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How US Assistance Helps Global Reproductive Rights and How Cuts Can Set it Back

April 19th, 2013 • Contributed by Sue Kettner

Funding by the United States for family planning has a giant positive impact. With the White House releasing its budget request for fiscal year 2014 and the budget debates heating up, now seems like a good time to look at what investments in reproductive health enables.

A total of $610 million was allocated to family planning and reproductive health services in the 2012 budget according to the Guttmacher Institute:

  • § 31.6 million women and couples receive contraceptive services and supplies;
  • § 9.4 million unintended pregnancies, including 4.1 million unplanned births, are averted;
  • § 4 million induced abortions are averted (3 million of them unsafe);
  • § 22,000 maternal deaths are averted;
  • § 2.8 million fewer healthy years of life (DALYs) are lost among women; and
  • § 96,000 fewer children lose their mothers.

Increasing spending will expand access and services and cuts will lead to declines. It is as simple as that. A mere $10 million in the budget for family planning means

  • § 520,000 fewer women and couples would receive contraceptive services and supplies;
  • § 150,000 more unintended pregnancies, including 70,000 more unplanned births, would occur;
  • § 70,000 more abortions would take place (of which 50,000 would be unsafe);
  • § 400 more maternal deaths would occur;
  • § 50,000 more DALYs would be lost; and
  • § 2,000 more children would lose their mothers.

Every little bit counts!

Comments Off • Posted in: Birth Control

Discuss family planning candidly with children

January 10th, 2013 • Contributed by Sue Kettner

[From Christopher Taylor, first appearing in the Jacksonville Progress]

Family planning has always been a controversial public health issue for a variety of reasons.

As a father of four, I can honestly admit that well, I didn’t plan very much. Like most East Texas parents, my folks tried their hands at sharing the important information, but what teenager wants to discuss that with their parents over chicken and mashed potatoes?

Looking back now in my thirties, I wish that more had been shared, so I decided that my kids needed to know the issues, the options and ‘no-no’s. The issues and the options were easy, it was the ‘no-no’s that tripped me up. But I knew I had to do it.

My oldest, soon to be a teenager himself, had already experienced all that middle school had to offer, and fortunately, he felt safe enough to come home and talk to me about it. That was when I realized that if I didn’t educate him, someone else was going to. I also realized that to tell him everything was a ‘no-no’ wasn’t going to go very far. Sure, he’s a great kid and I trust that he’ll follow most of my rules, but I also remember that despite my values, beliefs and ethics, things happen that we don’t necessarily plan on.

And that’s also when I realized that educating my kiddo had nothing to do with values, beliefs and ethics. It was my job, my right. And he deserved it too.

So we had the family planning talk. I asked him what kind of family he wanted, how many kids, when he would marry and so on – just to see what was in his head.

Then, we moved on to a more grown up conversation about the birds and the bees as dad used to call it. We talked about pregnancy, abstinence, sexually-transmitted diseases, emotions, feelings and the whole nine yards as they say. I was so relieved once we did.

You see, parental involvement makes all the difference in the world to a kid’s life. I realize now that if I had told my son all the no-no’s and left it there, someone might tell him otherwise, and he might get curious and when he found out that I hadn’t shared all the information with him quite so accurately … he wouldn’t trust me anymore. Now of course, what a child hears needs to be consistent with what he/she is mature enough to understand. But by the young teenage years, they probably ought to hear about abstinence, and the methods of protection that exist if abstinence doesn’t work out. And there are a variety of reasons it doesn’t, not because it isn’t the best preventative method, but because of peer pressure, hormones, people kids have learned to trust other than us, and for terrible reasons like being taken advantage of without your permission.

I resolved that I wanted my child to be prepared, educated and ready to make a good decision. But I also know he’s a brand new teenager, and things happen that don’t make me a bad parent, or him a bad kid.

So from one parent to another, I encourage parents everywhere to have the family planning discussion with their children, and by doing so, we remove the stigma and move forward in the fight to eliminate unnecessary disease, unwanted pregnancy, not to mention, save a whole lot of money that could be spent elsewhere. If you need an icebreaker, try this. It’s a great start and then you can decide what’s appropriate and when. You can also contact your Cherokee County Public Health Depart-ment and we’ll provide a few additional resources.

Good luck.

Christopher Taylor is the executive director of the Cherokee County Public Health Department and the father of four.

