Archive for the ‘education’ Category

Teen Mom: Maturity = talking about sex, not just having it

December 28, 2011

New Year’s resolution: Start blogging again! It’s not January yet, but I did just watch an episode of Teen Mom 2 that caught my attention. Nothing like getting a head-start on my resolution!

So, this week Kailyn decided to get an IUD, an intrauterine device, which is T-shaped and can stay in the uterus for as long as five years. It works to prevent egg fertilization, and it’s something Kailyn decided to try because she had trouble remembering to take her pill every day. Though she is using protection when having sex with her boyfriend, Jordan, she makes the decision to further prevent any possibility of pregnancy with the Mirena IUD.

What gets me is that Jordan was extremely squeamish when Kailyn told him about the IUD. She admitted beforehand that they never really talk about sex — they just have sex — and her prediction that Jordan would be awkward was right. She wanted to let him know about her decision, and he looked uncomfortable, remarked that it was embarrassing, and later apologized for his awkward reaction.

My theory is that if you’re mature enough to have sex, then you need to be mature enough to talk about it. Talking about sex can be awkward, especially when you haven’t brought up the topic with a partner before. But this lack of communication has a significant affect on the lack of contraceptive use, whether it’s people feeling awkward about mentioning using protection during the act or one partner assuming the other has the birth control covered without any verbal confirmation.

So you have to weigh — is this awkward moment more difficult to deal with than an unplanned pregnancy? And if you’re afraid of what your partner will say, is that a red flag regarding your relationship? If you take contraception seriously but you’re afraid your partner won’t agree to use any, is that really something to compromise about? But all these questions assume a certain outcome — you won’t actually know your partner’s response until you talk about it.

According to one study, kids whose parents talked to them about sex as a teenager were more likely to delay sex and practice safe sex than kids whose parents did not talk to them about sex. And it’s important to start those conversations early, for the air of shame and humiliation to be taken away from sex — because yeah, it’s awkward as a parent to talk to your kid about sex. But if you set the example that talking about sex is taboo, then an unhealthy cycle of silence begins — then young people think it’s unacceptable to talk about sex, and they feel uneasy about voicing concerns and asking questions.

It’s obvious I haven’t blogged in a while, as I’m just being long-winded here for the sake of hearing myself type. Anyway, it was an interesting scene — two adults who have no qualms about having sex with each other, having difficulty actually talking about something they do regularly. This communication problem is something adults of all ages experience, and addressing it begins with removing the stigma about admitting out loud that, yes, you’re having sex and there’s nothing to be ashamed about.

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Report confirms abstinence-only & anti-Planned-Parenthood arguments are illogical

August 24, 2011

This review from the Guttmacher Institute about unintended pregnancy rates in the U.S. has some really interesting, telling statistics. Not only is there basic info about unintended pregnancy rates per capita, but it also includes numbers — by state — on percentages of total pregnancies that are unintended, how much it costs the state, how many were publicly funded, and how much the rate would increase in the absence of clinic services, a la family-planning clinics like Planned Parenthood.

These statistics tell important narratives in the face of attacks on reproductive rights and comprehensive sex education. Texas Gov. Rick Perry, a Republican presidential candidate, recently was asked by a reporter why he advocated abstinence-only education when it obviously isn’t working, as Texas has one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the country. Perry’s response was basically, “Nuh-uh!” But taking a look at these statistics, it’s very clear that Texas has a problem with unintended pregnancies generally.

Texas has the second-highest number of unintended pregnancies in the country, which is no surprise given its large population. Per capita, its rate is 11th highest, overshadowed by states like Mississippi, California, Delaware, Nevada, and also the District of Columbia. Texas, however, is the second-highest spender on public funds when it comes to births from unintended pregnancies. It’s obvious that abstinence-only education is not only inefficient, but that the unintended pregnancies resulting from lack of education about or access to contraception really takes a toll on the budget.

The report says that women who use contraception consistently account for 5 percent of unintended pregnancies. So if 95 percent of unintended pregnancies are from women not using contraception consistently or at all, doesn’t it make sense to focus on education and access to contraception? Yep. Wouldn’t it be more fiscally conservative to educate people about contraception so that they can better prevent these unintended pregnancies, thereby also saving the government money? Yep.

That’s where these ideas of being fiscally conservative smash into moral ideology — which is more important, legislating your personal religious beliefs or adopting a curriculum that best guarantees lowering these rates and consequently the funds spent on them? I’d say the latter.

Another statistic that really struck me was how much the number of unintended pregnancies would increase without family-planning clinics. States where legislators have succeeded in denying state funding for Planned Parenthood — Indiana, Kansas, North Carolina, Texas, and Wisconsin — could see their rates of unintended pregnancy increase by 50, 38, 34, 32, and 55 percent, respectively. And these attempts to defund are attempts to shut down these clinics because 3 percent of what they do is abortions. Can you really look at these numbers, see how dramatically rates of unintended pregnancy would increase without these clinics, and tell me that closing them is a great idea?

The Guttmacher report is only five pages long, and it’s definitely worth reading even if just for the charts and graphs. If you think there are a lot of unintended pregnancies now, just think how that number will skyrocket without clinics like Planned Parenthood. Vermont’s rate would jump 116 percent. Alaska’s would swell by 96 percent. If legislators want to “make a point” by defunding family-planning clinics, these numbers show they’ll definitely make a point — that they are incompetent.

On abortion being safe, legal, and rare

June 29, 2011

I like Hillary Clinton’s oft-quoted stance on abortion — that it should be safe, legal, and rare.

