Sunday, April 30, 2006

Librarian - Now With Fresh Mint

An announcement - I'm done with grad school!!! The work is done, the grades are in, and graduation was this weekend. I'm a freshly minted librarian, complete with an MLIS after my name (for Masters of Library and Information Science), courtesy of the University of Pittsburgh. Woo-hoo!

Big thanks to the following folks, who in their own way supported me in this endeavor: The Husband (Our Gold Star Winner, who showed a good deal of patience that he didn't know he had, picking up the housework and errands while I worked full time and did part-time grad school); The Parents (who are both deathly afraid I've fallen in love with Pittsburgh and will move there, and are wondering if/when I'll do a PhD); The Husband's Parents (who understood, or at least tolerated, the homework and blogging during holidays such as Thanksgiving); The Two Awesome Fellow Students, Christyne and Julie (who suffered along with me); The Workplace (for assorted support, and writing the grant); The Other Classmates, esp. the ones who kicked a** on group projects; The Professors; The Internet; Everybody else I've been largely ignoring for the past two years (wanna get a beer?).

Friday, April 28, 2006

Brought to You By the Letter "V"

Ivy assigned the letter "V" to me, and now I'm to talk about 10 words that start with said letter. I said I'd try to do a women's health thing with it, so here we go:

Vagina - the vagina is just the canal, people. It is not the whole of the female genital area. Also, it is self-cleaning, and does not require the use of douche. Are we clear now?

Vulva - Vulva - now that's the word you were looking for. The vulva is the external female genital region, including the labia, clitoris, and urethral and vaginal openings. Check out the vulva puppets.

Vulvodynia - chronic vulvar discomfort or pain, see the National Vulvodynia Association

Vulvar Cancer
National Cancer Institute

Vaginal Cancer
National Cancer Institute

Vaginal Discharge: Changes That May be Signs of a Problem -

Vaginal Dryness -

Viruses (and other STDs)
MedlinePlus: Sexually Transmitted Diseases
Common Symptoms of STIs/RTIs - EngenderHealth
Sexual Health Glossary - American Social Health Association
About Sexually Transmitted Diseases - TeensHealth
Sexually Transmitted Diseases: Overview - National Women's Health Information Center
STDs and Pregnancy - CDC
Sexually Transmitted Infections - Planned Parenthood
HIV/AIDS Web Links - Our Bodies, Ourselves

Violence - domestic, sexual, and other violence affects a number of women and girls. Some resources on the topic:
The National Domestic Violence Hotline - 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)
Domestic Violence Hotlines and Resources and 911 For Women - Feminist Majority Foundation
Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network - 1.800.656.HOPE
Checklist for Leaving an Abuser

See It and Stop It
End Violence Against Women (research & reports)
Getting Through Medical Examinations: A Resource for Women Survivors of Abuse and Their Health Care Providers - Canadian Women's Health Network
Violence Against Women - National Organization for Women
Stop Violence Against Women - Amnesty International
Family Violence Prevention Fund
Anti-Violence Resource Guide -
Gender-Based Violence - World Health Organization

Voting - You've only been able to for just under 86 years. Do it every time you can. Find out about registration.

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MeSH Tags: Domestic Violence; Sex Offenses; Sexually Transmitted Diseases; Vagina; Vaginal Discharge; Vaginal Neoplasms; Vulva; Vulvar Neoplasms

Search Request Roundup #5

This is the fifth installment of Search Request Roundup, in which I look at recent searches that led to my blog and provide some information relevant to the desired topics.

Nashville smoking cessation resources
Centennial Medical Center is offering a smoking cessation clinic for those 18 and older. Classes will meet Tuesday evenings from 5:30 to 7 p.m. for eight weeks as follows: June 6, 13, 20, 27, 29 (a special Thursday meeting); July 11, 25 at the Thomas F. Frist, Sr. Heart Wellness Center (2410 Patterson Street, Suite 100). The course costs $50, but those who complete it will receive a full refund. More information, including registration instructions, is available here. This is part of the American Lung Association's Freedom from Smoking program - other local sessions can by found by calling 1-800-432-LUNG (5864) (in Tennessee only).

Web resources:
Freedom From Smoking Online
MedlinePlus Smoking Cessation resources

Problems after c-section
Cesarean birth and the road to recovery -
Recovering from delivery - Nemours Foundation, vaginal and c-section

Sexual organ anatomy
Vulvar Anatomy - National Vulvodynia Association
Female Reproductive System TeensHealth
Male Reproductive System - TeensHealth
Body Diagrams - Teenwire
Sexual Anatomy: The Self-Guided Tour - Our Bodies, Ourselves
Intersex Society of North America
Guide to Vulvar Self-Examination - Georgia Reproductive Specialists
How to Perform Self Cervical and Vaginal Examination - Feminist Women's Health Center

Women's health checklist
Preventive Screening Tests and Immunization Guidelines for Women -

Voting statistics women 18-24
The U.S. Census Bureau has voting and registration data from the Nov 04 and previous elections. According to their detailed tables, 54.9% of females 18-24 reported voter registration, while 44.9% actually voted.

Previous installments:
Search Request Roundup #1
Search Request Roundup #2
Search Request Roundup #3
Search Request Roundup #4

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MeSH Tags: Anatomy; Genitalia/physiology; Smoking Cessation

Back From The Dead

It's been a while, eh? I've been down and out with a cough, some sort of upper respiratory thing, for the past week. I actually took 3 days off work, which, if you know me, is an infrequent occurrence. I was convinced *ahem* to go to the doctor, who told me to keep doing what I had been doing. However, I did find out while there that I had missed a dose of my MMR vaccinations. Good timing to be updated, what with the recent outbreaks of mumps. Adult immunization information is available from the CDC, as is childhood and adolescent immunization information.

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MeSH Tags: Measles-Mumps-Rubella Vaccine; Mumps

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

A Bit of Business

Y'all, I'm sick. I also have two tickets to tonight's sold out Ani Difranco show at the Mercy Lounge. I really, really wanted to go, but I don't think I'm going to feel up to it. I'm willing to part with the tickets at cost (they were $77.00 total for the pair). They're will call, so I'd have to meet you down there tonight. Email me if interested, rachelrwalden at hotmail dot com.

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Monday, April 24, 2006

I'm On Thin Ice!

In this previous post, in which I critiqued a Wall Street Journal commentary that posited to some extent that if women are raped, it's often because they are not using their common sense, and that is the fault of feminists. The authors at Feministing and Broadsheet composed similar criticisms of the piece. In response, I received this anonymous comment (fully copied below):

Anonymous said...
Oooooooo! You're stepping on thin ice here. Feminist don't like the idea of women taking responsibility for their own actions. Guys know better than to venture into dangerous plces because guys knw if something were to happen, we'd hve to defend ourselves, so we stay out of dark allies and other areas known for dangerous activities like drug sales etc... But women, according to feminist, have the right to be anywhere, and if something bad happens, it's not there fault because it's her right.

I get upset with this drinking and sex. If she was too drunk to consent to sex, how do we know that he wasn't too drunk to notice?

Now, let's take this point by point:
"You're stepping on thin ice here."
Thanks for the word of advice.

"Feminist don't like the idea of women taking responsibility for their own actions."
First of all, feminism doesn't mean the same thing to every person, so there may be some women who think as you have suggested and call themselves feminists. However, the basic tenet of feminism, when you really strip it down, is just that women should have the right to make their own choices. This could mean freedom to own their own property, vote, have an abortion, or to have a job, and fair compensation, where she is qualified. In none of that is the freedom from the responsibilities that come with those choices. You have an abortion and regret it, you cast a vote and regret that your guy was the victor, you live with that, but at least you have the right to have some input into the forces shaping your life. The women who are raped may have made less than stellar choices, or heck, may not have been psychically able to predict doom, but that doesn't obliterate the responsibility of the rapist to follow the law. In the case of rape, the responsibility rests squarely with the rapist. People have a legally defined responsibility not to rape, and there are no exceptions because you find a drunk girl in a bar to be vulnerable or irresistible or forcible.

"Guys know better than to venture into dangerous plces because guys knw if something were to happen, we'd hve to defend ourselves, so we stay out of dark allies and other areas known for dangerous activities like drug sales etc..."
What every individual decides is dangerous is different in different times and places. Women typically try to avoid danger, and likewise know they may have to defend themselves. Believe me, women think about this all the time. Take a look at some of Aunt B's writing for an example. The difference is, just about anywhere can be a dangerous place, given the right combination of people and circumstances. Women and girls may be assaulted at home, raped by a teacher, or even raped and killed by a husband. On the other hand, we have to continue to live our lives, buy groceries, and occassionally have a drink in a bar just to preserve our own sanity. Just as your shooter would not be excused had you gotten lost and accidentally driven into an unfamiliar and dangerous area, the rapist is no more off the hook because a woman is in a bar, and it's no more forgiveable. Meanwhile, men continue to outnumber women in counts of violent crime victims, so either you don't actually know better, also find it necessary in the course of a life to sometimes appear in questionable locations, or you're likewise confused about where and when is dangerous.

