Tag Archives: Planned Parenthood

Here’s to Strong Women. Here’s to Sandra.

6 Sep

Sometimes, while I make my rounds of news sites, both mainstream and not, I feel hopeless.  I read about statements made by members of our government, legislation passed, Planned Parenthood centers closed, mainstream “cancer research foundations” whose actions tell me that maybe they don’t care as much about women and women’s health as they claim.  I learn about the victimization and revictimization of young girls, the blame placed unduly on the mother rather than on the perpetrators of the crime and the society that spews its truth of “boys will be boys.”  I get sick thinking about how money and power go hand-in-hand and how so often they land in the hands of white men, born to privilege into a world where they live by rules different than the rest of us.  I shake with anger when I think of the women who are dehumanized and tossed aside at the hands of these men and then how they, and not the victimizers, are forced to defend themselves, are accused of lying.  Because how dare we place those who have achieved the ultimate dream — success, wealth, power — anywhere other than on a pedestal.  But then sometimes, I remember that it’s not just me that feels this way.  There are a lot of us.  And at the Democratic National Convention we were handed the microphone and able to speak.   Our voices were heard through Sandra Fluke.

So, here is her speech from the DNC.  I was going to write a little about the speech given by Cecile Richards, who’s President of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, but I was just so taken by Fluke’s entire speech that I couldn’t choose pieces.  Everytime I listen to it I have the same reaction:  a little bit emotional, a little bit goose-bumpy, incredibly proud.  She said what I have read in different articles by different strong women online, what I have heard representatives say on the floor when forced to face-off against the horribly bigoted statements made by male co-workers, and what friends have said to me in endless conversations about the realities of being female.  She put it all together and she spoke to that room and she got them on their feet.  So here’s her speech.  Maybe it’s just me, but I think it beats the hell out of an empty chair.

“Some of you…some of you may remember that earlier this year Republicans shut me out of a hearing on contraception.  In fact, on that panel, they didn’t hear from a single woman even though they were debating an issue that affects nearly every woman.  Because it happened in congress, people noticed.  But it happens all the time.  Too many women are shut out and silenced.  So while I am honored to be standing at this podium it easily could have been any one of you.  I’m here because I spoke out.  And this November, each of us must speak out.

“During this campaign, we’ve heard about two profoundly different futures that could await women in this country.  And how one of those futures looks like an offensive obsolete relic of our past.  Warnings of that future are not distractions, they are not imagined. That future could become real. In that America, your new President could be a man who stands by when a public figure tries to silence a private citizen with hateful slurs.  A man who won’t stand up to those slurs, or to any of the extreme, bigoted voices in his own party.  It would be an America in which you have a new Vice President who co-sponsored a bill that would allow pregnant women to die preventable deaths in our emergency rooms. An America in which states humiliate women by forcing us to endure invasive ultrasounds that we don’t want and our doctors say that we don’t need.  An America in which access to birth control is controlled by people who will never use it.  An America in which politicians redefine rape and victims are victimized all over again.  In which someone decides which domestic violence victims deserve access to services and which don’t…. We know what this America would look like.  And in a few short months that’s the America we could be but that’s not the America that we should be and it’s not who we are.

“We’ve also seen another America that we could choose.  In that America we’d have the right to choose.  It’s an America in which no one can charge us more than men for the exact same health insurance.  In which no one can deny us affordable access to the cancer screenings that could save our lives.  In which we decide when to start our families.  An America in which our President, when he hears that a young woman has been verbally attacked, thinks of his daughters, not his delegates or his donors.  And in which our President stands with all women, and strangers come together and reach out and lift her up.  And then instead of trying to silence her you invite me here.  And you give me this microphone to amplify our voice.  That’s the difference.

“Over the last 6 months I’ve seen what these two futures look like.  And 6 months from now we’re all going to be living in one future or the other.  But only one.  A country where our President either has our back or turns his back.  A country that honors our foremothers by moving us forward or one that forces our generation to refight battles that they already won.  A country where we mean it when we talk about personal freedom or one where that freedom doesn’t apply to our bodies or our voices.  We talk often about choice.  Well ladies, and gentlemen, it’s now time to choose.”

