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Ohio Lawmakers Work to Prohibit Teaching About “Gateway Sexual Activity”

12:40 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

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

A couple kisses, seen from above

Ohio wants to define "gateway sexual behavior" and then ban teachers from educating about it.

Though most of us are still not quite sure what it is, the concept of “gateway sexual activity” is back, or at least a ban on teaching about it is back.This time it is Republicans on the Ohio House Finance Committee who are worried about our young people heading down the wrong sexual path. So worried, in fact, that they are willing to impose fines on anyone who teaches about such sexual activity. That’s right, an amendment to the budget passed by the committee yesterday would prohibit providing or distributing condoms or other contraceptives on school grounds and ban any instruction that promotes “gateway sexual activity.” Teachers or organizations that violate this ban could be subject to lawsuits by parents as well as a $5,000 fine.

Some of us remember the first time we heard this phrase; it was last year when Tennessee Republicans passed a similar law that became the butt of national jokes because no one knew what a “gateway” behavior would be — a kiss, a foot rub, an expensive dinner? The law didn’t define it but lawmakers in Tennessee promised that we would know it when we saw it. As I reported for RH Reality Check at the time, one legislator explained in testimony on the floor:

“Everybody in this room knows what gateway sexual activity is. Everybody knows there are certain buttons when you push them, certain switches when you turn them on, there’s no stopping, especially for undisciplined, untrained, untaught, and unraised children who just want to feel affection from somebody or anybody.”

I can’t say that this explanation helped enlighten me though it did infuriate me with all of its judgment and blame.  Like many others, I preferred comedian Steven Colbert’s snarky take on it:

“Kissing and hugging are just the last stop before the train pulls into Groin Central Station. We desperately need to intervene earlier to keep kids from engaging in… all the things that lead to the things that lead to sex.”

In an effort to avoid any similar confusion (and perhaps prevent being made fun of on Comedy Central), Ohio legislators provided a definition of “gateway sexual activity.”  And, because teenage sexual behavior is so bad as to be felonious, they took the language straight from the state’s criminal code. So schools cannot promote:

“…any touching of an erogenous zone of another, including without limitation the thigh, genitals, buttock, pubic region, or, if the person is a female, a breast, for the purpose of sexually arousing or gratifying either person.”

Despite this very clear definition of behaviors that Ohio lawmakers think will inevitably lead to teens boffing like bunnies, I imagine that teachers in the state are still confused as to what they can and can’t say. After all, sexuality education is not about promoting specific behaviors, it is (among many, many other things) about helping young people think critically about those behaviors they will and will not choose for themselves. I suppose, though, that such confusion, combined with a hefty fine, will have the exact effect that lawmakers want; teachers will play it safe and say nothing.

As Damon Asbury, a lobbyist for the Ohio School Boards Association told the Dayton Daily News:

“I don’t think we should have teachers put on trial for teaching a prescribed curriculum. It takes you back to the Scopes Trial.”

Kellie Copeland of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio told the Dayton Daily News that she also opposed the ban noting the amendment appears to be an attempt to ban comprehensive sex education programs in schools. She added:

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The “Big Chop” – How a Haircut, Congress, and the Toxic Zombie Toolkit Can Make You and the Planet Safer

7:27 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

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

Photo by Barron Fujimoto.

It’s spring – the flowers are blooming, the skies are blue, the weather is spring-tastic, and Earth Day is just around the corner! So, how are you celebrating? Some of you may be planning to plant trees, others might be getting down and dirty by starting a community garden or collecting trash in your neighborhood park. But me, I’m getting the “big chop,” cutting inches off my hair.

You might be asking yourself, isn’t that a bit much for Earth Day? Okay, so I must admit I did not do this so much as a way to celebrate Earth Day, but more as an important step to protect my health from my toxic products.

My bathroom counter has countless hair care products that have been part of my vocabulary since I was a child, things like, perm, grease, holding spray, heat protectant, just to name a few. Regular use of these products and bi-weekly trips to the hair salon has become a major part of my lifestyle and my look, but that’s all about to change.

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Title X and The Role of Family Planning Providers in Preventing and Treating Sexually Transmitted Infections

10:02 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Clare Coleman 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 article is published in partnership with the National Coalition of STD Directors (NCSD) as part of our joint series on STD Awareness

Over the past 40 years, Title X family planning providers have played a critical role in ensuring access to a broad range of family planning and related preventive health services for millions of low-income and uninsured individuals. Screening, testing, and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are key components of the essential health education and services provided by family planning providers each year. In 2010, the Title X family planning network performed over 6 million STD tests, a 3.5 percent increase over the previous year, and over 1.1 million HIV tests, a 10 percent increase over 2009. Family planning and sexual health programs have a tremendous amount of expertise in targeting “hard-to-reach” populations, particularly through education and counseling.

