Pro-Choice Friday News Rundown

  • STD mapCheck out this fascinating map of what I’d like to call The United States of Sexually Transmitted Diseases. (News Mic)
  • The birth control pill advanced women’s economic freedom immensely … and we are SO grateful!! (Businessweek)
  • More and more women are speaking out about their abortions and telling stories, not of trauma or tragedy, but of triumph, relief, and gratitude. (Al Jazeera America)
  • The Supreme Court is set to make a monumental decision about pregnancy discrimination in the workplace, and for once, pro-choice and anti-abortion activists agree. Don’t get too used to this. (Think Progress)
  • The state of sex education in our country is positively shameful. (Salon)
  • Don’t shoot the messenger, but the CDC says the benefits of circumcision far outweigh its risks. (Seattle PI)
  • The U.S. Department of Education is taking a stand on behalf of transgender students! Schools will not be able to discriminate against transgender students or treat them as anything but the gender they self-identify as. (RH Reality Check)
  • This pregnant woman verbally eviscerated a group of anti-abortion zealots harassing women outside an abortion clinic in London. Anyone else surprised that this “sidewalk counseling” madness happens across the pond, too? (HuffPo)
  • Indonesia has pioneered the first male birth control pill! If you’re wondering whose palms we have to grease to get our hands on it in the United States, the answer is complicated. (USA Today)
  • Why aren’t more women using the superbly effective birth control implant? (Vox)

Let’s Talk Contraception: Top 6 Condom Myths

condoms varietyCondoms sometimes get a bad rap. Myths about them abound all over the Internet and in discussions among friends. Some criticisms about condoms suggest they’re less than perfect for pregnancy prevention. Or they don’t work well for preventing sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Or they decrease sexual pleasure. The younger generation tends to think of AIDS as chronic and manageable, not as a deadly disease that is best prevented with condoms. So some may wonder, “Why bother using them?”


Let’s debunk some of the most common myths about condoms!


Most of these urban myths are untrue, yet they endure — probably because those spreading the rumors lack factual information about sexual health and contraception. Many American schools teach only abstinence and rarely discuss contraception except to disparage the effectiveness of the low-tech and common condom. But condoms do provide the best protection against the spread of many STDs, including HIV. And they also are really good at preventing pregnancy, especially if used properly and with another form of contraception, such as birth control pills. To top it off, they are the most easily accessible type of non-prescription contraception.

Here are a few tall tales we can debunk.

1. Condoms aren’t that effective in preventing STDs such as HIV.

Scientific studies have consistently shown latex condoms to greatly reduce the risk of contracting chlamydia, gonorrhea, trichomoniasis, and HIV. According to the CDC, the consistent and correct use of latex condoms is “highly effective in preventing the sexual transmission of HIV,” and many studies have shown that latex condoms reduce HIV transmission for both vaginal and anal sex. Continue reading

Meet Our Candidates: Sheila Ogea for State Representative, LD 25

The Arizona general election will be held on November 4, 2014, and early voting is already underway! Reproductive health care access has been under attack, both nationally and statewide, but Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona has endorsed candidates who have shown strong commitment to reproductive justice. To acquaint you with our endorsed candidates, we are running a series called “Meet Our Candidates.” Make your voice heard in 2014!

Sheila Ogea scaledLegislative District 25 is located in Maricopa County, covering much of Mesa. Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona has endorsed two candidates in the House race: Sheila Ogea and David Butler.

In stark contrast to their Republican opponents, our endorsed House candidates in LD 25 are strong supporters of reproductive health and justice. As Ms. Ogea told AZCentral.com, “We need to make sure abortion is safe and accessible and work together to decrease unwanted pregnancies by making birth control and sex education available.” We asked her to talk to us in more depth about her views on reproductive-rights issues in Arizona.

Ms. Ogea was kind enough to share her thoughts with us on October 17, 2014.


“I strongly trust in a woman’s right to make her own decision about her body.”


Tell us a little about your background.

I am one of six children raised by a single mother. We lived in Arizona and California when I was growing up.

I have been married to my husband, Robert, for 47 years. We have two daughters. We lived in Michigan for about 30 years. I was a housewife, working part time occasionally as a waitress and volunteering at the school. When my daughters were old enough, I started going back to school, taking word-processing and accounting classes. I starting working through temp agencies to try and get some experience, and eventually I got a job with Wayne County Health Department.