"If she was too drunk to consent to sex, how do we know that he wasn't too drunk to notice?"
We don't know this, and it's an interesting point to ponder on some level. However, he or she who initiates the actual sex is responsible for obtaining consent. We don't actually know that he was drunk at all - we know she was. Of course there are two stories to be told, and likely details we don't know. Also, ask yourself if the "too drunk to notice" excuse would similarly hold if a drunk person hit and injured another driver or murdered someone.

Finally, "I get upset with this drinking and sex"
Would you care to clarify that? Surely you're not suggesting that when alcohol is involved, rape can never occur.

That's just my few cents on the topic, and I don't consider myself a feminist scholar. I do think this is a serious women's health issue, however, which is why I've taken the time to respond, despite being sick today. We'll get back to more benign topics soon, but I'm interested in what drives this kind of thinking, and how others respond to it. I don't normally do memes, but I'm hereby tagging the following people to also respond with comments, if they'd be so kind:
Aunt B
And anybody else who wants to.

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MeSH Tags: Rape

Sunday, April 23, 2006

The Heart Truth Road Show in Memphis This Week

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute runs The Heart Truth Road Show, which is currently travelling to cities with populations at high for heart disease to offer education as well as free screenings for diabetes, blood pressure, cholesterol, and body mass index. From April 28-30, the event will be held at the Southland Mall in Memphis, TN:
Friday: 3-9pm
Saturday/Sunday: 12-6pm

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MeSH Tags: Heart Diseases/diagnosis (consumer health subset); Mass Screening

What Do You Think About the Vagina?

9441 women (18–44 years) from 13 countries were asked this question by researchers recently, and the results are published in the May 2006 [73(5):493-500] issue of the journal Contraception. Among the results:

  • "the great majority of women (95%) felt that it was important to be well informed about the vagina"
  • "just under half (47%) of the subjects felt that the vagina is the part of the body that women know least about"
  • "a very high proportion of women (87%) agreed that understanding their vagina will help to improve sexual satisfaction"
  • "When asked if they felt that vaginal health does not receive the attention that it deserves, 66% of the women overall agreed."
  • "Overall, 75% of the women stated that they had experienced a vaginal health problem"
  • "just under 30% of the women overall agreed that they had been told as children that touching their vagina was dirty, nasty or unclean."
  • "The majority of women (65%) felt that society has too many misconceptions about the vagina"
  • "An even larger proportion of women overall (78%) agreed that society's taboos surrounding the vagina contribute to women's ignorance."
  • "The majority of women (72%) chose positive words to describe their vagina. The most popular terms that were selected by women were intimate (51%), sexy (11%) and mysterious (10%). In contrast, only a small proportion (4%) chose negative terms such as troublesome, ugly or unattractive to describe their vagina."
  • "overall, only 39% of the women had ever read an informative article on the vagina"
  • "The majority of women (71%) believed that a tampon could not get lost or trapped within the vagina"
  • "most women (77%) were comfortable discussing their vaginas with female friends... A high level of comfort in talking to partners was observed consistently in all countries... Overall, fewer than 50% of the women were comfortable talking to a HCP about vagina-related issues, and 25% were uncomfortable"

    This last point is the most interesting to me personally. Despite the fact that women were generally comfortable talking to each other or a partner about the vagina, and an average of 75% had experienced vaginal health problems, less than 50% were comfortable talking to their healthcare provider. The women seem to be saying, "We want to know about this, we want to talk about this, and we think there are too many taboos and misconceptions, but we are still not comfortable with our clinicians." Perhaps providers can make adjustments to ensure that women are more comfortable, and try to draw out information that may allow the women to receive better treatment for their conditions.

    Note: the women interviewed were from Austria; Belgium; Brazil; Canada; Finland; France; Germany; Italy; Netherlands; Portugal; Spain; Switzerland; UK.

    Technorati Tags: ; ;
    MeSH Tags: Vagina; Women's Health
  • Teenwire Nominated for Webby Award

    Planned Parenthood's teen-oriented website, Teenwire, has been nominated for a Webby Award in the Education category (not sure why it wasn't Health instead). Teenwire provides sex education and reproductive health information targeted to teenagers, in both English and Spanish language versions. Currently featured on the front page is information on the HPV vaccine, circumcision, and virginity (Read), a question and answers section (Ask), and interactive quiz and other features (Do). An Ask the Experts feature allows teens to get answers to their health questions. My favorite bit of the site so far is "Vulva: An Owner's Manual." Teenwire looks like a good resource for teens and young women who are not getting honest answers to their questions anywhere else.

    In other Planned Parenthood news, Planned Parenthood of Greater Cleveland (not too far from where yours truly went to college) has partnered with a local artist to produce these fun necklaces and earrings as a fundraiser. If anybody is looking for graduation gifts, the brown flower necklace sure is cute. :)

    Are your tax dollars going to fund deceptive clinics?

    Technorati Tags: ; ;
    MeSH Tags: Internet/trends; Sex Education; Planned Parethood (keyword)

    Perhaps They Need a Medical Librarian

    The Well-Timed Period has an interesting critique of both Reuters's and Congress's understanding of the recent deaths thought to be linked to medical abortion.

    The blogger has also taken the NIH to task (background info here and here) for having potentially misleading information on emergency contraception in their page on ectopic pregnancy. The NIH has a whole army of medical librarians, but the content in question comes from A.D.A.M., and non-governmental agency. Feedback can be submitted to the A.D.A.M. editorial team here.

    PS: some of you may be aware that I've been finishing up my Masters in Library and Information Science (with an emphasis on medical librarianship). As of now, I'm done with all of my homework, and will be An Official Librarian at the end of this month. Also, if any of you will be at the MLA conference in Phoenix and want to meet up, let me know in the comments?

    Technorati Tags: ; ; ;
    MeSH Tags: Abortion, Induced; Mifepristone; National Library of Medicine

    Saturday, April 22, 2006

    Template Stuff

    I'm messing around with different options for certain add-ons which cannot be named. If you find them incredibly obnoxious, would you please let me know in the comments? I'm not really happy with the display right now.

    The Unfortunate Experiment

    In looking for a research ethics topic to present at my workplace, I stumbled across a tale of untreated cervical cancer from New Zealand that is stunning. Led by Dr. Herbert Green, the project involved enrolling women with carcinoma in situ (stage 0 cervical cancer) in a study at New Zealand's National Women's Hospital to follow whether they eventually developed invasive cancer. The shocking aspect is that the women were not told that they were in a trial, were not informed of treatment options, and in some cases were not even told about their stage 0 status. The women were subjected to multiple cone and punch biopsies, which were done for monitoring purposes only and not done in a manner that would remove all cancerous cells. The women were then just followed, with no real treatment offered. Some later died of invasive cancer, and the study continued. This experiment went on for over 20 years, and was only made public when two feminist women's health activists broke the story in a lay publication, Metro magazine. A judicial inquiry resulted, and numerous ethical violations were found. For example, Dr. Green's premise was that carcinoma in situ never developed into invasive cancer, despite existing knowledge to the contrary. When cases were found, Dr. Green downplayed the evidence and reclassified those patients as cases of invasive cancer that were missed at the initial diagnosis. Dr. Green also believed that women were simply born with abnormal cervical cells, and that this was no big deal - the inquiry found that, to try to validate this notion, over 2,000 cervical smears were performed on newborn girls without their parents' knowledge or consent.

    I've set up a Flickr set of my slides, which you can also view as a slideshow. I tend not to read my slides directly for presentation, but just to talk about the material and leave the slides as a reference, so you won't get the full effect but rather the bare bones of the story. Some of you might be interested, though, and there is a list of references at the end for further reading.

    If you are interested in this story, I would highly recommend Sandra Coney's book, The Unfortunate Experiment. Coney is one of two authors who broke the story that led to the inquiry, and her book details the major players involved in the research, the effect on the women, and other information. The book is out of print, but you may be able to obtain a copy via your library's interlibrary loan service.

    Technorati Tag: ; ; ;
    MeSH Tags: Research Ethics; Cervical Cancer Inquiry AND New Zealand (keyword)

    Friday, April 21, 2006

    Chances: The Women of Magdalene Showing Tonight, Wednesday

    Chances: The Women of Magdalene is airing tonight at 7 PM in Curb Theatre 16 as part of the Nashville Film Festival. The documentary is airing again at 2:30 PM on Wednesday. It tells the story of women from the local Magdalene House, a "residential housing and recovery program for Nashville women with a criminal history of prostitution and drug abuse."

    The description reads:
    "When you hit Dickerson Road, you know you've hit bottom. The Money Street is a noisy, crowded, garishly lit major street of Nashville that slices through the "other side of town" like a diseased knife. Chances: The Women of Magdelene is about a group of women who know Dickerson all too well but refuse to give up. It is also about one of the most unusual women you will ever meet: the visionary, brilliant, maverick Becca Stevens, who creates an opportunity, a program to help them recover. We hear the women's harrowing stories, go to the streets they walk, and marvel as they create, with top songwriters, original songs about their experiences and perform them in public. Veteran Nashville filmmaker Tom Neff takes us on an inspirational journey with a number of women through various stages of "the life": from those just off the street to those how eager to help give other women a way out. Chances: The Women of Magdelene provides a voice for women who have been silent far too long."

