Some of the media coverage of Tuesday’s arguments before the Supreme Court on the contraception mandate tended to pit women’s rights activists against social conservatives, making contraception seem like a lifestyle choice that only benefits some women — you know, the ones who have sex.
What often gets lost in the debate is why contraception is considered a preventive health issue — and why treating it as such is beneficial for everyone.
During the healthcare debate, the Department of Health and Human Services charged the Institute of Medicine (IOM) with reviewing preventive services that are important to public health and well-being, and recommending which ones should be considered in the development of comprehensive guidelines.
For women, this includes annual well-woman visits, testing for STIs and HIV, support for breastfeeding, and screening and counseling for domestic violence.
It also includes FDA-approved contraception methods, as well as patient education and counseling on contraception. What makes contraception a health issue? Well, with all due respect to Mike Huckabee, it’s not about women’s libidos.
Here’s the deal: When women use contraception, they can avoid unwanted pregnancies and space planned pregnancies to promote optimal birth outcomes.
When a pregnancy is planned, women can start prenatal care, including increasing their intake of folic acid; work with their healthcare providers to address relevant medical conditions, as well as substance abuse; and take other steps that lead to healthier outcomes for both the mother and the infant.
Pregnancies that are unplanned are more likely to be affected by delayed prenatal care, maternal depression, low birth weight, poorer childhood physical and mental health, and other complications. Breastfeeding rates are also lower after unintended pregnancies.
Social conservatives should also take note that 40 percent of unintended pregnancies end in abortion. And there is an economic cost: Two-thirds of unintended pregnancies are paid for by publicly funded insurance programs, usually Medicaid. For more information, Guttmacher Institute has a terrific fact sheet on unintended pregnancies that explains the incidence rate, demographics, outcomes and costs.
When you look at the facts, contraception is smart public health policy.
Of course, for some women, birth control is essential for other health reasons, including acne, fibroids, endometriosis and to reduce problems associated with irregular or very heavy periods.
Despite the proven health benefits — and the benefits to society as a whole — Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood claim that the requirement to provide health insurance that includes no-cost contraception violates their religious freedom.
Not surprisingly, the Court’s three female justices were most skeptical of their position. As Jeffrey Toobin writes in The New Yorker:
After Paul Clement, the lawyer for Hobby Lobby, began his argument, twenty-eight of the first thirty-two questions to him came from Ruth Bader Ginsburg (four questions), Sonia Sotomayor (eleven), and Elena Kagan (thirteen). The queries varied, of course, but they were all variations on a theme. The trio saw the case from the perspective of the women employees. They regarded the employer as the party in the case with the money and the power. Sotomayor asked, “Is your claim limited to sensitive materials like contraceptives, or does it include items like blood transfusion, vaccines? For some religions, products made of pork? Is any claim under your theory that has a religious basis, could an employer preclude the use of those items as well?” Clement hedged in response. When Clement asserted that Hobby Lobby’s owners, because of their Christian values, did care about making sure that their employees had health insurance, Kagan shot back:
“I’m sure they want to be good employers. But again, that’s a different thing than saying that their religious beliefs mandate them to provide health insurance, because here Congress has said that the health insurance that they’re providing is not adequate, it’s not the full package.”
The most forceful was Justice Elena Kagan, who repeatedly asked aggressive questions throughout the 90-minute argument about the legal dangers of exempting certain entities from laws on the basis of religion.
“There are quite a number of medical treatments that religious groups object to,” she said, positing that a ruling against the Obama administration could empower business owners to seek exemptions from laws about sex discrimination, family leave and the minimum wage. “You’d see religious objectors come out of the woodwork,” Kagan warned, arguing that it’s problematic for judges to test the centrality of a belief to a religion or the sincerity of beliefs that are invoked in court.
But even if the owners do have a religious commitment, Hobby Lobby is not pretending that it is a religion. It is a business. That any business should have power over what can literally be the life-and-death health decisions of its employees, well, that’s another issue for another day. But as long as Hobby Lobby sells its supplies to saints and sinners alike, it has no business questioning what its employees do when they go to see the doctor.
