Monthly Archives: February 2011

Spread the Message: Love Your Body

In the United States, 10 million women and girls suffer from anorexia and/or bulimia, 81% of 10-year-olds are afraid of being fat, and young women who have anorexia are 12 times more likely to die than other women their age.

Often advertisers objectify women for the sake of selling alcohol, furniture, luggage, or just about anything. In Jean Kilbourne’s book “Deadly Persuasion: Why Women and Girls Must Fight the Addictive Power of Advertising,” she claims that “advertising is our environment.” Although many people claim to not be influenced by advertisements, the average American views more than 3000 ads in one day.

In addition to objectifying women, the NOW Foundation blames the cosmetic and advertising industries for promoting images of airbrushed “perfect” women which in turn affects the self-esteem of women and girls. Education Vice President Erin Matson says that the unrealistic portrayal of a woman’s body is only naturally possessed by less than five percent of women.

“Let’s Talk About It,” a project of NOW Foundation’s Love Your Body Campaign, has received thousands of posters for the Love Your Body contest every year. You can send the posters as e-cards to anyone in your life who needs to hear the message that their body is beautiful just the way it is.

This year, coinciding with National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, NOW has upped the ante by featuring videos in addition to posters. Currently you can submit your own video or watch others like Matson talk about their failures and successes while learning to love their body.

Matson encourages people to submit their videos:

Your voice might be the one that reaches a girl or woman who is struggling with her self-image. And together, the more videos we create, the more we become part of the solution.

Learning to love your body and encourage others to do the same is part of the puzzle. Commend yourself and those around you on their personality, humor, and achievements. After all, as a winning poster from Love Your Body suggests, you can’t buy self-esteem.

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Filed under Education, Girls, Women's health

Female Soldiers Sue U.S. Military for Inadequate Response to Sexual Assaults

Jezebel recently reported on a lawsuit filed by former soldiers against Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and his predecessor Donald Rumsfeld.  The soldiers state that they created a military culture which protected and enabled their rapists, providing no protection for them.

A culture that, these women and men say, not only allowed their assaults but bullied them when they tried to report and, in many cases, left their assailants free and even thriving.

Not only were the women’s complaints to the military ignored, according to the article, but their rapists led thriving careers in the military. One alleged assailant was given an award for “Airman of the Quarter.”

This incident also brings to the light the unmet needs of women in the military. It is sad that a horrifying case like this one is what is needed to bring to light the unequal treatment, and untrue views of our women in uniform.

As demoralizing as it can be to contemplate such concentrated violence and misogyny, we’re hearing these stories because these survivors refused to go away quietly, and are bravely fighting back.

We thank these soldiers for coming forward and bringing to light the trials and discrimination women experience in the military.

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Filed under Military, Rape, Women's health

Title X: The Importance of Family Planning for All

The Guttmacher institute has released a study  highlighting the importance of Title X funding. Title X is the sole federal program devoted entirely to family planning. In his recent budget, President Obama proposed a modest increase in funding to Title X. Unfortunately, Congress members want to cut that funding, or eliminate the program entirely. This is extremely disturbing because Title X provides a crucial healthcare service to many young and economically disadvantaged women.

The services that the program provides dramatically reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies. In turn, this saves taxpayers’ money.

The contraceptive services provided at these centers helped women and couples avoid 973,000 unintended pregnancies, which would have resulted in 433,000 unplanned births and 406,000 abortions. Without these services, unintended pregnancy and abortion in the United States would be one-third higher. And by helping women avoid unintended pregnancies, Title X–supported family planning centers saved taxpayers $3.4 billion in 2008—or $3.74 for every $1 spent on contraceptive care.

Title X and its services impact many in the state of Pennsylvania and nationally, and slashing the funding of this program is not only dangerous but fiscally irresponsible. Title X’s impact in Pennsylvania is substantial:

In the absence of these services, the level of teen pregnancy in Pennsylvania would be 76% higher. By helping women avoid unintended pregnancies and the births that would follow, the services provided at Title X–supported centers in Pennsylvania saved $183,505,000 in public funds in 2008.

