Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Anti-Choice Ads in Milwaukee Target Latino Voters

Working in the Walkers Point neighborhood of Milwaukee, I see a lot of ads en EspaƱol, but this is the first time I've seen anti-choice ads targeted to Latino voters.

This Wisconsin Right to Life bus stop ad on 6th and Virginia reads, "Is your candidate the one who will protect babies from abortion?" and shows Romney as the "pro-life" candidate.

The language they use in this ad places the fetus in a victimized position with Romney as "protector." Beyond the manipulative, simple language, the imagery also suggests Romney is less menacing than Obama.

Simplifying abortion and women's health into a black-and-white choice does not give an honest portrayal of the candidates or the issues.

If re-elected, Pres. Obama will continue to protect women's health care and the right to choose. Vice Pres. Biden has also been a champion for women's health, standing firm with the belief that health care decisions should be made between a woman and her doctor only.

This Catholics4Life bus stop ad on 6th and Canal reads, "Our mother is pro-life, thank God. And your candidate?" making abortion strictly an issue of religion- specifically Catholicism.

This ad, too, simplifies abortion, women's health and the election. It's manipulative like the 6th and Virginia ad, but instead of using language to victimize a fetus, it plays on people's religious beliefs.

I've blogged about religion and choice before and again, it's not fair to paint a black-and-white picture of women's health and the way government controls- or attempts to control- our bodies.

Americans support the right to choose in most cases while being simultaneously religious or spiritual. Furthermore, 2008 numbers show Catholic and Protestant women chose abortion more than women of other religions or no religion, and Hispanic women chose abortion less than white or black women.

Interestingly, recent numbers show Catholics are leaning Obama, while also putting the issue of abortion on the back burner.

State Rep. JoCasta Zamarripa (D-8) who represents Walkers Point talks about the importance of voting for women's health in the 2012 elections in this Planned Parenthood Advocates of Wisconsin video.

Rep. Zamarripa is the first Latina state representative in Wisconsin and is a former Planned Parenthood employee. She's worked tirelessly to protect the Latino vote in Milwaukee including winning the south side redistricting lawsuit. Rep. Zamarripa has been a strong voice for women's health in the Assembly and was re-elected to a second term in August 2012.

Friday, August 24, 2012

The Doctors Behind Anti-Woman Claims

You may have seen this image floating around on Facebook or news sites, but what we should really find out is: who are these men making horribly inaccurate and offensive claims about women’s bodies?

Sure, we all know who Rick Santorum and Bill O’Reilly are, but how could any doctor make these claims?

Here's how...

Dr. John Willke

Willke's the president of Life Issues Institute which provides resources for pro-life groups. He also served 10 years as president of the National Right to Life Committee and founded the International Right to Life Federation. He's an author, physician, radio personality, and according to Life Issues, an "expert in human sexuality."

Seen as a pro-life hero, Willke's published books such as Abortion, Questions and Answers: Why Can't We Love Them Both, the anti-choice Handbook on Abortion and Abortion and Slavery, History Repeats which attempts to compare Roe v. Wade to Dred Scott v. Sanford.

Following Willke's lead in that book, Santorum argued last year that Roe v. Wade denies "personhood" to fetuses the same way Dred Scott denied "personhood" to African Americans. That idea and others by Willke have had a lasting impact on the anti-choice community and are behind many of the inaccurate rape/pregnancy/abortion claims we hear from right-wing politicians including Rep. Todd Akin's recent "forcible rape" claims.

So when Willke says, "[Rape] is a traumatic thing. She's, shall we say, she's uptight... She is frightened, tight, and so on. And sperm, if deposited in her vagina, are less likely to be able to fertilize. The tubes are spastic," we now know a little more about where he's coming from.

Dr. Richard Dobbins

Dobbins is actually a psychologist. Well, a psychologist with a background in Christian ministry. 

The Richard D. Dobbins Institute of Ministry and his own website outline his way of "making the supernatural practical in our lives"  and focuses on strengthening marriage and family by undergoing Christian counseling and ministry.

He's the pastor at the church he founded and is a practicing licensed psychologist.

So why is Dobbins qualified to make medical claims about women's bodies? This is as much a mystery as women's rape-detecting reproductive organs.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Ron Johnson: Religion Should Dictate Government

Dear Laura,
Thank you for contacting me regarding right to life and the issue of abortion.
I fully understand the controversy and diverse opinions surrounding this issue. My own views have been forged over a lifetime of raising a family and following the national debate. In all sincerity, and with due respect to the beliefs of others, I believe that life begins at conception.
Our founding documents establish that we have an unalienable right to life endowed by our creator. Because the abortion debate concerns more than one life, there is not a national consensus as to when life begins or when the life of an unborn child should be protected.

