Thursday, January 28, 2010

Study Attributes “Abstinence-Only” Education to Rise in Teen Pregnancy Rates

The Guttmacher Institute released a new study with findings that teen pregnancy in the U.S. has increased. After a decade in decline, the study shows that teen pregnancy rates rose 3% in 2006, which resulted in an increase in teen birth and abortion rates of 4% and 1%, respectively. The Guttmacher study is the latest evidence that our nation is facing an adolescent reproductive health crisis, with one in four teenage girls having a sexually transmitted disease and one-third of teenage girls becoming pregnant before reaching the age of 20. Furthermore, teens of color are disproportionately represented in the increased rates.

If you are curious as to why these rates have increased, you should take a look at the $1.5 billion taxpayer dollars that have been spent on “abstinence-until-marriage” programs in the past decade. It should come as no surprise that the majority of this money was allocated during the Bush administration.

The National Abstinence Education Association, an organization which opposes comprehensive sex education, blames the “overly sex-saturated culture” as a component of teen sexual activity. While sex is certainly prevalent in the U.S. media today, a more effective solution to combating teen pregnancy is to ensure that teens have the accurate information they need to make responsible decisions to help them prevent unintentional pregnancy and avoid sexually transmitted diseases. That starts with providing comprehensive, medically accurate, and age-appropriate sex education. The U.S. can certainly learn something from comprehensive sex education programs in countries like France and Sweden , where the rates of teen pregnancy are four times less than those of the U.S. Teen pregnancy is also two times higher in the U.S. than in Canada and Britain.

Thankfully, the Obama administration has been working to create a new teen-pregnancy initiative that will promote programs shown to decrease pregnancy among teens. Implementing programs that do not censor life-saving information on contraception from young people is a critical step to ensure the health of millions of teens. It is reassuring to see that the current government is more concerned with arming teens with knowledge about their sexual health than pushing an ideologically based agenda.

Visit our website to read more about Maryland’s sex education code.

Monday, January 25, 2010

In Women We Trust

This post was written to commemorate the 37th anniversary of Roe v. Wade and participate in NARAL Pro-Choice America’s 5th Annual Blog for Choice Day.

What does Trust Women mean to me? What does it mean? As I sit in front of the computer, I struggle with what to say. Then, it dawns on me: it should not be this hard to answer a question that relates to my body, my instincts, my mind, the very center of what and who I am. I cannot go wrong if I say that Trust Women is to trust our intimate knowledge of our bodies, our knowledge of what feels right as opposed to what others want us (or me) to feel. In light of Dr. Tiller’s death and his commitment to Trust Women, I believe that he wanted others to feel compassion for a woman’s choice. Not only because she should have complete autonomy of what happens to her body but because she is the only person who fully understands her situation and experiences

I want anti-choice people to stop judging me and countless other women and to trust us to make the right decision in regards to our bodies. Regardless of what a woman’s decision making process involves, that decision belongs to her and her alone. A common tactic of anti-choice movement is to present stories of women who have regretted their abortion. While I don’t doubt that some women may regret their decision, this should not be used as a reason to restrict the rights of other women. It is a sad reality that women are unable to openly share their experiences without fear of being stigmatized. The feelings and unapologetic attitude of the woman who is comfortable with her decision in terminating a pregnancy are just as valid as the woman who regrets it. It is unacceptable to generalize the experiences of some women in an effort to marginalize all women. Everyone must live with the decisions we make throughout our lives, regardless what others may say. It is those individual experiences that make us unique and allow us to learn and grow as individuals. Some may not understand what led up to the decision or the decision itself but it is not for others to judge — regardless of which side of the fence one stand on.

Reproductive health care is not a privilege. It’s a right. The government has made the commitment to provide health care for all and as such private decisions made between patients and doctors should not be politicized and made public to judge. The values of freedom and responsibility are what the Constitution is about and anti-choice supporters seem eager to dismiss those share American values when convenient. In that case, one has to wonder what our world would be like if ‘In Women We Trust’ was our original motto.

