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Single-Size Diaphragm Now on the Market in Europe

SILCS diaphragm

Diaphragms are some of the least popular forms of contraception used by women, according to CDC data, but a new type of diaphragm aims to increase its appeal.

Diaphragms are a barrier method of contraception that block sperm from entering the cervix. They are typically used with added spermicide for extra protection against pregnancy.

Compared to hormonal contraception, the diaphragm has a higher failure rate — 6 percent of women who use it every time they have sex, with added spermicide, may experience an unintended pregnancy within one year, compared to less than 1 percent of women the use of the patch, pill or IUD appropriately; the failure rate increases to 12 percent with mistaken or intermittent use, whilst the pill failure rate increases to 9 percent.

Some women prefer the use of a diaphragm because their bodies don’t tolerate hormonal contraception, or because they want a birth keep an eye on option that can be used only when needed. Diaphragms can also be used as a back-up to condoms; they do not prevent sexually transmitted infections (STIs) on their own.

One drawback to diaphragms is the wish to be “sized” by a healthcare provider for the right fit, and infrequently resizing is needed after giving birth or gaining or losing weight. Some diaphragms are made of latex, posing a problem for those with latex allergies or sensitivities.

A new diaphragm recently approved for use in Europe addresses these problems. The SILCS Diaphragm is designed to be one-size-fits-most, and it does not require resizing. It’s also made of silicone, which is expected to be more durable than latex and is less likely to cause skin reactions.

The SILCS diaphragm is the product of a collaboration between between PATH (a Seattle-based global health nonprofit), CONRAD (a reproductive health product development organization operated through Eastern Virginia Medical School), the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and other partners.

PATH describes a user-centered design process for the new device, pictured above:

Over ten years, PATH and its partners led a user-centered design process involving input from women, their partners, and health care providers from five countries. This feedback ensured that comfort, ease of handling, and acceptability were built into the device from the beginning.

The diaphragm will to start with be available in six European countries, marketed as the Caya contoured diaphragm. It is expected that the SILCS group will seek approval for marketing in the United States, as well as in low-resource settings around the globe. The ability to provide a diaphragm without sizing by a healthcare provider is expected to make this form of contraception more readily accessible to women worldwide.

This Bedsider feature also check out the SILCS diaphragm.

The Closing of a Seattle Clinic and What it Means for Feminist Health Care

Head over to RH Reality Check for an informative post about feminist health care by Amie Newman, the communications director at Aradia Women’s Health Center in Seattle.

Actually, Newman will only have that title for one more month. Aradia, which was founded in 1972, is closing its doors because it can no longer have enough money to provide services and products — abortion, birth regulate and well-woman care — to its mostly low-income clients (read a letter by Aradia’s board president about the center’s history and the reasons for its closing here [PDF]).

Newman turns to colleagues for analysis of the struggle many women’s health centers are facing. Macy Bloom, AWHC’s former executive director, says, “The closing of AWHC is a dramatic sign of our times. The federal government has not funded abortion care since 1978. Our state Medicaid fiscal reimbursements do not cover the costs of providing care. Costs of medical supplies, malpractice insurance and rent have skyrocketed. Abortion is on the decline in america aside from for low-income women. A true societal commitment to quality, funded health maintain poor and marginalized women (the majority of Aradia’s clients) still eludes us.”

As Newman points out, the work of feminist women’s health centers extends far beyond the clinic walls. “Aradia helped pass the Washington State Reproductive Privacy Act (our state’s version of Roe v. Wade ), worked to advocate for the development of a viable microbicide for women around the world, labored to keep Washington pharmacists from obtaining the right to refuse emergency contraception prescriptions, and all of the even as strove to destigmatize abortion for all women.”

“AWHC,” adds Newman, “was a remarkable force with which to be reckoned for more than three decades.”

