This is Personal

Today, the National Women’s Law Center launched This is Personal, a campaign aimed at protecting women’s reproductive health choices. This is Personal provides a wealth of information about ongoing attacks to women’s reproductive health, but more than just that, it offers a way for women to “take control of the debate,” by providing tools and facts they need to speak out and make a difference.

For more information on this important and timely campaign, check out


Filmmaker Jodi Leib’s “Monday’s Child” Fights for Reproductive Freedom

Feminist Conversations is a weekly series at Feminists For Choice.  We spotlight activists from across the interwebs to find out what feminism means to them. Jodi Leib is an artist and filmmaker currently working on “Monday’s Child”, a feature about reproductive freedom.  Her films have screened at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Screen Actors Guild, Wine Country Film Festival (Audience award, 1997), On the Lot, IFILM, Laemmle Theaters Sunset 5 and several other festivals and venues. 

1. When did you first call yourself a feminist? What inspired that decision?
I first had the feeling of a bias against women when I was in grade school and I made a bet with a boy and won, but he didn’t pay me what I was due. I subsequently had the feeling in several working environments that I was being treated unfairly based on my appearance and/or gender, and I was even sexually harassed in my early twenties.

I became a filmmaker in college, and as I began to write and direct, I realized that I only wanted to tell stories about women – that I had a driving desire to communicate my point of view and experience as a woman through my characters and stories. As I became more interested in reproductive rights and committed to making “Monday’s Child,” I became comfortable calling myself a feminist. [Read more...]

Remembering Dr. Robert Kinch

Editors’ Note: This is the first post in our series “A Season of Gratitude.” We’re all grateful for the the work of heroes like Dr. Kinch. To read more articles in this series, click here.

The name Dr. Henry Morgentaler is synonymous with pro-choice in Canada, but Dr. Robert Kinch was also instrumental in securing women’s rights as his colleague. Born in Iraq in 1920, Dr. Kinch immigrated to Canada with his family in 1949 after seeing a billboard advertising “Ontario Wants You.”

Dr. Kinch launched his career as an obstetrician and gynecologist in Toronto. In 1968 he moved to Montreal as Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at McGill University, eventually becoming chief of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Royal Victoria and Montreal General hospitals. He was appointed chairman of the Department of Obstetrics of Gynecology at McGill in 1979.

Beloved by his patients, Dr. Kinch delivered thousands of babies while determinedly championing maternal health and the advancement of sexual education.  [Read more...]

Why I Am Pro-Choice

In honor of Pregnancy Awareness Month I am sharing an essay-of-sorts that I wrote a few years ago.

Having grown up in an oppressively conservative community, once I experienced what I call my “feminist awakening” I have always had a particular sensitivity to the fact that those who do not share my beliefs truly see things differently than I do. While I am a passionate feminist, I have always had a deep understanding about the fact that those who call themselves “pro-life” understand the issue to be black and white, and primarily about abortion rather than women’s reproductive health and autonomy as a whole.

I was raised by parents who believe strongly in home birth, and for me choice has always been as much about a woman’s right to choose where she gives birth as much as when. I want especially my own family to understand this.

Although I do not hold any illusions about converting my conservative family members and friends to my point of view, it is important to me that I fully articulate what being pro-choice means to me, so that when the opportunity arises I can speak with confidence, and maybe even build a few bridges along the way.  [Read more...]

Plan B–Change the FDA

It’s been years. Literally.

After two change elections, why is the FDA playing the same old games with women’s health?

On March 23, 2009, a federal court ordered the FDA to make the emergency contraception drug Plan B available to women 17 and older without a prescription. It is ludicrous—if not criminal, for the FDA to have ignored this order.

That’s why the Center for Reproductive Rights has filed a motion of contempt against the Food and Drug Administration. Maybe the FDA can be shamed into obeying the law. 

Maybe the FDA can be shamed into following its own experts’ advice. Remember, when President Obama came into office, he promised his administration would “ make scientific decisions based on facts, not ideology.” 

Well,  “all of the scientific facts are there and FDA experts agree—emergency contraception has proven safe and effective to be sold over-the-counter to all ages,” according to Suzanne Novak, lead counsel in the case. [Read more...]

Focus on Maternal Mortality in Tanzania

In our focus on the attacks on women’s health here in the United States, we often forget that women in developing countries have it much worse than we do. Take Tanzania for instance. A new article in Ms. Magazine explains that:

According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 13,000 women die each year in Tanzania due to labor and pregnancy-related complications, and more than a quarter million more suffer disabling conditions. The country ranks 21st highest maternal mortality rate among African nations. Like its neighbor Uganda, Tanzania is one of the world’s poorest countries, and 75 percent of its population lives in rural areas. Transportation is spotty and health-care facilities are often miles away from local communities, making it extremely difficult for women who experience pregnancy complications—which can include severe hemorrhage, infections, anemia and obstructed labor—to access skilled health care.

Belle Taylor-McGhee, the author of the Ms. article and a board member of EngenderHealth, a nonprofit aimed at increasing women’s access to family planning services worldwide, says that when she visited Tanzania and other sub-Saharan African countries to write the story for Ms., she was astonished by what she saw.

“I have worked on reproductive health care for some time,” says Taylor-McGhee. “My first trip to Africa was part of an EngenderHealth visit to Ethiopia. We were going there to look at women’s access to reproductive health care, the challenges health care providers face, and how those challenges are being addressed by the government and NGOs. The trip was a real eye opener for me. It was the first time that I actually met women who had experienced fistula. Most of the women at the fistula hospital we visited were quite young, under twenty years old, and some were as young as fourteen or fifteen years old.”

