Posts Tagged ‘birth control’

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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What do shoes, Frappuccino and birth control have in common?

August 5, 2011

That unlike many women in this country, Fox News commentator Dana Perino can afford all three, or at least that’s what I infer from this tidbit:

Now, I might be for [free birth control], if I didn’t see a lot of people out there able to buy a new pair of shoes. I mean, we have to be able to make some choices here … How are we going to define poor? Because who is not in that category now who can’t get free birth control anyway? … If you can afford a $5 Frappuccino at Starbucks, look, you can pay your $5 co-pay.

Where oh where to begin? I guess I’ll just make a list:

  1. Sometimes people need new shoes? Is Dana Perino’s definition of poor that you need to be walking around barefoot and unable to afford a pair of shoes, and then she’ll consider that you need free birth control? People just don’t look poor enough to her yet. Maybe she means that she sees a lot of people buying shoes, and knows they are buying Louboutins instead of a Nuva Ring? Maybe the “lot of people” you see buying shoes aren’t the same ones who can’t afford birth control. Just a thought.
  2. We do have to be able to make some choices! Like the choice not to get pregnant! But it’s unfortunate when things like income don’t cover or just barely cover bills, basic necessities, etc. That often takes away women’s financial ability to afford birth control, which takes away her choice to prevent unplanned pregnancies. I know, I know, maybe she just shouldn’t have sex. Shouldn’t a woman have the choice to engage in intercourse though? How about with her husband? I guess this point is moot if you think sex is only for procreation, as you probably wouldn’t want women to have the choice to have sex for pleasure at all.
  3. You know, free birth control currently doesn’t just fall from the sky. When you try to take away government funding for family-planning clinics like Planned Parenthood or shut down family-planning clinics by re-regulating them as hospitals, you are attacking the very institutions that give out that free birth control. So yeah, thanks for suggesting women already have places to go for free birth control while simultaneously trying to shut those places down. That makes a lot of sense.
  4. You know, this “you aren’t poor unless you can’t afford to put shoes on your feet” definition for low-income is a bit ridiculous. There are plenty of people who live paycheck-to-paycheck, and birth control isn’t “free” for them using a sliding scale like Planned Parenthood does when deciding how much patients will owe for birth control. There are a lot of women who fall into this “I make too much money to qualify for free birth control,” but “I don’t make enough money to afford expensive co-pays” category.

    Also, being poor doesn’t mean that free birth control magically appears on your doorstep. Being eligible to “get” it and actually having the means to “get” it are different. You have to travel to get it. Sometimes, you have to travel really far to get it, because there are only one or two places in your entire state where you can get free birth control. That takes time, a mode of transportation, and the money to use that transportation. I guess you could walk a few hundred miles to get there, just don’t let Dana catch you buying new shoes for the journey.

  5. Does everyone really think birth control only costs $5? Some generic, really popular forms do, but not all birth controls are made alike. Women react differently to different kinds, health histories would steer your doctor away from prescribing you certain kinds, and they can cost $50 or more per co-pay. That’s a lot of foregone Frappuccinos.

    Not all forms are taken orally, either. Nuva Rings and IUDs are very effective, but Nuva Rings cost $50 or more each month, and an IUD is an upfront cost of $175 to $500. Now if I just stop drinking my daily frappuccino before work, I can afford an IUD in … five months. Oh, that’s assuming I have enough money to enjoy an expensive drink at Starbucks everyday, but really, who doesn’t?

And she wasn’t the only one with something to say about birth control. Also on the panel was Andrea Tantaros:

Most poor people can [afford birth control], it’s already provided. Why should taxpayers have to fund breast pumps, birth control — look, women should be responsible for their own ovaries. That is the bottom line.

I think we already covered that not everyone has access to and/or should be taking the free or relatively cheap kinds of birth control. Taxpayers should fund it because birth control for all women serves a greater community purpose. Fewer unplanned pregnancies, less strain on government assistance, less people needing to forego an education to take care of a child — all good things.

But I’m so glad to see Andrea talking about women being responsible for their own ovaries! Women should be responsible for their own ovaries, in fact, their entire uterus and all those other reproductive organs, too. Which is why they want to take birth control, but there are financial barriers that make it difficult to do consistently or at all. So this removal of co-pay only facilitates responsibility!

All this talk about women having choices and how their ovaries are their own responsibility makes for great pro-choice arguments! Thanks for the talking points, ladies!

(Thanks to Ms. for originally blogging about this.) 

