Some Inspriation For The Week

I came across this quote today and it really spoke to me (despite the male-centric language). Sometimes, especially in times like these when we feel that attacks are coming at us from all sides, it’s easy to feel discouraged. We need to keep the end goal in mind–the health and well-being of California youth. This is why we fight budget cuts, try to encounter attacks against access to contraception and sex education, and continue to strive to provide excellent education and services to youth so they can have the information and resources they need to make healthy decisions. I hope this moves you as much as it moved me.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.
A passage from Theodore Roosevelt’s “Citizenship in a Republic” April 23, 1910

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CA Pregnant and Parenting Youth Guide: An Interview with Sue Keppler

by Lena Schmidt, TeenNow California Operations and Communications Coordinator

This week I interviewed Sue Keppler, the Vice President of Education and Community Outreach at Planned Parenthood Pasadena & San Gabriel Valley, Inc.about the California Pregnant and Parenting Youth Guide. PPPSGV recently sponsored a training for TeenNow California about the guide. For those of you who missed it, there are several trainings coming up! And get a taste of what the guide is all about below.

TeenNow California: What is the Guide?

Keppler: It is a legal information resource guide for pregnant and parenting minors. It is also useful for a range of teens because of the range of issues covered, such as immigration. It is also useful for the father or co-parent, the parents of the pregnant minor, including foster parents, peer educators, and other professional staff working with teens.

TeenNow California: How did the guide come to be?

Keppler: The guide is a project of the National Partnership for Women and Families, National Health Law Program, and the Health Consumer Alliance, and was contributed to by many consultants. The guide came out of a wish to provide access to information pregnant teens may need. PPPSGV got involved in the process in January 2011 to figure out how to deliver trainings to social workers, teachers, nurses, schools–people who have contact with teen parents.

TeenNow California: How can people use the guide?

Keppler: People can use the guide to refer teens who come to them and ask questions about pregnancy, immigration, housing, and other topics. They can direct teens to the guide or website or work with teens to access the resources. There are some hard copies of the guide available for areas with limited access to the internet. The guide and the website are written from a teen perspective, so they are accessible. There are also resources on the website for professionals and there are trainings available online and in-person. There are Spanish language trainings and a recently completed module for peer-to-peer education that has been piloted with peer educators and some Cal-SAFE programs. The guide is really designed to give staff a degree of confidence to help students.

To download a copy of the guide and get lots of resources for teens and professionals, check out the website: www.pregnantyouth.info
For more information about the guide or to schedule an online or in-person training anywhere in California, please contact Sue Keppler: skeppler@pppsgv.org

UTERINE [TIME]LINING: Women’s History and Reproductive History

UTERINE [TIME]LINING:

Women’s History and Reproductive History

by Melissa Soltman, MA, TeenNow California Member

The nation is constantly abuzz with the topic of reproductive rights. You can’t turn on the news without hearing every presidential candidate’s opinion on the topic.  It’s almost impossible to talk about women’s rights without talking about a woman’s right to preside as the decision-maker over her own body. In honor of Women’s History Month, let’s break down the history of women’s reproductive rights to examine the issues that really make up this provocative yet critical topic that affects over half of our population. Women’s social and political freedom, their right to education, and autonomy over their bodies is directly linked to their reproductive freedom.

GIVING BIRTH AT THE TURN OF THE CENTURY

Many people think that the current controversies surrounding pregnancy, abortion, and birth control have been around since the beginning of time; however, it wasn’t until the mid to late 1800s that states began passing antiabortion laws. Abortions before “quickening” were even advertised and routinely performed at the time our constitution was written. One of the documented reasons abortion became a hot button issue is the medicalization of birth. Before the twentieth century, midwives attended to pregnant women; these were usually women well known and respected in their communities. However, as medicine and surgery benefitted from more advanced technology and sterility (literally and figuratively), many doctors (mostly men) worked hard to eradicate practices by “untrained” people, like midwives and homeopaths (mostly women), who competed with them for patients and business.

As gynecology and obstetrics were officially created as fields of practice, doctors convinced women and men that the only acceptable, clean way to give birth was to do so in a doctor’s office—despite the incredibly low maternal and neonatal mortality rate at the time. Even though the early practices of obstetrics were often riddled with dangers, the newly established American Medical Association (AMA) succeeded in labeling midwives as “witches” and naming abortion “immoral and dangerous.” Essentially, many doctors took up the antiabortion cause to eradicate their competition. By 1910, all but one state had criminalized abortion, except when absolutely necessary (to save the woman’s life), which required the attention of a doctor. Women continued to terminate pregnancies, but they did so illegally and dangerously; many lost their lives. The use of midwives dropped dramatically, and birth became a condition for which women were treated in a hospital.