But if abortions are going to be safe, then they need to be performed by trained medical professionals. Legislation passed the U.S. House, however, that would ban health centers from using federal money to train medical students about how to perform abortions. If they are going to be safe, they also need to be performed in a reputable location. Legislation exists and has passed legislatures countrywide, however, that attempts to shut down abortion clinics — either by re-regulating them as hospitals or surgical centers so they can’t afford to renovate and meet the new building standards, or by taking away their government funds in hopes it will require clinics to shut down.

If abortions are going to be legal, then attempts to so severely restrict abortion access need to end. Ohio’s “heartbeat” bill passed the Ohio House and is headed to the Senate, which is also controlled by Republicans. To restrict abortions to a narrow window when most women wouldn’t even recognize they are pregnant — even in cases of rape, incest, or when the mother’s life is in danger — is essentially banning most abortions unless you immediately take a pregnancy test upon missing your period, and even then you have to hope your body is producing the pregnancy hormones to register the test as positive. In South Dakota, there is only one abortion clinic and now they require a 72-hour waiting period and a consultation with a pregnancy crisis center before you’re allowed to get the abortion. Some want to mandate that life starts at conception, effectively making all abortions illegal.

If abortions are going to be rare, then attempts to de-fund family planning clinics like Planned Parenthood need to end altogether. Contraception takes up 35 percent of the services that Planned Parenthood performs — can you imagine how many more abortions women would seek if they didn’t have access to affordable, pregnancy-preventing contraceptives (or men without access to affordable vasectomies)? Pregnancy prevention is integral in preventing abortions. You can restrict access to safe, legal abortions, but that doesn’t mean women won’t seek illegal, unsafe abortions elsewhere — and that puts the mother in severe danger (though states like Ohio obviously aren’t concerned with saving mothers’ lives). Also, increased contraception use has proved most effective in preventing teen pregnancies — a solid argument for the importance of comprehensive sex ed as opposed to abstinence-only sex ed. Abortions should be rare because of better contraceptive use, not because of restrictive laws.

It’s unfortunate that the motto for many anti-choicers instead is unsafe, illegal, and never — often taken to extremes that would criminalize women for even thinking about abortion or miscarrying.

These bills’ transitioning from outlandish propositions to approved legislation showcases that however unconstitutional, illegal, or ridiculous these proposals are, they have a real chance at passing GOP-dominated legislatures. In fact, Amanda Marcotte recently outlined why Roe v. Wade is not safe from being overturned. Safe, legal, and rare is a reasonable goal, but anti-choicers are quickly creating barriers to reaching it — which is why it’s necessary to remain vocal with local, state, and congressional representatives when it comes to abortion and reproductive rights.

Expecting a cheerleader to root for her rapist is repulsive

May 10, 2011

(Note: I changed the wording in a few sentences because as one reader pointed out, Rakheem Bolton is an alleged rapist — he was never convicted. Unchanged “rapist” references are meant to provide prospective from the cheerleader’s point of view, not to mislead readers into thinking Bolton was convicted of rape.)

That a 16-year-old cheerleader could be raped by a peer on the basketball team and then be dropped from the team because she refused to cheer for him during games is a repulsive example of how highly we value athletes — to the point where we’ll choose to forcefully and repeatedly traumatize a sexual assault victim rather than witness a microscopic lack of school spirit while someone shoots free throws.

To be clear, the cheerleader only refused to shout his name and cheer for him on the free throw line; she cheered otherwise. (Update: This is the cheer she refused to say: “Two, four, six, eight, ten! Go Rakheem. Put it in!” I mean, really? The school demanded she shout that to her rapist?) But now she’s stuck with the school’s legal fee bill: $45,000. All because she didn’t want to personally encourage the person she alleges raped her (he plead guilty to misdemeanor assault, so the rape charge was dropped and he was free to remain on the basketball team). But this case never should have gone to the courts — the school system should have just been more understanding.

One of the major reasons the school wasn’t sensitive is that people are so obsessed with sports that they’ll overlook anything so long as their athletes remain able to play in the game. There’s no denying that athletes constantly get preferential treatment — especially at the high school and college levels, where the schools are focused on their team winning and keeping public support high because the teams are significant moneymakers. Oftentimes for better players, even fans are willing to look the other way at or forget about indiscretions if it means victory for the team (on the professional level, think Kobe Bryant or Michael Vick).

But we shouldn’t overlook the correlation between male student-athletes and sexual assault — one study showed that there was a significantly larger proportion of male student-athletes in reports of violence against women; another showed that on-the-field aggression can follow athletes outside the sports arena and into their relationships with women. In 2003, USA Today found that in the 12 years prior, 164 athletes and former athletes had been accused of sexual assault. If we want to combat sexual assault, enabling athletes and punishing victims isn’t the path to follow.

The school officials wanted to punish her though, because (1) cheerleading so powerfully affects these athletes’ talent and ability, plus (2) her lack of enthusiasm at the sight of her rapist was somehow unreasonable. I don’t know if it was because, as the Independent article claimed, she cheered in a “sport-obsessed small town” in Texas that demanded school spirit, or because they were afraid if she didn’t cheer then people would start asking questions.  If the latter was their strategy, that didn’t go so well.

Does this guy really need her cheers to effectively make a basket? I doubt he gave a shit if she cheered for him at the free throw line. And, as my friend Nicole pointed out, forcing this cheerleader to scream her rapist’s name and cheer for him during games is assaulting her all over again. Should she be forced to quit if it makes her uncomfortable? Absolutely not. A sexual assault survivor shouldn’t have to change her life around to make her rapist feel better.

