Monday, April 4, 2011

Stand Up For Women's Health Lobby Day

This Thursday, April 7th , thousands of pro-choice activists will be rallying in Washington D.C. for the Stand Up for Women’s Health Lobby Day. We will be sending a message to those on Capital Hill trying to push an extreme anti-choice and anti-woman agenda in Congress that the War on Women ends now!

Anti-choice politicians funded their campaigns on creating more jobs and restricting government have virtually ignored America’s needs and instead focused on restricting women’s reproductive rights and threatening women’s health. House leaders attempted to defund Planned Parenthood and eliminate Title X, depriving millions of Americans affordable preventive health services such as PAP smears, HIV tests, cancer screenings and birth control. Anti-choice politicians have advanced bills that would allow hospitals to deny women life saving abortion care, have the IRS audit sexual assault victims, and would punish small businesses and individuals with increased taxes in an attempt to end private insurance coverage of abortion care.

On April 7th we will fight back against this extreme agenda that is so out of touch with America’s values and priorities. Together we will Stand Up for Women’s Health.

It’s not too late to sign up for the Stand Up For Women’s Health Lobby Day in D.C. this Thursday.

If you are unable to make it in person, you can still support our cause by buying a Lobby Day t-shirt.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Anti-Choice Groups Open New Office in Germantown

This (sadly) is not an April Fool’s Day joke.

As you may know, Dr. LeRoy Carhart, long-time colleague of the late Dr. Tiller, joined the staff of Germantown Reproductive Health Services at the end of 2010 to provide later term abortions after a ban on abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy was passed in Nebraska – where Dr. Carhart previously operated his practice. Dr. Carhart has long been a champion of women’s health and privacy and his work makes it possible for women - often in heart breaking and life-threatening - to make the personal and private decision with their doctors to access safe, legal abortion care with dignity.

Today, April 1st, the anti-choice groups Operation Rescue & Maryland Coalition for Life are opening an office directly across the street from Dr. Carhart’s clinic. Operation Rescue has tried this tactic in the past, opening up a fake pregnancy clinic across from Dr. Tiller’s Witchita Kansas clinic. The fake clinic operates exactly as a Crisis Pregnancy center would, with the intent to misinform, manipulate, and mislead women from making their own reproductive choices.

Operation Rescue, paired with the Maryland Coalition for Life have brought their self interested and extremist views to Germantown, and we aren’t going to sit quietly as it happens. Women deserve the ability to make a private personal decision about their health without being faced with harassment. Operation Rescue and Maryland Coalition for Life do not reflect the values of our community and we must let them know it is wrong to intentionally misinform women about their reproductive options.

Please join us in opposing anti-choice “clinics” that refuse to provide women their full reproductive health options in Maryland. Here are two easy ways you can show your concern:
  1. Sign our petition in supporting women and reproductive health care providers in Maryland
  2. Help us reach our goal of 500 signatures by posting or tweeting  "Anti-choice groups opened an office today across from Dr. Carhart, an abortion provider who was forced out of Nebraska and now works in Maryland. Sign NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland's petition to say no!http://bit.ly/fiNpwY"

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Condoms and Emergency Contraceptives

Not only do condoms offer excellent protection from STIs, they also act as a great back-up to other forms of birth control.  But again, it is critical to use condoms consistently & correctly in order for them to work.  Condom tips include:

  • Read the instructions.  Again, may seem like an elementary step, but in a day and age of abstinence-only education, it’s not wise to trust that your partner knows what they are doing.
  • Check the date.  Sure, it may seem impossible that you will not use this condom before the 2-3 year expiration date, but things can happen. Better to be safe than smug.
  •  Let’s be clear: if your partner pulls a condom out of his wallet and brushes the spider webs off of it, this is a deal breaker. Over time the body heat from keeping a condom in a back pocket condom can weaken the latex of a condom, making it prone to tears. The best place to store condoms is room temperature in a dry place. Keeping a condom in a wallet for a night or the weekend will not have consequences, but after months (or even years) a condom can suffer from wallet storage.
  • Join the condom club. As a woman you are in control of your own reproductive health, so why not have a few condoms on hand? Many health centers on college campuses have free condoms, as well as free health clinics and gynecologist’s offices.