And…standing ovation.  How Sandra Fluke managed to get through that without breaking down I will never know.  I can’t even read it aloud for type-o’s without getting a little misty-eyed.  To hear her voice say all the things I have thought, that my friends and I have talked about, and in such a well thought out way was really amazing, a breath of fresh air.  Sometimes it is easy to feel frustrated and alone sitting here behind my computer, preaching to the choir.  But then there are people out there who are doing the leg work, who are making a difference, and then I get shivers and realize that some day, maybe not tomorrow, maybe not next year, it will be okay.  We just have to keep speaking out in whatever ways we can.

On Todd Akin, this time with a little more anger

21 Aug

Okay.  So, as I wrote yesterday, I was done talking about the Todd Akin thing.  At that moment.  Well, that moment has passed and my anger has been renewed.  Partially that anger was renewed by reading Eve Ensler’s amazing post from yesterday on Huffington Post.  If you haven’t yet read it, get on it now.  It is so worth it.  It is worth it for so many reasons.  Here is one:

You used the expression “legitimate” rape as if to imply there were such a thing as “illegitimate” rape. Let me try to explain to you what that does to the minds, hearts and souls of the millions of women on this planet who experience rape. It is a form of re-rape. The underlying assumption of your statement is that women and their experiences are not to be trusted. That their understanding of rape must be qualified by some higher, wiser authority. It delegitimizes and undermines and belittles the horror, invasion, desecration they experienced. It makes them feel as alone and powerless as they did at the moment of rape.

And then there’s this:

Were you implying that women and their bodies are somehow responsible for rejecting legitimate rape sperm, once again putting the onus on us?

And this:

Why don’t you spend your time ending rape rather than redefining it? Spend your energy going after those perpetrators who so easily destroy women rather than parsing out manipulative language that minimizes their destruction.

And so much more in between.  She says all the things that I could never articulate.  That it would take me a few days to really come to.  My initial reaction to his “gaffe” was an exasperated exhale, a violent roll of the eyes, and the need to slowly and methodically rub vertically between my hairline and the bridge of my nose, a habit I have developed in recent years at times of intense frustration.  I swear one of these days I am going to rub right through to my skull.  My initial reaction was full of disgust, but I honestly don’t think I fully realized the deep-rootedness of the issue associated with Todd Akin’s comments.  He was idiotic, sure, we all think that’s the case. Even Shawn Hannity thinks he should withdraw himself from the Missouri Senate race.  But the thing is, it’s not because many of these people disagree with what Akin said.  They disagree with the way that Akin said it.

Meanwhile, in Texas, a court of appeals ruled today that the state can withhold funding from Planned Parenthood clinics before the original case, in which Planned Parenthood sued the state of Texas for a law that violates their freedom of speech, goes to court in October.  (For a more eloquent and less confusing explanation of the pending litigation, read this Times article.)  These clinics provide health care for low income women for things from regular gynecological exams to cancer screenings, from maternal health care to contraception.  And yes, abortion services.  It is important to note, however, that no state or federal funds go to finance abortions.  They go towards helping poor women with no or insufficient health insurance obtain access to quality, and essential, services.  As Cecile Richards, the president of Planned Parenthood, said, this case

has never been about Planned Parenthood — it’s about the women who rely on Planned Parenthood for cancer screenings, birth control and well-woman exams.

