Emergency contraception and the FDA

February 10, 2011 § 2 Comments

by MIRANDA

I’ve written quite a lot about emergency contraception, and in particular about the shady age restrictions that dictate who can and can’t buy it over the counter.

The Center for Reproductive Rights has an excellent recap:

The Center sued the FDA in 2005 for failing to grant over-the-counter status to emergency contraception (a.k.a Plan B) against the advice of its scientific experts and in violation of its own procedures and regulations. In 2006, the FDA agreed to make Plan B available without a prescription, but only to women 18 and over and only behind the pharmacy counter.

Plan B is now available over-the-counter for anyone age 17 or over, but remains inaccessible to those under 17 even though “medical and scientific consensus provides no rationale for age restrictions on Plan B.”

Today, emergency contraception is available without a prescription, but only for women age 17 and older. Pharmacies and clinics must keep it behind the counter and anyone seeking to buy it must show government issued identification proving their age in order to buy it without a prescription.
These intrusive restrictions, unprecedented for drugs with over-the-counter status, make it harder and more stigmatizing for consumers to get the contraception during its most effective window.

These restrictions are undeniably motivated by political and social pressures that seek to legislate sexuality. (I’ll quote myself: “It’s more than obvious that the conservative movement to restrict access is not about the health and safety of teenage women, but about legislating who is and isn’t allowed to have sex.”) Never mind that the political leaders who restrict Plan B access, which prevents conception after unprotected sex, are the same people who restrict abortion access — abortion being what women might logically turn to when faced with an unplanned pregnancy that using Plan B might have prevented in the first place.

But this morning brought some good news:

Moments ago, Teva, the manufacturer of the emergency contraceptive (EC) Plan B, announced that it filed an application with the FDA requesting that EC be available over-the-counter without a prescription for women of all ages.

While it’s phenomenal that Teva has put this pressure on the FDA, their request will only affect restrictions on their specific emergency contraception product. In an email, the Center for Reproductive Rights emphasized: “We want the FDA to know that it is still required to obey the law and end all restrictions once and for all –- not on a piece meal basis.”

They have a petition to pressure Dr. Margaret Hamburg, the FDA Commissioner of Food and Drugs, to end senseless age restrictions on all forms of emergency contraception. Please sign here.

Profiles In Terrible Sex Education Part 3: In Which An 8th Grader is Awesome

January 6, 2011 § 2 Comments

by ELENA

If I had a hat, I would tip it to Ms. Ellie Grossman, who after sitting through “Willing to Wait’s” program, spoke to the Wyoming Public Schools Reproductive Health Committee, and succeeded in changing the schools programming. WPS now uses the “Safer Choices” program, which was developed by the Planned Parenthood of West and Northern Michigan.

I would also tip my (imaginary) hat to the Wyoming Public Schools, and the Plymouth UCC for recognizing the value of students’ opinions and input. It would have been much easier for the leaders in the school district and the church, in a more conservative community, to say, “Well if we change the programming, we’re going to upset a lot of parents / It’s only one kid complaining / 8th graders shouldn’t know about condoms and birth control / etc.” But they didn’t. They realized that they were doing a disservice to their students by using a program that did not answer their very legitimate questions.

It’s also great that a church is hosting one of the “Safer Choices” sessions. It is very important for religious leaders who are for comprehensive sex ed to speak out in their communities, and show that being religious does not mean having a narrow view of human sexuality.

Profiles In Terrible Sex Education, Part 1: Birth Control

December 6, 2010 § 7 Comments

by ELENA

This is Part 1 in a series of posts about the fail-tastic content on the website of a Grand Rapids MI based abstinence only program called Willing to Wait.

Before writing this post, I dug out my copy of Our Bodies, Ourselves, and perused the chapter on Birth Control. There were pages of information about the history of birth control, cultural or socioeconomic obstacles to obtaining birth control, how pharmaceutical interests might affect health care providers, choosing the birth control method that is right for you, the safety of birth control, and a special segment on the need for services that can provide teens with birth control. And then , after that, the chapter described, in detail, how different birth control methods worked, how to properly use each method, side effects, and what they cost.

Under “Birth Control” on the W2W page was this statement:

Not ready to be a parent yet? Want to avoid a suprise pregnancy? Here are some methods for keeping a pregnancy from happening along with their failure rates, advantages, and disadvantages.

What follows is a table listing different birth control methods. That’s it. Since the main message of abstinence-only education is “DON’T DO IT!!!”, then why bother actually explaining how birth control works in depth, which might improve the success rate of each method?

