Family planning, contraception, and pregnancy

While reading this article, I came across a link to an incredible tool used to map access to basic family planning, sexual health, and reproductive health impacts. It shows the impacts of unplanned pregnancy (which account for roughly 50% of unplanned pregnancies in the USA each year), demonstrates the factors influencing this high number, shows the outcome of those pregnancies, the cost to public funding, and gives state-by-state suggestions for how to improve these numbers.

The Guttmacher Institute also has information on abortion, contraceptionpublic funding for contraception, teen pregnancy rates,  sexual health education, and so much more.

It’s definately worth checking out and is an incredible resource for anyone interested in learning about sexual health and family planning in the USA.

If anyone has information on similar databases for other countries please feel free to link them here.

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Contraception is a Human Right

We have found that there are no mental health consequences of abortion compared to carrying an unwanted pregnancy to term. There are other interesting findings: even later abortion is safer than childbirth and women who carried an unwanted pregnancy to term are three times more likely than women who receive an abortion to be below the poverty level two years later.

That is a quote from the researchers who are two years in to a five year study abortion – specifically the first scientific study which looks at what happens to women who have been denied abortions. This study has been following 956 women who sought abortions, 182 of which were denied. This study takes place in the USA but I believe much of the information can be extrapolated to other nations.

I find it fascinating that less than halfway into the study researchers are already able to debunk many of the common reasons why women are denied abortions and protestors push for pro-life national agendas. Firstly, abortion does not cause mental illness. Secondly, abortion does not cause drug use. Particularly when combined with the emotional distress of carrying an unwanted child to term. In fact, the study found that giving birth to an unwanted child caused more physical damage than an abortion: “There were no severe complications after abortion; after birth complications included seizure, fractured pelvis, infection and hemorrhage. We find no differences in chronic health conditions at 1 week or one year after seeking abortion.”

What I also found interesting was that only 11% of those who were denied abortions put the child up for adoption and that there are higher rates of putting children up for adoption among those with a history of drug abuse. While there are plenty of people who desperately want to adopt children, particularly from within their home country, adoption is still looked down upon. Many people are discriminated against if they put their child up for adoption, there is a stigma associated with this that makes many people choose to keep the child.

Also notable is that this week the United Nations declared contraception to be a human right. About time, right? Family Planning is universally acknowledged to be critical for development; spacing children apart by a minimum of 2 years improves their health, developmental capacity, brain function, in-utero nutrition, and improves the health of the mother and ease of her delivery. Additionally, 82% of unwanted pregnancies could be avoided simply by increasing access to information and services regarding contraception. Who needs access? Women and adolescents as

Thai Minority Women in Dien Bien, Vietnam discussing the importance of family planning and maternal health (November 8-9, 2012)

those are the target groups and the people who need to be able to have control and power over decisions regarding their own bodies. This is a huge step forward for international development and a wake-up call for so called ‘developed’ nations to improve the dissemination of information and services regarding contraception. It also should indicate a need to not discriminate against such services on the basis of religion, funding, or personal beliefs.

Take a step forward with the United Nations and protect the rights and freedoms of people around the world by supporting family planning, improving access to contraception information and services, reducing the stigma surrounding adoption and abortion, and ensuring that women people are never denied the ability to live out their basic rights.

Women’s Rights are Human Rights

Alright, by this point you should all know my stance on gender equality, women’s rights, human rights, etc. I’d say I’ve been pretty vocal. I have also been fairly polite about it (according to others).

This is going to change. I’m livid.

Women’s rights are human rights. Women do not spontaneously become pregnant, it’s really not a solo act. A man’s presence is involved in some way or another.

Do you believe in human rights? Do you believe that women are capable? Do you respect your mother, sisters, female friends? Do you enjoy making decisions about your life (i.e. what will I have for breakfast, do I want to read a book, should I wear a red shirt today, etc.)? Do you doubt the intelligence of the women you know?

If you say you respect women and if you understand what respect actually means, how can you promote actions or people who subsequently disrespect their autonomy, independence, decision-making abilities, and equality?

How is it that women are responsible for making sure they don’t get raped (don’t go out at dark, oh that skirt is too short, are you sure you should show that much cleavage) because ‘men can’t help themselves if you look available’ and yet our ability to make decisions about our bodies is threatened? Why is that we are held with the responsibility to make sure ‘men don’t stray or misbehave’ yet we are not responsible to make any decisions about ourselves? Why is it that regardless of how smart I am, how much I prove myself, how well I distinguish myself in my field I will still make 70-80 cents on the dollar in comparison to my male counterparts?

Why is this still so hard to wrap your mind around? Its been a matter of discussion for decades, centuries even. Why is it so hard to understand? Women are human, in fact ALL people are human. All people deserve equal rights under the law. Women and men have slightly different body parts, that does not mean they deserve unequal rights. Birth control is a human right – you sell condoms (mainly male condoms as female condoms are not common practice) over the counter, allowing men to control what goes on their penis, yet birth control pills/IUDs/NuvaRing/injections/implants/patch/etc. (the more effective forms of birth control) are still prescription only and significantly more expensive (and in the USA 18 states allow pharmacists permission to refuse to dispense medication that they don’t morally agree with). This removes control, independence, autonomy, it makes it incredibly difficult for women to have the same freedom of control over their fertility that men have. *Note, I’m not saying condoms (male/female condoms) are not effective, they are still the only way to protect yourself and your partner against STDs, they are just less effective (when used alone) at preventing pregnancies than other hormonal forms of birth control. When in doubt ask your doctor or google the success rates of different forms, and always be sure to get tested. 

