Best of the Blog: 2017 Edition

It’s been a rough year. Ever since the 45th president was inaugurated in January, we have been pushing back against attempts to overturn the rights of women, LGBTQ folks, immigrants, people of color, and other marginalized populations. Racist and xenophobic voices have been emboldened by an administration that validates their hatred and minimizes their violence. It feels like the progress we’ve been making in advancing reproductive justice, gay rights, trans rights, and voters’ rights has stopped dead in its tracks.

But 2017 was also a year that shook many people out of their complacency — and re-energized longtime activists. January’s Women’s March may have been the largest protest in our nation’s history. Throughout the year, we rose up and shut down Republican attempts to destroy Obamacare, setting the stage for November, when enrollment records were shattered. A year after the gut punch of the 2016 presidential election, women, LGBTQ folks, people of color, and immigrants enjoyed well-earned victories across the nation in the 2017 elections. We need to keep working — staying on this trajectory can turn the tide in the 2018 midterm elections if we take control back from the legislative branch and douse the executive ego with a bucket of ice-cold water.

Our bloggers have been with us every step of the way, whether they are on the front lines of the fight to keep lifesaving laws intact and hold our culture accountable for its multifaceted bigotry, or helping to keep members of the resistance (and everyone else) healthy, informed, and compassionate in this new era.

Rachel kept close track of Republicans’ attempts to destroy the Affordable Care Act throughout the year. Pre-ACA, insurance policies could employ sex-based discrimination, refuse coverage to people with pre-existing conditions, kick people off their plans, and not cover essential services that keep people healthy. Each attempt revealed its creators’ wish list for destroying health care. In 2017, our activism worked, but the fight isn’t over, and we must remain vigilant. Stay tuned throughout 2018!

Matt has been watching the growing, right-wing extremism at the crossroads of racism and misogyny, a subject he covers in his response to the violent events in Charlottesville in August. Matt’s piece explores a political force that has put racial hatred on full display, but also one where misogyny resonates in a culture of disaffected — and often dangerous — men. We need to be intersectional as we fight for justice for everyone who is marginalized by white supremacist extremism.

Amanda observed American Heart Month by sharing the story of the sudden, heartbreaking death of her mother, who lost her life to a heart attack. As you mull over New Years resolutions, consider that heart disease is a top killer in the United States, but you can make lifestyle changes to help prevent it. The best gift for those you hold closest to your heart is to keep your heart healthy and strong, and Planned Parenthood Arizona provides care to help you maintain your heart’s health!

Gene made a slight departure from the blog’s mission to provide good guidance for readers to take care of their sexual health — his favorite post highlighted some of the most ridiculous things you could do for your sexual health. Whether he was lampooning stick-on condom alternatives, labia-sealing tampon alternatives, or egg-shaped rocks made to be inserted into the vagina, Gene took on some of the Internet’s looniest ideas surrounding sexual health and the human body.

Anna has been writing about sexually transmitted infections since 2011, and has become increasingly sensitive to the stigma surrounding these infections — and how people often internalize that stigma. Pairing STDs with fear and guilt has compromised medical care for generations. Folks who worry that the HPV vaccine or pre-exposure prophylaxis encourage promiscuity borrow century-old arguments from opponents of condoms, antibiotics, and other STD prevention methods. We think you’ll learn a ton of fascinating tidbits from this article!

Anne traveled all the way to Washington, DC, to meet lawmakers and represent the one woman out of every three who has had (or will have) an abortion. In a country that is becoming increasingly hostile to reproductive rights, we need people like Anne to put a face on abortion, a legal medical procedure that most of us have colluded to keep taboo. As Anne put it, “We were all darned tired of being characterized by ignorant anti-abortion advocates as shadowy, irresponsible, hypothetical women. We’re real people.”

Serena observed National American Indian Heritage Month by shining a spotlight on the little-known, shameful history of forced sterilization of Native American women. More recently, Native women’s control over their fertility has been further impeded by the Indian Health Service’s inconsistent access to emergency contraception and refusal to provide access to abortion. The ability to control our own bodies is essential to our dignity and self-determination, and it must not be abridged, whether it is interfering with our ability to have children or our ability to prevent or discontinue pregnancy.

