You can also read my scholar essay on the AS website.
Our Bodies Ourselves has just launched : OUR BODIES, OUR VOTES.
The goal of this campaign is to retain and restore women’s access to reproductive health care and rights, now under attack in almost every state across the country.
Please read our press release, which quotes both Dr. Marcia Angell, former editor-in-chief of The New England Journal of Medicine, and Dr. Timothy RB Johnson. Both are medical leaders who are deeply troubled by recent trends to undermine the provision of evidence-based reproductive health care and the doctor/patient relationship.
The Our Bodies, Our Votes campaign includes:
* Our Bodies, Our Votes bumper stickers. Order stickers here with a donation to OBOS: — only $10 for 3 stickers!
* OurBodiesOurVotes.com, with information on contraception and abortion, plus news and activist resources and free virtual stickers you can add to your blog or social media.
* OurBodiesOurVotes.Tumblr.com, where everyone can post and view photos of Our Bodies, Our Votes stickers appearing across the country.
I hope you will join us in spreading the word by forwarding this email to friends and colleagues who care about women’s access to reproductive health care, and by sharing the links with your networks. If you’re on Twitter, here’s the campaign hashtag: #obov2012
Finally, please make a donation to support our ongoing work to preserve access to reproductive health care.
Thanks, as always, for your support and for your own efforts to improve reproductive health care for all.
P.S. To stay up to date with OBOS news, sign up here (with options about how often you will be contacted):
P.P.S. As some of you may know already, the Library of Congress included “Our Bodies, Ourselves” in its new exhibition of Books That Shaped America, and Time magazine named the book one of the 100 best and most influential nonfiction English books written since 1923. The 2011 edition has received critical acclaim and was selected by Library Journal as one of the eight best consumer health books of the year.
If you want to earmark a generous donation towards a new initiative to get this book into the hands of 10,000 young college-age students, please contact me directly. Thanks so much for your interest and support!
Judy Norsigian, Executive Director
Our Bodies Ourselves
5 Upland Rd, Suite 3
Cambridge, MA 02140
tel: 617-245-0200 x11 fax: 617-245-0201
Leslie J. Reagan. Dangerous Pregnancies: Mothers, Disabilities, and Abortion in Modern America. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2010. xv + 372 pp. $27.50 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-520-25903-4.
Reviewed by Heather Munro Prescott (Central Connecticut State University)
Published on H-Disability (March, 2012)
Commissioned by Iain C. Hutchison
Prescott on Reagan
This book continues the compelling story of the history of abortion in the United States that Reagan began in her award-winning book, When Abortion Was a Crime (1998). The title Dangerous Pregnancies refers not to pregnancies that were dangerous to the lives or health of mothers, but to the “dangers” to home, family, and society posed by the birth of “defective” babies. Focusing on the responses to the German measles epidemic in the United States during the early 1960s, Reagan shows how fears of disability helped lend legitimacy to the abortion rights movement.
Reagan goes beyond her earlier work by linking the history of reproductive rights to two other fields of scholarship: the history of epidemics and infectious disease; and the history of representations of people with disabilities. She shows that in marked contrast to earlier epidemics, the German measles outbreak did not single out nonwhite or other stigmatized groups as sources of infection. Nevertheless, race was at the center of media representations of the disease. Responses to the epidemic highlighted how the birth of a disabled child wrecked havoc on the status of white, middle-class, heterosexual, nuclear families. The epidemic came closely after alarming reports about severe birth defects in infants born to women who had taken the sleeping pill thalidomide while pregnant. Although the U.S. Food and Drug Administration had not approved the drug, some American women were able to obtain the drug from overseas. The story of Sherri Finkbine’s efforts to obtain an abortion after she discovered she had taken thalidomide while pregnant with her fifth child, helped transform attitudes towards abortion in the United States. During the pronatalist 1940s and 1950s, media coverage emphasized the deviant nature of abortion and of the women who sought these procedures. Finkbine’s story, along with that of other white, middle-class mothers who had contracted German measles while pregnant, transformed the image of abortion “from a shameful, thoughtless, and sick action to an ethical and responsible one” that protected families from the “burden” of raising a severely disabled child (p. 104).