    Magdalene House's website
    Story on Magdalene from the Christian Science Monitor

    Technorati Tags: ; ; ; ;
    MeSH Tags: Prostitution; Residential Treatment; Substance-Related Disorders/rehabilitation

    Thursday, April 20, 2006

    "How Feminism Wages War on Common Sense"

    After the Phil Valentine thing, I'm more than fed up with people who think that women bear the responsibility when they are raped. This editorial by Naomi Shaeffer Riley in the Wall Street Journal, "Ladies, You Should Know Better: How feminism wages war on common sense," is no exception. Says the writer, regarding Daryl Littlejohn's rape and murder of a graduate student, "Ms. St. Guillen was last seen in a bar, alone and drinking at 3 a.m. on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. It does not diminish Mr. Littlejohn's guilt or the tragedy of Ms. St. Guillen's death to note what more than a few of us have been thinking--that a 24-year-old woman should know better."

    More shockingly, "But smart women at top schools are engaging in behavior that is equally moronic. In another recent incident, a cadet at the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn., apparently got so drunk on two liters of wine and a couple of glasses of beer that she didn't know that she had had sex with a Naval Academy midshipman until he told a friend of hers the next day to get her the morning-after pill." Excuse me one moment. If a woman drinks two liters of wine and some beer, she is likely way too drunk to consent to sex. And forgive me for thinking the midshipman likely knew better, in more ways than one. She goes on to quote a survey that found, "Nearly three-quarters of those rapes happened when the victims were so intoxicated they were unable to consent or refuse," and concludes that "feminism may be partly to blame" (b/c those crazy feminists think women should be free to move about without being violated, and should be allowed to drink beer now and again) and "People who need to be told to use their common sense probably didn't have much to begin with."

    Perhaps that midshipman who may have date-raped a drunk cadet and didn't have the guts to tell her directly and the bouncer who raped and killed Ms. St. Guillen should have used some common sense. Or followed the law. The fact that people are even wiling to talk about rape publicly owes much to feminism. Perhaps these women didn't make the best, safest choices. Their attackers didn't make the smartest choices either. Blaming the victim is extraordinarily anti-feminist, and Ms. Riley could herself use a dose of common sense. Tennessee Guerilla Women has a roundup of other similar comments, and rightly points out that this type of victim-blaming is a major barrier to women reporting rape.

    (found via Feministing, who found it via Broadsheet)

    Technorati Tags: ;
    MeSH Tags: Rape

    Wednesday, April 19, 2006

    Resource for Obtaining Free or Reduced Cost Prescription Drugs

    The Partnership for Prescription Assistance (PPARx) website, sponsored by U.S. pharmaceutical companies, is intended to help match patients meeting certain eligibility criteria to public and private programs that provide access to free or reduced cost prescription drugs. I know some of you are involved in healthcare or community service, and thought this might be a useful resource for you. According to a 4/5/06 press release, PPARx estimates that it helped more than two million uninsured and underinsured patients in its first year of operation. The website is divided into three major sections, one each for patients, caregivers, and prescribers. The patient section allows the user to search for or browse an A-Z list of drug/active ingredient names. After locating and selecting the needed medications, the patient may enter details such as age, state of residence, household income, pregnancy status, U.S. residency status and other criteria in order to to view a list of programs for which he or she may be eligible, view details, and print applications for the programs' prescription assistance. Caregivers and prescribers follow the same procedure to determine a patient's eligibility. A complete list of the more than 475 participating programs is available at The PPARx website is also available in a Spanish language version, and users may opt to obtain assistance by calling a toll-free hotline (1-888-4PPA-NOW).

    Technorati Tags: ; ;
    MeSH Tags: Drug Therapy; Prescriptions, Drug

    Tuesday, April 18, 2006

    Phil Valentine is a Jerk...

    ...for saying on his show today that the story of the woman in the Duke lacrosse alleged rape case was automatically suspect because she's a stripper, and that she was crazy for expecting to do her job in front of drinking college boys and not have them go further. Phil prefaced all this with, "I hate to say it" and other such qualifiers. But really, could you get any closer to saying that a woman is automatically a liar and should have expected to be raped because she's a stripper? That if women need to exploit their own bodies in order to survive, they can expect to be sexually assaulted and are guilty of untruths until proven innocent? Please. Would you say the same thing about a Hooters waitress? It's not a very fine line between that and saying any other woman "asked for it" because of what she was wearing. Maybe Phil has been taking too many cues from Rush, who called the woman a "ho."

    I'm not taking a side on the case itself, because I don't think I've heard enough about the evidence to do so. However, I don't think it's a very safe or healthy world for women when the notion of asking for it is acceptable. Oh, and Phil, she's a college student and mother of two. Presumably, she's stripping in order to pull herself up by her bootstraps like you conservatives appreciate so much, and to make a better life for herself and her children. How about laying off until the facts are in?

    Technorati Tags: ; ; ;
    MeSH Tags: Rape

    Breast Cancer Prevention Trial

    This is all over the news, so you may have seen it already: raloxifene, an osteoporosis drug, may also help prevent breast cancer in high risk women and be an alternative to tamoxifen, as it appears to have fewer side effects.

    Keep in mind that these are preliminary results of the STAR trial, taken from the NCI release:
  • "The numbers of invasive breast cancers in both groups of women were statistically equivalent."
  • "women in the raloxifene group had 29 percent fewer deep vein thromboses (blood clots in a major vein) and pulmonary embolisms (blood clots in the lung) than women in the tamoxifen group."
  • "The number of strokes occurring in both groups of women was statistically equivalent."
  • "While tamoxifen has been shown to reduce, by half, the incidence of lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS) and ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), raloxifene did not have an effect on these diagnoses. (LCIS and DCIS are sometimes called noninvasive breast cancers.) Of the 9,726 women taking tamoxifen, 57 developed LCIS or DCIS, compared to 81 of 9,745 taking raloxifene."

    Data was available for 19,471 women enrolled in the STAR trial, and "Women who participated in STAR were postmenopausal, at least 35 years old, and had an increased risk of breast cancer as determined by their age, family history of breast cancer, personal medical history, age at first menstrual period, and age at first live birth." The last of the bullet points above is notable, as it is seemingly the only point on which the drugs were not equivalent, or on which raloxifene did not perform better than tamoxifen. Some coverage of the trial also suggests that women who have already been using tamoxifen for several years may not see major benefits from switching.

    National Cancer Institute
    National Cancer Institute: STAR Questions & Answers
    National Cancer Institute - overview of the STAR trial
    New York Times
    Washington Post
    All Things Considered
    NIH News - National Institutes of Health
    Thoughts of An Average Woman - I disagree with her take on the study's validity, that there is no control in the study, because it seems that tamoxifen is the control. This is not an uncommon study design for comparing a new drug or a new use for a drug to one that is more established for a specific purpose. However, you might enjoy her blog anyway.

    Technorati Tags: ; ; ;
    MeSH Tags: Breast Neoplasms/prevention and control; Raloxifene; Tamoxifen
  • The First NOELLE

    Actually this "maternal and neonatal birthing simulator" from Gaumard Scientific looks to be the 3rd or 4th NOELLE, and believe me, it's the souped up model. For $16,000, NOELLE is designed to provide a realistic childbirth training experience for clinicians, and comes with features such as a laptop, neonate that changes color with ventilation, intubatable airway with chest rise, IV arm, heart sounds, and three vulva for suturing practice! Users can also practice Leopold maneuvers, c-section, and forceps delivery.

    This thing seems like a reasonable idea for training clinicians, and helping them get things right before assisting in real-life births. Is it worth $20,000 to practice on a doll instead of just observing births and being educated in a clinical setting? The CNN article indicates that the trainees learned some things during use of the simulator, but it's not clear whether those could have been equally learned through observation. What effect does it have on trainees and clinicians who may already need to be convinced that not every birth needs to involve being on your back, episiotomy, induced labor, c-section, or well-behaved patients? I don't know. I'd be very interested in what some of my midwife and student midwife readers think about this. Overall, I think practice is good, though.

    On a somewhat related note, blogger Kat of Just Another Pretty Farce was waiting around patiently for me to pick up this story. I appreciated that gesture. If you haven't read her stuff, check it out. I think Kat and I disagree on a lot of things, but I always enjoy her writing and manner. She has pictures of the NOELLE device in action over at her place. For your amusement, I'm including one of the patent drawings instead.

    Technorati Tags: ; ; ;
    MeSH Tags: Education, Medical; obstetric AND simulation (keyword)

    Sunday, April 16, 2006

    Effects of the South Dakota Abortion Ban, and Leslee Unruh

    The New York Times has a piece entitled, "Ripples from Law Banning Abortion Spread Through South Dakota." It's a rather quaint piece, discussing how friends and neighbors are finding themselves politely on different sides of a national debate, and didn't anticipate the reaction the SD ban would provoke across the country. Silent notes on petitions to overturn the ban reading "No abortions. I pray for you," a hairdresser wondering if clients will be offended by the petition, and "Many said they had been swamped with phone calls and e-mail messages (some supportive; others not) from relatives and friends in other states, and only then recognized the significance of what was happening." The article goes on to explain that South Dakota's upcoming elections may be more exciting than previously anticipated.