Pride paradeCare observed Pride Month by remembering Pride’s roots. For a lot of us, Pride means parades and parties, but these annual celebrations didn’t originate that way — Pride Month commemorates the Stonewall Riots, which erupted 48 years ago. Care explains why the current political climate makes remembering Pride’s roots of the utmost importance. We need to stay vigilant, because when it comes to keeping and expanding the rights of LGBTQ people, and ensuring their safety and dignity, we’re all in this together.

Harvey MilkKelley, Planned Parenthood employee and honorary blogger, celebrated Pride Month by introducing us to Harvey Milk, whose call to LGBTQ people to “come out” led to a seismic societal shift, as hearts and minds were connected through empathy and storytelling. Today, we’re calling on you to take the torch of pioneers like Harvey Milk and keep fighting for LGBTQ rights and reproductive justice — for human dignity, bodily autonomy, and love.

2016 in Review: Our Bloggers Boost Their Favorite Posts

How can we put it? 2016 was a doozy. When we rang in the New Year on January 1, the Supreme Court was gearing up for one of the most important abortion-rights cases in years. When Justice Antonin Scalia died in February, President Obama named a replacement — and Congressional Republicans refused to hold hearings for the nominee, disregarding their job description. Both the Democratic and Republican parties were running exciting primaries — but, as we swept away the New Year’s confetti, Donald Trump was still considered by many to be an unfathomable joke.

While we did bask in a summertime victory, when the Supreme Court struck down Texas’ draconian anti-abortion laws, we were blindsided by Donald Trump’s Electoral College win — especially given that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by a margin of nearly 3 million. As we say goodbye to 2016, we are unsure of what the future holds for reproductive rights, with a president-elect and Congress that are hostile to our cause, and the next Supreme Court nomination in unfriendly hands.

Throughout it all, our amazing volunteers stood by our side, never afraid to speak against current injustices or share important lessons from the past. As we enter 2017, we’ll need our volunteers more than ever! Our blogging team is made up of Planned Parenthood volunteers, who will be standing at the ready to document the events that unfold over the coming year — and to demand justice. But for now, our bloggers are looking back on their favorite posts from 2016. Please check them out!

rosa-parks-arrestMatt had no problem picking his favorite post of 2016: his piece on the long history of African-American women bringing sexual harassment to light. As Matt says, “the background reading for that one was really fascinating. Hopefully my synthesis did all of the source material justice!” It was only 30 short years ago that the Supreme Court handed down a landmark decision in sexual harassment law. Meritor Savings Bank v. Vinson was just one chapter in a long history of black women spearheading the fight against sexual harassment — from Rosa Parks to Anita Hill. Read Matt’s post to learn more about these brave women.

Tex-Supremes thumbnailAnne spent much of 2016 following the Supreme Court — including the deliberations and final ruling in this year’s Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt. When laws that purport to protect women’s health don’t actually do so, something has gone terribly wrong. Luckily, in June, the Supreme Court stood up for facts, logic, and the scientific method when they overturned Texas’ HB2, which wrote obstacles to abortion into law — under the guise of “protecting women’s health.” Anne’s pieces on the Supreme Court underscore how very important it is to have a president who will appoint justices who will uphold our constitutional right to control our own bodies.

shout-your-abortion-thumbnailGene had a clear candidate in mind when asked to share his favorite post of 2016: “That’s easy,” he told us, “Shouting My Abortion.” Gene, who has never had a uterus, ponders what it would be like if he could get pregnant — and have an abortion. Would abortion stigma start to fade away if cisgender men could get pregnant? Or would their bodies become heavily politicized battlefields as well? Regardless of your ability to become pregnant, statistics show that someone you love has had an abortion. Yet stigma keeps us silent. Read Gene’s thoughts on destigmatizing this common, legal, and important medical procedure.

