Wednesday, December 14, 2011


By Carol Downer

Wall Street and Michael Bloomberg must be in a dither of downright desperation about the Occupy Wall Street movement, which has risen up to protest against the gross economic inequality in the United States and the utter lack of power that we 99% have. Why else would a Bloomberg News’ New York bureau dispatch Esmé E. Deprez to interview Gloria Steinem, a notable feminist to explore any potential division there might be between the feminist movement and the Occupy Wall Street movement?

Ms. Steinem did not make any criticism of the Occupy Wall Street movement, but she did make use of opportunity to cite statistics about the continuing economic inequality between men and women. Undaunted by Steinem’s refusal to re-frame the glaring disparity between the super-rich and the rest of us as simply the result of male supremacy, Deprez characterized Steinem’s complaint about unequal wages for women as tantamount to saying “the international conversation that the Occupy Wall Street protests sparked about economic inequality is, at its heart, about gender.” (Deprez’ quote, not Steinem’s)

Much as I, or any feminist, agrees with Steinem that the inequity between men’s and women’s wages are one of the most serious inequities in the U.S. economic system, Occupy Wall Street is protesting the current rule of the super-rich, because they use their riches to decide who gets elected, which laws are passed, upheld and enforced, and robs the 99%, (of which the majority are women) of any economic, therefore political, power to deal with the absolute crises this nation and this planet are facing.

The signs that the American people are getting fed up with how things are run is way, way overdue. I’m guessing that Bloomberg, the mayor of New York City, fears that Occupy Wall Street is the start of an epidemic of protests that can’t be quelled so easily. Therefore, Bloomberg, the billionaire and publisher, is using the mega megaphone of Bloomberg News to distort Occupy Wall Street’s message by showing a newfound concern about the plight of women.

Occupy Wall Street and its progeny are shining a light how the American capitalistic system is producing calamitous results. We live in a country where the Gulf of Mexico can be polluted and the shale in New York can be “fracked” for the profit of oil companies. Bloomberg, a multi-billionaire, was elected to represent the citizens of New York City, but he’s not rushing to stop this dangerous process that has been shown to disrupt underground geological structures and may threaten the city’s water supply. If the citizens of New York have the accurate information and political machinery, they will stop it. We live in a country where the capitalist rule of “survival of the fittest” has been replaced by the “survival of the biggest”, and this mismanagement of Wall Street results in ever greater profits for the giant “too big to fail” companies and the foreclosure of mortgages on millions of Americans’ homes.

This is not the first time that feminist demands for equality have been used to derail criticisms of our system. In the late 60’s, the women’s liberation movement, along with the civil rights movement and the anti-war movement, demanded that we “change the system” under which women, people of color, and people in less powerful, economically dominated nations are being oppressed. Somehow, in the 70’s, that breathtakingly ambitious demand was watered down to campaigns for timid reform, such as “equal pay for equal work”, without ever questioning who owns or controls the place we work, or “breaking the glass ceiling” so that women can head up corporations, without questioning why a corporation should have so much power and how corporations are using their power to destroy our democracy and our environment. I’m sure that Ms. Steinem and every other feminist agrees with me that our goal is not to “have an equal piece of the rotten pie”, as we used to say in the heyday of the movement, but to make a bigger, better pie where all are equal.

Monday, October 10, 2011

No Stopping: From Pom-Poms to Saving Women's Bodies

By Carol Downer

[Originally published in On The Issues Magazine]

In the 1970s, I got involved in the women's self-help movement in California, traveling the countryside to introduce women to vaginal self-examination and pioneering the use of menstrual extraction. I got there, and from there to here, because one action simply led to the next. And to the next. And the next. In fact, my own progression seems to have been to "Think Locally, Act Globally" – exactly the opposite of the popular activist slogan.

