Tag Archives: pro-choice

The truth about women’s health

Women’s health is all over the news. And, mostly, not in a good way.

I wish more people would talk about women’s health, if they were getting the facts right. But they’re not.

Some people are misinformed while others are simply not telling the truth. Either way, it’s dangerous for women.

First, there’s the willful ignorance or outright lies of people pushing their own agenda, be it political or ethical. No, Rick Santorum, abortions do not cause breast cancer. And no, Karen Handel, we don’t believe you really care about women’s health. People with the power to influence others should be held accountable for the misinformation they spread. It hurts women, especially those who need assistance the most.

The truth about women's healthBut there’s also a woeful lack of knowledge among women themselves, who deserve better education and a world where the difference between truth and myth is abundantly clear. If we don’t give women the information they need to stay well, they’re going to get sick. It’s as simple as that. It’s dangerous to women — and expensive to every aspect of our healthcare system. Paying for prevention is significantly less expensive than paying for treatment.

I can’t cover every issue related to women’s health in a single blog post, so I’ll just tackle three points.

1. The Department of Health & Human Services mandate that religious organizations serving the public must provide birth control coverage to their employees.

I understand that people of certain faiths don’t believe in birth control or abortion, and I respect that. No one’s forcing them to opt for either. However, I’d like equal respect for my choice to use birth control because I don’t want to get pregnant. But that aside, millions of women rely on birth control for health reasons. Is it better they bleed to death from a gynecological condition that could be treated with birth control pills? Or perhaps they should have a hysterectomy instead. How are those “choices” humane, let alone cost-effective?

Secretary Kathleen Sebelius did an excellent job explaining the balance the HHS worked to find that would respect a majority of people’s rights in this op-ed. People seem to be ignoring that there are exemptions for certain religious organizations. By the same token, many insurance plans cover Viagra. I honestly would like to know: How many religious organizations include coverage for Viagra in their employee healthcare plans? Seems to me that male impotence would be an excellent form of natural birth control.

2. Susan G. Komen for the Cure’s defunding (and, last I heard, refunding for 2012) its support of breast health care at Planned Parenthood.

Disagree strongly though I do with the actions of some of Susan G. Komen’s leadership, I’m not wasting energy being angry. I’d rather use that energy to stand with Planned Parenthood. For countless women, Planned Parenthood is the only place they can get preventive care. And claims that Planned Parenthood exists primarily to provide abortions simply are not true. That service only makes up 3-4 percent of the work they do. Their primary focus is on prevention and wellness and, yes, providing birth control. Yet there are people who don’t even want Planned Parenthood to offer birth control, which is the best way to prevent pregnancy. Let’s be honest: People will have sex. And the more access women and men have to birth control, the less chance there is that they will be faced with an unwanted pregnancy. This article from Slate makes that case extremely well.

The truth about women's healthJust how ignorant are people about what Planned Parenthood does? Rep. John Fleming of Louisiana was reportedly up in arms about an article by The Onion saying Planned Parenthood was opening an Abortionplex. I shouldn’t have to say that this isn’t true, but it isn’t. (Rep. Fleming, The Onion is satire. Please learn the facts. Also, work on your sense of humor.)

There are plenty of other women’s health issues that many politicians and elected officials are just not well-informed enough about. Perhaps they should have to pass a basic health sciences test before trying to pass legislation that affects women and their health. And women’s health should never, ever be used as a political weapon. No one’s health should be politicized.

3. Troubling signs that women aren’t nearly as educated about their health as they could be.

I think many organizations are doing a great job of providing information to women about their health and wellness. However, there’s clearly a need to do more. President Bartlet tweeted, “Scariest thing to come from the #Komen debate? The women I’ve heard who don’t know the difference between a breast exam and a mammogram.” Margaret Hooper responded, wisely, “Sounds like a sad side effect of a lack of access to proper medical care, sir.”

This conversation has had me thinking about women’s access to good healthcare — and healthcare education — ever since. I just read a report that Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) researchers found a shocking lack of knowledge among teenage mothers. Yes, it might seem obvious that teenagers get pregnant because they’re not making good choices. But only half of the 5,000 teens surveyed used birth control, many due to lack of access, and others believed countless myths including this horrifying one: drinking bleach after sex prevents conception. (Source: The Week, Feb. 10, 2012.)

The truth about women's healthWe must do a better job educating women of all ages about their health and their options. I personally want to do more in this regard, so I’ll be sharing good information about women’s health when I see it. For starters, I recommend following womenshealth.gov on Twitter. I also encourage and welcome input on other good resources for information.

It’s impossible to make an educated choice about your life — reproductive or otherwise — without knowledge. It’s also dangerous for people to make or believe false claims out of ignorance.