Crosshairs thumbnailRachel kicked off 2016 by helping us fulfill our New Year’s resolution to read more when she reviewed “Living in the Crosshairs,” an enlightening, shocking, and enraging book that documents anti-abortion terrorism in the United States. The violence and threats routinely leveled at abortion providers not only heavily influences their lives, it also impacts all of us by making the full spectrum of reproductive health care more difficult to access. Now that November’s presidential election has put the United States on the brink of further dwindling access to safe abortion, this book will be — unfortunately — more relevant than ever. Understanding the obstacles abortion providers face, and the sacrifices they make, is important, making “Living in the Crosshairs” required reading.

Anna usually writes about the single-celled organisms that torment our nether regions in the form of sexually transmitted infections, but this year, her favorite post was about the history of contraception. When it comes to contraception, we’ve come a long way — from fish bladders to latex condoms, from womb veils to diaphragms, and from stem pessaries to IUDs. We can also use the morning-after pill rather than resorting to dangerous methods like douching with harsh chemicals to attempt to prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex. Even better, we don’t have to buy our condoms and other contraceptives on the black market! Read Anna’s post to learn some fun facts about the history of birth control.

pride flagsKelley is a PPAA employee who moonlights as a blogger. This summer, they wrote about the 47th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, which set the modern LGBTQ rights movement into motion. When the cops busted Stonewall Inn in June of 1969, it wasn’t a typical police raid — this time, the LGBTQ folks they were harassing fought back. While the riots themselves only lasted three days, the fight for equality continues into the present. Whether patronizing Stonewall in 1969 or Pulse in 2016, the LGBTQ community deserves safe spaces free of violence. Read Kelley’s favorite piece of 2016 to learn about this important chapter in the enduring struggle for human dignity.

The Best of 2015: A Year of Blogging

Every week, we publish new material on the blog — a feat that would not be possible without the dedication and talents of our amazing volunteer bloggers! It is our not-so-humble opinion that the blog publishes high-quality, informative, insightful, and sometimes downright fun pieces, and the entire Planned Parenthood Arizona family is so proud to have it as a showcase. To commemorate another successful year of blogging, we asked our bloggers to pick their favorite posts from 2015.

holding hands from backRebecca usually writes about contraception, but in 2015 she conceptualized the new Teen Talk series, aimed at our younger readers but still plenty relevant to people of all ages. One of her favorite pieces was about the decision to abstain from sexual activity. While we live in a culture in which a lot of us feel pressure to have sex — even before we’re ready — we all have the right to make our own choices about sex, including the choice not to have it! For some of us, saying no can be hard, but can also be liberating. The issue of abstinence is highly fraught in our culture, but we love Rebecca’s deft and respectful handling of the topic.

gloria thumbnailAnne is our newest blogger, and we have been blessed by her lively prose! Anne’s favorite post was called Abortion: Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, in which she wrote about the growing movement to fight stigma by “shouting our abortions” — rather than whispering about them or staying quiet. Given that 1 in 3 women has had an abortion yet the topic remains so taboo, the issue is largely shrouded in secrecy and silence. Anne shares her own story — and speaks powerfully about why it’s so important to shatter that silence once and for all. If “coming out” was so successful for the LGBTQ community, will it also help foster compassion and spread visibility for the many people who have had abortions?

breastfeedingCynthia was another new addition to the blogging team this year, and her debut post was also her favorite. In August, to celebrate National Breastfeeding Month, Cynthia shared her sweet story of breastfeeding and bonding. She wrote about how breastfeeding her son was the most “rewarding, challenging, frustrating, amazing, and empowering” thing she’s ever done. Breast milk has myriad benefits for both mother and baby, and Cynthia covered many of them in an informative post interwoven with her personal experiences and insights.

Stadium thumbnailMatt continues to write insightful posts about the intersection between the personal and the political. In August, Matt helped herald the football season with his look at how expanding the University of Arizona’s stadium shrunk abortion access in the state. As he so eloquently wrote, “Abortion was never meant to be a bargaining chip. It was sacrificed in 1974 to give more football fans a seat at the game. It’s time undo the damage and give more abortion supporters a seat in the legislature.” Whether you’re a Wildcats fan or simply interested in learning more about this chapter in reproductive-justice history, we think you’ll be fascinated (and enraged) to learn about the stadium deal.

