Thursday, April 5, 2012

Too Long

Apologies for the lack of posting. This post, unfortunately, isn't going to be anything exciting to read.

I didn't have internet access for about a week, was pretty sick, and also, incredibly busy.

But, here's the problem.

I DO have the time to write again, but I'm trying to figure out structure, and to re-evaluate the goals I set for myself with this blog.

Truth is, no one wants to read the blog of another 20-something constantly ranting about this or that. I want it to be informative and educational, but in researching women's health issues and legislation, I've come to realize that making this blog solely about one kind of issue is pointless. And I think I'd be selling myself short.

I will be updating this regularly again, starting very very soon. Promise.

Monday, March 19, 2012

It's More Than Just a "Women's Issue"

Cisgendered: A cisgender person is someone who identifies as they gender/sex they were assigned at birth. For example, your birth certificate says female, and you identify as a female woman. The colloquial use of cisgender suggests that it is the opposite of transgender. If you’re not trans*, then you’re cis (abbreviated form of cisgender). This is not entirely true, because there are people who transition (eg. take hormones, identify as a different gender than what they were assigned with at birth, surgeries, etc.) who do not identify as trans* or transgender. (Source)

Transgendered: Transgender (sometimes shortened to trans or TG) people are those whose psychological self ("gender identity") differs from the social expectations for the physical sex they were born with. To understand this, one must understand the difference between biological sex, which is one's body (genitals, chromosomes, ect.), and social gender, which refers to levels of masculinity and femininity. Often, society conflates sex and gender, viewing them as the same thing. But, gender and sex are not the same thing.Transgender people are those whose psychological self ("gender identity") differs from the social expectations for the physical sex they were born with. For example, a female with a masculine gender identity or who identifies as a man. (Source)

Intersex: Intersexuality is a set of medical conditions that feature congenital anomaly of the reproductive and sexual system. That is, intersex people are born with "sex chromosomes," external genitalia, or internal reproductive systems that are not considered "standard" for either male or female. The existence of intersexuals shows that there are not just two sexes and that our ways of thinking about sex (trying to force everyone to fit into either the male box or the female box) is socially constructed. (Source)

Ok. Now, I have two favors to ask.

1) Please read this article.

2) Then, read this article.

The author of both posts is the same, and she makes some incredible points. As someone who is new to the world of political reproductive debate and who happened to jump in head-first one day and never look back, I (regrettably) failed to acknowledge the fact that what is happening right now is so much bigger than a simple "Women's Issue." Well, ok. I didn't FAIL to acknowledge it - I just failed to address it, really.

Not anymore.

From here on out, the language on this blog will be all-inclusive. Just because I am a cisgendered woman doesn't mean that everyone else is, and I apologize to anyone I may have offended with my language in past posts.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Double Standard

There's been much debate lately regarding contraception. And, whether or not you follow politics or keep yourself abreast of current legislation, chances are good that you've at least heard SOMETHING about the "whore pill" argument.

What I haven't seen, however, is a look at the other side of things.

The male side of things.

You know. The side with the penis.

The side with the sperm.

"The sperm required for pregnancy, Lindsey?"

Yes, dear reader.

Because, you see, a female can't become pregnant unless an egg is fertilized. With sperm. From a male.

I just blew your mind, right?

Well, Ohio State Senator Nina Turner is taking a stand.

You can watch her interview on MSNBC here: Viagra Bill

In an effort to level the playing field in an all-out war on female reproductive health, Turner has introduced Senate Bill 307; a bill that would severely limit a man's ability to acquire a Viagra prescription. To be more specific, the bill would require a man who wants a prescription for Viagra or other erectile dysfunction drugs to see a sex therapist, receive a cardiac stress test, and get a notarized affidavit signed by a sexual partner affirming impotency.

The best part about it? She's dead serious.
Turner is inspired by female legislators across the country who have been countering anti-abortion and anti-contraception legislation with men's health-focused measures that come with conditions, she said. Oklahoma Sen. Constance Johnson, also a Democrat, proposed a "spilled semen" amendment to her state's "feel personhood" bill that would declare it an act against unborn children for men to waste sperm. Illinois state Rep. Kelly Cassidy, another Democrat, introduced an amendment to a state mandatory ultrasound bill that would require men to watch a graphic video about Viagra's side effects before being able to receive a prescription for it. A bill filed by Virginia state Sen. Janet Howell (D), would require men to obtain a rectal exam before obtaining such a prescription. In Wilmington, Del., City Councilwoman Loretta Walsh authored a resolution that declares "each 'egg person' and each 'sperm person' ... equal in the eyes of the government."
Source: Huffington Post

And, while these amendments and bills will most likely never receive any sort support, we can't deny the attention that these women are bringing to the "other side of things."

