Tag Archives: religion

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 reason for the season

Maybe it’s just me, but all the fuss about there being a War on Christmas doesn’t seem very much in the spirit of what the holiday is all about.

I mean, I get the whole War on Christmas idea, to a point. I understand that some Christians object to what they see as the secularization of Christmas. But there are other faiths, too, many of which have observations in December, and they should be respected equally. Christians are welcome to make their own Christmas celebration as religious as they choose.

But we’re not all going to feel the same way. And, frankly, the fact that anyone would think I’m waging war on their faith by saying “happy holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas” seems more hostile to me than my well-intentioned good wishes. I guess that’s why the idea of people fighting about Christmas perplexes me. I just can’t reconcile the idea of the War on Christmas with the meaning of the holiday.

The reason for the season

I grew up Episcopalian and am now a Buddhist who is more philosophical than religious. My boyfriend is Catholic, and I have friends and colleagues who are Jewish, Baptist, Muslim, Hindu, atheist — you name it. I honor their beliefs equally.

My little world isn’t any different from our larger world. And in a country that was founded in part to allow religious freedom, why is it so difficult for us to honor everyone’s faith equally? (I could easily veer off here into a discussion about separation of church and state. Instead, suffice to say I recognize its relevance to this topic but my point is about what’s in our hearts rather than what’s displayed on city property.)

I know Christians who will always say “Merry Christmas” instead of “happy holidays,” and I respect that they want the celebration of their faith recognized. But I can’t help but think of my Jewish friends who are frustrated by the number of people who ask, “What does that holiday mean? And Jews still celebrate Thanksgiving, right?” At least Buddhists can point to the Dalai Lama and say, “That,” but otherwise people don’t really get it a lot of the time.

The reason for the seasonThat doesn’t offend me. If someone asks, I’ll explain my beliefs. It’s good that we learn about each other’s faiths, especially since they share many common principles. I’ve learned more about Catholicism since I started dating Joe Quincy — in fact, conversations with him helped shape this post and inspired its title.

It’s good that we share traditions and celebrate together, as far as our own faith allows. Celebrating Christmas or Hanukkah doesn’t impugn my Buddhist philosophy. It’s a time to share joy with the people I love. Buddhists value that, just as Christians and Muslims and people of all faiths do.

I guess that’s where I find myself so frustrated by the idea of the War on Christmas. To me, the whole point is to celebrate the ideal of “goodwill toward all men” — not just those we love, but those we work with or meet on the street. All men and women, whether we agree with them or not.

The reason for the seasonWhen people wish me a Merry Christmas, I don’t get prickly about it. I wish them the same in return, because if I didn’t already I now know they’re Christian. I offer glad tidings in the person’s faith if I know it, and I think “happy holidays” is a fine way to wish each other well, too. It honors every faith or simply a festive season for non-believers.

The many holidays celebrated in December (some with pagan origins, let’s not forget) are an opportunity to come together, to express gratitude, to experience the comfort and joy of family and friends. It’s a time to be good to each other.

The way I see it, we could stand to find more time to be good to each other. Every day, not just a few days a year. So whatever words you use, say something nice. And celebrate when someone says something nice to you, however they say it.

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