Emergency Contraception: What It Is, How to Use It and How to Get It

The use of emergency contraception is very low in the United States (only one out of three women even know about it) compared to other countries. So low in fact, that a bill has just been introduced in Congress to establish a public education program to inform women and their health care providers about the its use, safety and availability. Similar bills were introduced in 2002, 2005 and 2007, but they never made it out of legislative hearings.

Why the ignorance about emergency contraception? And the resistance of law-makers to dispel that ignorance? There are a couple of factors at work here. One is that the FDA has been slow to approve emergency contraception even when it has been available and legal in some countries for several years. The FDA was also resistant to allowing emergency contraception to be sold over the counter. I’m not sure why the FDA drags its feet when it comes to emergency contraception, but part of the reason is probably politics.

Why politics? Because law-makers in this country are extremely sensitive about the abortion issue and there is a widespread, but erroneous, belief that emergency contraception causes abortion.  This belief stems from the controversy about RU-486, otherwise known as the abortion pill. Basically, what RU-486 does is cause a medical, as opposed to a surgical, abortion. It is quite expensive, not just for the pills themselves, but for the required doctor visits both before and after taking them. Because it induces abortion, the patient has to be checked afterward to make sure that the abortion is complete. If it isn’t, a medical abortion must still be performed.

Emergency contraception, on the other hand, does not induce abortion. Instead, it works to prevent a pregnancy from happening in the first place. Some anti-abortionists will tell you that this is still an abortion, just as they will say that the birth control bill and IUDs cause abortion because they may prevent a fertilized egg from being implanted in the uterus. But the medical profession does not consider a fertilized egg as the same as a pregnancy; pregnancy doesn’t start until implantation. Continue reading “Emergency Contraception: What It Is, How to Use It and How to Get It”

Embrace Your Fat!

Before I start, let me make it very clear that I do not think it’s a good thing to be seriously overweight. No one in her right mind would purposefully gain weight she didn’t need. (Except for actors for roles and people like Donna Simpson, the 600-lb. woman who wants to get to 1,000—and you could certainly argue that she’s not in her right mind.)

But I’m sick of people (who are usually not overweight) characterizing fat people as weak, disgusting, even immoral. Prejudice against fat people is stronger than ever, what with all the emphasis on being fit and healthy (it is commonly assumed that fat people can’t possibly be healthy) and, of course, thin.

Then there all the statistics that inform us that 60% of America’s population is overweight (not obese, just overweight, which could mean that they’re packing an extra five or ten pounds) and that over 30%  is morbidly obese (which makes it sound as if they’re the size of elephants).  When people read those statistics, they shake their heads in disapproval and condemnation.

No one ever feels sorry for fat people. Their weight is always their fault, never mind that they gain weight easily, have a slow metabolism, a different body type, are on medication that causes weight gain or are restricted in their activity by a disability. They’ve “let themselves go” and that simply will not be forgiven.

I admire people like Kirstie Alley (above) and Kathleen Turner, who refuse to let their weight gain send them scurrying into the shadows in shame or embarrassment. (I’ve read that Turner’s weight gain was originally the result of the prednisone she took for her rheumatoid arthritis. Alley states that hers is the result of eating too much.) They are both beautiful, talented people and they shouldn’t have to apologize for being fat.

And then there’s the word “fat.” When I was a fat little kid, my mom used to say that I was “pleasingly plump.” There are lot of euphemisms designed to spare fat people’s feelings: chubby (for children), plus-size, large, big-boned, curvy, being a person of size, weight-challenged, full-figured, voluptuous, built for comfort—I’ve heard them all. I especially like it when people say, “But you have such a pretty face!”

I don’t like being fat. I try to control my eating, but one bad day can set me back for two weeks. I put on five pounds each year for the past two years when I broke my foot (yes, twice in a row) and was rendered immobile. I haven’t been able to get those ten pounds off and I hate myself for it, because I was once lighter and I don’t understand why I can’t get back there again. I admit that I don’t get as much exercise as I should, but I don’t see why I should have to put myself through the tortures of hell in order to lose enough weight to call myself slim again. (Yes, I used to be slim, although I never ever thought so. Now I’d love to be as “fat” as I was even thirty pounds ago.)

So what is the alternative? Could it be that I could actually accept myself the way I am? Or could I take it a step further and learn to embrace my fat?

Continue reading “Embrace Your Fat!”

The Life-Changing, Mind-Blowing Experience of Motherhood

Photo from Parents Connect

After you’ve been a parent for a while, you begin to take the fact that your children are in the world for granted. It’s as if they’ve always been here. Every once in a while you have a flashback to when they were born, or to life before motherhood, and at those moments you marvel at your transformation.