Family planning providers have long understood the role sexual health plays in the lifelong health and well-being of their patients. Suspected of being the number one cause of preventable infertility, chlamydia – a curable infection – is the most common bacterial STD in the US, with an estimated 2.8 million infections annually. Annual US gonorrhea infections are estimated to be as high as 700,000 a year. If left untreated, both infections can spread into the uterus or fallopian tubes and cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). PID and other infections in the upper genital tract can cause damage leading to infertility, chronic pelvic pain, and potentially fatal ectopic pregnancy.

Recognizing the important role publicly funded family planning providers can and do play in STD prevention, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) supports chlamydia and gonorrhea prevention efforts in family planning health centers through the Infertility Prevention Project (IPP). Begun as a demonstration project in 1988 to address the leading STD-based causes of infertility, IPP has expanded to all ten of the federal Health and Human Service regions, supporting screening and treatment among sexually-active, low-income women.

CDC estimates that undiagnosed and untreated STDs such as chlamydia and gonorrhea cause at least 24,000 women in the US each year to become infertile. In addition to the health burdens that result from chlamydia and gonorrhea, chlamydia in particular has severe economic costs within the health care system. Over $2 billion is spent every year on the medical management of chlamydia and related complications. The total lifetime medical cost has been estimated at $315 per case for women. Furthermore, a single case of PID costs between $1,060 and $3,180 (in 2000 dollars).

To ensure quality sexual and reproductive health and address economic burdens, continued efforts to educate, screen, test, and treat for STDs is critical to our nation’s public health and well-being. The Title X family planning network is proud to be an essential safety-net provider in these efforts to improve access for populations that may have nowhere else to turn for these services.

Egg Freezing: Risks to Women and Children Unknown

9:48 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

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

Originally published by the Center for Genetics & Society. Published here with permission of the author.

To its credit, the fertility industry’s professional organization – the American Society of Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) – has said plainly that freezing women’s eggs remains an experimental procedure that should not be “marketed or offered as a means to defer reproductive aging.” To its discredit, ASRM does little to see that even its own members adhere to its conclusion. (If this sounds familiar, you may be thinking of the similar disregard in which fertility clinics hold ASRM guidelines on the number of embryos they should put in women’s wombs, and on the use of embryo screening for sex selection.)

In fact, hundreds of American fertility clinics now offer “social egg freezing,” and there are thousands of online ads promising women they can “extend their fertility” by putting their eggs on ice. This disjuncture is examined in an article in this week’s Nature titled “Growth of egg freezing blurs ‘experimental’ label” [registration required].

Science writer Alison Motluk points out that chemicals used in the freezing process are toxic to embryos, though no one knows how much the eggs absorb; that there have been no systematic follow-up studies either of children born from frozen eggs (fewer than 2000 worldwide) or of success rates, especially for women in their late thirties who are the primary users; and that the procedure is very expensive. She notes that several other widely used assisted reproduction techniques, including pre-implantation genetic diagnosis and injecting sperm directly into eggs, were also rushed from lab to patients with next to nothing in the way of animal studies or clinical trials.

Ironically, proponents of social egg freezing offer this record of untested techniques as an argument in favor of removing the procedure’s experimental label. Though the commercial throttle is already wide open, these promoters are probably right in thinking that ASRM’s designation dissuades some women, dampening the growth of what is clearly a lucrative new market for the fertility industry. In an April article in Vogue, fertility doctor Geoffrey Sher, an active and early proponent of egg freezing, says that there “is already the potential for eight times the demand for egg freezing as there is for IVF procedures, just based on population numbers.” Sher and others believe that women should be encouraged to undergo the procedure in their late 20s or early 30s, when their eggs are higher quality.

Though the tone of the recent Nature article is more sober than that of many media accounts, neither it nor the other media stories published over the past several months – the Vogue piececoverage by National Public Radio, and a first-person account on Huffington Post – even mention the non-trivial short-term risks (side effects ranging from mild to – rarely – life-threatening, with plenty of debilitating territory in between) and still uncertain long-term risks of egg retrieval for women.

