August 21, 2015 — Read the week's best commentaries from the Huffington Post blogs, RH Reality Check and more.
ANTIABORTION-RIGHTS MOVEMENT: "The Attack on Planned Parenthood Is an Attack on the Impoverished," Matt Hartman, Huffington Post blogs: Hartman discusses the repercussions of defunding Planned Parenthood for low-income individuals, writing, "Defunding the largest organization providing education and pregnancy prevention services will only increase the percentage of young people relegated into poverty, not only in this generation but also for generations to come." He cites Planned Parenthood's 2014 Annual Report, which found that the organization "provide[s] over 5 million women, child[ren] and adolescents information on topics ranging from sexual health to pregnancy prevention" and that "their services prevent approximately ... 515,000 pregnancies from happening." Hartman notes that, "[l]ikely in large part due to many of these services, teenage birth, pregnancy and abortion rates are at their lowest points in 20 years." He writes, "A question to those defunding Planned Parenthood: how will you continue the prevention of pregnancy and provision of necessary sexual health services for people living in poverty?" According to Hartman, "[w]ithout other solutions, the consequences of defunding Planned Parenthood include subjugating more men, women and children to poverty, forcing more children into the child welfare system and destining many of them to poor outcomes" (Hartman, Huffington Post blogs, 8/18).
What others are saying about the antiabortion-rights movement:
~ "These States Are Illegally Defunding Planned Parenthood," Samantha Allen, Daily Beast.
~ "Missouri's 'Committee on the Sanctity of Life' Threatens a State Official," Teddy Wilson, RH Reality Check.
ABORTION-RIGHTS MOVEMENT: "It's Time Again To Eat a Taco, Drink a Beer, and Fund Abortion," Andrea Grimes, RH Reality Check: Grimes discusses the launch of the 2015 Taco or Beer Challenge, which began on Aug. 18 and runs through Sep. 18. According to Grimes, "[t]he challenge (ToBC for short) is incredibly simple: You eat a taco or you drink a beer, and you donate to an abortion fund." She writes, "Abortion funds, abortion funders, and reproductive freedom fighters around the world are hosting Taco Tuesday launch parties to celebrate," adding, "We're calling it International Taco or Beer Challenge Day, and more than two dozen events are already planned around the world, with more to come in the next four weeks." Grimes notes that "abortion stigma is real, and the ToBC is about busting that stigma by directly funding legal abortion care for people who need it." She adds that "[b]ecause the ToBC is fundamentally about freedom and choice" participants can celebrate the challenge however they wish, so long as they "donate to an abortion fund," which is "the only requirement, and therefore the most important one" (Grimes, RH Reality Check, 8/18).
FEMALE SEXUAL DYSFUNCTION: "Why Flibanserin Is Not the 'Female Viagra,'" Cari Romm, The Atlantic: "After three applications, ownership by two drug companies, and one successful lobbying campaign, the female sexual-dysfunction drug flibanserin was approved yesterday by [FDA]" and "will be sold under the brand name Addyi," Romm writes. According to Romm, the drug has been rejected twice based on "concerns that lingered even after an FDA advisory committee voted ... to recommend approval," including the drug's "effectiveness rate of somewhere between 8 and 13 percent" and how it "can cause side effects like fainting, dizziness, and low blood pressure, many of which were found to be exacerbated by alcohol and hormonal contraception." Further, Romm notes that while the drug has been "hailed by supporters as a step towards gender equality" -- given that FDA has approved 26 drugs for male sexual dysfunctions and no drugs, before Addyi, for FSD -- none of the MSD drugs "has the same purpose as filbanserin." She explains, "Viagra is taken before sex and increases blood flow to the genitals; flibanserin is supposed to be taken daily and aims further north, changing the balance of neurotransmitters in the brain." Romm also explores why the drug was approved after being rejected twice before, noting that Sprout, the drug's manufacturer, changed the way it measured the drug's effectiveness and that the condition it was designed to treat -- hypoactive sexual desire disorder -- was broadened to include not only female desire, but also female arousal (Romm, The Atlantic, 8/19).
