The State of Girls in the World: International Day of the Girl Child

Content note: This article discusses sexual assault and violence against women and girls.

afghan girlOctober 11, 2014 will be the third International Day of the Girl Child. UNICEF began this day in 2012, a day that focused on the issue of child marriage. Last year, the subject was education for girls. This year the theme is Empowering Adolescent Girls: Ending the Cycle of Violence.

I am excited that violence is this year’s focus. When I worked in another state as a child therapist in an inner-city neighborhood, I once had a 14-year-old girl bring in two friends for her session. She and another girl around her age wanted me to talk to their 11-year-old friend, who was thinking about having sex with her older boyfriend. The boyfriend was insisting on it. The older girls agreed with the general idea that “spreading your legs” (in their words) is part of having a boyfriend, but were worried that their friend was too young. Though they could not see any coercion in their own lives, even they could tell that in their 11-year-old friend’s case, something was wrong. At one point I asked them, “Do you enjoy it?” All three looked at me as if I were talking a foreign language. The idea that sex could be pleasurable had never occurred to them.


We need to work to prevent violence against girls where it begins — with the perpetrators and their enablers.


These girls were not alone, and although they reflected a particular cultural setting, partner violence is not unusual anywhere. According to the United Nations, one in three women worldwide experiences partner violence, many of them as children and teens. The statistics in this article include countries where teenage girls are often married, and in several countries the proportion exceeds 50 percent.

Violence against girls is often considered acceptable where the social structure gives men dominance over women. Practices like female genital mutilation, which is often strongly supported and facilitated by the women of a culture group, reinforce violence as a social norm. Female genital mutilation is restricted to a group of northern African countries as well as Iraq and Yemen, but the practice has been carried by immigrants into Western countries, including our own. While the practice was made illegal in the United States in 1996, the law was not amended until 2012 to include transporting girls abroad to have the procedure done; this was done as a provision of the Defense Authorization Act that year. Continue reading

Pro-Choice Friday News Rundown

  • Supreme_Court_protectI’ve spoken about my experiences as a clinic escort and the importance of buffer zones around abortion clinics many times on this blog. We at Planned Parenthood are staunch supporters of buffer zones and believe they’re crucial in protecting our patients from potential harm and harassment. So, imagine our collective dismay yesterday when the Supreme Court handed down a unanimous decision calling the 35-foot clinic buffer zone in Massachusetts “unconstitutional” on the basis that it violates the First Amendment of those who wish to “counsel” clinic patients. Pretty infuriating to say the least. (Mother Jones)
  • Will SCOTUS also throw women under the bus in the upcoming Hobby Lobby decision? (RH Reality Check)
  • Four years ago, Aaron Gouveia and his wife had to make the heartbreaking decision to abort their non-viable, very much wanted child. His story describes how the presence of anti-abortion protesters made the saddest day of their lives exponentially worse. (Time)
  • President Obama is the first Commander in Chief to help advance transgender rights! (Associated Press)
  • Women who volunteer in the Peace Corps are now able to receive insurance coverage for abortion (albeit in limited circumstances: rape, incest, or life endangerment). Better to have baby steps than no steps, I guess. (RH Reality Check)
  • Check out this fascinating piece on the history of sex-ed films shown in schools over the years. (Truth-out)
  • The headline might sound sensational, but it’s the truth — Abortion Clinics Are Closing Because Their Doors Aren’t Big Enough. (Vice)
  • The Vatican is aware their teachings on contraception aren’t followed or even highly regarded by most Catholics, but apparently, it’s easier to keep the doctrine stale and irrelevant than to evolve because they’re not likely to make any changes. (Toronto Star)

The 45th Anniversary of the Stonewall Riots: Still Here, Still Queer, Still Not Used to It

The Gay Liberation Front, pictured here in 1969, formed in response to the Stonewall Riots. Image: PBS

The Gay Liberation Front formed in 1969 in response to the Stonewall Riots.

In 1969, homosexuality was illegal in 49 states. It was classified as a mental disorder by the American Psychiatric Association, and it was not unheard of for those who identified as homosexual or transgender to undergo extreme treatments such as lobotomies or castration in an attempt to “cure” their conditions. If it was discovered that you were gay, you were blacklisted. Doctors and lawyers lost their licenses. Your home address was published in major newspapers. You were dishonorably discharged from military service. Non-gender-conforming people were refused service in public establishments, found it difficult to receive health care, and were routinely arrested for indecent behavior — behavior that was often simply being transgender. Society expected that you assimilate with heteronormative ideals by presenting as the gender you were born with, marrying the opposite sex, and having children.


Saturday will be the 45th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. We have come a long way since then, but still have more work to do.