And let’s not forget: This girl is 16 years old. She is a child. She is a teenager and a student who should be protected by her teachers and school officials — instead, they are attacking her. Good to know she’ll use $45,000 that could’ve been a full four years at a public in-state college instead toward paying the legal fees for a school that demanded she cheer for someone who she alleges raped her or be kicked off the team — what a great message about the education system.

What’s the lesson here? We don’t want people asking questions or our athletes to feel unappreciated, so you better applaud whenever you see your rapist, because to us, school spirit is worth crushing your spirit.

Va. governor’s message/method on abortion/sex ed don’t jive

April 4, 2011

Here’s what I don’t understand: an amendment to a piece of legislation that both would restrict abortion access and likely increase the amount of unplanned pregnancies.Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell added an amendment to HB 2434 that would prohibit the proposed state health insurance exchanges from covering the costs of abortions, while also restoring $1 million for abstinence-only sex education funding.

I don’t understand why the pro-life/anti-choice crowd doesn’t embrace comprehensive sex education, as research shows that increased understanding of how to properly use contraception has lowered abortion rates. It is beyond frustrating that people continue to push a form of sex education that doesn’t actually educate young people about sex at all, instead of supporting a sex ed program that would teach about contraception and would lower the number of unintended pregnancies, and consequently lower the number of abortions. The governor’s trying to send the message that he doesn’t approve of abortion, yet he continues to pour funding into a method of sex ed that doesn’t most effectively reduce abortion rates.

If you live in Virginia, click here to send a message to your senator asking him or her to oppose these amendments.

 

A guide to state abortion legislation & some observations

April 4, 2011

The newest state legislative session has brought about a tidal wave of abortion legislation — mostly attempts to restriction abortion either directly or indirectly. Now while organizations like NARAL Pro-Choice and the Guttmacher Institute have excellent resources on state laws and legislation regarding abortions, I decided to venture out independently and gather information on abortion by state so it would all be on one, scrollable page.

So here is an objective, somewhat comprehensive (and constantly changing, I apologize if it isn’t up to date — let me know if you see something that’s been killed by the legislature or signed into law or something major that I’ve missed) collection of abortion legislation in the states. After the legislation descriptions, I have a few subjective observations.

(Note: Many of these states have bills pending regarding state health exchanges and abortion funding or parental consent for minors to get abortions; I typically didn’t list these pieces of legislation unless they were the only pieces of abortion-related legislation pending in the legislature.)

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Legislation
(objective descriptions)

Federal: The Pence amendment to H.R. 1 would ban Title X funding to Planned Parenthood, eliminating all federal funding for the family-planning nonprofit. H.R. 1 originally did pass the House but not the Senate. A revised version of H.R. 1 has been reintroduced and still contains the Pence amendment.

Alabama: Alabama already mandates that an abortion provider perform an ultrasound and offer a woman the opportunity to view the image before performing an abortion. Currently in the legislature is HB 18, which would ban late-term abortions (abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy).

Alaska: SB 14 would allow conscientious objection from doctors who don’t want to perform abortions. 

Arizona: Arizona already requires an ultrasound on women seeking an abortion after their first trimester and that providers offer women the opportunity to view the image. Two bills passed the House: HB 2416 would require abortion pill providers in rural communities to be set up like surgical facilities in order to distribute the pill, and would require an hour wait time between when an ultrasound is performed and when the abortion would be done; HB 2384 would prohibit public funding for organizations that do abortion referrals or provide abortion health-care coverage.

Arkansas: HB 1887 (the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act) would reinforce current law that prevents abortions after 20 weeks and would require abortion providers to tell women seeking abortions that a fetus at 20 weeks can feel pain as well as offer women other information regarding the procedure.

California: There is a budget bill that would restrict government funding for low-income health care to be used for abortions.

Colorado: HB 1256 would have make it illegal to kill an unborn baby in Colorado through reckless actions, but it is being withdrawn.

Connecticut: HB 5099 would require an ultrasound be performed before an abortion.

Delaware: There doesn’t seem to be any current abortion-related legislation, though there is talk of stronger regulation of abortion clinics because of Kermit Gosnell, a  Philadelphia abortion doctor who performed illegal, late-term abortions in a “house of horrors” abortion clinic (Gosnell has been charged with murdering seven infants using scissors). Legislators are also talking about instituting a parental consent law for abortion.

District of Columbia: Federal H.R. 1 would reinstate a ban on using federal and local tax dollars for abortions.

Florida: Florida already requires an ultrasound on each woman obtaining an abortion after her first trimester and that providers offer her the opportunity to view the image. Florida has introduced 18 bills regarding abortion so far in this legislative session.

Proposed bills include: (1) HJR 1179, a constitutional amendment that would prohibit using state money for funding abortions, even in cases of rape or incest; (2) HB 321, the “Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act,” which prohibits abortions after 20 weeks; (3) HB 415, the “Florida for Life Act,” which would ban abortions completely except to save the mother’s life and would ban abortion clinics; and (4) HB 1127, which would require ultrasounds on all women seeking abortions and require them to review the ultrasound (must sign form certifying they denied viewing ultrasound of their own free will if they don’t want to view it) — exceptions in the case of rape, incest, and medical emergency.

Georgia: HB 1 would make abortion illegal and would criminalize any “human involvement” in miscarriage; prenatal murder would be a felony and could carry a life sentence or death penalty.

Hawaii: SB 860 would prohibit partial-birth abortions, except in emergencies to save the life of the mother.

Idaho: SB 1165 would ban abortions after 20 weeks.

Illinois: HB 3156 would regulate abortion clinics like surgical centers.

