Health & Science
I love Scarleteen. I am proud to be a monthly contributor. Why?
Scarleteen is one of the most reliable sources of independent sex education available to teens. By "independent" I mean that they receive no federal, state, or local funds and are also noncommercial.
Scarleteen is designed specifically for teens and presents sexual health information in a clear and nonjudgmental way. It is maintained by people who care deeply about making sure that teens have access to accurate information with which to make decisions about their bodies and their relationships.
From Heather Corinna, the indomitable force behind Scarleteen, I learned just how much use the site gets:
25,000 unique users daily, with an average of 3.5 page loads apiece.
43,000 registered users on their always-moderated message boards. Scarleteen's staff and voluteers have answered every one of teh 63,000 topis teens have posted, providing honest, accurate and nonjudgmental answers.
900 "Sexpert Advice" columns. "Sexpert Advice" is also syndicated on RH Reality Check (another fabulous information resource).
In addition to blog posts and active forms, Scarleteen runs a text message service where teens can text questions to 66746 (keyword "ASKST") and receive answers directly on their phones.
They do all this with very little money and the unbelievable energy of people like Heather Corinna. And because she is Heather Corinna, she has big plans for the future, provided the money is there. In Scarleteen's plans for 2010?
A: When it is a selective reduction
I don't imagine this post is going to make me popular.
Today's New York Times has an article about the very painful choices faced by prospective parents who make use of fertility treatments, find that they are pregnant with multiples, and then are faced with the risk of those pregnancies - both to the hopeful mom and the soon to be children. Successful fertility treatments often produce multiples because hormones are used to stimulate egg production or because multiple embryos are implanted. But because being pregnant wtih twins or triplets or even more developing fetuses is risky, and because children born from those pregancies are more likely to be born very premature and are thus at risk for greater and more serious health problems than babies born from singleton pregnancies, doctors sometimes counsel prospective parents to consider "selective reduction" where some fetuses are eliminated.
I am not going to write about the painful choice this must be. I am not going to write about whether or not such fertility treatments are ethical given their potential for resulting in pregnancies risky enough to warrent advising abortion. Nor am I going to address the fact that in vitro treatments require the creation of more embroys than anyone intends to implant. I am not even going to write about whether we should be spending so much health care money on helping people to reproduce and then paying for the complications that occur as a result of those treatments. Not today anyway.
Today all I am going to write about is the use of the term "selective reduction" itself.
Next weekend, on September 26th, I'll be speaking at the grand opening of the Center for Sexual Pleasure and Health, a nonprofit resource center run by certified sex educator Megan Andelloux. I'll be on a panel with some of my role models in the world of sex education and research: Carol Queen, Becky Chalker, Barbara Carellas, Gina Ogden and Bill Taverner. I'm also very excited about the screenings of Tara Hurley's Happy Endings? and At Your Cervix by Amy Jo Goddard and Julie Carlson.
I admire Megan's work a great deal and was thrilled to be invited to participate in the grand opening of her center. Several times I've been struck by the courage she's shown in the simple act of including the word "Pleasure" in the name of her center. It shouldn't require courage to pair pleasure and health in talking about sex, doing sex education work, or naming sexuality resource centers, and yet it does. Sexual pleasure is a lightening rod in this culture. Pairing pleasure and health takes special courage because while we are willing - sometimes, grudgingly - as a society to spend money on sexual health education we are most unwilling as a society to spend money on sexual pleasure. Publicly recognizing that sexual health and pleasure go together could seem very threatening not only to those whose conservatism requires the public denial of most sexual pleasure in the first place, but also for those who depend on the health discourse to legitimize their sex-related work in the eyes of funders. Megan's insistance that sexual pleasure is an integral part of sexual health is admirable for its honesty in the face of tremendous pressure to disguise or hide the connection.
Anyway, I mention all of this because Megan recently published a piece on Carnal Nation (where Chris Hall, co-founder of Sex In The Public Square lives these days) that reflects on the challenges she's faced in getting her center born. I asked her if I could reprint it here, she said yes, and so here it is, below the fold.
RU-486, or mifepristone, was approved for use in 2000 in the US, for medical abortions.
Shortly there after, something weird started happening. A handful of women who used RU-486 were dying from sepsis, caused by a really rare bacteria, Clostridium sordellii. Like, these women didnt have AIDS. They werent meth addicts or recovering from cancer. They were previously completely healthy 18, 22 year-old women dropping dead.
To pro-lifers, the message was clear: Abortion kills women.
Planned Parenthood's recommendation to use the abortion-causing drug Misoprostol vaginally rather than orally has led to fatal infections according to a research study released by the University of Michigan.