The reason I bring this up is that issues like the one in Texas have been cropping up with alarming regularity.  Todd Akin is not alone.  He has many, many people who agree with him.  Many people who think that women don’t know how to make decisions about their own bodies.  Many people who think that women cavalierly make the decision to have an abortion.  Many people who think that women will scream rape to obtain an abortion in places where rape, incest and the health of the mother are the only exceptions to an all out ban on abortion.  Don’t believe me?  Just watch this video of Eric Turner of Indiana.  As I said, Todd Akin is not alone and his ignorant statement was not an isolated opinion.  Let us use this moment of anger, and hurt, and disbelief to blow the roof off the party who, just today, the same day they were calling for Todd Akin to step aside, approved a party plank that would strive to outlaw abortion without any mention of exceptions for rape or incest.  This is our time, ladies and allies.  We are too smart for this and there is too much at stake.  We need to hold the Republican party accountable not only for the statements of Todd Akin, but for those of many others.  And, more important still, we need to hold them accountable for the anti-woman legislation they unceasingly push on us.  As Eve Ensler rightfully said,

I am asking you and the GOP to get out of my body, out of my vagina, my womb, to get out of all of our bodies. These are not your decisions to make. These are not your words to define.


Senator Glenn Grothman, You’re an Idiot

8 Mar

Glenn Grothman, Republican Senator of Wisconsin, has introduced Senate Bill 507 which requires “the Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Board to emphasize nonmarital parenthood as a contributing factor to child abuse and neglect.”  Apparently, according to Senator Grothman, being a single parent essentially makes you a child abuser.  You might think that I am being a little liberal with my interpretation but in an interview with Alan Colmes, Grothman said there has been a change towards single motherhood over the last 30 years and that “a lot of that change has been the choice of women.”  He believes that women need to be taught that this is a mistake.

In the interview with Colmes, after Grothman cited a New York Times article that said 60% of children born to women under 30 are born out of wedlock, the following interaction happened:

Colmes:  It’s a good argument for birth control, right?

Grothman:  Well…no…we all love all, all children.

Colmes:  I mean if you’re saying we’ve got a problem with out of wedlock births, a good answer to that would be to help provide, as the president is doing, access to complete birth control and health care for women.

Grothman then responds that “anyone has access to birth control, it’s not that expensive.”  Planned Parenthood, according to Grothman, makes birth control very available.  (It’s like it grows on trees!)  I guess he hasn’t been clued in on the recent assault on Planned Parenthoods nationwide and that many of them are being forced to close their doors.  Colmes countered this by referencing the recent appearance of Sandra Fluke in this debate.  Grothman, who obviously is not very up-to-speed on the whole birth control debate currently exploding in this country, responded that most of these out-of-wedlock births are no accident and that our “social services bureaucracy” have made these births acceptable, even beneficial.  He believes that the government is actually engineering the single-parent lifestyle by providing all these benefits.  Government, he believes, is making it easy, even desirable, to be a single mother.  When asked what he would do for women who are already low income and perhaps left an abusive relationship or have a partner who doesn’t pay a fair share of child support he did the easy thing:  he blamed the women.  He believes that women choose to be single mothers because apparently the benefits are so good that it beats out the alternative.  He’s on to us, ladies!

If you would be so kind as to direct your attention to the following chart that I discovered on the ChildStats website, you will notice that there is a pretty sizable percentage of children who live in a one-parent home.  You will also notice that of those children living in a one-parent home, most of them live with only their mother.  It is therefore not a huge leap of logic to say that this bill is blatantly sexist.  In fact, in the interview with Colmes and other articles I read, single father homes are never mentioned.  We don’t need to educate the men about the dangers of single-parent living to the safety of children, only the women.  And to add insult to injury:  Grothman is, as you probably already guessed, pro-life.*

So, this man simultaneously supports the government forcing women to carry babies to term, (because birth control is affordable for the majority of women…ha!) regardless of the circumstances, marital or otherwise, surrounding that pregnancy and then says that if they do indeed abide by that unjust rule they are likely to be considered neglectful or abusive parents.  So I wonder, Senator Grothman, if a woman was raped, and then was forced to carry that baby to term, would she then be urged to marry her rapist so as not to seem abusive or neglectful? Has she actually orchestrated the rape in order to live high on the hog with the abundance of government “handouts”?  These two view points are at odds with one another.  Also, they are just a bunch of sexist, woman-hating bullshit.