 

 

Replying to more arguments regarding no-cost birth control

July 26, 2011

Since writing about birth control access last week, I’ve come across a few more arguments in the comments section of this blog/my OpenSalon version of this blog that I’d like to address:

  • Condoms aren’t that expensive, why not just use those?
  • $50 isn’t that much money, you can easily forgo excesses and scrape together the money for a co-pay.
  • If you can’t afford birth control and don’t want to get pregnant, then don’t have sex.

Firstly, condoms are cheaper than a lot of types of birth control. But two methods are always better than one, especially if you’re concerned that a condom will break and you — as the woman — could get pregnant. For me, it’s important to know that I have control over my reproductive health, and condoms alone don’t fulfill that sense of security. It’s also important to know that should a condom fail, you’re taking another form of birth control as an added preventive measure against an unplanned pregnancy.

Secondly, $50 isn’t that much money to some people, but just because you could easily scrape together $50 by going out to the bars less or eating out less doesn’t mean other people could. Some women and families already aren’t doing those things and struggle financially, and to them $50 is a lot of money each month. Also, as one commenter pointed out on a previous birth control blog, some clinics that offer low-cost birth control do so in a lump sum. So the price is reasonable per month, but you pay for everything up front — is $150 as easy to gather just by nixing pizza for a month?

Another problem with this mentality is that scraping together money for birth control each month is not a stable way to ensure birth control access. If you’re living paycheck to paycheck, then you’ll only successfully scrape together enough money for birth control as long as no other unexpected expenses come your way. Say you save $50 for your co-pay, and then your car breaks down. The bill is $300 — how are you going to pay for birth control now? This leaves women using it inconsistently — a major problem that leads to unplanned pregnancies.

Thirdly, the “just don’t have sex” argument is logical but not practical. True, if people don’t want to get pregnant then they could just not have sex. This is the theme of abstinence-only education, which studies show is less effective at preventing pregnancies than comprehensive sex education because just saying “don’t do it” isn’t efficient. What is efficient is giving people the tools and knowledge they need to practice safe sex.

Some people will probably never agree here, because one side sees this as preventive and the other side sees it as enabling. I see it as realistic. Yes, yes, I hear the people in the “actions have consequences and if you can’t handle having a baby then don’t have sex” corner, but that argument just turns a blind eye to how people actually act. People will have sex, and sure, you can punish them by ensuring birth control is inaccessible so either they have to abide by your moral compass or risk an unplanned pregnancy. Or, you can admit that it’s better for everyone involved that we accept people will have sex outside of procreation purposes and that ensuring unplanned pregnancies don’t lead to abortions or unhealthy babies is more important than winning a standoff because you refuse to compromise.

Sounds like a common theme lately in politics …

Replying to my mom’s concerns about no-cost birth control

July 21, 2011

This blog was submitted to the National Women’s Law Center and Planned Parenthood’s Birth Control Blog Carnival (BCBC) — view all the BCBC posts here.

While discussing birth control access and the upcoming decision on whether birth control copays will be eliminated, my mom made the following three points:

  • Birth control is cheaper than the cost of a baby.
  • Can’t women get birth control at free clinics?
  • But taxpayers are going to have to foot the bill for other people’s birth control.

My mom is always useful for providing a mainstream, moderate voice to counter my oftentimes liberal voice (you may remember reading about her disgust at my using a menstrual cup). So if word on the street is that women just need to do a better cost-benefit analysis, find a free clinic, and stop thinking they can mooch off taxpayers to get free birth control, then it’s time to set the record straight.

Firstly, yes, birth control is undoubtedly cheaper than the cost of a child. But if cost is what’s stopping women from taking birth control, then likely women are simply risking unplanned pregnancy to spend that birth control money on other bills and expenses. It’s like if you can’t afford insurance — yes, you are well aware that the cost of renters insurance is cheaper than the cost of, say, replacing everything you own if your apartment burns to the ground, but the chances seem so slim and your money is needed for immediate expenses. When faced with immediate repercussions versus future consequences, we often focus on the immediate.

So that argument does well from a, “Well, you should have done your research,” chastising standpoint, but it doesn’t really seem to grasp that people know there are risks but simply have to choose how to allocate their limited finances. That’s why no-cost birth control — which eliminates out-of-pocket costs for women — would be such a breakthrough for birth control accessibility and unplanned pregnancy prevention.

Secondly, women can get birth control at free clinics — assuming that they are close to where they live and aren’t currently closing because of state laws aimed to shut down family-planning clinics that provide abortion services. For instance, Planned Parenthood has a free birth control program, but these programs are in danger thanks to state and federal attempts to defund Planned Parenthood. And some states only have a few of these clinics, so traveling there for free birth control would take a sizable amount of time and money.

