Signal Boost: Reproductive Health Technology Healthcare in Our Hands #ECinOurHands

RHTP healthcare tumblr_static_tumblr_piccyRecently, the Reproductive Health Technologies Project launched its new Tumblr-based campaign, Healthcare in Our Hands, “The place to celebrate and explore the new status of emergency contraception.”  The site invites visitors to submit a photo of themselves with Plan B in their hands (or submit their stories about NOT having trouble getting EC). The RHTP says “your submission will help build RHTP’s map of where Plan B One-Step has been spotted on the shelf nationwide! You can also keep up with the campaign online by following the hashtags #ECOTC and #ECinOurHands on social media.”


As I describe in my book, the RHTP has been a leader in using the web for distributing information about emergency contraception and other reproductive technologies.  The first version of the emergency contraception website, launched in 1995, was one of the first health information sites on the World Wide Web.  More recently, the organization has entered into the arena of Web 2.0 and set up a Facebook page, joined Twitter, and now Tumblr, to disseminate its message, as well as collect stories from users.  Since I’m a historian interested in digital humanities, I wonder what will happen to this user-generated content?  Will it be preserved?  Should it be?  What will we do with it?

Also, from the perspective of the women’s health movement, it’s interesting how the phrase “in our hands” is being used inintoourownhandsbooks this context. In her book, Into Our Own Hands, Sandra Morgen explores how the women’s health movement “shifted power and responsibility from the medical establishment into women’s own hands as health care consumers, providers, and advocates.” Frequently, feminist health activists and drug makers were adversaries — e.g. Barbara Seaman‘s classic expose, The Doctors’ Case Against the Pill, and the DC feministsdemonstrations by members of DC Liberation (left) at the congressional hearings on the Pill in 1970.

In my current research project, I’m looking at how (to paraphrase Boston Women’s Health Book Collective co-founder Susan Bell) feminist health activists “came to grips” with the technoscience of contraception.   At a conference on New Birth Control organized by Planned Parenthood in 1990, Judy Norsigian described “new era of cooperation between pharmaceutical firms and women’s groups.”

Emergency contraception was one example of how feminist health activists and industry came together to sponsor a new birth control technology.  I wonder, though, how much this fulfills the Second Wave feminist goal of putting healthcare “into women’s hands.” What do readers think?

A Victory for Feminism (and a chance to plug my book) #emergencycontraception

ecp all agesvia National Women’s Liberation

Yesterday, feminists won their 10-year battle to make emergency contraception (aka the morning-after-pill) available over the counter without age restriction:  the Obama administration announced it would drop its appeal of a federal court order that the FDA make the drug available for nonprescription use for all ages. In April, Judge Edward R. Korman of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York ruled in the Plaintiffs’ favor in Tummino v. Hamburg that there was no scientific basis for the Obama administration to continue to restrict access to emergency contraception. Judge Korman ordered that it be made available to women and girls “without a prescription and without point-of-sale or age restrictions within thirty days.” The Obama administration appealed that decision, but yesterday decided to cut its losses, fearing they would lose the appeal and “drastically elevate the debate over the politically delicate issue for Mr. Obama.”

According to Andrea Costello, Partnership for Civil Justice Fund Senior Staff Attorney and lead attorney for the National Women’s Liberation Plaintiffs, “The provision of emergency contraception without restriction is a landmark victory for reproductive justice. We are going to make sure that the government does indeed comply with the Court’s Order. The denial of full access to the Morning-After Pill has been an outrageous political decision and wholly without scientific basis – under both the Bush and Obama administrations. In recent days, we passed the 48th anniversary of the landmark birth control case of Griswold v. Connecticut, which recognized the constitutionally protected right of women to decide whether or not to have a child. It’s about time that the Obama administration recognized that access to all forms of birth control, including the Morning-After Pill, are essential for women to not just have this right, but exercise it.”

Annie Tummino, lead Plaintiff and Coordinator of National Women’s Liberation, said, “This decision by the Administration affirms what feminists have been fighting for all along – the Morning-After Pill should be available to females of all ages, on the shelf at any convenience store, just like aspirin or condoms. Women and girls should have the absolute right to control our bodies without having to ask a doctor or a pharmacist for permission.”

Cecile Richards, the president of Planned Parenthood said: “This is a huge breakthrough for access to birth control and a historic moment for women’s health and equity.”

