Monday, August 31, 2009

Hi Everybody: I want to commend the new issue of On the Issues to you. The entire issue is excellent, but there is a wonderful article about the Trans Health Initiative at the Atlanta Feminist Women's Health Center.

I wrote the staff, Nancy Boothe, Jac Camp and Lola Fleckenstein the following note to commend them on this program.

Dear FWHC Staff, Executive Director Nancy Boothe, Jac Camp and Lola Fleckenstein:
While reading about the Trans Health Initiative at the Atlanta Feminist Women’s Health Center in the article by Eleanor J. Bader in On the Issues Magazine, tears of joy came to my eyes. You courageously serve people who are undergoing medically complicated treatments with care and dignity. I commend you. I’m sure we’re going to learn a lot more about our sexuality and health through your program.
The Feminist Women’s Health Centers were founded to give us control over our own bodies. We gained first-hand knowledge of our bodies in a non-judgmental setting, the Self-Help Clinic. You are carrying on your thirty-two-year tradition, enabling those who make the healthy decision to express their sexuality to receive respectful, competent medical treatment.
Here is a small contribution to the Robert Eads Clinic. Please let me know if I can be of any support to your efforts.
In Sisterhood,
Carol Downer

Friday, August 28, 2009

Why I Favor But Will Not Work for Government Health Reform

A respected colleague from the Women's Health Movement urges me to join in the battle for Obama's health reform. In one e-mail, she sent me and other pro-choice contacts a pro-choice joke that she did not feel free to send to the other contacts on her health reform e-mail list, who presumably are anti-choice. This is my response to her.

Dear Cathy:
You stated that you believe that the single-payer health care issue is the civil rights issue of our time. I would like to explain to you why I will not be putting my effort into this struggle, even though, of course, I would like to get rid of the insurance companies. Health care should never be commodified and sold for profit.
1. Single-Issuism: The demand for single payer health care has attracted the support of a broad spectrum of groups. That is the good part. Unfortunately, it seems that many people are so desperate for a coalition effort that they will betray their own interests, because they believe this to be a winning strategy. For example, some feminists downplay their demands for abortion rights so as not to offend those who oppose abortion. (I haven’t noticed anti-choice groups within our health reform coalition downplaying their bigotry, by the way.)
I believe it is a losing strategy to compromise your basic principles, especially when you consider that the majority of American people support health care reform already so it is unnecessary to compromise our principles to get support. (you notice that that widespread support hasn’t impressed President Obama. (Apparently, President Obama seems to think that going for the middle ground is a smart strategy even when the lines of the battle are drawn between big corporations against the will of the people. No matter how he has gutted his plan, members of Congress, who are dependent on contributions from the insurance companies, won’t support his weak-as-water proposal and, of course, he can’t get the American people excited about such a timid proposal either. Presently, even if we get a “public option”, that won’t stop health insurance companies from denying care on some pretext or another.
2. No demand for improved quality of health care: We in the women’s health movement know how downright dangerous a lot of health care is, especially for women, so how can I get excited about wanting more of it? For example, over a third of births in the United States are by cesarean section, and women with private insurance are even more likely to get dangerous intervention in their births.
Michael Moore’s “Sicko” didn’t even touch that taboo subject. What makes us think that doctors and hospitals will stop doling out drugs and doing unnecessary surgeries just because the taxpayers are footing the bill?
It’s true that many of the people without health insurance are poor and of color, so at first glance it seems “politically correct” to fight to get them insured some way or another. Rather, we need to be fighting for safe working conditions and fair wages, against locating toxic dumps in poor neighborhoods, decriminalizing drug use, for regulations to prohibit the over-processing of food and and the misleading of American consumers about the dangers of processed foods and for protection of independent farmers. The reason poor people and people of color have more health problems is their exposure to environmental hazards at work and in their communities, their lack of access to quality food, and stress.
3. No challenging of imperialism and capitalism. I’m not suggesting that we abandon our fight for good health care and to only fight to stop U.S. aggression and the takeover of American society by big corporations, but I think a successful fight for good health care needs to take careful aim at the real sources of the problem. For example, even though the money that our country has spent on the wars in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan could easily pay for health care, and therefore some make the argument that we should spend our budget for single-payer insurance, not war, the real problem is that our whole oil-based way of life is destructive of the our health, our planet and wasteful of our resources, and that these wars have been waged to maintain that lifestyle. Here again, when we make the argument that “a country as rich as ours should be able to provide health care for its citizens”, we’re ignoring that the wealth of this country comes from the exploitation of other countries, and we’re also ignoring that most of the wealth of this country is centered in the top one percent. This argument actually reinforces the myth that American’s hard work alone has resulted in having great wealth.