Sure, we read the proposed legislation and giggle about it. We share it with our friends on facebook, and we write comments in support of women taking a stand. But the truth of the matter is, there IS a double standard in contraception and reproductive health. That cannot be ignored.

Let's take a moment to delve into the male gender and the role that they play in conception. The saying, "it takes two to tango," may be cliché, but it's true: a pregnancy can't happen without a sperm and an egg. While the male birth control pill may be on the horizon (read about the progress here: Male BC), the only contraceptive measures currently available for men are either A) condoms, or B) a vasectomy.

All other birth control pill usages aside (cycle regulation, acne, PCOS, etc), let's look at it from a pregnancy prevention standpoint ONLY for a moment.

If you are against the birth control pill (and, subsequently, against allowing it to be covered by health insurance plans), should you not also be against condom use? If we're going for equality here, and you are looking to place stringent rules in place regarding a woman's access to pregnancy prevention, should you not also do the same for men? After all, a pregnancy can't happen without an egg AND a sperm - and a woman on her own only has one part of the equation. And yet, condoms are available over-the-counter, in grocery stores, drug stores, and even gas stations. No one asks you for proof about why you're buying a pack of condoms - chances are good that you're buying them with the intention of using them for pregnancy prevention, but who's to say that you're not just an art student, making a collage? Or, that you need them for props on a film set?

What if condoms required a prescription? If they were marketed as "male birth control," chances are good that they COULD require a prescription. Furthermore, if condoms suddenly DID require a prescription, and your employer was allowed to fire you because he/she doesn't believe you should be using birth control unless you have a medical reason to do so, how many men would suddenly be without a job?

What I'm trying to say is, if you're going to limit a women's ability to access contraceptives, then you should also limit a man's ability to access contraceptives. Perhaps that seems a little far-fetched, but then again, is it? Really?

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Violence Against Women

It seems as though the government has graduated, in a sense.

It started with abortion. But then someone decided that contraception was an issue, so we added that, too. The contraception issue blossomed into an all-encompassing attack on preventative women's health care coverage, and now, it seems as though we're adding domestic violence to the mix.

A little background, ladies.

I am copying and pasting the information below, as it is perfectly outlined and needs no tinkering from me. Also, it's easier for all of YOU to skim through one page versus visiting a new site. It is sourced from this website: - I encourage you to visit said website should you wish to read more text on the issue.

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) is a landmark piece of legislation that sought to improve criminal justice and community-based responses to domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking in the United States. The passage of VAWA in 1994, and its reauthorization in 2000 and 2005, has changed the landscape for victims who once suffered in silence. Victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking have been able to access services, and a new generation of families and justice system professionals has come to understand that domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking are crimes that our society will not tolerate.

  • Creating new system responses – VAWA programs, funding and law reforms have changed federal, tribal, state and local responses to domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking by:
  • Securing buy-in from formerly unengaged systems, like law enforcement, courts, and social services
  • Creating a federal leadership role that has encouraged tribes, states and local government to improve responses to victims and perpetrators
  • Establishing new federal crimes of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking to fill in jurisdictional gaps in prosecuting these crimes
  • Defining the crimes of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking, as well as identifying promising practices to respond to these crimes
  • Focusing on the needs of underserved communities, such as immigrant and Native American women
VAWA 1994 – Congress, in passing VAWA 1994, envisioned a nation with an engaged criminal justice system and coordinated community responses. VAWA 1994 fostered:
  • Community-coordinated responses that brought together, for the first time, the criminal justice system, the social services system, and private nonprofit organizations responding to domestic violence and sexual assault
  • Recognition and support for the efforts of domestic violence shelters, rape crisis centers, and other community organizations nationwide working everyday to end this violence
  • Federal prosecution of interstate domestic violence and sexual assault crimes
  • Federal guarantees of interstate enforcement of protection orders
  • Protections for battered immigrants
  • A new focus on underserved populations and Native victims of domestic violence and sexual assault
VAWA 2000 – Congress improved on the foundation established in VAWA 1994, including:
  • Identifying the additional related crimes of dating violence and stalking
  • The creation of a much-needed legal assistance program for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault
  • Promoting supervised visitation programs for families experiencing violence
  • Further protecting immigrants experiencing domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault or stalking, by establishing U- and T-visas and by focusing on trafficking of persons
VAWA 2005 – Congress took a more holistic approach to addressing violence against women. In addition to enhancing criminal and civil justice and community-based responses to violence, VAWA 2005 created notable new focus areas such as:
  • Containing provisions that exclusively serve to protect immigrant victims of domestic violence but also include immigration protections to alleviate violence against immigrant women that previous legislation had tried, but failed to alleviate
  • Developing prevention strategies to stop violence before it starts
  • Protecting individuals from unfair eviction due to their status as victims  of domestic violence or stalking
  • Creating the first federal funding stream to support rape crisis centers
  • Developing culturally-and linguistically-specific services for communities
  • Enhancing programs and services for victims with disabilities
  • Broadening VAWA service provisions to include children and teenagers
Source: Domestic Abuse Hotline