Ultimately, only you can decide what form of birth control works for you.  You may find that it takes trying a few different kinds before finding the best fit. You may find that what you want in birth control changes over time.  Of course, you should talk with a doctor before choosing or starting a new birth control and if you are experiencing side effects (big or small, a slight change in dosage can make a big difference).

In the event that something goes awry, despite these awesome tips, and you’re nervous that your BC might not be working at its maximum potential, back it up with emergency contraception. Plan B One Step and the generic version NextChoice are available over the counter for those 17 or older and works the best if taken within 3 days after sex.  It can be taken up to 5 days after sex, but the effectiveness decreases. A new form of EC, ella, is only available by prescription and effective consistently for up to 5 days after sex.

Also be sure to check out our comprehensive reproductive health guide (available in both English and Spanish) Choices!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Info and tips for correct and consistent contraceptive use!

Recently, the Guttmacher Institute released a report saying what we have known for a long time to be true. Birth control works! Contraceptives are essential in preventing unwanted pregnancies and in the case of condoms, sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Correct and consistent use of contraceptives dramatically reduces the risk of unintended pregnancies.

In case you missed it, the key part of that sentence was correct and consistent. Most contraceptive failure is caused by the user (read: you and/or your partner). The good news is that most misuse can be easily prevented by following the directions of your chosen birth control method. In addition to that tidbit of common-sense, here are some additional tips to ensure your birth control is working at the highest level possible:

  • There are many hormonal contraceptive options, the most popular being the birth control pill. The pill works the best when it is taken once a day at the same time. Taking it around the same time of say 4-5 times a week just isn’t gonna cut it. If you find it hard to remember to take the pill each day, try setting a reminder alarm on your cell phone or sign up for one of the many free online services (like MissMint.com) that send a daily reminder via text or an email. You could also make taking the pill part of your regular routine. Do you have a skin care or bed time routine that you perform every day at the same time? Take your pill at the beginning of your routine and soon it will become an unforgettable part.
  • If you miss two or more pills, be sure to use a back up method. Important side note: vomiting within a two hour period of taking the pill is the equivalent of skipping a pill.
  • If you are just beginning the pill or starting a new brand and find yourself facing nausea, try taking your pill at night, which can help reduce the side effect of nausea.

If you find that the pill doesn’t work for you – for whatever reason - there are other methods you can try:

  • The Patch is a hormonal birth control that is placed on your skin and changed once a week. Think square band-aid, but all adhesive. You wear it three weeks per month with one inactive week.
  • The NuvaRing is a soft plastic ring that is inserted vaginally once a month for a three week time span. Just like using tampons, it may take some getting used to, but once they work out the initial kinks, many women enjoy the freedom of only thinking about their birth control once a month.
  • The IUD is a small flexible plastic or copper device that is shaped like the letter T and inserted directly into the uterus. You can get an IUD with or without hormones and they last from 5-10 years. FYI: If you are a young woman without children, you may have to do some searching to find a doctor willing to insert an IUD.  
Because they are not taken daily, there is less chance of missing a dose with these methods. However, with the Patch or NuvaRing it is still important to mark your calendar to make sure you’re on schedule with replacing when needed.

If you choose a hormonal type of BC, be aware (or beware!) that certain antibiotics and supplements can make any form of hormonal birth control less effective. Ask your doctor or pharmacists before you start any new medication or supplements!

The downer is that these methods do not protect against STIs, so condoms still play an important role in keeping sex safe.
Come back tomorrow to hear about condom use and some mistakes to avoid!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Say NO to Attacks on Maryland Women!

Since the November election, states across the nation have been faced with a barrage of anti-choice bills. Maryland is no different.
Anti-choice legislators have introduced an unprecedented 11 bills in the Maryland Senate and House. Tomorrow, a committee in the House will take up seven of these bills.
 
Proposed measures include:
  • Intrusive reporting requirements about women seeking abortion care.
  • The singling out of abortion providers for onerous regulations not imposed on other health-care providers.
  • Interference with the relationship between a woman and her doctor.
  • An outright ban on abortion in the form of a fetal personhood bill that contains no exceptions!
Tell legislators that these attacks on women and their families will not stand!

