Monday, June 15, 2015

What does a female condom have in common with a hip replacement?

https://nwhn.org/

[Re-post from NWHN e-newsletter 6/11/15]

Dear Friend,

What does a female condom have in common with a hip replacement?  Not much, obviously.  At least it’s obvious to us.  But the FDA treats female condoms as if they need the same level of stringent regulatory oversight as hip replacements and other implanted devices.  That’s just not right!

I’ve written to you before about how female condoms are a great option for safer sex. Despite being safe and effective at preventing HIV, sexually transmitted infections (STI's) and unintended pregnancy, the FDA has labeled female condoms as a Class III medical device, the highest level of regulation.  Male condoms are treated as Class II devices, which means that the FDA ensures that good manufacturing practices are followed, and changes aren’t made that could compromise safety and effectiveness.  But otherwise, the FDA doesn’t over-regulate male condom.  Needlessly classifying female condoms in the highest regulatory category creates barriers to female condom accessibility and affordability.  Only one female condom is FDA approved and available in the U.S. and permitted to be purchased with U.S. foreign aid.  Women and men deserve to choose the method of family planning and STI prevention that is right for them without facing unnecessary obstacles.

Last week, Network Program Director Coco Jervis participated in this informative webinar about current FDA regulatory opportunities for removing barriers.  We have been working with our coalition partners at the National Female Condom Coalition to urge the FDA to down-classify female condoms to enable new options for women in the U.S. and across the globe.  To help us remove barriers to new female condom products, take action today and share some of these fantastic NFCC resources and help spread the message that people need more options for safer sex.

The Network will continue working with our allies to ensure access to a full range of preventive options for pregnancy and STI transmission.  Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to receive for the most up-to-date information on our advocacy!

Thank you,
Cindy Pearson
Executive Director

Friday, June 12, 2015

Exclusive Q&A with Ricki Lake, Abby Epstein, & Holly Grigg-Spall

 
What made you want to shed light on this topic of hormonal contraceptives?
Ricki: It really seemed like a very natural progression for us from ‘The Business of Being Born.’ Women spend more time trying to avoid pregnancy - a decade or more at the start, then they have babies, then they’re back to trying to avoid it for further decades. It’s an experience all women share. What we did for birth, we want to do for birth control, and empower women with more information and more choice. ‘The Business of Being Born’ was about body literacy and this project is the same - it’s about women knowing, understanding, and trusting their bodies.

Abby: We’ve both had our own negative experiences with different kinds of hormonal contraceptives over the years. We know other women who have experienced the same thing. Holly Grigg-Spall sent us her manuscript for ‘Sweetening the Pill: Or How We Got Hooked on Hormonal Birth Control’ and something just clicked when I was reading it. For the first time, I was connecting emotionally difficult periods in my life to the use of the pill and it just made so much sense to do this film. We could approach birth control with women’s empowerment in mind, too.

Holly: For me, I wrote the book because I had a pretty terrible personal experience with the Pill, which I used for ten years consistently. The book began as a blog that I wrote about coming off the Pill and my experience doing that, how it made me feel, finding alternative contraception, learning about my cycle and so on. That blog meant that lots of women got in touch to share their own stories. I realized the extent of this problem. I then soon realized it was really taboo almost to criticize the Pill or the culture around the Pill. That interested me. I saw ‘The Business of Being Born’ when I was actually writing the book and I made the connection right away. I wrote about the parallels between the birth and the birth control industries. I knew that the book could make the basis of a great documentary and that the absolute best people to do this would be Abby and Ricki. I set my sights on that. Of course, I am now over-the-moon about the film. A book is one thing, but a documentary like this can reach so many more women.

