It can be hard to express the raw emotion that comes over you as a woman when you think about the politically-motivated attacks that have taken aim at U.S. women recently. From our ability to access basic preventative health care to how we love those we love. These attacks strike us where we live. They affect how we experience the world around us. These aren’t abstract concepts or simple words written in a legislative bill- they hit. And they hit hard.
When women call these egregious attacks what they are- a War on Women- right wing pundits try to tell us that there is no such thing. But we know. We know that we didn’t imagine legislators making it more difficult for women to plan our families, and we didn’t imagine it when we were called names for working to secure our futures by choosing birth control. These are serious insults that extremists add to dangerous injury.
Thanks to a women’s advocacy video campaign that first premiered on Vimeo, we can add another rallying cry against those naysayers. “This is My Body” is a video collection of women from various walks of life. This video deftly covers what U.S. women struggle with, both politically and socially. While the attacks on women have been numerous, the message the video gets across is simple: this is my body, and it is not yours. It’s not yours to legislate against. It’s not your property. It isn’t yours to use.
This video is more than a response to legislators and extremists, it’s a declaration. It’s a powerful battle cry in a war that seeks to use women’s bodies as a battle ground and the very things we care about as pawns against us. This video proves our solidarity. After watching this, I urge you to go out and create conversations about why your health matters. Speak with other women about the importance of yearly check ups. Talk with your peers about why voting every chance you get matters. Make sure the people around you know that certain jokes are never funny. Most importantly, speak up and speak out.
It’s been a busy few weeks for women’s health in the political world, and with campaign season getting into full swing that’s unlikely to change anytime soon.
On the bright side, being a woman is no longer a pre-existing condition! The Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act is good news for women.
Planned Parenthood Action Fund’s presidential ad campaign has been very successful. Romney’s overall image among woman has become negative since the ad campaign started, with 60% of women seeing the ads in Des Moines, one of the target markets, saying that Romney is “out of step with my opinions on issues affecting women.” Almost half of women in each place the ad ran reported they had heard things that made them feel less favorable towards Mitt Romney. The ads have been so successful that Obama rolled out his own ads now being shown here in NC about Romney’s anti-women stance.
And yesterday, North Carolina representatives Deborah Ross and Jennifer Weiss held a press conference to highlight the damage GOP leadership has done and will continue to do to women’s health here and nationally.
But with the North Carolina legislature officially on vacation, leave it to Texas to keep the war on women going. After being told by the federal government that Texas cannot kick out Planned Parenthood from being a provider in the state’s Medicaid Women’s Health Program, Governor Rick Perry declared that he would create his own Women’s Health Program. And in his program, providers will not be allowed to acknowledge the existence of abortion. In a letter outlining the rules of the proposed Texas Women’s Health Program (which would cost Texas taxpayers upwards of $39 million), Health and Human Services’ officials propose there can be no “promotion of abortion.” “Promoting abortion” includes but is not limited to: mentioning abortion as part of the continuum of family planning services during counseling, providing a referral for abortion services, having information available or displaying any logo of providers that offer abortion care. There can also be no mention or provision of emergency contraception, and women under his program will not be covered to receive diagnostic breast exams. All of these are services that women can currently receive at their trusted provider of choice, which for 40% of program participants, is Planned Parenthood.
While it’s scary that Texas is trying to dictate what healthcare is available to low-income women by creating a program based on misguided fundamentalist values, it’s scarier to think that other states are watching this example. Up until now the federal government has managed to generally serve as a voice of reason. Let’s hope it stays this way and that North Carolina legislators are too busy on lobbyist paid vacations to take notice.
We’ve all heard the nonsense that women seeking abortions don’t have time to “think things through,” as if given time, she’ll change her already well-informed, thought out decision. I came across an interesting video today thanks to Upworthy.com that turns the tables a bit. In it, a peace activist asks one simple question to anti-abortion protestors: If you believe abortion should be illegal, then what should the penalty for women who get illegal abortions be, hypothetically? You can view the video here.
You might expect that they’d want harsh punishments for women who sought abortions, but not so. They are rather dumbfounded by the question. What’s so striking about these protestors’ answers is that not one of them have thought their stance on abortion through to the point where they consider that there is a woman involved who is making an informed decision about her own body and her own experience.
For these protestors, and I’d say for many anti-choicers, the fact that women will still seek abortions – whether or not it is legal – never crosses their minds. What’s more unnerving is that there are anti-choicers who do know the score, and they don’t care.