We can all be smarter about women’s health. Let’s start here: Women’s health is not a political issue. It’s a personal and human one that nearly everyone could be better-informed about.

Let’s focus on people, not politics.

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The choice is ours

America is the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Which is why the freedom for a woman to choose what she does with her own body must be protected. Many brave women and men fought for that right, which resulted in the Roe v. Wade decision. And people continue to fight for that right every day.

This is not the only battle being fought for women’s reproductive rights — and the fight is far from over. I’ve written about this before in detail and I’m pro-choice. I believe every woman should have the freedom to choose whatever she believes is right for her. And my definition of pro-choice encompasses every possible choice a woman might want, or need, to make.

The choice is ours

To mark Blog for Choice Day, here’s what I plan to do this year to help get more pro-choice candidates elected.

I will continue to stand with our President, who respects women’s reproductive issues. The most recent example? He approved nearly universal insurance coverage for contraception. Availability of birth control can’t be overlooked in a pro-choice conversation. Choosing not to have a baby must start there. Greater access to birth control for all women translates to a decline in unwanted pregnancies. Just you wait and see.

I’m going to share facts about reproductive issues and rights at every opportunity. Facts I hope can counteract the angry, ill-informed rhetoric some try to pass off as the truth. Educating people is essential to helping them understand what’s at stake.

I’ll communicate the facts about candidates who are either staunchly pro-choice or anti-choice. The public must be fully informed when they cast their vote.

I will spread the word about pending legislation that could infringe on a woman’s right to choose. This includes the rights protected by Roe v. Wade but other reproductive issues, such as personhood amendments, can’t be ignored. Any attempt to manipulate or control what a woman does with her body is a violation of her rights.

At every opportunity, I’ll tell legislators and elected officials that it’s time to stop trying to meddle in the private business of women’s bodies. I’ll make my voice heard in ways such as signing and sharing the NARAL petition to challenge Speaker Boehner not to hold any anti-choice votes in 2012.

The choice is oursI will use my ability to communicate what’s at stake with as many people as I can, however I can. When anyone else tells a woman what she can and can’t do with her body, it’s an assault on her basic human rights.

We are the land of the free and the home of the brave. However much bravery it takes, we must fight those who try to take away the freedom of American women. It’s our right, as citizens and human beings, to make our own choices.

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Can’t keep a good woman down

What are some men so afraid of? I mean, why else would so many male politicians have declared War on Women if they weren’t afraid of something?

I’m not the first to say this. But we need to keep saying it. Because unless she chooses to party like it’s 1949, no woman should be forced to live a life from the last century. If she wants to stay at home and have six kids: excellent. If she wants to run a global corporation and have no kids: excellent. But the choice must be hers.

Limit a woman’s ability to choose and you limit her ability to succeed. You limit her ability to lead.

This is not entirely an issue of misogyny. Many of the weapons in this war are being launched by Republicans, but it’s not all them, either. It’s not even just men. A few women have joined the ranks, too. It makes no sense to me, but there are women who would apparently like to see all of us barefoot, pregnant and submissive. Just ask Michele Bachmann about that last part.

I’m not writing this to place blame on anyone. That’s wasted time, anyway. I’m writing this because, sadly, I have to. We have to keep talking about the War on Women until it stops.

You can't keep a good woman down

This post has been in my head for a while. The attacks on women’s rights just keep coming, as do daily disrespect and sexism everywhere from the workplace to Twitter. So I had two choices: Write about where we are today or wait until something big changes. I’m not waiting. (Credit where due: Sarah Burris shared a speech by Joss Whedon that helped sharpen my focus on the point I want to make here. This is a huge topic.)

Here’s my point: I want the day to come when we no longer have to talk about women’s equality because it simply won’t be in question anymore. There will be no need to discuss the War on Women because it will be over. Until then, we have to keep talking about it.

When you take away a woman’s rights, you limit her ability to succeed.

When you take away her liberty to make her own decisions, or to have access to the same jobs and healthcare options and freedoms a man has, you limit her ability to succeed. You limit her ability to lead.

Let’s just rip off the Band-Aid and start with abortion. I am not pro-abortion. I am pro-choice. I don’t believe in abortion as a form of birth control, but I believe that forcing a woman to have a baby she can’t afford or doesn’t want — or could die in the process of having — holds back both that woman and that baby. Yes, adoption is an option and many women choose it. But it’s not an easy path to take. And it’s expensive if you don’t have healthcare coverage. Whatever decision a woman makes when she learns she’s pregnant, it’s going to change the course of her life. She ought to be able to choose the direction she takes.