You can go here and find a list of family-planning clinics that offer reduced but not necessarily free birth control, though these are Title X funded and could be in danger depending on legislative attempts to deny Title X funds to family-planning clinics. It’s easy enough to say, “Just go to Planned Parenthood,” but low-income women are going to run out of places to turn for affordable contraception if politicians keep trying to defund and close down these clinics. Yet another reason no-cost birth control is so important.

Thirdly, you’re already subsidizing other people’s lifestyle choices. On the list of preventive services already covered by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, there are items regarding obesity, tobacco, alcohol, STIs — you could craft an argument for most of the list that your tax dollars are enabling someone else’s poor decision somewhere along the line. This also sounds like the argument some elderly people make for not wanting to pay for school levies — they have no connection to the school system so why should they pay for it? Well, because education has a greater community purpose.

And birth control serves a community purpose, too. By planning pregnancies, women (and men) can better focus on getting an education, following career goals, and ensuring that if they do want to plan a pregnancy, they are in a solid place financially and emotionally to make that decision. Healthier babies, fewer abortions, less need for government assistance, people being able to get an education and jobs — these all benefit society as a whole.

Want to urge the Department of Health and Human Services to put birth control on the list of preventive services? Sign the petition here.

It’s time to repave the bumpy road to birth control access

July 20, 2011

This blog was submitted to the National Women’s Law Center and Planned Parenthood’s Birth Control Blog Carnival (BCBC) — view all the BCBC posts here.

If the obstacles to birth control accessibility were like potholes in the road, things like social stigma and conscience clauses would be cracks compared to the sinkhole that financial barriers are to women seeking contraception. A great help to smooth this road to accessibility would be its inclusion in preventive services under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), a move that would mean women no longer need to pay copays for birth control.

I actually used to think copays weren’t so bad — I was on my dad’s insurance plan in college, and I was prescribed a birth control that had a generic, $5 form. Five bucks every month? Even as a college student that was affordable. Then I graduated, got dropped from my dad’s insurance plan, and to boot my OB/GYN was concerned about the brand I was taking. My periods could be lighter, shorter, why don’t I try something new?

Sure, I thought — what could be bad about that? And then in addition to my prescription, I got a coupon to use at the pharmacy. You know your birth control is expensive when your OB/GYN hands you a card that will cap your birth control copay. It cost me $24 for this brand, which didn’t have a generic form. This pill had too many ill side effects, so I got switched to another no-generic brand that cost $35 per month. Somehow, the cost of my birth control managed to increase 700 percent in less than a year.

I was lucky in that, despite a three-month bout of unemployment, I never had to go without birth control to pay other bills or expenses. But that isn’t the case for everyone — in fact, the cost of this preventive health measure actually prevents a lot of women from either starting to take or regularly taking birth control because of high copays.

Some people want to argue about the merits of calling birth control “preventive,” that it implies pregnancy is a disease — those arguments are nothing but games of semantics that, by the way, ignore that some items already included as preventive services under PPACA are not directly preventing diseases, either. Birth control is the epitome of preventive — it prevents unplanned pregnancies, prevents the risks then associated with unplanned pregnancies because women don’t know they’re pregnant, and inevitably prevents abortions.

I’ve had experience with the other accessibility roadblocks, too — a friend of mine couldn’t get a prescription from any doctor in her doctor’s office because one of the doctors had religious objections to birth control (and for some reason it was OK for the entire office then to deny writing the prescriptions because of this?); I have felt awkward asking for birth control because I was young and felt my OB/GYN would stun me with judgmental eyes. But to avoid or breakthrough these roadblocks just to be met with a copay that could exceed $50 every month? A copay that could equal or surpass, say, your electric bill? A copay that for other preventive health services doesn’t exist? It’s like staring at the road wondering, “Why are they filling all these other potholes and just ignoring this huge one in the middle of the road?”

And it’s essential for women’s health that this pothole be filled because a different one is rapidly growing, courtesy of politicians who have set their sights on attacking women’s health. Their attempts to defund organizations like Planned Parenthood — which overwhelmingly works to provide low-income women with affordable contraception and health services like breast cancer screenings, pap tests, and STI testing — serve as the latest obstacle to affordable birth control and healthcare. In this atmosphere, a detour in the form of eliminated copays is welcome and necessary — Jezebel’s Erin Gloria Ryan put it best when she said that this possibility seems like “a glimmer of hope that maybe the government doesn’t actually hate us after all.”

The Institute of Medicine has recommended to Department of Health and Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius that birth control be included as a preventive health service, and I really, really, sincerely hope that it is. Cost is a huge roadblock for people who want to take but can’t always afford preventive measures, so lifting this barrier would be a monumental for women’s healthcare and contraceptive access.

Want to urge the Department of Health and Human Services to accept the IOM’s recommendations? Sign the petition here.