“Well, we didn’t succeed, but at least we tried”, isn’t a good enough rationalization for expending our limited time and energy on a movement that, even if successful, would exclude abortion from coverage and wouldn’t address the fundamental problems.
In struggle, Carol

Friday, July 17, 2009

Is a Gynecology Exam a Violation of our Body?

I received an e-mail from Cassandra who has a blog,, who asked me to write an article on my blog and site about the harm from the routine gynecological visit. Cassandra also referred me to “women against stirrups” on Yahoo.
I totally agree with Cassandra that the annual gynecological visit is unnecessary. Many times women experience humiliation and distress, and in a fair number of cases, women receive unnecessary and sometimes harmful treatment. For example, many women in their forties and older dutifully go into the gynecologist’s office for a check-up, even though they have no symptoms of a problem, but leave the doctor’s office with a prescription for hormone-like drugs to treat their “dry vagina”.
How does this typically happen? If a woman is not having regular penis-vagina sex, the lining of her vagina becomes thinner. Because of the sexism in our society, men don’t seek out the company of women over 40 and those men that are married to women over 40 are getting older themselves and often they desire less sex. Also, many women are divorced or widowed or never-married and they are relieved that they don’t have to spend time and energy on maintaining a relationship with a man. As a result, even if a woman stays sexually active with other women or if she masturbates, the thick ridges of her vagina tend to flatten out some. Sometimes, the wall is so thin that when you put in a speculum, the vagina may develop small tears that bleed, leaving a trace of blood on the speculum when it is removed.
Immediately, the doctor informs the woman that she has “dry vagina” and has an inadequate supply of the hormone, estrogen, and she/he prescribes a hormone-like drug to build up the vaginal walls. The completely healthy woman is now taking a dangerous drug to cure a condition that she didn’t even care about.
Another common situation which leads a woman to become a candidate for hormone-like drug therapy is when a woman has some vaginal itching or discharge that prompts her to douche, and repeated douching can lead to vaginal dryness and itching. Unfortunately, since many women don’t know that vaginal secretions are normal, especially around the time of ovulation in the middle of their menstrual cycle, they douche and douche and douche, sometimes even using deodorant sprays for their nonexistent problem.
We found in our self-help clinics that we could treat this “dry vagina” problem by inserting a speculum or a dildo once a day for a few weeks (or sometimes women have used graduated smooth metal rods that their doctors have given them). This stimulation of the vaginal walls prompts them to thicken (much like the sole of the feet thickens by walking on them).
I have counseled several women to use this technique and it has been quite successful. One woman was referred to me by a women’s clinic, because she was having difficulty is having penis-vagina sex. She was in her early forties. She and her husband started a small business in their mid-thirties. Running the business took all of their time; they had no days off or vacations. Her husband, who was a few years older than she, lost interest in sex. Finally, when the business became more successful, they were able to recreate and have a social life. Then, when they tried to have sex, her husband had trouble maintaining an erection and she was experiencing pain and bleeding. I mailed her a speculum and she inserted it daily for a couple of weeks. We also talked about ways to make sure she was lubricated. She told me that her husband was attentive and considerate lover, but he was easily discouraged, and wouldn’t even try to have sex if he couldn’t feel confident that he could maintain his erection. She kept up her speculum routine anyway. Finally, he tried again and was successful and she was able to tolerate the insertion of the penis. In fact, she called the next morning to share how much she’d enjoyed herself!
The medical profession is totally ignorant of the realities of women’s lives, and it has nothing to offer us but drugs and surgery. I agree with Cassandra that women who are given hormone-like drugs for the treatment of “dry vagina” would have been much better off if they had never visited a gynecologist!

Thursday, June 18, 2009


The following is a speech given by Carol Downer at the Santa Monica 3rd street Promenade on June 6, 2009.







Although only 5% of abortions are performed past the 20th week of pregnancy, and only 1% of abortions are performed past the 24th week of pregnancy, the circumstances that only the most ignorant or malevolent person would deny a girl or a woman access to an abortion, no matter what their religious belief.