Access to birth control is important for everyone — for preventing pregnancies, and to allow women and families to best time and plan healthy pregnancies. Hopefully the male members of the Supreme Court will see it that way, too.
To catch up on the issue, check out this coverage:
The Women’s Media Center proudly congratulates co-founder Gloria Steinem on being named recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom — the nation’s highest civilian honor.
In its announcement, the White House noted that Steinem is “a leader in the women’s liberation movement, co-founded Ms. magazine, and helped launch a wide variety of groups and publications dedicated to advancing civil rights. Ms. Steinem has received dozens of awards over the course of her career, and remains an active voice for women’s rights.”
Cheryl is a retired Air Force officer, living and writing in Asheville, NC. Her book, In Formation: What the Air Force Taught Me about Holding On and Manning Up is awaiting publication. You can read more of her work at www.cheryldietrich.net.
Last week, the Pentagon announced plans to open combat positions to women. This seems an appropriate time to give you my take on the subject, as written in my book, In Formation. Part of this post was published in the anthology Birthed from Scorched Hearts: Women Respond to War (compiled and edited by MariJo Moore, Fulcrum Publishing, 2008). Click here to read the entire blog entry
A Listening Project (LP) is a comprehensive process that includes deep listening interviews and community organizing that can result in cooperative community education and action on a wide range of issues and concerns. LPs are especially useful in communities where conflict, divisions or disempowerment weakens efforts for positive change. They can help organizations successfully address injustice, conflict, community development, health, environmental and others concerns.
What It Does
Identifies problems and issues that people care about.
Includes often unheard or unheeded voices.
Fosters emergence and development of new community leaders.
Generates creative solutions for community needs and problems.
Disseminates issue-related information and determines needs for additional information.
Encourages personal growth as all involved consider new viewpoints and information.
Forms uncommon coalitions and alliances through which diverse viewpoints can resolve – rather than clash over – difficult issues.
Promotes insight, empathy, and understanding among people with conflicting views.
VAWA INTEGRAL PART OF PUBLIC SAFETY AND NEEDS TO PASS, SAYS American Bar Association Good Work of Local Providers Needs Reauthorization to Continue
WASHINGTON, D.C., April 26, 2012 — Calling the bill the single most effective federal effort to respond to domestic violence and sexual assault, American Bar Association President Wm. T. (Bill) Robinson III urged senators to support S. 1925, the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2011, in a letter sent to Capitol Hill today.
“S. 1925 was carefully crafted to reflect discussions with more than 2,000 advocates and experts around the country,” noted Robinson. He further explained that the association adopted policy in February 2010 urging for adoption of legislation that provides services, protections and justice to vulnerable victims “including children and youth who are victims or are witnesses to family violence, and victims who are disabled, elderly, immigrant, trafficked, LGBT and/or Indian.”
Robinson urged senators to oppose amendments that would weaken the bill, including a substitute version being offered by Sens. Charles Grassley and Kay Bailey Hutchison. The letter also emphasized the ABA’s opposition to mandatory minimum sentencing proposals either to accompany new federal crimes or to augment existing offenses.
“VAWA has become an integral part of our public safety strategy that has empirical support for its effectiveness,” summed Robinson. “The good work being done by thousands of local providers and public servants cannot continue without its reauthorization.”
The letter in its entirety can be found online.
With nearly 400,000 members, the American Bar Association is the largest voluntary professional membership organization in the world. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law.
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Rwanda and Congo are two neighbouring countries that have been torn apart by the worst atrocities of war that the world has seen in recent years. The rape and torture of women as a weapon of war is commonplace.The women from the opposing sides of war in these communities came together to say No to war and Yes to peace, and to show how they could build the bridges of peace for the future. To show their support, women have stood with them on hundreds of bridges across the world from Sydney to Paris, and Accra to Ontario. Click here “to build bridges of peace and hope for the future” If not this year what about next year? Write SheVille if you are interested! firstname.lastname@example.org
The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at UNC Asheville (formerly the North Carolina Center for Creative Retirement) is an award-winning, internationally-acclaimed learning community dedicated to promoting lifelong learning, leadership, community service, and research. We opened our doors in 1988 as a department of the University of North Carolina at Asheville. Our goal is to enable our members to “thrive” in life’s second half.