‘Teen Mom 2’ reunion special: Dr. Drew, WTF?

April 6, 2011

Oh, Dr. Drew. You never cease to amaze me with your analysis of the young women on 16 and Pregnant or Teen Mom. On the reunion special for Teen Mom 2 last night, Dr. Drew — rather than try to force the women to admit their kids were mistakes — instead opted to side with the dads and chastise the teen moms whenever possible.

How dare you get cold feet before your wedding

As Leah’s wedding approached, in the last few episodes of the season she expressed doubt about whether they should be getting married at that moment. Baby Ali was being rushed around to different doctors, none of whom could tell Leah and Corey why Ali wasn’t developing as fast as she should be, and it was sinking in just how fast Leah and Corey had gone from broken up, to getting back together, to living together, and then to being engaged and getting married.

Dr. Drew addressed this on the show, asking why she questioned marrying Corey. She responded that she had cold feet, and that it seemed like Ali’s health problems should have taken priority. Then she explained that she was happy in her marriage, and Dr. Drew politely let her know: “You almost ruined that.”

Excuse you, Dr. Drew — there’s no need to shame Leah for thinking that her and Corey should put more attention into their child’s health than into a wedding. Actually, that’s pretty responsible, considering neither come cheap. And getting cold feet is normal, especially considering that her and Corey went from 0 to 60 in a matter of months when it came to being broken up and then engaged — marriage is intended to be a lifetime commitment, so let Leah have some room to play devil’s advocate and make sure she is making the right decision considering the somewhat rocky history she has with Corey.

Congrats on being OK with your child’s health problems

Does society set such a low standard for guys that we have to reward them and fawn over them for staying in their kids’ lives, especially when it comes to children with health problems? Dr. Drew spent some time fawning over Corey for being OK with dealing with Ali’s health problems — I know that teen fathers don’t always stick around, but the phrasing just seemed all wrong, and it seemed very weird to give Corey kudos for “dealing” with Ali’s illness. What else exactly are parents supposed to do when faced with their children’s health problems?

Verbal abuse is OK if the abuser feels “betrayed”

Joe doesn’t seem to be physically abusive to Kailyn, but he’s definitely verbally abusive and has a mean temper — he regularly called her a whore and a bitch on the show, and he was very aggressive and threatening — at one point threatening to take Kailyn to court for custody until she couldn’t pay for it anymore, a dig at Kailyn’s financial struggles. (Joe lives with his wealthy parents so fighting for custody would be on their dime.)

Yet Dr. Drew kept telling Kailyn that Joe was lashing out because he felt betrayed (Kailyn snuck around behind Joe’s back and dating someone else after they broke up but Kailyn was still living with Joe), essentially putting the blame on her and trying to excuse Joe’s inappropriate behavior. Dr. Drew also seemed to focus more on praising Joe, saying that it was cool that Joe loaned her the tuition money. Yeah very cool — especially when he wouldn’t stop yelling obscenities at her when she finally did pay him back in exchange to get back her stuff from his house.

What irked me was that Kailyn is an exceptionally ambitious and strong-willed person. Unlike the other teen moms, she really doesn’t have a support system that is concrete. Jenelle and her mom fight, but Jenelle knows that her mom will always take care of Jace. Chelsea’s dad is extremely helpful, even paying for her rent for many months after she had Aubree. Leah’s mom and step-dad are very hands-on, offering support and baby-sitting when they can. Kailyn has a mom who last season lived out of hotels and isn’t financially stable, and she has Joe’s family, who care about baby Isaac but with whom her relationship is tense because she isn’t dating Joe anymore and snuck around dating someone else while living there.

Kailyn works, goes to school, and pays to live in her own place now. You could see on the reunion show that she felt ganged up on, that she acknowledged sneaking around behind Joe’s back to date Jordan was wrong, but that she’d like some credit for everything she has accomplished. Dr. Drew wants to pat Joe on the back for loaning her tuition money and talk about how betrayed he is, yet Dr. Drew doesn’t spend as much time questioning Joe about Kailyn’s allegation that Joe cheated on her while she was pregnant.

How are you preventing another unplanned pregnancy?

Maybe it’s just me reading into it too much, but it seemed like no one mentioned condoms as a form of contraception. Leah and Kailyn (and possibly Chelsea, I can’t remember) said they use IUDs now as birth control, but I don’t recall anyone mentioning condoms or Dr. Drew asking the guys how they are protecting themselves. Now Dr. Drew has been vocal about condoms in other related shows so I can’t criticize him too much, but it does speak to society’s larger expectation that women should take care of the contraception, ignoring that it takes two to make a baby.