In most of the media coverage, the take-away message is that egg freezing is an unproblematic boon. NPR’s article, for example, carries the conclusive title, “Egg Freezing Puts The Biological Clock On Hold” and reports that fertility doctors “envision a time when society considers freezing eggs an act not of desperation but of empowerment.” The Vogue piece declares, “Stopping the biological clock through egg freezing has long been the ultimate feminist fantasy.”

There have indeed been, and probably still are, some feminists who fantasize thus. The most notorious is Shulamith Firestone, who back in 1970 envisioned gender equality enabled by artificial wombs. Myself, I’ll forgo the fantasy techno-fixes. Give me the kind of feminism that assesses the real-world effects of a practice like egg freezing – as do, for example, Our Bodies Ourselves and the National Women’s Health Network.

HPV Education, Prevention & Support: Innovative Efforts Reach Young People and Older Adults

8:23 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Bianca I. Laureano 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 an abundance of conversations about Human Papillomavirus (HPV), especially since the new vaccinations have been approved by the FDA, and now include boys. However, what are people doing about promoting awareness and prevention about HPV (human papillomavirus), not only for young people, but older adults and men? I asked Patti Murillo-Casa, the NY Chapter President of Tamika & Friends, Inc. (T&F) a national non-profit organization dedicated to ending cervical cancer through HPV education. I admit that I was one of the founding members of T&F when living in Washington, DC and helped to build some of the early HPV education and prevention activities and discussing sexual health and sexuality specific to HPV and cervical cancer. Since my departure, T&F has expanded and grown in ways that are exciting and very much needed!

Patti Murillo-Casa has been a guest speaker for many of my classes where she shares her experience being diagnosed with cervical cancer 3 years ago, her healing, recovery, and her coping practices. She also shares information about HPV to help raise awareness. I’ve interviewed Patti before when asking her about the rates of divorce among couples where one experiences cervical cancer.  After her most recent visit as a guest speaker, I asked if she would be willing to provide an interview with me to help raise awareness of the work T&F is doing, how folks can create a chapter in their area, and how area folks can get involved in their reproductive justice efforts locally.

Can you share with us how you became involved with Tamika & Friends, Inc.?

Sure!!–.  Three months after my last treatment [for cervical cancer] had ended, and feeling the repercussions of the aftermath of a battle, my brother, Rudy, for whatever reason was checking the internet and found Tamika and Friends NYC Walk to Beat the Clock, a 5K prevention and awareness walk to prevent cervical cancer.  The walk was going to be taken place in 3 days from the day he told me.  He insisted so much for us to do it that I gave in.  We gathered family, friends, raised some money and named our team “Tumor Terminators” and on Saturday, September 19, 2009 we were there.  For me it was like an epiphany when I saw the other survivors, women fighting the battle, caregivers and their friends all telling their stories with so much strength and determination.   It was easy to get inspired.  These women inspired me and continue to every day.  They welcomed me and hugged me as a sister; I was their survivor sister. They knew exactly what I had gone through.  I went to Tamika Felder, the founder and CEO of T&F, and I told her right there and then that I wanted to join the movement.  I wanted to be one of her “Friends.”  I was not feeling sorry for myself anymore.  I understood then, that the second chance I had just been given was to help other women not to endure what I had.  Tamika and Friends-NYC Chapter was born January 15, 2010.

What have been some of your most rewarding experiences since working with Tamika & Friends, Inc.?

They have been many, but meeting awesome people in this community tops my list.  I have met amazing warriors, advocates, and just people with tremendous heart and passion.  I have my ups and downs too, but I try to focus on the ups.  I always remember the first girl that came up to me and told me that because she heard or read my story she went to her doctor to check herself and that she will promise to do it every year.  In my book that’s what makes it all worthwhile and rewarding.  I call it my boost injection. :)  It allows me to continue with my mission, with my goal, with passion and determination to help eradicate cervical cancer.

What are some of the challenges you see existing in the work Tamika & Friends, Inc. has planned locally in NYC and nationally?

Tamika Felder calls this organization small, but very mighty.  We roll up our sleeves and we get ready to work at all times.  We are all volunteers and willing to do anything to spread the word and help survivors and people battling the disease.  As a national nonprofit, we rely on the generosity of our friends, neighbors and companies to help us. Unfortunately, in these economic times it’s hard, but we go forward with what we have and at the end of the day we have done what we can and we sleep better at night.  This is New York City, a city full of generous and eager people and if you want to help us you can email me at  or call 917-829-TFNY.

How do you see Tamika & Friends, Inc. work and the work you are doing as a example of reproductive justice?