Why have you turned to Kickstarter to get this movie made?
Abby: We spent a year going the traditional route and we met with a few networks and production companies. We had a lot of discussion and a lot of real interest. People were saying this film could be “the Food Inc. of birth control.” Everyone has a story or knows someone who has a story about this, it’s just that kind of subject. But, it doesn’t have that commercial pull. It seems, at first, a little scary even. Some people struggle to understand the perspective. We have to explain that it is not anti-birth control or anti-Pill. Instead it is pro-informed consent, pro-choice, and pro-knowledge. We want women to have more options for contraception, not less! We want them to have more access, not less! It’s a feminist film project. This topic is very politicized right now, so that takes a little time to explain.

Ricki: People might not realize, but we didn’t actually make any money from ‘The Business of Being Born’ - it was hugely successful in many great ways, but we lost money. Documentaries are really passion projects. We know a grassroots effort is right for this project, it spreads awareness and gets the conversation going. Women will share their stories and may even share their stories for the film. They will have their experiences validated by this, which is so important. The campaign is doing really well, but we have to keep going strong to reach our goal now.

The Kickstarter campaign highlights Fertility Awareness Methods as a non-hormonal alternative, particularly when supported with apps and new technology. How did this area come to your attention?
Ricki: We got introduced to Kindara first through Holly’s book and we have met with them and discussed their work with their app and new wireless basal body thermometer, Wink. They want to democratize this knowledge, make it part of every woman’s education. They really think it could change things for the better when it comes to women’s lives. We also spoke with the makers of Clue in Berlin. They’re helping women track every part of their monthly cycle. It’s great progress for women’s reproductive health. Just this week we saw that Apple finally decided to add menstrual cycles to their HealthKit app. This is wonderful. It means other apps can sync with the native technology on the iPhone and it means more women will come to realize they can track their cycles and benefit from being aware of this information. They will be made aware of that option.

Abby: Really the technology sector is leading the way here. We’re seeing them step up and help and support women who don’t want to or can’t use hormonal contraceptives. They’re making using Fertility Awareness Methods simpler, easier, less time-consuming and more approachable. They’re getting in the media and getting their message out there. And these people are also a wealth of knowledge because thousands of women are using their apps and talking to them about their cycles and experiences.

A lot of women take the Pill for other issues these days, not just for contraception. Do you want to explore this?
Abby: Absolutely. A couple of our film advisers work in this area - providing holistic, natural reproductive health support. They are working with women who have found the Pill hasn’t helped them long term. They’ve had side effects or the problems they had before have returned after coming off. They’re struggling to get pregnant. The Pill is prescribed for so many health problems these days and, although it’s definitely helpful and even essential for some women, it’s not the right treatment in all situations. In the Kickstarter video we highlight one part of this - how women are using it to regulate their cycles, even though they’re getting misleading information on that.

Holly: This is such an important area. More and more women are on the Pill for everything from acne to PCOS and yet the Pill doesn’t treat these problems, it only masks them. When women come off, most commonly the issue returns and might even be worse than before. We think that women have to suffer with PMS, like it’s our destiny, inevitable, when actually a lot of hormonal balance-related problems can be treated properly long term with alternative protocols. Women deserve better. They don’t have to put up with this stuff. And they don’t always have to use drugs that give them side effects to fix the problem. For some women, as Abby says, hormonal contraceptives are essential treatment. But we’re at a point now where it’s being doled out like a cure-all and it’s just not.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Women-Controlled Research Gets Recognition!

By Francie Hornstein, former co-director of the L.A. Feminist Women's Health Center (FWHC)

I'm writing to encourage you to contribute what you can to Kathy Hodge's travel to the upcoming Society for Menstrual Cycle Research Conference.  I attended this conference in the 1970's to present research conducted by the FWHC.  Our research was a grassroots effort to document our own menstrual cycles, in detail.  While we were a bit nervous to be meeting with this group of "real" research scientists, our research was met with respect, enthusiasm and honest curiosity.