“Abstinence” is listed first on the chart, and the ‘Advantages” include “no medical or horomonal side effects”, “protection from STIs”, “free”, and “always works”. In Our Bodies, Ourselves, disadvantages of “Complete Abstinence*” include the difficulty of maintaining an abstinent relationship, and the high risk of unplanned pregnancy/contracting an STI if an abstinent couple has sex without knowing how to use birth control or barrier methods. One thing that neither W2W or Our Bodies, Ourselves discusses is sexual assault. Abstinence is not “100%” effective, because there still is a risk of a person engaging in sexual acts, either consentually or through force. Is W2W implying that abstinent teens are magically protected from sexual assault, and only the “bad” sexually active teens are sexually assaulted?

Continuing down the chart, one of the “Disadvantages” listed for condoms on the W2W chart was “men usually don’t like them”.

What.
The.
Hell?

« Read the rest of this entry »

This Bullshit Is Way Too Close to Home

November 29, 2010 § Leave a comment

by ELENA

I’m done with school for the quarter, and so I’m excited about actually getting back in the blogging swing of things. However, I needed a clear subject to write about, so I’m starting a series in which I point out the massive amounts of complete B.S. on the Willing to Wait website. Why am I choosing Willing to Wait? Because it’s an abstinence only program based in West Michigan (where I’m from) and If I can, in any miniscule way, encourage a more mature and accurate dialouge about sexuality, then I will.

My plan is to specifically go through different categories on their website, and explain why their content is B.S. Next post is going to be about their “Pregnancy and Birth Control” page. If you are currently on a birth control regimen, and would like to tell me about your experience on birth control, the side effects, you’ve experienced, and any challenges in refilling/paying for it, please feel free to email me at egorml20@student.scad.edu. I will not publish submitter’s names or contact information.

The most disturbing thing is that according to the website, the Willing to Wait headquarters are just down the street from the Planned Parenthood. Like many other abstinence only programs and “crisis pregnancy centers”, Willing to Wait has no qualms in deceiving students and adults, and scaring them away from getting medically accurate information.

Really Colorado, Really?

October 5, 2010 § 1 Comment

by ELENA

Two years ago, the state of Colorado voted down a proposed “personhood amendment”, which would declare that “the term ‘person’ shall apply to every human being from the beginning of the biological development of that human being.” Evidently, anti-choicers can’t seem to take “no” for an answer, and Amendment 62 is yet again on the ballot this November.

Choice USA’s video points does a better job of poking holes in Amendment 62′s logic than I ever could.

Colorado readers–please fight tooth and nail against this anti-choice, anti-woman, and just plain idiotic proposal.

(Via Feministing)

Very Quick Congrats

August 3, 2010 § 4 Comments

by KATIE E.

Before all the gender-policing, right-wing radio tangents, conspiracy theories, OMG WHAT ABOUT THE CHILDRENZ!!11!!, and plain old transphobia start to crop up, I would like to offer my  congratulations to Thomas Beatie and his wife on the birth of their third child, and my sincere condolences for all of the crap they get to hear, again. That is all.

Pregnant Teens Get Clothes, Moral Panic Ensues

August 3, 2010 § 12 Comments

by KATIE E.

Dear Stephanie Hallett,

Just stop. Really.

Stop the moral panic. Stop calling yourself a feminist unless you decide you want to support all women.  And please, stop promoting the epic fallacy that if we don’t provide maternity clothes at a store aimed at women under thirty, pregnant teenagers will suddenly disappear.

“How about information on pregnancy options, counselling and pre- and post-natal care? Not trendy clothes.”

You know, that’s lovely and all, and I really do support it, but I believe pregnant people are still required by law to be clothed during all that counselling and prenatal care.

And somehow, I don’t think that F21 selling (I kid you not, this is the entire “line”) two modest dresses, two plain shirts, two gray cardigans, two pairs of neutral leggings, one of those belly supporters, and a chiffon thing that I don’t quite understand but is floral and quite unexciting in maternity sizes is going to suddenly end all help for pregnant people who want/need it. And, even in my capacity as a non-fashionista, I’d hardly call that “trendy.” Nice looking, affordable, okay for some jobs and parties, but pretty bland for F21. With the way she phrases it, I was expecting bubble mini-dresses with I AM THE COOLEST PREGNANT TEENAGER EVER emblazoned on the front in rhinestones or something. Not that there would be anything wrong with that, but it sounds much more like something of the traditional F21 cannon.

