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The Battle Over ‘I Love Boobies’

1:24 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Annamarya Scaccia for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

I Love Boobies

Is this helping or hurting “the breast cancer conversation?”

Last Monday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit upheld an injunction prohibiting the Easton Area School District in Pennsylvania from enforcing a ban on “I Love Boobies! Save a Breast!” bracelets, the trendy bands that promote the Keep a Breast Foundation’s national breast cancer outreach and awareness campaign. But while a federal court may have found the bracelets protected under the First Amendment, the court of public opinion still takes issue with “I Love Boobies” and similar campaigns, with many people finding them toxic to the overall breast cancer conversation.

In its 9-5 decision, the federal court rejected the school district’s claim that the popular slogan is lecherous and disruptive, ruling that it provides commentary on a prevalent social issue. Particularly, Judge D. Brooks Smith wrote in his 74-page opinion for B.H. and K.M. v. Easton Area School District:

Schools cannot avoid teaching our citizens-in-training how to appropriately navigate the “marketplace of ideas.” Just because letting in one idea might invite even more difficult judgment calls about other ideas cannot justify suppressing speech of genuine social value.

“It’s a tremendous ruling supportive of student free speech,” Mary Catherine Roper, senior staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania (ACLU-PA) and lead counsel in the case, told RH Reality Check. “What this ruling does is recognize that teenagers talk about important things, whether it’s political issues [or] social issues. That’s the type of speech we most want to protect.”

The August 7 judgment puts to bed years of litigation that began in November 2010, when the ACLU-PA filed a lawsuit challenging the Easton Area School District’s “I Love Boobies!” bracelet ban, claiming it infringed on students’ First Amendment right to free speech. The original suit was lodged on behalf of Easton Area Middle School students Kayla Martinez and Brianna Hawk, who were suspended in October 2010 for declining to adhere to the ban, which was imposed over a month after students started wearing the wristbands without incident. In rationalizing the interdict, the middle school asserted some students were made uneasy by human sexuality topics, others were “prompted” to make sexual innuendos, and some staff found them offensive, the lawsuit claims.

While, in 2011, a federal judge granted ACLU-PA’s request for an emergency injunction on the ban, the Easton Area School District appealed the enjoinment, arguing the message behind the Keep a Breast Foundation’s catchphrase could be misconstrued as “lewd” and potentially hinder school activities. To prove such, the district invoked both the Supreme Court’s 1986 decision in Bethel School District v. Fraser, which upholds that schools can restrict student speech if it is “vulgar, lewd, profane or plainly offensive” (meaning it offers no fundamental social or political value to a broader conversation), and 1969′s Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District, which states students have a constitutional right to free speech, but said speech can be regulated if a school proves it “materially and substantially interfere[s] with the requirements of appropriate discipline” in school operations. In its Monday decision, however, the Third Circuit found that the Easton Area School District could not prove either of its claims under these two edicts since the message is meant to stir constructive dialogue.

This is not the first time that “I Love Boobies” and similarly chest-centric breast cancer awareness campaigns, like the “Save the Ta-Tas” bumper stickers, have been subject to school bans. Moffat County School District in Colorado barred students from wearing Keep a Breast’s popular wristband in 2011, but rescinded the ban that year after pressure from the ACLU of Colorado. Sauk Prairie Middle School in Wisconsin also banned the same bracelets, and a federal court judge ruled in 2012 that it could continue to impose that ban. Wearing “I Love Boobies!” gear has also been prohibited at Laramie Junior High School in Wyoming (the ban was reversed), and at an Elmira, Oregon, high school, reports the Huffington Post. Similarly, two years ago, cheerleaders at an Arizona high school were banned from wearing t-shirts brandishing the slogan, “Feel for lumps, save your bumps,” in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

“[The August 7 decision] is a really important rule for schools to follow. When they see a message that a student is conveying a message, is talking about something that is a social or political issue, they can’t go looking for a way to eventually sanitize that,” Roper told RH Reality Check. “This means that schools have to really confront the fact that kids are gonna talk about controversial issues. They need to make sure there’s room for that conversation to happen.”

Read the rest of this entry →

An Apology, But Not A Reversal, From the Susan G. Komen Foundation

11:38 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Will Neville for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

Cross-posted with permission from Amplify Your Voice.

