagers in Howard County.

Confiding in healthcare workers and teachers in public schools was a reliable and frequently used source for many young females who had questions about pregnancy, sex, and contraceptives. Unfortunately, many young women may turn to crisis pregnancy centers, which at first glance, may appear to provide them with the guidance and support schools no longer will. Many students with fear of Howard County informing their parents may throw information provided from schools in the back. Students risk potentially receiving accurate information from schools and gaining misinformation from crisis pregnancy centers--may lead female students to choices they may not like, which can lead to future regret.

Regardless of their intentions, the Howard County School Board is putting students at risk for receiving inaccurate information about safe sex and abortion from sources like crisis pregnancy centers. Since MD Dept of Education has no clear mandate on parental notification—Howard County is able to do what they please and follow through with the policy.

Since many students use the school system as a safe haven—the pregnancy notification policy will outwardly discourage students to not come forward if they need guidance. This practice can lead to students obtaining misinformation from other unreliable sources such as crisis pregnancy centers.

What do you think of the actions of Howard County Public School System? Let us know.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Quick and Quippy: Mickey Mouse, Phylis Schlafly and more

Well it's apparently that time again-- the time when news stories provide me with a serious "Are you kidding?!" moment.
  • Phylis Schlafly, the woman who believes that rape in marriage does not exist, the ERA is dangerous and that sex-education classes are "in home sales parties for abortion" is about to receive an honorary doctorate from Washington University. Find out more at feministing and then check out the "No Honorary Doctorate for anti-feminist Phyllis Schlafly" Facebook group.
  • From Michelle Chen at Alternet:
"Last year, Congress slashed millions of dollars from key programs dealing with domestic violence, including civil legal assistance and preventative community-education programs. The White House is now pushing even deeper cuts in its budget proposal for fiscal year 2009."

Totally unacceptable. Find out more here.
  • Disney's anger over Miley Cyrus' recent photo shoot becomes a little ridiculous when one finds out that they sponsor child lingerie ads on billboards in China. Push-up bra and Minnie-Mouse hand puppets? Marketing sexy underwear to the under-12 set? All pretty disgusting. Check out this article from Slate.

You know the drill: Leave a few outrageous stories of your own in the comments. Sharing is caring.

Monday, May 5, 2008

An Easy Way to Battle the Media Monster



On the Disney Channel's hit show "Hannah Montana," Miley Cyrus portrays a girl who is living a double life where she vacillates between girl next door Miley Stewart and teen pop sensation Hannah Montana. In real life, Ms. Cyrus is also living a double life: wholesome tween Disney star and nude Vanity Fair-cover worthy jailbait. The media explosion surrounding Ms. Cyrus' recent dressed down photo session with Annie Leibowitz has encouraged commentators across the blogosphere and beyond to ask: How appropriate is it to sexualize a fifteen year old girl?

Appropriate? Certainly not. But prevalent? Overwhelmingly. Young girls are bombarded with images of sexualized girlhood, from the make-up smeared mini-skirt clad Bratz dolls to the selection of string bikinis and strapless dresses Abercrombie and Fitch is offering discerning ladies age 8-14 this Spring. Mary Bailey's article "How Society Sexualizes Girls" states that "On television...males disproportionately populate the world and women in it are disproportionately sexy and lacking in intellect." With children watching an average of 6 hours and 32 minutes of television a day (Nielson Media Research, 1998), it's impossible for these images not to have an effect.

The American Psychological Association (APA) has released "Report of the APA Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls," a report which is focused on the detrimental effects of sexual imagery in the media on young girls and teens. Its shows that the media's approach to depicting young girls and teens can lead to a range of issues including mental health problems, low self-esteem, anxiety, sexual violence and harassment.

The APA believes that media literacy training could help "counter the sexualization of girls." But for some reason, when Montgomery County NOW asked the Montgomery County Board of Education to implement a curriculum in middle school that would address the effects that these images have on young girls, no real action was taken. Though a spokesperson said that copies of their summary were delivered to influential education personnel, no action has been taken so far to alter the curriculum.

If you are interested in encouraging this important addition to MoCo's middle school curriculum, e-mail boe@mcpsmd.org and tell them to join in the effort to decrease the negative impact of the media on young girls. Feel free to forward a copy of your e-mail to Montgomery County NOW at bravenewworld@starpower.net to let them know that you're interested in helping their cause. For more information, check out Mary Bailey's fabulous series "The Sexualization of Girls" from the Montgomery County NOW website.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Quick and Quippy: Outrageous

It is a gross and rainy day, so I'm already inclined to be annoyed. If you feel the same way and you're looking to take your general feelings of annoyance to the full-out outraged level, check out these news stories:

  • Some fraternity pranksters at Yale's Zeta Psi chapter thought it would be funny to stand outside of the Yale Women's Center chanting "dick" while holding up signs that said "We Love Yale Sluts." Now the Executive Committee at Yale says that these guys are not guilty of harassment or intimidation. Yeah, I'm confused too. Find out more at Female Impersonator
  • It seems that some hospitals in North Carolina think it's a good idea to charge rape survivors to process their own rape kits. For uninsured women, this could mean spending hundreds of dollars. Go here for more information.
Do you have any rage-inducing news stories to share? Send them our way.