The House Health and Government Committee is scheduled to hear testimony on seven anti-choice bills tomorrow. They need to hear from you today!

Tell them to oppose legislation that would create barriers to safe, legal abortion.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Pro-Choice Lobby Day in Washington D.C.

This legislative session has seen egregious attacks on the future of women’s health and reproductive rights. Congress has passed bills that would allow hospitals to refuse to provide women with life-saving abortion care, and there have been threats to take away private insurance coverage of abortion. Anti-choice legislators showed how little they care for women’s lives and health when they voted to defund Planned Parenthood and slashed funds for cancer screenings and birth control.

On Thursday, April 7th 2011 NARAL Pro Choice Maryland and choice activists from around the country will join together in Washington D.C. for a Pro-Choice Lobby Day. We need hundreds of NPCM supporters to show up in person in the Capital to carry a simple message: The War on Women ends now!

Decisions made on the federal level will directly affect Maryland. It is imperative for pro-choice states like Maryland to stand up for reproductive freedom! It’s time for pro-choice Marylanders to stand strong and fight this war on women.

Be sure that your voice is heard! Join NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland and other choice activists from across the nation in Washington, D.C. on Thursday April 7th.

We will provide training and organize lobby visits with members of Congress in Maryland and follow up with updates to help plan transportation as the event draws closer. If ever there was a time to call off work or miss class for a cause you believe in, THIS IS IT!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Advances in Male Birth Control Could Mean New Options of Male Contraception

If you asked a woman to design the perfect birth control, she would most likely ask for one without side effects, without the high cost and one that wouldn’t need to be taken daily. We are a long way away from a birth control that could meet all these standards. Could the newest birth control option be one that could be taken by the male partner?

For decades, the brunt of contraceptive responsibility has fallen on women. If men had more options for birth control the benefits would be measurable. Presently, the male contraception options are limited to a vasectomy and condoms. A male hormonal pill or injection would dramatically change and, potentially improve, the reproductive rights landscape. It has the potential to be as effective as female bill control pills, over 99% if taken correctly. Studies conducted by the World Health Organization also show that men from many corners of the globe would welcome the introduction of another male contraceptive option.

The development of male hormonal birth control methods have been slowed by the difference in male fertility (sperm production doesn’t stop the way egg production does for women, making it harder for scientists to figure out the best approach) and a lack of investment from pharmaceutical companies/funding for research. Still, scientists are hopeful that we are only a few years away from reversible and temporary male contraceptives as opposed to the permanency of a vasectomy.

At this time, the most effective method known to stop male sperm production is to administer an artificial hormone called progestin. Progestin is the same artificial hormone found in female oral contraceptives, which in men, suppresses normal sperm production. However, it is necessary to combine progestin with testosterone to limit undesirable side effects. Progestin can be administered by daily pills, gel, or long lasting injections or implants. Testosterone is currently available only in gel form as the development of oral testosterone has proved challenging, but clinical trials are currently underway at the University of Washington.

Another promising option for men comes in the active form of vitamin A. Vitamin A can be found in many of the foods we eat daily including carrots and broccoli, but needs to be converted in to an active form in order to take part in biological processes. One active form of vitamin A also affects sperm production. Scientists are still actively testing the inhibitors, recently finding that the process is reversible but working on how to use this knowledge to create a viable birth control option.

These promising advances could provide men a chance to take control of their reproductive choices and put the role of preventing pregnancy equally in the hands of both partners.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

LET YOUR VOICE BE HEARD! STAND WITH WOMEN THIS WEEKEND IN D.C. AND ANNAPOLIS!

More then ever women’s rights are under attack! Instead of focusing on the economy and job growth, anti-choice politicians across the country have launched a barrage of attacks on women. At the state and federal level, there has been a no-holds-bar attack on family planning services, health care screenings, programs for low income women & infants, and abortion care.
Grassroots protests have sprung up across the nation in response to these threats. If you care about women, their families, and reproductive freedom, it’s time to get involved!