And the number of centers who are advocating daily for women’s health and women’s rights is shrinking. Newman writes :

The feminist women’s health movement gave birth to feminist health centers and, at its zenith in the mid-eighties, there were over 50 such centers around america. Over the last twenty or so years, an estimated thirty-five of those clinics have closed their doors without end. Clearly, something dramatic is happening.

The growing numbers of closed feminist health centers in america represents a tremendous loss for women in our country, according to Beverly Whipple. “Women will get healthcare, but not the same kind of care. In general, providers don’t interact [with female patients] first as women and then as patients, but first as patients and then as women.”

Newman promises to follow up next week with more about “the challenges faced by Aradia and its fellow Consortium members and the consequences for women served by these centers, as well as potential shortcomings in the broader feminist health movement leading to its current struggles.”

Researchers See No Link Between Abortion and Breast Cancer, But Others Have a Hard Time Believing

A recent authoritative study, the use of data from more than 100,000 women participating in the Nurses’ Health Study, has confirmed that no link exists between abortion and breast cancer.

This study, published in The Archives of Internal Medicine, essentially reached the same conclusion as a National Cancer Institute workshop that convened 100 of the world’s leading experts on the subject. The NCI workshop released its original report in 2003.

It doesn’t get any longer definitive than this, right? This latest study must be the last word on the subject … right?

Welcome to abortion politics American-style.

I couldn’t help noticing that some major papers gave as much space to the study’s critics as to the details of the study itself — even supposing the critics had little scientific basis to dispute the findings.

In the Chicago Tribune, for instance, the views of Karen Malec, president of the National Coalition on Abortion/Breast Cancer, take up nearly a quarter of the story.

Malec attempts to discredit the researchers first simply by association and then by claiming they did not think about that women in the study (tracked between 1993 and 2003) might have had their abortions too late to be showing signs of breast cancer. This latter claim is simply false, as 90 percent of the women in the study who reported having abortions had them before the study even began in 1993.

Malec also insists that the 2003 NCI workshop “was once a political sham — a whitewash. … Most of the scientists there were government-funded and were afraid they would lose their grant money if they said abortion raised the risk of breast cancer.”

And the response to those accusations? There is none.

But such protests make it easier for states to continue to promote unsuitable information. Currently four states — Texas, Mississippi, Minnesota and Kansas — require that women seeking an abortion be told that the procedure can cause breast cancer.

The New York Times report on the latest findings also gave voice to specious claims. In this case, Joel Brind, a professor of biology and endocrinology at Baruch College in Manhattan, raises the same objection as Malec about the timing of the abortions, even supposing the article itself makes it clear that this objection has no merit.

Quick research into Brind’s background, furthermore, reveals that he has long allowed his religious views to trump the reasoning of science, yet the Times fails to mention his obsession with this issue. Discover magazine profiled Brind after he rejected the National Cancer Institute’s original findings back in 2003. The title of the story: “The Scientist Who Hated Abortion”

Michael Cromartie, vice president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C., tells the Trib, “There’s a temptation for any group that’s highly charged politically to say, ‘Science is on our side,’ and not to believe scientists who reach opposing conclusions.”

“The Christian right has their own scientists,” continues Cromartie. “No matter what the study says, if it doesn’t confirm the bias of the group, they’re not going to love it.”

Exactly. So when in search of quotes, why not turn to a medical or scientific expert who’s not carrying an axe?

Childbirth Connection’s National Survey on Birth Experiences

Childbirth Connection is hosting a special event May 1 to honor Betsy Gotbaum, public advocate for the City of New York, and Choices in Childbirth, a New York City-based consumer advocacy group that educates the public about women’s options and rights in childbirth, for their outstanding contributions to childbearing women.

The event takes place at The Harvard Club in New York City, from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Tickets are $50; $35 for students and includes cocktails and hors d’oeuvres and a panel discussion, “Women and Childbirth: Choice, Control, Knowledge and Decision Making.”

