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Crazy About Contraception (One Way or Another)

11:32 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

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

Published in partnership with the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) Live blog.

When it comes to contraception, if you only ever listened to some of the nation’s more eccentric political operators, you might think American attitudes just a tiny bit odd. Not wishing to offend anyone, of course, but you could try these pronouncements for size:

“Back in my day, they used Bayer aspirin for contraceptives. The gals put it between their knees, and it wasn’t that costly” (great gag).

“Contraception is a licence to do things in a sexual realm that are counter to how things are supposed to be” (and how are things “supposed to be” precisely?).

And of course, as one famously liberal-thinking radio host opined, any woman who supports free access to contraception is clearly “a slut and a prostitute.” (Ah, maybe you’ve got some unresolved psychological issues there, my friend?)

The above comments come from men (presumably when they were chatting over dinner with a T.Rex and a Brontosaurus). However, what will have passed them by is the post-Ice-Age historical story, which shows how contraception can change (and is changing) the world.

Like all good stories, it begins with “once upon a time.” Once upon a time, women’s capacity for education, economic empowerment, and domestic and political independence was truly stymied by the demands of giving birth and raising (maybe) a dozen children on scant resources. Men, as a result, enjoyed more or less absolute power in legal and social affairs. But these days the story is (slowly) shifting.

The facts and figures from the United States demonstrate the power of contraception to change a society.

Pre-contraception (made widely legal in 1965), men greatly outnumbered women in U.S. colleges (65-to-35). Today, women outnumber men (57-to-43). Pre-contraception, there were no female CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. Today there are 18. Pre-contraception, there were 20 women in the House of Representatives, and one female senator. Today, there are 76 and 17, respectively.

If a sad and stark counterpoint to this tale is required, consider this: Countries with low contraceptive usage have the lowest levels of female literacy. Countries with the highest fertility rates have the highest poverty rates, the lowest female life expectancy, and the fewest female rights. And so … one in eight Sierra Leonean women die in childbirth, women in Chad would be lucky to live beyond the age of 55, and girls as young as age nine are routinely forced to marry men as old as age 50, in any number of countries.

So, there is no fairy-tale ending to this fable (as yet). September 26th is World Contraception Day. It’s a day that seeks to draw attention to the vast difference that proper contraceptive education, supply, and use can make in women’s lives and the prosperity of societies. It seeks to drive forward the widespread adoption of contraception, in order to promote the greater good of individuals and the economic welfare of the world.

Then again, we could forget all that silly nonsense and just stick with doing things “the way they are supposed to be.” We could abstain and stop being sluts and prostitutes, just as those deep political thinkers (see above) advise. After all, lack of access to contraception works so well in Sierra Leone, doesn’t it? Er. …

Being Pro-Choice is About Much More Than Just the Right to Abortion Care

12:19 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

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

With the anniversary of Roe v. Wade on Jan. 22, the words “pro-choice” seem to be everywhere. You’ll hear them in impassioned speeches, and see them on colorful posters, on blogs and in tweets.  And when you do, you’ll probably think of abortion.

That’s understandable. And undeniably, the right to choose an abortion is something that must be protected.  A woman chooses abortion for the most intimate, personal reasons, and no one else is qualified to make that choice.

But abortion is far from the only choice a woman makes about her reproductive health. And if you really think about it, why wait to defend those reproductive health choices until she is at the door of an abortion clinic?

True freedom of choice — about sex, and if and when to have children — starts way before then. A woman’s ability to choose the family she wants often depends on her economic status, her knowledge, and her access to health services, including contraception.  It also depends on where she lives; services varies greatly from state to state and country to country

And in every state and country, politicians are at the center of the decisions about women’s reproductive choices.  Last year, conservative forces in Congress and many state legislatures proposed, and in some cases passed, laws that restricted women’s access to vital reproductive health services. Some politicians even talked of banning birth control. And the assault wasn’t limited to within our borders. Proposed cuts to international family planning funding and an attempt to reinstate the Global Gag Rule threatened to further limit the choices of women in developing countries. 

Already, 215 million women in developing countries want to avoid pregnancy but lack access to or information about modern contraception. Some women can’t get accurate information, and don’t use contraception because of myths about side effects or infertility. Others travel long distances to the nearest health clinic, only to find the contraceptives they need are out of stock.