    What the article does not do is talk about the effects of the ban on actual women who find themselves in the position of having an unplanned pregnancy. The only portion even touching on this issue is in the last paragraph:

    "But a woman from Rapid City, on the state's western edge, drove alone for more than five hours in March to have an abortion at the Planned Parenthood clinic. The woman, who is in her 30's and said she feared for her safety if her name was used in this article, went to the clinic the very day Governor Rounds signed the ban.

    Had the law been in effect, she said, she still would have found a way — legal or not — to have an abortion. 'Once that type of decision is made, it's going to be done,' she said. 'Are we really going to go that route?'"

    One interesting bit of the article:
    "Less than two miles from the Planned Parenthood clinic, between a taco shop and a carwash, another bland building houses Alpha Health Services, whose sign promises 'Free pregnancy tests, abortion information and S.T.D. testing.'

    Once an abortion clinic, this is now home to the projects of Leslee J. Unruh, one of the most vocal leaders of the effort to ban abortion here. Ms. Unruh, who said she had had an abortion in the late 1970's and regretted it deeply, said 6,000 women came here each year for ultrasound tests, counseling and other assistance."

    Of course, women stopping at the Alpha Health Services house are going to get one type of abortion message - don't do it. What the story doesn't mention (and the sign doesn't give away) is that Ms. Unruh is founder and president of the Abstinence Clearinghouse. The group has issued position statements as follows:

    "The arousal response in individuals is the most easily trained response in the human body. Sexual self stimulation along with fantasy or pornography can actually train a person to bond to pictures, objects, ect., and may eventually leave the person unable to respond sexually to a real person....This practice should not be encouraged as a “safe” sexual practice."

    "Friendship with another person of the same sex is healthy, but does not need sexual activity to validate its importance. Research shows the homosexual lifestyle is not a healthy alternative for males or females."

    Sexually Transmitted Diseases
    Uh, this "position statement" only talks about how "The term STD is being changed by some to read to read as STI (Sexually Transmitted Infection).The term STI was chosen to play down the gravity of STDs. Abstinence Clearinghouse will continue to promote the use of the term Sexually Transmitted Disease."
    Nothing there on prevention - good job, ladies.

    Images in Educational Materials
    "Neurochemical science affirms all imagery is real to the brain whether the setting is scientific, educational or pornographic. Diagrams of internal organs are acceptable, but images or pictures of external genitalia in any form, whether diseased or healthy, can be determined to the health of young men and women’s minds."
    Should we all be prevented from ever seeing our own genitalia then?

    Looks like women seeing the sign at Alpha Health are going to get an agenda along with their "information." I don't have a problem with Ms. Unruh and the Abstinence Clearinghouse doing whatever they want. I do have a problem with promising patients "information" while promoting an agenda that thinks even seeing a clinical photo of external anatomy is damaging. Other parts of the AC site talk about how premarital sex and cohabiting lead to "emotional scars, substance abuse, domestic violence, child abuse, divorce and much more" without considering the difference between correlation and causation. That's not information - that's a a deliberate attempt to withhold information, which is never appropriate for healthcare providers. We can argue whether Planned Parenthood also has an agenda (hey, read that interview with the local PP's Mark Huffman), but they're fairly well know and don't tend to deliberately attempt to deceive potential clients on their roadside signage and withhold accurate information from patients.

    For added insult, Unruh submitted a statement for the record to the House Ways and Means Committee's Subcommittee on Human Resources for their 11/15/01 hearing on teen pregnancy prevention. Her statement included a cartoon, which equated contracpetives for pregnancy prevention and clean needles for HIV prevention to handing out free boxing gloves for domestic violence prevention. Very classy, Ms. Unruh.

    Technorati Tags: ; ; ;
    MeSH Tags: Abortion, Induced; Masturbation; Sex Education; Sexual Abstinence; South Dakota

    Peeps Research

    See what happens when Peeps take over a library

    Okay, it's not women's health, or even health, related. To fill the gap, find out why Peeps shouldn't smoke and drink.

    This bit of silliness is brought to you by the letter L, as in "one more presentation to go and I'll be an official librarian with a capital L." Woo-hoooo!

    Thursday, April 13, 2006

    LactMed - Drug Reference for Breastfeeding

    LactMed is a new database provided by the National Library of Medicine as part of the TOXNET toxicology data network. Don't let that scare you away - this is a fairly easy-to-use resource that provides basic information on the safety of drugs in breastfeeding. Simply put a drug name in the search box and select from the results to view information on drug levels and effects, effects in breastfed infants, possible effects on lactation, and alternative drugs to consider. References are included.

    For example, I entered Tylenol in the search box. The first search result was acetaminophen, the active ingredient in Tylenol. I clicked on that, and found out that, "Acetaminophen is a good choice for analgesia, and fever reduction in nursing mothers. Amounts in milk are much less than doses usually given to infants. Adverse effects in breastfed infants appear to be rare." Very cool.

    As another example, say you enter "chemotherapy" in the search box. The first result is the very popular Tamoxifen (often used in breast cancer patients). Click on the record to find out, "Since tamoxifen can suppress postpartum lactation and its excretion into breastmilk is not known, it should be avoided in nursing mothers."

    This a very interesting resource. It is brand new, so it may not yet include every possible drug. However, it's worth a look.

    PS - One other useful TOXNET-related resource is the Household Products Database. You can search or browse for products and ingredients to find out about common household products such as beauty products, pet supplies, cleaning aids, and others. For example, click here to find out about the acute and chronic health effects, carcinogenicity (cancer-causing potential), flammability, handling, and disposal of Crest White Strips - it even tells you what to do if you somehow get them in your eye or eat them. Good information for parents with kids inclined to eat, spill, or touch things. That would be all of them. :)

    Technorati Tags: ; ; ; ;
    MeSH Tags: Hazardous Substances; Household Products; Lactation/drug effects; Milk, Human/drug effects

    Get Your Own Speculum!

    The Feminist Women's Health Center website has information on a variety of reproductive health topics, including abortion, birth control, menstruation, and menopause. However, because of my combined interest in women's health and any type of gadget, I was most excited by this. That's right - you can buy your own speculum, and use it to get better acquainted with your insides. Directions for performing a self-cervical exam are also provided.

    One thing I discovered in searching online for speculum vendors is that some people use them as sex toys. Who knew?

    Technorati Tags: ;
    MeSH Tags: Cervix Uteri

    SJR127 Dies in Committee

    The City Paper has the story on the failure of SJR127, which would have ultimately amended the TN constitution to state that it provides no protections for abortions, following House approval and a vote. The bill failed to make it out of the Public Health and Family Assistance subcommittee of the Health & Human Resources Committee. Inexplicably, I can't find it anywhere on The Tennessean's website. According to the City Paper's article:

    "The final vote on the amendment was 4-3 not in favor of SJR 127. Rep. Mary Pruitt (D-Nashville), who had previously opposed the amendment, abstained. Votes not in favor of the amendment were from Representatives Lois DeBerry (D-Memphis), Sherry Jones (D-Nashville), Beverly Marrero (D-Memphis) and Joanne Favors (D-Chattanooga). Votes for the amendment were from Representatives Tre Hargett (R-Bartlett), Jason Mumpower (R-Bristol) and Debra Maggart (R-Hendersonville)."

    Raise your hand if you were shocked that this was a party-line vote. Nobody? I didn't think so.

    Previous post related to the resolution, and another.

    Technorati Tags: ; ; ; ; ;
    MeSH Tags: Abortion/legislation and jurisprudence

    Monday, April 10, 2006

    Glamour Magazine Takes On Women's Health & Politics

    Glamour magazine, typically home to your how-to-please-your-man, how-to-look-perfect fluff, takes a feminist-type stance in a current article, The New Lies About Women's Health." The piece tackles the FDA's political stalling on emergency contraception, concerns about access to EC for rape victims, anti-condom propaganda, abstinence-only sex education, legislation that requires promotion of a false link between breast cancer and abortion, and the hindrance of medical research on political grounds. The magazine's website is also featuring 6 ways to help women in need, with information on charities such as a women's crisis center in Pakistan, help with eating disorders, and reconstructive surgery for domestic violence victims. Rock on, Glamour. Be warned, however - the photo accompanying the article features naked behind, for some inexplicable reason.

    Salon's Broadsheet also covers the article - the comments are the most interesting part. Feminists often dismiss magazines such as Glamour, for sensible reasons. One commenter, though, made an interesting point that she grew up in a religious home where sex was off-limits and not discussed, and she actually learned about condoms, birth control, STDs, and Planned Parenthood via Cosmo. Something to ponder.