I have always been an active participator. I marched and waved pom-poms on the drill team in high school. I led a Girl Scout troop when my daughters were in elementary school in the late 50s and 60s. But my activities gradually changed from "brightening the corner where you are" to humanitarian, such as volunteering as a leader in a girl's club at a high school in a poor neighborhood in the mid-60s. Then I became involved in electoral-type activities through MAPA (Mexican-American Political Association), as did my Chicano husband.

My involvement mirrored the turbulent times. Everyone was getting more politically aware. I helped write a throwaway paper with other activists who were against U.S. military involvement in the Southeast; I headed a committee to recall the local councilman who was pushing an urban renewal program that would kick old people out of their homes, and my circle of mothers in my neighborhood enlarged to include activists in the northeast part of Los Angeles. When the "Watts riot" exploded in south central Los Angeles, I learned to call it "the Watts rebellion." Then, in 1969, along with thousands of others, I marched with my husband and my 16-year-old daughter, Laura Brown, in the Chicano Moratorium. At the march's end, we sat on the grass lawn of Laguna Park and listened to music and speakers until all of us were attacked by hundreds of Los Angeles sheriffs, clad in riot gear, who came across the field swinging billy clubs and shooting tear gas canisters.

With my moratorium experience, I "graduated" from the naive white liberal school. I saw the faces of my oppressors through their plexiglas masks. Afterward, when I complained loudly to one of my friends in Eagle Rock, the white working-class area where we lived, she asked me, "What were you doing there?" My disillusionment with community volunteer activities and electoral level projects was complete.

Stepping Into A New Women's Movement

I started my "post-graduate" work.

I answered the widely publicized call to work for women's rights and specifically abortion rights. In 1969, I attended a National Organization for Women (NOW) meeting. I had little in common with most of the members, white career women who apparently had not had the radicalizing experiences that I had. I was invited to join a committee. I had had an illegal abortion, so I joined the Abortion Committee, headed up by Lana Clark Phelan.

Lana, along with Patricia Maginnis, wrote The Abortion Handbook. I understudied her for a few months. Listening to Lana's devastatingly sarcastic speeches and reading her book demystified abortion laws for me. I learned that abortion had never been criminalized until the rise of the modern, industrialized nation-state. In nineteenth century France, women had figured out how to block the sperm and the egg, and the birth rate was declining. Napoleon Bonaparte needed more Frenchmen to serve as soldiers to fight wars of conquest for the French Empire; therefore, abortion was outlawed.

French peasants were encouraged in every way possible to have as many children as they could. The French peasant father received tax incentives, forms of "social security" to be paid in his old age and increased personal status based on the number of children he had sired. Under the "Code Napoleon," the status of women sank to an all-time low. French women were given in marriage at the earliest possible age. Young women were to be kept pregnant and at home for their own "fulfillment" as women.

Our three-woman committee -- Lana, Mary Petrinovich and me -- was small, but in 1969 and early 1970s, we were in demand. Progressive people wanted to hear about abortion reform and the need to end the estimated 5,000 deaths each year from illegal abortion. Mary traveled in from Riverside to bring women to an illegal clinic on Santa Monica Boulevard, and she introduced me to the abortionist, Harvey Karman, who was posing as a doctor and had been arrested for performing abortions, along with Dr. John Gwynne. Several demonstrations were held to support him and other Northern California doctors who had been arrested. Under the auspices of our committee, I organized a demonstration at Hancock Park of 500 people, the largest abortion demonstration in Los Angeles at that time.

A small, very loosely organized group of women coalesced around Karman's defense and some volunteered at his notorious clinic, which was under constant police surveillance. In the estimation of some of us, both Karman and Gwynne were "male chauvinist pigs." Also, we had a growing suspicion that we could learn how to do the abortions. Karman used an early abortion device that he claimed to have invented which suctioned the contents of the uterus out without the use of metal instruments to scrape its walls. He called it a "non-traumatic" abortion.