There are child brides who go on to become teen moms, many against their own wishes. There are 53 million unintended pregnancies and 251,000 maternal deaths each year that could be prevented if we met women’s needs for family planning and maternal health services.

Having better choices in any of these scenarios could make a profound difference in a woman’s life. And that’s something to get passionate about too. So as we mark the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, let’s understand “pro-choice” with its intended, more holistic meaning, and fight for the full range of reproductive choices for all women.

Let’s be “pro” not just about abortion, but also about:

  • The choice to get accurate, comprehensive information about contraception.
  • The choice to marry or be single; and to have sex only when ready.
  • The choice to delay childbearing, space births, and decide when to stop having kids.
  • The choice of health clinics with competent professionals, that don’t take hours or days to get to.
  • The choice of birth control pills and IUDs and condoms and other contraceptive methods.

It may not be the stuff of buttons and posters, but it’s the stuff of everyday life.

What Does US Policy Have to Do With Child Brides and Drought in Kenya?

10:34 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

"Drought in Africa"

"Drought in Africa" by United Nations Photo on flickr

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.

There’s a saying that if you are not part of the solution, then you are part of the problem. When it comes to news that Kenyan families, facing serious drought conditions and unable to feed their families, are now selling their young daughters off to buy food, the United States is a part of the problem.

A big part.

Why?

As we reported two weeks back, the GOP and Tea Party majorities in the United States House of Representative are hell-bent on re-imposing the Global Gag Rule on U.S. international family planning assistance in a back and forth on policy that rivals Wimbledon.  And, as we reported in December 2010, House Republicans banded together to kill the International Child Marriage Prevention Act for no apparent reason other than to be ornery and adhere to a baseless ideology. The act would have required the U.S. government to develop an integrated, strategic approach to combating child marriage by promoting the educational, health, economic, social, and legal empowerment of women and girls, using existing resources. As in revenue-neutral, one of the terms du-jour.

To top all of this off, Republican Congressmen Chris Smith (NJ), Joe Pitts (PA), and Mike Pence (IN) succeeded during the Bush Administration in forbidding the integration of family planning information and supplies into HIV and AIDS programs, though unprotected sex is the leading cause of HIV transmission and of course the cause of unintended pregnancy. This of course undermined cost savings in addressing the related problems of HIV infection and unintended pregnancy and also denied HIV-positive women in particular the right to decide whether or not to have another child. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops was particularly incensed at the idea these women would have such power and so lobbied very hard against integration. Read the rest of this entry →

(VIDEO) Girls Speak … Will We Listen?

7:07 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Yolanda Johnny Taylor for RHRealityCheck.org – News, commentary and community for reproductive health and justice.

 This week RH Realty Check and UN Dispatch are pleased to host a special series of articles on empowering adolescent girls in the developing world, called Girls Count, which is also the name of a series of reports from the Coalition for Adolescent Girls which seeks to elevate the profile of adolescent girls on the international development agenda and within strategies to fulfill the Millennium Development Goals.

One of the most powerful forces of change on the planet is an adolescent girl.

Girls are part of the largest youth generation this world has ever seen.  The choices and opportunities that these girls have will not only impact their lives, but also their families, communities, and our entire world for generations to come.

Today, the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) released “Girls Speak: A New Voice in Global Development.” Girl Speak, the latest report in the Girls Count series commissioned by the Coalition for Adolescent Girls, allows us to hear directly from adolescent girls as they share their hopes, fears and dreams for the future.

And what do these girls teach us?

No matter where they are born, adolescent girls want the same things: they want to be educated; they want to be productive members of society; they want to be healthy; they want to be free from abuse and sexual violence; and they want to have ownership over their own lives and bodies. 

They want what we all want – the freedom to be who they are.

But these girls can’t do it alone. Families, teachers, mentors and communities are key elements in unleashing the girl effect. These girls already have the vision and the determination they need to thrive. They need our help in clearing the roadblocks that stand in the way of their success. 

Below, you can watch the Nike Foundation’s “I Dare You” video and hear more about the power of girls. There are 600 million girls living in the developing world. That’s 600 million opportunities for our world to be reshaped for the better.

I dare YOU not to act.

To learn more about you can do to help girls in developing countries, visit www.GirlUp.org, www.girleffect.org , www.coalitionforadolescentgirls.org/, and www.icrw.org.

 

The most powerful force of change on the planet is a girl so we’d better listen to them.