Saturday, May 29, 2010

Female Genital Mutilation Performed by US Doctors?

On 4/26/10, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released a statement which sent shockwaves around the world. A portion of the policy statement essentially sanctioned Type IV FGM, by suggesting that doctors be allowed to make a ritual pinprick or nick on a girl's clitoris, if it would prevent the girl's family from sending her to their home country where a more severe and dangerous type of FGM would be performed. This statement completely reversed the organization's 1998 statement, in which it condemned all forms of FGM and urged its members not to perform it, noting "its cultural implications for the status of women."

I understand that the intentions of the AAP were good. Dr. Friedman Ross, a member of the committee which drafted the statement explained their thinking this way: “If we just told parents, ‘No, this is wrong,’ our concern is they may take their daughters back to their home countries, where the procedure may be more extensive cutting and may even be done without anesthesia, with unsterilized knives or even glass,” she said. “A just-say-no policy may end up alienating these families, who are going to then find an alternative that will do more harm than good.” Dr. Ross said that the committee does “oppose all types of female genital cutting that impose risks or physical or psychological harm,” and consider the ritual nick “a last resort,” but that the nick is “supposed to be as benign as getting a girl’s ears pierced. It’s taking a pin and creating a drop of blood.”

But international reaction was strong and swift in opposition to the measure. It was viewed as a major concession, and the top of a very slippery slope. You can read an excellent piece by Equality Now's director, Taina Bien-Ami, here:
Huff Post: Do No Harm

A month after it issued the statement, the AAP had been persuaded to retract it, after hearing from the UN, the World Health Organization, Unicef, V-Day (Eve Ensler's organization), Equality Now, among many, many others.  There are ways to fight FGM, in this country and abroad, but concession is not the way to go about it. Lawmakers are currently drafting more effective legislation, such as HR 5137, which would make it illegal to transport a minor girl living in the U.S. out of the country for the purpose of FGM. According to Equality Now, "the bill will hopefully also call for the launch of culturally sensitive outreach programs in FGM-practicing immigrant communities in the U.S. to educate parents about the lifelong harms of FGM."

The new AAP statement opposing all forms of FGM can be read here:
AAP Anti-FGM Statement

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." - Margaret Mead

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Reflections on the 50th Anniversary of the Pill

There are lots of pieces like this in the media right now, so I'm not going to post a ton of links - just do a search if you're interested. But I sent one link to blog subscribers, and someone asked me to post it on the blog proper. So here is that one plus a couple more:

First, a link to a CNN feature in which various people (writers, commentators, politicians, etc) talk about the significance of the Pill. Note stupid, uninformed comment about Fertility Awareness by Sara Benincasa:   CNN on Pill

Similar piece in Time Magazine:   Time on Pill

Rather different piece on Alternet re Pill's effect on population and water supply: Alternet on Pill and water
And if you missed the piece that "Need to Know" did end up airing, which was exclusively about the Pill, you can either watch it during the "full episode" video, on this page, and/or you can watch an extended interview with Erica Jong ("The Pill, Then and Now"), only part of which aired during the show, also on this page. If you're watching the whole episode, the Pill segment starts just before 43 minutes: "Need to Know" on Pill

Enough about the damn Pill! Next post will definitely be about something else. 

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Nada. Zip. Zero.

That's how much time "Need to Know" spent on Fertility Awareness in their premiere (see post directly below). Terrific. The media blackout continues. Happy 50th birthday, birth control pill.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

They're Actually Going to Be Talking About Fertility Awareness on TV

It's a very, very rare day when Fertility Awareness is discussed on national television. The last instance I can think of was in 2002, when Toni Weschler was on "The Today Show." But on Friday, May 7th, viewers will (I believe) be treated to a discussion of Fertility Awareness running approximately 8 minutes. It will take place during the premiere of a PBS show called "Need To Know." The subject of the show (or at least a chunk of it) will be the 50th anniversary of the birth control pill.

A while back I was contacted by a producer for the show who was looking for footage, and people to interview. I hooked her up with an interviewee, who as far as I know will be on the show, but alas they apparently decided not to use footage of me teaching. Oh well. I'm still extremely interested to see what they are going to say, not just about FA but about the history & consequences of the Pill.

The debut of "Need to Know" will doubtless be watched by a huge audience, as it is replacing the extremely popular, long-running "Bill Moyers Journal," and there are concerns that PBS is going soft, and less controversial, with the new show (and with the cancellation of "Now," which followed the "Journal"). There's been a fair amount of media buzz about the format and the choice of Jon Meacham as one of the hosts. So FA stands to get some major exposure with this broadcast. I only hope that the treatment is well-informed. It seems like every piece about FA contains gross inaccuracies or conflates FA with Natural Family Planning, which is typically steeped in Catholic values and should not be confused with secular Fertility Awareness. My sense from the producer was that she had a pretty good understanding of FA, and planned positive coverage, but often the best intentions are undercut (literally) by ignorant editing. Stay tuned.

You can see "Need to Know" on Friday, May 7th, at 8:30PM EST (check local PBS listings if you're not in NY area). The good news for people like me who don't have television is that it will also be available all week, after airing, on their website:

If you watch the show, I hope you'll post your thoughts here.