POLITICS AND ELECTIONS: "Getting Republicans on Record About How Fetal Research Has Helped Them," Carole Joffe, RH Reality Check: Joffe discusses the hypocrisy of some conservative lawmakers who denounce fetal tissue research as part of their campaign against Planned Parenthood while also having benefited from vaccines developed through such research. Sharing her own experience growing up with the threat of polio, Joffe writes, "As this sorry spectacle of manufactured hysteria about Planned Parenthood and fetal tissue research plays out, it occurs to me that many Americans now alive simply do not remember the absolute terror of contracting polio that was rampant before the vaccine became widely available in the mid-1950s." The polio vaccine was developed through fetal tissue research, as were the vaccines for "hepatitis A, chickenpox, rubella, and rabies," she explains, adding that "fetal tissue research may also bring promising future developments, such as in the study or treatment of juvenile diabetes, Parkinson's disease, HIV, and breast cancer." However, according to Joffe, most researchers who rely on fetal tissue for their work "have, with a few exceptions, been intimidated into silence because of fears of anti-abortion harassment and violence." Joffe questions how conservative lawmakers' stances against fetal tissue research and Planned Parenthood might shift later in the 2016 presidental election, when they have to appeal to a broader voter base, noting, "One might be cautiously optimistic that even in a degraded political environment such as ours, most voters will think that getting rid of diseases is a good thing" (Joffe, RH Reality Check, 8/20).
SEXUALITY EDUCATION: "Arizona School District Adds Abstinence-Only, Anti-Choice Sticker to Science Textbook," Maya Dusenbery, Feministing: "Last year, the conservative Gilbert School District decided that ... they should probably censor the parts of the high school honors biology textbook that mention contraception and abortion" to comply with state laws requiring schools that teach sexuality education "to stress abstinence" and to "'present childbirth and adoption as preferred options to ... abortion,'" Dusenbery writes. According to Dusenbery, school officials "dropped their original plan to literally just rip out those pages, and instead are handing out ... stickers and requiring students to put them on the inside cover of their book as a little reminder of the state's values." Dusenbery includes an image of the sticker, which reads, in part, "'The Gilbert Public School District supports the state of Arizona's strong interest in promoting childbirth and adoption over elective abortion. The District is also in support of promoting abstinence as the most effective way to eliminate the potential for unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted [infections].'" Dusenbery writes, "Translation: 'We believe in withholding information on how to prevent unintended pregnancies from you ... Though we are educators charged with giving you the information you need to succeed in life, we wash our hands of this matter'" (Dusenbery, Feministing, 8/20).
DISCRIMINATION: "Coalition Calls on Obama To End Taxpayer-Funded Religious Discrimination," Jessica Mason Pieklo, RH Reality Check: "A coalition of more than 130 organizations representing religious, education, civil rights, and labor organizations called on President Obama on Thursday to review a Bush-era legal memo the groups claim is used to justify taxpayer-funded religious discrimination," Mason Pieklo writes. According to Mason Pieklo, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Human Rights Campaign, NARAL Pro-Choice, Planned Parenthood and "hundreds of others" in a letter to Obama wrote that a 2007 "memorandum from the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) reaches the 'erroneous and dangerous conclusion' that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA) [PL 103-141] provides a 'blanket override of a statutory non-discrimination provision.'" The coalition "cites several examples in which religious conservatives are trying to use the OLC letter to avoid complying with federal civil rights laws," she writes. For example, they said the OLC memo has been used in efforts to practice religious hiring discrimination; to support "claims that RFRA should broadly exempt religiously affiliated government contractors from complying with an executive order barring such employees from discriminating against [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] workers"; and to support claims that the government should allow "religious objectors to refuse to provide any reproductive health services or referrals while still receiving federal grant money." Noting that RFRA does not support such actions, the coalition "calls on President Obama to legal[ly] direct the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) to review and withdraw the memo" (Mason Pieklo, RH Reality Check, 8/20).