See all our coverage of the Susan G. Komen Foundation’s break with Planned Parenthood here.

Earlier today, the Susan G. Komen Foundation issued a formal apology for their recent decision to discontinue more than $600,000 in annual funding for cancer screenings and prevention services at Planned Parenthood. After an unrelenting outcry from the general public and grassroots activists across the country, the Komen Foundation found itself facing a nearly unprecedented public relations nightmare.

In its press release, the Komen Foundation has promised that only “criminal” investigations will disqualify potential grantees, not political ones. The original criteria (written in late 2011, possibly for the exclusive purpose of ending Planned Parenthood funding) disqualified Planned Parenthood from receiving Komen Foundation funds since it is the target of a political “investigation” [read: “witchhunt”] led by Rep. Cliff Stearns. (What that means for Komen’s $7.5 million grant to Penn State remains to be seen, given the criminal and legal issues for which they are under investigation.)

The Komen Foundation’s statement says that it “will continue to fund existing grants, including those of Planned Parenthood, and preserve their eligibility to apply for future grants, while maintaining the ability of our affiliates to make funding decisions that meet the needs of their communities.” And that’s where we hit the real problem. From the beginning, the Foundation has been clear that no current grants will be affected. As such, this is NOT a reversal of any kind.

Planned Parenthood will remain “eligible” for future grants, but the Komen Foundation has made no commitment to continue funding or to preserve its relationship with Planned Parenthood in years to come.

After all, when Komen Foundation founder and president Nancy Brinkler appeared on MSNBC earlier this week she said the decision to discontinue funding had nothing to do with the Congressional investigation. Instead, she argued that the Foundation was refocusing its efforts away from breast cancer prevention education and towards “metrics” and “direct service” grants. Over the past five years, Komen Foundation funding has enabled Planned Parenthood to provide more than 170,000 breast cancer screenings, and they have provided 6,400 mammogram referrals – that this doesn’t qualify as “direct service” would surely come as a surprise to the thousands of low-income and young women whose lives have been saved by these services.

So the question remains: Which of the Komen Foundation’s many reasons to sever ties to Planned Parenthood was really behind this decision? Was it a Congressional witchhunt? Or was it new grantmaking priorities?

Or, as we’ve known all along, is this really about abortion? Komen’s blatantly political decision this week followed years of pressure from anti-abortion activists, asking women – primarily low-income and uninsured women, women of color, and young women – to pay for the Komen Foundation’s cowardice with their lives. (In fact, this decision was made over the objections of the scientific staff at the Komen Foundation; their top public health official, Mollie Williams, immediately resigned in protest.)

In fact, the Komen Foundation has also announced that it will stop funding any and all breast cancer research related to stem cells, it is abundantly clear that the Foundation’s decision-making has become infused with politics, placing far-right ideology over science and saving women’s lives. Today’s apology and accompanying PR spin hasn’t changed that at all.

Whether the Komen Foundation’s statement dos in fact signal a reversal of its policy towards Planned Parenthood remains to be seen. It is entirely possible that they intend to fund Planned Parenthood cancer screening services in the future, and we hope they do. It is equally possible that this is simply a public relations move designed to diffuse a lucrative brand from spiraling out of control – and the Komen Foundation will quietly reject future grant proposals from Planned Parenthood once they are out of the media spotlight.

The true lesson this week is the power of grassroots activism – both online and offline – to force a major corporate entity to be accountable for its own actions. This is an enormous victory – for Planned Parenthood, for the movement as a whole, and most of all for advocates like you. This will not be the last time action and anger will be harnessed to protect the sexual and reproductive health of women and young people in America, but it is a striking reminder of how powerfully effective our collective voices can be.

Susan G. Komen: Can You Trust a Breast Cancer Organization Whose Staff and Board Members Lie About Breast Cancer?

8:11 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Editor-in-Chief Jodi Jacobson for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

Can you trust a breast cancer organization whose staff and board lie about medical science, including breast cancer?

Today, amidst the outcry surrounding the decision by the Susan G. Komen Foundation to demand that its state affiliates terminate a successful five-year relationship working with Planned Parenthood clinics to increase access to breast cancer screening for low-income and uninsured women, it dawned on me that there is another pressing question here not being asked.