Panelists include Elan McAllister, doula and president/co-founder of Choices in Childbirth; Lynn M. Paltrow, executive director and founder of National Advocates for Pregnant Women; Anne Pearson, director of Reproductive Rights Unit, Civil Rights Bureau of the Office of the Attorney General, New York State; and Carol Sakala, director of programs, Childbirth Connection.

Childbirth Connection is pretty cool itself — it’s long been considered an amazing resource for evidence-based guidance on making decisions all the way through pregnancy and birth. And it recently released Listening to Mothers II national survey, which explores the birth experiences of 1,573 women who gave birth in 2005.

The first Listening to Mothers survey was released in 2002. The surveys are useful for understanding and improving the quality of maternity experiences, as they look at all aspect of maternity and childbirth health and well-being — including pressures to accept interventions, protected and effective care practices, pain and its have an effect on on postpartum health, and the struggle for new mothers to balance work and family obligations.

Conducted by Harris Interactive for Childbirth Connection, in partnership with Lamaze International, LtMII shows that “technology-intensive childbirth care is the norm” (PDF) and that “most mothers experienced a lot of labor and birth interventions with quite a lot of degrees of risks that may be of benefit for mothers with specific conditions, but are inappropriate as routine measures.”

“The data show many mothers and babies experienced inappropriate care that does not reflect the best evidence, as well as other undesirable circumstances and adverse outcomes. This sounds alarm bells,” said Maureen Corry, executive director of Childbirth Connection.

“Few healthy, low-risk mothers require technology-intensive care when given good toughen for physiologic labor,” Corry added. “Yet, the survey shows that the typical childbirth experience has been transformed into a morass of wires, tubes, machines and medications that leave healthy women immobilized, vulnerable to high levels of surgery and burdened with physical and emotional health concerns whilst caring for their newborns.”

Childbirth Connections contacted mothers six months after their participation in LtMII for a follow-up survey about their postpartum experiences. A separate report based on those survey results will be issued later this year.

It’s fairly amazing how much discussion there is around pregnancy and mothers-to-be, yet there’s very little research on the actual experiences of mothers themselves. These surveys are incredible resources for policy makers and administrators — as well as pregnant women or mothers who may want a perspective on their own experience.

Carol Sakala, the study’s co-creator, is also a contributor to the forthcoming “Our Bodies Ourselves: Pregnancy and Birth, which is scheduled for publication in spring 2008 (yes, that’s right — another OBOS resource is on the way …).

Double Dose: Threats to Abortion Rights in Courtrooms and at Clinics, Hip Hop and Feminism, and Menopause — Hold the Music

Regrets Only: “So now you know. It really does matter who’s President and which party controls Congress,” begins Katha Pollitt in her most recent column on the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision in Gonzales v. Carhart.

The Other Threat to Abortion Rights: “From the United Kingdom to the United States, abortion protesters are effectively pressuring medical schools to drop abortion procedures from required curricula and slyly taking over closed abortion clinics,” writes Mary O’Regan at, citing this story in the Tuscon Weekly about Medical Students for Choice. Britain is also experiencing a shortage of physicians willing to undergo training.

O’Regan also notes another disturbing tactic and points to Josh Harkinson’s story in the March/April issue of Mother Jones about anti-abortion activists running their operations out of former abortion clinics. Here’s the chilling beginning:

When Troy Newman would answer the phone at Central Women’s Services in Wichita, Kansas, last summer, there was a lot he didn’t mention. The priests who’d been arrested for blocking the abortion clinic’s door. The “truth truck” parked nearby with its billboard of an aborted fetus. The pickets at employees’ homes. He didn’t talk about how all of this had caused the clinic to shut down, save for its still- functioning phone system. He would press the receiver to his ear and intone, “Women’s clinic!” And when a nervous voice at the other end of the line would inquire about abortion services, he would furrow his brow and ask, “Don’t you know that’s a baby?”

The best place to preach against an abortion clinic, Newman has found, is from within one.