Fistula occurs when there is a tear in the vaginal area. Tearing can occur during childbirth, especially if labor is prolonged or there are other complications during childbirth. Fistula is very uncommon in developed countries, but it can occur frequently in countries where women do not have access to quality childbirth facilities. Vaginal tearing can lead to infections, and if this is left untreated, women can die. [Read more...]

Condoms: What are they good for?

Used to be I could joke that the only people even talking about condoms were the teens on Daytime TV. Maybe it was all the celebrity babies, or the “bump” watches. But it didn’t seem like too many grown-ups were using them. (Or any other form of birth control, for that matter.)

Times have changed. Condoms are making a comeback. Thrusting their way into the media spotlight, so to speak.

First Nicholas Kristof wrote a column on contraception that practically put the condom out to pasture. His rosy prediction:

The next generation of family planning products will be cheaper, more effective and easier to use — they could be to today’s condoms and diaphragms what a smartphone is to the bricklike cellphones of 20 years ago. (Kristof, “Birth Control Over Baldness,” NYT, 9/26/10)

Condoms made the news again a few days later in the coverage of a new study on American sexual behavior published by The Journal of Sexual Medicine. The chief talking point? Sexually active teens are using condoms on a more regular basis than their Baby Boomer parents (and grandparents). Even when the parent or grandparent is having sex with a stranger.

The stories themselves are a mixed bag. If Kristof is right about the future of reproductive technology, it would not only be good news for women looking for effective forms of birth control—it could very well be the key to our survival as a species, given the threat of overpopulation. And if teenagers are using condoms more than boomers, well, that’s fewer unplanned pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases among teens. And for their elders? A lot of tough questions.  [Read more...]

The Devastating Consequences of Recent New Jersey Budget Cuts to Family Planning

I wrote an article last week about the ill-advised decision of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie to cut 7.5m dollars worth of funding to crucial family planning programs in the state. This week, we are now seeing the consequences of such poor judgement. New Jersey family planning clinics, which provide crucial preventative health care services including access to birth control, breast exams, Pap tests, STD screenings, and prenatal care, are now forced to reduce hours, eliminate services, and even shut down certain clinics entirely.

In response to the cuts, FamCare Inc. has said it plans to close centers in Millville and Vineland, reduce operations at its Bridgeton clinic from three days weekly to one and cease operations at Rowan University. Planned Parenthood of Southern New Jersey also said it expects patients to travel farther and wait longer following the cuts to its state funding, which represents nearly 25% of the group’s budget.

[Read more...]

What Pro-Choice Activism Means to Me

Guest writer Maggie is a White lesbian who works a 9-5 in NYC. She’s also a music junkie and lapsed activist whose current obsessions include visual journaling, 5Rhythms®, and The Wire. These are her words.

At some point, small gold lapel pins meant to suggest a baby’s footprints were passed around the room. Whether I said “no” out loud or not, I don’t remember, but I knew I wasn’t going to wear that pin. I was a young girl sitting in the corner of a small Catholic church within a small Southern city. Our CCD teacher was only doing what the church expected of her, but I was beginning to learn about the intersection of my beliefs with those around me. Somehow, I knew that the pin meant that women wouldn’t be able to choose abortion over pregnancy and parenting, and I felt that was wrong. How exactly, or when I became pro-Choice is hard to say, as our beliefs are such a complex alchemy of race, gender, class, nationality, religious affiliation, familial dynamics, and so on. I do know, though, that my understanding of Choice and my activism have changed as I have come to appreciate more of the color, texture, depth, and scale of my own journey. Today, I remain pro-Choice, but I see the pro-Choice movement as one piece in a larger, broader, messier movement for reproductive justice*.

It’s been said before and should be said again: the era of George W. Bush was a frightening time for the world. On his first day in office, Bush instituted what is commonly referred to as the Global Gag Rule . . . what foreshadowing! In the early Bush (Jr.) years, my activism consisted mostly of irregular clinic escorting and writing small checks. I was naive and had not had an abortion, but I felt I could contain my anger and fear in the face of protestors. Escorting challenged me on many levels, especially because the protestors don’t see the women they’re chasing, and this process reveals larger complicated truths about reproductive health care in our country. Standing there, in a woman’s body, on cold, early mornings felt mostly like an extended session of “hurry up and wait,” where you’re looking for women you’ve probably never met and with whom you will only spend a few seconds. These women – patients – became part of my life simply because they were accessing care in an environment that makes access, let alone inclusive, high quality care increasingly rare. I realized that, for some, just arriving at a clinic might have been a victory. And, I felt deeply how fervently some people seek to deny women such access. [Read more...]

Could I Be Pregnant?!

This week’s safer sex question:

I’m 17 and very worried that I may be pregnant. I’ve been taking Loestrin 24fe for about 3 months now, and I have a steady boyfriend. I’ve never fully had unprotected sex, but sometimes we use a form of the withdrawal method (but only for about a minute or so). Otherwise, we always use condoms also. Today, I got really bad cramps and pretty heavy spotting (I’m not supposed to get my period until next week). I looked it up online, and I found many sites that talked about implantation and how spotting is normal during early pregnancy. I don’t usually miss pills, but I have missed one or two in the past. Should I be worried that I may be pregnant?

Thank you for sending your question, I can hear your anxiety and worry. Even though your concern is a very common experience for many women, it doesn’t make experiencing it any less stressful. Let me begin with a little bit of a disclaimer, I am not a doctor or medical professional and anything I offer here as a response is educational rather than diagnostic. [Read more...]