Anna is a graduate student in health sciences who has carved out a niche for herself as our unofficial STD blogger. One topic she keeps coming back to is antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea, which is classified as an “urgent threat” by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Thanks to the bacteria’s ability to evolve so quickly, we only have one good antibiotic left to cure this serious infection — and no new ones on the horizon. Find out how the bacteria that cause gonorrhea are able to evade our pharmaceutical arsenal, whether they’re having “bacteria sex” with one another or grabbing genes from their cousins. These bugs have a unique talent for altering their genes, which would be admirable if it weren’t so worrying!

Harvey Milk Day thumbnailMichelle celebrated Harvey Milk Day with a touching tribute to this pioneering LGBTQ leader, who would have blown out 85 candles on his birthday cake last May — if his life hadn’t been cut short in a senseless and tragic assassination in 1978. As one of the first openly gay politicians ever to be elected to public office, Milk sponsored an anti-discrimination bill, fought to establish daycare centers for working mothers, helped to increase low-cost housing options, and consistently advocated for the rights of all marginalized communities. Check out Michelle’s piece to learn more about Harvey Milk, what he accomplished, and why his legacy is so important to celebrate!

condom and hand thumbnailJon joined us early this year — first as an intern, and then as a volunteer blogger. We loved the piece he wrote about the place birth control has in his life, especially in a world in which the birth control burden can too often fall on women’s shoulders alone. Jon used condoms to take responsibility for his part in preventing pregnancy, and to boost the effectiveness of his partners’ birth control pills. With typical use, condoms and oral contraceptives can combine to be more than 98 percent effective! For Jon, birth control helped him plan his future, complete his education, and forge relationships — and condoms were an essential component of that toolkit.

standwithpp pic thumbnailKelley actually isn’t a Planned Parenthood volunteer — they’re our public policy manager! That didn’t stop them from contributing some strong pieces to the blog. For Trans Awareness Month, Kelley shared their journey to living authentically — a post that was both heartfelt yet humorous, personal yet universal. In Arizona, Kelley can be fired for their sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression — but feels lucky to have found a supportive home with Planned Parenthood. No matter what month it is, Planned Parenthood supports the trans community because we stand for autonomy over one’s own body, identity, and decisions.

The Best of 2014: Our Bloggers Pick Their Favorite Posts

The year 2014 was a big one here at the blog — we published 146 new pieces, many of which educated our readers about our endorsed candidates during the midterm elections. In addition to energizing voters, we fostered health literacy with our pieces about sexual, reproductive, and preventive health care, and promoted social justice causes with articles on women’s and LGBTQ rights. Below, we share our bloggers’ best pieces from 2014!

kidsCare joined our blogging team this year, and hit the ground running with two consecutive posts about her experiences as a Peace Corps volunteer in Western Africa. In August, she observed National Immunization Awareness Month with a reflection on the importance of vaccination — both in the developing world and here in the United States. During her time in the Peace Corps, Care saw the devastation that diseases like measles, meningitis, and chickenpox wrought in the communities she served. Access to vaccines was not taken for granted in Western Africa — it was seen as a matter of life or death. Later, when Care returned to the United States — where many of us do take this access for granted — she discovered first-hand what happens in states with high vaccination-refusal rates. So if you don’t think skipping shots is a big deal, think again!

pillflag thumbnailMatt’s posts tackled a lot of topics this year, but in light of last month’s less-than-stellar election results, we’d like to shine the spotlight on his post from last June, Six Things Arizona Is Doing Right. Across the state, communities are recognizing the importance of comprehensive sex education, affirming transgender rights, promoting body acceptance, and fighting against domestic violence! So if Arizona politics have been bumming you out lately, read about six things we’re doing right, from the Capitol to the Pascua Yaqui Nation, and from Tempe to Tucson!

zombies thumbnailAnna focused mostly on sexually transmitted diseases this year, but one of her favorite posts was an evaluation of different birth control methods’ suitability during the zombie apocalypse. Maybe if more female writers were hired in Hollywood, “minutiae” like family planning would be addressed in zombie-filled scripts and screenplays. But instead, the female characters that populate these narratives don’t seem overly worried about unintended pregnancies (and somehow find the time and the supplies for the removal of their underarm hair). Until our zombie dramas are more realistic in their handling of women’s issues, be prepared for the worst and read Anna’s assessment of your best bets for birth control. (Her pick for the apocalypse, by the way, is the implant!)