Despite these changing attitudes towards abortion, significant barriers remained even for those who sought to terminate “dangerous pregnancies.” Reagan contrasts the cases of Barbara Stewart and Sandra Gleitman, who with their husbands filed “wrongful birth” cases against the hospitals that refused to provide abortions after the women had been exposed to German measles while pregnant. Both cases showed that hospital abortion committees were fickle and arbitrary. For the Stewarts, an African American couple, race posed an additional hurdle. While they had private health insurance, racial discrimination denied them access to physicians who had connections to hospital abortion review committees. By demonstrating the central role that race played in these deliberations, Reagan answers Chris Bell’s suggestion that disability studies scholars need to pay more attention to the experiences of “people of color.”
Reagan is less successful in showing how the German measles epidemic contributed to the emerging disability rights movement. She describes the work of “rubella parents”–most of whom were white and middle class–who fought for and won the right to public education for children with physical, sensory, and intellectual impairments. These parents were successful largely because rubella and its effects were not confined to the poor or to “people of color,” and because their arguments focused on the core middle-class value of access to education. Reagan also periodically mentions persons with congenital rubella syndrome and other disabilities, including those who objected to the “humane” and “merciful” reforms that made it easier for women to abort fetuses with birth defects. Reagan claims that even the suits filed by the Stewarts and Gleitmans reflected an aspect of this rights movement, since their aim was to get resources for their children. Yet Reagan underestimates the countervailing power of terms like “therapeutic abortion” and “wrongful birth” to reinforce prevailing beliefs that disability is a fate worse than death. Rubella immunization campaigns weakened the disability rights perspective even further. They used sentimental images of “pathetic” rubella children and played into popular notions of disability as a “tragedy” that could be prevented through universal vaccination against German measles.
Reagan shows how the rhetoric about “dangerous pregnancies” backfired during the 1980s and 1990s. Opponents of vaccination have seized on these same fears by alleging that vaccines cause autism, and that by refusing to vaccinate their children, they are saving themselves from the “heartbreak” of raising a disabled child. The discovery of fetal alcohol syndrome and other defects caused by environmental factors “erased” the history of women fighting for accurate information about potential threats to their babies and the right to abort “defective babies.” Public health campaigns by the March of Dimes and other organizations recast pregnant women themselves as risks to the unborn. Reagan rightly concludes that German measles acted as a “crucible for change” by prompting dialogue about reproductive rights, civil rights, and disability rights, but this change was incomplete. Abortion rights are increasingly under assault, and stigmatizing language about disability and misconceptions about persons with disabilities remain with us today.
If there is additional discussion of this review, you may access it through the list discussion logs at: http://h-net.msu.edu/cgi-bin/logbrowse.pl.
Citation: Heather Munro Prescott. Review of Reagan, Leslie J., Dangerous Pregnancies: Mothers, Disabilities, and Abortion in Modern America. H-Disability, H-Net Reviews. March, 2012.
|This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.|
via Maddow Blog. Here are photos of demonstrators outside the Virginia state capitol earlier this week. They are protesting a bill that would require women seeking an abortion to first undergo a medically unnecessary transvaginal ultrasound.
The Capitol ground rules say that we cannot assemble, hold signs, chant, yell or protest. We think silence in the face of this struggle and their unconstitutional rules presents the strongest response to their assault on women. Please come out and stand up for our rights and for the rights of all women in VA to choose the best reproductive route for themselves. These people are used to signs, yelling, chanting etc. It is not new. They are not used to silently being stared at and having to look us in the eye. It gives us the power.
via Huffington Post
I’ve been a Komen “grumbler” for years but usually bite my tongue and shell out money when folks ask me to contribute “for the cure.” My gripes include Komen’s support companies that “pinkwash” — i.e. sell products that have been linked to breast and other cancers and save face by selling pink stuff. They spend a lot of the money they raise on administrative costs (e.g. the VP who pulled the plug on Planned Parenthood funding makes a six-figure salary), and there are doubts about whether the organization “raising awareness” really does anything to improve the survival rate of women with breast cancer.