The 1970's marked the beginning of women in science investigating topics of concern to other women.  Since then, research conducted by women in science has proliferated.  Kathy's attendance at the conference is important for two reasons: 1) She can represent the history of work done by the feminist health movement and the FWHC in particular and 2) She can hear about current research related to women's health done by women in research and academia.  These connections are invaluable in determining the direction of future research that benefits women's health.

https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=KW6TNHQGN9ZQY

Checks are gladly accepted!  Please write the check to:
Women's Health in Women's Hands c/o Carol Downer

Mail to:
womenshealthinwomenshands.org
2451 Ridgeview Avenue
Los Angeles, California 90041


To read about the "Perks" offered to show our APPRECIATION for your FINANCIAL SUPPORT - please read "Kathy Hodge Can Make HISTORY with YOUR Financial Help!"

So far $280 of the $2400 requested has been raised.  To see a list of contributors go to femwords.blogspot.com

Friday, April 17, 2015

Thank you! on "Kathy Hodge Can Make HISTORY with YOUR Financial Help!"

YOU CAN MAKE HISTORY HAPPEN!

Your donation can fund Kathy Hodge* to present the report of the 1975 Women’s Health Center’s participant-controlled study of the female menstrual cycle at the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research Conference in Boston, June 4th to 6th, 2015.

“In male-dominated science, not as much work has been done to find a simple indicator of a woman’s days, which begin prior to the basal body temperature change at ovulation, as has been done on walking on the moon”

DONATE to cover Kathy’s out-of-pocket expenses
Needed: $2400.00

Donate via PayPal or check c/o Carol Downer 



 Thank You for Your Support!
  • Karen Nixon ($25.00) 
  • Francie Hornstein ($50.00)
  • Judith Kaluzny ($50.00)
  • Shelby Coleman ($50.00)
  • Monique Harriton ($25.00)
  • Melissa Davis ($40.00)
  • Teresa Downer ($40.00)
  • Thora J. DeLey ($25.00)
  • James J. Cox ($50.00)

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Kathy Hodge Can Make HISTORY with YOUR Financial Help!

YOU CAN MAKE HISTORY HAPPEN!

Your donation can fund Kathy Hodge* to present the report of the 1975 Women’s Health Center’s participant-controlled study of the female menstrual cycle at the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research Conference in Boston, June 4th to 6th, 2015.

“In male-dominated science, not as much work has been done to find a simple indicator of a woman’s days, which begin prior to the basal body temperature change at ovulation, as has been done on walking on the moon”

DONATE to cover Kathy’s out-of-pocket expenses
Needed: $2400.00

Donate via PayPal or check c/o Carol Downer



HISTORY
In 1975, the Feminist Women’s Health Centers did the first-ever participant-led menstrual cycle research. 

http://www.womenshealthinwomenshands.org/History.htm9 staff members of the Feminist Women’s Health Center (including Kathy Hodge) met each day for over a month, recording changes in our vaginas and cervixes, our moods, basal body temperature, and other physiological changes.
FINDINGS
http://www.womenshealthinwomenshands.org/History.htm“We found that healthy females can have a wider range of normal than previously believed.  We did see cyclic changes, but not the ones medical textbooks focused on.  Moods defied cyclic interpretation in our study, which frankly surprised us.”

PUBLICATION OF RESULTS
The findings were published in the journal, Women’s Health (now defunct), Helen Marieskind, editor-in-chief.


ABOUT THE SOCIETY FOR MENSTRUAL CYCLE RESEARCH
The Society for Menstrual Cycle Research is a nonprofit, interdisciplinary research organization.  Its membership includes researchers in the social and health sciences, humanities scholars, health care providers, policy makers, health activists, artists and students with interests in the role of the menstrual cycle in women’s health and well-being.

http://menstruationresearch.org/

The Society works to have menstrual health respected as a human right.  The UNDP and UNICEF have highlighted menstruation as “the single most important factor affecting school drop-out among girls”.