___________________

Dr. Drew also seemed especially frazzled toward the end of the show when he talked with Jenelle and her mom, Barbara. He seemed drained from the earlier teen mom interviews — his tactics to encourage marriage and togetherness seemed like bad ideas when it came to couples like Chelsea and Adam — where they fight constantly and Adam has admittedly cheated on her several times, and he also goes in and out of the picture — and Kailyn and Joe — who both have major trust issues with each other and fought so much on the reunion show that it was exhausting. Jenelle and Barbara have serious issues to work out, and it seemed like Dr. Drew couldn’t really handle them.

Female columnist promotes rape, slut-shaming, lies about PP

March 4, 2011

Victim-blaming, slut-shaming, and feminist-bashing are abhorrent coming from men, but they are exponentially worse coming from women. This column from The Daily Collegian, the college newspaper for the University of Massachusetts, was actually briefly taken offline because it was so offensive. (I’ll throw out a trigger warning right now.) The author is a young woman who believes that sometimes women deserve rape, contraception doesn’t affect abortion rates, and “feminist liberation” has turned everyone into nymphomaniacs. Shall we chronologically take a look at some of the claims?

1a. Planned Parenthood isn’t a charity

Author Yevgeniya Lomakina jumps right in, making blatantly wrong claims about Planned Parenthood and its services:

It is a business. It is not, however, a charitable organization, as it is portrayed by its many supporters. Their services are not free, although they may be cheaper than regular hospitals.

Actually, it is a charitable organization. A section 501(c)(3) organization that files tax forms in accordance with its tax-exempt, charitable status. I can see how this information would be difficult to find, considering it’s on the Planned Parenthood website, alongside the actual tax forms they file.

Also, did you know that “charitable organization” doesn’t mean that you just give stuff away for free? You see, it’s charitable because it offers low-cost services to people who otherwise couldn’t afford them. It’s actually really helpful, because low-income women can get cancer screenings, prenatal care, pap tests, and contraception at reduced prices. I’m pretty sure the condoms are free, though.

1b. Planned Parenthood posts misleading/false information on its website

After proving that Planned Parenthood is in fact a business because it doesn’t do everything for free, the author next points out a glaring error in the numbers on the Planned Parenthood website:

According to the American Life League, Planned Parenthood performed 289,750 abortions in 2006. The number rose to 324,008 in 2008. However, the organization’s website misleads in reporting that abortions constitute only 3 percent of its services. In reality, it performs about 23 percent of all abortions performed each year in the U.S.

Now the numbers here are right (see the 2006-2007 annual report and this 2008 fact sheet), but they aren’t misleading or contradicting each other. The difference is that the 23 percent is Planned Parenthood’s abortion services compared with other abortion providers’ — the 3 percent is Planned Parenthood’s abortion services compared with other services within itself.

2. Sex is now shameless

The author writes:

Sex has become a service, like any other, but without fiscal exchange or shame.  It is no longer associated with love, marriage or a committed relationship.

Really? Because I’m pretty sure that sentence is 100 percent slut-shaming, as is the entire column.

3. If you wear a short skirt, you deserve to get raped

By far, this assertion makes my blood boil more than anything:

If a young woman wears a promiscuous outfit to a party, then proceeds to drink and flirt excessively, she should not blame men for her downfall. She made a decision to dress a certain way, to consume alcohol and should be prepared to deal with the consequences. Far from being a victim of rape, she is a victim of her own choices.

Pardon my French, but that is fucking ridiculous. There is NO scenario in which a woman deserves to be raped. There is no time when a man has the right to force a woman to have sex with him against her will. There is no skirt length, alcohol level, or flirtation level — nothing. And it’s this kind of bullshit that blames women for wearing the wrong thing or saying the wrong thing or drinking the wrong amount instead of pointing the finger at the rapist.

But our author is not the cold-hearted person she seems, as she does think rape is bad:

This is not to say that rape is inexistent. Sexual crimes should be punished to the fullest extent of the law.

Rape exists, just not if you’re sexually active or flirtatious or wearing clothes that show too much skin. It’s only a crime when it happens to someone who has made good, moral choices, and then the rapist is a criminal. This makes me want to slam my head into my desk about 348 times.

4. Having sex with men is giving them the “upper hand”

The author writes:

With the easy accessibility of noncommittal sex, men have gained or recaptured the upper hand in relationships. Women, instead of acclaiming “sexual liberation” have received, at the least, a bad reputation.

Read my recent post about this idea of men having an “upper hand” because women will have casual sex with them. Also, let’s note the additional slut-shaming. You know, the “bad reputation” only comes because people associate women having casual sex as bad, and men having casual sex as good — they have the “upper hand” when they get it.