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Importance of Trusting Women

This post was written to commemorate the 37th anniversary of Roe v. Wade and participate in NARAL Pro-Choice America’s 5th Annual Blog for Choice Day.

Dr. George Tiller, an abortion provider who was assassinated last June, wore a pin proclaiming "Trust Women". This display of solidarity with and faith in women is striking. Since Dr. Tiller's death, there has been an outpouring of support for him as a response to his work as a courageous physician. Other people who have made a career of providing safe and legal abortions have shared their thoughts and experiences on sites like I am Dr. Tiller. One entry by a social worker states,

"I trust the women I see every day in our clinic. I believe them when they say they can’t support another child, that adoption is a more difficult option than terminating the pregnancy, that their stepfather or uncle raped them, or that they’ve learned that the fetus they thought was growing inside them isn’t anymore. I trust that they are making informed decisions about their body and their life so that I can have that same trust for myself."

This writer's statement sums up the entirety of what Trust Women means to me. We all want to be trusted, especially on the most fundamental level of what we do with our own body. Dr. Tiller acknowledged that a woman's decision to have an abortion needs to be respected. As a women supporting the right to choose, I believe trusting women is one of the most important parts of that right. For that to be to be recognized, even simply by wearing a button, makes me feel proud. The fact that Dr. Tiller proudly and consistently wore that button makes his work all the more noble.


Trusting Women is Being Pro-Choice

This post was written to commemorate the 37th anniversary of Roe v. Wade and participate in NARAL Pro-Choice America’s 5th Annual Blog for Choice Day.

In June 2009, NARAL Pro-Choice America began a “Trust Women” campaign to commemorate and honor Dr. George Tiller, an abortion provider who was murdered by an anti-choice extremist on May 31st. His motto was “Trust Women”; he wore a button with those words every day. “Trust Women” bracelets were sold to commemorate Dr. Tiller, and the phrase began to spread across nation as a rallying cry for the pro-choice community.

The “Trust Women” motto was inspired by Dr. Tiller, but it is more than just a borrowed phrase. It represents pro-choice values at their simplest. Trusting women means putting decisions about their health and lives in their hands and giving them the tools to make the best possible decisions. Pro-choice advocates trust women in all the issues they support.

We trust women by supporting their right to end a pregnancy. Politicians and judges should have no say in women’s private health decisions, because they cannot possibly know the situation of every woman. Women are in the best position to know what is best for them, so they should be the ones making decisions about themselves.

We trust women by giving them all the resources they need. Even when women have the right to make a decision, they may not always have the opportunity. Providing financial assistance and support for women who terminate pregnancies, have children, and choose to adopt encourages women to make a decision based on what is best for them.

We trust women (and adolescents) by educating them about sexuality, reproductive health, and pregnancy options. We trust that women and children can make good choices if they are given the information. We challenge abstinence-only advocates that believe teaching adolescents about safe sex will encourage them to have more sex.

Many ideas from the anti-choice movement are rooted in a distrust of women. Mandatory counseling laws suggest that women do not fully understand pregnancy or abortion (because if they did, they would never consider getting one). Crisis pregnancy centers give women inaccurate medical information because they don’t trust women to make the “right” decision. Opponents of emergency contraception believe that young people will see its availability as a reason to take no precautions during sex.

Trusting women is easy. All it takes is letting go of sexist mantras, reducing the restrictions on women’s reproductive freedom, and creating supportive environments for women to make the decision that is best for them. Granted, those are of big steps for anti-choicers, so they’ll have to take them one at a time. In the mean time, let us pro-choicers continue to trust women and encourage our peers to do so as well. Let us not stop until every politician, judge, doctor, pharmacist, man and woman trust that women can and should have authority over their own lives. Actually, let us not stop ever.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Coming Up: Roe Anniversary and Blog for Choice Day!

In case you forgot to mark your calendar, we’re here to remind you that this Friday, January 22nd, 2010 is the 37th anniversary of Roe v. Wade!