That’s right: your transformation. We’re used to talking about motherhood in terms of the changes our children go through, but the truth is it is our own changes that we struggle with the most. How did I get here? is a common refrain of all mothers. You even begin to forget what you were like before you had children.

You may have never intended to have children or felt particularly maternal. And yet suddenly—and it does seem to happen suddenly, despite nine months of incubating your child inside you—you find yourself turned inside out (in more ways than one). Your perspective changes. You may feel joy, you may feel terror, but whatever you feel, it is completely different from anything you’ve felt before.

I had my first child right before I turned 22. By the time I was 28, I had four. I became totally defined by that fact. Everywhere I went, I had four “appendages.” Everything I did, or wanted to do, became filtered by how it would affect my children.

Continue reading “The Life-Changing, Mind-Blowing Experience of Motherhood”

A Saudi Woman Speaks Out

Non-Muslims see Muslim women as oppressed, especially in countries like Saudi Arabia, where grown women have male guardians, are not allowed to drive and are required to cover themselves totally whenever they leave the house. That’s why it’s particularly surprising to run across a Saudi woman like Buthayna Nasser. She wears the full abaya (although not the niqab, or face veil) in her job as a television newscaster.

It’s a misconception that Saudi women don’t work, let alone have careers. Apparently, they have voices, too, judging by this video:

What Makes Eve Ensler Ill: Cancer or the Congo?

I just found out that Eve Ensler has uterine cancer. Her prognosis, she reports, is good, but uterine cancer is nothing to fool around with. If caught early, 5-year survival rates can be as high as 96%. Ensler does not share at which stage her cancer was detected. At any rate, she has been through hell physically for the past few months. But, she insists, it is nothing compared to the hell she goes through every time she hears of the latest atrocities being committed in the Congo.

In her article, which appeared in several newspapers simultaneously, she writes:

The stories of continued rapes, machete killings, grotesque mutilations, outright murdering of human rights activists – these images and events create nausea and weakness much worse than chemo or antibiotics or pain meds ever could. But even harder to deal with, in the weakened state that I have been in, is knowing that despite the ongoing horrific atrocities that have taken the lives of more than 6 million people and left more than 500,000 women and girls raped and tortured, the international power elite appear to be doing nothing.

She describes all the attempts she and her foundation, V-Day, have made to interest world leaders in the plight of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and how those appeals have fallen on deaf ears. When she appeals to Michelle Obama (through a high-end official), she is told that “femicide was not her ‘brand.’ Mrs. Obama was focusing on childhood obesity.” (Ensler’s reaction? “It surprised me that a woman with her capabilities lacked ambidextrous skills.”)

I realize that the U.S., or any one entity, for that matter, can’t solve all the world’s problems. But does that mean that we should ignore them? Women and children are the real victims of war. But the revenge-rapes and brutal massacres, not to mention being left without husbands and fathers, are largely written off as “collateral damage.” The death of soldiers is tragic enough, but women and children don’t even have any means of defending themselves.

If the Congo were in our own back yard, we might be moved to do something about the conditions there. But because it is half a world away, we  feel that we can put it out of our minds. But Eve Ensler, even though you might think she has more important things to worry about, can’t put it out of hers.

For more background on the situation in the DRC, read Ensler’s article from a year ago, “An apathetic, greedy west has abandoned war-torn Congo.”

What’s With Arizona??

Arizona State Flag

Maybe it’s in the water. Maybe it’s the heat. Whatever it is, it’s bringing out the worst in the people of Arizona. I didn’t even realize that the governor, Jan Brewer, signed a bill into law last September denying benefits to domestic partners of state employees. The new law, which takes effect October 1, redefines “dependent” and excludes  coverage for domestic partners, including heterosexual partners, children of domestic partners, disabled adult dependents, and full time students over 22 who are claimed as dependents.

Interestingly enough, the University of Arizona has decided to reinstate benefits to domestic partners, using funds separate from state money, in order to remain competitive in attracting talent. According to the Arizona Daily Star, about 20 employees of the University left because of the repeal of domestic partner benefits and some job offers were rejected for the same reason.

I’ve always seen the offering of benefits to domestic partners and other dependents as a way to get more people insured in America. Without those benefits, many people will not have health insurance at all. Why shouldn’t a person be able to cover more than herself on her policy if she is willing to pay the family premium? In fact, I think insurance policies ought to cover adult children indefinitely. There’s a terrible gap in insurance coverage between 22-year-olds and those who have finally established their careers to the point where they get employee benefits.

Nor do I think people should be forced to marry just so they can share a family insurance plan. It’s not the place of the state to pry into what kind of relationship domestic partners have.

Continue reading “What’s With Arizona??”