Unfortunately, we have few physicians who are willing to perform abortions after the 18th week of pregnancy. Why? Because doctors not only fear that, if they have a complication, they will be harassed or even killed, but also because they fear they will lose their license to practice medicine, or they will even be criminally prosecuted. Remember, although early abortion is a safe, pretty easy procedure, later abortion becomes more risky, although never as risky as carrying the pregnancy to term and giving birth. So, even with the best of care, complications will happen. In the State of California, we have vicious people who have dedicated their lives to pressuring county coroners and the state licensing boards to investigate and prosecute every doctor who has a serious complication.

In 1996, Dr. Bruce Steir was charged in Riverside County with second-degree murder for the abortion-related death of a woman who was 20 weeks pregnant, and, despite the testimony of several nationally-known and respected medical experts at the preliminary hearing that he had done absolutely nothing below the standard of care, the Judge ordered a trial. Depleted of his life savings and fearing an unfair trial, Dr. Steir, 74 years old at the time, plea bargained and, there he was, a doctor who had performed thousands of abortions, sitting gin jail for six months.

Today, as I stand here, I can safely predict that within the next few years, another abortion doctor will find herself or himself needing support for a legal defense. Complications will happen, despite the best of care. We must not let abortion doctors who have committed no wrong find themselves serving time in jail or ending up penniless because they were not adequately supported by the pro-choice community.

Now I want to talk about what needs to be done.

It is necessary to speak-out about the lack of protection that Dr. Tiller and other abortion providers get from law enforcement agencies. Hopefully, they will the protests of the pro-choice community. But, it is not enough. Think about it. Approximately a million American women each year benefit from the courage and commitment and caring of abortion providers, hospitals, doctors, clinics and escorts and other supporters. I know these millions of women are with us in spirit today, but they are not coming forward to protest the killing of an abortion doctor.


Justice Blackmun, in his Roe v. Wade decision built a great, big closet for us who get abortions to hide in. He called it "The Right to Privacy". And, by the millions, we have hidden in that closet, and we have stayed hidden in that closet. We have got to come out of that closet if we want to protect the right of other women to have help, like we got help when we needed it. We have got to say, "Yes, I had an abortion. My name is Carol Downer. I had an abortion in 1965 when I already had four children and was getting a much-needed divorce. Then, after remarrying and having two more children, I had another in Los Angeles, and my e-mail address is"

We need privacy when we become unhappily pregnancy, to consider our alternatives and we need privacy to seek out and receive abortion care. But, after our personal crisis is over, if we don't start coming out of that closet in the hundreds and in the thousands, the killers and bombers and screamers and misanthropes will get their way. George TIller will have died in vain.

I would like to ask anyone who has had an abortion and who is willing to speak-out publically to come forward to identify herself right now. Brothers, and sisters who have not had an abortion, we need your support too, but right now, right this minute, from this time forward, this is the time for us who have had abortions to make our voices heard. So, as Harvey Milk would say, come on out!


Friday, May 29, 2009


Wednesday, May 27, was a great opportunity to express my opposition to the occupations/wars in Iraq and "AF-PAK" and to reach out to similarly-minded women to invite them to our self-help clinic on Sunday, May 31. There were several hundred people there, standing on the grassy strip across from the Beverly Hills Hilton Hotel where Obama was speaking at a fund-raiser.

I gave out over 40 leaflets. The title of the leaflet "Women's Opposition to Imperialism Starts With Decolonizing Our Bodies" was quite well received. Especially 3 young women who were enthused about the day's event and helped distribute leaflets and carried my sign. I'm putting the leaflet on the blog. It expresses self-helper's belief that anti-imperialism and regaining direct control over our bodies are linked.

I'm enclosing some pictures of the World Can't Wait protest against torture and also some protesters against the Supreme Court's decision to uphold Proposition 8 that bars same sex marriage. The group photo is of Barbara Shank, Sandra Ramos and myself.

Photos courtesy of Sandra Ramos.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


LA Times, Sunday, May 17, 2009 "CHILDBIRTH: CAN THE U.S. IMPROVE? C-Sections are expensive. Doctors ask if we're doing too many." by: Lisa Girion (

The article reported that C-Sections are performed 31% of births with an increase in complications and risks. I wrote the author the following letter:

Dear Ms. Girion: The answer to the headline is "Yes!"
I am very happy to see this valuable information on the pages of the Los Angeles Times. Thank you for your excellent coverage.