Why has the world’s largest breast cancer advocacy organization hired senior staff people and elected to its board individuals who misrepresent, or are allied with those who misrepresent, medical and public health evidence, including about causes of breast cancer?

It seems to me that the most fundamental measure of accountability for an organization dealing with life-threatening illnesses and public heath problems such as breast cancer is the efficacy with which that organization evaluates, communicates about, and respects medical and scientific evidence. Further from that, it would seem imperative that such an organization hire staff and elect board members who uphold the highest standards of science and medicine without regard to personal ideology.

Yet Komen has done just the opposite. They hired a known anti-choice politician, failed Georgia gubernatorial candidate Karen Handel, as their Senior Vice President for Policy, a woman who misrepresented facts about government funding of Planned Parenthood as part of her core campaign strategy, and who also supports the spread of misinformation about public health and individual consequences of abortion care, outright lies that have been soundly refuted by medical and public health experts. The foundation of Handel’s career and poiltical candidacy is an ideology based on misrepresenting scientific, medical, and other facts.  Isn’t that damaging to an organization that claims to be the world’s largest donor to scientific research on breast cancer? Why would an organization concernd about accuracy in research hire such a person?

They also elected Jane Abraham, the General Chairman of the anti-choice Susan B. Anthony List (SBA) to their board. SBA itself is founded on misrepresentation of the history of Susan B. Anthony, and has constantly spread false and misleading information about federal government funding of abortion, about health reform, and about the the public health and medical evidence surrounding safe abortion care. Read the rest of this entry →

The Cancerous Politics and Ideology of the Susan G. Komen Foundation

8:44 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

(image: screenshot by ee382, photobucket)

(image: screenshot by ee382, photobucket)

Written by Editor-in-Chief Jodi Jacobson for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

This week it became clear there are things more important to the Susan G. Komen Foundation–the fundraising giant that each year during breast cancer awareness month virtually swathes the United States in pink, a la Christo–than ensuring women are able to access exams for early detection of breast cancer.

What could be more important to an organization ostensibly dedicated to the elimination of breast cancer? Answer: The politics and personal agendas of the organization’s senior staff and board, both of which have been infiltrated by right-wing ideologues and both of which were instrumental in a decision to deny further support from Komen affiliates to Planned Parenthood clinics that provide breast exams. In fact, it is now clear that Komen has been infiltrated at various levels by anti-choicers willing to actually sacrifice women to breast cancer to satisfy their own agendas.

Nationwide, Planned Parenthood doctors and nurses provide nearly 750,000 breast cancer screenings annually, offering risk assessments, breast exams, breast health information and education, and diagnostic and surgical referrals. Over the past five years, Planned Parenthood health centers have conducted nearly 170,000 clinical breast exams with funds from Komen, out of a total of more than four million clinical breast exams performed nationwide by Planned Parenthood clinics. Komen grants also supported more than 6,400 out of 70,000 mammogram referrals made by Planned Parenthood.

A large share of the clients served at Planned Parenthood clinics are low-income African-American and Latina women. The National Cancer Institute identifies lack of access to early and effective screening for breast cancer (and hence lack of early treatment) as a primary reason that African American and Latina women die of breast cancer at higher rates than the general population. In fact, Komen itself recognized these links in a 2011 statement on its relationship with Planned Parenthood:

While Komen Affiliates provide funds to pay for screening, education and treatment programs in dozens of communities, in some areas, the only place that poor, uninsured or under-insured women can receive these services are through programs run by Planned Parenthood.

Komen further stated:

These facilities serve rural women, poor women, Native American women, women of color, and the un- and under-insured. As part of our financial arrangements, we monitor our grantees twice a year to be sure they are spending the money in line with our agreements, and we are assured that Planned Parenthood uses these funds only for breast health education, screening and treatment programs.

As long as there is a need for health care for these women, Komen Affiliates will continue to fund the facilities that meet that need.