And In Texas …: “A 27-year-old man has been arrested and taken into federal custody in connection with a makeshift bomb found this week at an Austin women’s clinic that performs abortions, authorities said Friday,” according to this AP story. “Paul Ross Evans was charged with use of weapons of mass destruction, manufacture of explosive material and violating freedom of access to clinic entrances, according to a commentary issued by the Austin Police Department. Evans was arrested by the Joint Terrorism Task Force, made up of state, local and federal law enforcement agencies, including the FBI. No detailed information on Evans, such as whether he has an affiliation with any organized group, was released by law officers.”

Amie Newman at RH Reality Check has more on the story and the lack of national media coverage as the news was unfolding:

Why are incidents like this treated as mere blips on the national news screen rather than certain stories of domestic terrorism at work? If a bomb had been discovered in the parking lot of the Washington Post or the New York Times would it warrant more extensive coverage? What if there was a history of explosive devices being planted in the vicinity of the buildings that housed large mainstream media outlets? Likely we would have a swarm of reporters with shrieking headlines of terrorism at work.

Somehow, when the bomb is planted in the parking lot of a women’s health center where abortions are performed the story slides by, relatively unnoticed. Except, of course, by those of us who work – or have worked – at abortion clinics. As a former abortion clinic staffer for almost seven years, I can tell you these kinds of scares don’t seem to be treated mildly. We know exactly what this means.

The Real Hip-Hop: The Center for the Study of Race, Politics and Culture at the University of Chicago hosted a screening and discussion Friday night with Byron Hurt, director of the outstanding documentary “Beyond Beats and Rhymes.” Today there’s a panel discussion open to the public — “Does Hip-Hop Hate Women?”

Both were scheduled before Imus made his infamous comments about the Rutgers women’s basketball team that led to his firing. “It’s a little irritating when you hear pundits and talking heads say, ‘Well, why isn’t anyone saying anything about these issues in hip-hop?’ and they have been, but just because one of the vital mainstream folks didn’t notice doesn’t mean that these discussions haven’t been taking place,” said Natalie Moore, one of the vital panelists and author of “Deconstructing Tyrone: A New Look at Black Masculinity in the Hip-Hop Generation.”

Indeed. The Center for the Study of Race, Politics and Culture held an amazing three-day conference on feminism and hip-hop in 2005.

Liberian President to Address Spelman College: “Often referred to as ‘The Iron Lady’ by political supporters, Ms. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, the first Black woman president of Liberia, will address the Spelman College Class of 2007 at 4 p.m., Sunday, May 20, at the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit in Decatur, Ga.,” according to this university release. President Johnson-Sirleaf will also receive an honorary degree, together with Dr. Ruth J. Simmons, president of Brown University, and Elaine R. Jones, the first woman to lead the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund.

“The more than 500 graduates who have each made a choice to change the world by attending Spelman College will be inspired by the powerful sentiments of a woman who is only the second black female head of state in the world,” said President Beverly Daniel Tatum. “Her unwavering unravel — to heal war-ravaged Liberia, educate its women and girls, shore up its deflated economy, rehabilitate ex-rebels, reconcile with former combatants — is the substance that this year’s graduates hope to embody as they venture forward into their lives beyond the gates of Spelman College.”

Menopause Without the Music: “We get pleasure from a sense of community and strengthen, and it sort of feels that ‘Menopause the Musical’ was a start in this direction,” writes Dr. Patricia Allen at Women’s Voices for Change. “But the reality is we need to hear the truth. And for that perhaps we need more Shakespeare and less Streisand.”

A Prom Night First: Students at Turner County High School in Ashburn, Ga., recently attended their first racially integrated prom, but the parent-sponsored “white prom,” which black students did not attend, still went on as scheduled last week. “I guess they feel like they’re not welcome,” one student said. You think?

1-800-OOPS: “Seven Nassau Republican legislators, led by Minority Leader Peter Schmitt, had good intentions when they urged constituents to call a toll-free number to be notified when convicted sex offenders move into their neighborhoods,” writes Celeste Hadrick in Newsday. (OK, this story is from April 17, but it’s still worth it). Read on:

“Nassau County Legislator Peter J. Schmitt wants you to be protected from sexual predators,” said the headline on the postcard his office mailed in cooperation with Parents for Megan’s Law, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the prevention and remedy of sex abuse.