afghan girlRachel observed the International Day of the Girl Child in October by focusing on sexual violence against girls. Unsurprisingly, this problem can be found in every corner of the earth, and Rachel discusses atrocities in both the developing world and in industrialized nations. Despite deep-seated misogyny that permeates many cultures, positive changes are made possible by the work of activists, from young girls risking their lives fighting for the right to education in Pakistan, to advocates lobbying to strengthen penalties for convicted rapists, as in the case of Audrie’s Law, signed by California’s governor last October. Rachel’s provocative, disturbing, and informative post asks us if empowering girls is good enough — or if we also need to address the root of the problem, which lies with the perpetrators and their enablers.

clinic escortsStacey, a former clinic escort, helped our patients for more than a year, and in March she drew from that experience in an incredibly powerful piece on the importance of protecting the buffer zone, the distance that anti-abortion protesters were made to keep between themselves and patients. The buffer zone was one of the tools we used to protect our patients’ dignity and safety. It was no surprise, then, that the buffer zone came under attack this year when it was challenged in front of the Supreme Court. What did come as a surprise to many reproductive-justice advocates, however, was the highest court’s unanimous decision to strike down buffer zones for protesters at abortion clinics, helping to make 2014 a dismal year in women’s rights.

Gay Liberation Front 1969Marcy’s post on the Stonewall Riots broke traffic records on our blog — not bad for one of our newest bloggers — so if you missed it the first time around, check it out now. Forty-five years ago, the modern LGBTQ movement was born as the patrons of a gay bar called the Stonewall Inn rose up against police. The LGBTQ population was often a target for harassment by police, and the Stonewall Riots turned that violence back on their oppressors. We now celebrate Pride every June in honor of the Stonewall Riots, and while our society has made tremendous gains over the past 45 years, we still have a lot of work to do. Learn about the riots themselves, as well as the current state of LGBTQ rights in the United States.

two women thumbnailMichelle is another new blogger, and her inaugural post discussed a gynecological disorder called PCOS, or polycystic ovarian syndrome. PCOS is characterized by a constellation of symptoms that can include irregular periods, weight gain, sluggishness, thinning hair, depression, acne, infertility, and ovarian cysts. It affects an estimated 5 million Americans, but it’s thought to be underdiagnosed and its symptoms are largely stigmatized. Michelle lays out an interesting case for how this stigma might contribute to doctors failing to recognize it: It’s easier to blame someone’s dietary choices or physical-activity levels for weight gain and fatigue, rather than look more closely at underlying physiological problems, such as hormone imbalances, that could actually be causing the sufferers’ symptoms. For Michelle, awareness is key, so check out her informative post!

NOW thumbnailTori taught us about the Scheidler v. NOW “trilogy” of Supreme Court cases, which pitted anti-abortion activist Joseph Scheidler against feminist advocacy group National Organization for Women. In case you’re scratching your head, wondering what the heck Scheidler v. NOW is and why it’s important, check out Tori’s fantastic summary of this series of cases. She describes the atmosphere of violence that increasingly characterized the anti-abortion movement throughout the 1980s, eventually giving rise to a lawsuit, filed by NOW, claiming that abortion protesters’ tactics qualified as extortion under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act. Now that the Supreme Court has struck down buffer zones, the anti-abortion movement’s history of harassment, vandalism, and violence is more relevant than ever.

SILCS_diaphragm thumbnailRebecca is a pharmacist who brings her passion for reproductive autonomy into focus with her series of posts on contraceptive methods. In August, she informed us about a one-size-fits-most, over-the-counter diaphragm that should hit U.S. pharmacies in 2015. Although it might kick off a resurgence in the diaphragm’s popularity in the industrialized world, it was actually developed to make effective contraception more accessible in developing countries. As Rebecca told us, we Americans are very privileged to have access to such a wide range of contraceptive options — but it’s important to remember that the variety of choices we enjoy isn’t available to everyone, who might face cultural, financial, or logistical barriers when it comes to having the means to control their fertility. Check out Rebecca’s post about Caya, the next generation of diaphragms, coming to a pharmacy near you but helping women worldwide!

