August 15, 2014 — Read the week's best commentaries from bloggers at the Washington Post, "ThinkProgress" and more.
SUPPORTING WORKING FAMILIES: "A Tale of Two Maternity Leaves," Darlena Cunha, Washington Post's "On Parenting": Cunha compares the family leave options available to herself and other U.S. parents with leave that is available to families in Finland. She notes that only 11% of U.S. workers have access to paid family leave, while other families struggle financially to take unpaid leave or do not qualify for any leave at all under the Family Medical Leave Act (PL 103-3),which only applies to certain employers and workers. By contrast, Finnish families have access to "about four months maternity leave," 54 days of paternity leave, "parental leave" that can be taken by any parent at separate times from when a child is four months old to nine months old, and a small stipend for "home child care leave until the child is 3 years old" (Cunha, "On Parenting," Washington Post, 8/13).
CONTRACEPTION: "Our Safety Net is Failing the Impoverished Women Who Need Birth Control," Tara Culp-Ressler, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress": "As the number of low-income women who need government assistance to access family planning services has been on the rise, the number of patients served by publicly funded clinics has been falling, according to new data from the Guttmacher Institute," Culp-Ressler writes, adding that the findings "illustrate the widening gulf between poor women and wealthier women when it comes to their ability to use reproductive health services, a disparity driven partly by partisan attacks on abortion." She explains that in contrast to the "broad bipartisan support" of the past "for government funding to help impoverished women manage their reproductive health," conservatives today have "turned their attention to attacking Planned Parenthood," federal family planning programs have become "caught in the crossfires" of the abortion-rights debate and "GOP lawmakers have repeatedly cut family planning budgets" (Culp-Ressler, "ThinkProgress," Center for American Progress, 8/12).
What others are saying about contraception:
~ "How Colorado's Teen Birthrate Dropped 40% in Four Years," Gail Sullivan, Washington Post's "Morning Mix."
~ "Obama Administration To Issue New Rules for Religious Accommodation to Birth Control Benefit," Jessica Mason Pieklo, RH Reality Check.
HEALTH DISPARITIES: "Report: Racial Discrimination Severely Undermines Black Women’s Health," Elizabeth Dawes Gay, RH Reality Check: The Reproductive Health Technologies Project's Dawes Gay comments on a "new shadow report ... by the Center for Reproductive Rights, the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, and SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective" that "shares some alarming data on maternal health outcomes as well as disturbing firsthand accounts of the racial discrimination experienced by Black women." She notes, "The stories ... included in the report convey the gross under-education and discriminatory treatment of Black women living in the South, in particular, where sexual and reproductive health education is nonexistent and stigma is rampant." Dawes Gay adds, "Black women are victims of something much worse than stigma, judgment, and discrimination: We are victims of a system and society that abrogates our basic human rights, including the rights to health, life, and non-discrimination" (Dawes Gay, RH Reality Check, 8/13).
SEX WORK: "The Evidence is in: Decriminalizing Sex Work is Critical to Public Health," Anna Forbes/Sarah Elspeth Patterson, RH Reality Check: Forbes and Elspeth Patterson analyze why "the trend toward criminalizing populations involved in the sex trades [is] increasing in the United States," even as medical research and a growing number of public health organizations affirm "the decriminalization of sex work as vital to preventing the spread of [HIV] and [AIDS]" and improving overall public health. They explain the trend in relation to three factors: the conflation of sex work with trafficking, the lack of health care access among sex workers and how criminalization exacerbates violence toward sex workers. "We can't stop HIV in the United States without sustainable and long-term solutions to end the arrest, detention, and incarceration of sex workers in the [U.S.], as well as end the violations against sex workers within the correctional system," they write (Forbes/Elspeth Patterson, RH Reality Check, 8/13).
ADOLESCENT HEALTH: "California Parents Complain That Sex Ed Textbook is 'Equivalent To Pornography,'" Culp-Ressler, Center for American Progress' "ThinkProgress": "Comprehensive sex ed materials often spark controversy for being too sexually explicit," Culp-Ressler writes, noting that a California school district recently "agreed to temporarily shelve a ninth grade sex education textbook" after some parents "compared the book to porn." The district's superintendent said the textbook was picked "because it 'provides current, accurate, factual and relevant information our students need to make responsible decisions about their health,'" she adds. Culp-Ressler writes that "from a public health perspective, experts suggest that kids should actually learn accurate information about sexuality from a very early age," but "most teens don't receive" such information "until after they've already started having sex" (Culp-Ressler, "ThinkProgress," Center for American Progress, 8/12).