It goes without saying that these issues involve very personal and private decisions. However, it’s important to note that a woman’s body was not always a site onto which certain political or religious paradigms were inscribed.  Let’s look further at the progression of reproductive rights…

ENTER ANTHONY COMSTOCK

In 1873, the Comstock Act was passed, which made it illegal to send any “obscene, lewd, and/or lascivious” materials through the mail. This included contraceptive devices and information. This allowed those working for women’s access to information to be arrested for even mentioning birth control information in a letter.

TAKE THAT, MR. COMSTOCK!

In the early 1900s, Margaret Sanger and many other women risked their lives to disseminate birth control and share information. Margaret Sanger received 250,000 letters from countless women, desperate for a stronger distinction between sex and reproduction and to avoid serious health complications. Sanger and other practitioners were arrested multiple times under the Comstock Laws. Each time they were released, they returned to the work of giving women choices for their bodies and lives. Knowing the importance of disseminating information, the U.S. government decided to support sexuality education as part of the White House Conference on Child Welfare in 1919, even though it would still be more than 30 years before all married couples could secure contraceptives from a licensed professional.

1920 was a year of triumph; it was both the year Margaret Sanger opened the first family planning clinic in Brooklyn and the year that the 19th amendment made it legal for women to vote in all elections. Here lies a perfect parallel between political access, reproductive choice, and the road to true autonomy.

Birth control was eventually released from Mr. Comstock’s tight grasp; in 1936, one of Sanger’s cases led a judge to review the law and decide that contraceptive methods could no longer be classified as “obscene” due to data demonstrating the benefits of contraception.

FREEDOM….YEAH FREEDOM! (you know the words…)

It’s not until the 1960s, alongside the civil rights and antiwar movements, that women began to fight en masse for autonomy in all senses of the word. The Food and Drug Administration approved the sale of oral pills for birth control in 1960, and with the much-enjoyed freedom to decide when to have children, women continued to work toward equality. In 1965, a landmark decision, Griswold v. Connecticut, included the right of married people to use birth control as part of their constitutional right to privacy. In 1968, all 3 TV networks carried family planning public service announcements. In 1972, Title IX required sexual equality in any education program receiving federal funding. At the same time, a female country western singer, Loretta Lynn, wrote a song called “The Pill” which was subsequently banned across the United States. (Look up the lyrics!) Women’s fight for social equality is utterly intertwined with women’s reproductive rights throughout history and today.

The infamous Roe v. Wade (1973) established abortion as a legal right, within the broader right to privacy.  While Roe v. Wade was a huge victory for women’s access to safe healthcare, there were still women who continued to struggle for access. In 1975, as a reaction to the times, 25 states voted to restrict or abolish sexuality education.

THE REAL YOU

In the following decades, women enjoyed more freedom and access (successes I wish we had more time to discuss!). Allowing women to choose when to have children allowed them to choose their lifestyle. Some women were able to establish careers, which allowed society to see the contributions of which women were capable in addition to their domestic achievements. Women’s progress in recent decades – in education, in the workplace, in political and economic power – is directly linked to women’s ability to control their own fertility.

Reproductive rights cannot be quarantined from the broader context of gender and social equality and must be addressed in relation to equal access to healthcare, education, and economic opportunity. Do we still have a long way to go? Of course. But honoring women’s history must include recognizing the reproductive freedom for which they have had to fight and for which they continue to fight. How can a woman pursue opportunities and make healthy choices without autonomy of her body?

SO WHAT NOW WHAT?

As an educator, I know it’s almost impossible to engage in topics this controversial. I wonder, though, if there is a way to examine the topic of reproductive rights from a historical perspective, to include it in the study of women’s history in an unbiased manner, and to engage in a discussion about the link between having freedom and being able to make healthy choices for one’s future, a link that applies to many historical instances. Timelines are excellent at mapping out the progression of reproductive rights alongside other issues in women’s history, such as the right to vote and establishing a presence in the workplace. Organizations and libraries often have films to borrow as well that address these topics in a teen friendly manner. We all know the importance of sharing the achievements and plight of women; why not add a huge piece of women’s history into the mix with other historical triumphs?

RECOMMENDED FILMS

Choice: Then and Now

The Purity Myth: Low resolution film here for free

The Business of Being Born (Available on Netflix Watch Instantly and in stores)

RESOURCES

Birth Matters by Ina May Gaskin

Reproductive Rights Timeline                                                Excerpts from Letters to Margaret Sanger

Our Bodies Ourselves                                                             Center for Reproductive Rights