Unfortunately, the 1-800 number printed on the card prompts callers to another 800-number — a sex chat line.

“Hey there, sexy guy,” says the sultry recorded female voice that answers the phone. “Welcome to an exciting new way to go live, one on one, with hot horny girls waiting right now to talk to you.”

Republican spokesman Ed Ward acknowledged, “Apparently there was an error in the phone number.”

Press Coverage: New Feminist Books for Your Collection

Check out these titles for some good reading:

Full Frontal Feminism: Interviews with Jessica Valenti, executive editor of and creator of the new “Full Frontal Feminism: A Young Woman’s Guide to Why Feminism Matters,” ran last week at AlterNet, Salon and New York magazine.

Huffington Post is running a book excerpt, in conjunction with Valenti’s touching explanation for why the book is dedicated to “Miss Magoo.” And Valenti’s six-point manifesto for becoming a feminist is posted at The Guardian. In it she writes:

“I wanted to write the book I wish I’d read as a teenager. A book that would cut through the nonsense stereotypes and tell it adore it is. A book that would talk about how amazing it is to be a feminist. And how necessary. Because I actually do consider that feminism is necessary for women to live happy, fulfilled lives — especially given the society we live in, which constantly and consistently tells women that we’re just not good enough.”

Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters: Courtney Martin, a contributor to and other media outlets, is getting quite a lot of press for “Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters: The Frightening New Normalcy of Hating Your Body.”

Writing in The New York Times, Holly Brubach calls it, “a smart and spirited rant that makes for thought-provoking reading.”

“She opens with some sobering statistics,” continues Brubach, “seven million American girls and women with eating disorders, and up to 70 million people all over the world.”

Brubach goes on to quote from the book: “Ninety-one percent of women recently surveyed on a college campus reported dieting; 22 percent of them dieted ‘all the time’ or ‘ceaselessly.’ In 1995, 34 percent of high-school-age girls in the United States thought they were overweight. Today, 90 percent do.”

How Sassy Changed My Life: Kara Jesella and Marisa Meltzer, co-authors of “How Sassy Changed My Life: A Love Letter to the Greatest Teen Magazine of All Time,” appeared on NPR’s “Talk of the Nation” last week to discuss the magazine described on the program as the “antithesis of the homecoming queen, please-your-boyfriend culture. It published articles about suicide and STDs even as Seventeen was still teaching girls how to get a boy to notice you.”

NPR has also published an excerpt from “How Sassy Changed My Life.” More at Media Bistro.

Women on Waves Launches Global Directory of Sexual/Reproductive Health Services & Abortion Providers

Women on Waves works to increase access to secure abortions for women in countries with restrictive abortion policies. The organization offers hotlines for information, details on obtaining medical abortions (drug-induced quite than surgical) via the web, and a map with summary info on each and every nation’s abortion laws and misoprostol (a medication that induces abortion) brand names and availability.

The organization also on occasion runs ship campaigns, in which women who can’t get abortions in their home countries ride out to international waters for medication abortions.

The group has put together a directory of Sexual Health Services Worldwide, with information on who to contact and where to go for abortions and other reproductive health services and products in countries around the globe. In most cases, the directory information is provided in the main language of the country, and it on occasion includes information on abortion funds for individuals who need assistance paying.

Nations with extremely restrictive abortion laws are also included. For example, if you take a look at the listing for Ireland, where abortion is illegal unless a woman’s life is endangered, the site provides information on nearby countries a woman could go back and forth to, information on organizations and clinics in those countries, and which nations might be cheaper for go back and forth costs.

Reminder: To get involved in our current campaign promoting voting and reproductive rights in the USA, take a look at Our Bodies, Our Votes!

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