In the late 1960s, Greenwich Village was a progressive neighborhood in New York City that also served as a respite for the LGBTQ community of the time, including the poorest and most disenfranchised. The Village was also home to numerous establishments frequented by LGBTQ patrons in a time when they could not publicly acknowledge their sexual orientation or identity, lest they be arrested. These establishments — which included the Stonewall Inn (a mafia-run bar) — were often the subject of police raids.

In the early morning hours of June 28, 1969, the Stonewall Inn was raided by the New York City Police Department, just as it had been many times before. This time, Stonewall patrons did not allow themselves to be shoved into the backs of police cars. Forty-five years later, details of the riot remain conflicting and vague, but what is agreed upon is that Stormé DeLarverie — also known as King Stormé, a drag king in the drag group Jewel Box Revue — is credited with throwing the first punch in reaction to being shoved by police. With this punch, the Stonewall crowd exploded into a full-blown violent demonstration. Participants saw the violence of which they were so often the recipients suddenly being turned back on their oppressors. Continue reading

2013: A Retrospective

wendy-davis victoryWell folks, 2013 has been quite the year when it comes to women’s issues and reproductive health. Anti-choice Republicans have made every attempt to strip us of our most basic human rights. We dealt with many a jackass. We won. We lost. We came, we saw, and sometimes we even conquered.

Let’s take a little stroll down memory lane, shall we?

  • Trent Franks (from our great state, naturally) told everyone that pregnancies attributed to rape were super low and thus insignificant and not even relevant to the abortion issue.
    (The Daily Beast)
  • zero dollar copayThe Affordable Care Act made birth control available without a co-pay! (Planned Parenthood)
  • But that didn’t go unchallenged, of course. Domino’s Farms, Hobby Lobby, and a gang of other fools think the mandate to cover birth control for women in their insurance policies is a “violation” of their rights and values. That’s right. They believe the pills you take to exert control over what happens in your uterus is not only their business, but something they should have full control over! They also completely disregard the fact that birth control pills are often medically necessary. From PMS, PCOS, and endometriosis relief, birth control pills serve women’s health interests in many important ways. You think these a-holes give any sort of damn about that? NOPE. (RH Reality Check)
  • Plan B emergency contraception is finally available over the counter! (New Civil Rights Movement)
  • wendy davis tennis shoesTexas pretty much went anti-choice nuts this year. But little-known State Sen. Wendy Davis put on her tennis shoes and went to battle for the women of Texas in an effort to kill SB 5, a craptacular proposal that would pretty much annihilate abortion access in the state. This pro-choice dynamo stood on her feet for 11 hours to filibuster the bill. While her efforts were ultimately thwarted by “pro-life” governor Rick Perry (who’s so pro-life he facilitated the execution of more than 200 people), she became a powerful symbol of the pro-choice movement in Texas, and the rest of America. (NYT)
  • A majority of Americans now support a woman’s right to safe, legal abortion! That’s the first time in the 10 years that NBC/WSJ has included the question in their poll. (NBC News)
  • Anti-choice legislators have latched onto “fetal pain” and “heartbeat” bills as their latest strategy to restrict women’s reproductive rights. Neither of those things can be proven as “real” by science, but they’re not going to let pesky facts get in the way of their women-hating mission. (The Atlantic)
  • Dr. Kermit Gosnell committed unspeakable horrors in his abortion clinic, the details of which are not only distressing, but almost physically painful to read. Despite that fact that this is astonishingly rare, he gave credence to to all of the anti-choice vultures and harmed the pro-choice movement in an immeasurable way. (Jezebel)
  • obama planned parenthood national conferenceMr. President had to lay the ultimate smack down on behalf of Planned Parenthood earlier this year. He told all of the anti-choice haters, “Planned Parenthood ain’t goin’ nowhere, chumps!” (OK, he didn’t say that exactly/verbatim, but kinda.) Anyway, thank you, President Obama, for being our advocate and BFF in Chief. (Salon)
  • Another big story this year: More women are purposely forgoing mommyhood and deducing that babies are better when they belong to someone else. It’s like a trend now. Childfree is the new black! (Fem2pt0)
  • 2013: Another year in which abortion clinics got shut down at an alarming rate. Less access to safe abortion. Just what we need. (Think Progress)
  • Lastly, some good news. Four years after his tragic, heartbreaking murder, Dr. Tiller’s clinic reopened this year. His legacy lives on. (Mother Jones)

What will 2014 hold? We can’t predict the future, but one thing is for sure: We will continue to put everything on the line to make sure women have access to the reproductive health care they deserve and have a right to. If we have to be relentless and unyielding in this fight, so be it. The lives of women matter.

We’re here if you need us.

Pro-Choice Friday News Rundown

Blaming women for the spread of STDs is an age-old tradition.

Blaming women for the spread of STDs is an age-old tradition.