Anti-choice lawmakers in N.C. are undermining women’s healthcare based on the same idea that women do not know what is best for them and those that deviate from “the norm” shouldn’t be cared for. When anti-choice legislators banned Planned Parenthood from receiving state funds again,they weren’t targeting our abortion services, but our family planning services! They have targeted low-income women who, as responsible people, come to Planned Parenthood to prevent unplanned pregnancy.
By passing legislation that limits access to care conservative N.C. lawmakers are creating an environment which guarantees that women have no options. They want us to believe that certain women choose not to look after their own reproductive health when in reality it is the conservative majority that has failed to support N.C. women. They have no regard for how our lives will be once these damaging policies are passed. They have proven that they aren’t thinking things through, just like the conspicuously silent protestors in the video.
On June 23, 1972 the Education Amendment Act Title IX was passed into law! Last month Title IX celebrated its 40th Anniversary. Title IX states,
“No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any educational program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”
Title IX gives women athletes the right to equal opportunities in sports. There are three parts of the bill that are very beneficial. All educational programs that are federal funded must abide by these guidelines to maintain their funding. This includes, but is not limited to, programs accommodating the interests and abilities of their participants; setting aside scholarships and financial assistance for students who qualify; and having updated equipment, spaces to practice, and all other supportive services for the athletes.
Sometimes we forget the struggle and the fight that women have been through before us, but the sad thing is that we are still struggling today as women. Becoming a strong athlete you have to take care of yourself and be healthy, but lawmakers have made it a challenge to be a healthy woman. Being discriminated on because of your sex, having to pay more for your insurance policy and medical procedures, or cutting funding for family access programs limits you as a woman.
The Affordable Care Act which was signed by President Obama on March 23, 2010, and deemed constitutional by the Supreme Court just last week, will help us to receive equal treatment as women when buying health insurance. It helps small business owners, as well as those who do not have health insurance. It opens up the private insurance company sector for consumers so we have the opportunity to get great health coverage at affordable prices. With opening this door it will reduce the health disparities for low income women in the United States.
Back in 1972 Senator Birch Bayh of Indiana led the initiative as the chief Senate sponsor of the Title IX bill. Bayh was known for working on several other constitutional issues in regards to women’s equal rights including the Equal Rights Amendment. Birch was a strong advocate for women’s rights and health. We need senators just like him today who care about our rights as women. The women of North Carolina, and all of the U.S. deserve strong advocates. Won’t you join us at the polls this fall to make sure that happens?
Soon after beginning my internship with Planned Parenthood, where my duties include encouraging citizens to make their electoral voices heard and to stand up for their right to reproductive healthcare options, I started reading the book, The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood. And wow, I’ve just got to say… how apropos.
Imagine a world where women no longer have any say over their bodies. Where those who still have a slim chance of conceiving are brainwashed and subjected to barbaric, ritualistic ceremonies. Where reading, speaking one’s mind, engaging in romantic liaisons is punishable by death. In this frightening setting, most women are no longer considered rightful citizens, but solely for breeding purposes. Women here are mere vessels.
The Handmaid’s Tale depicts such a world. It describes a time, not too far from today, when chemical and biological warfare and years of exposure to pollution, contaminated water, herbicides, pesticides, and other toxins have wreaked havoc on reproductive sytems and have rendered the majority of Americans sterile. Within this misogynist society, women are broken into a hierarchy of Econowives (aristocrats), Marthas (servants), and Handmaids (converted, potentially fertile women). “Unwomen,” who don’t fall into any of those categories, are sent to work in the “Colonies,” cleaning up the remnants of nuclear mishaps, and ultimately meeting their end.
As the title of this book suggests, the story provides a Handmaid named Offred’s account of her recently changed life. Within a few years, she went from enjoying a lifestyle much like most Americans today to an utterly meek existence, dedicated to bearing a child for the wealthy household to which she’s been assigned. She has three chances to conceive, after that she’s declared discardable—three strikes, you’re out.
In this future context, one in four (rare) pregnancies results in a healthy baby, but ultrasounds and abortions are completely banned; so all pregnancies must be carried to term. Sadly however, most culminate in “unbabies” who are, as Offred dismally puts it, “put somewhere, quickly, away.”
