Affirming the Autonomy of Indigenous Women

November is National American Indian Heritage Month. As we celebrate the positive sides of Indigenous Nations’ histories, we must acknowledge that the U.S. government has both robbed Native Americans of their land and, through the policies of the Indian Health Service division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, made it difficult for Indigenous people to access quality health care.

Indian Health Service (IHS) was established in 1955 with the stated goal of improving the health care of Native Americans living on reservations. However, Indigenous women who came into IHS clinics for something as common as vaccinations were often sterilized without their consent. During the 1960s and 1970s, 25 to 50 percent of women who visited IHS clinics (approximately 3,406 women) were sterilized without their knowledge. Methods of sterilization included partial or full hysterectomies, and tubal ligations.


Bodily autonomy is about having the power to decide for oneself whether and when to bear children.


The IHS had a clear objective: population control (aka “genocide”). Census data collected during the 1970s showed that Native Americans had birthrates that were much higher than white communities. According to census data, the average American Indian woman had 3.79 children, while white women had 1.79 children. The 1980 census revealed that the average birthrate for white women was 2.14, while the birthrate for Indigenous women was 1.99. You don’t have to be a math whiz to see that this is a drastic contrast.

Myla Vicenti Carpio, a professor of American Indian studies at Arizona State University, explains: Continue reading

STD Awareness: HIV Testing

HIV testIt’s often been said that young people view HIV as a chronic disease rather than the “life sentence” it was before there were effective treatments. The fact that an HIV infection can be managed with antiretroviral drugs is a boon from modern medicine, and there are hopes for better treatments on the horizon.

But HIV is only a manageable infection if you, well, manage it, and most Americans with HIV aren’t being treated with the medications we have in our arsenal. Only 3 out of 10 Americans who are infected with HIV are controlling the virus with medication — but when you zoom in on that population and look specifically at young people, the numbers are even more dismal, with only 13 percent of youth, ages 18 to 24, receiving treatment.


Knowing your HIV status is easier than it’s ever been.


Much of this problem is due to a lack of access — without adequate health coverage, these medications can be out of reach for many. But that’s not the whole story — it’s estimated that nearly half of 18- to 24-year-olds with HIV don’t know it. If they haven’t been diagnosed, they can’t know to seek treatment; if they don’t seek treatment, they can’t manage their infection; if they can’t manage their infection, their risk of health problems and early death increases — as do the chances of transmitting the virus to someone else.

So, if a 20-year-old tests positive for HIV and begins antiretroviral treatment right away, he or she can expect to live another five decades — to age 71, not bad compared to the average life expectancy of 79. But if that 20-year-old does not take antiretorvirals, he or she can only expect to live another dozen years — to age 32.

That’s why it’s so important to get tested and know your status. Continue reading

Pro-Choice Friday News Rundown

Raul Grijalva

Raúl Grijalva

  • Tea Party wingnut and congressional candidate Gabby Saucedo Mercer is accusing her opponent Raúl Grijalva of infanticide because he supports abortion rights. Cue up Ozzy Osbourne singing about the crazy train. (Arizona Daily Star)
  • Seventy percent of the people polled by Reason Magazine think birth control pills should be available over the counter. (Bustle)
  • We at Planned Parenthood also support the concept of OTC birth control. As long as the mandate included in the Affordable Care Act that requires insurers to offer it free of charge stays in place. (Forbes)
  • A rebuttal to the imbeciles who believe adoption is a universal alternative to abortion. (RH Reality Check)
  • Stellar piece on what getting an abortion was like in 1959. (BuzzFeed)
  • While we’re all immensely thankful for birth control, we must admit it’s got quite the peculiar history!! (Vox)
  • Republicans are trying to pretend as if there’s a distinction between being anti-abortion (which they are) and what they like to call “pro-life.” Informed voters will hopefully be wise to the fact that the only life they value is one in which one person hasn’t been born. (Slate)
  • Abortion is not a wrong, bad, or tragic choice for most women. Hannah Rosin explains why it should be embraced as a social good. (Slate Double X)
  • North Dakota may become the first state to pass a wretched “personhood” amendment. Similar measures have been added to ballots in numerous other states but have always lost by not-small margins. (Think Progress)

Mythbusting: Does Emergency Contraception Cause Abortion?

The 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

That Was Then, This Is Now: A History of Emergency Contraception

plan bThe following guest post comes to us via Morganne Rosenhaus, community engagement coordinator for Planned Parenthood Arizona.

For more than 10 years, emergency contraception has been the “poster child” for what it looks like when politics trumps science, again and again and again. Women’s health advocates, women’s health care providers, and researchers have argued for years (and two different presidential administrations) about the safety of emergency contraception and the importance of its place on the shelf, between the pregnancy tests and the condoms.


The age restrictions on emergency contraception have been in flux. Where do things currently stand?


In 1999, Plan B was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a prescription-only product (all new drugs are first approved as prescription-only). In 2003, the manufacturer of Plan B filed an application with the FDA to make it available over-the-counter (OTC). An FDA Advisory panel voted to recommend Plan B for OTC access with no age restriction. Then political turmoil ensued. You can read all the details here in this handy timeline.

In 2006, Plan B was approved for OTC access, but with an age restriction, which meant men and women 18 years and older could purchase Plan B at the pharmacy, but only with an ID providing proof of age. The Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) filed a lawsuit against the FDA over the ridiculousness of placing a scientifically unfounded age restriction on emergency contraception, which eventually led to the lowering of the restriction to 17 years. The FDA was also asked to re-review their rationale for imposing an age restriction in the first place.

Then things got worse. Let’s fast forward to 2011. Continue reading