  • If you love food and birth control, and wanna get ’em both at the same place, you should eat here. (LA Times)
  • Millions of women now pay nothing for birth control. It feels so good to type those words. (Mother Jones)
  • Taking woman-hating to a new level: An anti-Obamacare cartoon posted on the website Comically Incorrect claims that men will get more sexually transmitted diseases from “women who now get free birth control” thanks to the health care reform law. This is one of the dumbest, most misogynistic things I’ve seen in a long time. If STDs spread, it’s women’s fault! Not the men who gave them the disease! Yeah. OK. ’Cause men have no responsibility in protecting themselves from STDs. Evil women put them at risk and they’re simply helpless!! (Time)
  • Paid FMLA for pregnant women and those of us with chronic illnesses? YES. PLEASE. (RH Reality Check)
  • So far, there are nine states where you might need “abortion insurance.” Luckily, AZ isn’t one of them. Yet. (ABC News)
  • Not that we aren’t fighting our own uphill battles here. (Arizona Daily Star)
  • Abortion providers make huge sacrifices to care for women. And we are so thankful. (NY Mag)
  • Even after having women (their peers!) stand in front of them telling their emotional stories of rape and miscarriage, Republicans weren’t moved to keep women from having to further endure these atrocities. (USA Today)
  • Congressional dufus Steve Stockman (R-Texas, naturally) is so pro-life that he wishes “babies had guns” to kill their mothers who are considering abortion. Is this real life? I mean, he does know that a fetus can’t survive if the carrier of the fetus is dead, right? (MSNBC)
  • I’m not a scientist or anything, but if birth control is less effective for women over 176 pounds, why don’t they do something to make it more effective? (Jezebel)

Mythbusting: Does Emergency Contraception Cause Abortion?

Plan BThe Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported recently that one in nine sexually active women, or 5.8 million women, has used emergency contraceptive pills, such as Plan B. Emergency contraception is a woman’s back-up method to prevent an unwanted pregnancy, and women report using it when they feel their contraceptive method has failed, such as a broken condom, or they do not use a regular contraceptive like birth control pills.


The latest scientific evidence shows that Plan B works mainly by delaying ovulation — not by affecting a fertilized egg.


Some conservative politicians have been stating publicly that emergency contraceptive pills (ECPs), such as Plan B, cause abortions. They may believe that life begins at conception (fertilization of the egg by the sperm) and argue that ECPs disrupt a fertilized egg’s ability to implant in the uterus, which they consider equivalent to abortion. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and experts from the Food and Drug Administration and the National Institutes of Health consider a pregnancy to be established when a fertilized egg settles itself on the wall of the uterus — implantation. A woman is most likely to become pregnant when she ovulates, which is usually about two weeks before her next period. Sperm can live for up to three days. So, if an egg is fertilized, there are still possibly six to 12 days before the implantation may take place.

When ECPs were first developed and information about them was submitted to the FDA for market approval, the drug manufacturers included mention of every possible mechanism on how the pill might work to prevent pregnancy. This included wording about preventing or delaying ovulation, making the sperm or egg less able to meet, and possibly preventing implantation. However, the latest scientific evidence has shown that ECPs such as Plan B mainly work by delaying ovulation — Plan B does not affect implantation and has no effect on existing pregnancies. Several prominent researchers have stated that if in fact Plan B disrupted implantation, it would be 100 percent effective at preventing a pregnancy, and that is not the case. Continue reading

When It Happens to a Friend

Computer graphic of a teal ribbon.

April is Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month.

You probably know someone who’s been a victim of sexual assault.

It’s an unsettling thought, yes, but the statistics bear it out. Somewhere between 17 and 28 percent of women* have been victims of rape, attempted rape, or sexual assault. According to those same sources, the numbers range from 3 to 17 percent for men.* They increase further for members of particular populations or communities, including Native American and Alaskan women; gay, lesbian, and queer folk; people with disabilities; and trans* people.


There are many ways you can support a friend who has been sexually assaulted.


Nearly every victim, every survivor, has a first person they tell — someone they confide in to help make sense of what happened, to help begin the healing process. Unfortunately, I know too well that sometimes the first person told only compounds the hurt. So I’m writing this based on what I wish people had done for me.

How should you respond if a sexual assault survivor reaches out to you?

Believe the survivor. We live in a culture that regularly disbelieves, minimizes, and judges victims of sexual assault. Additionally, there’s a strong chance that the victim knew the attacker before the assault — and a reasonable chance that both are members of a mutual social circle or community. In this light, it can be incredibly stressful for a survivor to speak up about an assault. Simply telling that person, “I believe you,” can offer immense support and relief.

Don’t second guess the decisions a survivor made before the assault or the reactions your friend experienced during or afterward. Continue reading