Cover for the Morning AfterThe Reproductive Health Technologies Project, whose activism on behalf of emergency contraception I describe in my book, The Morning After: A History of Emergency Contraception in the United States, announced, “This victory is long overdue! We are now one giant step closer to the day when Plan B will be available on store shelves to all women. We finally see light at the end of the tunnel in our decade long fight to give all women access to a safe, reliable, back up contraceptive option.”

However, Jodi Jacobson at RHRealityCheck says that this decision only covers Plan B OneStep and “does not include generic forms of emergency contraception, pointing to the the next front in the effort to ensure universal access to EC, as affordability of the method is critical to access.”

So the struggle continues, but it’s a start.

Week of Action: Make #EmergencyContraception Fully Over-the-Counter

I’m about to go to the American Association for the History of Medicine meeting.  Meanwhile, I’ll share this announcement (sorry that it’s late).
National Women’s Liberation, with the support of our allies  Women Organized to Resist and Defend (WORD), is organizing a week of action. We are uniting to demand “Access for all, No restrictions!” Birth control is a cornerstone of women’s freedom.  If the Obama Administration thinks women will simply let this go, they are wrong!
Join us for actions in the cities listed below, or plan an action in your city! Please contact us if you would like to participate in a planning meeting. Organizing kits are available.  If you hold a sign, drop a banner, or organize a flashmob to put the Morning-After Pill on the shelf, send us video or pictures. We will compile them.  Please forward this message widely.
Tues 5/14: NYC, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington DC, New Haven, Albuquerque, New Paltz, and Seattle
Fri 5/17:  Gainesville (FL)
Sign the Petition! 
Tell the Obama Administration to Stop the Appeal:
Morning-After Pill Fully Over-the-Counter
We demand:
  • Access for all, no restrictions! No age limit, no prescription, no identification!
  • Obama Administration: Stop the Appeal!
  • The Morning-After Pill should be available on any shelf in any store, next to the condoms or aspirin.
  • Women and girls must have the right to control when and if we have children; it is a cornerstone of our freedom.
Click here to read the petition in its entirety.
Then share the petition with others!
Your contribution will help us grow and win more. Make a donation  here or become a monthly dues paying member  here

Signal Boost: Speakout against age restrictions on over-the-counter #emergencycontraception #fem2

MAP flyer final-2via National Women’s Liberation.  The New York chapter of NWL will hold a speakout on January 22, 2013, in front of the Health and Human Services office at 26 Federal Plaza, New York, NY, to demand unrestricted access to the Morning-After Pill.  According to their press release, “we are holding our speakout on the anniversary of Roe v Wade because we believe that all women and girls should have access to all tools that enable us to control our reproductive lives.”

Members of this group have been fighting against age restrictions on over-the-counter emergency contraception since January 2004, when they “led the Morning-After Pill Conspiracy Coalition to show the injustice of the restriction on the MAP and to show that woman are the real experts when it comes to birth control.  On February 15, 2004, we began a civil disobedience campaign where 4,500 women signed a pledge promising to give a friend the MAP in defiance of the FDA’s prescription only requirement.  In January 2005, nine if us were arrest’s at the FDA’s headquarters as part of a larger protest of the FDA’s inaction.”

It’s nice to see the return of this group of activists. As I describe in my book.  the Morning-After Pill Conspiracy was inspired by the grassroots activism of the women’s liberation movement of the 1960s and 1970s: In an interview, one of the group’s founders, Annie Tummino said,  “We speak out and engage in civil disobedience. Our goal is to send the message that women are the experts on our bodies and lives.” MAPC used a variety of direct-action techniques to protest the FDA and the Bush Administration’s stance on emergency contraception. They held consciousness-raising sessions; speak outs in major cities; and committed various acts of civil disobedience including passing along emergency contraceptive kits to women without a prescription.

march4-04fMost emblematic of their ties to Second Wave feminist organizing were their actions at the March for Women’s Lives Washington, DC on April 25, 2004. The group held a mini-rally where a dozen women “testified about rushing around trying to get the Morning-After Pill after a condom broke during sex, about the prohibitive costs associated with a doctor’s visit, and about the tragicomic idea that anyone can get a doctor’s appointment in twenty-four hours, especially starting on a Friday or Saturday night.” In defiance of “unjust” prescription laws, the group flung boxes of Plan B® into the crowd. They also invited spectators “to join them in signing the Morning After Pill Conspiracy pledge to defy the prescription requirement (and break the law) by giving a friend the Morning-After Pill whenever she needs it.”