    (found via Feministe)

    Technorati Tags: ; ; ; ; ; ; ;
    MeSH Tags: Abortion, Induced; Condoms; Contraception, Postcoital; Reproductive Rights

    Lamaze Blog

    The Lamaze Institute for Normal Birth hosts a blog, that of Charlotte DeVries, one author of The Official Lamaze Guide: Giving Birth with Confidence. I'm not terribly familiar with lamaze, but you might want to check it out.

    Technorati Tags: ;
    MeSH Tags: Lamaze (keyword)

    Searching for Free Articles Online

    Okay, so you want to find journal articles on a women's health topic. How do you find free full-text articles online?

    PubMed is the major database indexing articles in the health sciences. It includes more than 12 million citations and abstracts for articles from almost 5,000 journals. Many of these citations are to journals that require a subscription for access. You can of course work with your librarian to obtain copies of journal articles that are not free. However, here are some search strategies for finding free full-text online, using PubMed's search limits. This list will also give you a good idea of the kinds of terminology used in the database, which typically uses clinical/technical language.

    Note: These links will lead largely to research journals. More on limiting to consumer health-oriented pieces in another next post. Keep in mind, also, that these free full-text articles may be older in some cases, as some journals only make articles free after a year or so. If you want to see the results with all articles (not just free ones), delete the "AND "loattrfree full text"[sb]" portion of the search and rerun it.

    Click on any word or phrase to go straight to a list of citations in PubMed for free English-language full-text articles:
  • Abortion, Induced
  • Abortion, Spontaneous (i.e., miscarriage)
  • Body Image
  • Breast Feeding
  • Breast Neoplasms (neoplasms=cancer)
  • Cesarean Section
  • Circumcision, Female
  • Contraception
  • Contraception, Postcoital (emergency contraception)
  • Depression, Postpartum
  • Domestic Violence
  • Dysmenorrhea
  • Eating Disorders
  • Endometriosis
  • Episiotomy
  • Heart Diseases (lots of results; you'd probably want to zero in on a specific type)
  • Home Childbirth
  • Infertility, Female
  • Labor, Obstetric
  • Lung Neoplasms
  • Menarche
  • Menstruation
  • Menstruation Disturbances
  • Mental Disorders (also very broad)
  • Ovarian Neoplasms
  • Overweight
  • Poverty
  • Pregnancy
  • Rape
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases
  • Smoking Cessation
  • Thyroid Diseases
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms
  • Uterine Neoplasms
  • Vaginal Birth After Cesarean

    Technorati Tags: ; ; ;
  • Quick Hits

    Sunday, April 09, 2006

    Scenes From a Marriage

    [somehow the topic of my cervix came up]

    Me: You want to see it? I can show it to you.
    The Extraordinary Husband: Uh, no.
    Me: If you won't look at my cervix, I'm never having your babies.
    TEH: Okay, but not tonight, okay?


    Liberadio(!)'s Interview with Planned Parenthood's Mark Huffman

    Local radio show Liberadio(!) conducted an interview on 3/23/06 with Mark Huffman, Vice President of Education and Training for Planned Parenthood of Middle & East Tennessee. The audio of the show is available here as an mp3. Because the show doesn't offer transcripts, and I thought some people would like to or benefit from reading Mark's comments, Mary graciously agreed to let me transcribe the piece. And hey, I just like to read things instead of listening to them. It is not a perfect transcription - I've left out some filler words (like "uh" and "you know") and break announcements, and may have inadvertently changed a couple of things, but I'm certain I haven't changed the meaning. I've also added in links in a few appropriate places. Mark Huffman's responses have been bolded. Click on the read more link at the bottom to view the entire transcript.

    MM: Mary Mancini, co-host
    FO: Freddie O’Connell, co-host
    MH: Mark Huffman, Vice President of Education and Training for Planned Parenthood of Middle & East Tennessee

    FO: Can you take just a few moments to talk about what Planned Parenthood is and does, and what the local affiliate is working on?

    MH: Basically, Planned Parenthood is an organization that has local affiliates across the country. It also has a national wing to it as well. It’s an organization that’s concerned about reproductive and sexual health care, and so we focus our activities in three areas. One is medical services – we have routine gynecological care for women, sexual health care for women, and men as well, birth control services, testing for STDs, HIV, pregnancy testing. Most Planned Parenthoods provide first trimester abortion and also referrals for adoption services and referrals for prenatal care. We also have education departments across the country here very active in the Middle Tennessee area and in Knoxville where we see about 7,000 to 8,000 teens, young adults, and professionals each year. With teens and young adults, we’re speaking to them specifically about how to protect themselves, how to say no to unwanted sexual behaviors, how to postpone sex for teens, and also about healthy relationships and other matters within the broad realm of sexuality. And then we do a lot of advocacy, as you all well know, rights regarding abortion, unfortunately even rights regarding receiving birth control and emergency contraception are being threatened, and also there’s a huge debate going on about sex education and the so-called abstinence only brand of sex education versus comprehensive, and we’re right in the thick of that as well.

    MM: That all sounds reasonable

    MH: What sounds reasonable?

    MM: Just everything when you said the services that Planned Parenthood provides. So why do people hate you guys so much?

    MH: Well, first of all because we take a firm stand that says that when a woman is facing unplanned pregnancy, we think it is she who should decide what to do, and so obviously there are a lot of folks out there who believe very strongly that she should not be allowed to decide, that abortion should be off the table for her The range of opinions in that camp ranges from some folks who think there should be exceptions in terms of rape incest, things like that, to more extreme voices that say absolutely no exceptions – if a woman is pregnant then that pregnancy needs protection and she needs to carry that to term. So that’s one of the voices out there

    MM: So they’re really just concentrating on that one aspect of what Planned Parenthood does rather than looking at the organization as a whole?

    MH: Well, no. That’s actually not the case. Regarding sexuality education, although I argue it’s all connected, but regarding sexuality education Planned Parenthood’s philosophy is young people need, deserve, and can handle accurate, thorough information. That includes information about abstinence, it includes lots of skills about saying no, it also would include skills and information about how to protect themselves should they become sexually active. There are many folks who claim falsely that what Planned Parenthood actually wants folks to do is get pregnant and that Planned Parenthood wants teens to be running around with anyone that they can and that’s absolutely not the case. Actually in the sex ed debate what’s ironic is that the programs that have actually been proven to achieve abstinence, that is, after the kids go through this program they are less likely to have sex, those programs are the ones that Planned Parenthood endorses, ones that include both information about abstinence and contraception and other forms of protection

    FO: I would suspect based on the manner and level of attacks that are cast against you by the opposition on a number of these issues that the popular perception of Planned Parenthood is, for instance, not that it also offers referrals for adoption services and those sorts of things or that it offers gynecological exams and other services that are specifically healthcare related. Do you feel, is that something that is of concern to you as Vice President of Education and Training – do you feel that you have an uphill battle to talk about the extended mission of Planned Parenthood when it is so often cast just in terms of the debate movement or the sex education movement, or the abortion rights movement and sex education movement?

    MH: Well we certainly don’t apologize for standing up for the right of a woman to have an abortion, and having said that though, yeah, we would like people to get an accurate picture. What’s interesting though is that when you look at polls and stuff, most of your average folks look at Planned Parenthood and think of Planned Parenthood very positively. It’s interesting because if you look at the media, the voices in the media are those controversial voices, those more extreme voices, and so it’s actually kind of hard to get a gauge on where people are in general. I mean, we have thousands of women coming to us every year, we talk to a lot of older women who say that during their younger years they used Planned Parenthood services of all kinds and so it’s a little bit schizophrenic, but we are heartened that most folks not only know the good that Planned Parenthood does, but actually most folks agree in regard to the public policy stances that we take.

    FO: Alright, well you mentioned that one of the things that you all work on is advocacy and education for abortion rights, and clearly after South Dakota this has gotten a lot of attention in a number of states as there is based on this effort to ban abortion in terms of legislation in South Dakota that there are going to be several direct attacks on Roe vs. Wade as a judicial standpoint but right now we’re dealing with a bill that has gotten a lot of press here SJR127. Can you tell us a little bit about that and what it calls for and what happens next and when could this process actually begin to affect the lives of Tennesseans?

    MH: Well what SJR127 is is a resolution that would put on a public referendum the question as to whether Tennessee’s constitution protects the privacy of a woman who’s facing unplanned pregnancy Currently the Tennessee constitution as interpreted by the Tennessee Supreme Court grants a lot of privacy, which we think is a good thing – Tennessee is about individual rights and about privacy rights and so the current Tennessee Constitution as it reads grants a lot of privacy regarding these decisions. In other words, the Tennessee Supreme Court has rightly kept these decisions in the hands of individual women who are faced with unplanned pregnancy What some folks in the legislature are trying to do is get the Tennessee constitution amended and this resolution, the language of the resolution basically says that the constitution would be amended in a way that basically says that the constitution neither guarantees nor secures any right to abortion or the funding thereof.

    FO: And it’s specific about that language it’s not just that there’s no.. it lays out a number of things that privacy’s not included this is something that is just very specific on one issue.