Comments Off • Posted in: Family Planning

Family Planning: It’s Time to Welcome Men Into the Discussion

July 13th, 2011 • Contributed by Sue Kettner

In the article below from the Huffington Post, Ashley Judd reports on worldwide efforts to educate men and women about family planning. In developing nations, women and men are desperate for education and information about family planning. They utilize cell phones to access information and referrals for family planning services.

We are all in this together; the American public may have more access to services than men and women in developing nations, yet we all need the education and services so families and women all have a chance at a healthier life.

Yesterday, on World Population Day, the United Nations Population Fund officially launched 7 Billion Actions — a campaign to raise awareness and action around our planet’s growing population, which is set to reach 7 billion later this year.

The campaign is a wake-up call to the health, environmental, and social challenges associated with rapid population growth. It is also a wake-up call to the importance of voluntary family planning.

In 2011, more than 200 million women worldwide are still denied access to desired family planning services due to unavailable resources or lack of support from their husbands and communities. As a woman, I believe it is time to make universal access to family planning a global priority. And as a woman, I believe it is essential to welcome men into the conversation.

Why Family Planning?

According to World Health Organization statistics, approximately 1,000 women die every day from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth. Over 99 percent of these maternal deaths occur in the developing world, in countries where a mother’s death can leave children — and entire families — in a perilous scenario.

Many, if not the majority, of these women want smaller families but often do not know how to prevent pregnancies. During my travel as Global Ambassador for the public health organization PSI (Population Services International), I have personally met some of these women.

I remember Therese, a woman in the Democratic Republic of Congo, who was so desperate after having given birth to six children that she ingested poisonous herbs to terminate three different pregnancies — leaving her in agonizing, life threatening pain. Her husband, Victor, watched each time in helpless fear. Like his wife, he had never been given information on family planning methods that could protect his wife and his family.

Their story is all too common and is a reminder that family planning communication must incorporate men into the equation.

Men and Family Planning

Research shows that men have a significant influence over women’s reproductive health decisions in the developing world, especially in Africa. Men who receive education on sexual and reproductive health are far more likely to support their partner’s decision on family planning.

Despite these facts, many family planning programs continue to follow the traditional woman-focused model, excluding men from research, service provision, and information campaigns.

A program in the Democratic Republic of Congo is addressing this problem, tailoring communication to reach men. Moreover, it uses an innovative and remarkably simple avenue to do so: the cell phone.

Reaching Men in the DRC

In 2011, 70 percent of worldwide cellular phone users live in developing countries. The World Bank has identified mobile phones as one of the most powerful ways to deliver health services and information to people living in remote areas, particularly in largely rural countries like the DRC.

PSI and its local partner, Association de Sante Familiale, saw a unique opportunity within these statistics and, in 2005, launched a family planning hotline in the DRC called Linge Verte.

Open 5 days per week, 8.5 hours per day, Ligne Verte provides free, accurate information on family planning and refers clients to family planning clinics across a wide geographic range.

Most importantly, Ligne Verte provides a safe, confidential zone for Congolese men and women to ask sensitive questions about family planning, as well as other sexual health concerns such as HIV.

To date, 84 percent of Ligne Verte callers have been men. Parallel PSI hotlines in other countries reflect similar statistics. In Benin and Pakistan, men make up 77 percent and 78 percent of callers, respectively, to national PSI family planning hotlines.

These numbers speak for themselves.

Family planning is not a gender specific issue. Men, as much as women, are interested in learning about ways to protect the physical and economic health of their families. They are asking questions and seeking answers.

It is our responsibility to listen and respond to them.

For more information on family planning:

2011 International Conference on Family Planning, Dakar, Senegal, November 29- December 2

7 Billion Actions Campaign


Comments Off • Posted in: Family Planning

The Racist Anti-Abortion Group That Criminalizes Black Motherhood

April 20th, 2011 • Contributed by Sue Kettner

[From Elizabeth Hines]

In late March, the racist anti-abortion group “Life Always” unveiled a new campaign in Chicago, using the face of our president to demonize and defame black motherhood.

“Every 21 minutes,” the billboard read, “our next possible leader is aborted.” Next to that text runs the very recognizable profile of our commander-in-chief. Get their message? It’s not subtle: black women, they have no shame in saying, are destroying black communities. By choosing abortion, they’re decimating our future (never mind that Obama’s mother was white). Black women cannot be trusted, these ads clearly imply — not with their children and families, and certainly not with decisions about their own bodies. Do not trust black women, Life Always implores you. Do not trust them.