Although, we are not directly affiliated with these activities, these events are a great opportunity to show you stand with women, Planned Parenthood and with choice!

The Walk for Choice is an organic series of events planned for Saturday February 26, being organized via tumblr and facebook. Local walks are happening in Annapolis and D.C. from 12-3pm. Exact route details to be released Friday morning.

If you prefer a rally, The Rally for Choice is also being held this Saturday from 12-3pm in Dupont Circle, Washington D.C. Organizers from both events are collaborating to ensure the events are cohesive and enhance The event is being sponsored by the Young Women’s Project and ISO (DC branch).

Don’t stand idly by while anti-choice politicians attack reproductive rights. Grab your pro-choice buttons, get creative with your sign, and join these events in Annapolis & D.C. to show your support reproductive rights!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Bieber Joins the Ranks of Anti-Choice Celebrity Teens

With his front page cover of Rolling Stone on stands today, Justin Bieber joins the long list of teenage celebrities who have taken a short-sighted approach to reproductive health issues. In the interview, Bieber who admits to not understanding the party system in the U.S., provides offers his opinion on abortion: "I really don't believe in abortion," Bieber says. "It's like killing a baby?"

When asked about cases of rape, Bieber gives his opinion on a situation that he will never find himself: "Um. Well, I think that's really sad, but everything happens for a reason. I guess I haven't been in that position, so I wouldn't be able to judge that." Thanks for reserving judgment on victims of sexual assault, Biebs, but chalking rape induced pregnancy up to fate sounds a little too close to victim blaming.

Like many other manufactured stars of the past few years (Jonas Brothers, Jessica Simpson, Britney Spears) the fame and influence that Bieber has to help fellow teens become aware of contraceptives and the prevention of STDs is wasted. Ironically, unlike his predecessors, Bieber isn’t touting abstinence until marriage, but rather waiting until you’re in love to have sex. While this viewpoint is likely to be much more in tune with other teens, it’s a wonder if this split philosophy will bode well for the star and any young women he may “love.”

What is most disturbing about this interview is the affect his words may have on the 16 year old’s thousands of teenaged female fans. While Bieber is certainly entitled to his opinion and it is very likely Rolling Stone baited him with controversial questions in order to sell magazines, he may want to take a pause before tackling such a complex issue in such a public way. Particularly on issues on which he appears to have little to no experience with. With a film number two at the box office, Bieber most certainly holds a powerful influence over young girl’s wallets, but after this interview one can only hope the same is not true of his fan’s opinions.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Text4Baby Program Can Help Maryland Mothers

Have you heard about the service text4baby? Last week was the program’s one year anniversary, marking a full year of sending informative free text messages to women who are pregnant or have a baby less than a year old. Founded by the The National Healthy Mothers Healthy Babies Coalition, this text service sends free messages to women with information and reminders to improve the health of both mother and child. Over 135,000 women have signed up, receiving a wealth of information from what to expect with mood swings to how to care for a newborn. Signing up for text4baby is easy, simply send a text message to 511411 with the word BABY or BEBE for messages in Spanish.

Here’s a few worrisome facts:
• In 2009 the Maryland the infant mortality rate was 7.2 per 1000 live births, and the rate among African American women,13.6 per 100 live births, is even more concerning.
• Over 25% of infant mortality deaths in the state of Maryland are due to a low birth weight.
• Health risks such as a late start to pre-natal care can increase infant mortality by 40%.

Although the infant mortality rate is falling in the state, many Maryland women would clearly benefit from the text4baby program’s care services and support to expecting women. For example, they could receive information on the importance of proper prenatal care, which can prevent low birth weight. With over 90 percent of Americans owning a mobile phone, and over a third of impoverished households, the text4baby’s program puts a potentially life saving message right in to a woman’s hands. Many low-income women are without access to pregnancy health care information, and just having up to date basic knowledge can do wonders for a baby’s development.

A program like text4baby is an innovative way to get valuable information to pregnant women. Savvy initiatives like this play a crucial role in ensuring more, and hopefully all, Maryland mothers can have healthy pregnancies and babies. Help us spread the word about the fantastic program by sharing this blog on your facebook or twitter!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Latest on Anti-Choice Bills in Congress

This week the House of Representatives is going to be the frontline for reproductive rights as hearings for both the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act” (H.R.3) also known as, “Stupak-On Steroids,” and the “Protect Life Act” (H.R.358) are scheduled.