    MH: Right, it’s a very specific statement regarding just one area of privacy
    And so it’s kind of a complicated process but essentially what happens is if these resolutions pass in both houses for two years in a row then, and by certain margins, it would go then before the people in a statewide referendum during the next governor race gubernatorial race This would be 2010 because for 2008 it hasn’t met the requirements to get on that ballot so we are talking long term, but short term it’s part of a huge effort and actually there are lots of other bills before the legislature that would further chip away at rights as well, and so SJR127 was the big focus because the Senate passed it for the second time, it now goes before the House and I’m not exactly sure in what committee or subcommittee it’s going to be heard yet. The deadline for filing legislation was just recently so we’re not sure exactly what’s going to happen with that. Last year, though, it was defeated in a subcommittee, that is the subcommittee kicked the resolution out but it was defeated basically on a vote of 5 to 4 so it was a very slim margin – it came very close to passing last year as well.

    MM: And they just keep bringing it back

    MH: They just keep bringing it back.

    FO: And what do you think, I mean, do you have an outlook on whether it’s likely to reach the floor of the House for a full vote this year?

    MH: Well, apparently. I’m not a political expert so I don’t know for sure, but apparently there are some sneaky measures where a bill can get taken out of a subcommittee, go to the House, the floor of the House anyway, that kind of thing. I can say this, that folks who want this resolution to pass, this resolution that would amend the constitution, are going to stop at nothing – they will try every trick every rule everything they can to get it forward.

    FO: Well it seems to me that there is an incredible amount of energy being expended in this process of halting abortion across the board, I mean in terms of judicial activism in supporting Governors and Presidents who are going to appoint people to various positions, that has changed the quality and type of sex education available that there are so many people who are vigorously pro-life and yet we still look at the numbers and there are, even just in terms of abortion, there are 800,000 a year and it seems like there’s less energy or at least public energy focused on the process of preventing unplanned pregnancy. Shouldn’t we be treating the causes rather than the symptoms?

    MH: Oh absolutely, and I think that’s the big irony in this (MO: irony, he’s so polite. I have a few other words that you could perhaps use but go ahead with the irony) Yeah, I mean, essentially we have the tools that could render this whole question practically moot and there are countries currently today that have already done that (MO: those darn Scandinavians) Yes. Basically we know that when women have easy access to birth control services, women and men, we know that when kids have good thorough sex education their unwanted pregnancy rates plummet, their STD rates plummet, their HIV rate plummets, the abortion rate plummets. When you look at countries like France, the Netherlands, and Germany and their teen pregnancy rate is fractions of what it is here in the United States, and then when you look at their policies, you know how much information there are teens getting about sexuality. I mean, they have condom vending machines out on the streets, they have TV programs that actually teach kids how to make out. I'm not saying that we necessarily need to be doing that. What I’m saying is that folks that think that information is going to lead to promiscuity are just wrong. I think we can all understand as folks who maybe have teens in our lives or kids in our lives that when we think about, “Gosh I’d give them this information, is that giving them permission?” we kind of understand that feeling in our gut, but it just doesn’t bear out in terms of statistics. The countries that have the lowest abortion rates, the countries that have the lowest STD rates, lowest teen pregnancy rates, lowest unplanned pregnancy rates are ones that are very liberal in their policies in terms of information and access to these services. We could do it here – in fact we’ve done it – I mean there have been states that have experimented with it, their teen pregnancy rates have gone down. For philosophical reasons those programs have been slashed and their teen pregnancy rates go right back up. Here in the United States and in Tennessee, for the last ten years teen pregnancy rates have been going down, and it’s because teens have more access to birth control, it’s because they have support for remaining abstinent if that’s their choice, and yet for some reason many folks are thinking that if we do not absolutely only preach abstinence that you know, that the world, that the country’s going to go to hell.

    MM: What is the reason? Is it based on religious grounds primarily that they object to this education? Is it based on they want their kids to be taught these things at home and not in public schools, if you’re even talking about extending these programs into public schools or having them available at public schools, or is it a combination of all that?

    MH: I think it’s a combination of all of that and certainly again, like for example parents who think that their kids ought to get this at home and not in school. That’s not a terribly unreasonable argument, but interestingly our current policies have allowed for that for years, that we need to get permission (MM: they can opt out in health class?) Sure, that’s always been the policy. Certainly a certain type of religious view supports these folks in their quest to kind of get information and skills out of the schools and so yeah I think it has to do a lot with certain fundamentalist interpretations of Christianity and its mostly that kind of faith.

    MM: Is it that they’d rather have that faith and turn a blind eye to studies and numbers, proof that programs that Planned Parenthood supports work, so it’s up to you to educate parents as well as educating…

    MH: Absolutely and I think you know at a real broad philosophical level there’s this pervasive sense in our society where we have trouble with the notion of sex.

    FO: You’re chuckling already, Mary, and all he did was say it.

    MM: Well no, I, just if you watch TV during prime time, it just seems that we don’t have too much trouble with the concept of it.

    MH: Here again is the irony.

    MM: yeah

    MH: And I think what happens is that the concept of sex taps into, and this is just some armchair psychology here, it taps into a lot of fear, it taps into a lot of shame. The same way with the.. you all were talking about the Iraq war earlier it taps into our fear and…

    FO: the Iraq war is like sex (laughter)

    MH: I mean, we are in a time when there’s lots of change and there are lots of images on the media that do scare us and should concern us, and so what happens though is this polarization where on the one side you have a movement to get back to total silence, to take this stuff completely out of the picture which is unrealistic, then you have…

    MM: You mean if you don’t take it completely out kids kids will stop having sex? Won’t they, when you remove it, they’ll just stop?

    MH: Right. That’s exactly what I’m saying – sex has happened since the beginning of time, and it wil,l and then you have on the other hand these media messages out there and we all know what they are, but if you just went with that, if you just went with, you know, do what feels good and that kind of stuff, you would have rampant problems. What we don’t have is, we don’t have a conversation in the middle where it’s sober, it’s realistic, but it’s also nonjudgmental, nonpunitive, nonshameful, and that’s what we’re desperately needing, and in my mind that’s what Planned Parenthood does provide is you know we aren’t for no limits but we also aren’t for unrealistic expectations that ignorance can solve problems.


    FO: So I’m curious to know how often you personally as your role in Planned Parenthood actually directly encounter debate either in terms of needing to do research. I’m sure that you have opportunities to do opposition research. What happens – is there ever any discussion, because I don’t hear about it, about what would happen in the aftermath. I mean let’s say the pro-life community was successful let’s say abortion was halted across the board in the United States and all of the sudden we’re dealing with the 800,000 women or so in this country that are still faced with unplanned and perhaps unwanted pregnancy – what happens then? It seems like the social safety net would just have to grow tremendously, and often this crowd is the same crowd that is fairly conservative politically, in a conservative movement that has worked to shrink the size of the safety net. Is this a role for compassionate conservatism? Do you hear people talking about what options there are for people in a United States with no abortion rights?

    MM: And before you answer that question, that was a mouthful by the way, I just want to read something about Governor Mike Rounds who signed the bill in South Dakota into law, where he said when he signed the bill, ironically, that the true test of a civilization was how it treated the most vulnerable and the helpless including unborn children, but his state has hardly been a leader in protecting vulnerable children who have left the womb. The nation’s three worst counties for child poverty at the time of the last census were all in South Dakota, according to the Children’s Defense Fund. Buffalo County, home to the Crow Creek Indian Reservation, was dead last.

    MH: Yeah, I’m sure there are some folks out there who are opposed to abortion who sincerely and consistently with their beliefs would do what they could to step up. Unfortunately, as Mary just read, many of the most strident voices probably would not, and so, yeah, I think we would see a lot more stress on the social services to take care of low income folks who are just destitute in terms of their resources.

    MM: The dwindling social services.

    MH: Yeah, yeah.

    FO: Is this, is there something there, I mean do you ever see it presented as a full policy package by anybody from the opposition side in terms of the abortion or even sex education debate? To say it’s very easy, and you hear often that, it’s like we are, you know, vigorously opposed to abortion rights, but then what? I mean is there ever a complete package?

    MM: Yeah, and it’s not just then, what but what to we do to prevent the unplanned pregnancies to begin, with which is also being legislated access to birth control and stuff like that?

    FO: In terms of thinking through what happens, I mean, its clear that the emphasis right now is on halting abortion altogether and so, yeah, the immediate question is then what? I still think there’s a lot of room in the debate for talking about prevention and that sort of thing, but it they’re moving straight to this point clearly that’s not what’s on the focus but then what?

    MH: No movement is absolutely monolithic and so, for example, I’ve heard some Catholic voices who seem to have, in my mind, a more seamless and consistent ethic that says, “Yes we are opposed to abortion,” but they also back policies that many folks would call actually very liberal in terms of social services safety nets and things like that. And so again you have some voices arguing that way on the other hand connected more with the “its not just about abortion” but its kind of the anti-birth control, and if you keep going up the chain, anti-sex ethic that basically sees having a baby out of wedlock or an STD or HIV almost in a kind of valid punishment philosophy where, you know, she should have though of that before she laid down, she made her bed she needs to lie in it. Where children, STDs, HIV, and all kinds of other hardships are seen as just punishment, and that to me is the real fearful part of this, because I think what we’re seeing in many ways is a movement to say, you know, if you have our same ethical practices, if you have our same moral beliefs then you deserve good services, you deserve this, you deserve that, but if you don’t, and if you’ve proven that by getting pregnant, if you’ve proven that by getting an STD, then you’re basically kind of “those people.”