Unfortunately, the Supreme Court in Roe v Wade imposed a judicial dictate that did not end a debate that would be better resolved through the legislative process. As a result, the controversy over abortion has raged for over 3 decades, and there will continue to be attempts to come to a better resolution of the issue legislatively.

I have cosponsored two current bills in the Senate that help define and resolve the issue. I support S. 91 that defines life as beginning at conception, and S. 906 that prohibits the use of taxpayer funds for procedures that so many Americans strongly believe are morally wrong.
Thank you again for taking the time to share your thoughts. It is important for me to hear the views and concerns of the people I serve. Since taking office, I have received over 300,000 pieces of correspondence and have had over 150,000 people participate in live forums and telephone town hall meetings. Please feel free to contact me in the future if I can further assist you or your family. It is an honor representing you and the good people of Wisconsin in the U.S. Senate.
Ron Johnson
United States Senator


I received the above email this morning. I immediately posted it on Facebook and the comments keep coming.

I'm not sure which email Sen. Johnson is replying to here, but I am so appalled by his use of religious language in official correspondence that I have to share it.

I'm referring specifically to Sen. Johnson's candid mention of "our creator." As if everyone believes whatever Sen. Johnson believes. As if imposing his religious beliefs on his constituents is part of his job as a U.S. senator.

Regardless of "our founding documents," I am a strong proponent of separation of church and state. Everyone is entitled to their own religious beliefs or having no religious beliefs, but religion should have no place in government- in theory and practice.

Unfortunately, that's not the reality. After all, organizations like NARAL wouldn't have to exist if it weren't for the religion-politics crossover.

Although the majority of Americans identify as Christians, 3.9-5.5% identify as non-Christian, and 15% don't identify with any religion at all.

  • A recent Gallup poll shows that those who believe that abortion should be illegal in all cases are the minority;
  • A Guttmacher report shows 78% of women who have abortions have a religious affiliation;
  • And the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, for example, is made up of about 40 national religious and religiously affiliated organizations from 15 denominations and faith traditions
Clearly, religion and anti-choice sentiments don't always go hand in hand.

I expected Sen. Johnson's response to be anti-choice, but I did not expect such a blatant disregard for religious freedom and separation of church and state. Like many politicians, he is using "the issue of abortion" as a platform to promote his personal religious beliefs rather than to simply state his position.

Sen. Johnson's response illustrates that he is both out of touch and out of line.


UPDATE 3/5/12:
In 2011, the Guttmacher Institute published an analysis showing 99% of all women of reproductive age who have had sex have used some method of contraception other than natural family planning. 98% of those women are Catholic.

Read it here:

Monday, September 5, 2011

I wish to share something I had in my Google in box today. If we are to uphold women's rights we must address the illness as a whole and the interconnectedness of the attacks on our democracy.

A Lion’s Tale, A New Parable for Our Time

By Nicholas Wiedenhoeft

There is a Moron and a Lion. Between the two there is a large block wall. The lion laments to the moron: “If only this block wall were torn down then our lives would be perfect, for only by ridding ourselves from the tyranny of this cursed wall can we be free to experience our true potential. This wall is holding us back, I tell you. Tear down this wall!”

The Moron hears the Lion’s words and thinks to himself, “Boy, that lion is really on to something. He’s right; we have to tear down this wall. It’s surely the cause of all my problems!” So with financial backing from the Pride of Lions the Moron goes out and forms the Tear Down the Wall Party, we'll call them the "T" Party for short. With the help of his fellow Morons he begins to tear the wall down.

The Morons work franticly to tear down the wall but because they’re morons, and necessarily somewhat inept, and because the wall is so well and carefully made their progress is slow. Then the Moron looks to his right and sees a Republican next to him working franticly, he says to the Republican, "What the hell do you think your doing?" and the Republican replies, "Oh, the Lions are paying me to help tear down this wall." Then the Moron looks to his left and sees a Democrat and says, “Why are you cradling that block in your arms?” and the Democrat says, "Well, I don’t feel I can do anything to stop or reverse the destruction of the wall, but I will preserve this one block because it’s mine. I can hide behind it when the Lions come. This block alone will surely protect me!"

