Anatomy of a coat hanger abortion

With SCOTUS hearing Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. Sebelius today, remembering what access to birth control means is key. This is not about religious freedom, this is about a systemic punishment of women and their sexuality. When birth control and abortion are made illegal, unintended pregnancies and abortion do not cease to exist; rather, the continue with back alley abortion and unnecessary death of women. SCOTUS must stand up for women’s rights to access medical care, regardless of her employers personal religious convictions.

Dr. Jen Gunter

The coat hanger isn’t sterile. It isn’t even clean.

If the woman, or girl, is alone she thrusts it blindly upwards into the vagina. She’s hoping it will get into her uterus and do something. She may or may not know that to get into the uterus the coat hanger has to navigate the small opening in the cervix called the os.

A coat hanger is technically narrow enough to get through a pregnant cervical os, but the end is sharp not tapered so it can lacerate and perforate. Getting any instrument through the cervix safely also requires visualization and knowledge of the correct amount of force.

If she’s lucky enough to get the coat hanger through her cervix it could easily sail right through the back or side walls of the uterus. The uterine wall is soft and easily perforated with the wrong instrument or unskilled hands. If…

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A President’s Day Look at the Most Influential First Ladies

It is said that behind every great man is a great woman. In the case of our nation’s history, sometimes there is an even greater woman behind the scenes. Today is President’s Day, a day in which Americans flock to department stores and online retailers for big discounts celebrate all the American Presidents, past and present. While I do not even want to think about the sporadic amount of presidential history that is actually taught in American public schools today, I know there is little to no focus on first ladies. So, we here  at Feminism & Football (and by that I mean me), want to celebrate four exemplary First Ladies of the United States.

1. Eleanor Roosevelt (March 4, 1933 – April 12, 1945), wife to Franklin D. Roosevelt, was our longest serving first lady. While that may seem like an advantage in accomplishing things, America faced her darkest years. The Great Depression. World War II. Eleanor Roosevelt was quite controversial, but well behaved women rarely make history, and history she made. Outspoken on many issues, from civil rights for African Americans and Asian Americans, the rights of World War II refugees, and expanded workplace opportunities for women, many feared Roosevelt would lead women astray. Moreover, some saw her advocacy as detrimental to the war effort. She knew otherwise, and was the first FLOTUS to hold her own press conference. She maintained a syndicated newspaper column, and spoke at national conventions. What stands out to me as a feminist and historian is her public rejection of several of her husband’s policies. On the day of the Pearl Harbor attack, she advised Americans against any, “great hysteria against minority groups.” She was also openly critical of her husband and others who were opposed to allowing refugees of Nazism into the United States. These are just some of her many accomplishments in the White House. For more on Eleanor Roosevelt, consider this monograph.

2. Betty Ford (August 9, 1974 – January 20, 1977), wife to Gerald Ford, became FLOTUS suddenly, after the resignation of Nixon. Dubbed “No Lady” by many conservatives, Ford was outspoken on many hot button issues, including drugs, sex, the ERA, equal pay, and abortion. In an interview with McCall’s Ford recalled she was asked everything except for how often she and President Ford had sex. Famously she continued, “And if they’d asked me that I would have told them,” she said, adding that her response would be, “As often as possible.” The mother of four, she openly spoke about the benefits of psychiatric treatment, marijuana use, and premarital sex. Ford strongly supported the Equal Rights Amendment, and went as far as personally lobbying state legislatures to ratify the amendment. Similarly, she was vocal about women’s abortion rights. Just weeks after becoming the FLOTUS, Ford underwent a mastectomy. Unsurprisingly, she was very open about her diagnosis and treatment, stating “There had been so much cover-up during Watergate that we wanted to be sure there would be no cover-up in the Ford administration.” Her unwavering strength and openness raised the visibility of breast cancer nationally. Ford told Time, “When other women have this same operation, it doesn’t make any headlines.But the fact that I was the wife of the President put it in headlines and brought before the public this particular experience I was going through. It made a lot of women realize that it could happen to them. I’m sure I’ve saved at least one person — maybe more.”  Her openness only continued after her time in the White House, as she sought treatment for alcohol and prescription addiction. Later, she opened the Betty Ford Center for the treatment of chemical dependency to continue to help others.

3. Lady Bird Johnson (November 22, 1963 – January 20, 1969), wife of (my favorite president of the second half of the twentieth century} Lyndon Baines Johnson, rose to become FLOTUS after the assassination of President Kennedy, and her husband’s assumption of the presidency. She was the first to have her own press secretary, chief of staff, and a congressional liaison. During the 1964 presidential campaign, Lady Bird traveled throughout the South, giving 45 speeches in 4 days, promoting the Civil Rights Act. This marked the first solo campaign trip for any first lady. She was a proud supporter of the Head Start Program, and served as an honorary chairperson for the National Head Start Program. Above all else, Lady Bird was an environmentalist. From her vast Society for a More Beautiful Capital, that planted trees and flowers throughout Washington, D.C., to her active lobbying for the passage of the Highway Beautification Act of 1965, she sought to make the United States a more beautiful place. As she put it, “where flowers bloom, so does hope.”