We have several programs in place. Some of these are:

House Party of fiVe – A House Party of fiVe mixes girl talk with games teaching about HPV and how to stay safe in those intimate moments. The parties are fun, not lectures, and you can customize your party to fit your style! After experiencing this comfortable environment where women can ask questions more openly about their sexual health, many often pledge to visit their health-care provider to get their Pap and HPV tests along with taking back the literature provided and messages learned to share with their friends and family.

Wear Orange Day -In January, cervical cancer awareness month, we wear orange to bring more awareness to this preventable disease. While the color teal and white is the official color for cervical cancer, Tamika & Friends wears the color orange, a color that has been said to be healing and helps to balance your emotions in times of high stress.

Say Something - a toolkit provided and co-sponsored by another great organization, The Yellow Umbrella. Many times we want to know how to talk to our friends and family on cervical cancer, its link to HPV and how we can all prevent it. With the materials provided, it becomes easier to share information, educate yourself and help encourage women to get their HPV test.

Gift of Giving Financial Assistance Application -This is Tamika & Friends way of helping cervical cancer patients/survivors pay their bills. Unfortunately, the realities in this world do not stop even when you have a cervical cancer diagnosis and we love to be able to help ease the burden with donations provided by our supporters.

Walk to Beat the Clock – Our annual walks for cervical cancer. A place to provide solidarity, while recognizing and building a community of survivors, advocates, family and friends. The NYC Walk to Beat the Clock will on Saturday, September 17, 2011.  You can register, donate or volunteer by going to

T&F Chapters – Our organization is growing and as we share on our website we want to go global! We also attend many health fairs targeting different communities in Harlem, Spanish Harlem, Washington Heights and the South Bronx and we give information and bring awareness to this disease and prevention. We want to expand. We love being online, but we also know that education and help is often best offered in person. Tamika & Friends will work with you and others in your community to organize educational events such as those listed above. We will provide materials and expertise to help you hold informational sessions at your local library, attend health fairs, contact community health organizations and colleges/universities. Plus, we will help you connect women in need with medical and social support and assist in fundraising efforts.

Tamika & Friends is a great way to combine fun, friendship and making a difference. To get involved, or to request additional information, please contact Tanhea at

How do you include men in HPV education and why is their inclusion important?

I particularly love men in the audience when I do my presentations.  Most of the time they shy away from the subject until they find out the HPV affects men and women.  It is obvious, that they will not get cervical cancer but there are other cancers that men can get that are linked to HPV (i.e. penile, anal, throat).   I also remind them that there are women in their lives (mom. sister, aunt, grandmother, godmother, girlfriends) and they have to support them.  Knowledge is power for everyone.

I believe that the inclusion of men is very important because in a way this disease affects everyone.  Men also have to realized that the human papillomavirus affects them too and it can lead to genital warts, penile cancer and anal cancer, to name a few.   Recent studies have revealed that throat cancer is in the rise for men due to the human papillomavirus. It is also important that boys and young men 9-26 years old know that they are able to get the HPV vaccine.

What support services exist for cervical cancer survivors via Tamika & Friends, Inc.?

One of the services already mentioned is the Gift of Giving which helps cervical cancer patients/survivors pay their bills. We have a certified counselor on board if they want to talk, a gynecologist, and nurse; we also offer emotional support (online coming soon). Family support is awesome but to talk and be supported by someone that has gone through what you have gone through makes a difference. Tamika and Friends, Inc. can be the other family in a survivor’s life.

What else would you like to have readers know about Tamika & Friends, Inc.?

Believing that creative communication is far more infectious than HPV – we provide many hands-on ways to spread the word to women in all walks of life. We may be reached using social media and our website.

You can reach out to us by visiting our website:, on Facebook

and Twitter. You can read our blog We Can Prevent Cervical Cancer


How HIV-Positive Women Drove a Grassroots Campaign for NYC’s Sex-Ed Mandate

7:56 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check


"Teach/Learn" by duane.schoon on flickr

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

Earlier this week, New York City announced that all public middle and high schools must provide a semester of sex education in 6th or 7th grade, and again in 9th or 10th grade. This is a tremendous achievement for the many individuals and agencies who have worked toward this goal for many years.  The Sex Education Alliance of New York City (SEANYC), a broad-based coalition, has provided a large tent under which advocates gathered with the shared mission of improving comprehensive sexuality and health education in the NYC public schools.  Participating agencies each bring something different to the table.  HIV Law Project, where I work, is an active SEANYC member.

