Sunday, February 27, 2011

5 Myths about Planned Parenthood

A recent postcard from Post Secret

In light of the current attack on Planned Parenthood, I thought it would be interesting to explore some of the myths out there about this organization. This recent postcard at Post Secret speaks to the reality that even women who are raised in conservative families that don't discuss sex in favor of adstinence and ignorance will eventually find themselves in need of information about their own bodies. And they will often turn to Planned Parenthood.

Myths about Planned Parenthood:

Planned Parenthood's purpose is to provide and promote abortions.

Under 5% of the organization's activities involve abortions-related services. Many of those services include referrals to other clinics for actual procedures.

There is no organization that actively promotes abortion. Women choose to have abortions based on their personal circumstances. Planned Parenthood provides information on the choices available to those women who wish to end their pregnancies - but no one promotes abortion.

Defunding Planned Parenthood will decrease the number of abortions in America.

50% of all pregnancies are unplanned. 50% of unplanned pregnancies will end in abortion. Planned Parenthood's main purpose to prevent an unwanted pregnancy prior to conception by providing information and access to contraception. Defunding a major provider of low-cost contraception will probably increase the number of unwanted pregnancies and abortions - the very opposite of what this new bill intends.

Planned Parenthood uses federal funds to provide abortions.

Under the Hyde Ammendment, it is illegal to use federal funds to perform abortions. When the clinics do provide abortions the patient pays a fee and donations make up the rest.

Planned Parenthood is Evil

You can read the organization's mission statement here. Despite what you may hear from conservative politicians, Planned Parenthood cares about women. They care so much that they want women to have control over their fertility. Imagine that.

Planned Parenthood is Racist

Unfortunately, Planned Parenthood's founder, Margret Sanger, is problematic. While a great feminist, she was a eugenicist. This is true. What is not true is that the organization that exists today is a racist institution. Planned Parenthood does not target black women for abortions. Planned Parenthood doesn't target anyone for abortions. Planned Parenthood intends to make information and contraception available to all women who need it.

Related Post:

10 Myths about Virginity

Planned Parenthood: Gabrielle Union Speaks Out!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Polio: Who Knew Eradication was Controversial?

The New York Times recently published an interesting article about the Gate´s Foundation´s efforts to eradicate polio. It interested me because polio is one of the projects we are working on at my new job. Though very far down the chain of donors, the project is related to this global eradication effort.

Polio has been eradicated from the United States for so long that older Americans remember polio as something they worried about when they were children in the 1950´s and 60´s but probably did not have to worry about for their own children. The polio vaccine has been part of routine childhood vaccinations for sometime, though it has long since ceased to be an issue for American children. But this is not the case in the developing world. India, Pakistan and now central African countries like the DRC and Angola, which had previously been thought to be polio free as still struggling to make the virus history.

The world is close to eradication, but as the article describes it, getting rid of the last of the virus is like squeezing jell-o. As eradication is acheived in one country, it reappears somewhere else.

And here is the controversy: as eradication has proved so difficult, is it right to keep spending money on this one disease, when there are other diseases, like malaria, that affect more people and cause more deaths? There are some public health officials who are not supportive of aggresive polio campaigns for just this reason. They say it is not a feasible goal and that there are other, more pressing health concerns to deal with.

It is my opinion that eradication is an important goal. It is not right to declare the fight over only now that the virus is no longer a concern in developed countries. The vaccination works, but the campaigns are needed to deliver the vaccine and education to the hardest to reach communities. And if the virus is not actually defeated, there will still be ongoing costs just to contain it. Now is the time for eradication. If we let go of the fight now, all the work done in the last decades could be reversed in just a few years.

Kahlúa es Delicioso and English is Boring

I love the Kahúa "Delicioso" campaign. I think Ana de la Reguera was a great casting choice (she was the nun in Nacho Libre). She declares in the tv ad that in Spanish, everything sounds more - intriguing. I love her list of completely ordinary objects - stapler, shoes, Robert, piano - that sound more intriguing in Spanish. And of course, by intriguing she really means sexy. Robert, if only he were Roberto, would actually be sexy. And Kahlúa is just so intriguing that the English delicious is simply not good enough to describe it.

Which is an interesting commentary on language. Languages tend to have personality traits attributed to them. French is romantic, German is stern, Italian is passionate and English is...well, what does the rest of the world think of English? It´s one of those things that is difficult to know as a native English-speaker. Even though I speak Spanish and Portuguese, I still have some idea of what those languages sound like when all you can hear are the phonemes. But I can never not understand English, so it´s hard for me to pick out those sounds that might dominate the way the language sounds to non-native speakers. I´ve heard people say it sounds like wah-wah-wah or that it sounds like we have marbles in our mouths. I´ve never heard anyone say that English is sexy.

English is becoming a universal language. Even French, Japanese and German tourists might use English to get around in a place like Mexico. This makes it very useful to native English speakers. But this also makes English less intriguing. If everyone speaks it, what is special about it? As language is often intricately intertwined with culture, do we lose a little of our culture as the rest of the world is capitalizing on our language? I envy people who have always been multilingual. Especially Africans. I really like the idea of speaking one language for business and another with your family. The language you speak to your loved ones must be elevated in your heart. But the language I use with my loved ones is the language of business.

With so many people learning English for purely financial reasons, it is easy to forget that English is the language of Shakespeare, of Lord Byron, the Beatles. For as much as I don´t like listening to Shakira sing in English, I was delighted to hear that she studied Beatles´lyrics to learn it. It shows that she actually cared about the musical culture of the language.

Of course English can be romantic, stern, passionate and sexy. English can be anything we need it to be. But it´s true, it´s more fun to say Kahlúa es delicioso.

Sunday, February 6, 2011


Kwashiorkor, the name for that awful, classic condition of starvation in children: distended belly, orange-tipped hair, comes from Ga, a language in Ghana. It means « the illness the baby gets, when the second baby comes». Meaning, it is the illness babies get when they are no longer, if ever, exclusively breastfed. Weaning is a critical time for an infant in the developing world. While breastmilk should safely provide all the nourishment a newborn will need, after six months it will no longer be enough on its own. With the introduction of other foods and water, comes the possibility of also introducing bacteria and of not providing enough vitamins and minerals through solid food.

Malnutrition has long been a global health issue. Poor nutrition in infancy has life-long effects. When entire generations of children are affected, it has community-wide effects.

Plumpy´nut is one solution that is gaining ground. It is essentially vitamin-packed peanut butter, high in calories and nutritional value. It was invented by a French doctor. UNICEF currently purchases 90% of the product to use in feeding programs around the world. It is not meant to be a constant nutritional supplement, but rather an emergency food to bring children back from the brink of acute malnourishment. This New York Times piece on the product nicely explains the product´s history and use in The Peanut Solution.

The article also gently points out the controversy of a product like this being for-profit. While UNICEF distributes it to patients for free, UNICEF must purchase it from the company that makes it and holds the patent. That company makes quite a lot of money. Is this wrong? Or is this just the way the world works? The article addresses these difficult questions.

Related Post:

Breastfeeding in the Developing World