Indiana: HB 1210 would prohibit abortions after 20 weeks, and require doctors to tell women that abortions might lead to breast cancer, inform women seeking an abortion that the fetus might feel pain, and require women to view an ultrasound.

Iowa: An Iowa House panel has approved HF 5, a bill that would ban abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy; also in the General Assembly is a bill (HF 7) that would allow reasonable or deadly force to be used by a person or third party to protect themselves or someone else from harm; combined with HF 153, which would define “life” as starting from conception, some contend HF 7 is a “justifiable homicide” bill that could be interpreted to allow for the murder of abortion providers.

Kansas: There doesn’t seem to be any current abortion-related legislation.

Kentucky: A bill to require women seeking abortions to get ultrasounds died in the House.

Louisiana: Louisiana already requires that an abortion provider perform an ultrasound and offer a woman the opportunity to view the image before performing an abortion; there doesn’t seem to be any current abortion-related legislation.

Maine: LD 116 would require a 24-hour waiting period for abortions; LD 924 would require doctors to, 24 hours in advance, provide medical information and a brochure on alternatives to abortion.

Maryland: There doesn’t seem to be any current abortion-related legislation, but anti-abortion activists want stricter regulations on abortion clinics.

Massachusetts: H 2216 would prosecute harming a fetus the same as harming the mother, but it excludes abortion providers and medical intervention; H 0482 would require doctors to give women — before consenting to an abortion — information regarding abortion alternatives, probable age of the fetus, opportunity to listen to heartbeat, the “probable anatomical and physiological characteristics” of the fetus, and risks associated with abortion; H 1333 would prohibit partial-birth abortions except to save the mother.

Michigan: SB 0150/HB 4433 would require abortion providers to use the most advanced ultrasound technology; SB 0160/HB 4109 would prohibit partial-birth abortion.

Minnesota: HF 1042 would ban abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy (currently restricted past 23 weeks).

Mississippi: Mississippi already requires that an abortion provider perform an ultrasound and offer a woman the opportunity to view the image before performing an abortion. There does not seem to be any other current abortion-related legislation.

Missouri: HB 213 would ban abortion after the 20th week of pregnancy, and would require two physicians to confirm that the proper exemption requirements are met to perform an abortion after 20 weeks (the only exemption is to save the life of the mother).

Montana: The House voted to cut nearly all funding for family-planning clinics; HB 280 would require an ultrasound before abortion but is listed on the legislative website as “probably dead”; HB 574 would prohibit state funding for abortion.

Nebraska: LB 232 would permit any third party to “defend” a fetus, leading many to call it a “justifiable homicide” bill that could be used to allow the murder of abortion providers; LB 461 would prevent hospitals from discriminating against workers with religious objections to abortions, except in the case of the mother’s life being in danger when the worker would be expected to prioritize the mother’s life.

Nevada: There seems to be no current abortion-related legislation.

New Hampshire: HB 329 would require minors to get parental consent for abortion; the parental notification required for a minor to get an abortion was repealed four years ago.

New Jersey: A 163/S 353 would require physicians to offer ultrasounds to women seeking an abortion at least 48 hours before the abortion is done, except in the case of a medical emergency.

New Mexico: There seems to be no current abortion-related legislation this session. (There is a fetal homicide bill, but it excludes abortion providers.)

New York: A 2244 would require a 24-hour waiting period before a woman can have an abortion; require doctors to provide women with information regarding abortion alternatives, abortion risks, and details about the fetus’s current development; and mandate that all abortion providers have proper ultrasound equipment; S 4028 would require that minors need parental consent to get an abortion.

North Carolina: There seems to be no current abortion-related legislation this session. (There is a fetal homicide bill, but it excludes abortion providers.)

North Dakota: HB 1450 would change the definition of human being to life beginning at conception.

Ohio: HB 125 (also called the “heartbeat bill“) would ban abortions if heartbeat could be detected and requires medical providers to, at least 24 hours before the abortion, give  information to the woman about the baby’s survival chances if a heartbeat is detected — if found to have performed an abortion when the fetus’s heartbeat was detected, doctors would face a fifth-degree felony.

Oklahoma: Both HB 1888 (Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act) and HB 1402 (Women’s Health Defense Act) would ban abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy; both SB 546 and HB 1571 define life as starting at conception; and SJR 43 would have the public vote on whether life starts at conception.

Oregon: HB 3512 would ban abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy; SB 901 would require that abortion clinics be regulated like surgical centers.

Pennsylvania: SB 732/HB 574 would regulate abortion clinics like surgical centers.

Rhode Island: H 5505 would require that, at least 24 hours prior to an abortion, women must be informed of information regarding risks involved with abortion and carrying child to term, and pictures of what the fetus would look like (except in a medical emergency); H 5029 would define life as starting at conception; H 5691 would require that physicians be able to provide ultrasounds and show them to women, though women are not required to view them.

South Carolina: HB 3403/SB 164 (also called the “Born Alive” bill) would, according to proponents, require that fetuses that survive an abortion be saved and not treated as medical waste; HB 3408 (Freedom of Conscience Act) prohibits employers to discriminate against workers who don’t want to do certain tasks that conflict with their religious, moral, or ethical principles — the bill also allows health care facilities to refuse to admit patients seeking care they ethically object to providing.

South Dakota: The governor signed a law requiring a 72-hour waiting period between when a woman first comes to the clinic (only one abortion clinic in the state) for an abortion and when she can have the abortion, and it requires that the woman must get counseling from a pregnancy crisis center.

Tennessee: HB 956/SB 47 requires abortion clinics that perform five or more abortions per year be regulated as surgical facilities.