You’ve likely heard about H.R.3 due to the media coverage & public outcry over the attempt to redefine rape to “forcible rape. While anti-choice leaders bowed to public pressure and removed the “forcible rape” language, they added an even more egregious provision that would allow hospitals to deny abortion care, even if is necessary to save a woman’s life. There are still plenty of provisions that could affect women’s access to abortion forever.

In addition to allowing hospitals to deny life saving care to women, these bills would also:

• Effectively ban private coverage of abortion care in the new health-care system. For the record, currently 87% of private insurance companies offer abortion coverage.
 • H.R.3 would also impose tax penalties on Americans and small businesses with private insurance plans that cover abortion care.

These bills show how out of touch anti-choice lawmakers are with America’s values and priorities. Instead of pushing bills that would help create jobs and restore the nation’s economy, the first month of legislation has focused on restricting women’s rights.

It’s crucial for activists like you to stay informed and share your feelings with your elected officials. To help ensure you have to most up-to-date info, here is a list of recent articles:

The Washing ton Post After 'forcible rape,' another abortion restriction

The Hill Conscience rights debate reignited by abortion funds bill

Fox News Abortion Debate Returns to Capitol Hill as Lawmakers Weigh New Restrictions

The Examiner H.R. 358 would deny emergency abortions, allow women to die

Feel free to add additional links in the comment section.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Anti-Choice Politicians Seek to Redefine Rape


Note: This post discusses rape and sexual assault. 

Earlier this month, anti-choice leaders in the U.S. House of Representatives introduced H.R. 3, the extreme"Stupak on Steroids" bill. The "Stupak on Steroids" bill is a kitchen-sink attack on women's ability to make personal, private medical decisions, but one of its many dangerous provisions is particularly cruel: it seeks to redefine rape.

Several federal laws, most notably the Hyde amendment, bar access to abortion care for low-income womenwho rely on the federal government for their health care, with exceptions only to preserve the woman's life or if the pregnancy results from rape or incest.

Mother Jones reports that the "Stupak on Steroids" bill would limit the rape exception only to cases of "forcible rape," a definition that does not currently exist in federal law. Survivors of date rape, rape involving drugs or alcohol, or statutory rape would not be eligible for abortion coverage under "Stupak on Steroids":
If a 13-year-old girl is impregnated by a 24-year-old adult, she would no longer qualify to have Medicaid pay for an abortion.

The Daily Beast talked with Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, about the attack, noting that the chilling effect of "the bill will send a message to all women that certain kinds of sexual assault don't count as rape at all." 

The "Stupak on Steroids" bill is one of the farthest-reaching assaults on women's freedom and privacy that we've seen. As Donna Crane, our policy director, said, the way it would treat survivors of sexual assault is "unbelievably cruel and heartless."


Cross-posted at Blog for Choice

Friday, January 21, 2011

Blog for Choice day: my two cents

Like most reproductive rights supporters, the outcomes of the 2010 elections across the U.S. caused me feel sad and quite frustrated. They say that election cycles ebb and flow, and because I can't change the past, I'll continue looking into the future in hopes that other elections will yield far better results. However, I am not willing to rest on a simple answer when it comes to choice in 2011.


Today is Blog for Choice. Now in its 6th year, Blog for Choice day, put on by NARAL Pro-Choice America, encourages us all to speak our minds and make our voices heard. This year's question is, "are you concerned about choice in 2011?" Clearly, the answer is an unequivocal: YES.


My worry is not that anti-choicers are going to succeed in rolling back Roe vs. Wade in this congress, with this supreme court or even in the near future. My concern lies in the small "gains" anti-choice legislators may achieve that in the grand scheme of things, may not feel like much but will undoubtedly matter to some woman somewhere in the country who has a right to reproductive options, yet has little or no access to them. Initiatives like a ban on abortion after 20 weeks is a prime example. Later term abortions happen. It is a fact. They are often very sad but also necessary to save a woman's life. If it becomes increasingly difficult to access these services, a woman's health is affected and it impacts her family, friends and loved ones, too. No one wants to be put in these kinds of situations, but there are so many things in life we can't control. I would never want to go through a heart-breaking situation during pregnancy, and I would certainly never wish that my female friends, cousins, sisters, or my niece have to experience it either.


