Pro-Choice Friday News Rundown

  • cigaretteSome Republicans are trying to circumvent the Affordable Care Act’s mandate for co-pay-free birth control by pushing for over-the-counter availability of the Pill. Even the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists thinks this is a horrible idea. Its president states, “Unfortunately, instead of improving access, this bill would actually make more women have to pay for their birth control, and for some women, the cost would be prohibitive.” (Care2)
  • Smoking is damaging, hazardous, and deadly enough on its own. Smoking while on the Pill? Not a good idea. If you’re doing this, please stop. (The Root)
  • Arizona congressional tool Trent Franks says all Democrats who refuse to enact legislation to force women to give birth against their will are doomed to have regrets in their golden years. Insert world’s biggest eye roll here. (Right Wing Watch)
  • Students at one Seattle high school can get IUDs inserted for free! (Grist)
  • A harsh 12-week abortion ban in Arkansas has been blocked by the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals! Considering 12 weeks is well before a fetus is viable outside the womb, it would have been the strictest in the country. (Think Progress)
  • Are “hookup apps” like Tinder and Grindr behind an increase in sexually transmitted infections? (Time)
  • Race-baiting abortion opponents continue to be disingenuous, tone deaf, ignorant, and just plain The Worst. (RH Reality Check)
  • California is cracking the whip on the lying liars at “crisis pregnancy centers” who intentionally deceive women about abortion. Now if only we could get some federal legislation. (HuffPo)
  • Forced vaginal exams on students? Excuse me??? What the hell kind of shenanigans are going on at Valencia College in Florida? (CNN)
  • Five states worked on abortion restrictions over Memorial Day weekend and no one seemed to notice. (Fusion)
  • Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is so embarrassingly stupid I can’t even take it. He referred to mandatory ultrasounds for women seeking abortions (some of which are transvaginal) “a cool thing” and said, “We just knew if we signed that law (requiring ultrasounds), if we provided the information, that more people if they saw that unborn child would make a decision to protect and keep the life of that unborn child.” What? Uh, NO. All available evidence shows that these ultrasounds do nothing to change women’s minds when they do not wish to continue a pregnancy. Women aren’t fools who need to physically see something to realize its significance. You can show them all the fetuses in the universe — if they’re confident in their choice not to give birth, it won’t make a difference. Stop forcing images upon women because you think it’s “cool.” It isn’t. (Talking Points Memo)

STD Awareness: HPV and Smoking

cigaretteThursday, November 21, is the Great American Smokeout, a day to abstain from smoking — and, one hopes, to quit for good. “That’s great,” you say, “but what do cigarettes have to do with sexually transmitted diseases?”

Good question!

First, let’s talk about HPV. Human papillomavirus (HPV) is known as the “common cold of STDs” — because pretty much every sexually active person will contract it, even people with very few sex partners. Aside from complete abstinence, the best way to avoid an HPV infection is to be vaccinated with Gardasil, which protects against four common HPV strains — two that cause genital warts, and two that cause certain cancers, such as cervical cancer and oropharyngeal cancer. You can further reduce risk by using condoms and dental dams during all sexual activities, limiting sexual partners, and choosing partners who have had few or no previous partners — however, these risk-reduction methods don’t guarantee that you’ll remain HPV-free.


Harmful chemicals from cigarettes can end up in your cervical mucus!


If you’re sexually active, you could have contracted HPV without ever knowing about it. Most infections are asymptomatic (meaning that you never develop symptoms) and transient (meaning that they go away on their own after a year or two). When symptoms do appear, they can manifest as genital warts, penile skin lesions, cervical abnormalities, and signs of cancer elsewhere on the body. And, sometimes, an HPV infection can become persistent, meaning that it doesn’t go away. Luckily, there are steps you can take to decrease risk of developing HPV symptoms, and to increase your chances of fighting off an HPV infection. And one of those things is to quit smoking! Continue reading

Over 90 Percent of What Planned Parenthood Does, Part 18: Cholesterol Testing

vegetablesWelcome 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 never knew about.


It’s National Cholesterol Education Month.


Heart disease and stroke are leading causes of death in our country, and high cholesterol is a major risk factor for both of these conditions. Most people with high cholesterol don’t have it under control, even though it is both preventable and treatable. According to the National Cholesterol Education Program, adults 20 years of age and older should have their cholesterol checked every five years. And, with two out of three adults suffering from high cholesterol, keeping track of your cholesterol is important.

What is cholesterol?

plaqueCholesterol is a waxy substance, sort of like fat, that can coat the walls of your arteries, forming a “plaque.” This is also referred to as “hardening of the arteries” or atherosclerosis. You’ll often hear comments like, “Those fast-food cheeseburgers will clog your arteries” — regularly eating food that is high in saturated fat can increase the amount of cholesterol that circulates in your bloodstream, increasing your risk for health problems. When arteries have too much plaque, they narrow, and your heart has to work harder to pump blood through your body.