Friday, March 16, 2012

Peas and Cookies

Yesterday began here: Texas Loses Entire Women's Health Program
And here's where we are today: Texas Sues Obama Administration

So, let me get this straight.

Rick Perry LIKES getting federal funding for women's health care, as long as he can tell you where to go and how exactly to use said money. He absolutely opposes the idea of Planned Parenthood, simply because these clinics offer abortion services - and neglects to note the other invaluable services that they provide

It is disgusting to me that any government is willing to use its citizens as pawns in a political fight.

I am not applauding what the Obama administration has done, by any means. Nor am I applauding what the state of Texas has done. Rick Perry was playing a dirty game and got caught, so the federal government wants to teach him a lesson (more or less). But what both parties fail to see is the astounding number of innocent women who are now up shit creek without a paddle with regards to affordable health care in the state of Texas. Health care is not a game, gentlemen.

Indulge me for a moment.

Forgive the bad analogy, but it reminds me of being a little kid at the dinner table: you sit down to eat, in front of a plate full of vegetables. You KNOW that Mom always makes dessert, and you know that in order to always get dessert, you have to eat everything on your plate - But Mom and Dad are busy talking, and you start to realize that the family dog doesn't expect dessert - and, in fact, the family dog will EAT YOUR PEAS, no questions asked. So you start slipping the peas to Rover when Mom isn't looking. One by one, they start to disappear from your plate, and those fresh chocolate chip cookies are inching ever closer to your wide-eyed little face. But Mom isn't as dumb as you'd like to think, and notices that not only have you NOT touched anything on your dinner plate that you normally devour, but the pile of peas (which you whine about, daily) is almost gone. She's onto you. She banishes Rover from the kitchen, and replenishes the tiny green mountain on your plate.

Then, the ultimatum: "Lindsey, you need to finish EVERYTHING on your plate before you can have dessert. If I catch you feeding peas to the dog one more time, then you're going to bed without dinner, AND without dessert."

There is a moment of indecision.

You really hate those god-damned peas.

But your belly is rumbling, and Mom makes killer macaroni and cheese.

Mashing everything together is out of the question, because try as you might, you can still taste the peas.

You could eat everything else first and then complain about being too full to finish the peas, but then Mom won't give you dessert.

Meanwhile, Rover has crept back into the kitchen, and his head is resting ever-so-lightly on your little knee.

This is where you get sneaky.

You accept the re-filled plate of veggies from Mom.

She is watching you like a hawk.

You pierce a pea with the tine of your fork. Bring it to your lips. Chew. Make an obnoxious show of gagging and choking. Wash, rinse, repeat.

You do this maybe 3 or 4 times, making the show more and more obnoxious as each pea makes its way toward your belly. Eventually, you abandon the pea pile and move on to the more interesting parts of your plate - the macaroni and cheese, the fresh fruit, the steamed carrots. Again - you eat the interesting bits in teeny tiny forkfuls, making sure that Mom hears just how delicious THESE parts of dinner are.

Mom points out that you haven't finished your peas.

"They make me sick, Mom," says little you. "They make me gag, and they make me feel like I'm going to throw up."

Before your brain registers what has happened, you suddenly find yourself alone in your bedroom, with a mostly empty stomach, and more importantly, without dessert.

Like I said, it's a bad analogy. But I used to do that all the time when I was a kid, and parts of it resonate with the whole Texas situation.

Texas gets funding for women's health, but Rick Perry doesn't support it going toward helping Planned Parenthood, because PP offers (among many MANY other necessary services), abortion procedures. So the Texas Legislature passes a law that bans funding for clinics affiliated with abortion providers, even if it effects services that aren't abortions. The government says that this is illegal, and that it directly violates the rules governing Medicaid and a woman's right to choose (relating to which clinic she wants to go to). So they vote to cease funding altogether. Now, Rick Perry is angry - you can't restrict funding for things you don't support when ALL of the funding is now gone.