Finally, the Morons succeed in making a substantial breach in the wall and just as they do the Lions leap through the breach devouring them all. However, with characteristic lack of foresight, having eaten everyone the Lions soon die of starvation and their bones are scavenged by a flock of Chinese Vultures.

The moral of the story: The wall is there for a reason, you Moron! It protects Morons and Lions alike.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Outrage Fatigue

The news out of the Capitol just keeps getting grimmer. Today, the Wisconsin State Senate is voting on a bill that would decimate the state's family planning programs and defund Planned Parenthood. It's the culmination of several weeks of anti-choice bills, a constant onslaught against the health and rights of Wisconsin citizens.

And that's just Wisconsin. Every day brings new, awful developments. In South Dakota, a law will go into effect on July 1 that will require women seeking abortion to wait a mandatory 72 hours--the longest wait in the nation--and would also require them to receive counseling at an anti-choice Crisis Pregnancy Center. (As of May 24, no CPCs have registered with the state government to provide this counseling). The US House passed an agriculture bill with an anti-choice amendment that would ban discussion of abortion on the internet or through video conferencing, a blow to rural women who do not have easy access to doctors. In Louisiana, the State House passed a bill that would ban abortion entirely in the state, in a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade, but it was sent back to committee under concerns that the bill's passage would cause the state to lose $4.e billion in federal health care funds.

These constant attacks not only threaten our physical well-being, but our morale as well. I have seen more than one pro-choice activist with the thousand-yard stare. They tell me that there are days when they dread checking e-mail or Facebook out of fear of what they will find. They sometimes have to take a break from checking the news for the sake of their own sanity. We are in danger of mass "outrage fatigue," that we are encountering so much bad news, with no escape, that we become numb. It gets to a point where it feels like we can't possibly write to every politician, submit letters to every newspaper, over every anti-choice development. After a while, it becomes extremely difficult to maintain enthusiasm and action for something that yields no positive results.

This is the very time when we need to make an effort to recommit ourselves. Try to do something, whatever is in your capacity. If you have the time and a love for public speaking, sign up to speak at a hearing. If you are more comfortable with writing than with speaking, write a blog entry or send a letter to your local newspaper. If you have little free time, take five seconds to send an e-mail to a politician, or a fraction of a second to share a story on Facebook. We live in a time where communication technology allows a story to travel at light-speed, and it only takes one person. Even if an anti-choice bill passes, you can inspire one more person to take action. With more people acting, our support base grows and the burden isn't left to a small number of people.

On May 25, I went to the capitol and signed up at a hearing to speak out against Senate Bill 92, which would prevent an insurance company from covering abortion if that company participates in the health care exchange. It was a miserably rainy day. The committee had an anti-choice majority. By the time I spoke, half the committee had left and the other half were past the point of caring. The person who called me up mispronounced my name so badly that I wondered if they could read English. I knew that no one was listening, so I just took the time to say my prepared speech, one where I said everything I had ever wanted to say to someone in power.

I was wrong. Some people were listening. People from organizations outside of NARAL came up to me afterwords and shook my hand, saying, "Great job! Thanks for telling it like it is!" We exchanged contact information, and decided to collaborate in the future.

Keep up the fight, even when things look bleak. You never know who might be listening to you.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Male contraception any one?

One of the things I have noticed about being a responsible family man is that all the fun has been taken out of contraception. Used to be contraception was a stimulating topic of intimate conversation with your loved one: a world of possibility and exciting potential, with its application ranging from absolute seamless subtlety to downright playful at times.

In any long-term relationship such as marriage, contraception eventually must be examined with a mind to considering how you will integrate the aspects of your sexuality, procreative objectives, intended life style and the possible health risks into a safe and useful control of fertility. If sterilization is not one of the desirable options to be considered then you are immediately faced with a glaring inequity. Contraception is seen overwhelmingly as a woman’s responsibility. It seems the medical community is willing to offer a staggering array of now mostly hormonal based contraceptive alternatives for Women. Men however are left with the two statistically least effective options: condoms, less than 80% in independent actual usage testing; or WITHDRAWL, OMG are they serious? An old Sanger Institute (Planned Parenthood to people born after 1970) study conducted over a 50-year period places withdrawal, also known as continence, at just over 46% effectiveness. I’m astounded that any reasonable adult would consider withdrawal a method of birth control. I would say it’s more of a playful gambling opportunity so long as you and your partner are ready to get pregnant anyway. You just keep playing the odds until that jack pot pays off in a lovely baby.

