Over 90 Percent of What Planned Parenthood Does, Part 4: Helping You Quit Smoking

Welcome to the latest installment of “Over 90 Percent of What Planned Parenthood Does,” a series on Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona’s blog that highlights Planned Parenthood’s diverse array of services — the ones Jon Kyl doesn’t know about.

Recent challenges to contraceptive access make the scenario all too easy to imagine: A woman goes to her health care provider to get her annual check-up and to renew her prescription for birth-control pills. She’s been going to the same health center and using the same birth control pills for years, but this time a nurse practitioner refuses to renew her prescription.

Heavy smoking and use of birth control pills increase risk of a first-time heart attack by a factor of 30.

The scenario is easy to imagine when we’ve seen the concept of religious liberty stretched beyond its limits. The concept has been used to trump other liberties, to excuse organizations from compliance with health care mandates that ensure access to the contraceptives that many struggle to afford. But the scenario just described is exactly what happened to a woman in Iowa, whose clinic refused to renew her prescription for birth control pills, not because of bills passed by lawmakers, but because of her age, 42, and the fact she smoked. Those two factors made use of birth control pills risky for her — and a liability for her provider.

Today is World No Tobacco Day, so this installment of our “Over 90 Percent” series takes a look at the toll smoking takes on sexual health, and what Planned Parenthood health centers can do to help people quit. The World Health Organization launched World No Tobacco Day in the late 1980s to encourage tobacco users around the world to quit tobacco for at least 24 hours. It has also served as a day to promote other anti-tobacco initiatives and raise awareness about the effects of tobacco use. Continue reading

Pro-Choice Friday News Rundown

  • Exactly How Much Money Have “Fiscal Conservatives” Wasted Defending Unconstitutional Abortion Laws? Hint: LOTS! (Jezebel)
  • Abortion fund hotline volunteer talks about the economics of stigma. (RH Reality Check)
  • Do pregnant black women receive worse medical treatment than whites? (The Grio)
  • Rather than comply with a federal mandate that its insurance plan provide free birth control, the Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio has dickishly decided to drop health insurance coverage for students. (MSNBC)
  • In case you hadn’t heard, horrendously craptastic Arizona Rep. Trent Franks is pushing a bill to ban abortion care at 20 weeks in D.C. — even though he’s an Arizona congressman and has no constituents outside of Arizona. Well, his Republican cronies in the House are silencing the voice of Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton, an elected official actually serving the District of Columbia, by denying her the right to testify at the hearing. That’s our democracy for ya. If you’re not an old, wealthy white guy with no uterus, your concerns about women’s health and rights are clearly not welcome. (NARAL Blog for Choice)
  • Undecided Women Voters, Don’t Be Fooled: Your Control of Birth IS ABOUT Jobs (Fem 2.0)
  • According to a new Gallup poll, the number of Americans who identify as “pro-choice” is at a record low. (ABC News)
  • When Access to Abortion Is Too Difficult, Women Turn to Do-It-Yourself Means (RH Reality Check)
  • Pro-choice trailblazer and women’s health advocate Jean Pakter has passed away. (NYT)

Governor Brewer Is Imposing Her Beliefs on Arizonans

Editor’s Note: The following piece is a guest blog post from Planned Parenthood Arizona President and CEO Bryan Howard.

Gov. Jan Brewer isn’t shy about her goals. She wants to give government and employers power over women’s private medical decisions. She wants to undermine women’s access to reproductive health care. And she wants to take away public funding from every single Planned Parenthood health center in Arizona.

“I do not support the goals of Planned Parenthood. They believe in choice. So let’s just cut right through the fat and tell it like it is.” — Gov. Jan Brewer

Opponents of women’s health in the Arizona legislature have done everything they can to give Gov. Brewer whatever she wants. In the face of these relentless attacks, providing care to Arizona women and families has become more difficult than ever.

But I’m not giving up on our patients, and I’m not giving in to Gov. Brewer’s bullying. Neither are the doctors, nurses, staff, and volunteers at Planned Parenthood Arizona health centers. Arizona women continue to make their way to our 14 health centers to protect their health, and our doors will be open to them no matter what. And attacking Planned Parenthood in Arizona is attacking Planned Parenthood everywhere. Continue reading

STD Awareness: Viral Hepatitis

Hepatitis A virus particles are pictured in this electron micrograph. Image: Betty Partin, CDC

Hepatitis isn’t commonly thought of as a sexually transmitted disease (STD) — for most people, hepatitis conjures images of contaminated food or unsanitary restaurants. But hepatitis should be on the radar of anyone who is sexually active. There are several different viruses that cause hepatitis, and some can be sexually transmitted, including hepatitis A (HAV), hepatitis B (HBV), and, to a lesser extent, hepatitis C (HCV).

While HBV is most efficiently transmitted through blood, it can also easily hitch rides from person to person via sexual fluids. However, we covered HBV in depth last year in observance of World Hepatitis Day. As May is Hepatitis Awareness Month, we’ll turn the spotlight on HAV and HCV for this month’s installment of our STD Awareness series.