Looks like someone else is going to bed without dinner and cookies, too.

(Again, please note that I am NOT in any way condoning the actions of either side. What AM doing, however, is encouraging women everywhere to fight back. And if I have to rile you up to do it, then so be it.)
What's Behind the Conservative Attack on Women?
An interesting read written by Margaret Talbot taken from the pages of the New Yorker concerning possible motives for the current attacks on women's health.

(Please note that this is a comment piece.)

when you push a mouse's buttons....

This is the email that started everything.

This is the email I sent to Kansas Senator Steve Morris in response to this article:

If you haven't read it yet, please do.

In light of my current health situation, I felt the need to respond. What follows is my own personal story, written to him in an email. It contains more information than most of you would ever want to know about my uterus, but if you're interested in reading it, please do.

I encourage you to write your own response. This type of behavior is completely unacceptable.

Mr. Morris,

As enraged as I am to learn about the proposed bill in Kansas, I am going to attempt to address my concerns with grace and tact. Whether you'll even read this email remains to be seen, but bills like the one in your state concern me on a personal level, and I can no longer sit by and allow my voice to go unheard.

This is where my email gets personal. And you know what? If that makes you uncomfortable, I really don't care. Politicians have decided that my uterus is something they should be intimately concerned about, so they may as well know every little detail about what goes on inside of it. Take a moment to put on your big boy pants, and keep reading.

When I was in high school, I started menstruating. I was a late bloomer, to be honest. But from day one, my cycles were abnormal. I was 15 at the time, and was bleeding so heavily on a monthly basis that I became severely anemic. I was embarrassed about it and said nothing until I went to donate my first pint of blood at our High School blood drive and was turned away because my iron levels were dangerously low. I ended up discussing it with my mother, and she took me to visit the family physician. As soon as the phrase, "my period is abnormal," left my lips, my doctor whipped out her prescription pad and sent me to the pharmacy for birth control pills. Or, "Whore Pills," as they're referred to this day in age. 17 years old, not sexually active, and the answer was to put me on hormone pills in order to regulate my body. Great.

Well, I took those pills for a few months. Did they do anything to help? Not at all. They tried putting me on the birth control patch, thinking that maybe I just wasn't receiving the RIGHT dose of hormones. Again, no help. It wasn't until the third failed attempt at putting me on birth control that my physician decided that perhaps something else was going on with my body, and decided to conduct a full gynecological exam. I remember lying on that table, in stirrups, and in tears - being poked and prodded by fingers and various instruments. Do you know how that feels? More importantly, do you know how it feels to be lying there, in stirrups, with a doctor and a med student between your legs, only to hear the phrase, "Huh. That's weird...."? Come to find out, I have a double cervix. They sent me for an ultrasound, and discovered that I also have a bicornuate uterus. I tried in vain to get my doctor to explain to me what that meant, and her reply was as follows: "It's nothing you need to worry about until you're ready to have children." Every time I asked and pressed for more information, that was the line I was fed.

By the time I left Michigan to attend college in Chicago, my doctor had switched me over to the Depo Provera shot, which I only ended up taking twice. Why? Because the hormone cocktail it delivered to my system every three months made it impossible for me to function like a normal, active 20-something female. So, I stopped taking birth control all together. Nothing was helping, and the only thing that was normal about my cycle was that it was abnormal. I figured that I would just learn to deal with it, because I had no other options.

Let's fast-forward to, say, 2009. Right around the time when I graduated college, and I was immediately booted from the health insurance plan that my parents have. My periods were still incredibly heavy, and incredibly abnormal - they came like clockwork, but when I say abnormal, I mean that they were incredibly heavy and lasted twice as long as any other woman I knew. Skipping ahead to 2010; my periods were starting to affect the way that I lived my life. I am an avid cyclist, and a passionate artist - both in the theatre/film industry and as a musician. There were days when I was afraid to leave the house, let alone be on stage and in costume for 2 hours with no bathroom break. But I had no health insurance, and knew that going on birth control pills hadn't helped me in the past, so I was forced to suffer through and deal with it.

In the fall of 2010, parts of the Obama Health Care Plan went into effect. For me, that meant that I would once again be able to have health coverage through my parents - only for a few extra years, but every little bit helps. I'd been in honest, constant contact with my mother since then, and we made plans for me to see the doctor as soon my feet touched Michigan soil. This time, I saw a doctor who listened to EVERYTHING I had to say, and who was 100% honest every step of the way; a doctor who was also blown away by the amount of blood loss I have every month, and who could not understand WHY no one had addressed it before. She DID put me back on birth control pills, but explained that birth control had come a long way in the last few years, and thought it might be worth another try. I was not thrilled, but I figured I'd go ahead and trust her judgment.

