Signal Boost: Our Bodies, Our Votes Campaign

From Judy Norsigian:

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.

 

Best wishes,
Judy

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

Email:  judy@bwhbc.org

Website: www.ourbodiesourselves.org

Blog: www.ourbodiesourblog.org

Signal Boost: New Blog Nursing Clio

I just received word of this new blog, Nursing Clio, which “is a collaborative blog project that ties historical scholarship to present-day political, social, and cultural issues surrounding gender and medicine. Men’s and women’s bodies, their reproductive rights, and their health care are often at the center of political debate and have also become a large part of the social and cultural discussions in popular media. Whether the topic is abortion, birth control, sex, or the pregnant body, each and every one of these issues is embedded with historical dynamics of race, class, and gender. Our tagline -The Personal is Historical – is meant to convey that the medical debates that dominate today’s headlines are, in fact, ongoing dialogues that reach far back into our country’s past.

The mission of Nursing Clio is to provide a platform for historians, health care workers, community activists, students, and the public at large to engage in socio-political and cultural critiques of this ongoing and historical debate over the gendered body. It is our contention that Nursing Clio will provide a coherent, intelligent, informative, and fun historical source for these issues.”

Nursing Clio is looking for historians to become regular contributors:  “We are very interested in those who are writing about race, gender and medicine. We would also welcome those who can examine these topics from a global, transnational, or national perspective. Nursing Clio is a coherent, intelligent, informative, and fun historical source for these issues, and we are looking for indivduals who are excited at the propect of engaging in a public venue, examining how the personal is history.

Please feel free to explore the site and see if you might have an interesting perspective to contribute!

If interested please contact Cheryl Lemus at cheryllemus@gmail.com or Jacqueline Antonovich at jantonov73@gmail.com”

Happy Belated 40th Birthday to #TitleIX

Last Saturday was the 40th anniversary of Title IX. To celebrate the National Women’s Law Center had a blog carnival of stories about how Title IX has helped shape women’s and girls’ experiences in the classroom and in athletics.  So, here’s my story, a little late.

I came of age just as Title IX was coming into effect. My first recollection of something having to do with this from 7th or 8th grade, when there was an announcement that girls could try out for Little League.  Of course I had no idea at that time what Title IX was and since my baseball skills were poor to non-existent, I had no interest in trying out for the team. I was active in other sports and was best at ones that didn’t involve balls or sticks — i.e. swimming (in summer) and cross-country and track during the school year.  I wasn’t the best athlete but did show enough determination to be receive “most improved track athlete” my senior year.  Athletics definitely helped make me more confident as a high school student and also helped me deal with the stress of adolescence.  I also developed a life-long interest in fitness and a healthy lifestyle.  Now I mostly bike, run, or swim for fun, although I do attempt the occasional triathlon.  I’m also a women’s history professor, so I get to teach students about the importance of Title IX not just for athletics but for educational equality as a whole.  We still have  a ways to go but look how far we’ve come. Thanks Title IX for helping improve the minds and bodies of girls and women in the U.S.

Review of Leslie Reagan, Dangerous Pregnancies: Mothers, Disabilities, and Abortion in Modern America

via H-Disability

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.
URL: http://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=33916

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

Blog for International Women’s Day 2012: the Girl Scouts have always had a feminist agenda

via Gender Across Borders.  The theme for 2012 is“Connecting Girls, Inspiring Futures” and Gender Across Borders asks us to address one or both of the following points:

  • How can we, as a culture and as members of the global community, involve, educate, and inspire girls in a positive way?
  • Describe a particular organization, person, group or moment in history that helped to inspire a positive future and impact the minds and aspirations for girls.

Since it’s the 100th anniversary of Girls Scouts of America, I’ve decided to use this organization as the focus of my post.

By now most of you have heard of the  accusations by Rep. Bob Morris (R-Indiana) and other conservatives that the Girl Scouts have a “radical feminist lesbian agenda” (and if you haven’t, here’s an article that summarizes the issue, and Stephen Colbert’s hilarious commentary)

Those of us who remember our days in the Girl Scouts are naturally puzzled by this statement — seriously, what’s radical about selling cookies or singing songs by the campfire?