In 1979, I, (and 3 other women) was arrested for trespassing in Tallahassee, Florida for making an inspection of the maternity ward to protest the rise in cesareans from 5% to a shocking 15%. I was subsequently convicted and served a few days in jail, but my conviction was set aside by the Florida Supreme Court on the grounds that we had not had notice that our entering the maternity ward would be trespassing. Of course, any repetition would not have that defense.

I don't want to look a gift horse in the mouth, but I wish the article had been either in the front news section or the health section, instead of the business section where many women will not see it. Also, it continues to stun me that only a severe recession and spiraling health costs can force the medical profession to put women and children's health first.

Thank you, Carol Downer


This piece is a work in progress and any additional information or comments is greatly appreciated.


Adapted from "War and Revolution" by Nicholas S. Timasheff, Sheed & Ward, New York, 1965

Re-paraphrasing by Carol Downer

Chapter 7, From Order to Revolution

The Pre-Revolutionary Stage

p. 139: NST: "Revolution is a political conflict within a nation lifted to the level of fighting between the government and an opposition party."

CAD: Revolution is an ongoing political conflict within a family, community, organization, political subdivision lifted to the level of sharp conflict between the patriarchal and/or capitalistic and/or imperialistic ruling and the women and their allies.

p. 140: NST: "In revolution, the antagonists are heterogeneous and partly undetermined: the government is opposed by a group (a revolutionary party), or a revolutionary movement (sometimes by a prophetic leader), or a revolutionary mob, quickly assembling and again dispersing."

CAD: In a women's revolution, the patriarchal family structure is opposed by an individual woman, an agency of the patriarchal state is opposed by either the individual woman or a women's group, or the patriarchal state is opposed by a collection of revolutionary women's groups, or a patriarchal agency or state opposed by revolutionary mobs of women, quickly assembling and against dispersing, such as anti-rape zap actions.

p. 140: NST: "In the origin of a revolution, it is of paramount importance whether the government is isolated, or supported by a minority which may be well or poorly organized, or by large masses, opposed by other, revolutionary masses). Consequently, in revolution both opposing groups may be small; one may be small and the other large; or both may be large, comprising together almost the totality of the adult population."

CAD: In the origin of a woman's revolution, it is of paramount importance whether the patriarchal structure (family, agency, state) is isolated, or supported by a minority which may be well or poorly organized, or in the case of the patriarchal state, us supported by large masses who may oppose the women's revolutionary actions.
CAD: In the second wave, the male superstructure was not isolated; it was supported by large masses of males and large masses of counter-revolutionary females; there were revolutionary masses and the revolutionary movement was split into at least two main factions; the reformists and the radical feminists (women's liberationists). There was no revolutionary party.

p. 140: NST: "Each of the revolutionary factions may remain unorganized (a mass), or organized, on the lower level of a revolutionary movement, or at the higher level of a revolutionary party (eventually, a conspiracy)."

CAD: In the second wave, the patriarchal government was not isolated; it was supported by patriarchal institutions and by large masses of males, and by patriarchal mobs who attacked women who tried to access abortion clinics, and who bombed clinics and shot abortion doctors. There were also large masses of counter-revolutionary females. The revolutionary movement was split into at lease two main factions; the reformists and the radical feminists. There was no revolutionary party.

p. 140: NST: "Between a government and the revolutionary opposition, a sharp incompatibility of goals is necessarily present. The goal of the opposition (eventually, of each of its factions) is change in political leadership and/or change in the government's policy; in more drastic cases, change of the total political and/or social order."

CAD: In the case of a women's revolution, between the patriarchal family, group, agency or state and the feminist forces, a sharp incompatibility of goals in necessarily present. The goal of the feminist opposition (eventually, of each of its factions) is change in political leadership and/or change in the patriarchy's policy; in more drastic cases, change of the total political and/or social order.

p. 140: NST: "The goal of the government is not to cede political power and/or not to grant the demanded changes. Every revolution is reducible to the political phase of human co-existence. The point at issue is always this: who shall make the political decisions, and what shall those decisions be? But the dissent separating the government from the opposition may be purely political, or it may reflect, in political terms and demands, dissent in other phases of social and cultural life, just as war, though always on the political level, may reflect economic, nationalistic, or religious or secular ideological conflicts."

CAD: The goal of the patriarchal superstructure is not to cede political power and/or not to grant the demanded changes. Every revolution is reducible to the political phase of human co-existence. The point at issue is always this: who shall make the political decisions, and what shall those decisions be?