That ability to choose is why women need the option of birth control. But I can’t keep up with the number of groups trying to outlaw birth control altogether. They’ve already made it harder for women to access birth control with moves like trying to do away with Planned Parenthood. Making birth control unavailable isn’t going to stop people from having sex. So a woman gets pregnant and then what? I respect that some women choose not to use birth control or have abortions. But that doesn’t mean every woman should have to make those same choices. One group’s beliefs should never be forced on everyone.

Then there are the personhood amendments. The first, thankfully, failed to get the support of voters but there are many more in the pipeline. Under these laws, life would begin at conception. So theoretically, a woman who tripped and fell, or got beat up by her husband, and had a subsequent miscarriage could be tried for murder of that embryo. Theoretically.

Taking away a woman’s right to choose — and her access to the tools she needs to make informed, intelligent choices, such as birth control or education about sexuality and reproduction — is a form of oppression. 

You can't keep a good woman down

And it’s not just the laws some people are trying to pass. Those are bad enough, and we have to fight to preserve women’s rights and freedoms. More than ever, I stand with Planned Parenthood, Emily’s List, the National Women’s Law Center and many other organizations and individuals, women and men, who are on the side of women.

But the War on Women is also evident in the things people say, every day. The way women are critiqued on their appearance more often than men. I don’t mean compliments, which are just fine. I’m talking about judging a woman on how she looks instead of what she thinks. Or the way men make overtly sexual comments in social media. A little flirtation and innuendo is fun and I do it, too, but explicit comments go too far. (Take it offline or you look like a creepy idiot.) The way people demean women with diminutive nicknames and Twitter hashtags like #WomenWhoCantCook — and that one is tame compared to the one a while back about reasons it was okay for a man to hit a woman. The way women must sometimes be anonymous online, for fear of being victimized verbally or, in some horrible cases, physically, after someone they angered tracked them down. If you want to see misogyny in all its hateful glory, check the #MenCallMeThings hashtag.

Even the women running for President in the Republican party are, in a way, an insult. Don’t get me wrong. I like seeing a woman running for President. Any woman. But is this the best the GOP could do? Michele Bachmann can’t be bothered to vote as a Congresswoman but she’s being paraded as a Presidential hopeful? Please. She doesn’t stand a chance and the GOP knows it. Sorry, but: token woman. Sarah Palin is smarter than I thought, to stay out of the race, but not by much. She’s still a quitter and an opportunist. So, again, not a woman fit to lead.

Sometimes the condescension and gender bias is so subtle — or so ingrained, so insidious — it’s easy to miss it. But it’s there.

We have to stay on the watch for it. We need to keep doing whatever we can to protect and strengthen women’s rights.

Again, I’m not the first person to say this. But why do we have to keep saying it?

Why do we have to keep saying it’s not okay to blame victims of rape for the violent crimes committed against them?

Why do we have to pass laws (grateful as I am for the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act) that say it’s not okay to pay a woman less than a man to do the same job?

Why do we need an International Day Against Violence Against Women?

You can't keep a good woman down

Why do we have to keep saying it’s not okay for men to behave as Herman Cain did when he called Nancy Pelosi “Princess”?

Why isn’t women’s equality, and their right to make their own decisions, an unequivocal right?

There are so many questions. And I don’t pretend to have all the answers.

Look, I’m a lucky woman. I have a job where I’m respected and given the opportunity to excel if I work hard. I’m in a great relationship with a man (yes, a Republican man) who treats me as an equal and values the fact that I’m a smart, strong, independent-minded woman. So many women don’t have these things.

Limiting women’s rights limits their ability to succeed. It limits their ability to lead. And some people don’t like the idea of women in leadership very much.

I think the people who want to hold women back are intimidated. Women are strong, we’re not afraid to stand up for what we believe in. We can endure more pain than many men. We can often multi-task better. We have the potential to be just as smart and hard-working as any man. We’re compassionate and tend to take human beings into consideration when we make decisions. We generally play well with others. Pretty good leadership qualities if you ask me. There’s science to back me up on this, too.

You can't keep a good woman downIf anyone can explain to me why there’s such a huge push for laws that limit the rights of women — effectively holding us back by not letting us make decisions about things like what we’ll do with our bodies over the course of nine months and a lifetime of motherhood — I’d like to hear it. Really, I would.

I’ll listen, but I doubt I can be convinced that restricting a woman’s right to choose how she wants to live her life will ever be okay. Telling her to compromise her dreams because she has to choose what someone else is forcing on her will never be okay.

Limiting a woman’s right to choose how she wants to live her life limits her ability to succeed. No matter what it is she might want to do.

I’m not going to sit quietly and wait. Following the lead of many outstanding organizations and individuals, I’m going to keep talking about this. Until there’s a day when we no longer need to.

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