My wife and I really want to get away from hormonal contraception. Neither of us are ready yet to commit to permanent sterilization. I would very much like to shoulder the contraceptive burden. So where are all the male contraceptives we have been told to anticipate for the last 40 years? I can remember hearing about the development of the male birth control pill ever since I was a child. So where is it? It has been known for over 2000 years that hemp seeds can reduce male sperm production by as much as 50%. Hemp and other herbal compounds have been used for male contraception with some success for Millennia. So why hasn’t modern science been working on a naturally derived compound for men to induce temporary infertility? I would argue that there is no incentive to do so. It has always been easier for the male dominated medical science profession to focus and experiment on Women than on Men. Research for Men has been more interested in improving erectile function, for which we now have several pharmaceutical alternatives. Sort of the wrong direction, wouldn’t you think? What we have been working on in the arena of Male contraception seems almost tailor made as a stalling tactic rather than a genuinely determined effort to offer men an effective contraceptive alternative. Science seems determined to follow a course of less productive investigation concerned with poor yield results from such techniques as altering the lipid metabolism of sperm with calcium channel blockers such as Nifedipine. Or working on pharmaceuticals that will block ejaculation. Also, male contraception research is often too involved in unnecessarily complex procedural alternatives. Such as injection of the vas deference with compounds like Styrene Maleic Anhydride to induce temporary sterility, that can later be washed out to restore fertility.

If the humble African Yam can be used in the production of estrogen compounds for female contraceptive pills why cannot we also look to nature for male contraception from plants that are already known to significantly reduce sperm production in their natural form? You would think this would be a no brainer. I mean COME ON! Get on the stick guys! In 5 years tops we could have a safe and effective male pill from natural plant based compounds. I’m totally ready for that. Bring it on! We can’t just sit back and allow society to consider that pregnancy, contraception, and abortion are exclusively women’s issues or concerns. There is no human reproduction without representative involvement of both sexes. This is a human concern; in this we are undivided in the most literal sense. Don’t let political representatives off the hook for this one. It seems we need to take this issue directly to men and change a societal mind set. We must all accept our responsibility here. These are Human issues.

As for the male birth control pill, it’s clear that medical science has a nasty case of being the naughty boyfriend. You know the guy who claims he meant to get a pack of condoms when he was at Walgreens this afternoon, but conveniently forgot to do so.

“Really, I just forgot. I really meant to do it, honest. We’re still going to have sex, right?”

~ anonymous.


Sunday, April 24, 2011


I'm back from a my hiatus! My first post was published back in January and not too long after, Gov. Walker announced he would strip public employees of their rights as workers. The battle has taken me away from my other commitments these past few months because I work for a union that represents public employees in Wisconsin. It has been the fight of our lives and the sense of urgency and solidarity between unions and progressive community organizations has been incredible.

The week it all started, I received an email from both NARAL Pro-Choice Wisconsin and Planned Parenthood Advocates of Wisconsin expressing the immediate need for everyone to stand together against Gov. Walker and Republicans legislators.

Here's an excerpt from NPCW's email blast:

"I have an unusual, but absolutely critical, request of you today. We are asking you to join with us to support our Union brothers and sisters who face an unprecedented attack. NARAL Pro-Choice Wisconsin has never made an ask like this before, but the rights of Wisconsin citizens are in jeopardy.

"On Friday, we heard about Governor Walker's budget repair bill, including his plan to strip all rights of public employees to organize and bargain collectively. Walker's attack will impact ALL public employees on the state and local levels, including our teachers, nurses, child-care workers, public defenders, and thousands of other workers that provide the services we depend on.

"As reproductive rights advocates, we know that government should never be in the business of taking away people's rights. The Unions have long stood by NARAL Pro-Choice Wisconsin in our collective fight for progressive values. And the Unions were critical partners during our fight for health-care reform last year. Now, we must stand together with the Unions to protect working women, men and families."

Solidarity between those who advocate for workers' rights and those who advocate for reproductive rights has been crucial in more than just the fight for federal health care reform and the fight to save collective bargaining rights.

Just weeks ago, we saw a federal attack on women's rights when conservative politicians attempted to cut all funding for the vital health care services Planned Parenthood provides nationwide. And labor stepped up to stand with women.

I sincerely thank all those who have joined in the fight for workers' rights and women's rights. We can see firsthand how standing together can truly make a difference. Keep the pressure on! Our fight for basic rights is never over.