And why is women trading commitment for sex any better than women trading sex for sex? Why are people so attached to the notion that men won’t commit unless you withhold sex from them? Why is this entire article blaming women for wanting to have sex and giving men a pass for wanting to having sex?

5. Abortion and the morning-after pill are the same thing

An often-used political ploy is juxtaposing two things in hopes that the reader or listener begins to associate them with each other, without the speaker ever directly linking them:

Abortion is also viewed in a different way. For many, it is no longer a last resort for victims of rape or in other emergencies. It is simply regarded as “Plan B.” In a Planned Parenthood YouTube advertisement for the “morning after” pill, a woman states the scenarios in which the product may be useful.

Note the transition from abortion as a “Plan B” to the morning-after pill, commonly called “Plan B.” This is likely an attempt to lump together morning-after pills with abortion, but the morning-after pill is not the abortion pill. They are completely separate, and the morning-after pill doesn’t terminate pregnancies. The morning-after pill is over-the-counter; the abortion pill is not.

6. Birth control doesn’t prevent abortions

The author says it plain and simple:

More contraception does not translate to fewer abortions.

If you look in the aforementioned Planned Parenthood data (1b), there could be a correlation between less contraception and more abortions — in 2008, more abortions were performed but less contraception was given out at Planned Parenthood. Also, I can guarantee that less contraception will not translate to fewer abortions.

And actually, the abortion rate generally has been going down in recent years:

1980: 1,297,606
1985: 1,333,521
1990: 1,429,577
1995: 1,210,883
2000: 857,475
2005: 820,151
2006: 846,181
2007: 827,609

And considering contraceptive use has increased over this time frame, I’d say more contraception does translate to fewer abortions.

__________________

I’m glad the newspaper apologized for the article, and I’m also glad they put it back online. Even though their apology covered that it was reprehensible to suggest women are responsible for being raped and that other claims were inaccurate, I couldn’t help but expand on that further. Because despite the editors’ apology, it still somehow managed to get published, so we can’t gloss over the content that was originally deemed passable, and we have to look at it a little more critically.

MTV makes it tough for abortion special to reach viewers

December 30, 2010

If you haven’t seen the MTV half-hour documentary “No Easy Decision,” which follows 16 and Pregnant teen mom Markai through her decision to get an abortion, you’ll have to watch it online here — that’s because not only did MTV post the special at an 11:30 p.m. time slot on a Tuesday — well past the usual 16 and Pregnant 10 p.m. slot — but MTV won’t be airing the special again for at least another week, according to its own online TV schedule.

Initially I was going to write solely about the content of the special (read the live blog commentary here from Jessica Valenti, Shelby Knox, Jamia Wilson, Lynn Harris, and Steph Harold), but the lack of airtime caught my attention, and I think it sends a message about the extent of MTV’s progressiveness. This special is good. It’s important. It’s honest. It’s thought-provoking. And unfortunately, it’s only a half-hour long and runs not even one time again within the week of its premiere — because God knows we need to see a three-day marathon of Jersey Shore instead.

This documentary is not getting the airtime it deserves, and even though its being in existence is remarkable and a great step forward in furthering the abortion discussion, it can’t be ignored that MTV didn’t treat it equally in comparison with 16 and Pregnant and Teen Mom, which have never shown a teen mom getting an abortion and only have shown two of the three options when it comes to pregnancy — raising the baby or putting it up for adoption.

I think the lateness of its airing, the fact that it aired once on a channel where every new episode of any show is repeatedly played over and over again (16 and Pregnant and Teen Mom always aired again right after ending at 11 p.m. and always again the next day, usually around 8 or 9 p.m.), and the shortness of the episode itself only added to a stereotype that the special was trying to combat — that women who get abortions must think it’s just an in-and-out procedure and don’t even really think about all their options.

Obviously, getting an abortion is a time-sensitive decision, as 37 states have a restriction on abortions after a certain point in the pregnancy. But the special itself was only 20 minutes long, with about 10 minutes reserved for Dr. Drew interviewing Markai and her boyfriend, and then Dr. Drew interviewing Katie and Natalia, two women who also had abortions and who shared their experiences.

“There are just no easy decisions,” Dr. Drew concluded at the end of the special, which is a very true statement, but one that wasn’t conveyed as well as it could have been with a special that was an hour long and didn’t rush through the thought process, steps, and emotions that Markai (or Katie or Natalia) experienced in deciding to get an abortion.

I wish that the discussion that Dr. Drew was having with the three women after the special could have lasted longer, as those women had so many important things to say in respect to the discussion on abortion, and so many things that only a woman who has gotten an abortion can truly express.