The Best of 2013: Looking Back on a Year of Blogging

Did you know that only a handful of Planned Parenthood affiliates have blogs, and we’re one of them? Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona is so lucky to have such a talented and devoted group of volunteer bloggers, and thanks to them, 2013 was a great year! Check out our favorite pieces from 2013, which we present below in reverse alphabetical order.

GarnerAndLawrence 150Tori wrote about two landmark LGBTQ-related Supreme Court cases: Bowers v. Hardwick, which affirmed states’ rights to outlaw sodomy in 1986, and Lawrence v. Texas, which struck down sodomy laws nationwide in 2003. First, we were all excited by Tori’s discussion of what happened during the 17 years between 1986 and 2003 to tip the balance in favor of sexual freedom. And then, in an exciting twist of fate, the Supreme Court overturned the Defense of Marriage Act on the 10th anniversary of Lawrence v. Texas, just days after Tori’s piece was published! Can you believe that only a decade ago, states were allowed to criminalize sexual activity between consenting adults? We’ve come such a long way — although we still, sadly, have a ways to go toward securing true equality.

seasonalleRebecca is a long-time Planned Parenthood volunteer and a practicing pharmacist. She combines her interest in pharmacy with her passion for reproductive justice in her ongoing series Let’s Talk Contraception, which highlights different contraceptive methods and addresses common questions about birth control. Her most popular post this year was her piece about using the Pill to skip periods. Whether you’re interested in skipping a few periods or minimizing menstruation throughout the year, continuous contraception might be for you. What are the pros and cons to birth control methods that allow you to have a period just once or a few times per year? Is it safe? Is it natural? How many periods do we need, anyway? Rebecca’s answer is informative and fascinating!

tumblr_wattletonRachel conducted an interview with Faye Wattleton, Planned Parenthood Federation of America’s first African-American — and youngest — president. Her conversation with Ms. Wattleton covered a range of topics, including religion, race and racism, anti-abortion violence, and the progress the movement for reproductive freedom has made over the decades. The entire series is worth a look — but our favorite installment is part 2, in which Ms. Wattleton discusses the connection between her religious upbringing and the work she did with family planning. The thread that ties these seemingly disparate aspects of her background together seems to be the Biblical admonishment against judging others: “Judge not that you be not judged,” as she put it. From a childhood religious tenet to a guiding principle in her interactions with family planning patients, being nonjudgmental is a grounding influence in her life’s work.

PP entranceMatt’s favorite pieces included a post about the FACE Act, which was enacted by President Clinton to curtail anti-abortion violence at clinics. Unfortunately, its uneven enforcement meant that the law hasn’t always lived up to its potential — and some point to that misstep as a factor in recent violence against abortion providers. President Bush’s lax enforcement of the law might have played a part in the 2009 assassination of Dr. Tiller, an abortion provider in Kansas. Matt brings together some great reporting to give you an informative and insightful piece — it’s no surprise that RH Reality Check blogger and Crow Before Roe author Robin Marty encouraged her fans to “Read this now!”

breast-examAnna’s favorite pieces were those that tackled pervasive myths about vaccines, sexually transmitted diseases, and abortion. One of these posts dissected the origins of the claim that abortion can lead to breast cancer, which flies in the face of the scientific consensus. This idea is perpetuated by abortion opponents, who use junk science to promote their agenda. Unfortunately, despite a lack of credibility, this claim appears in mainstream publications; in literature offered to clients of crisis pregnancy centers; and in state laws that require pre-abortion counseling to include discredited warnings about a link between abortion and breast cancer. We all deserve accurate information to make informed decisions, but when ideology trumps science, we are robbed of this right.

Bonus: Stacey, our fabulous curator of links, put together a special edition of her regular Pro-Choice Friday News Rundown series, which rounds up the top stories of 2013!

Which posts stood out for you in 2013? Tell us about them in the comments!