This week we’re doing a few things to prepare for the occasion. First, we’re co-hosting a benefit with the DC Abortion Fund. It’s in Baltimore on Thursday evening (January 21st), so make sure you come out and join us! Learn more about the event on our website.

We’re also preparing to participate in NARAL Pro-Choice America’s 5th Annual Blog for Choice Day (this Friday) and you should too! It’s a day when hundreds of bloggers across the nation unite to give different perspectives on one pro-choice topic.

This year, NARAL’s Blog for Choice is asking the question, “What does Trust Women mean to you?” Trust Women has become a slogan to commemorate Dr. George Tiller, a courageous abortion provider who was murdered by an anti-choice extremist on May 31, 2009.

The sign-ups and details for the Blog for Choice Day are listed on We hope that you’ll check in with us Friday to see our post on the question, and we also want to hear from you! Comment to let us know if you’re a pro-choice Marylander who plans for Blog for Choice on Jan 22nd.

Friday, January 15, 2010

No Federal Tax Dollars For… (yeah, you wish)

Breaking News: Americans are now allowed to pick and choose what their tax dollars should be spent on!


Well, at least not all Americans are allowed, just the anti-choice ones. Anti-choice members of Congress maintain that if someone does not support abortion rights, their tax dollars should not have to be spent to subsidize the procedure for low-income women. The Hyde amendment already restricts the use of federal dollars for abortions, and now Stupak, Nelson and other anti-choice members of Congress want to expand Hyde to many more women with health care reform.

Let’s be real: if Congress attempted to appease everyone and ensure that nobody’s taxes paid for something they didn’t support, very few issues would get adequate funding! Plenty of Americans don’t support their tax dollars going to government bailouts or foreign wars, but they go about lobbying for an end to those practices, not vetoing them from the payoff list. Most Americans agree that we should help provide basic medical care to the most disadvantaged in our society – that includes reproductive health care for all women. As long as the government has made the decision to provide health care to Americans, politicians and anti-choice activists do not have the right to impose their personal views on what should be private decisions made between doctors and patients.

Don’t like Congress’s double standard when it comes to government spending? Then get involved with the Center for Reproductive Rights campaign to point out the hypocrisy in allowing only a fraction of the American public have a say in how their tax dollars are spent. Send in a short video declaring what you don’t want your federal tax dollars spent on. You can also join the conversation on Twitter by using the tag #NoTaxDollars to tweet your federally funded pet peeve.

Watch this video to see what issues some well-known activists would rather not support with their tax dollars, and then read two suggestions from us below:

Here are some ideas from us:

Crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs)- CPCs give false and misleading information to women in order to prevent them from exercising their full range of reproductive options. While CPCs in Maryland are not funded with federal dollars, many CPCs across the nation do receive tax dollars. U.S. Congress commissioned a report investigating the harm caused by federally funded CPCs.

Refusal clauses- Federal “conscience” clauses allow doctors, nurses, and pharmacists to refuse to provide a medication or service based on a “moral” objection. So pharmacists can refuse to fill a prescription for emergency contraception or birth control without fear of reprimand, even though their job is to dispense legal medication. Your tax dollars are paying the salaries of 6,700 pharmacists employed by the federal government (according to the BLS), and they don’t even have to give you the prescriptions you need!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Secretary Clinton on the ICPD and Reproductive Freedom

On Friday, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton gave a speech to commemorate the 15th anniversary of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD). A large portion of the reproductive rights community tuned in.

The ICPD took place in Cairo in 1994. At the end of the conference, 179 nations agreed upon a plan of action for the next 20 years. The goal of this effort was to promote women’s equality, eliminate violence against women, and increase access to reproductive health services.

The theme of Secretary Clinton’s speech was that fifteen years later, the world has seen many improvements in the reproductive freedom of women and girls, but there is a long way to go before meeting the goals of the ICPD. She cited hopeful statistics of progress, but they were contrasted and outnumbered by grim facts and stories about women and girls who struggle to control the sizes of their families, get educations, and stay alive and healthy.