OLLI at UNC Asheville(OLLI) embraces an unusually comprehensive array of programs in the arts and humanities, the natural world, civic engagement, wellness, life transition and retirement relocation planning, intergenerational co-learning, and research on trends in the reinvention of
MAKERS.com is a dynamic digital platform showcasing thousands of compelling stories – both known and unknown – from trailblazing women of today and tomorrow. This historic video initiative was founded by Dyllan McGee and developed by AOL and PBS. Executive Producers are Dyllan McGee, Betsy West, and Peter Kunhardt.
MAKERS: Women Who Make America is an ongoing initiative that aims to be the largest and most dynamic collection of women’s stories ever assembled. Selections of MAKERS are made twice a year by our filmmaking team using guidelines set by our board of advisors.This process ensures that the make-up of the library of stories includes women from all walks of life with diverse experiences and perspectives. Watch the video
Women in the ‘Groundbreakers’ category were chosen by the production team based on criteria defined by a team of advisors and include women who are firsts in their fields, visionary role models or frontline activists who sparked, and some who opposed, change for women.
MAKERS: Women Who Make America is made possible by Simple® Facial Skincare, a Unilever brand, AOL and The Charles H. Revson Foundation. Additional funding forPBS.org/makersandMAKERS.comis provided by NoVo Foundation, Ford Foundation, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Carnegie Corporation of New York, The Rice Family Foundation, and The Rockefeller Foundation and others.
In an interview with Women For One, celebrated author and poet, Dr. Maya Angelou speaks about peace and authenticity.
One of the most incredibly inspiring and powerful women in history, celebrated author and poet Dr. Maya Angelou spoke with Women For One about what it means to be truly authentic. Dr. Angelou was a primary inspiration for the creation of Women For One; her stories and vision encourage others to share their stories with each other in the Women For One community. Just as in her own writing, Angelou hopes other women will also connect with readers in an authentic and human way. The trick, she notes, is to tell stories in the most truthful way possible.
Angelou started her artistic career at a young age and in 1969, her work “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings”, earned her a reputation as a new kind of autobiographer. She was one of the first African-American women who could write about her life “from the inside” without apology. Her bravery in writing about her life makes her an inspiring example of the authenticity found in storytelling. Angelou has touched audiences worldwide and earned her several awards for her work including a Pulitzer, and is the second poet in history to be invited to compose a piece of work for a presidential inauguration. In addition, she has played many roles – mother, celebrated poet, memoirist and novelist, dramatist, actress, historian, filmmaker, civil rights activist, and noted professor with over thirty honorary degrees. She is currently the Reynolds Professor of American Studies at Wake Forest University.
In the interview, Angelou says that it’s up to women to work together to change the world around them, and bring peace both to themselves and their communities. She cites negativity as vulgarity, and explains how that negativity keeps women from truly being authentic. Her exemplary kindness and authentic truth-telling are prime examples of the change Women For One hopes to inspire in their community.
When the Bank of England announced last month its intention to portray Jane Austen on its ten-pound note, it seemed the most uncontroversial of choices. Who better than Austen to stand as a representative of female accomplishment? Many of the female historical figures that might have been chosen were shocking in their time: consider Mary Wollstonecraft and Florence Nightingale. And most still have an air of scandal about them, their subsequent canonization notwithstanding. Continue reading
Women’s Advocacy Day and the reception are free and open to the public, though space is limited at the reception. Donors to NCWU will be recognized at the reception with special recognition for those contributing at least $75 (bronze), $150 (silver) and $250 (gold). Please consider a donation to help our efforts.
This video tells the remarkable story of the most sweeping social revolution in American history, as women have asserted their rights to a full and fair share of political power, economic opportunity, and personal autonomy. It’s a revolution that has unfolded in public and private, in courts and Congress, in the boardroom and the bedroom, changing not only what the world expects from women, but what women expect from themselves. Click here for the video
Gloria Steinem, longtime feminist and founder of Ms. Magazine, talks with PBS NewsHour Senior Correspondent Judy Woodruff on Tuesday, February 26, 2013.