It’s a message anti-abortion advocates are getting very good at spreading — and I for one have had enough of it. As a black mother, I take these ads personally — and you know what, Life Always? I am offended. I am enraged. I am disgusted that it seems to you, and to all these folks who are willing to sell you ad space, just fine to call black women dangerous, incompetent and downright dumb, out in the open air.

To expose these children that you claim to care so much about to messages that come a hair’s breath away from criminalizing their mothers. To assume we don’t have the good common sense to make reasonable decisions about the limits of our bodies, and our families. To treat us so definitively like what we want and need and believe to be best just doesn’t matter.

Do I imagine that the folks behind this ad much care about how angry and depressed these ads make me feel? Do I think they mind that seeing a billboard declaring “the most dangerous place for an African American is in the womb” – in my own hometown– made me want to tear my hair out with shame and grief? Not really.

Because despite their use of the first person possessive to describe their relationship to the black community, what’s agonizingly clear is that groups like Life Always don’t really give a fig about black people – not about how they make us feel with their racist rhetoric, nor about what happens to black babies after they are born.

If they did care, they would support policies and programs that prevent pregnancies before they happen (and by that I mean policies and programs that are actually proven to work, as opposed to abstinence-only education). They’d stop cutting the guts out of programs that provide subsidized child-care and early education to low-income families, and stop trying to roll back provisions of health-care reform that provide a greater pool of families and children with the medical resources they need.

They’d be leading investigations into why black women die so much more often in childbirth than women of other ethnicities do, and why black babies are also more likely to suffer the same fate, within the first year of their lives.

But they do none of that. Instead, their goal is to undermine the credibility of humanity of people of color, with an eye to the election season that will quickly be upon us. Don’t be fooled: as much as it is about anything else, this campaign is about convincing white Americans (who drive past these billboards, too) of the purported continued “pathology” of the black community – and now, in Chicago, they’re tying the president directly to that insidious message, as a means of delegitimizing him, too.

That should be enough to make anyone who believes in equality and justice furious – regardless of how you feel about the very complex issue of abortion.

As for me, I’m tired of being insulted. I’m tired of waking up every morning to a new affront to my existence and intelligence. But I know that this only ends when we make it end. The moral arc of the universe may be long, and it may bend towards justice, but it does not bend without our help. So sign a petition to put an end to these menacing campaigns. Stand with an organization working to stop the insanity. Do something now — before they come to take more than just our wombs.

Comments Off • Posted in: Abortion

Why we must STAND UP for Family Planning

March 1st, 2011 • Contributed by Sue Kettner

Amanda Marcotte summarizes just why we all need to stand up for family planning services. All US women have the right to control their fertility.

For some who can’t afford contraception and reproductive exams, the state and federally funded programs provide coverage for these services. These programs save a phenomenal amount of taxpayer dollars by preventing unintended pregnancies. They reduce the numbers of abortions because there are less unintended pregnancies. They reduce poverty for women, children and families.

The “straight white-guys” who oppose these programs want to deny the cost-savings and health enhancing outcomes of these programs. Don’t let them do it. Call them on it each time you hear or see them attacking family planning services.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on RH Reality Check.

By Amanda Marcotte

When it comes to the world of feminist writer/activists, I definitely fall on the “writer” side of the line. Most of my life is researching, conducting interviews, pitching pieces, and, of course, staring at my computer, trying to think of a verb that’s dynamic but not pretentious. I love giving speeches, but they’re usually of the 20-60 minute long variety meant to educate, analyze and entertain (and there’s always a Q&A), and I’m always on a roster with journalists and academics. So how was it that Saturday afternoon, I found myself standing outside with feet growing numb in the cold amongst actors, musicians, organizers and oodles of politicians, trying to think of what I could say in 120 seconds that would be meaningful to the crowd of thousands of people waving signs and periodically erupting into chants?