So, if you really want to support an organization that truly cares about women’s health and is far more effective in fighting the breast cancer epidemic, then give your money to Breast Cancer Action (and Planned Parenthood because they need it.)
Today is the 39th anniversary of Roe v. Wade and the seventh annual Blog for Choice day. This year we’re being asked to give our thoughts on the following question: What will you do to help elect pro-choice candidates in 2012?
One of the main things I plan to do is to try to overcome my students’ complacency on this issue. The talk I just gave at the Dittrick Museum was very well-received and there were a lot of students in the audience (there is an active Planned Parenthood campus affiliate at Case Western). I reminded them that the ground is shifting beneath them and anti-choice groups are chipping away at reproductive rights by going after the most vulnerable groups (e.g. adolescents, the poor, i.e. folks who don’t or can’t vote). I plan to do the same with my students this semester.
I was relieved that HHS Secretary Kathleen Sibelius, along with President Obama, finally showed some back bone and required insurance companies to cover contraception without mandating co-pays, just like any other preventive service. Of course, this has angered Catholic leaders, and Fox News, among others. They haven’t quite redeemed themselves in my book, but they certainly are better than any of the Republican candidates.
Related note — I went to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame while in Cleveland. The Women Who Rock exhibit wound up being rather one-dimensional, i.e. lame, (does every exhibit about women have to be pink?!) Still it was worth it to see Joan Jett’s black leather jacket with all the pro-choice and anti-rape buttons on it (where can I find one that says “Pro Fucking Choice”). So, I guess another thing I’ll do to help pro-choice candidates get elected, I’ll ask myself whenever I see some anti-choice b.s. come my way, What Would Joan Jett do?
via Reproductive Health Technologies Project, which just sent around the following disappointing news:
“Statement from FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, M.D. on Plan B One-Step
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been carefully evaluating for over a decade whether emergency contraceptives containing levonorgestrel, such as Plan B One-Step, are safe and effective for nonprescription use to reduce the chance of pregnancy after unprotected sexual intercourse.
Plan B One-Step is a single-dose pill (1.5 mg levonorgestrel tablet) which is effective in decreasing the chance of pregnancy if taken within 3 days after unprotected sexual intercourse. The product contains higher levels of a hormone found in some types of daily use oral hormonal contraceptive pills and works in a similar way to birth control pills.
Plan B One-Step was originally approved in July 2009 for use without a prescription for females age 17 and older and as a prescription-only option for females younger than age 17. In February 2011, Teva Women’s Health Inc. submitted a supplemental application seeking to remove the prescription-only status for females younger than age 17 and to make Plan B One-Step nonprescription for all females of child-bearing potential.
The Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER) completed its review of the Plan B One-Step application and laid out its scientific determination. CDER carefully considered whether younger females were able to understand how to use Plan B One-Step. Based on the information submitted to the agency, CDER determined that the product was safe and effective in adolescent females, that adolescent females understood the product was not for routine use, and that the product would not protect them against sexually transmitted diseases. Additionally, the data supported a finding that adolescent females could use Plan B One-Step properly without the intervention of a healthcare provider.
It is our responsibility at FDA to approve drugs that are safe and effective for their intended use based on the scientific evidence. The review process used by CDER to analyze the data applied a risk/benefit assessment consistent with its standard drug review process. Our decision-making reflects a body of scientific findings, input from external scientific advisory committees, and data contained in the application that included studies designed specifically to address the regulatory standards for nonprescription drugs. CDER experts, including obstetrician/gynecologists and pediatricians, reviewed the totality of the data and agreed that it met the regulatory standard for a nonprescription drug and that Plan B One-Step should be approved for all females of child-bearing potential.