Our bodies need cholesterol to function, but they’re able to synthesize it themselves — unlike many vitamins and minerals, we can make our own cholesterol and don’t need to get it from food. Cholesterol comes in two types: “good” cholesterol, or high density lipoprotein (HDL); and “bad” cholesterol, or low density lipoprotein (LDL). “High cholesterol” refers to high levels of “bad” (LDL) cholesterol in the blood. LDL is what forms plaque in the arteries, while HDL prevents plaque buildup, likely by carrying the LDL to the liver, which processes it before it’s excreted from the body. Continue reading

Let’s Talk Contraception: NuvaRing, Another Contraceptive Choice

Would you like an alternative to a daily pill for contraception? NuvaRing is a flexible vaginal ring containing a combination of two hormones used to prevent pregnancy: a progestin and an estrogen. It is placed inside the vagina where it releases a continuous small dose of these hormones, and is left in place for three weeks. Then you remove it and wait one week, during which you usually will have your period. After this ring-free week, you insert a new ring.


The vaginal ring is an excellent alternative for people who don’t want to take a daily pill for contraception.


Used properly, it is nearly as effective as oral birth control pills, is easily reversible and frees you from having to remember to take a pill each day. You can use tampons, vaginal yeast medications, and spermicides when wearing the ring, but you should not use a diaphragm because it may not fit properly. In some vaginal conditions, such as a prolapsed (or falling) uterus, you may not be able to use the ring because it might slip out more easily. The NuvaRing can only work when it’s inserted properly in order to release its hormones. Most women report they cannot feel the ring once it’s inserted.

Most of the side effects of the NuvaRing are similar to birth control pills. Cigarette smoking is definitely not recommended because it may increase your risk for strokes or heart attacks, especially if you are older than 35. There have been several reports that the ring may put you at an increased risk for blood clots, and this is still being studied. If you have concerns about this or have a personal or family history of blood clots, heart attacks, or strokes, it’s important to talk with your health care provider before using the ring. Continue reading

STD Awareness: Can Oral Sex Cause Throat Cancer?

mouthLast month, actor Michael Douglas gave a frank interview in which he revealed that human papillomavirus (HPV) caused his throat cancer. And, he continued, he got the virus from performing oral sex — specifically, cunnilingus (oral contact with female genitalia). It’s unusual for celebrities to be open about their STD status — and Douglas’ spokesperson has since backpedaled on his comment — so Douglas is to be commended for bringing light to a taboo and little-understood topic. But there were a few things he got wrong, too.


No matter your gender or sexual orientation, performing unprotected oral sex can increase cancer risk.


HPV is a common virus that can be spread by most sexual activities — including vaginal, anal, and oral sex, as well as rubbing genitals together. There are many strains of HPV, which come in two main categories: low-risk HPV, which can cause genital warts; and high-risk HPV, which can cause cancers of the cervix, anus, vagina, vulva, penis, mouth, and throat. The majority of HPV-related cancers are caused by two strains of HPV: HPV-16 and HPV-18.

The good news is that there is a vaccine that can protect you from infection by HPV-16 and HPV-18. Furthermore, most people clear an HPV infection within two years. HPV-related throat cancer is rare, affecting just 2.6 out of 100,000 people.

Can oral sex really lead to throat cancer?

Unfortunately, it is absolutely true that oral sex can transmit HPV, and a chronic infection can cause cancer. Oral sex is indeed sex. It’s not “third base,” it’s not “almost sex,” it’s plain old, straight-up sex, carrying with it the potential for both pleasure and disease transmission. Unfortunately, because so many of us have a lax attitude toward it, fewer people take precautions when engaging in oral sex, and are less likely to use condoms or dental dams. Combined with low vaccination rates for HPV in the United States, the virus is even easier to acquire than it needs to be. Continue reading

Motherhood: A Prenatal Guide

momkissingbabyHAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!

Becoming a mother is a wondrous event. It is also a lifelong commitment to another special human being, your child. To provide your new baby with the best start in life, taking care of yourself in your childbearing years is essential. When you think that half of all pregnancies in the United States each year are unintended, it’s very important to follow a healthy lifestyle every day to ensure a good pregnancy and a good start for your baby.


Sunday is Mother’s Day. To those of you planning a pregnancy or hoping to be a mother someday, this is for you.


The United States does not fare as well as many other industrialized countries when it comes to the health of its newborns. Preterm births and low birth-weight babies are often the result of unhealthy pregnancies and a lack of prenatal care. New information and research has given us lots of good information about what is important to do before and during your pregnancy to increase your chances of having a healthy baby. Having a plan about when you want to start a family and what you intend to do to get yourself in the best health possible is a good start. This is called preconception health care, and it can make a big difference in the well-being of you and your baby.

At Planned Parenthood Arizona, you can see us for preconception health checkups. In addition to pregnancy planning services and fertility awareness education, we provide other services that can help you be in the best health possible before you conceive. We offer physical exams as part of our general health care services. You also might be interested in STD screening, to ensure that you receive treatment before you become pregnant. Additionally, we offer smoking cessation, to help you quit smoking for a tobacco-free pregnancy.

Here are some guidelines for ensuring your preconception health:

  1. Plan when you want to have a family and space your pregnancies. Be sure you are ready for the responsibility and expense of a child. If it’s not your first child, wait 18 to 24 months before having an additional child to allow your body to recover and prepare for another pregnancy. Continue reading

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