“People assume that if you are having an abortion you are denying the fact that you’re a parent, but it’s not, it’s not at all,” Katie said. “Nobody wants to have an abortion,” Markai said. “In retrospect I’m not ashamed at all, I’m proud of what I did,” Natalia said. These are the statements that get drowned out — these are the honest, real accounts and thoughts that enrich a discourse on abortion, and that change the stereotypes people have about the “kind of person” who gets an abortion, or what goes through someone’s head when she decides to have an abortion.

So despite MTV choosing to air reruns of Jersey Shore for three days straight instead of showing even one more time this special, the half-hour documentary still crams in a lot of important dialogue and information. Markai weighed all her options, called a clinic to get information on all the types of abortions and how they would affect her physically and emotionally (the live bloggers pointed out how (1) the counselor was extremely helpful and nice and (2) the clinic was legit), and looked to her boyfriend James and her mom for support and advice.

I also found it important that Markai’s story be highlighted for two reasons. One, someone obviously was not providing her with complete information about birth control, a sentiment repeated by Katie in the after-interview. Markai had no idea that the birth control immediately left her system if she was not up-to-date on her shots. Katie also said she wasn’t aware the side effects from her birth control — she would get physically ill and throw up the pill — would make it ineffective.

“I should’ve looked my birth control up on the Internet or something, you know, it’s my job to keep up with it,” Markai said. I completely disagree — you shouldn’t have to search the Internet for information on your birth control. You should ask your doctor, and your doctor should be providing information about side effects without you having to ask, just like any other medication.

Two, Markai got an abortion for the sake of her daughter. “If I didn’t have Za’karia I couldn’t do it, but I gotta think about my baby,” Markai said. I think this is especially necessary to highlight because Markai described her abortion as something she was sacrificing for her daughter — so that her and James could provide for their daughter without having to put her through the poverty, hunger, and sometimes neglect that both Markai and James experienced growing up. Anti-abortion activists want to call abortion selfish, though Markai proves it is quite the opposite, while also proving how complicated of a decision it is.

This topic gets me heated because these are important pieces of information that aren’t prevalent in the mainstream media. You don’t see resources for information on abortion (like here, here, or here); you don’t hear women who have had abortions as prominent voices in the discussion; and you don’t get a glimpse into the life of someone deciding to get an abortion as the decision is being made. Statistics and facts and figures aside, women struggle with the choice. There a multitude of reasons for making such a choice. And it’s important to listen to these stories and see that it’s not as easy as black and white, yes or no, right or wrong.

And because abortion is so complex, so sensitive a subject, so full of emotion, I think MTV did a real disservice to Markai, as well as Katie and Natalia, and the subject of abortion itself, because though it is one of the three main choices a pregnant woman can make, MTV seemingly makes its own judgment call on abortion by limiting how long the special is, when it is aired, and how little it is aired.

Again, it’s great the special aired, but people actually have to watch it in order to gain something from it, and that would mean MTV would actually have to air it more than once. Luckily it’s online, so again, go watch it.

Survey sheds light on attitudes toward teen pregnancy

December 29, 2010

A recent study by the National Center for Health Statistics found that the teen birth rate declined by 6 percent, and the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy also recently released a survey (not to be confused with the NCHS study) regarding attitudes toward teen pregnancy. Instead of discussing the study, I’d like to address the teen responses to the survey.

The survey found that 82 percent of teens “think [16 and Pregnant] helps teens better understand the challenges of teen pregnancy and parenthood and how to avoid it,” which isn’t a surprise. It’s like the slides of sexually transmitted infections they show you in health class — that lesson about herpes has much more of an impact when you see it rather than just hearing about it.

I agree that 16 and Pregnant can definitely have a positive effect on teens, but some of the other survey results show that there’s still a long way to go when it comes to education about sex and pregnancy. Of those surveyed, 78 percent said they had all the information they needed to know to avoid an unplanned pregnancy — though 49 percent knew little or nothing about condoms and 34 percent agreed that birth control didn’t matter — pregnancy would just happen if “it is your time to get pregnant.”

These results indicate a serious lack of comprehensive sex education — if someone thinks that they know the only way to prevent pregnancy, and thinks the only way is abstinence, then yeah, they aren’t going to search for condoms or consider birth control. This is the danger of abstinence-only sex education — abstinence is undoubtedly the best way to prevent pregnancy, but it isn’t the only way. Teens need to know that it’s not divine will or fate that gets people pregnant — unprotected sex is what leads to pregnancy, and teens have the choice to use protection to prevent pregnancy.

Interestingly enough, 80 percent said it would be easier to delay having sex if they had a more open, honest relationship with their parents — with about two-thirds of both teens and adults agreeing that teens don’t use contraception primarily out of fear of parents finding out about it. And about the same number of parents said they’d be happy to find out their kids were using protection if they were having sex.