She sent me for a new ultrasound reading, because she was shocked that the previous doctor had sent me away for one and then refused to explain it to me. She also ran new blood work for me; I'd ask you to guess if I was still severely anemic, but I'm pretty sure you already know the answer. The ultrasound results came through in the inbox of my email the next day, accompanied by the following note from my doctor (copied and pasted, word for word):
   They found a bicornuate uterus, which verifies what you already knew. The lining looks okay.  No evidence of any other pathology that would make you bleed excessively, so we'll take the hormone route to control it first. Please feel free to call me with any questions or concerns.
I called her the next day, and asked her to explain what exactly a "bicornuate uterus" was, and what it meant for me/my future. Apparently, mine is unique - I have two completely separate uterine cavities - each one with its own cervix. She was thorough with her explanations until I asked her, again, "Ok. What can I do about it?"

Care to take a wild guess at her response?

"It's nothing you need to worry about until you want to have children. It would be a high-risk pregnancy, so you'd need to consult with an OB/GYN before conceiving."

I'm sure you're shocked by her answer. Right? Because all women DESPERATELY want to have children and can't make their own decisions about their future, right?

Now that you have all of the details about my uterus - the uterus that the government is so oddly interested in - I'd like to tie my situation into YOUR current situation - that being the proposed bill in the state of Kansas. See, here's my problem; I'm 24 years old. I'm only going to have reliable health insurance for the remainder of 2012, at which point I'm going to either be paying for birth control pills out of pocket, or I'm going to have to stop taking them altogether. I've known for years now that I don't want to have children - not my own, anyway. I've always said that if I wanted children, I would rather adopt - give a loving home to a child in need rather than bring another into this world. But our dear government has decided that I am not old enough to make that decision. I am old enough to serve in the armed forces, I am old enough to drive a car and buy cigarettes, but I am NOT old enough to decide that I would rather not procreate.

Seems silly, right? That I could decide to go to war for my country, but am incapable of deciding whether or not to give birth?

At this point in time, it seems that I have two options: continuing feeding my body hormones for the rest of my child-bearing years, or undergo a surgical procedure that, in all honestly, I most likely will not be allowed to get due to my age. Never mind the fact that I made the decision years ago that I didn't want children - the government has decided that I AM NOT OLD ENOUGH TO MAKE THAT DECISION. So, when 2013 arrives, I will either have to pay for birth control out of pocket, or go off of it completely. Which then, begs the question, what if I get pregnant? Knowing full-well that I am already on the "high-risk" list, what am I supposed to do?

If your doctors conduct an ultrasound, and they find out that there is a danger to my life, the life of the fetus, or both, how can you allow them to NOT provide me with that information? If I sat down with an OB/GYN tomorrow and was told that I could never carry a pregnancy to term without loss of life on either end, would you allow your doctors to perform an ultrasound and flat-out LIE to my face about it?

If anti-abortion bills get passed in this country, you are essentially signing my death certificate. I WILL NOT sit idly by and allow that to happen.

I am on "whore pills" because I have a severely abnormal cycle that has been taking a toll on my body and my immune system since I was 15 years old. I cannot get a straight answer from a doctor about my future, because they all assume that I'll want to have children one day - despite my constant (and loud) vocalizations to the contrary. I probably won't be able to find a doctor to perform a hysterectomy because I am only 24, despite the fact that I am a high-risk case - and also because the government has decided that I am not old enough to decide AGAINST having children. If I accidentally get pregnant, either because I can no longer afford birth control pills OR because they have failed to do one of their jobs, my doctor may be able to LIE to me about my health and the health of the fetus because he or she doesn't believe in abortion.

What then? What if a woman, living in the state of Kansas, is in my exact predicament? And what if that woman gets pregnant? Can you honestly say that you would stand by and allow her doctor to lie to her about her pregnancy? What would you say to her grieving family members if both lives were lost due to a provision in a bill that allowed her doctor to pretend that everything was ok?

You, sir, should be disgusted by this. You do NOT get to decide what I can and cannot do with my own body, and you do NOT get to decide how I live my life. And when I say "you," I am speaking to the government as a whole.

Do you understand? At all? Do you see that you could be one of the first middle-aged male politicians to fight back and actually take a stand for women's rights? Fight this bill, and encourage your fellow politicians to fight as well. Decisions such as these should be between a woman her family - they do not involve you, and they do not involve the government as a whole.

Stay out of the uteri of America. And in this case, stay out of BOTH of mine.

Lindsey C. Gavel