I joined the National Organization for Women (Downriver Chapter in Michigan) in 1989 right after attending a huge rally for abortion rights in Washington, D.C. Our chapter used to volunteer to escort patients at a local abortion clinic. Continue reading

Meet Our Candidates: David Butler for State Representative, LD 25

The Arizona general election will be held on November 4, 2014, and early voting is already underway! Reproductive health care access has been under attack, both nationally and statewide, but Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona has endorsed candidates who have shown strong commitment to reproductive justice. To acquaint you with our endorsed candidates, we are running a series called “Meet Our Candidates.” Make your voice heard in 2014!

David Butler 2014In the House race for Legislative District 25, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona has endorsed two candidates: David Butler and Sheila Ogea. LD 25 covers much of Mesa, where earlier this year high school yearbooks drew attention to Arizona’s high teen pregnancy rate by featuring a two-page spread that spotlighted the high school’s teen parents. Ranked against other states, Arizona’s teen pregnancy rate has been among the highest in the nation for many years.

David Butler is running for one of the House seats in LD 25 because he would like to see education improved in Arizona — and that includes sex education. His position on that and other reproductive justice issues earned Butler an endorsement from Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona when he ran in 2012 — and again this year, as he makes another run for the Arizona Legislature.

Butler faces two opponents in the race, Republicans Russell Bowers and incumbent Justin Olson, both of whom hold positions that would be detrimental to reproductive justice if given legislative traction. Bowers, who has a zero percent rating from the Stonewall Democrats of America, opposes access to abortion and does not support medically accurate sex education. Olson, too, wants to restrict abortion access and sponsored a bill to defund Planned Parenthood.

Butler generously took the time on October 18, 2014, to tell us why he is optimistic about this year’s election and to elaborate on the positive changes he’d like to see in Arizona’s health care policy.


“Caring for patients should be in the hands of the doctors and not the politicians.”


It’s great to talk to you again! How has your commitment to serving Arizona grown over the past two years? On the policy level, what has happened during that time to give you hope, and what has happened to strengthen your convictions?

My commitment and desire to serve the citizens of Arizona continued to grow over the past two years. Where policy is concerned, our state is still stuck with its head in the desert sand. My hopes and convictions are focused on the 2014 midterm elections. I feel strongly that our Democratic ticket of candidates is very strong from top to bottom. I’m amazed at the excitement and hope that so many volunteers are showing.

Earlier this year, the state legislature passed HB 2284, which permits the health department to inspect abortion clinics without a warrant. What do you think about this new law?

I am against HB 2284 because in my opinion it is anti-woman and anti-health care. Also, in some negative way it is tied to Planned Parenthood, since Planned Parenthood is one of the providers it targets. Continue reading

Meet Our Candidates: Scott Prior for State Senator, LD 16

The Arizona general election will be held on November 4, 2014, and early voting starts today! Reproductive health care access has been under attack, both nationally and statewide, but Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona has endorsed candidates who have shown strong commitment to reproductive justice. To acquaint you with our endorsed candidates, we are running a series called “Meet Our Candidates.” Make your voice heard in 2014!

Scott Prior scaledCovering parts of Pinal and Maricopa counties, including Gold Canyon, Apache Junction, and parts of Mesa, Legislative District 16 is home to more than 220,000 Arizona residents. Scott Prior made the decision to run for Senate in LD 16 so that his fellow constituents could be represented by someone who advocates for workers, makes education a priority, and supports equality for Arizonans regardless of race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation. Both he and his spouse Cara are seeking to represent LD 16 to bring more attention to those issues in the legislature, with Cara running for one of the open seats in the House of Representatives. Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona has endorsed both Scott and Cara Prior because of their commitment to reproductive justice.

Mr. Prior returns to the campaign trail after running in 2012. At that time, he shared his thoughts with this blog on the many issues that needed to be addressed in the legislature, including Arizona’s high teen birth rate, inadequate sex education, and health care policy that interferes with private decisions between doctors and patients.

On October 4, Mr. Prior generously took the time to share his thoughts with us again, highlighting many of those same issues but explaining why he is hopeful for a better outcome in this year’s election.


“Let’s leave the practice of medicine to the doctors … and keep legislation out of it.”


It’s great to talk to you again! How has your commitment to serving Arizona grown over the past two years? On the policy level, what has happened during that time to give you hope, and what has happened to strengthen your convictions?