Texas: HB 15 would require that, at least between one and three days before an abortion, a doctor has to give a woman a sonogram, describe the fetus in the sonogram in “layperson” terms, provide information on abortion alternatives (it seems like the sonogram is mandatory but the woman can decline the information), and have the woman listen to the heartbeat (except in medical emergency); HB 325 requires an ultrasound but says the woman can “look away,” and also requires information similar to that mandated in HB 15 be provided at least an hour before an abortion; HB 2659 would outlaw abortion except in the case of rape or incest (these exceptions must be proven) or for the health of the mother.

Utah: HB 354 was signed by the governor and prevents private insurance companies from covering abortions; HB 171 was signed by the governor and requires first-trimester abortion clinics to be licensed by the state; HB 353 was signed by the governor and allows physicians to refuse to perform abortion on moral or religious grounds (even in cases of rape or incest) without repercussions from employers, and it allows health care facilities to refuse to admit a patient for an abortion on moral or religious grounds.

Vermont: It seems there is no current abortion-related legislation.

Virginia: HB 1428 would regulate abortion clinics as medical care facilities; Gov. Bob McDonnell recently added an amendment to HB 2434, which addresses the state creating its own health exchange in regard to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, that would prohibit any insurance on the exchange from covering the cost of an abortion.

Washington: HB 1366 requires pregnancy crisis centers to make certain disclosures — that they do not provide abortions or medical care to pregnant women — to people seeking their services and prohibits them from disclosing a patient’s medical information without permission.

West Virginia: HB 3020 would prohibit state-funded health plans from offering abortion coverage.

Wisconsin: Gov. Scott Walker’s budget proposes eliminating state funding for Planned Parenthood and other family-planning centers.

Wyoming: HB 118 would require that doctors, at least 24 hours before performing an abortion, inform the woman that she can view an ultrasound, listen for the fetus’s heartbeat, and the possibility of the fetus feeling pain if it’s past the 20th week of pregnancy, including a description of the procedure and when the fetus would feel pain and that anesthesia is available but offers little pain prevention to the fetus. HB 251 only relates to doctors offering women an ultrasound and chance to hear the fetal heartbeat.

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Some observations
(not so objective)

How does this legislation affect abortion access?

Much of the legislation is self-explanatory in terms of how it affects abortion access. Bans on abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy obviously mean that some women won’t be allowed to get abortions. But much of this legislation is also tricky. Forcing a woman to get an ultrasound or listen to a heartbeat is an attempt to influence a woman’s decision about getting an abortion. Allowing hospitals to refuse patients limits where they can go for an abortion, and can be potentially dangerous if a woman needs an emergency abortion but the only hospital within miles refuses to give abortions for religious or ethical reasons.

Requiring abortion clinics to be regulated differently can indirectly shut them down, because they’d be required to meet building specifications that would require costly renovations — leaving many women without access to abortion. In Arizona, women in rural communities would be forced to travel to cities to get the abortion pill, which might not be a feasible option when one considers travel costs and possibly needing to take time off work. South Dakota’s three-day waiting period is especially outrageous because there is only one abortion clinic in the state — asking women to drive there, wait three days, then drive back is a huge burden on those women, and it’s a burden not every woman can afford to deal with.

More dangerous are bills like the one in Georgia, which criminalizes miscarriages to an unbelievable degree. What if you did smoke or drink while pregnant, not knowing you were? How can you scientifically prove that didn’t cause your miscarriage? The consequences would be jail time or possibly life in prison or the death penalty. And bills like those in Iowa and Nebraska draw blurry lines between using force to defend a fetus — abortion providers could be justifiably murdered in the name of saving the fetus.

Viewing the ultrasound and listening to the heartbeat

These types of legislation seem to be geared toward new mothers who “don’t understand” what an abortion entails, that the fetus has a heartbeat, could feel pain, etc. But most women who get abortions aren’t new mothers who are unaware of fetal heartbeats and ultrasounds: 61 percent of abortions are performed on women who already have childrenthese women understand the process of pregnancy, childbirth, etc. and don’t need a tutorial. Their choice to get an abortion is based on experience and an understanding of what it takes to raise a child, and forcing them or any woman to listen to a heartbeat or view an ultrasound is cruel and doesn’t grasp that women don’t like getting abortions.

What is a pregnancy crisis center?

You’ll note that Washington has a proposed bill that would force pregnancy crisis centers to be upfront about their services. This is because pregnancy crisis centers are often anti-abortion pregnancy centers run by religious organizations or churches, advertising themselves as pro-choice with the underlying mission to prevent or dissuade women from getting abortions. They often misinform patients, either about their services or in the information they provide, and have been known to harass women who continue to say they want an abortion.

The South Dakota bill is also frightening for this reason — not only will women need to wait three days to get an abortion, but they’ll need to visit one of these pregnancy crisis centers before getting an abortion. This forces women to go to these centers — known for spreading false information, harassing women, and basing the level of service on whether the woman wants an abortion — against their will.

Unemployment rate versus abortion legislation

You might have noticed that Republicans — who pre-November-election were crying out for more focused attention on job creation and economic recovery — are now focusing their attention on abortion. Have the economic conditions suddenly brightened to allow this reversal?

There are 41 states and the District of Columbia with some kind of abortion-restrictive legislation on the table. There are 30 states plus the District of Columbia with an unemployment rate of 8 percent or higher, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Of the 41 states that have abortion-related legislation on the table, 25 have an employment rate of 8 percent or higher, 20 have a rate of 9 percent or higher, and eight have a rate of more than 10 percent. The Non-Accelerating Inflation Rate of Unemployment (NAIRU) — a natural unemployment rate that sits comfortably between triggering deflation or inflation — is currently 7 percent.