THE CONFERENCE
http://www.lorettaross.com/
  • Keynote by Reproductive Justice Pioneer Loretta Ross
  • Kick-Off Flash! Plenary showcasing several short diverse talks that make the menstrual connection
  • 2015 Making Menstruation Matter award presentation to Our Bodies, Ourselves
  • Plenary on Menstrual Cycle Hygiene Management campaigns around the globe
  • “Mainstreaming the Flow”: (Still) Selling my Soul to Start the Conversation” with Tomi-Ann Roberts
  • Widening the Cycle”, a menstrual art exhibit and plenary
  • Poetry Open Mic and Raffle hosted by Dominique Christina
  • Lunette Comedy and Cocktails with the Crimson Wave Girls

KATHY WILL PRESENT A SUMMARY OF THE FINDINGS
This breakthrough study exploded the medical myth that any variation from the 28-day cycle was “abnormal”.  We also found that relying on the results of routine one-time, “snapshot”, readings of lab tests could result in grossly inappropriate and even harmful diagnoses and treatments. Mood changes during our cycles seemed more impacted by the environment.




WE HAVE THE FOLLOWING PERKS TO SHOW OUR APPRECIATION FOR YOUR FINANCIAL SUPPORT

THE PERKS!

$5.00 OR MORE 
YOU WILL RECEIVE A SOCIAL MEDIA SHOUT-OUT AND A REPORT OF THE CONFERENCE FROM KATHY (We will list your name on our website, blog, facebook, and twitter as a supporter of Kathy’s presentation.)

$25.00
A copy of Pat Maginnis’ “Condom Coloring Book”
Donate: PayPal or check c/o Carol Downer
$40.00
A Self-Examination Kit, including speculum, flashlight, hand mirror and instruction sheet (donated by Women’s Health Specialists)
Donate: PayPal or check c/o Carol Downer
$50.00
A used, good-condition copy of A Woman’s Book of Choices” by Rebecca Chalker and Carol Downer (it’s out of print)
Donate: PayPal or check c/o Carol Downer
$100.00
Framed Pat Maginnis cartoon showing a uterus being pulled in a tug-of-war between patriarchal men and population controllers) OR a PDF copy of Kathy Hodge’s paper, with tables and charts.
Donate: PayPal or check c/o Carol Downer

https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=KW6TNHQGN9ZQY
We gladly accept checks!  Please write the check to:
Women's Health in Women's Hands c/o Carol Downer

Mail to:
Womenshealthinwomenshands.org
2451 Ridgeview Avenue
Los Angeles, California 90041

Social media shout out will be posted immediately.  Kathy Hodge’s PDF report will be e-mailed, and other perks will be mailed by July 31st.

Thank You for Your Support!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

SUPPORT PURVI PATEL’S RIGHT TO CONTROL HER OWN BODY

By Carol Downer

In our rush to support Purvi Patel, who was sentenced to 20 years in prison on April 6, 2015 by an Indiana Judge on the charges of child neglect and feticide (inducing her own abortion) by adopting Patel’s claim that she miscarried, we risk implying that if it were a self-induced abortion, we might not support her.

The prosecution introduced evidence that Patel had told a friend about ordering pills to induce an abortion and about taking the medication, and had then texted her to say, “just lost the baby”.

We have seen abortion rights curtailed in recent years.  The desperation of females who have denied a way to solve their problem of unwanted pregnancy and the availability of abortion-inducing pills, and female’s dependence on medical help if complications of miscarriage or induced abortion will continue to produce these horrific outcomes.  We’d better think this through and take a position that doesn’t embroil us in factual evidentiary disputes or place us in the position of accepting the legitimacy of the State punishing a female for trying to control her own body.

Given the evidence that Patel induced an abortion, many of her supporters have shifted to the question of whether the fetus was viable and if so, whether it was a stillborn.  Viability is not determined by whether a particular fetus of a certain age will live, it is determined by the statistical probability that it will live, based on whether any fetuses born at that stage of development who were cared for in a well-equipped neo-natal unit have lived.  Whether the defense’s estimate of the fetus’ age was correct or the prosecutor’s estimate of a later fetal age, the fetus was very premature and its chances of survival under the best conditions were problematic.  