Mary invited me to visit the clinic. I accompanied her into the very small procedure room where Karman was inserting an IUD in a woman's uterus. I found myself looking into the woman's vagina, which was held open by a plastic speculum, and I saw her beautiful pink cervix, the opening to the uterus, which was well lit by the gooseneck lamp.

Following the Path of the Cervix

I was transfixed, looking at her rosy, knob-like cervix with a tiny opening. I thought of Lana's brilliant political analysis and I felt the frustration of our century-long suffering from these unjust laws. I had six children at this time, and I had never looked carefully at my genitals (except to look at my raw, bleeding episiotomy incision in the hospital to see where all that pain was coming from). I marveled at how close the cervix is; how simple it is and how accessible it is with the use of an inexpensive, plastic speculum.

A few weeks later, in April 1971, our small group called a meeting at a local women's bookstore, where we showed women the hand-held device that Karman used, and then we demonstrated vaginal self-exam. The women's skepticism about our learning to do abortion vanished upon seeing my cervix, and by the end of the meeting, we had seen several cervixes and had plans to learn to provide abortions underground. We held weekly "Self-Help Clinics" at the Los Angeles Women's Center. Lorraine Rothman was part of that group and she invented a modification of Karman's device, which we used in minimally-trained women's self-help groups to extract our menstrual periods, whether they were on time or late. We traveled up the West Coast and then across the country, demonstrating vaginal self-exam and talking about menstrual extraction, attracting many women to come to L.A. to work with us.

Our plans to open an illegal clinic were shelved because legal abortion was becoming available in Los Angeles just at that time. We believed that it was more important for us to give women the encouragement and the tools to learn about their bodies so that we would cease to be at the mercy of those who wanted to control us, whether to outlaw abortion or to manipulate birthing American women to consent to c-sections. And, we started WARS, a women's abortion referral service, where we counseled and physically examined women at the Women's Center and then accompanied them to the hospital for their abortion.

Our self-help movement grew; we wrote books, set up clinics around the nation after Roe v. Wade and we traveled to Europe, Canada, New Zealand and Mexico, among other places. Many of us became health professionals in traditional and alternative medical practices (and my marching daughter, Laura, began in self-help and then started the Oakland Women's Choice Clinic.) We attended national and international conferences. I witnessed the efforts of the anti-natalists who force birth control on women and want to limit the number of babies they have, such as in China. And I witnessed the pro-natalists, who want to force women to have more babies, such as the Catholic Church, but are also bankrolled by reactionary wealthy upper class people. I knew activism was needed to stop these forces, as well.

My actions have been rooted in my personal experiences, but as I expanded my worldview and became exposed to other ways of thinking and doing things, I was able to take new actions and develop new solutions, too. This is the power of activism on women's rights – constantly learning, constantly growing and constantly pushing the boundaries of activism in new and creative ways. I think I'll continue to be busy for many years to come.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Ina May Gaskin, US Midwife, founder of “The Farm” receives “Right Livelihood Award” for 2011

By Carol Downer


Everyone in the “natural childbirth” movement celebrates this award. The Swedish charity is giving formal recognition to the fact that birthing women in the U.S., their babies and their families face an urgent threat to their safety and their ability to have home birth or birth center without the social isolation and medical interference that comes with hospital birth.

The “natural childbirth movement” has been seeking to restore access to midwives and home birth for over a half-century, but its struggles and accomplishments are usually not publicized beyond its immediate circles, except for an occasional newspaper article that as a thinly disguised promotion of hospital birth which contains alarming quotes about the dangers of home birth.

Almost 40 years ago, Gaskin founded the Farm Midwifery Center, an intentional community in Tennessee, to take childbirth out of the firm grasp of the medical profession who have medicalized this normal physiological function. She joined a small but growing number of parents that were seeking “natural childbirth” and lay midwives that were risking arrest (or were actually arrested) for assisting women who gave birth at home.