But apparently those women no longer matter as Komen’s support has now been withdrawn. Read the rest of this entry →

For Latinas, The IOM Recommendations on Women’s Health Represent a Big Win

8:09 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Maria Elena Perez for RHRealityCheck.org. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

Women are cheering this week’s recommendation by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) to eliminate costly insurance co-pays for birth control. It’s a signal that there is a growing public recognition that preventive care is more than just the provision of services at the doctor’s office. For millions of Latinas, birth control, by definition, is prevention. But, while the media has focused extensively on the birth control recommendations, the full set of recommendations detailed by federal health officials paints an even brighter picture for our community: Latinas made major gains not only in controlling our fertility, but equally importantly in keeping ourselves and our children healthy.

The IOM is made up of a powerful group of scientists and public health leaders that has enormous sway in the government’s approach to health care. It’s no surprise then that health professionals looking at the country’s essential needs recognized what many have not: removing societal barriers to health care, such as those faced by many Latinas, are critical public health priorities.

Virtually every one of the IOM recommendations will greatly benefit Latina women.

Continue reading…

Dear Mr. Beck: We Are All Hookers

8:26 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Jodi Jacobson for RHRealityCheck.org – News, commentary and community for reproductive health and justice.

Dear Mr. Beck,

I understand it is your contention that “only hookers go to Planned Parenthood.”

There must be a lot of hookers out here. 

I am one of them.

When I was in college, I went to a Planned Parenthood for a pelvic exam, and for my first contraceptive method.  I didn’t know then I was a hooker since I was in a serious relationship and it didn’t involve an exchange of money for sex, but I guess I must have been.  Young adults ages 18 to 24 years old make up more than 50 percent of the clientele of some Planned Parenthood clinics, such as those run by Planned Parenthood of Western Pennsylvania.  You may be surprised to know that even the members and leadership of College Republicans at Pitt’s college use the services provided and felt that cutting funding for Planned Parenthood was and is “counterintuitive.”  But I guess by your definition, all of the hundreds of thousands of college students who receive affordable gynecological and reproductive health care, contraceptive supplies and expert medical advice every year at Planned Parenthood clinics are hookers.  Including those young Republicans.

Those college students, and millions of other men and women get access to affordable contraception every year through Planned Parenthood, without which there would be countless numbers of additional unintended pregnancies and abortions. I guess denying them those services by ridiculing both the providers and the clients would give you more to laugh about when talking on air about people’s very real need to manage their reproductive lives.  But then, they don’t deserve your respect, do they….because they are all “hookers.” … Read more

The Budget Stalemate and the Major Media Fail on Riders

8:06 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Jodi Jacobson for RHRealityCheck.org – News, commentary and community for reproductive health and justice.

As the uncertainty of the very real-life drama about the budget stalemate and threatened shutdown of the federal government drags on, there is one thing you can count on.

Every single major media outlet has gotten the story about riders wrong.

Here is a fact: The GOP and Tea Party want to defund Planned Parenthood. It’s one of the primary targets and sticking points remaining in the ongoing budget talks.

Another fact: Despite GOP talking points, this is not about abortion. The GOP/Tea Party proposal would bar Planned Parenthood from being reimbursed by any federal health program like Medicaid for providing primary and preventive health services including birth control, breast and cervical cancer screenings, and STI testing and treatment, including HIV testing.

This is not a hard concept and, again, it is verifiable fact.

But you might not know this because virtually every single major media outlet continues like synchronized broken records that this is about abortion and funding for abortion.

Read more

All Those Alternatives to Planned Parenthood? In Texas, At Least, They Don’t Exist

7:47 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Andrea Grimes for RHRealityCheck.org – News, commentary and community for reproductive health and justice.

Before I met with Texas State Representative Dan Flynn last month during Texas’ pro-choice lobby day, I truly believed that even the most passionate anti-choice conservative couldn’t look me in the face and tell me they didn’t really care whether I got the reproductive health care I needed. Who would seriously tell me their religious beliefs are more important than making sure hundreds of thousands of women just like me—women with high-risk HPV–don’t develop cervical cancer?

But like I said, that was before I sat in front of Rep. Flynn, in his Austin office next to his model airplanes and elect-Dan-Flynn gum, and told him how I’d lost my job and my health insurance and needed regular, affordable pap smears to keep an eye on my pre-cancerous cervical dysplasia. I told him Planned Parenthood could provide low-cost paps, breast exams and contraceptives to keep me healthy despite my lack of insurance, and I believed they should continue to be funded by government family planning dollars. He scoffed, waving around a handful of papers—spreadsheets and maps, it looked like—and told me that Planned Parenthood was nothing but a tax-evading abortion machine (he knew because he used to be a bank examiner and had heard some things from some people) and there were so many other options besides Planned Parenthood in Texas. I should and could go to one of those, he told me, so we could spread some of the wealth around to these smaller providers. It would be very easy, he said.