But why are feminists basing our support on whether the fetus was viable?  And, why are we challenging the tests for whether the fetus managed to take a breath?  Don’t we support Patel in her right to rid herself of an unwanted fetus.  It is her body, after all, and when a female is forced to maintain a pregnancy, it is reproductive slavery.  Just because the Supreme Court decided that there was a point during pregnancy when the fetus’ rights trumped the female’s rights, why do we accept that?  Of course, her attorney should and must present every defense, but unless we agree that the State has the right to control our reproductive organs under some circumstances, we must uphold Patel whether she had a miscarriage or expelled a premature fetus.

If the authorities pay attention to our Petitions, it will be because they see how outraged the females of America are at this prosecution and sentence and because they feel compelled to respect the national outcry.  They will not be swayed by the fact that we’ve believed the defense’s version of the facts, or that we’ve presented a legal argument.

As a female and as a feminist, I support Patel unequivocally.  FREE PURVI PATEL!

Monday, March 16, 2015

Report of discussion with Max Dashu

 January 27, 2015

http://www.suppressedhistories.net/

Before I left Oakland for home, I stopped by Max’s archives.

I met with Max for four hours; it was extremely interesting and helpful.

My goal in the meeting was to learn from Max about the Witch Hunts.  I achieved my goal; I learned so much.  It was in reading Caliban and the Witch that I saw that the motivation of the Witch Hunters went beyond their desire to suppress women’s sexuality and their activities which were competitive with the developing medical profession, and by reading John Riddle’s book, I also realized the existence of and the significance of a widespread knowledge and use of contraception and abortion.   This was the real power of women-the power to decide whether or not to create the next generation.  This was the power that those who were in control could not abide.

I originally learned about the Witch Hunts from Witches, Midwives and Nurses by Ehrenreich and English and I knew that women who were burned as witches were many times healers.  I definitely saw that what we were doing represented a revival of women’s knowledge around healing.  

Max rounded out my knowledge hugely.

Max became irritated with me because she said I wasn’t listening.   It is true that I sometimes interrupted her (as she did me), and also I sometimes didn’t get the full import of what she was trying to communicate.

Despite certain differences, mostly in emphasis, it was clear that we profoundly agree about the origin and nature of women’s oppression.  We both see that the development of patriarchy resulted in the lowering of women’s power and status. We both see capitalism as an “advanced form” of patriarchy.  We both think that ethnicity and class have to be taken into consideration in any historical explanation.  We both think that the causation of the Witch Hunts and other attacks on women as being multi-causal.  Both of us distinguish between capitalistic or imperialistic patriarchy and the patriarchy found in non-capitalistic or imperialistic societies, and agree that patriarchal capitalism and imperialism is worse for women. In other words, “all capitalistic societies are patriarchal, but not all patriarchal societies are capitalistic.”

Both of us kept the free-ranging discussion from turning into an argument; neither of us were there to convince the other, so we kept bringing the conversation back to a discussion where each of us would have the opportunity to explain our points more fully, etc.

We also talked about the recent attacks of trans-gender women.  Max has worked with atheist groups, and told me about a recent conference where transgender women wanted to participate in a female-only workshop that is traditionally held at the atheists’ conference.  The workshop is held in the nude and the females did not want the transgender women to attend.  (I know she said they wouldn’t allow those who had not had surgery, but I don’t remember whether she said they also objected to those who had had genital surgery).  In protest, the transgender women sat, knees akimbo, around the entrance to the workshop and sent looks of disapproval to the participants when they came in.  Max supported the females by also sitting on the floor and encouraging the participants when they came in.

We both see this is a serious attack and it constitutes a crisis in feminism.  We also agreed that those who want to destroy feminism, including some leftists who have always been hostile to feminism, are taking advantage of this opportunity to attack feminists by supporting the transgender women.  I think the support is also material.