Over the past two years, it has become even more imperative to get common sense people in the state legislature. We have seen a continuing shift over the past several years of elected officials working for the benefit of corporations and special interests, and away from helping the people of our great state. I firmly believe that until we can elect people who will concentrate on the important issues of the economy, creating jobs, and fixing our failing education, we will continue to be the laughingstock of the late-night comedy circuit.

This election cycle will be different, I believe, as my opponent doesn’t have the [same] name recognition and popularity as my opponent in 2012. This gives me hope that I might be able to make a difference, and have a good chance that this election will be much closer of a contest. My convictions are strengthened by the fact that in the 2014 primary, I gathered more votes than I did in the 2012 primary. This means that people are more interested in getting their voices heard, even in a midterm election.

Earlier this year, the state legislature passed HB 2284, which permits the health department to inspect abortion clinics without a warrant. What do you think about this new law?

I personally believe that HB 2284 is just another way for those who don’t believe women can make their own health care choices to try to intimidate and prevent women from exercising their constitutional rights. If those same people who supported this bill spent as much time working on taking care of children after they are born as they do before they are born, then my district would not have a 16 percent child poverty rate, 11 percent of the children in my district would not be without health insurance, and education statewide would not be ranked so low compared to other states. Continue reading

The Condom Broke. Now What?

oopsProtecting yourself with barriers like condoms is an important part of keeping yourself healthy when you and your partner don’t know one another’s STD status. Condoms are also great for pregnancy prevention. You can improve their effectiveness by learning how to put them on correctly, using a generous amount of lubricant, and checking their expiration dates.

But, sometimes, despite your best intentions, condoms break.

When that happens, you might wonder about your vulnerability to sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). And, if pregnancy is a possibility, you might also be concerned about sperm meeting egg. Luckily, there are still options. One, getting tested for STDs can help you receive treatment, if needed, in a timely manner. Two, if you act quickly, you can still take steps to minimize the risk of certain STDs or help avert an unwanted pregnancy.

Don’t let a broken condom immobilize you with fear! Take matters into your own hands, and learn what to do if a condom breaks.

How long does it take after a potential exposure until an STD test is likely to be accurate?

The answer to this question is: It varies. Each STD has a different “window period,” that is, the time it takes for an infection to be detectable. Some STDs can be tested for within days (if symptoms are present), while other STDs can take months to show up on a test. Also, while you might be inclined to wait and see if symptoms show up, remember that most STDs don’t have symptoms at all! When infections don’t have symptoms, they are said to be “asymptomatic.”

Check out this handy chart to see how long it takes for symptoms to appear, how common asymptomatic infections are, and how soon you should be tested.  Continue reading

STD Awareness: Is Syphilis Making a Comeback?

men syphilisBefore antibiotics, syphilis was the most feared sexually transmitted disease (STD) out there. It was easy to get, quack cures were ineffective and often unpleasant, and it could lead to blindness, disfigurement, dementia, or even death. When we were finally able to zap infections away with drugs like penicillin, it seemed like we’d finally won the battle against this scourge. Whereas syphilis rates were highest before antibiotics became widespread in the 1940s, by 2000 we saw a low of 2.1 cases of syphilis per 100,000. At the dawn of the new millennium, many scientists thought the United States was at the dawn of the complete elimination of syphilis.


Using condoms, regular STD testing, and limiting sex partners are the best ways for sexually active people to stay healthy.


Must all good things come to an end? They shouldn’t have to, but in the case of syphilis, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has announced that syphilis rates are rising, with incidence doubling since 2005. In the United States, there are now 5.3 cases of syphilis per 100,000 people, but that number is a bit misleading because it represents an average across the general population. When you break the population down by age, race or ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation, that rate might be much higher or much lower. For example, syphilis rates are actually on the decline among women (at only 0.9 cases per 100,000), but among men it is 9.8 per 100,000. In fact, most new syphilis cases — 91.1 percent of them, to be precise — are in men, most of whom are gay or bisexual.

Syphilis is rising the most dramatically among men in their twenties, especially among men who have sex with men (MSM). While some wonder if syphilis is growing among twenty-somethings because this group didn’t live through the early era of AIDS, when HIV was seen as a death sentence and safer sex practices were more common, it might also be due to the fact that STD rates are higher among young people in general. Continue reading