Furthermore, why shouldn’t pregnant teenagers have trendy clothes? If you are pregnant before society says it’s okay, does that mean you should feel too much shame to dress the way you like?

“Linda Chang, Forever 21′s senior marketing manager, can claim they’re simply trying to appeal to a new demographic, and not exploiting the outrageously high number of teen moms with little money in the U.S., but the point is that a 20-something model in maternity clothes isn’t even shocking anymore. It’s an integral part of the “raw-capitalism-as-spectacle-a-go-go” model that F21 has founded its business on. It doesn’t matter who’s shopping, only that they’re buying.”

I get that Forever 21 is infamous for the whole “fast fashion” phenomenon, but the whole “raw-capitalism-as-spectacle-a-go-go” you’re describing here just sounds a lot like…capitalism. I’m no fan, but the idea of discovering you have a market (young women who’ve always loved fast and cheap clothes who coincidentally become pregnant) and making a product that will appeal to that market (fast, cheap maternity clothes) is hundreds of years old

And exploitive? Really? Please go talk to one of the millions of pregnant people who couldn’t afford maternity clothes  and as them if a twelve dollar, slightly less than flawless quality dress makes them feel exploited. Frankly, only someone from a place of privilege could believe pregnant people are exploited by cheap maternity clothes.

Why should a 20-something model in maternity clothes be a shock, anyway? The average age of a first time mom is now 25, and it’s only gone up in the past forty years. Besides, I thought you only wanted to shame pregnant teenagers here. Is it just the phenomenon of pregnancy in general that makes you so mad?

“But as a company whose audience is made up mostly of girls under 24, Forever 21 has the option to behave responsibly and not perpetuate a very destructive norm.”

Is the fact that most (65%) of F21′s customers are under the age of 24 supposed to make me panic or something? This may shock you, but 18-23-year-olds are women. Adult women. And 65%, while a definite majority, is not a radically high figure.

Not that any of that should matter. I would think that a feminist would recognize how extremely problematic referring to anyone who’s pregnant as “a destructive norm” is. Isn’t it Anti-Kyriarchy 101 that there is nothing wrong with anyone who is keeping a pregnancy, and any problems that arise from it are the fault of our racist, sizeist, ageist, sexist, cissexist, classist, heterosexist society?

“How about we offer proper sex ed to American youth?”

Excellent idea, but I fail to see how this will completely erase pregnant people and the need for them to have proper clothes.

“How about we talk about what it’s really like to be a mom–the money it takes, the time it takes, the effects on a young woman’s body–instead of making teen pregnancy a mere fact of life in the US with shows like 16 and Pregnant?”

Here we go with the “pregnant teenagers are silly and don’t know that babies cost money and can change your body!” meme. I happen to know that Women’s Glib, being Women’s Glib, has a high readership of people who are currently teenagers, so I’ll invite all of them to answer this question:

You know being pregnant costs money and time and changes your body, right?

It wouldn’t be a classic teen pregnancy shame fest without a reference to 16 and Pregnant. Really, how many people do you know who watch 16 and Pregnant who have not done all of the following:

1. Called any of the girls “slutty” or something similar.

2.  Doubted the girl’s intelligence.

3. Referred to the couple that gave the baby up for adoption as being the only one’s who were smart, responsible, and/or mature.

4. Insisted that it is a great way to prevent teenaged girls from having sex and keeping pregnancies.

16 and Pregnant is hardly “acceptance” or “normalization” of teenaged pregnancy.

As much as it clearly pains you, Ms. Hallett, teen pregnancy is a mere fact of life, and it always has been and always will be. Some teens use contraception and it fails. Some teens can’t afford contraception. Some don’t know how to use it. Some are raped. Some are victimized be reproductive coercion. Some plan pregnancies. Many will choose or be forced into carrying the pregnancy to full-term. All deserve our respect and support. And that includes affordable, nice clothes that they can wear.

Ms. Hallett, what you’ve written here is one of the major reasons why mainstream feminism frequently disappoints me. A feminist should support all women and girls, but I see less and less realizing how much our society fails pregnant people and mothers who don’t fit the kyriarchal norm. Pregnant teens and teenaged parents are not a tragedy or destructive, but society (including you) is set on continuing to perpetuate conditions and ideas that make it seem that way.