4. Dolley Madison (March 4, 1809 – March 4, 1817) was our nation’s fourth FLOTUS, wife of James Madison. As a historian, I really appreciate Madison’s decision to pack and preserve many White House furnishings as Washington, D.C. was attacked during the War of 1812. Now, granted, this wouldn’t have happened if her husband were better at his job. Yet, her foresight in making sure some of these American treasures survived earns her a spot in my heart. Moreover, she served as a ceremonial First Lady for Thomas Jefferson, whose wife, Martha, had died prior to his term. A warm, welcoming hostess, and saver of timeless White House decor (including a classic portrait of George Washington), Dolley Madison may not have been as politically outspoken as the three previous first ladies, but for her time she was involved in two administrations and helped saved invaluable artifacts which always earns an A in my book.

State of the Union BINGO

For those of us that are politically inclined, the annual State of the Union is basically the Nerd Olympics. This year it is like a dry run for the actual Olympics which start the following week. It should be little surprise to hear that I am a tried and true Democrat. True Blue. And I’ve got high expectations for the State of the Union.

I want to hear a plan to combat Military sexual assault and end the prevalence of gun violence in America. I want to know that women will continue to have access to safe and legal abortion.  Of course we know that the best way to cut the number of unintended pregnancies is through age appropriate, medically accurate, comprehensive sex education in all schools. Will that happen? As a fairly well-educated person that cannot find full-time employment, I’d like to hear about the economy. Will we let Wall Street decide how many families in America go without food and medicines, or will we work towards income equality? While I truly think through pursuing a Ph.D., I want to know that the students coming to college have the educational background to do the assigned work. No Child Left Behind is an abomination, perhaps a new plan will be announced. What about the unconstitutional bans on marriage equality?

The list truly goes on for a while. It’s going to be a big night for me, and I’m excited. However, there are many who watch it because, let’s be honest, it is on all the networks and you were just going to watch American Idol. That’s cool. Since you’re basically stuck if you don’t have cable, consider a game of State of the Union BINGO! I’ve made these super-fun BINGO cards. Just print them out. There are five different cards for group play. After, let me know how you fared. Even better, send a picture and send them to me on Twitter! (@RachelElise86)

To download the Bingo boards, click there –> SOTUBingoCards

Contraception Emergency – Why Plan B Manufacturers are in Big Fat Trouble

After years of advocacy work, Plan B, also known as “the morning after pill” became available over the counter to women and girls throughout the United States without a prescription. With this victory still fresh in my mind, I learn today that this success is much more limiting than we ever imagined. Surprisingly, it is not because of draconian laws being introduced through state legisImagelatures. Rather, professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Edinburgh, Anna Glasier, conducted a study with alarming results: Norlevo (European brand of Plan B) begins to lose efficacy in women weighing 166lbs. For women at and above 176, it is not effective in preventing fertilization.

Glasier’s research has caused Norlevo’s manufacturer, HRA Pharma, to include these finding on the package insert. However, in the United States women and girls are accessing this medication which will, for millions, have zero effect. The most popular generic medications that are available over the counter include Plan B One-Step, Next Choice One Dose, and My Way, all of which share identical chemical and dosage makeups to its European counterpart. However, these popular generic medications are not able to disclose this new, vital  information.

According to the Food and Drug Administration, generic medication manufacturers can only alter product literature if and when the brand manufacturer has done so. As of late Monday evening, the FDA reported to Mother Jones, who broke the story, that they are looking into  whether or not they will require American manufacturers of emergency contraception pills to update their labels.

While I applaud the FDA’s quick acknowledgement of the issue, adding a new weight limit does not solve the problem. In America, the majority (69%) of adults 20 and older are considered to be overweight (BMI over 25). Further, approximately half of them are further classified as obese (BMI over 30). According to our own Health and Human Services Department, 62% of women 18 and older are overweight or obese. With so much of the population outside of the indicated weight range, myself included, one must wonder what other medications the overweight majority is being prescribed, only to expect little or no effectiveness.

In looking at birth control and oral contraceptives alone, testing is not done on women whose BMI exceeds 125% of her optimum weight. We don’t know if our own birth control pills are effective. This should be a startling realization, considering that during reproductive age, 17.1% of women (15-44) are on an oral contraceptive. They represent the majority of all contraceptive users in America (27.5%). Is it skinny bias? Fat phobia? As a, shall we say, person of size, I can tell you first hand that the medical community, by and large (get it, large!) view obesity as a non-medical issue that greatly impacts health. It is about lack of self control, laziness, etc. How, then, are we as a community, supposed to look at an entire class of medications as being not for us? For me, it is a slap in the face. Was it that these studied didn’t have anyone over 125% of their optimum weight, or did those people not matter? The numbers are clear, these women exist and they are on oral contraceptives.

This isn’t a new, emerging trend. Sadly, it is a long, nuanced belief held among thousands of American-based doctors. If we as a nation are obese, our doctors and pharmaceutical companies need to make medication for all people, not those deemed to be of a socially acceptable size.