At the time Gaskin founded The Farm, virtually all births in the U.S. took place in hospitals where birthing women were kept in isolation from their families, drugged and cut. With the invention of the fetal heart monitor, in which an electrode is placed in the fetus’ scalp, cesarean rates rose from 5% to 15% in most hospitals, because in its experimental stages, no one yet knew the significance of every blip on the screen, and so a cesarean was performed whenever anything unusual was seen, because no doctor wanted to risk a malpractice suit for ignoring an unusual blip that might indicate a serious complication.

Due to Gaskins’ and others’ pioneering work, today most states offer some form of licensure for midwives and highly motivated and well-situated parents are able to seek out and obtain the services of a midwife for their home, or birth center birth.

Sadly, the rate progress of the natural childbirth movement has been outspaced by that of the medical profession. Today, physicians (with the assistance of hospital certified nurse midwives which they control) routinely use drugs and surgery in a hospital setting. Over a third of babies are now delivered by cesarean section in the United States.

Perhaps the awarding of this well-deserved honor will highlight the need for all of us who see a U.S. woman’s right to have a un-interfered-with natural birth in a home or birth center setting as foundational to all other women’s rights, including other sexual and reproductive rights such as access to birth control and abortion.

Read Seven Stories Press Release

Read about leading Organizations for Midwives
- Midwives Alliance of North America (MANA)
- Midwifery Education and Accreditation Council (MEAC)
- North American Registry of Midwives (NARM)
- The Big Push for Midwives

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

39th Anniversary of Gynecology Self-Help Clinics and women controlled health projects

Message from Cathy Courtney: Greetings, thirty-nine years ago, I traveled to Iowa with an amazing group of women from CMU to attend the first women's self help conference. I was never quite the same after learning what I learned and meeting the women who gathered.

Some of us who attended this conference and/or became involved in the self help women's health movement, Our Bodies Ourselves study groups & related activities are gathering at my home (Detroit area) on Sunday, October 2, 2011 to share stories and break bread together. Please feel free to join us. We are especially hopeful that we will have women of all ages gather, those who were involved in this movement and those who weren't even born yet!!! A full spectrum of young and old! Please spread the word to women who might be interested in the US midwest. Housing available overnite :)

Invitation for a Gathering of Women to honor, celebrate and share stories about the early days of the 1970’s women’s health movement. Come celebrate the 39th Anniversary of Gynecology Self-Help Clinics and women controlled health projects. Hear about the first national conferences some of us attended in 1972 and 1974 in Iowa. The 40th anniversary year of Our Bodies Ourselves! Hear about how life changing it was for so many!

Herstoric gathering~ discussion~ reflection~projection: When did you participate in your first GynSelf-Help Clinic? When did you first read the OBOS? How did the feminist health movement influence your health, your life? How are you connected to current struggles for autonomy, health, single payer nat'l health plan, other health related projects & economic justice?

Share food & beverage, materials, photos, GynSHC slide show (courtesy of Chico Feminist Women's Health Center & Ginny Cassidy-Brinn), film, fun & the personal as political self-help stories...

Contact Host- Janice Fialka for more information at or Cathy Courtney at RSVP appreciated so we can plan for dinner. Look forward to seeing you!

Friday, August 26, 2011

RESPONSE TO CONCERNED MOMMA-TO-BE - RE: Letter to accompany LA Times’ article re Katie McCall’s conviction

Email to Carol Downer and
Response from Carol Downer

Email from happymomma22:
Hi Carol,

I stumbled upon your blog site as I was researching my home birthing options in Los Angeles and was shocked and OUTRAGED to read your most recent posting about Katie McCall! My first instincts were to post but due to the sensitivity of the topic I thought it would be best to reach out to you. I am not an attorney nor a doctor. So please excuse any misused terminology.