In addition to preventing unintended pregnancies Title X is many women’s major form of medical care. It covers not just contraception services, but all forms of women’s reproductive care making it a crucial program to ensure the health of women.

One-quarter of all poor women who obtain contraceptive services each year do so at a site that receives Title X funding, as do 17% of poor women obtaining a Pap test or pelvic exam and 20% obtaining services for a sexually transmitted infection. It is therefore not at all surprising that six in 10 women who obtain care at a Title X–supported center consider it to be their usual source of medical care.

It is unfortunate that some want to remove a vitally important form of healthcare for many women. Tell them no by signing the petition from PA for Women’s Health Care today.

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Filed under Contraception, Government, Health insurance, Pennsylvania, Planned Parenthood, Reproductive Rights, Women's health

Will Contraception Be Considered a Preventive Service Under Health Care Reform?

Recently, the New York Times published an article discussing potential provisions to the new health care law that would require insurance companies to cover contraceptive and family planning services for women. The administration has gathered a team of experts that hope to release a definition of “preventative health services” with specific guidelines by August 1, 2011.

Currently the law states that insurers must cover “preventative health services” free of charge.  Women’s health advocates argue that contraceptives and family planning should be considered a preventive health service – after all, what’s more preventative than preventing pregnancy? However, anti-choice activists, ignoring the reality that 62% of American women use contraceptives during their lives and more would if they could afford them, have stated that pregnancy is “not a disease to be prevented.”

Congress left it to the administration to define preventative care, but the health care reform legislation included Senator Barbra Mikulski’s health care amendment which requires officials to pay attention to “unique health needs of women.” Senator Mikulski, a Democrat from Maryland, says that the amendment had intent of including family planning.

At the state level, PA Representative Chelsa Wagner, has reintroduced the Birth Control Insurance Bill. The bill, now HB 414, would require insurance plans in Pennsylvania to cover contraception drugs and devices like any other medicine.

Most women spend half their life avoiding unwanted pregnancy, while 49% of health insurance plans do not cover any form of contraceptives. And this has been an issue for a long time – nearly 15 years ago, the Institute of Medicine reported highlighted by the New York Times that the rising cost of contraceptives should be

reduced by increasing the proportion of all health insurance policies that cover contraceptive services and supplies, including both male and female sterilization, with no co-payments or other cost-sharing requirements.

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Filed under Contraception, Government, Health insurance, PA Legislature, Pennsylvania, Reproductive Rights, Women's health

Multiple Planned Parenthood Sites Targeted by Anti-Abortion Group

Last week, over a period of five days, at least 12 Planned Parenthood clinics in 6 states were visited by people claiming to be involved in sex trafficking rings involving minors and illegal immigrants. After the unusual visits, the clinics notified their national office, who, despite suspicion that the visits were a possible hoax performed by opponents of abortion trying to discredit Planned Parenthood, reported the possibility of a multistate sex trafficking ring involving underage girls to the FBI.  Planned Parenthood released a statement on January 24 discussing the incidents, saying:

When Planned Parenthood learns of an operation that exploits young women, we vigilantly work with law enforcement authorities to uncover and stop this abhorrent activity. […] Planned Parenthood’s top priority is the health and safety of our patients and the health and well-being of women and teens across the country, and we have been in contact with federal and local authorities to identify the persons involved in these visits.

On Tuesday, more than a week after reporting the suspicious activity, PPFA’s hoax suspicions proved to be correct when the anti-abortion group Live Action released a video produced by its founder and president, 22-year-old Lila Rose (a former associate of James O’Keefe, the right-wing conservative in charge of creating videos which led to the disbanding of ACORN in 2009).  The heavily edited video shows an encounter between a staffer of the Perth Amboy, NJ, Planned Parenthood clinic and two Live Action members posing as a sex trafficker and a 14-year-old prostitute.  After viewing the tape, Planned Parenthood displayed their zero tolerance policy by firing the staffer for her behavior.