They’ll discuss the women’s movement and the renewed debate over whether women can “have it all.” They’ll explore how far women have come and the challenges ahead. To what extent are women responsible for their own success? What role do governments and employers play? Check your local listings for PBS NewsHour.
Steinem is featured in the PBS documentary, “MAKERS: Women Who Make America.” It examines the sweeping social revolution, as women have taken larger and more prominent roles in political, economic and social arenas. The documentary tells the stories of trailblazing women whose work has altered nearly every aspect of American culture. “MAKERS” airs on February 26th at 8:00 P.M. Eastern time on PBS.
Anne D. Bell Public Relations Manager PBS NEWSHOUR 2700 South Quincy St.; Suite 250 Arlington, VA 22206 Office – (703) 998-2175 @AnneBell
“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.” click here to read more
Retro-sexist advertising may be presented as ironic, but it features the same, familiar images feminists rallied against decades ago, argues the author. What to do?
Compare two advertisements—both use a picture of a young, attractive, white woman to sell their product. Both women look sweetly perplexed and nervous. One, for the Mini Automatic, is taglined “For Simple Driving” and shows the model clutching a steering wheel and biting her lip, daunted at the task of driving a car. The other, for a Samsung camera, is taglined “Too Smart For Amy” with its model holding up the product and pouting adorably, eyes wide with confusion to show she is completely flummoxed by this complex piece of technology. Can you guess which one was made in 1970 and which one was released in 2012? Me neither. Click here to read the entire article
Here’s the fantasy: A half-naked woman lies across a couch, lips pouty and cleavage prominent as her sultry gaze implores you to buy this bottle of perfume.The reality: Women make up 51% of the United States yet only 17% of seats in the House of Representatives. They’re 3% of Fortune 500 CEOs and 7% of directors in the top 250 grossing films. Click here to read the entire article
Sherine Hafez and Jessica Winegar examine the role and future of Egyptian women in the Arab Spring Uprising in this quarter’s American Ethnologist by authoring personal accounts of women during the revolution. From the thicket of peaceful protest in Tahrir Square to tending to the domestic duties during such an uncertain time, many obstacles have challenged the role of women in politics.
Jessica Winegar, sociocultural anthropologist and Assistant Professor at Northwestern University, examines the responsibilities of women during the uprising. Professor Winegar was in Cairo during the uprising, however, like many women, she could not attend the protest due to family obligations in the home. “I call attention to the way that revolution is experienced and undertaken in domestic spaces, through different forms of affect, in ways deeply inflected by gender and class,” says Winegar in her article The Privilege of Revolution: Gender, class, space, and affect in Egypt.
Sherine Hafez, ethnographer and Assistant Professor at the University of California Riverside, takes an in-depth look at the role of women after the uprising to surprisingly find this role remains the same, in her article No Longer a Bargain: Women, Masculinity, and the Egyptian Uprising. She notes that “what the events of this uprising have revealed is that notions of masculinity undermined by a repressive regime have observably shifted the terms of the patriarchal bargain.”
American Ethnologist, a quarterly journal produced by the American Ethnological Society (AES), in its February 2012 issue features these articles on the Arab Spring uprising in Egypt. The nine authors are anthropologists with a wide range of specialties who have years of research experience in Egypt. The online and print editions are currently available. Articles and abstracts are available at www.americanethnologist.org
This journal is edited by Angelique Haugerud of Rutgers University and its content deals with all facets of ethnology in the broadest sense of the term. Articles creatively demonstrate the connections between ethnographic specificity and theoretical originality, as well as the ongoing relevance of the ethnographic imagination to the contemporary world.
The American Ethnological Society, founded in 1842, sponsors the journal American Ethnologist. AES is a section of the American Anthropological Association.
-American Anthropological Association- Founded in 1902, the American Anthropological Association is the world’s largest professional organization of anthropologists and others interested in anthropology, with an average annual membership of more than 10,000. The Arlington, VA – based association represents all specialties within anthropology – cultural anthropology, biological (or physical) anthropology, archaeology, linguistics and applied anthropology.
Media Resources: American Ethnologist: www.americanethnologist.org
Angelique Haugerud, Editor, American Ethnologist: http://bit.ly/wEByYO
American Ethnologist Society: www.aesonline.org
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