You stated "The L.A. Times’ article states that both mother and baby are fine and that Katie McCall is now licensed as a midwife, therefore I fail to see the purpose behind this prosecution. "WOW! What a statement, especially from an attorney. At the time of the birth, the STUDENT midwife was NOT licensed, it doesn't matter what she is today.
"McCall assured the woman that she would contact a licensed midwife to supervise her when it came time for delivery, as required by state law." Need anyone say more? She knowingly broke the law. She knew the terms of her "training." The mother labored for hours and not once did the STUDENT attempt to call anyone else or re-suggest to the the mom to be that she's putting her and her baby at risk because she's not medically licensed. I understand a women's choice to chose but since when do patients education trump the education of a medical professional or in this case a NON licensed professional?

"In fact, since the shoulder getting “stuck” during birth constitutes one of the rare situations where expert assistance or technology are vital, it seems possible that McCall may have performed a tremendous service." Exactly, expert assistance, McCall was far from an expert; I highly doubt anyone would share these sentiments if we were reading about a death of mother and baby. Wouldn't McCall carrying/administering pitocin and stitches as a non licensed midwife illegal too? This case reeks of non professional/reckless behavior on the part of the STUDENT midwife. What she did was a huge dis-service to the midwifery professional and reputation. She behaved exactly as the stereotypical law breaking student midwife. We live in a county where laws are made to protect the innocent, McCall is far from innocent or protecting the public. She just happened to be LUCKY. NOTHING ELSE. Perhaps next time everyone would prefer to be reading manslaughter chargers.

"In my opinion, understanding these prosecutions can only be approached from a political perspective. The male-dominated medical profession has waged a relentless battle against midwives, ever since doctors have served the general public, not just wives of royalty and the wealthy elite, and presently midwives in the United States delivery only a small percentage of babies." Oh my goodness! She was put on trial by her peers and was given a fair trial - California's Operation Safe Medicine is comprised of MDs, Phds, LMs and JDs. She broke a law and we're not talking jwalking. "These" prosecutions are not political, they are a matter of public safety. If an attorney practices without a license there are consequences; the same for doctors who practice without a state license. If midwives want to be considered equals in the medical/professional community then they need to stop acting like idiots doing what they please and follow the laws that were put in place for this branch of medicine to survive and thrive. McCall put midwives two steps backwards in California. This has nothing to do with a witch hunt by other midwives, birthing community or "the male dominated" medical profession. If McCall was a man, the outcome would still be the same, guilty.

Unfortunately, there really is no organized, political effort to promote midwifery, doulas and to educate the public about the dangers of current obstetrical practices. The CDC is calling forth more midwives and Naturopathic Doctors, The AMA is publishing articles that home birthing is up by 20%, the UN is calling for breast feeding to be taught in the hospitals....Rome was not built in a day and you can't expect midwives to be received with credibility when they do things like break the law.

Again, I am a home birth advocate when done properly and legally. Please note that The Sanctuary, the birthing centre where Ms. McCall practiced which also houses an MD that has been sanctioned by the Medical Board until 2012 for having sex with his patient less than a week after removing a tumor after he medically advised her no sex for several weeks. Seems like the moral compass for these home birth professionals do not exist. Birds of a feather flock together I guess. Again, I am a feminist at heart and fight for women's right but I am not going to fight for someone that puts any women or baby's life at risk and puts me two steps back from my male counterparts.

You also mentioned that this case was on a gag order. You should look on line under CourtUpdates on Facebook and you will see Katie McCall as an administrator of a closed group that informs other midwives, doulas and other birthing professionals of the on goings of the trial. This woman is wreckless!!!! You out of all people should understand that all those people in that courthouse and in the group should be held in contempt of court for talking about the case with each other and the birthing community via Facebook, regardless of guilty verdict.

Would love to hear from you.
Concerned Momma to Be

Response from Carol Downer
Hi: I was happy to get your letter in which you expressed shock and outrage at the comments I made about the trial and conviction of Katie McCall for practicing medicine without a license. I hope that your letter and my response is the start of a dialogue around the vital issue of how best to safeguard the health and well-being of babies and moms.

First, I want to make some general comments about how the law works and what I read in the paper and about people’s behavior at the trial that I observed.