I asked him if he could give me that list he had in his hand, the long list of places I could get low-cost reproductive health care without insurance near my home in Dallas. He glanced at the list and rattled off some names, something about Dallas Emergency Services and Dallas County Hospital District. He didn’t exactly wait for me to get out my pen and pad. I filed out of Flynn’s office with the rest of the women I’d teamed up with for lobby day feeling surprised and disappointed. But I still wanted (needed!) to know where those low-cost health centers were that Flynn had referenced, because I knew the Texas Legislature to be hell-bent on cutting the family planning funds that keep Planned Parenthood and clinics like it afloat.

Planned Parenthood or not, I’d still need well-woman exams, birth control pills and suchlike, and I wanted to know where I could get these things if I had to spend weeks or months scraping by on a freelancer’s salary without health insurance. So here’s what I did: I spent my own time, money and energy trying to find a health care clinic that anti-choice conservatives, legislators and organizations would approve of—namely, to find a Federally Qualified Health Center or “look-alike” center that, by virtue of federal grant funding, cannot provide abortion services except in cases of rape, incest or threat to a mother’s life, as dictated by the 36-year-old Hyde Amendment. … Read more

As They Seek to Ban Abortion, GOP Also Moves to Eliminate Title X Family Planning Program

8:53 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Jodi Jacobson for RHRealityCheck.org – News, commentary and community for reproductive health and justice.

As members of the anti-choice Republican and Tea Party House majority debated allowing women to die to salve the “consciences” of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, and using the tax code to virtually eliminate insurance coverage for abortion in the United States, the GOP/Tea Party majority took another brazen step.

It moved to dismantle Title X, the nation’s family planning program.

The House Appropriations Committee announced in a press release today a $327 million cut to family planning.  For FY 2010, $317 million was appropriated for the Title X program, but the President’s FY11 budget request was for $327 million.

“Today, the House Leadership launched its latest outrageous attack on women’s health,” said Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “The House Leadership’s FY 2011 Continuing Resolution proposes to completely eliminate the Title X family planning program, which has connected millions of  American women with health care since Richard Nixon signed it into law in 1970.”

Put another way, the House Appropriations Committee wants to ensure that more low-income women experience unintended and untenable pregnancies, and that they are then forced to bring those to term.  And along the way, by cutting Title X, Congress will also ensure that more women die of breast and cervical cancer and more people suffer from sexually transmitted infections.  This is dictatorship over women’s lives. Read more

Breast Cancer Awareness: What Are We Buying Into?

6:35 am in Culture, Health care by RH Reality Check

Written by jaz for RHRealityCheck.org – News, commentary and community for reproductive justice.

Breast cancer awareness has become synonymous with the ubiquitous pink ribbon. Everyone know what the pink ribbon means, it’s successfully become a logo associated with the disease. Since October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, you have most likely seen the pink ribbon plastered on everything from potato chips to dryer sheets to alcohol. There are numerous commercials promoting that if you buy "X" product, they will give some portion of each sold to (insert breast cancer research organization or charity here).

The Internet, as an infinite mode of spreading information, is also an active frontier for awareness raising campaigns, particularly via Facebook and Twitter. Remember a Facebook campaign is why Betty White hosted her first episode of Saturday Night Live despite having a 50+ year career in television. There were Twibbons (Twitter ribbons) that tweeters posted on their avatars (the small photo that accompanies your profile) for Haiti earthquake relief and many turned their avatars green in support of democracy in Iran during their elections last year. There’s pink ribbons available all year for breast cancer awareness. My question is what does "awareness" mean?

By now, most women from tweens to seniors know that we should be doing self-exams and checking for lumps in the shower. We know that we should get mammograms at 50, despite conflicting research. This is key information for both women and men. We also know that the branding of the color pink in October signifies breast cancer. But are we as a society using ribbons and social media to truly advance the cause?   . . . Read the rest of this entry →