I find this statistic particularly interesting because this season on 16 and Pregnant, so many more of the teens had an open relationship with their parents regarding sex. The moms were constantly questioning their teenage kids, asking them why they had unprotected sex when they’d been taught about condoms and safe sex. One mom even put condoms under the bathroom sink for her daughter to use if necessary. I agree that open communication is definitely a good thing, but I don’t think it’s extremely far ahead of other reasons teens might not use protection, such as lack of sex education or pressure from a significant other.

The survey also addressed sexting, with 71 percent of teens and 81 percent of adults agreeing that “sharing nude or semi-nude images of themselves or other teens electronically (through cell phones, websites, and/or social media networks) leads to more sex in real life.” That is extremely concerning, considering how the “typical” age for people to get cell phones is getting younger and younger, and the expectation of sex adds pressure and danger to people who send pictures of themselves perhaps not with sex in mind (both teens and adults).

The survey results are very interesting, but they don’t lead to a definitive answer on what could be responsible for the drop in teen pregnancy. For adults the drop could definitely be related to the economy, but teens aren’t worrying about the economy when they are having sex. Both abstinence and comprehensive sex ed groups could try to claim victory. Regardless of MTV’s influence, the survey highlights that teens are still very under-educated about sex, and nearly three-quarters of adults said they’d want their kids to learn both about abstinence and contraception.

16&P: ‘It won’t happen to me’ makes for poor birth control

November 1, 2010

Season three of 16 & Pregnant started with a wedding between 16-year-old Brooke and Cody, who had been dating two years and decided to get married when Brooke was three months pregnant. Brooke gave birth to baby Brody, and Brooke and Cody worked opposite schedules to ensure they both got their high school diplomas but also still could afford the baby’s necessities.

As it is now season three, the themes I have discussed before repeat themselves, and it’s not entirely necessary for me to revisit and repeat that getting married just because you’re having a baby is a poor decision, or that teen pregnancy risk is higher if you were the child of teenage parents, or countless other themes that were found in this episode. There was, however, one theme I’d like to expound on, and it involves condoms under the bathroom sink.

Brooke was not like the typical teen moms on 16 & Pregnant who simply weren’t educated about contraception or were too afraid to ask their parents about it or afraid their parents would find it — Brooke’s mom was a teen mom herself, and she was totally open about contraception and educating Brooke about using it properly.

Brooke’s mom showed Brooke how to put a condom on (using a cucumber), and she kept condoms under the bathroom sink. But Brooke’s mom’s own teenage pregnancy struggles and stories, education, and openness about offering contraception didn’t stop Brooke from getting pregnant. Abstinence-only education proponents will argue that her mom’s open attitude encouraged Brooke to have sex, but I disagree.

A few months back, I wrote about a study that showed that when provided advanced supplies of the morning-after pill, women did not use it significantly more than women who did not have a ready supply of the pill. This contradicted the main thought that women often didn’t use the morning-after pill because actually going to the pharmacy to get the pill stood in the way (whether because it was inconvenient or they were afraid of being judged).

The main theory that explains both these scenarios — which Dr. Drew actually mentioned in his Teen Mom finale special last week — is that most people think, “It won’t happen to me.” The “heat of the moment” excuse works for not using condoms, but that’s no excuse for not taking a pill after the fact. I think an underlying and common reason that people have unprotected sex is that they don’t think pregnancy is a possible consequence for them.

This is especially true if people have had unprotected sex before without it resulting in a pregnancy. The last season of 16 & Pregnant began with Janelle, who used that very excuse — her and her boyfriend had sex a number of times without a condom while she wasn’t using birth control and she hadn’t gotten pregnant before — so she figured it would be fine to do again. The more people have unprotected sex without getting pregnant, the more immune they think they are from it.

I’m not sure of a great way to combat this mentality — lots of people have the “invincible” mentality and partake in risky behavior habitually because they never see any consequences. For example, take wearing a seat belt — it’s a preventative safety measure, so that if you have a car accident, you reduce your risk of injury. The seat belt only does its job, however, if it is actually used, and some people — especially if they haven’t gotten in a car accident ever or in a long time — neglect to use the seat belt because they don’t think they’ll get in a car accident.

People often use the logic of, “I did this once before without consequence, so it’s fine if I do it again,” but logically that doesn’t hold water because the circumstances will be entirely different each time you do whatever event. Sure those sperm didn’t fertilize that egg the first time around — does that mean they never will just because they failed initially? Of course not — that’s why safety measures are precautions — actions taken before something undesired happens, just in case something undesired happens.

I’m going to ponder how to break through the wall of invincibility — suggestions are welcome.