Well, mostly I was there because Planned Parenthood of New York City graciously asked me to speak at a rally in support of Title X funding, which has been zeroed out by the House of Representatives in the continuing resolution to fund the government, a move that can be stopped by the Senate and President. I said yes because while drum-beating and sign-waving is really outside of my comfort zone, I consider this issue too important not to grab opportunities to speak out. For years I’ve been writing about something that most of the media tragically ignores, which is the growing radicalism of movement conservatism regarding women’s sexual health. Anti-choice is also about resisting birth control and any other health care that relates to sexual activity, on the grounds that women who have sex should face “consequences”, i.e. be punished. (As a good example, I saw my friend Katie Halper fighting some guy on Twitter over whether or not Planned Parenthood offers breast exams, something anti-choicers are trying to deny because, as Katie put it, “I guess even the most heinous distortion of punitive conservatism can’t make breast cancer a woman’s fault.” Notice that they’re not trying to deny that Planned Parenthood does a million cervical cancer screenings a year, but I guess they don’t care about those lives, since cervical cancer is usually caused by HPV, and they can convince themselves those women brought their deaths on themselves.) Even though we’ve seen evidence of the anti-choice movement pushing for abstinence-only education and fighting the HPV vaccine and emergency contraception, in most of the media, the discussion is still incorrectly framed as fetus-centric.

And now the anti-choice has scored a major victory in the war on women’s health, amongst many other programs that help people that conservatives disapprove of, such as people who want to have more energy-efficient homes and women who have to work for a living and therefore can’t play unpaid preschool teacher to their kids. So I had to speak out. Conservative activists are dropping the word “abortion” a lot, because it performs well as a conversation-stopper that allows them to continue working against women without suffering too much investigation into their real aims, but this time, people aren’t fooled. Pap smears and condoms aren’t abortion. The anti-choice resistance to them makes it clear that the concern for fetuses is actually a concern that women are having sex without facing sadistic punishments that, in the past (and sadly still today) left them traumatized, mutilated, and often dead.

That era isn’t far enough in the past that women today really can take for granted all that we have, but I thought the best way to speak out against the encroachments on women’s rights was to talk about all the ways our lives have been quietly saved by doctors, nurses, and educators who give us the tools to be, as women always have been before us, sexually active without giving up our health and dreams. For most of us, having to live without birth control would have meant drastically different, sadder lives. How better than to highlight the radical nature of this move against Title X than to instigate a speak-out about how the biggest target — Planned Parenthood — helped us, usually in ways that the vast majority of the country finds completely non-controversial?

For this purpose, I started the Twitter hashtag #thanksPPFA, where people could talk about how Planned Parenthood had improved their lives. And for this purpose, when I stood up at the rally Saturday, what I did was tell a (very short) story: I had gone to a Catholic university, and the health center didn’t offer birth control. (Boooooo!, said the crowd, surprising me and then making me laugh.) So I went to Planned Parenthood, where I could afford it, and that clinic basically was my doctor for the next five years. And I spoke briefly about the stories that came out on Twitter, 140 characters at a time: women who finished school, married the right guy, had kids when they were ready, all because of Planned Parenthood. Women who are still with us, because their cervical cancer was caught by Planned Parenthood’s routine screening. Lives are saved every day, and it’s usually not remarked on, because most of us expect it will always be there.

But if the conservative movement gets its way, it won’t be there.

While Planned Parenthood is the touchstone for this outrage, people are standing up for more than just this one large organization. We’re standing up because we believe that women, gay people, poor people, people of color, young people, and people who fall outside the gender binary are just as much people as the rich straight white guys that dominate the ranks of those trying to shut down access to sexual health care. And as people, we have the same rights as those rich straight white guys to our health, to our hopes and dreams, to our relationships, and yes, to our sexual pleasures as they do. Planned Parenthood offers substantial services that save lives every day, but they’re also a symbol in this war over who gets to decide if The Rest Of Us are people, too. In the 21st century, are we going to expand the rights of man to all of us, or are we going to slide backwards to a time when only the few got access to what we all deserve?