Hepatitis A (HAV)

HAV spreads through fecal-oral contact and is more widespread in parts of the world with poor sanitation. It is relatively rare in the United States, although in 2003 there was a hepatitis A outbreak outside of Pittsburgh — the largest in the United States — that was traced to improperly washed raw scallions. All told, there were 650 confirmed illnesses and four deaths. HAV is very resilient and can survive outside a host for long periods of time — other foodstuffs it can contaminate include filter-feeding shellfish, which can concentrate HAV from contaminated seawater in their tissues. When these shellfish are undercooked, they can pack quite a punch as billions of virus particles are released into the unsuspecting diner’s body.

Vaccination against hepatitis A confers lifelong immunity while sparing you from illness caused by a natural infection.

Unfortunately, no matter how well you clean your fresh produce or how long you cook shellfish, certain sexual activities can increase your risk of acquiring HAV. As with intestinal parasites, which can be present in minuscule amounts of fecal matter, so too can virus particles be present in microscopic bits of feces. Oral contact with the anus (“rimming” or anilingus) is the riskiest activity in terms of HAV transmission — oral-genital contact can also do the trick, as can manual contact between the anus and the mouth. While hepatitis A outbreaks have been reported among MSM — men who have sex with men — populations, oral-anal contact is associated with increased risk for HAV infection regardless of sexual orientation. To reduce your risk of sexual HAV transmission, use latex condoms or dental dams during oral activities. HAV can also be transmitted via blood, and hepatitis A outbreaks have been reported among IV drug users. Continue reading

Special Election on June 12: Ron Barber Stands with Planned Parenthood

It’s pretty safe to say that nearly all of the political advertisements and newspaper articles covering the Congressional District 8 race between Ron Barber and Jesse Kelly have focused on Social Security and Medicare. But, the issue of women’s health care is also critical — and one that hasn’t received much attention.

Jesse Kelly is an avowed anti-choice candidate and has received support from the National Right to Life Political Action Committee. Barber, when asked about his position on choice and women’s health care, said he has always been pro-choice and believes women’s health care decisions must be made between women and their doctors.

Ron Barber is running to finish Gabrielle Giffords’ term in the June 12, 2012, special election. Early voting starts on May 17.

“There has been too much political debate about limiting our freedoms,” he told us. “Women have the right to make their own choices about contraception and any interference from the government or employers is an affront to personal liberty.”

The debate on women’s health care used to center on abortion. It has now expanded to include the availability of contraception and the “right to refusal” — so-called consciousness clauses that allow pharmacists to refuse to dispense emergency contraception, employers to opt out of providing insurance coverage for birth control, and health care providers to refuse emergency care for pregnant women. Barber, as do most Americans, believes that the “availability of contraception was an issue we settled 50 years ago” and employers, insurance companies, and pharmacists should not put themselves between a woman and her doctor. Continue reading

Confronting HIV/AIDS in the Asian and Pacific Islander Community

Some of Arizona’s first Asian Americans were Chinese immigrants who arrived from California and Mexico in the late 1800s, often finding work in mining camps alongside Irish and Italian immigrants.

Today, Arizona’s Asians and Pacific Islanders, or APIs, represent nations throughout Asia and the Pacific, with Indians and Filipinos constituting the two largest API ethnic groups in Arizona. Although APIs are a small percentage of Arizona’s total population — 2.8 percent — their population is now the fastest-growing in Arizona, increasing by 85,000 in the last decade. In this respect, Arizona mirrors a larger trend; nationally, the Asian and Pacific Islander population grew by 43.3 percent between 2000 and 2010.

More than two-thirds of Asians and Pacific Islanders have never been tested for HIV.

Asians and Pacific Islanders experience the same health problems as the population at large, but like other minority groups, their health needs are best met by understanding how health problems affect them uniquely, and by providing culturally competent health interventions and health care. There’s an increasing need for both as their population grows, especially when it comes to addressing HIV/AIDS in their population. Although APIs have low rates of officially reported HIV/AIDS compared to other racial and ethnic groups, their incidence of unreported HIV/AIDS most likely hides a larger problem. As Dr. C. N. Le of the Asian & Pacific Islander Coalition on HIV/AIDS explains, “The statistics say that the prevalence rate among Asians is relatively small, and much smaller than among the black community or the Latino community … But those are official statistics, and official statistics are notorious for undercounting minorities, and especially for undercounting immigrants.” Continue reading

Pro-Choice Friday News Rundown

  • Image: billb1961

    Defunding Denied: Ohio House panel restores Planned Parenthood funding. (Ohio.com)

  • Texas can also forget about defunding Planned Parenthood. (HuffPo)
  • The state of Tennessee cares more about embryos than women. (Jezebel)
  • Is your doctor holding your birth control hostage? If so, you’re not alone. (Mother Jones)
  • The FDA could be close to approving the first drug for HIV prevention! (ABC News)
  • The approval of said drug would be welcome news for black women in metro Atlanta, who are being infected with HIV at alarming rates. (11Alive Atlanta)
  • Anti-choicers are champing at the bit to expose and shame women who’ve had abortions, and they’re not above stealing patient information from clinics and posting it online. (Care2)
  • This week, Utah became the only state in the country to enact a law that requires a 72- hour waiting period for a woman seeking an abortion. Any bets on which state will be the first to enact a 40 week waiting period? (Ms. Magazine)
  • Melinda Gates is crusading for women’s health and contraception worldwide. (The Daily Beast)
  • According to the CDC, teenage girls are waiting longer than ever to become sexually active and using contraception at levels never before seen! (CBS News)