Since I still have not learned the specifics of McCall’s behavior (are you saying that she administered pitocin or stitched the mother up?), I accepted the LA Times’ statement that the mother and baby were both recovered. As a practicing attorney, I know that the District Attorney has “prosecutorial discretion”. The public expects him to weigh the various factors in each case, such as whether the alleged illegal behavior resulted in physical harm, to reach a decision.

I also know that to convict someone of a crime (not just an infraction), the prosecutor has to show not just that someone did a certain thing, but also that they had a bad intent, or at least were reckless. The LA Times summary gives no facts which indicate McCall set out to deceive or that she showed no concern for the mother’s and baby’s well-being.

I was informed by others attending the trial that the Judge had ordered McCall to shut down her website, and the supporters were hesitant to fill me in on what was happening. They showed me a copy of the judge’s order that forbade observers to even express warmth or encouragement to the defendant. Regarding your statement about McCall statement on CourtUpdates on Facebook, how does that lead you to think that they were discussing the ongoings of the trial?

Second, you believe that laws are made to protect the innocent, and that the prosecution of Katie McCall was a matter of public safety. My view is that laws come about for a variety of reasons, but licensure laws are put there to protect the certain interest of certain professional groups as well as an unwary public, and may or may not involve public safety. Since McCall went on to become a licensed midwife (a fact that the jury was not aware of), how did McCall’s prosecution increase public safety?

I stand by my statement that there is no organized political effort to promote midwifery, doulas and to educate the public about the dangers of current obstetrical practices. Perhaps the CDC is calling for more midwives, but they are not lobbying to create more schools of midwifery or developing programs to educate more midwives, and CDC has no influence whatsoever on the various state legislators to implement legislation to fund and train midwives.

If you are a home birth advocate, I would be interested in working with you on ideas on how to stir up some real political support. C-section rates are skyrocketing and U.S. maternal and morbidity rates are abysmally high.

I hope to hear from you soon.
Carol Downer

Friday, August 19, 2011

Letter to accompany LA Times’ article re Katie McCall’s conviction

By Carol Downer

I stumbled upon Katie McCall’s trial by accident. I was in the County Courthouse when Rebecca Pridiletto passed me in the hall and she told me about it. The trial was almost over, and I wasn’t able to hear the proceedings, so I wasn’t able to find out the bare facts until I read the L.A. Times’ article. There were about 20 women, mostly friends, family and fellow church members in attendance. When I asked where I could obtain more information about the trial, I was told that the Judge had forbidden any publicity, making Katie take down her website and had forbidden those in attendance from discussing what they observed in the courtroom with each other or anyone else.

I do not practice criminal law, so I had to do some quick legal research into “gag orders” and found that in California, they are disfavored and only issued when there are strong reasons why publicity would be harmful to the defendant getting a fair trial. There has to be notice, and the parties have a chance to oppose any motion for such a gag order. I do not know what happened in this case.

The L.A. Times’ article states that both mother and baby are fine and that Katie McCall is now licensed as a midwife, therefore I fail to see the purpose behind this prosecution. In fact, since the shoulder getting “stuck” during birth constitutes one of the rare situations where expert assistance or technology are vital, it seems possible that McCall may have performed a tremendous service.

In my opinion, understanding these prosecutions can only be approached from a political perspective. The male-dominated medical profession has waged a relentless battle against midwives, ever since doctors have served the general public, not just wives of royalty and the wealthy elite, and presently midwives in the United States delivery only a small percentage of babies.

Has this takeover benefitted women? Generally, I think not. Depending on local economic and cultural conditions, midwives have either been experienced women who shared a common lore regarding childbirth practices and provided birthing women with a high quality of services, or they sometimes were simply older women who supplemented their incomes by bringing their help and experience to birthing women, and their expertise was questionable. When doctors took over, sometimes the care women received was improved, but many, many times, it was not, and sometimes it was disastrous. Today, we see childbirth turned into a medicalized event, replete with drugs, surgery and isolation from loved ones and community.