Access to birth control and emergency contraception are two other examples that worry me. We have seen great gains in recent years with new forms of emergency contraception (also known as: the morning after pill), but it can be difficult in some areas of the country to find a pharmacy that stocks it. And, with rising health care costs and many women unemployed, underemployed and/or uninsured, the ability to afford the birth control pill is heavily impacted. Birth control pills should be viewed as preventative medicine and should be widely available to all women wishing to control if and when they enter into motherhood.


There are an abundance of bills on the state and federal level aimed at attacking choice, too. We know that John Boehner, Speaker of the U.S. House, will not stand in the way of their passage. And, at the state level, many state legislatures will succeed in passing some very detrimental anti-choice bills.


I've painted a pretty grim picture because we are up against some serious challenges and competition. The threats are real, but we haven't lost anything yet. There is still time to exercise our rights as citizens by calling legislators to speak up for reproductive freedom and access to good, quality reproductive healthcare.  And, in the worst case scenario that some of these bills do pass, I am confident in the collective strength of us, the pro-choice supporters nationwide, to work hard in subsequent legislative sessions to repeal measures that infringe on our rights as women to access reproductive health care and have, options. I truly feel this all boils down to that one little word: options. If a woman doesn't want to take birth control, she shouldn't have to take it.  If she doesn't want to have an abortion, by all means, she should never feel pressured to have one. Those are her choices. But for the rest of us out there, what are our choices? Where are our options? A legislator on Capitol Hill in Washington or in any state capital across the U.S. should not feel entitled to make decisions regarding our choices, our options, but it is happening. So, as a community, I hope we'll continue to speak up to preserve choice and to say, 'PLEASE, stop legislating against MY reproductive rights.'


-Jillian
NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland

Concerned for Choice? You Bet.

It never ceases to baffle me that almost forty years after Roe v. Wade a woman’s right to choose is still up for debate. To the pro-choice community, this is an essential and undeniable right yet everyday you can read a new story about healthcare providers refusing to provide necessary medical services to women. Everyday, lawmakers attempt to limit access to abortions and demand control over women’s bodies. Our House of Representatives is led by a man who hopes to be “the most pro-life Speaker” in history. The political climate across the nation is as anti-choice as ever. Am I concerned for choice in 2011? Absolutely.

Even here in Maryland, a place considered to be a pro-choice haven, a woman’s right to choose is under attack. The state lawmakers have introduced many new pieces of anti-choice legislation this session. These bills, which anti-choice legislators insultingly claim “protect women’s health”, truly aim to close the doors of most of Maryland’s few abortion providers. In addition to this, if the Holy Cross Hospital decision has shown us anything, it’s that women's reproductive health is clearly not a priority to our politicians. This is unsettling and unacceptable.

On this 38th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, I commit to holding our politicians accountable for anti-choice decisions and hope that 2011 is the year for choice. 

~ Clare
NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland Intern

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Let Your Voice Be Heard!


This Saturday, January 22nd the pro-choice community will celebrate the 38th anniversary of the passage Roe v. Wade by the United States Supreme Court. In celebration of this landmark occasion, we invite you participate in NARAL Pro-Choice America’s Blog for Choice Day.
Frustrated with the current anti-choice attitude on Capitol Hill? Talk about it! This Friday January 21 is the day for you and bloggers across the nation to get people reading and thinking about pro-choice issues. Simply write a blog post with your thoughts and comments regarding the question below and tag the posts on your blog with NARAL Pro-Choice America’s Blog for Choice to show you’re joining in.
 This year the question to consider when writing your blog on Friday is: Given the anti-choice gains in the states and Congress, are you concerned about choice in 2011?
 Don’t have a blog? That’s fine too, just tweet your response or post it Facebook. The goal is to get as many people thinking about reproductive rights this Friday and anything you can do will help!