In other words, 61 percent of the states with abortion-related legislation on the table have an unemployment rate of 8 percent or more; 49 percent have an unemployment rate of 9 percent or more; and 20 percent have an unemployment rate of 10 percent or more. Florida, which has an unemployment rate of 11.5 — the third highest in the country and lower only than Nevada and California, has introduced 18 abortion-related bills this session. States with such serious economic problems should be focusing on job creation, deficit reduction, and economic recovery — not abortion.

Expulsion, abandonment not the solution for teen pregnancy

March 24, 2011

I don’t understand the “if you put pregnant teens on the streets, it’ll teach them a lesson” mentality. In response to a letter to the editor in The Washington Post that discussed what schools can do to reduce teen pregnancy rates, one commenter illustrated that mentality and had this to say:

It is not the place of the schools or of my tax dollars to support “teen moms.” Girls who get pregnant should be expelled from public schools as an example. If we’d stop coddling this trash and supporting them with our tax dollars, the problem would solve itself. There’s a reason that the problem has gotten worse with the creation of the welfare system.

What great arguments: (1) schools are NOT a place to support children; (2) pregnancy should be punished; (3) pregnancy is on the same level as other reasons for expulsion; (4) helping them get an education is “coddling”; (5) the problem will solve itself if we just throw kids out on the street and ignore them; and (6) the welfare system worsened teen pregnancy, not the fact that teen moms will need to use welfare more when you take away their education and tools for advancement in life.

This mentality never ceases to amaze me. Schools are a place where children need to be supported — and it’s also a place where they should be educated on things like health and sex, but many people still don’t want to embrace comprehensive sex education — people still believe that telling kids not to have sex will be good enough, or if we teach them about it then it’ll pollute their minds, and then when they get pregnant because the school system hasn’t actually educated them about sex, we punish the students for not knowing any better. There is social culpability there.

The Guttmacher Institute is loaded with statistics about teen sex education and pregnancy. Most teens are taught about abstinence, HIV, and STIs, but one-third aren’t taught about contraception. About one-fourth of teens who learned about abstinence didn’t learn about birth control. About 86 percent of the drastic drop of teen pregnancy rates since 1990 is because of better contraceptive use. The statistics scream that education about how to properly use contraception leads to results, yet the statistics also show that not all teens are getting that information.

And really, pregnancy should be punished with expulsion? Here’s one example of what kids get expelled for, which is pretty characteristic of most schools: bringing a dangerous weapon to school; bringing alcohol or drugs to school; assaulting a school employee; or being charged or convicted with a felony. Really, pregnancy is on the same level as bringing a weapon to school or assaulting someone? Those are activities that are endangering other people at the school — plus, why should it be within the school’s jurisdiction to police premarital sex?

And then we arrive at the welfare system argument. This commenter’s desire to restrict teen moms’ access to education would leave them without the tools necessary to go to college or get a decent-paying job — so when she must turn to government assistance, the commenter wants to complain about that, too, even though the reason she needs welfare is because her education was taken away from her. Sounds like the people who want to tell women they can’t have abortions and then complain when they need government assistance to raise those babies. If you’re going to take away women’s choices, don’t be surprised when they don’t have many options or opportunities to choose from.

Instead of focusing on how much they disagree morally with whatever action (which isn’t criminal in the eyes of the law) and wanting to punish them on moral ground using the tools of the state, people need to separate the two and do what’s best for the women who are pregnant. And using them “as an example” is not what’s best for them — it’s what is best for serving the selfish purpose of people who want to punish them. And for teens who aren’t going to know about safe sex unless someone tells them, it’s better for them to be prepared and know about contraception. Teens are always taught that abstinence is the only way to 100 percent prevent pregnancy — but they need to know that if they don’t choose to abstain, there are still other ways to prevent pregnancy.

And of course, the one thing lacking from this commenter’s assault on pregnant teens is that only the pregnant teens should be expelled — what about the fathers of these children? Should they be expelled, too? After all, they must’ve been involved in the act, so shouldn’t we be taking away their ability to provide for themselves and advance in society, too? I’m sure it has nothing to do with the double standard that women are shamed for having sex outside of marriage, while men are expected to do so and therefore escape punishment on the “boys will be boys” ticket.

Nuclear reactor crisis in Japan: FAQs, diagrams

March 15, 2011

Are you confused about the nuclear reactor crisis in Japan? Looking for some background info? Here’s a list of links that provide information about nuclear reactors generally, the nuclear reactors specifically having problems in Japan, what exactly a meltdown is, and other common questions:

1. How a Reactor Shuts Down and What Happens in a Meltdown, via The New York Times

This is an interactive, multimedia slideshow that helps explain what happens when a nuclear reactor shuts down, what happened in Japan regarding the shutting down of the nuclear reactors, and what would happen in an actual meltdown. The image is very helpful, since the main association most people have with nuclear power plants are the large cooling towers, but the reactor itself.

2. Japan’s nuclear emergency, via The Washington Post

This is a slideshow that is a little different from the Times — the illustration isn’t as crisp, but it provides more information on how the cooling system works, what caused the explosions, and what the worse-case scenario would be in the event of a meltdown. It also has a map comparing where nuclear power plants are located with geographic seismic activity.

3. What exactly is happening with the Japanese nuclear reactors?, via Grist

This is a great overview, in very simple terms, of how a reactor works, how the earthquake and subsequent tsunami affected the nuclear reactors at this Japanese plant, what the worst-case scenario would be, and what is currently being done to prevent a meltdown. No graphics, but very straightforward and informative explanations.