Comments Off • Posted in: Action, Birth Control, Family Planning, Policy

A Place Where Family Planning is far Different from Western Norms

July 20th, 2010 • Contributed by Sue Kettner

A Place Where “Family Planning is far Different from Western Norms”
Sue Kettner
In 2008, Family Planning Health Services and the Adams County Health Department presented
a combined educational program for medical professionals visiting the US from Uzbekistan.
The group consisted of doctors, nurses and administrators of health programs. They were well
educated, caring individuals who wanted to understand how public health departments and non-
profit family planning agencies were run in the US. They cared very much about their citizens
and providing quality health care to their people. They expressed that they had lived a long time
under Russian rule and they now saw their independence as an opportunity to improve their
health care delivery systems.
We read with dismay the recent article in the Canadian Press attached below. It would appear
those very motivated health providers are now caught in a government supported program to
sterilize poor women…even against their knowledge and will.
Long ago someone asked us if teen girls shouldn’t be forced to have a Norplant Implant
contraceptive inserted in their arm at age 13. Norplant provided contraception for 5 years
by preventing ovulation. The questioner thought this would be a good way to prevent teen
pregnancy…at least until the girl graduated from high school. I was shocked by the question
and replied that I don’t believe in involuntary birth control. I believe in voluntary birth control and
family planning services. This is a nation founded on freedom of the individual and I could never
condone forcing someone to contracept just like I could never see forcing someone to conceive.
Too many of our ancestors fought and died to see that we have freedom in this country.
Freedom to make our own choices. Many, many of our ancestors came to the USA seeking
just those freedoms for themselves and their children. Forced contraception, whether
temporary or permanent, is un-American1 and should be outlawed anywhere in the world.
1 un-A?mer?i?can
not American; not characteristic of or proper to the U.S.; foreign or opposed to the
characters, values, standards, goals, etc., of the U.S.

In 2008, Family Planning Health Services and the Adams County Health Department presented a combined educational program for medical professionals visiting the US from Uzbekistan.

The group consisted of doctors, nurses and administrators of health programs. They were well educated, caring individuals who wanted to understand how public health departments and non-profit family planning agencies were run in the US. They cared very

much about their citizens and providing quality health care to their people. They expressed that they had lived a long time under Russian rule and they now saw their independence as an opportunity to improve their health care delivery systems.

Continue reading this article »

Comments Off • Posted in: Birth Control

Anti-Choicers Use GAO Report in Attack on Family Planning

June 23rd, 2010 • Contributed by Sue Kettner

Investments in health. The morality of supporting BP and opposing reproductive health services…I am wondering if my United States of America is so poisoned by fumes and political pollution that women, their children and their families don’t count with these people attacking reproductive health care providers.

Continue reading this article »

1 Comment • Posted in: Policy

Health Insurance Reform has become Law

April 2nd, 2010 • Contributed by Sue Kettner

Many of our colleagues, friends and supporters fought hard for health insurance reform both locally and at the national level. We watched the ups and downs of this process and wondered if there would ever be a final product. It has actually, finally happened. We’ve taken the initiative to thank our legislators for getting this done. We know that there will be work to be done to tweak this legislation in the future, but this is a momentous event and a real beginning for health care coverage for all.

We’d like to thank all the colleagues, advocates, friends and supporters who cared about and worked for a positive outcome for women and families. Our friends at Raising Women’s Voices for the Health Care We Need put out two fact sheets this week detailing the pros and cons of the new health insurance reform. We like their fact sheets and include them here for our visitors to access.

The Raising Women’s Voices for the Health Care We Need bulletin stated, “After the hard fought debates about health reform, there’s a lot of misinformation about the legislation out there. “ We want to do our part in promoting the facts about health insurance reform.

Family Planning Health Services Administration and Staff

You can download this fact sheet here.

And a second one here.

Continue reading this article »

Comments Off • Posted in: Uncategorized

50th Anniversary of the Pill

March 31st, 2010 • Contributed by Sue Kettner

We thought it valuable to post a recent article from the Gloucester County News and about the 50th anniversary of the first “foolproof contraceptive” – the birth control pill.  Margaret Marsh, university professor of history and dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Rutgers-Camden says, “What the pill did do is make it possible for women to have careers. It really was the first foolproof contraceptive.”  Now, we all know the birth control pill isn’t “foolproof” and women can forget their pills or take them incorrectly…but the birth control pill was better than any reversible method available at the time and worked so well that women were indeed able to control their fertility.

Sue Kettner Public Relations Coordinator

Continue reading this article »

1 Comment • Posted in: Birth Control

Rise in teenage pregnancy rate spurs new debate on arresting it

February 3rd, 2010 • Contributed by Sue Kettner

Wisconsin has taken steps to advance the scope of the sex education our students will receive with the recently passed Healthy Youth Act. Wisconsin State Representative Donna Seidel talks with Dino Corvino in the attached podcast outlining the reasons behind this legislation. Across the nation, the rates of teen pregnancy have increased. The accompanying article from the Washington Post, January 1-26-2010, outlines what has happened and the increases in teen pregnancies in the last few years. Representative Seidel clarifies just why that is a concern for all of us

Continue reading this article »

3 Comments • Posted in: Birth Control, Family Planning, Policy