We talked about Caliban and the Witch.  Max was critical of Federici’s mischaracterization of the era prior to the 14th century.  Federici said that Witch Hunting had started then; that before there was no Witch Hunting.  She has the references to show that in fact, there was Witch Hunting several centuries prior.

I don’t think that Federici’s definite assertion that there was no history of Witch Hunts in the preceding era, negated the value of her insight that the crime of Witchcraft, which focused on contraception and abortion, was invalid.  In reading the whole sentence that Federici had stated, she left room for at least some of the facts that Max had alluded to.  Perhaps I’m conflating the explanation of Heinsohn and Steiger with Federici’s, but I recall that she emphasized that the crime of Witchcraft (as compared to Sorcery) was invented in the 14th century.

Max feels that everything flows from the establishment of patriarchy, and we should not focus on some of the subsequent developments, but rather fight against patriarchy in all of its manifestations.  I feel that a quantum leap happened as a result of the Witch Hunts (as well as the enclosures) that helped the feudal lords to accumulate capital, that this enabled them to launch a campaign of conquest and pillage and colonialization that would result in the establishment of capitalism in Europe and in the huge expanse of territory in the colonies.

We didn’t talk about it too much, but I agree with Max that the viewing the earth as a resource to exploit, and starting with seeing women as resources to dominate and exploit is the root of the problem.  I just think that we need to apply that insight into the current manifestations of this patriarchal/capitalist/imperialist/industrialist outlook.

Max recognized a lot of the components of the creation of capitalism, bringing precious metals to Europe to enable monetarism, raw materials, slaves, etc.  But, if she sees that these developments forced women into the modern mold, the housewife who recreates the labor force and recreates the worker too, she didn’t say so.  She did say that her criticisms of C&W are “additive”, meaning she doesn’t criticize what Federici said, but thinks she omitted significant information.

My impression is that Max thinks that I over-generalize to pinpoint a particular point in history.  She sees the evolutionary aspect of patriarchy and how it leads to capitalism.  How men in patriarchy saw women as a resource, the same as other natural resources.  I agree with that, but I think that the Witch Hunts had the effect of terrorizing women, resulting in seeing their reproductive activities as resources to enable the modern work force to arise.

We also differed on whether the reason they went after the Witches was to control their sexuality.  To me, patriarchy wants to control women’s sexuality as a means to control their reproduction.  

Max has devoted her life to studying and gathering together the information to support her view of history, and the result is awesome.  She allowed me to read her manuscripts. (Much of the original material that she viewed at the local San Francisco Library was right on the shelves.  She said they’ve now been placed in less accessible sections.)  The wealth of detail that she has gathered brings home the reality of how the Witch Hunt played out all over Europe over four centuries.

I agree with her that the concrete detail is necessary to prevent us from romanticizing the Witches and seeing the Witch Hunts as some kind of medieval aberration.

As to the Witch’s costumes.  She said that women accused of witchcraft were forced to march through town wearing the pointed hats.  Also, she said that much of the details, like the shoes and the dress come from the everyday wear of poor women, especially older poor women. She mentioned Belgium, in particular.

We both are worried about what may happen in this country if the depression gets worse and people are turned against each other.  Some modern version of the Witch Hunts are possible.

Academic Women:
  Our discussion of the role of academic women is illustrative of how Max and I both agree and still go a different place with the significance for action.  She sees the way that the academic world influences academic women to look at their goal as getting prestige, seeing who can get their papers published, etc.  I focus more on the power relationships and the way that patriarchal academia uses its control of jobs and the prestige that goes with it to derail young feminists who seek a career in women’s studies.  I think that we see the cause and effect differently, but we both see how empty and irrelevant most of their work is.  I, in addition, believe that they are being manipulated by academia to spin their wheels, or even worse, to attack the second wave of feminism with their emphasis of personal liberation and changing society by changing labels and self-definitions.