    MM: Well, how do those people, or how do the people that you describe that believe that, how would they… I guess I know the answer to this, but I’m going to ask you anyway. How would they confront an issue of a pregnant woman who was pregnant by rape or by incest? We hear that all the time, you know, exceptions for rape and exceptions for incest victims – how do they…

    MH: Well, there are some in the House debates I believe last year about SJR127, again this is the amendment, the resolution that would amend the constitution to take away any guarantee or secure any right to abortion, there’s been lots of debate about “shouldn’t we throw in there an exception in terms of rape or incest?” There were actually people arguing at that time, fortunately not a majority, that said that if a woman is raped, her unborn child should not bear the punishment of that, and in fact some people were saying that if a woman is raped then a good part of her healing would be to actually bear that child. Now, I’m not actually a rape treatment expert, I’m not a psychologist, and I do know that there have been individuals who individually will say “I chose to have this child and it did help my healing,” but it’s safe to say that that is not the majority of folks, and so what I think some people would have is a situation where women are basically forced to bear the child of their attacker, forced to bear the child of their father who incested them, and so and they would just basically say at that point, “I guess you know, honey, this is part of your healing,” and there’s no reason to punish the child by “killing the child.”

    MM: Okay, I’m gonna turn this from a reasonable debate at this point, which it’s been thanks to Mark, totally into an unreasonable one because it…

    FO: Are we gonna have to turn your mike off?

    MM: You might have to and I apologize in advance but this exception…

    FO: remember the FDA or FAA regulations…

    MM: FCC [laughter, more on the acronyms]
    That the legislature is even willing to think about these exceptions, to me makes it very self-evident that this shouldn’t even be an issue that’s legislated. This should be an issue that should be between a woman and her doctor, it’s a healthcare issues, it’s a medical issue, it’s a psychological issue in cases of rape and incest, that these people who are trying to legislate are willing to even make these exceptions is clear to me that it’s not their decision, because I mean when you make one exception, well then whose decision is it to make another exception for another woman’s situation?

    MH: Well ironically that’s exactly the point that Senator Fowler, the biggest backer of this resolution, made on the Senate floor last week. He said, “You know, those of you who want exceptions, you’re saying there’s a chink here and you’re saying that in some cases you are willing to regulate and say no, and some cases you aren’t. I say let’s be consistent.” “I say,” said Senator Fowler, “let’s outlaw, let’s have this amendment be clean and basically have it say no right to abortion,” and he said my… for example on partial birth abortion, he said my policy is no exceptions absolutely and he hasn’t…

    MM: But he’s a man! I’m sorry (FO: hang on let’s…) that’s another issue is that this is a man, he doesn’t have a uterus.

    FO: Mary’s being unreasonable brings the debate back to the focal point of definitions so for mary clearly life and the…

    MM: I’m just saying, if you don’t want an abortion don’t have one. That’s my point, but go ahead.

    FO: Okay, well, if you don’t want to murder, don’t kill someone. I mean, that’s the other side of that point, so the question becomes, “does life begin at conception, delivery, somewhere in between, does it matter?”

    MH: Well let me back up a second here, I can’t resist [laughter]. But actually you’re right. I mean, obviously Mary I agree with you and here’s the thing – is that this is an issue that people are faced with and society is faced with, and no matter how you look at it, it absolutely cannot be a black and white, what I call a “bumper sticker answer” issue. There are shades of grey, and that’s my whole argument, is let’s take the one size fits all laws off the table because they answer the question for everyone, and in a way that takes away their rights. And when you have a person faced with an unplanned pregnancy, you have a developing fetus, and you have a woman, and there is no other analogous human situation that we can draw upon to give us an absolute answer here. And so I think that we actually have currently the best solution, and that is we, except for the resources for it, we have means to prevent unplanned pregnancy, we have means to educate people, we have folks arguing from the pulpit, arguing from tracts, arguing from philosophical debates about why we should be thinking deeply about these issues. Sure, that’s all fine and good and when the push comes to shove, when the final decision comes, let’s allow her that decision, because otherwise you trample on her rights, and so I agree with you, it is a grey issue – we can’t, we shouldn’t be absolutist about it.

    FO: The problem being though, I think, and this is where the debate starts and I think will never end, is that there are, I mean, on the other side are the people that are saying this is a crime. I mean, what you’re saying and what Mary is ranting about, it has no answer for the people who will call abortion murder. In fact, this very weekend I was at a party where somebody whirled around jumped into a conversation where we weren’t even really talking about this, and “Women’s rights my ass,” and this was a woman, “You’re killing someone,” and how do you respond to that?

    MH: First of all we need to go to “when does life begin?” and all that kind of stuff. That’s not a scientific question, that’s a theological, that’s a moral, that’s a philosophical question, and we live in a country where we embrace diversity on those issues, (MM: well in theory anyways) and so we need to protect women’s rights. Second of all, let’s say for the sake of argument that it is, well, we do as a society grant the right to kill. We grant the President to order the deaths of our enemies, and so it comes down to then, to me a trust in the ability of a person to make a moral decision, and I think we need to trust women who are in this situation. These are women who are not, as I said in my speech last week, these are women who are not immoral, they’re not sluts, they are not criminals. They are women who are desperately trying to make a good decision. In many cases they are making the decision on behalf of the children they’re already taking care of or they’re making the decision on behalf of the children they wish to have in the future and truly care for in a very effective and wonderful and nurturing way. These are not women who are coming to Planned Parenthood or another agency and saying, “I want to kill someone today.” What they are saying is, I’m in a situation where there is no easy answer here and I’m contemplating having a child, which is going to have many, many joys to it and many, many headaches to it and many, many complications. They’re contemplating having an abortion, which may have some negative consequences in terms of their feelings and their well being, and its also though if they did this, then they are going to be in a situation where later on they can make wiser decision. Or they’re contemplating adoption, which is going to have again many areas that can bring them joy and pride in terms of giving their baby to someone who can truly take care of it, but its also going to have many areas of grief and remorse, and so there’s no easy out here. And we have a developing fetus and an adult woman, or at least a teenage woman, and so what do we as a society do about that? What we need to do is educate.

    MM: Educate not legislate right?

    MH: Right. Absolutely we can have voices out there that are trying to persuade in a thoughtful and sensitive way, but what we need to do is, we need to give her a place to truly be safe in voicing all of her concerns. We need to give her a place that’s legal, that’s regulated, so that she knows that the healthcare she’s getting is good quality healthcare, and you can’t do that if you make abortion illegal. There are many women actually who come into Planned Parenthood and change their minds. They came in thinking they wanted to have an abortion, but what they’ve discovered after they talk with us for a while is that, “You know what, I was being rash about this – for me I’m thinking I need to have this baby.”

    MM: That’s funny, you don’t hear that story very often about Planned Parenthood.

    MH: Actually – in fact this is a true story – several years ago I was in the break room at work one day, and around lunchtime somebody came in, a counselor, in tears, and I thought, “Oh boy, tough client” kind of thing, and she said “No no no, actually I got a phone call from someone that was here about a year ago,” and this counselor – I’m going to make up her name – this counselor’s name was Tammy, and she said “You know about a year ago a woman came in, she was asking all kinds of questions she, was talking about her situation and I picked up that she was ambivalent and I told her that. I said ‘You know you don’t seem to really have made up your mind that this is the best choice for you. Why don’t you take a few days’.” And she did – the woman never came back. Tammy never heard from her again until a year later when the woman called and said, “I just want you to know that I have a daughter named Tammy now because you thoughtfully helped me look at all of my emotions here. You thoughtfully helped me look at all of my considerations, and I made the best decision for me.” If abortion were driven underground, that woman would have had an abortion. That woman would have been ushered into a room very quickly or handed pills to take in a back alley very quickly. She would not have been asked how she feels about this, she would not have been asked “What are you thinking? What are your morals around this?” She would have had to have made a very rash decision that she probably would have regretted for the rest of her life. Instead, because abortion is legal now and it’s safe now, she had a place to come and truly find out what was best for her.

    MM: You mentioned the remarks you made last week at a press conference rally on the day that SJR127 was passed. Before we take a break if it’s okay I just want to read a little bit of your remarks: “When a woman is sitting in her doctor’s exam room nervously awaiting the results of a pregnancy test, and that pregnancy is unplanned, a lot of things may be going through her head and heart. One woman may be calculating what it would take to raise a child or another child, worried about how she would make ends meet. Another may need information to clarify what she’s heard about prenatal care, childbirth, parenting, adoption, or abortion. Still another may be starting to feel joy as she discovers that, though she wasn’t planning this, this may be good news after all and she can’t wait to tell the father. One may be in turmoil over moral questions, ‘What is the right thing to do?’ Another may be wondering if her partner will be there for her. Still another may be grieving because she and her husband want more children but her health makes it dangerous for her to have a baby at this time. What is not going through these women’s minds, what they are not pondering in their heart is, “I wonder what my President, I wonder what my Governor, I wonder what my state representative would have me do. Maybe I should call one of them.”