"This study shows Planned Parenthood not only disregards the lives of babies in the womb, but the lives of their mothers as well," said American Life League's Jim Sedlak. "This is scandalous, if not criminal. It's time people stopped viewing Planned Parenthood as a responsible healthcare organization and saw it for what it is -- a money-making, social engineering group that plies its trade of sex and abortion without regard to human life, born or preborn."
To rational people and scientists, there is a different puzzle afoot.
Loser gets pregnant.
h/t Deep Sea News
Dr. George Tiller, one of the nations few providers of late term abortion care and medical director of the Wichita-based Women's Health Care Services, was shot to death this morning at Reformation Lutheran Church, where he was a member. The Wichita Eagle reports that police are looking for a white man driving a 1990s powder blue Ford Taurus with Kansas license plate 225 BAB.
Dr. Tiller was a courageous and ethical man. His dedication to women's health and reproductive freedom involved compassion and spirituality as well as clinical care. Women's Health Care Services has a chaplaincy program, for example, and its late term fetal indication abortion page acknowledges the emotional and spiritual pain that many families struggling with unhappy news about an advanced and much wanted pregnancy feel as they face that pregnancy's end.
Compassionate and clinically excellent reproductive health care is an essential part of sexual freedom, but even more fundamental perhaps, it is an essential part of gender equality. A society where women can be forced to be pregnant is a society where women can never be equal.Click here to read more.
Jargon alert: There are many ways to be masculine and many ways to be feminine, but there is one culturally approved masculinity that characterizes people at the top of the gender hierarchy in the dominant culture of the United States. That masculinity is called hegemonic masculinity. I apologize in advance for the jargon, but there is no clearer way to say it.
Angie Zapata's murderer, Allen Andrade, was found guilty of all charges, and sentenced under the hate crime statute in Colorado last week. It was a sign of progress. In some places at least, violence against people because of their gender expression is considered a hate crime. We are moving toward greater acceptance of the idea that freedom of gender expression should be protected as a civil right. But we are not there yet. Indeed, while we make strides toward expanding civil rights and freedoms for all, we still have a culture deeply tinted with homophobia, heterosexism, and sexism. Witness the deaths over the past few weeks of two young boys who committed suicide after being teased and taunted at school by bullies using words like 'gay' and 'fag' and 'queer.'
On April 16 Jaheem Herrera, 11, hung himself with a belt and was found by his 10 year old sister. Just a little more than a week earlier, on April 8 Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover, also 11, hung himself with an extension cord. Both boys had been the targets of severe and ongoing bullying.Click here to read the rest of this post.
Teens are not having more sex, nor are they having it earlier
The moral panic around teens and sex is uncalled for according to a story in today's New York Times. It is almost as newsworthy that the story, titled "The Myth Of Rampant Teen Promiscuity," by Tara Parker-Pope made it to the Times. Of course it wasn't front page news, but still. Here's what the article has to say:
"Today, fewer than half of all high school students have had sex: 47.8 percent as of 2007, according to the National Youth Risk Behavior Survey, down from 54.1 percent in 1991.
A less recent report suggests that teenagers are also waiting longer to have sex than they did in the past. A 2002 report from the Department of Health and Human Services found that 30 percent of 15- to 17-year-old girls had experienced sex, down from 38 percent in 1995. During the same period, the percentage of sexually experienced boys in that age group dropped to 31 percent from 43 percent.
The rates also went down among younger teenagers. In 1995, about 20 percent said they had had sex before age 15, but by 2002 those numbers had dropped to 13 percent of girls and 15 percent of boys."
(This doesn't mean there's nothing to worry about. There was an increase in teen pregnancy for the first time in more than a decade, which may mean that while teens are having less sex overall, some teens are having more and are not using contraception as often. ) Click here to read more
The National Board of Health and Welfare (Socialstyrelsen) took the decision to declassify the behaviours as illnesses in order to avoid strengthening prejudices about them, said agency head Lars-Erik Holm.
Today is January 22, the 36th anniversary of Roe v Wade which made abortion bans unconstitutional, and which has been marked for the last three years by "Blog for Choice" day. The Blog for Choice folks prompted bloggers to write about their top pro-choice hope for the Obama administration. (Can I tell you how much I love typing those words: "Obama administration," "President Obama" ... gives me chills!)
My immediate hopes are of course for a rescinding of the Mexico City policy (aka the global gag rule) that prohibits any clinic anywhere in the world that receives US federal aid money from counseling women about abortion or providing abortion services. I am also hoping that the news of Obama's freezing the "conscience exemption" enacted by Bush in a "midnight regulation" is true. RH Reality Check reported yesterday, based on articles in the LA Times and the Press Democrat that both were likely to happen.
But what is my long term wish? (Click here to read more)