I reviewed and thoughtfully considered the data, clinical information, and analysis provided by CDER, and I agree with the Center that there is adequate and reasonable, well-supported, and science-based evidence that Plan B One-Step is safe and effective and should be approved for nonprescription use for all females of child-bearing potential.
However, this morning I received a memorandum from the Secretary of Health and Human Services invoking her authority under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to execute its provisions and stating that she does not agree with the Agency’s decision to allow the marketing of Plan B One-Step nonprescription for all females of child-bearing potential. Because of her disagreement with FDA’s determination, the Secretary has directed me to issue a complete response letter, which means that the supplement for nonprescription use in females under the age of 17 is not approved. Following Secretary Sebelius’s direction, FDA sent the complete response letter to Teva today. Plan B One-Step will remain on the market and will remain available for all ages, but a prescription will continue to be required for females under the age of 17.”
Kirsten Moore, President and CEO of RHTP, told Ms. Magazine: “We are outraged that this Administration has let politics trump science. There is no rationale for this move. This is unprecedented as evidenced by the Commissioner’s own letter. Unbelievable.” In the same story, Dr. Susan Wood, who resigned from the FDA over the Bush Administration’s decision to Plan B and is currently the former FDA Assistant Commissioner for Women’s Health and associate professor of Health Policy and Director of the Jacobs Institute at the GW School of Public Health and Health Services, issued the following statement: “This decision is stunning. I had come to believe that the FDA would be allowed to make decisions based on science and the public’s health. Sadly, once again, FDA has been over-ruled and not allowed to do its job. I cannot understand why Secretary Sebelius would reach in and overturn the FDA’s decision to allow timely access for all those who need safe and effective emergency contraception.”
In her letter to FDA Commissioner, Secretary Sibelius said that there were “significant cognitive differences” between older adolescents and younger ones So, if Teva’s application were approved, then the drug would be available without prescription or other point of sale restrictions for even the youngest girls of reproductive age (the average age of menarche in the U.S. is 11.1 years). Never mind that only 1% of all 11 year old’s have been sexually active (and for those, “sexually active” usually means rape or incest).
According to what I’ve read and heard from others in the EC world, this is an unprecedented move by an HHS secretary — i.e. none of her predecessors has ever overruled the FDA on a drug application. (during the George W. Bush administration, the problem was the FDA Commissioner). Is Secretary Sibelius acting on her own, or is she fronting for someone else? We’ll see.
Update: If you want to take action on this issue, please sign the petitions at
In addition, here is a statement from Catholics for Choice:
For Immediate Release
December 7, 2011
Media Contact: Adrianne Burke
+1 202 986 6093
Obama Administration Rejects Scientific Evidence and FDA Advice in Maintaining Restrictions on Emergency Contraception
Continues Barriers for Women Seeking to Prevent Unplanned Pregnancy
In a stunning setback for women’s access to healthcare services, President Obama’s Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has ignored the advice of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to ease the restrictions on the sales of Plan B, a method of emergency, or after-sex, contraception. In a rare sign of public dissent within the administration, the FDA commissioner, Margaret Hamburg MD, wrote, “I reviewed and thoughtfully considered the data, clinical information, and analysis provided by CDER, and I agree with the Center that there is adequate and reasonable, well-supported, and science-based evidence that Plan B One-Step is safe and effective and should be approved for nonprescription use for all females of child-bearing potential.” The HHS decision to override this recommendation means that the proposal to remove the pills from over-the-counter status, and permit pharmacies to place them on shelves like other safe and effective oral medications, cannot now take place.
The president of Catholics for Choice, Jon O’Brien, said, “We know that conservative pharmacists around the country have treated women condescendingly, expressed contempt and even denied them access to a safe and legal contraceptive for no medical reason. Now, the HHS has overruled the scientifically and medically sound advice from the FDA that it was perfectly OK to move these pills to OTC status for all women. This is a deeply disappointing decision from an administration that promised us it would follow science and sound medical information in making policy decisions. Increasingly, on issues that women care deeply about, the Obama administration seems intent on taking us back to the future.”