Right now, women in America are fortunate enough to have the freedom to make choices about their reproductive lives, but recent and impending infringements on these decisions makes the scenario that plays out in The Handmaid’s Tale hit scarily close to home. Consider this: every bit of legislation that passes which seeks to restrict access to trusted family planning providers–like Planned Parenthood–potentially brings us a tiny step closer to an existence reminiscent of Atwood’s dystopian future.
Okay, that might sound dramatic, but nonetheless I urge people to read this book. It serves as a reminder that we must continue our fight to keep women’s reproductive healthcare options intact. The repercussions for not doing so could be dire.
Sometimes things are just so backwards that no amount of logic or reason can make a difference. This is one of those times, as we await the final budget compromise between the NC House’s bad budget and the NC Senate’s worse one. So, if you can’t beat their backwards ways, you might as well join the backwards ways.
In the spirit of having a little fun with a difficult situation, while raising awareness about the regressive budget currently being finalized behind closed doors, Together NC organized the first annual Backwards Budget .5k. Around 100 people, from toddlers to the Raging Grannies, came together yesterday to run or walk backwards around the Halifax Mall, behind the General Assembly. Racers pinned their race numbers to the back of their shirts and took off backwards around the mall, passing a “dirty water” station and crossing the finish line into South Carolina. Planned Parenthood Action Fund had a great showing of supporters giving it their best shot in Women Are Watching pink shirts!
While it was a fun event symbolizing the direction this budget will take North Carolina, the important message wasn’t lost. We joined our sister affiliate, Planned Parenthood Health Systems, to hand deliver three thousand postcards from women across the state asking Representative Brubaker and Senator Stevens not to deny healthcare to thousands of North Carolinians by banning Planned Parenthood from receiving funds for lifesaving preventative services. PPCNC’s own Alison Kiser joined other leaders to highlight the real harm the budget poses to the state, especially women. The process up until now hasn’t left a lot of hope that the final budget will do anything but take North Carolina back in time, erasing decades of progress, but today’s rally was an energizing reminder that North Carolinians aren’t going to sit back and let it happen.
It’s no real surprise that the North Carolina legislative majority is again playing harmful, political games with women’s health. Little has changed since the last session in that regard- a majority of our lawmakers are still hard at work taking away life-saving services from their female constituents while being disrespectful and condescending towards female colleagues. But a group of legislators has had enough and is standing up for women’s health.
The Democratic Women’s Caucus held a press conference yesterday calling the GOP shenanigans exactly what they are: disrespectful, discriminatory and offensive. Senator Doug Berger made it clear, “The new majority has no respect for individual rights of women and we are here to call them out on it.” And House Representative Deborah Ross admonished the inaccurately worded “Women’s Right to Know Act” saying “it disrespects women, it disrespects doctors and it disrespects our court system.”
Seeing these advocates stand up for women’s health was refreshing in an otherwise hostile session. But they aren’t alone and it doesn’t stop there. Women have already said and will continue to say through election season: It’s not okay.
According to recent polling reported from the Kaiser Family Foundation, three out of four women believe there are groups aiming to limit women’s reproductive freedom. Almost a third of women perceive this to be a wide-scale effort to limit choice. Women are watching, and they’re taking action. Four out of ten women report taking some action in the past six months in response to the War on Women. Women (and men too! Polling found men were equally as likely to take action) have been attempting to influence friends’ and family members’ opinions, donating to reproductive health non-profits and political organizations, and contacting elected officials. It’s already been enough to change the minds of 10% people regarding who they will vote for.
Women are the voting majority in North Carolina. The Republican majority can play games now, but you can’t win an election without women. Women do not want politicians to interfere with their health and the public strongly opposes efforts to defund Planned Parenthood. Public Policy Polling found in April 2011 that 60% of women would be less likely to vote for a legislator who voted to ban Planned Parenthood funding. And it’s not a partisan issue; almost half of Republican women said they would be less likely. Planned Parenthood identified over 20,000 new supporters last year as a result of the attacks on Planned Parenthood and almost all of them are registered to vote.
It’s time for the Republican majority to stop playing politics with women’s health. And if they don’t, their constituents will send the message in November when they stand up for women’s health at the polls.
The NC General Assembly hasn’t even been in session for two weeks yet but it didn’t take long for extremist legislators to revisit the same old tactics they adopted last year in a desperate, politically-motivated attack on Planned Parenthood.