In a true women's revolution, feminist opposition will reflect, in political terms and demands, dissent in other phases of social and cultural life, and will reflect a goal of changing the economic, nationalistic, religious or secular ideological order.

p. 141: NST: "Purely political antagonisms conducive to revolution may be divided into two levels. On the lower level, the existing organization of the government is not questioned, but, in the opposition's view, the existing government is inefficient, stupid, corrupt, oppressive, or combined two or more of these traits. The goal of the opposition, at least on the verbal level, is to replace inefficient and stupid personalities by efficient and intelligent ones, corrupt functionaries by models of honesty, abject tyrants by men respecting the freedom and dignity of their fellow men."

CAD: A reformist feminists' dissent from the patriarchal government may be purely political. For example, recent feminist opposition to the Bush Administration and its war policies, was limited to getting Hilary Clinton elected, or, failing that, at least getting Barack Obama elected.

p. 141: NST: "On the upper level, the very form of the government is questioned. In this case, new political ideals are involved. These new ideals were either generated in the society where the revolutionary movement is going on, or elsewhere, but received through diffusion."

CAD: On the upper level, the very patriarchal form of the family, organization or government is questioned. In this case, new political ideas, such as peace, stopping global warming, non-authoritarian child-rearing, are involved. These new ideals were either generated in the society where the revolutionary is going on, or elsewhere, but received through diffusion.

p. 141: NST: "An absolute monarchy may be under attack on the part of believers in constitutional monarchy or republic, an aristocratic republic may be denounced in the name of democracy. But the bearers of 'progressive ideas' have no monopoly: those preferring old-fashioned monarchy or one of the brands of dictatorship may conspire against democracy and eventually become a revolutionary opposition."

CAD: In a women's revolution, the goal is to start the process of taking the power away from the patriarchy and to implement feminist ideals of ending imperialism and modifying the industrial revolution to achieve the health and welfare of everyone without endangering the environment. But the bearers of "progressive ideas" have no monopoly; those preferring the old patriarchal world order with inadequate reforms may conspire against this process and co-opt these ideas to eventually become a reformist opposition to the feminist revolutionary process.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Los Angeles to eliminate backlog of Rape-Kits


Good news! L.A. is going to eliminate the backlog of rape kits. Hopefully, this will help some women get justice and will prevent some repeat rapists from continuing their crimes.
Carol Downer

Hollywood NOW - WE DID IT!!!!

Last evening, LA City Council approved the budget and they have in fact funded a system that will eradicate the backlog of untested rape kits AND hold the LAPD accountable for the expenditure of funds allocated. THIS HAPPENED BECAUSE OF YOU!!!!

The City of Los Angeles and various organizations have been working on this issue for years. Because of your efforts, we were able to to show them that they couldn't ignore this problem any longer! Thank you especially to Human Rights Watch for their leadership and dedication.

We are so grateful to our leaders for this issue on City Council - Council President Eric Garcetti; Council President Pro Tempore Wendy Greuel (our next Controller!!); and Councilmember Jack Weiss. While it was the collective effort of the Council's vote yesterday that ultimately approved this budget item, these three leaders have worked hard to make sure this remains a priority for LA & we are grateful for their leadership.

Hollywood NOW thanks LA City Council for doing the right thing - not just by giving funds but also by holding LAPD accountable for their procedures. Over the next two years, we will eradicate the backlog of untested rape kits evidence as long as the Council continues to work with LAPD on a system that holds everyone accountable.

Thank you to everyone who has worked with us on this issue. We will continue to give you updates as we progress in testing the rape kit evidence.

Be proud today! We made a difference!
President, Hollywood NOW

Monday, May 18, 2009

Recommender Book: Natural Liberty

I'm writing about a new book on self-induced abortion. I have read thoroughly (except for the part on herbal abortifacients, about which I am not knowledgeable). I am excited about this book, because it brings together information that we women need to have about how to have an abortion outside the medical profession's control.

I have spoken to one of the authors and I am impressed with their responsibility. I know that at least some of the collective have experience in doing menstrual extraction in a self-help group. The book is written in a careful and comprehensive manner.

I recommend that your order the book. It is available on the websites, and It is also available on, but when you order from the sisterzeus or moondragon, they get a small commission that helps them to exist. They're very worthwhile websites.

I would like to hear your comments, especially about the herbal information. And please forward this information to anyone you think might be interested.

NATURAL LIBERTY, Rediscovering Self-Induced Abortion Methods, written and published by Sagefemme Collective, 2008

Self-Help Clinic (May 31, 2009)