NOTE: Data for 2010 exclude the nearly 290,000 household residents under age 18 who were listed as family reference persons or spouses. Prior to 2007, Current Population Survey (CPS) data identified only one parent on the child’s record. This meant that a second parent could only be identified if they were married to the first parent. In 2007, a second parent identifier was added to the CPS. This permits identification of two coresident parents, even if the parents are not married to each other. In this figure, “two parents” reflects all children who have both a mother and father identified in the household, including biological, step, and adoptive parents. Before 2007, “mother only” and “father only” included some children who lived with two unmarried parents. Beginning in 2007, “mother only” and “father only” refer to children for whom only one parent in the household has been identified, whether biological, step, or adoptive.

SOURCE: U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Survey, Annual Social and Economic Supplements.**

This now brings me to the next point which is that this bill is not only sexist, it is also racist.  According to information compiled from the US Census Bureau by the Kids Count Data Center, and demonstrated in this really embarrassingly bare bones chart that I made in excel, one-parent homes are most common amongst Blacks, followed by American Indians and Latinos.  So now you have a bill which not only disproportionately impacts single mothers, but it even more disproportionately impacts single mothers of color.***

Non-Hispanic White 24%
Black or African American 66%
American Indian 52%
Asian and Pacific Islander 16%
Hispanic or Latino 41%
Total 34%

And finally, I believe this bill is classist.  With only one income coming in, and dependents to care for, it can be difficult for single parents to keep their heads above water.  Think about child care costs, for example.  And the fact that, according to this New York Times article, aid to single-parent families living on “less than half of poverty-level income” declined 38% between 1984 and 2004.  (An article which Grothman didn’t see fit to read…sort of turns his theory on its head, don’t it?)  That’s serious.  According to a slightly outdated article (although I imagine that the statistics are now on the low end rather than the high given the economic environment in recent years), about 60% of mother-only families are impoverished compared with 11% of two-parent families.

So, basically, this bill is like the trifecta of awful.  Sexist, racist and classist and, as usual, it does not address any of the systemic issues that increase poverty among these groups in the first place but rather seeks to incriminate people, most specifically low-income women of color, a group which really needs a little more challenges sent its way.  Why not look at the price of child care, issues of joblessness, our education system (and yes, that includes sex education), the difficulty some people find obtaining the benefits they qualify for, availability of birth control, access to abortions, among other things.  How about we try to empower women to improve their own lives, rather than alternatively thinking of them as incapable and calculating?  Also, if you bring abuse and neglect charges against single parents, where are the kids going to go?  Into our fantastic foster care system?  Yea, great idea.

*  In a search for a link telling me what I already knew about Grothman’s views on abortion, I came across this blog written by an MPeterson who hails from Wisconsin.  The blog is called “What did Glen Grothman get wrong this week?”  I applaud you, MPeterson.

** Note and chart taken from ChildStats.gov (link referenced in above post).

*** This chart reflects information for the entire United States.  If you want Wisconsin, or other state, specific statistics, please go to the Kids Count Data Center website.

Paper Towels Ruined My Morning

7 Feb

I don’t know about you but I am still annoyed about this whole Susan G. Komen/Planned Parenthood thing.  I am, obviously, annoyed because of the actual events as they occurred.  I think the apology issued by Komen was some bullshit.  I wish Karen Handel would have gotten fired rather than being able to resign her position.  I think it would have been great if Komen would have had better sense than to hire a woman who is not pro-woman in the first place for an organization that claims to be all about women’s health.  It would have been nice if they hadn’t played into that stereotype that we all love pink because, really, I think there are a lot of women who prefer, say, orange instead.  Forget the color, actually, how about if Komen actually gave credit where credit was due, say, to Charlotte Haley, the 68-year-old designer of the original pink ribbon which were actually peach-colored and were handmade in her dining room.  Self Magazine approached Charlotte Haley and asked her if they could join forces with her, use her ribbon, make it national.  Haley said no, they were too commercial.  So what did they do?  They took her ribbon, made it pink, and now here we are.  Here we are, stuck with pink, and all this political bullshit that now accompanies it.  Because clearly breast cancer research can’t just be about providing grants for breast cancer screening, or trying to find a cure, or at least finding a less painful, less invasive way of dealing with such a prevalent disease.  No, it has to be about a message.  About marketing.  About being the top dog.  About feeling good about yourself as a company.  About pink.