Last year, anti-women’s health legislators set about defunding Planned Parenthood by specifically banning (not cutting!) us by name in the state budget. When the federal courts called foul and ordered a temporary injunction to get funds flowing back into Planned Parenthood’s preventative health care services these legislators were stuck figuring out how to achieve their goal in a different way.
Speaker of the House Thom Tillis admitted this last summer when he stated that the legislature would consider rewriting the special provision to “avoid further litigation” but to maintain the desired impact of banning Planned Parenthood from serving the low-income women who turn to us for preventative health care through the Title X family planning program each year.
Last Thursday we saw exactly how they plan to go about it. House budget writers rolled out their new budget before the House Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee. Budget negotiations up to this point had taken place secretly among Republican lawmakers behind closed doors so this was the first glimpse at what was in store for Planned Parenthood allies and for the general public.
A brand new special provision in the state budget reads:
“Of the funds appropriated in this act to the Department of Health and Human Services for the 2012-2013 fiscal year, none shall be allocated to renewing, extending, or entering into new contracts for the provision of family planning services and pregnancy prevention activities with providers other than local health departments. Upon the expiration of any contracts in effect during the 2011-2012 fiscal year between the Division of Public Health and private providers of family planning services and pregnancy prevention activities, the Department shall reallocate three hundred forty-three thousand dollars ($343,000) of these contract funds to local health departments. Local health departments receiving funds under this section shall not contract with outside vendors for the provision of family planning services or pregnancy prevention activities. These services shall be provided directly by local health department recipients.”
This provision represents a direct and intentional attack on Planned Parenthood. When specifically asked by Representative Verla Insko (D-Orange) if there would be any other agencies impacted by this provision other than Planned Parenthood legislative staff confirmed that there were not.
The most important point here is that the majority in the NC Legislature is once again demonstrating their complete disregard for low-income women in the interest of moving their political agenda forward. The real-life effect of this provision is that these women will be denied the right to decide on their trusted family planning provider while the state dictates that they must seek care at their local health department.
While county health departments provide many important services, the sad fact of the matter is that many are simply over-capacity as it is. Far more over-capacity than $343,000 could possibly address across the entire state. Many county health departments have long waits for family planning appointments. For example, in Wake County, there are no new appointments available until August. If you need an appointment sooner you are advised to call (who else?!) Planned Parenthood. This same patient could, in most circumstances, be seen at Planned Parenthood on the same day and certainly within the same week.
The moral of the 2011 legislative session was that these legislators have no shame when it comes to playing politics with women’s health. We see now that nothing has changed in 2012. They don’t care that this measure won’t save the state a single dime as they pursue their single-minded pursuit of restricting women’s access to health care. But we’re not backing down. You can take action right now to let the NC House know that you Stand with Planned Parenthood and stay tuned for more updates! Your support is more important than ever!
Often afraid or fearful of being judged, transgender people frequently delay or avoid routine health care examinations that could prevent more serious or life-threatening health consequences.
To shed light on this little discussed but serious health care challenge, we are presenting the Sundance Grand Jury Winning Documentary, Southern Comfort, at the Carrboro Arts Center this Thursday, May 24th. Proceeds from the event will go towards supporting our newly launched transgender services.
Southern Comfort follows the final year in the life of Robert Eads, a female-to-male transsexual. Eads, diagnosed with ovarian cancer, was turned down for treatment by two dozen doctors out of fear that treating a transsexual person would damage their reputations. By the time Eads received treatment, the cancer was too far advanced to save his life. During his final year, Robert fell in love with male-to-female transsexual, Lola Cola, who stars in the film and will attend the Carrboro event to provide Q & A for the audience after the film.
Southern Comfort highlights the discrimination many transgender people encounter when seeking healthcare. An April 2012 report by the National Center for Transgender Equality showed that roughly a quarter of transgender people reported being turned away by health care providers while almost half of transgender men have delayed or avoided preventive health care such as pelvic exams or STI screenings out of fear of being judged.
“Planned Parenthood believes all people deserve high quality, affordable health care,” says Janet Colm, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Central North Carolina. “Our goal in providing transgender services is to reduce barriers and help ensure that all people have access to non-judgmental and respectful care.”
The Southern Comfort benefit screening, a partnership between Planned Parenthood of Central North Carolina, Equality NC, Equality NC’s Trans Policy Task Force, is made possible through the generosity of local supporters. To purchase advanced tickets (suggested donation of $10) or to support our transgender services, see the Planned Parenthood website at www.ppcentralnc.org/lola