Also, why is abortion a heated discussion in politics, aren’t we supposed to have separation of state and religion? Isn’t it religion that dictates that life begins at conception? Why does this have a place in politics? Nations are not assimilated cultures, nations are made up of inherently different people with different beliefs and different religions, even if there is no separation of state and religion there should be equal place for ALL religions to share their views instead of only the view of the loudest religion. In saying this, religion probably isn’t even the best word – how about beliefs? This allows for those without a ‘formalized institutional view of religion’ to be included. I don’t go to church (at this present time), does that make my views on politics any more or less valid? Nope.

If you are going to represent me in politics, I do not want to know about your religious beliefs, I don’t care what (if any) god you believe in. I don’t care if you grew up going to church, or mosque, or temple, or something else, or nothing. It shouldn’t matter. What matters to me are your political beliefs and how well you will represent me and my political beliefs, if you cannot justify your stance without using religion, you have no place in politics. Saying things like ‘if a women gets pregnant from rape, god intended it to happen’ should never come out of your mouth. Maybe a better thing to say would be “if a women gets pregnant from rape, the state will do everything in their power to support her in whatever decision she makes and to give her access to the things she needs to heal emotionally and physically from such a horrible trauma. We will also do everything in our power to ensure that the rapist is brought to court and tried for these crimes.” You are in politics, you do not judge, you do not demean people, and you do not treat anyone as less than human. You support the population you represent, you support equal rights, and you do what is in the best interests for everyone even if it goes outside of your religious beliefs (which you do not try to enforce on others).

I have never been in a situation where I have had to make a decision regarding abortion and I sincerely hope I’m never in a place where I have to. I hope that if and when I get pregnant (if ever), it’s by choice. I hope that until (and if ever) that happens/during that time/after that time, I’m granted  the right and ability to maintain 100% of my own authority over my body. This means never being in a position where sexual activity occurs without my express prior consent and if it were to ever occur without my consent, having the freedom and ability to pursue legal action in court without being judged, demeaned, or having my actions put on trial. This means having 100% access to whatever means of family planning I choose to use and having it covered by my health insurance (just like viagra is covered) without having to justify my actions/choices or having them refused. This means being able to access abortions without being judged or forced to justify my decision and having access to supportive counselling throughout the process if I’m ever in a position where I choose to have an abortion. This means being treated like a human being.

I can respect your decision if you are not a feminist, and if you are pro-life, believe religion has a place in politics, etc. I can respect that. I cannot respect when those beliefs infringe on the rights of the rest of the population. In saying I’m pro-choice, believe in access to contraception, believe in equal pay; I am not infringing on your right to never have an abortion, never use contraception or get paid less if thats what you want. If you are against family planning – great don’t do it. But don’t tell me I can’t.

I am human, nothing more, nothing less. 

Protest the Police: Have Safe Sex. . .

Who knew that simply HAVING some of those items in the image to the left could be grounds for being arrested? I sure didn’t, but it seems that authorities in several cities in the USA disagree with me.

When I saw in the news that aid and health agencies were handing out condoms to sex workers to help minimize the risk of HIV and STI transmission (as well as the risk of pregnancy) I thought; “that’s amazing! Finally moving past stigmas and making decisions based on basic human health needs.” Then I saw that police and public authorities were confiscating those condoms essentially giving women the option to hand the condoms over or go to jail and I was enraged. I was even more enraged when I found out that this was happening in the USA – which in my opinion is a country that is quickly and systematically removing basic health and rights from women. What is most sad about this, is that I wasn’t even surprised to hear about it.

What I find worst about this scenario is that possession of condoms isn’t illegal, yet authorities are making women scared to have condoms, scared to use them, scared to have safe sex. Instead of protecting women and allowing safe sex options and transitional methods to give women alternatives to sex work, authorities are making sex work even less safe and even harder to get out of.

People should be praising women around the world who make the effort and insist on condom use, yet women are being punished for trying to protect themselves. So everyone who has access and ability, use condoms, be safe. Not only are you protecting yourself, but you’ll be sending a message to authorities worldwide who seem to want to limit women’s access to safe and affordable contraception.

The irony of this situation is that Washington D.C. – one of the cities where Human Rights Watch has documented this ridiculous condom possession and jail scenario – is actually hosting the 19th Annual International AIDS Conference.

How important is contraception?

Very.

Today marked World Population Day and the focus was family planning! There was a conference in the UK today discussing the importance and benefits of family planning (aka reproductive health, contraception, information, and access). At this conference, they pledged 3.6 billion dollars a year towards family planning that could drastically improve the state of maternal and women’s health.