NYAAF Words of Choice Event

April 26, 2010 § Leave a comment

Do you know about NYAAF, the New York Abortion Access Fund? It’s pretty damn cool: people donate to a central fund that pays for all or part of an abortion procedure for low-income women. They work across New York State, and beyond — they have brought women “from as far away as Texas, Utah, and Bermuda to access safe legal abortion in New York.” The best part? It has an all-volunteer staff, so any contribution you make goes directly and entirely to women in need.

You can donate directly to NYAAF at any time, but you can also get involved with their fun fundraising events. On Sunday May 2, NYAAF will host Words of Choice, a night of dynamic pro-choice theater.

Words of Choice is performed by an ensemble of actors and weaves together the words of many writers…These are stories from the heart: humorous and serious; poignant and riveting, from theater, spoken word, comedy, poetry, oral history and journalism.

Cost: $20
Chow Bar, 5-7:30pm

Happy hour prices are from 5-7pm and entail wine for $5, beer for $3, and Chow Bar cocktails are half price at $6.

Remember that your $20 entrance fee goes directly and entirely to low-income women in need of abortion funding.

For more information, RSVP to the Facebook event.

Pregnant High School Athlete Faces Blatant Discrimination

November 30, 2009 § Leave a comment

ESPN’s Outside The Lines has an interesting and angering profile of Mackenzie McCollum, a Texas high school student and volleyball player who faced discrimination from her coach and school administration. (I’m not allowed to embed the video, but I highly recommend clicking through to watch it. And I apologize, I have not been able to locate a transcript of the video.)

Mackenzie found out she was pregnant, and still wanted to participate on the volleyball team. The administration of Arlington Heights High School in Fort Worth, Texas told her family it was their strict policy to obtain a written doctor’s note to clear pregnant students to play. (They never provided physical evidence of that policy to Mackenzie’s family, though.) Her physician sent in a note, which they rejected, and a second one, which they deemed acceptable.

When Mackenzie returned for her first game, she found out that her coach had “outed” her to the rest of the team, making her fodder for school-wide stares, gossip, and judgment.

Despite the horrible treatment she’s faced, Mackenzie seems like a badass girl who’s not taking discrimination laying down. Her mother, Barbara Horton, has filed formal complaints with the United States Department of Education in reference to Title IX, which prohibits discrimination in school sports communities on the basis of sex or gender.

Keep up the good work, Mackenzie!

Kids, Sex, & Gender

August 3, 2009 § 11 Comments

The other day I was on the playground with my campers, who are going into third grade, and the topic of pregnancy came up. Several of the kids were adopted, as was one of my co-counselors, so conversations about different kinds of families and how they are made had come up before, but never in this much detail.

I suddenly remembered that it is difficult to answer kids’ questions: they are blunt and persistent, having yet to be hushed by what society deems acceptable to discuss in polite company. How do we talk to children about immensely complicated issues, in language that’s simple enough to understand but doesn’t shed necessary intricacies and ambiguities?

When they asked, “Why would someone give up their baby to be adopted?” I replied, “Sometimes people don’t have enough money to take care of a baby, or they are too young, or they are too busy, or they don’t want a family. So adoption is great because it means that kids can have a family that loves them and takes care of them, even if their birth parents couldn’t.”

When they asked, “So, where do babies even come from?” I replied, “They grow inside a woman’s body until they’re big enough to be born.”

When they asked, “But how do you make a baby?” I replied, “That’s a question you should ask your parents when you get home. They probably have a specific answer for you.” (This one was hard: I know the technical answer, of course, but not the social one. Who knows what these kids will go home and tell their parents I said? Who knows what their parents want to say themselves?)

Then they asked, “But what about the pregnant man?” Instantly I remembered I’d just said that babies grow inside women’s bodies — a little ignorance check. I chose my words carefully: “The pregnant man’s name is Thomas, and he used to be a woman. That means that he was born as a girl, with what we call ‘girl parts,’ but when he got older he felt like he wanted to be a man so he asked people to call him a boy and changed the way he looked a little bit. So he is a man, but he still has the parts that make him able to grow a baby.”

“What do you mean he felt like he wanted to be a man?”

“Well, I don’t know exactly. I don’t really know what that feels like. But I think it must be a bad feeling, right? Can you imagine feeling a certain way about yourself, but the whole world felt a different way about you? It would be confusing and frustrating. So it’s great that he got to become what he wanted to be.”

Conveniently, my head counselor popped into the conversation at just that moment to say, in an amused tone, “Well, from what I’ve read, the pregnant man is really a woman.”

Thanks for the playground transphobia and identity denial.

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