In 2006 HIV Law Project invited a group of women living with HIV and AIDS to develop an advocacy campaign around a yet-to-be-determined issue.  They considered various issues of importance to them, and sex education was at the top of the list.  They knew that HIV continued to spread unabated through their communities, and they saw that their children and their neighbors’ children were not getting the information they needed to stay safe.  Many of the women had already stepped into this breach themselves: they gave condoms to the youth in their apartment buildings, they hosted impromptu living room chats for their teenagers’ friends about safe sex, and they routinely dispelled myths about HIV transmission.  Read the rest of this entry →

American Life League’s Questions on Facebook: They’re Not Asking “What Would Jesus Do”

11:27 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Andrea Grimes 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 can’t remember when or why I initially friended the American Life League on Facebook, but here they are, popping up in my newsfeed periodically to tell me about the many and varied ways the premarital sex-having-sluts of America are murdering their young en masse, guided predominantly by the heathen-begloved hand of Planned Parenthood, which gleefully holds secret abortion parties behind closed doors.

Perhaps it’s rude or callous of me to admit that part of the reason I haven’t un-friended the American Life League is because I find their posts somewhat funny. Or quaint? Even comforting? I can’t put my finger on it–all I know is that I used to be a pro-life Republican, myself, and there’s something about the ALL Facebook page that’s a little bit like going back and reading your diary from junior high, even the pages with the awful angsty poetry.

But mainly the reason I can’t un-friend the American Life League is because I don’t want to miss another opportunity to comment on their periodic What Would You Do?-style posts that ask followers what they might do, personally, if horrific things happened to them–horrific things like a doctor who performs abortions living in their neighborhood, or Planned Parenthood having a booth at the county fair. Truly, nightmares abound:

Read the rest of this entry →

!Si, se puede!? For Latinas and Other Uninsured Women, Gaps Remain in Access to Birth Control

9:46 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

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

It’s about time we had some good news. It’s been a long, hot summer in DC and a rough year of partisan attacks on women’s health in Congress and around the country. Like a cool rain after a long drought, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recommendations that birth control be covered without co-pay brought welcome relief to women around the country.

A refreshing example of sound policy informed by scientific and public health experts, this decision will have profound ramifications for many women and families, and may have special resonance for Latinas, immigrant women, and others who continue to face multiple barriers in accessing birth control. So, that’s the good news.

The not-so-good news? We’re going to need a lot more rain before this drought is over.

In honor of Latina Week of Action for Reproductive Justice 2011, I’m going to celebrate the HHS recommendations, while at the same time keeping in mind the unfinished work of ensuring access to contraception for all Latinas, including immigrant women.

It is not my intention to undersell the importance of the HHS decision. On the contrary, for too long, a woman’s ability to pay for birth control has determined whether and when she can prevent pregnancy, and including birth control as no-copay preventive care is a big step in the right direction.

And for Latino communities, economic relief of any kind cannot come soon enough. A new study by Pew shows Latino families have been hit hardest by the recession, accounting for the largest single decline in wealth of any ethnic and racial group in the country. These recent economic losses compound longstanding wealth and health disparities experienced by Latinas and their families. For Latinas who do have insurance or will be able to get it under the new exchanges, not having to pay out-of-pocket for their birth control could be transformative: leaving a little more money in the bank each month to help them with rent, tuition, buying groceries, and taking care of the children they already have.

But—and this is a big but—nearly four in ten Latinos is uninsured. And it probably comes as no surprise that lack of insurance is just one of many roadblocks Latinas encounter when they need to access health care, including contraception.

The Spanish phrase “!Si, se puede!” has long been used by Latinos the world over as a political rallying cry—and the two very different meanings of this iconic phrase may be instructive in examining the complex picture of Latinas’ access to reproductive health care. On the one hand, “Si se puede!” means “Yes we can!” an appropriate statement of celebration in the wake of this recent victory. (As in, “Thanks, Secretary Sebelius! Si se puede!!”) On the other hand, “Si se puede…” can also mean “IF she can…” and this conditional statement hints at the obstacles that remain. IF a Latina can get health insurance, IF she can make it to a provider’s office who can provide culturally-competent care in her language, and IF she can obtain and fill her prescription, THEN she will be able to fully enjoy the benefits of no-copay birth control.