However, it is true that since it’s beginnings the Girl Scouts of America in 1912, the organization has promoted a feminist ideology for girls, although the term “feminism” needs to be placed in historical context. According to Rebekah Revzin, Juliette Gordon Low founded the Girl Scouts of America during a time of significant change in women’s social and political roles. Low’s life was a microcosm of the southern women’s movement: raised to be a good southern belle, her disastrous marriage impressed upon Low the necessity of training girls and women to be self-sufficient.  Furthermore, Low’s disability (she was deaf in one ear) ensured that the Girls Scouts were ahead of their time for promoting inclusion for girls with disabilities.  The organization welcomed girls from various racial, ethnic, and religious backgrounds as well.  Revzin observes that while a significant portion of Girl Scout literature focused on traditional notions of femininity, the literature also contained “a significant amount of material that challenges the more conventional feminine doctrine espoused at the time.” The most persistent theme that runs throughout Girl Scout literature is the notion of self-sufficiency: “Because traditional view of women, particularly in the South, implied that dependent or weak women were more desirable, the Girl Scout emphasis on female self-sufficiency appear particularly progressive” Revzin argues.  Providing for oneself included “cultivation of the body through physical activities that further empowered girls by giving them a sense of strong physical ability.” This support for physical fitness, says Revzin, “attributes a ‘natural’ desire for outdoor exercise to young girls, an innovative idea for its time.”  In order to ensure that girls would be economically as well as physically self-sufficient, the Girls Scouts “advocated professional careers for women.” The Career section of the handbook advised girls to pursue occupations that traditionally been reserved for men — physician, stock broker, managers, accountants, architects, even fire chief!  Revzin concludes that the Girl Scouts was more than a social club for girls: the leaders and participants aspired to go beyond “true womanhood.” Many of the “new women” of the early twentieth century “began their path toward social activity and political participation under the guiding influence of the Girl Scouts of America. These young women desired a forum in which they could express their independence, take part in outdoor activities, and provide help to others.”  Although the GSUSA never explicitly endorsed feminism, the organization “did advance women’s place in the public arena and their right to lead strong independent lives.”

Today, the Girl Scouts continues to empower girls — see its latest campaign, To Get Her There. In honor of its 100th birthday, Girl Scouts is also “setting out to raise $1 billion to achieve, in five years, a generational leap in opportunities for girls. This initiative will ensure that every girl in this generation will have the opportunity and the tools and the access she needs to reach her fullest potential. That is our promise. Together, we can make 2012 the Year of the Girl.”

Yet another reason to buy some cookies. . .

#Komen sucks, support @BCAction

Posted by Lorraine Tipton on Susan G. #Komen Facebook page: http://pic.twitter.com/rHfK54KK

via Huffington Post

As you all saw in my Twitter feed, I’m mighty upset with the Komen Foundation for their decision to no longer provide funding to Planned Parenthood for preventive cancer exams for low income women.

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.)

#HERVotes Blog Carnival: Extend Unemployment Insurance!

via HERVotes.

Why extend benefits, you might ask?  Isn’t the unemployment rate down? Well, yes the overall unemployment rate decreased from 9.9 percent to 8.6 percent.  However, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the National Women’s Law Center, the unemployment rate for single mothers was 12.4 percent, up from 12.3 percent in October 2011 and 11.7 percent in June 2009. And African-American women’s unemployment rate in November was12.9 percent, up from 12.6 percent in October 2011 and 11.7 percent in June 2009.   In addition, among women age 20 or over, 5.1 million were officially unemployed and another 2.8 million were not in the labor force but wanted work.  So if there ever was a “mancession” it appears to be over — and the recovery is clearly favoring men.

Now, some of you might be asking — why don’t those single mothers just go on welfare?  Well, let me remind you about the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act that was passed during President Clinton’s administration.

Debates about welfare “reform”exposed gender discrepancies in our country’s economic safety net.  As historian Linda Gordon observes in her book Pitied but Not Entitled, unemployment insurance was set up within the Social Security act as an entitlement program for (mostly) male workers.  The assumption was that men had to support their families, so they needed the income security that unemployment benefits provided. Initially, larger categories of employment — e.g. domestic service, agricultural jobs — were excluded from the social security and unemployment systems.  These of course were occupations where women and men of color tended to be clustered.

The Social Security Act framed women as objects of pity who needed to have their domestic roles protected.  What later became Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) started out as “widows pensions” so that women who lost their husbands could support their children without having to work outside the home.  Female recipients were frequently subjected to “morals tests” to ensure they were sufficiently worthy of relief. Later these benefits were extended to divorced and never-married women (and not surprisingly, what was already a controversial program became even more unpopular).

Because of reforms in the 1990s, there is no “welfare” anymore: the program is called Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, with the emphasis on “temporary” — There is a maximum of 60 months of benefits within one’s lifetime, although some states have instituted shorter periods.  How many of these single mothers have already run through the 5 year lifetime limit? What happens when their unemployment benefits run out as well?  The answer isn’t pretty — see the other reports in the #HERvotes Blog Carnival.