This is no time to sit on the sidelines

To my two adult daughters in their 20s-

I hope you know what is a stake with all this shouting about birth control and access to safe and legal abortion. It hasn’t really been that long since the pill was introduced in 1960 as a safe and effective means not only of planning for/avoiding pregnancy, but as a prescription treatment for certain cancers, endometriosis, acne, and cysts involving the ovaries.

Before 1965, married couples didn’t have legal and private access to birth control. Can you imagine anyone telling you, responsible adults, that? Listen to the Conservatives now. They aren’t just telling you, they are it.

The Comstock Act, a holdover from 1873, made it illegal to even mail information about birth control because it was “obscene, lewd, and/or lascivious.” Ditto for actual birth control devices. Comstock hasn’t been wiped from the books, but the definition of obscene has changed (can you imagine television without Sex and the City or movies that even hint at sex?)

And please be aware that while your may think your parents are older than Methuselah, some of my friends remember when Roe v Wade made abortion safe and legal (1973 isn’t that long ago, really. We even had color television then.)

Which brings me to the tirades which have exploded over women’s reproductive rights since Susan G. Komen pulled its support of Planned Parenthood. That opened the door for more of us to see how threatened those rights are now. Access to safe and reliable birth control isn’t just for women. It is for their male partners/husbands/one night stand guys/boyfriends. It is for you, your sister, your nieces and nephews, your friends, and the children you have now or may want to have later.

Last Thursday Rep Darrell Issa (R-California) convened at panel of “experts” to discuss the mandated coverage of birth control. You may notice that all of the “experts” are men.







This expert was shut out making comments before the panel.

Sandra Fluke is young, healthy, bright (a third year law student at Georgetown) and like you, has plans, dreams and ambitions for her career and personal life. She made her way to Congress last week to comment, but was shut out so that five men, five “experts,” none of whom will ever be pregnant, could tell Rep Issa’s panel what needs to be done about requiring access to birth control for all women.

Sandra Fluke left the Congressional hearing room with Democratic leaders last Thursday when they learned who Rep Issa deemed worthy of testifying. Yesterday she returned to testify to a room filled with people who value what women have to say about their health and access to care.

Rep Issa insists that his hearing was about health care reform and religious freedom. His hearing was certainly about freedom: it was about the freedom of women to choose the type of birth control they want so they can plan when and if they want to have children.

You don’t have to testify before a Congressional panel to make your thoughts known. But you have to speak up and you need to do it now. Call or email your Congressional Representative. Tell both of your Senators too. Stand side by side with the people who worked tooth and nail for birth control to be legal and available today. Too much is at stake to sit on the sidelines.


What is missing from all the noise about breast cancer funding?

Last week when the country erupted over Susan G. Komen’s decision to yank funding for Planned Parenthood, one key element was missing from all the shouting: how many cancer organizations are talking about the very real dangers and causes of cancer resulting from how our food is produced, and what is in the air and water we rely on?

Genes play a part in one’s proclivity for disease in many cases, but what we eat, the air we breathe, and the water we drink play a large part in our health. Exercise does too, but if you have asthma or respiratory problems, being outside on a bad air quality day isn’t an option.

Why aren’t more health and disease focused groups insisting that these contributors to poor health status be addressed? Before quitting my job as the Executive Director of the Georgia Rural Health Associaction (GRHA), I made mention of my volunteer work, more than once, with the Fall-line Alliance for a Clean Environment (FACE). My “hobby” fighting coal was just that, a volunteer thing I did on my own time and dime.

I would go to meetings with state partners fighting three proposed coal plants in Georgia and folks would ask why, if GRHA was working on behalf of better health for rural Georgians, wasn’t the organization speaking up to protect the air and water sheds in the threatened communities? That remains a mystery to this day.

Standing up to new coal, AND talking about the problems already plaguing rural communities from existing coal plants, would have been appropriate and right. I couldn’t make my personal agenda GRHA’s, but it still begs the question: why aren’t more health care advocacy organizations speaking up for what lies at the root of so many health problems? The silence from the Department of Community Health in Georgia is stunning.

While so many of us focus on how Komen let politics get in the way of delivering preventive      health screenings to undeserved women, we shouldn’t forget that our environment and access to healthy foods play a part in good health too. When you consider where to donate, think about what isn’t being said publicly. Better yet, ask them why before you sign the check.


(Read a 2011 post asking if any state agency in Georgia is protecting citizen health here:

Breast cancer survivors for Planned Parenthood

Last year in January while I was recovering from a lumpectomy and waiting to start radiation (because early detection saves lives and contributes to better outcomes), a group of friends wanted to make a donation in honor of a young friend (32 at the time) who had just lost both breasts to cancer (she has the BRCA gene). We got the comfort food and flowers to her, but wanted to really do our homework on which organization to donate to in her honor.

Several of us checked Charity Navigator and Charity Watch (Guide Star is also good) to learn what percentage of funds are used for admin costs, research, providing screenings and other preventive care, and education (we agreed on the National Breast Cancer Foundation).

At the same time, Steven Colbert gave a Tip of the Hat to Susan G. Komen and their use of at least $1M of donor dollars a year to sue mom and pop groups working to support cancer research and cancer patients. That’s a lot of money spent to essentially bully small efforts to help sick people be healthy.

Fast forward almost 13 months later, and Komen has caved to pressure from anti-choice advocates and Rep. Cliff Stearns of Florida. Yesterday the GOP primary candidates were competing with coverage of Komen’s decision to defund Planned Parenthood.

Komen’s funding has been used to provide breast exams to women who rely on Planned Parenthood for healthcare services. These women are often poor, underinsured or uninsured, and do not have access to a family doctor or gynecologist for regular care.

Now Komen, an organization established to honor a breast cancer victim, has said it won’t help fund preventive care services like breast exams (and cervical cancer screenings, which is one of the most difficult cancers to identify because the cancer is usually advanced before the patient suspects a problem).

There is no evidence that Planned Parenthood misappropriated the funds for abortion or other services.  What is known is that Komen Vice-President Karen Handel, who served as the Secretary of State for Georgia before resigning to launch a failed bid for the GOP nomination for governor here, campaigned long and hard against state funding for breast and cervical cancer screenings which went to Planned Parenthood. Unfortunately what she couldn’t accomplish in Georgia she has now managed on a national level.

And, because it bears repeating by women who grew up while the battle was waged for safe and legal access to abortions, or came to adulthood not long after the dust began to settle, the issue isn’t whether abortion is good, moral, a form of birth control, etc. Really desperate women who want to end a pregnancy will find a way to do that regardless of whether it is safe or legal. We endanger lives without access to safe and legal abortion.

This defunding is a result of politics driven by such socially, politically, and religiously conservative officials that they will strip away access to preventive health care for poor women. If the lost funds aren’t made up to Planned Parenthood, how many women will not find the cancer soon enough? How many young children will suffer, and perhaps be left without a mother who makes pancakes from scratch on Sunday morning before going to church?

I donated to Planned Parenthood last night. I am remiss in not giving them even a small donation in the past.

Later today I am stuffing all my Komen Race for the Cure t-shirts and the return address labels they have sent me into an envelope and sending them back to:

Nancy Brinker
CEO, Susan G. Komen
5005 LBJ Freeeway
Suite 250
Dallas, TX 75244

I support access to preventive health care and good health information for all Americans. Especially for the mothers, daughters, wives, sisters, aunts, and godmothers, now more than ever.