4. Mini-FAQ About Japan’s Nuclear Power Plant Crisis, via TreeHugger

What I like about this post is that it addresses the question, “Can Japan’s nuclear power plants explode like a nuclear bomb?” There are other general FAQs as well, but I think the confusion about what a meltdown is just leads people to assume it would be a mushroom cloud — here’s the answer (full of jargon but the first sentence is key):

Thankfully, it is physically impossible for a nuclear power plant to explode like a nuclear bomb. It simply doesn’t have the right kinds of materials: A fission bomb uses highly enriched uranium or plutonium (90%+ of U-235 or Pu-239), while a nuclear power station generally uses Uranium that is only enriched to around 5% (sometimes up to 20% in smaller research reactors). A nuclear power station also lacks all the other mechanisms that are necessary to create a nuclear explosion (like for example the implosion or gun-type assembly configurations that allow supercritical mass to be reached).

I considered adding some links to news stories regarding the nuclear reactors, but the situation in Japan is evolving so rapidly that articles become outdated within hours. I hope these links provide some helpful foundation though, as many news articles I read initially discussed nuclear reactors, cooling systems, and meltdowns as if their workings were common knowledge.

Gender-neutral dorms don’t promote heterosexual cohabitation

January 13, 2011

There’s a new gender-neutral housing policy at my alma mater, Ohio University. Of course, the immediate opposition for some is that heterosexual couples will take advantage of gender-neutral housing and try to live with their significant others. Not only does this argument miss the main purpose of gender-neutral housing, but it also shows some ignorance about college life at public universities.

By the latter, I mean this: Heterosexual couples shack up all the time. They stay at each other’s places, they sexile their roommates, and they even could choose to live together off-campus when the time arises. If you think that gender-neutral housing is going to be what causes an epidemic of pre-marital sex and unplanned pregnancies, then you probably haven’t attended a public university recently.

But does it promote or advocate these things? Also, no. These policies discourage couples from living together, and honestly, most couples probably wouldn’t want to live together anyway — and the opportunity already exists once you’re eligible to live off-campus. How many unmarried couples did I know who lived together off-campus (and we’re talking planned it as they were a couple, not lived together and became a couple)? Zero. That’s because in college, people usually want to live with their friends, not significant others.

The people who would likely sign-up for gender-neutral housing would be LGBT people whose sexuality/gender identity doesn’t necessarily jive with the same-sex set-up that dorms typically have. Aaron Teskey, an alum of George Washington University, praised his alma mater for its new gender-neutral housing policy and shared some personal insight:

Like many queer students, I finally came out to my friends and family while at college. It was definitely a process though, and while at school students should be focused on learning, not worried about potential harassment or feel forced to hide their sexuality or gender identity from their roommates.

Teskey’s point identifies the core reason gender-neutral housing is necessary — because there is a very real danger of harassment with the forced same-sex living arrangements. You risk living with someone intolerant or homophobic, and for transgender people the level of intolerance is much worse. Students need to feel safe and comfortable in their living environment, and a gender-neutral living option can provide that.

10 lessons I learned from having my purse stolen

January 6, 2011

Last weekend, just before midnight on New Year’s Eve, someone stole my purse. When I told my mom this the next day, she said, “Well, I hope you learned something from all this.” At first, that really pissed me off — someone had stolen my stuff, and she was chiding me. After I simmered down, however, I realized she was right — this whole experience has taught me quite a bit, and maybe some of this information can help other people prevent a theft or be better prepared if they experience a theft (or just lose their wallet/purse).

1. Watch. Your. Stuff.

This was the obvious lesson my mom was hoping I learned, as the thief didn’t directly steal the purse from me, but snatched it from the table I set it on when I wasn’t looking. This seems like an obvious lesson to already know, but people grow a little too trusting. And people grow not very observant — my friends and I were at a bar, which wasn’t very crowded, and the purse was on a table right next to us. Between the five or six of us there, no one saw anyone come by and take it.

And this kind of theft — the kind where you don’t see someone take anything or it wasn’t physically taken from you — is classified as “lost property” to the police, which makes it even lower on the rung of priorities. It also makes it much more frustrating as the owner of said property, because I know that I didn’t “lose” anything, but I also know that in the eyes of the law, I lost it because I put it in an “insecure” location. Holding onto your stuff is a preventative measure that’s easy to take — I looked away for five or 10 minutes at the most, and it was gone. This goes for coats, too, if you put important stuff in the pockets when you go out.

2. Cancel your cards — immediately

I sent a very colorful and anxiety-ridden e-mail to my older brother as soon as I got to a computer, and he immediately responded that I needed to “calm down” and that cancelling my credit cards was a little bit drastic. I’m sure that this was because he didn’t know the situation, but it turned out that immediately canceling those cards was the right choice — someone tried to use my credit card that very night, but it was declined because I’d already canceled it.

3. File a police report

I was really hedging on filing a police report — I knew that the police wouldn’t be able to do anything, as the purse was long gone and it wasn’t physically taken from me, but snatched indirectly. It seemed like a lot of hassle for nothing, and I was already stressed out enough being without my ID, cash, and any access to my finances. But it was actually my boyfriend who convinced me to do it, and I’m glad he did.

He made a good argument — sure, they probably wouldn’t be able to do anything with this case, but simply letting them know there was a theft means that it’s on the books. If no one filed police reports, the statistics would falsely show that the city is without crime, and problems wouldn’t be known about or addressed. It serves a community purpose to report crimes, and it could add to highlighting a specific crime that is increasingly common or crime in a certain area that is growing.