Unfortunately, there really is no organized, political effort to promote midwifery, doulas and to educate the public about the dangers of current obstetrical practices. Midwifery is an old and honorable profession; not a social or political movement. In contrast, the medical profession is extremely well organized with it “code of silence”, and its paid lobbyists. They have used mystification of the birth process and parents’ fear of pain and death to convince the public that birth is a medical event and should only take place in a hospital, and they have used their money and political influence to get laws passed in every state to maintain their stranglehold on the “business” of childbirth.

As I find out more about this case, I will keep you posted.

LA Times article hyperlink -

Monday, April 18, 2011

Feminist: Stories from the Women's Liberation Movement

Project by Jennifer Lee

Several years ago, Jennifer Lee interviewed me for her film about feminists in the 70's. Her interview questions were quite good. She is now ready to release and distribute it. I will be sending her a small contribution and I hope many people do, so that she can complete the project.

Please forward this to anyone you think would be interested.

Thanks, Carol Downer

Link: Feminist: Stories from the Women's Liberation Movement

Monday, January 31, 2011

CIMS "Reframing Birth and Breastfeeding: Moving Forward" Conference

March 11-12, 2011 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

Carol Downer will attend the CIMS conference in March. She will have a booth on behalf of the Women's Health Specialists and Women's Health in Women's Hands. If you have any questions, suggestions, or comments re: Carol's trip or booth please feel free to email

FROM CIMS: As our Valentine's Day gift, we're extending the deadline for registrants to take advantage of reduced Early Bird registration rates through February 14, 2011.

Another way that we are sharing the love this Valentine's Day is by offering an exceptional conference program. The conference program includes more than 22 hours of educational programming, and attendees may qualify for more than 13 contact hours for their participation. Speakers include Eugene Declercq, Miriam Labbok, Penny Simkin, Susan Ludington, Lori Dorfman, Best for Babes' Bettina Forbes and Danielle Rigg, Bernice Hausman, Jacqueline Wolf, and many more. That's a lot to love!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Pregnancy? It’s No ‘Accident’

November 15, 2010, the Los Angeles Times ran a column, entitled “Pregnancy? It’s No ‘Accident’”. I wrote a response which was neither acknowledged or printed.

Dear Editor:

“Pregnant? It’s No Accident” points a finger at women who become unwillingly pregnant. It’s NOT an unbiased report of Center for Disease Control’s report of their interviews with 7,356 women about their contraceptive use.

Instead, Dr. Ulene uses one of many charts to launch her reproving lecture--a chart that CDC states “should be interpreted with caution because it was based on only 842 women’s interviews.

1. Dr. Ulene interprets the fact that 14% of women who didn’t use contraception and got pregnant as “lack of forethought” because they said they didn’t expect to have sex. Feminists might interpret this as “lack of control in male-female sexual relations”

2. Dr. Ulene implies that the Pill is 99% effective when used “correctly”. Actually, the “theoretical” effectiveness of the Pill is 99%, but no medication is used that perfectly, even when used “correctly” in hospitals under medical supervision. The real effectiveness is 91.3%. The Pill fails almost 10% of the time, and that is not because women are sloppy, mostly it’s due to our current imprecise understanding of hormonal changes in the body.

3. Dr. Ulene implies that the woman is at fault when an unwanted pregnancy happens. Seat belts and airbags are needed in cars because even when drivers are driving carefully, cars sometimes collide. Even though one-third of all pregnancies in the U.S. are mistimed or unwanted, those pregnancies are due to many factors, of which a woman’s negligent behavior is only a small part.

CDC’s major finding is that 99% of women who have ever had sex with men have used contraceptives, and 60% regularly use contraceptives. And they do this, despite the prohibition of some religions, cost, the inconvenience, the dangers and the lack of male cooperation. This is the real news. Dr. Ulene, not sexually active women, needs to “straighten up and fly right.”