    MM: I read those comments before the break – you wanted to comment a little bit?

    MH: I think one thing that’s happened over the years is that women faced with unplanned pregnancy who are making these decisions have been painted in a certain light, at least in the abstract, and that is that they are women who either are facing an unplanned pregnancy because of something greatly immoral that they have done, or that they’re facing an unplanned pregnancy and, poor dears, they need our guidance. And many times, absolutely they need information, many times absolutely they need support, but what’s gotten lost is the fact that if this many women are having abortions each year then these are regular James out there. These are not victims, these are not helpless, hapless women – these are women who can take this grave matter in their own hands and they can make a good, thoughtful decision about it. And for the most part these women that are making this decision are making a decision based on their morals and they are thinking about the families they would like to have in the future or they are thinking about the families that they already have, and so I think that this abstract notion of the woman in the abortion clinic is this political pawn that’s been batted around, and what we need to do is get back to the fact that these are real women. And if statistics bear out then virtually all of us either know someone who has had an abortion, know someone in our family who has had an abortion, and so we need to realize that “these women” that we’re talking about are actually our sisters, our daughters, our mothers, our wives, our partners, whatever. These are real people making this decision and we need to trust them with this, and that’s what’s happening in the state of Tennessee and across the nation is there’s a fight on to take out of the hands of these women who we can trust to make good decisions.

    FO: Among the moral paradoxes prevalent I think in this debate you mentioned earlier this hour the notion that we don’t have an example of anything like this to draw wisdom from or to think about in absolute terms any other opportunity to legislate morality. I think a lot of the debate also when it comes to this culture of life question, like to be able to justify the difference between being pro-life but also supporting the President in going to war or supporting capital punishment is the question of innocence, and I think a lot of people who take the fundamentalist perspective that abortion is murder are able to distinguish this question of unplanned pregnancy in that life begins at conception from the convicted serial killer who is on death row or from an enemy combatant and say, “Well, these people have had all their lives and it is now within our right to say we condemn thee to death,” whereas the unborn child is sort of a blank slate who has yet to be able to have made mistakes and therefore we cannot condemn this life. Where is that to you in the debate, or how do you count, is there a need to be able to justify the distinction there?

    MH: Well I mean like you said it’s not an absolute analogy, and my point about as a society we give the President the right to take us to war is not about an analogy with the abortion decision, it’s with the fact that we as a society do grant the right to take life and so but the parallel kind of stops there. In terms of the innocence debate, I’ll say sure we should think about that, and if a woman and her partner are contemplating an unplanned pregnancy, that’s something they should surely think about, and that’s something that they should give some heed to. However, we are also looking at again a situation where there is not an absolute consensus about when personhood should begin, and if personhood begins with a fertilized egg then first of all we have lots of Petri dishes out there with tiny people in them and so we need to look at the ramifications of that. Does that mean then that the Department of Child Services has to provide foster care for all of these? And the other thing is that this fetus, this baby, this whatever you choose to call it is in the body of a woman and so again you have this situation where if it is going to continue developing then by necessity it’s going to need to depend on this woman’s body. I don’t think we as a society have a right to absolutely in an absolute way say to her, “This fetus has an absolute right to continue its growth even at the expense of what it’s going to mean to your body, to your health, to your family,” and so we have a tussle.

    MM: And Freddie, just to talk about the concept of innocence I think gets lost and only applied to the unborn child but in the case of rape or incest you have a woman who’s a victim as well, and she was innocent in that act as well, so you’re balancing innocence against innocence at that point as well, which brings me to a question that a caller brought up a couple of weeks ago. He said there was really no reason to have an exception to these pieces of legislation because there aren’t that many rapes that result in pregnancy, and do you know what the statistics are in terms of rape and incest and (FO: Does it even matter now?) I know it doesn’t matter, and we can talk about how it doesn’t matter, I’m just curious about what the statistics are.

    MH: Right, statistically speaking he’s correct, it’s maybe, I want to say, don’t quote me on this, he says jokingly, I think it’s about 1%. It is a small portion, and as you already said it doesn’t matter. I mean, what we’re talking about is taking away that right for her. And you know another thing in this notion of innocence is, I hear and understand where for some people that’s coming from, unfortunately the opposite of the word innocent is guilty, and what again pervades this whole argument in terms of tone – they’ve stopped saying it outright – but what pervades in terms of tone is that the woman has done something wrong to get in the situation she’s in. And so it makes it then much easier to paint a picture where she is taking an innocent life to pay for her guilty deed and I think that if I were a woman I would be outraged at that, that somehow all of these people who face unplanned pregnancy in a given year are somehow morally corrupt and their moral depravity is what got them in this situation. And if there are, you know 800,000 women in this situation, then there are 800,000 men who also contributed to that and we don’t hear about their moral depravity. And so I think that’s one thing we need to constantly be challenging folks on is, “These people are in your family. Are you saying that your aunt that your sister, that your daughter is morally depraved and that she wants to kill somebody?”

    MM: Well but they know what they’re doing, because they’re not admitting that they have or that they know people or that they’ve brought people to Planned Parenthood for abortions, so there’s a hypocrisy there if there are 800,000, some of those 800,000 must have touched people that are pro-life or anti-choice. It must’ve and they’re hiding that fact to further their agenda – they’re hiding it and what applies to them, what’s allowed for them, they’re not giving the same allowances to other people, they’re not letting them be able to make a choice.

    MH: Well and I know for a fact that we have performed the abortions for protestors. For example, people who protested, anti-abortion protestors picketing Planned Parenthood before their abortion – they had an abortion, and after their abortion they went back to the picket lines. So yeah, that is true and again I think that is where we come back to that pervasive sense of shame and fear about sexuality, and I think in some of the extreme cases that’s what we’re dealing with is some kind of woundedness that is prompting folks to try to legislate others in an attempt to deal with whatever it is they are struggling with personally.

    FO: So talking about where we head on this, Bill Clinton famously coined the phrase “safe, legal and rare” to describe how he hoped the debate about abortion might settle out. Do you feel like this is a debate in your mind that has a final outcome? You mentioned that in terms of where we are right now it might not be ideal in terms of being able to provide all the services but it is still where we are able to have conversations, that right now these rights are pretty generally available, even as they’ve been chipped away in various corners of the political debate. Is this something that can be settled?

    MH: I don’t really have an answer for that. I fear not, because I think that at least in terms of many people on the most zealous end of the spectrum are always going to be out there fighting. I think in some unconscious ways it almost is settled in the minds of folks and, that is, when you look at polls that consistently say that people have trouble with the notion of abortion and they want to keep it a private decision, and I think that that consensus is pretty strong. Where you’re going to have the inconsistencies and the constant battles are in terms of legislation and public policy, and I don’t know that there’s any one decision or one solution that would take it away. What could happen would be, again, if we were to really start adequately funding sex education and adequately funding access to birth control, what could happen is that you would have it become very rarely needed and therefore that would take the steam out of a lot of the…

    FO: And yet I’m reminded that we constantly have the proposal for flag burning amendments to the constitution, despite the lack of a major campaign underway to desecrate the flag.

    MH: Well and if you want to get into a real cynical level, then (MM: Oh please, lets) what we have in many cases is politicians actually agreeing with everything that we are saying, but they’re using it as a political football. In fact, there’s one theory out there that the reason some folks don’t want Roe v Wade overturned is that then it takes away this wonderful target and it also allows people to then pass laws that they know are unconstitutional so that they can go back to their electorate and say, “I did this, I did that, I defended the unborn,” but they know that their rights aren’t going to be taken away and so they know they’re completely safe to use it as a political toy.

    FO: We are near the end of the hour. I did want to see if you had any specific opportunities for participatory democracy that Liberadio(!) listeners could engage in. Is there anything right now in terms of tracking the progress of SJR127 or any other measures that are out or anything that Planned Parenthood of Middle and East Tennessee is doing that you feel needs the attention of the citizens?

    MH: Well, one of the easiest things that a person can do is basically contact Planned Parenthood of Middle and East Tennessee and get on our action alert network, where we email out updates about the progress of certain things and we also email out alerts when we need folks to call with very specific things to say to voice their opinion about. One thing though that I would like to see happen is folks calling their legislators and just saying in a general way, “I just want you to know that I think unplanned pregnancy is a private matter and so anything that comes across your desk or attention that would take away the right of a woman to exercise her own conscience, I’m against.” One of the things that we are hearing from legislators who support keeping this in the hands of women is that they are only hearing from folks who want to take it away, and so it’s very important that people find out who their legislators are and let them know in general that they will support them in standing up for this. An easy way to find out who your legislator is is you can go to the website and in bold pink letters there’s this one little link that says “find your legislators.” Click on that - you put in your address and it tells you exactly who your state representatives are who your federal congressional representatives are, and you can even email them from that site.

    [thanks and goodbye!]

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