You should cover all your bases to track down your stuff, and you’ll also feel better knowing there’s an official record of the theft.

4. Keep some spare cash or a credit card at home

One of the worst things about someone stealing my purse is that I lost the cash I had with me, all my debit/credit cards, and my ID — I had no way to pay for anything. What I should’ve always had was a rainy day envelope of money in my house, so that if something like this did happen, I’d have the spare stash to use until the ID, debit, and credit card were replaced. Even a spare credit card would work — just something to tide me over.

Also, some banks will issue temporary debit cards from the actual branch locations (Chase does this) to tide you over til the new one comes in the mail, which would be extremely helpful, and other banks don’t issue temporary debit cards from the actual branch locations (Bank of America mails temporary debit cards — that is extremely dumb and counterintuitive, since they are mailing the regular debit card, too), which would not be very helpful at all. Anyway, that’s another path you could try if you lose your card or it’s stolen.

5. Debit gift cards — write that number down

If you’ve ever gotten a debit gift card and thrown away the receipt, think twice next time — there was a debit gift card in that wallet, which came with a card holder from the bank listing instructions on what to do if the card was lost or stolen. I actually had to dig through some garbage to even find that card holder (don’t throw those things away!), and when I did find it, it only had the last four digits of the card number on it.

Luckily, my dad — the one who got it for me — was able to go to his bank and track down the card number and have it canceled with only the last four digits. But I could’ve easily done it myself had I written down the full 16-digit number and the security code on the back of the card.

6. Temporary phone — very helpful

So another reason that spare cash under your mattress or emergency credit card is important is because, aside from buying you food or possibly paying your bills, it can get you a temporary, prepaid phone. As someone who doesn’t have a landline and only uses a cell phone, you don’t realize how important a phone is until it’s gone. And not because I can’t text or play Angry Birds, but because I simply can’t accomplish tasks that would help me toward restoring my stuff.

I used my boyfriend’s phone to cancel my cards and talk to the police (and he was kind enough to get me a phone with some prepaid minutes for emergencies), but there are other tasks that I can’t do without a phone, all of which revolve around replacing my stuff or dealing with the stolen purse. This becomes very frustrating. On the plus side, my mom is now using gchat to talk to me, and that can be pretty hilarious. (My mom, on gchatting:  “This is pretty good. Just like texting!”)

7. Keep your social security card at home

I used to carry my Social Security card around with me. I needed it for some job in college, and just kept it in my purse. I randomly needed it a few other times since then, and I thought it was nice to know where it was. Then last year, I took it out of my purse and put it somewhere safe, which I am glad I did — that thief could’ve done a lot of damage knowing my Social Security number, and I’m sure replacing a Social Security card is quite annoying. So — best to lock it somewhere safe, except the few times you actually need it.

8. Password protect your phone (if possible)/iPhone users — get the Find my iPhone app

Just before going out on New Year’s Eve, I put my passcode on (it was off so my mom could play Scrabble on my phone, obviously), and I’m glad I did. I didn’t even use the passcode before my older brother’s iPhone was stolen (actually stolen, like, “Here’s my gun, hand over that iPhone,” stolen), and I almost didn’t have it on the night it was taken. I don’t need some stranger having access to my e-mails, contacts, etc.

But the really nice thing was the Find my iPhone app that I had installed just a week before. This free version of the MobileMe app allows you to track your phone remotely, lock your phone remotely, wipe all your data from the phone remotely, and send messages/sounds to your phone remotely. Though the tracking only works if the phone is on, I was able to remotely lock the phone and display a message (OK, my brother was able to, as I was in a state of panic and was dealing with canceling cards) that the phone was lost/stolen and a number to call.

Though it was obvious the thief wasn’t going to return the phone, the app was helpful in two other ways. By tracking the few times the phone was on, I could make better decisions about how to proceed. The first time, it was very close to the bar where it was stolen, so I wasn’t sure if it was still there or not — the second time, it was in a completely different location, so I knew it wasn’t just sitting somewhere or ditched. And I knew it wasn’t coming back.

Which brings me to point number two — being able to remotely wipe your data. I should’ve wiped the data when it was obvious that the phone wasn’t coming back. I knew the thief wasn’t using it much and figured s/he couldn’t get through the lock, and it was my pride that was keeping me from just erasing everything. Once I erased everything, the thief would have full access to the phone in factory-sent format, and I thought that’d be letting him/her win.

In retrospect, I had to cut off service eventually anyway and get a new phone, so I should’ve just wiped the data when I had the chance. The Find my iPhone app is really helpful, especially if you just lose it in your house and can’t find it (you can remotely have it make a sound for two minutes to help find it), but it’s addicting if the phone is gone because it leaves you with this sense that you can still find it — it also leaves you feeling especially frustrated, because you can see where the phone is, but you can’t just drive over and pick it up. So, install the app, but don’t get carried away.

9. Documents — keep them all somewhere

This theft has also brought to my attention that I really do not keep track of important documents very well. Instead of having a filing system or one place for everything, I have folders, bags, and boxes each containing random pieces of mail or important documents — this is not very helpful when you know the document exists, just have no idea where it is. Especially if you’ve recently moved — keeping everything together will save a lot of hassle.

10. Don’t shy away from help — take it

I hate asking for help and have hated feeling so dependent on other people this week, but I’m glad to have those people to depend on, because otherwise I probably would have had three anxiety attacks simply from worrying about how to replace things and how to go about my daily routine without any money whatsoever. I acknowledge that it could have been much worse and that people go without money and other necessities everyday, but these were my personal circumstances, and I want the people who have been helping me out to know that I really, really appreciate it.