Okay so this morning I was in the bathroom, brushing my teeth, looking around when I noticed it.  There it was, a previously innocuous package of 12 rolls of Bounty paper towels and it was swathed in pink.  A giant pink ribbon covered the external packaging that held together all the individually wrapped bundles of non-recycled paper towels (see how deep the guilt goes? See what I get for not buying Marcal Small Steps or some other green version of the incredibly wasteful paper products that we all use?).  And I was angry.  Obviously, I was angry that we had decided to take the savings-route rather than the responsible-route, but mostly I was angry that I had inadvertently donated to this organization that was intentionally, and don’t let them tell you otherwise, intentionally fighting against something that I consider to be very important.  The right for a woman to make a choice.  A goddamn choice.  Which then reminded me of Representative Jackie Speier and what she said on the House floor.  (By the way, this is actually the flow of thoughts as they come to my head.  Paper towels –> not green –> bad choice –> no choice! –> Representative Jackie Speier.  Scary, isn’t it?) After listening to man after man talk about his disgust with abortion, his disgust, really, with women, which to me means his disgust with circumstance and with the fact that cost-cutting and disdain for minorities (largely by his very party, by the way) have left women, especially low-income, minority women, with few options when it came to reproductive health (options?  who needs options??) and the cost of having a child with basically no social safety net, she said the following:

“Mr. Chairman, I had really planned to speak about something else, but the gentleman from New Jersey has just put my stomach in knots, because I’m one of those women he spoke about just now. That procedure that you just talked about was a procedure that I endured…But for you to stand on this floor and to suggest as you have somehow this is a procedure that is either welcome or done cavalierly or done without any thought is preposterous.”

Bravo, Jackie Speier.  Bravo for saying something that so many of us think but either don’t have the opportunity, or the availability of words, to actually say.  I find it insulting that an organization that claims to be all about women, all about our health, would voluntarily hire someone who is so obviously against the best interest of women and think that we wouldn’t eventually find out about it.  I am also insulted that Howie Kurtz has decided that it was the media that forced the apology, bullshit apology that it was.  In fact, you know what Howie?  I will give you that lame-ass apology.  I will let you and your industry take full responsibility for that one because I hope that the rest of us can actually get something of substance.  Think about it this way:  pro-choice people are angry and are donating to Planned Parenthood instead of Komen.  Anti-choice people are angry that funding was restored and are donating to some organization involving the word “Family” in its title.  Komen is scared because the money that used to come easy isn’t coming easy anymore.  Because you know what speaks louder than the media, Howie?  Money.  That’s what.  So, as I said, take credit for that apology.  I’m still waiting for a real one. And I am also, by the way, waiting for all the Komen corporate sponsors to back out, one by one, so I can once again use my cancer-causing skin lotion and nuun rehydration tablets and listen to the New Kids on the Block and eat Beemster cheese without being thrown into fits of rage.

And finally, I am angry that my whole zen-like, tooth brushing experience this morning was completely ruined by my pink ribbon sighting and I wonder, will my morning ritual ever be the same?  At least as long as those paper towels are there?

Disclaimer:  I do not, to my knowledge use any cancer-causing skin lotion.  I only said that for effect.  I also don’t listen to New Kids on the Block while I eat Beemster cheese or at any other time.  I do, however, really like my nuun tablets and I am glad that I stocked up on them before this whole thing happened to I can justify using them because I don’t want them to go to waste.  Also, I enjoy run-on sentences.  The end.