For some women, that’s a few too many “ifs.” In addition to being less likely to have insurance, some Latinas, particularly immigrant or Spanish-dominant women, do not know where or how to find safe and accessible reproductive health care in their communities. Immigrant Latinas may be particularly vulnerable to unscrupulous “providers” who offer substandard care or misinformation. Just last week, reports surfaced that a counterfeit emergency contraception (EC) pill had been targeted to Latinas in the US. Other women may be experiencing contraceptive coercion, a form of intimate partner violence where a partner restricts a woman’s access to her birth control pills or refuses to use condoms. So even in a world where birth control is covered and hundreds of Planned Parenthood and other health clinics do provide quality care, some women could still slip through the cracks.

How can we reach the women who may not reap the benefits of the no-copay birth control decision? We can start by giving them more highly-effective options that do not require a provider’s supervision. Removing the age restriction on Plan B® emergency contraception would be a great start, and bringing a daily birth control pill over-the-counter also shows promise. If a woman of any age (or her partner, for that matter!) can pick up her EC or monthly pill pack with the rest of the shopping, more women will have birth control when they need it. (Intrigued? To weigh in with your thoughts on an over-the-counter birth control pill, you can fill out this survey.)

Every woman also needs better education about the full range of birth control options available to her. When unplanned pregnancy does occur, women need access to a full range of services: abortion care, prenatal care, and adoption counseling. Finally, reproductive health care does not exist in a vacuum: women also need social, educational, and economic opportunities, freedom from violence and coercion, and resources to care for their children and loved ones.

For many Latinas, the world I’ve just envisioned is still a long way off.

Our vigilance is needed to make sure that we build on all our victories by continuing to fight for more and better options for women. Just as every woman has different life circumstances that help determine what kind of birth control is right for her, each woman faces different barriers to accessing that birth control—including the need for insurance coverage and many others as well. We need more policymakers to take a cue from HHS Secretary Sebelius, and help create a world where every Latina “se puede,” where every woman has the support, education, and options she needs to plan pregnancy, care for her family, and care for herself.

Grandma Sarah May Want to Rethink Her Position on Sex Education

11:38 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

"BusyBodies Sex Education Resource for Parents"

"BusyBodies Sex Education Resource for Parents" by crisispregnancyprogramme on flickr

Written by Martha Kempner for This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

Track Palin gets far less attention than his now famous sister Bristol, his nephew Tripp, and even his little brother Trigg who was born just five months before the family was thrust into the national political spotlight. Even I, who seems to write about this family every week, pretty much forgot about him. I even missed the announcement in May that he had married his high school sweetheart Britta Hanson in a small, family-only ceremony on an Alaskan ski-slope.

Last week, Track made headlines again when it was reported that his new wife is expecting and seems to be rather far along. Though the couple has only been married for two months, pictures of her on Facebook show her very pregnant and surrounded by what appear to be baby shower gifts (something most moms-to-be don’t get until somewhere around month eight). Gossip headlines screamed shotgun wedding but that doesn’t seem exactly fair.

First of all, they’re adults; Track, 22, was on active duty in Iraq for a year and is currently an Army reservist and commercial fisherman in Alaska, Britta, 21, is a nursing student at the University of Alaska. And, from all accounts they’re in a stable, long-term relationship that spans most of their lives. So, it does not surprise me that they had sex before they got married (in fact, it would surprise me if they hadn’t). The fact that she probably got pregnant before they got married does, however, suggest that the pregnancy was unplanned and once again makes one question the Palin family’s views on abstinence education. Read the rest of this entry →

Stacey Campfield’s Tennessee Gag Order on Gays

7:33 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Kathleen Reeves for – News, commentary and community for reproductive health and justice.

Last week, Tennessee’s State Senate passed out of committee SB49, the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Stacey Campfield, proposed this bill without luck for six years when he was a member of the House. Presumably too idiotic for state legislators in the past, the bill is now on the floor!

While the bill would technically outlaw discussion of homosexuality in the classroom before the ninth grade, its practical effects are unclear, for many reasons. First, Tennesee’s current guidelines on sexuality education, referred to (tellingly) as the “family life curriculum,” are vague and poorly-enforced. Family life education is overseen by Local Education Agencies, which often receive insufficient guidance from the state. As a result, sexuality education in Tennessee (such as it exists) is shrouded in darkness: it’s unclear what children and teenagers are learning, what and who their sources of knowledge are, and how effective this “curriculum” is.

One clear element of the state’s policy on sex ed is the mandatory promotion of abstinence. Every course on sexual health must “include presentations encouraging abstinence from sexual intercourse during the teen and pre-teen years,” according to the SIECUS report cited above. So Stacey Campfield’s insistence on banning gay talk seems redundant. … Read more