The video, which hopes to discredit Planned Parenthood, coincides with the announcement of Live Action’s new campaign entitled “Expose Planned Parenthood,” which hopes to promote a bill in the U.S. House of Representatives that would cut more than $75 million in federal money allotted yearly for family planning services to Planned Parenthood affiliates.  In a December interview with the Washington Post, Live Action’s Rose stated her goal was to “unnerve Planned Parenthood employees and eventually put them out of business.”

Planned Parenthood provides reproductive health care, sex education, and information to millions of women and men in over 820 health centers across the country. According to PPFA, “Abortion accounts for only 3 percent of the organization’s health services and that the federal money under attack goes toward family planning and preventative health care for women.” Without the help of federal money to support Planned Parenthood services, millions of women (especially low-income women) across the country would face difficulties in obtaining quality reproductive care, STD testing, birth control, and information and education on sex.

The Women’s Law Project stands with Planned Parenthood because of its long history of providing compassionate, quality health care services to women and men from all walks of life. You can sign a petition to stand alongside Planned Parenthood here.

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Filed under Abortion, Planned Parenthood, Reproductive Rights, Women's health

Standing Firm Focuses on Partner Violence in the Workplace

A new southwestern Pennsylvania program, Standing Firm, is bringing awareness to the problem of partner violence and its effects on business. Standing Firm’s mission is to “engage a critical mass of employers in Southwestern PA in addressing partner violence as a workplace and workforce issue.”

Data shows that partner violence incurs high costs medical care for employers along with the ever-present safety concerns:

The health related costs to employers of rape; physical assault, stalking, and homicide by intimate partners exceed 5.8 billion each year. Also, violence against women costs companies $727.8 million annually due to lost productivity.

These are the important issues Standing Firm seeks to address. They provide various resources for employers and victims. These resources include things such as templates for constructing office policies, and extensive information on procedures involving partner violence. In addition, they provide extensive contact to outside groups who have worked on the issue of intimate partner violence. It’s free and easy for companies and organizations to join, and opens the door for even more resources. Thanks Standing Firm, and keep up the good work!

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Filed under Domestic violence, Employment, Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh

Setback for Baltimore Ordinance Requiring Truth from Crisis Pregnancy Centers

In November 2009, we wrote about a Baltimore, MD, ordinance requiring crisis pregnancy centers to provide a disclaimer to potential customers stating the services provided at the center as well as services the center did not provide, such as abortion care.

Yesterday, the Women’s Health Policy Report reported that a federal court has ruled that the ordinance is unconstitutional. The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Baltimore and the Greater Baltimore Center for Pregnancy Concerns challenged the ordinance, claiming that it violated the freedom of speech clause in the First Amendment. The court wrote:

“Whether a provider of pregnancy-related services is ‘pro-life’ or ‘pro-choice,’ it is for the provider — not the government — to decide when and how to discuss abortion and birth-control method. The government cannot, consistent with the First Amendment, require a ‘pro-life’ pregnancy-related service center to post a sign.”

The Center for Reproductive Rights and City of Baltimore are expected to appeal this decision.

The National Abortion Federation reports that it’s common for lawsuits to be brought against CPCs. Various attorneys have been successful in challenging these centers’ use of public funding under the First Amendment’s establishment of separation between church and state. In some states, attorneys have been victorious in changing the deceptive names of CPCs. Several states have almost identical laws to the Baltimore Ordinance.

In 1998, NAF’s Family Research Report showed that women faced with unwanted pregnancies often looked in the yellow pages for phrases and words like ‘clinic,’ ‘women’s center,’ and ‘medical,’ all words which CPCs use in advertisements. This ruling against the Baltimore Ordinance provides a setback to women’s rights to obtain truthful information about CPC services and ultimately condones CPCs’ tactics of harassing, bullying, and giving blatantly false information to women facing unplanned pregnancies.

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Filed under Abortion, Pregnancy, Reproductive Rights, Women's health