I’ll Push You Down the Stairs, Susan

1 Feb

Today in New York City it is a blistering 60 degrees on the 1st day of February and I am in an icy, icy mood. Why, you might ask?  Well, Susan G. Komen For the Cure, the originator of the ubiquitous pink ribbon campaign, has decided to jump on the evil, woman-hating bandwagon and defund Planned Parenthood.  This seemed rather counter-intuitive to me at first.  This organization has spent its more than 2 decades in existence raising money to try and find a cure for breast cancer and yet it has defunded an organization that provides something like 750,000 breast exams annually.  And why, you might ask?  Well, it appears as though there are two reasons for this.  The first reason, and the one cited by the organization itself, is that the Susan G. Komen foundation has recently changed its policy to say that any organization that is the focus of a congressional investigation will no longer receive money from the Komen coffers.  Planned Parenthood, it turns out, is in the middle of just such an investigation.  And what a strange coincidence this is considering the second reason for the defunding:  the recent appointment of former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Karen Handel as the vice president of Susan G. Komen.  Karen Handel is against gay marriage, civil unions, and adoption of children by gay parents.  Karen Handel supports an Arizona-style immigration law for Georgia and, presumably, for the entire country.  And, not surprisingly, Karen Handel is aggressively pro-life (she does, however, make exceptions to her stance in the case of rape, incest, or danger to the health of the mother…wow, thanks).  Karen Handel has now, through this ill-motivated action, made it even more difficult for low income women and those lacking health care to have access to low-cost breast exams.  She has allowed her “family values” to condemn countless women to a fate her new found home has worked tirelessly to cure.  And, sadly, Susan G. Komen has allowed her to tarnish its reputation by permitting this obviously politically-motivated move.  Bravo.  As a result, I have written a letter to the foundation.

To Whom it May Concern,

When I was a sophomore in high school, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer.  I remember every detail about that day as if it happened yesterday rather than nearly 13 years ago.  I was scared and angry and devastated.  My mom was, and is, my best friend in the world.  She is a survivor and I cannot help but think that efforts of organizations such as yours aided her in overcoming her disease.  That is why I write to you today.  My mom is a survivor not only because of all of the research that went into, and continues to go into, the fight against breast cancer but because her cancer was detected early thanks to a routine visit to her doctor.  Luckily for my mom, and for those who love her, we had health insurance and access to a good physician and a great hospital that aided her in detecting, and later in curing, her cancer.  So many women, however, do not have that luxury and that is why I write to you today.

I am certain you can imagine my utter dismay when I turned on my computer this morning and was confronted with an article that your organization, one that works tirelessly to help women overcome breast cancer, has cut off funding to Planned Parenthood, an institution that provides 750,000 breast exams to uninsured, low income women yearly.  How many of those women, I cannot help but wonder, received life-saving information that allowed them to seek proper treatment?  How many women, as Planned Parenthood clinics close across the country, will no longer have access to regular breast exams?  Cancer, as you know, is not something that decides who to infect according to class lines.  It is estimated that 1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer over the course of her lifetime.  Of the 750,000 women Planned Parenthood screens annually, that means roughly 9,000 of them will be diagnosed with breast cancer.  By cutting off funding to Planned Parenthood you have effectively abandoned those women.

According to a number of sources, your reason for cutting off funding is a result of the congressional investigation into Planned Parenthood’s spending of federal dollars.  You know as well as I do that this investigation is nothing more than a witch hunt designed to outlaw abortions nationwide.  The problem is that only 3% of services provided by Planned Parenthood are abortions.  Whether you are pro-life or pro-choice, do not let that 3% cloud your mind to the thousands of women saved annually by early detection of breast cancer.  Reinstate funding.


Rebekah Frank

What I really wanted to send to my friends at Susan G. Komen was something way more angry, and way less reasonable, than the letter I sent.  What I wanted to say to them is what my friend Beth said to me this afternoon in an email:  Seriously, stop hiring women who hate women.  If only.