A group of physicians from the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals’ Reproductive Health Access Project contributed to this display of feminist direct action by bringing their prescription pads and freely writing prescriptions for emergency contraception for any woman who wanted one. According to MAPC member Jenny Brown, these doctors “were illustrating a point which was repeated over and over in the FDA’s advisory hearings–no physical evaluation or instruction from medical professionals is needed to safely and effectively use this medication.” Members of MAPC declared they “were proud to follow in the footsteps of feminists like Margaret Sanger, who passed out information on birth control when it was illegal to do so, and suffragists who were arrested for voting, to showcase how unjust the laws were.” Like the feminist activists who protested against the abuse of women subjects during the 1970s, MAPC members held a sit-in at FDA headquarters in January of 2005, where nine of their members were arrested for blocking access to the FDA, “just like they were blocking women’s access to birth control.”

Members of the MAPC members then filed a lawsuit, Tummino, et al. v. Hamburg with the Center for Reproductive Rights, the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals, and National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health.  From the lawsuit and feminist organizing, the FDA agreed to approve Plan B for women 18 and older without a prescription, in August 2006.  In March 2009- the FDA was ordered to make Plan B available to 17 year olds and to review its decision to deny a “Citizen’s Petition” filed by 60+ women’s health and rights organizations.  In February 2012, the MAPC took the FDA back to court based on its continued failure to act on removing scientifically unsupported restrictions on the MAP.

To support these efforts of NWL, you can attend the rally, sign their petition demanding the FDA and HHS to stop carding for emergency contraception, “like” them on Facebook, and forward their press release to other activists.

Signal Boost: Everyday Health infogram on Free Birth Control and Abortion rates Everyday Health.  The infogram at left used data from the four-year Contraceptive CHOICE Project, a study by researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. This study followed more  than 7500 participants who were free to choose, with all costs covered, from a range of contraceptives. The researchers then examined the contraceptive failure rates of various methods.  The key findings were that  “Women who used birth-control pills, the patch or vaginal ring were 20 times more likely to have an unintended pregnancy than those who used longer-acting forms such as an intrauterine device (IUD) or implant.” The difference in effectiveness was even more marked for women under 21 who used  the pill, patch or ring. Their risk for unintended pregnancy with these methods, as compared with long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs), was almost twice as high as for older women.

The results of the study showed a substantial drop in the abortion rate compared to the national average, and a drop in birth rates among young women.

Hopefully this will tip things in favor of insurance coverage for contraception.

Day of Action on Emergency Contraception #ECOTC

Last year, I wrote of my disappointment that HHS Secretary Kathleen Sibelius overruled the FDA’s decision to make emergency contraception available over-the-counter with no age restrictions.

The Reproductive Health Technologies Project has started a campaign to convince Secretary Sibelius to reconsider her decision.  Their goal is to deliver a petition with at least 50,000 signatures to Secretary Sibelius on December 7th.  The petition reads:

“Women’s health, including the ability to determine the timing and spacing of pregnancies, should not be subject to politics. After more than a decade of medical research, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) determined emergency contraception (EC) is effective and safe enough for access without restriction. Doctors recognize EC as an important component of reproductive health care, allowing women a second chance to prevent pregnancy when a primary contraceptive method fails. In December 2011, Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius overruled the FDA and restricted access to EC. We urge Secretary Sebelius to revisit the evidence and remove the restrictions, placing women’s reproductive health above politics.”

If you agree, sign the petition.

Connecticut Senate Race and Emergency Contraception

via Talking Points Mem0

As many of you have heard, Republican Senate candidate Linda McMahon has tried to fudge her pro-choice position by stating that Catholic hospitals should not have to give out emergency contraception as mandated by a state law passed in 2007.   (In a related  Akin-esque moment, she also introduced the bizarre term “emergency rape“).
So, in this sense, she’s no different than the Senator she aims to replace, Joe Lieberman, who when the emergency contraception bill was being discussed in 2006, said that rape victims could just “talk a short ride” to another hospital.

Prochoice groups in the state are getting out the word that Linda is no friend of reproductive rights.  “Pro-choice candidates don’t compromise the health and safety of rape victims especially when receiving time sensitive medication,” said Christian Miron, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Connecticut. “There is no shortage of evidence proving that Linda McMahon is neither pro-choice nor independent,” said Murphy campaign spokesman Ben Marter. “McMahon’s extreme policy for rape victims and her support for the Blunt Amendment makes it clear that she would vote in lockstep with Washington Republicans that want to erase decades of progress for women.”

I’m hoping that this will earn a win for Chris Murphy.  (oh if you out-of-staters would like to help, please give to his campaign).