However, the ICPD was not only dedicated to healthy outcomes for women and children. It was also dedicated to guaranteeing a fundamental right for women. The agreement states that reproductive rights “rest on the recognition of the basic right of all couples and individuals to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing and timing of their children and to have the information and means to do so, and the right to attain the highest standard of sexual and reproductive health. They also include the right of all to make decisions concerning reproduction free of discrimination, coercion and violence.”

This notion has yet to be recognized domestically by the United States. Until very recently, government-funded abstinence-only programs were outright denying adolescents’ access to important information and skills for sexual health. The right to choose to terminate a pregnancy, although legalized in 1973, has been politicized and chipped away ever since. The most significant restriction on the ability to plan family size is the Hyde amendment, which restricts

the use of federal dollars for abortion services. Hyde created a precedent by separating abortion services from all other health-care services, and has critically impacted low-income women’s access to reproductive health care. Even today, as Congress is working to pass the most comprehensive overhaul of our health-care system, pro-choice Democrats are struggling to keep women’s health-care from losing ground. If access to reproductive health services was recognized as a fundamental human right, it would not be used as a source of negotiation in Congress’s debates.

During her speech, Secretary Clinton was right in saying, if we believe that human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights, then we cannot accept the ongoing marginalization of half the world’s population.” But recent events have left many questioning if Congress really does recognize women’s rights as human rights. It is wonderful to have a Secretary of State that is such a strong supporter of women’s equality and a President who has already made many triumphs for reproductive rights, but even the most powerful individuals cannot change the status quo by themselves. There will not be significant changes for women and children in the U.S. until the government recognizes a fundamental right to reproductive freedom, free from discrimination, coercion, and violence.

NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland would like to recognize Secretary Clinton for her wonderful speech and her continued support of reproductive rights worldwide. Thank you! In conclusion, here is an excerpt from the speech in which she encouraging the activists and advocates not to give up:

“I just want to urge that we do not grow weary. I don’t know about you, but sometimes it can seem a little bit hard to take. It is also self-evident; it seems so obvious to the rest of us that this needs to be done, and we keep encountering obstacles of every shape and size. But please, stay with us and let’s try to create institutional and structural change that does not get wiped away when the political winds blow.”

You can view Clinton’s entire speech on RHRealityCheck’s YouTube channel or read the transcript at the Department of State website.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Last Chance to Speak Up About Fixing the Health Care Bill

Members of Congress are returning to Washington, and they’re set to finish up work on the health care reform bill. As it stands, the bill has major restrictions that would limit seriously women’s access to abortion.

NARAL Pro-Choice America is gathering signatures for a petition to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and President Obama. The petition tells these Democratic leaders in DC that the abortion restrictions in current draft of the health care bill are unacceptable.

Sign the petition now to say that our leaders in Washington need to fix the bill. On the simplest level, that means that the reform must not take away coverage from women who already have it.

The goal is to collect 30,000 signatures before January 30, 2010, so sign the petition today, and then pass it along to your friends. Email it, post it, blog it, tweet it- get the word out any way you can, and remind everyone that without their input, the health care bill might leave out an essential part of women’s health.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Repealing Hyde to Claim Our Fundamental Right

Frances Kissling wrote a thoughtful and compelling piece about the Hyde Amendment, which restricts the use of federal Medicaid funds for abortion services, and where the pro-choice movement should be focusing its efforts.

She explains what Hyde really is- NOT an “American tradition,” as president Obama called it, but the “most important defeat the abortion rights movement sustained” because “it embodied the profound disapproval and stigmatization of abortion that no other restriction on the right to choose represents.”

Because of the Hyde Amendment, the nation has faced many other types of restrictions on abortion including limiting minors’ access, implementing unnecessary regulations for doctors, and so-called “conscience clauses.” And of course, without Hyde, there would have been no “status quo” abortion restriction to uphold in the health care reform package. Health care may have actually meant all health care for all women.

In the article, Kissling explains how Hyde happened and what must be done now to reclaim justice for all women, not just ones that can afford it. This article is a MUST READ in its entirety.