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Is This About Male Responsibility or Female Submission?

Already known for their controversial billboards on race and abortion, the Issues4Life Foundation and the Radiance Foundation are announcing a new campaign, apparently directed most at African American men, that declares "Fatherhood Begins in the Womb."

All Our Lives is all for greater male responsibility-in sex, birth control, and childraising-and we agree, fatherhood, like motherhood, does begin with conception. We recognize the many ways that systematic racism and intersecting injustices have undercut the ability of Black men, as well as Black women, to parent their children in nonviolence and safety, beginning in pregnancy-and *not* at all ending there..

But do these organizations mean the same thing that we do by "Fatherhood Begins in the Womb"? We have to wonder.

Because the Radiance Foundation's Ryan Bomberger says in the press release announcing this campaign: "Men have been empowered by Roe v. Wade to have sex and run. They've been forced out of their crucial role by perpetual welfare and today's brand of liberal feminism."

Whatever effects Roe v. Wade may have had on destructive male behavior- men were certainly "empowered" (a curious choice of words!) long before Roe v. Wade "to have sex and run." Although we obviously disagree with prochoice feminism that abortion is a constructive solution to these very real and serious problems, we can understand that prochoice feminism arose in part as an effort at female self-defense against longstanding, socially sanctioned male sexual and reproductive coercion, violence, irresponsibility, and abandonment.

Bomberger's analysis does not sound like male responsibility taking. It sounds like he is blaming destructive male behavior on the alleged wrongs of the (gender-coded female) "nanny state" and those ever-dratted "liberal feminists." After all, if these Bad Women and their social assistance programs have "forced [men] out of their crucial role"-then it's the Bad Women's fault if men maltreat them, isn't it?

And just what is this "crucial role" of men? Is it ownership of/dominance over women and children, based on a misinterpretation of the Christian scriptures that mandates "Biblical submission"? Whatever it is, it does not have the sound of equal, reciprocal, nonviolent *partnership* with women in the nonproprietary care of children. And if it's not about that-then it may actually increase rather than than decrease the number of women who feel they have no other or better choice than abortion, precisely because of the violent, abusive, controlling behavior of their babies' fathers.

The reference to "perpetual welfare"-amog other things!-in the context of a campaign directed principally at African Americans smacks of stereotyping. After all, most Americans who receive public assistance are White. Even before the debacle of welfare "reform," most Americans of all race on public assistance have been on it for relatively short portions of their lifespans. There have been plenty of heterosexual married couples and single  fathers on public aid. Where, pray tell, is this emasculating "perpetual welfare" that drives men to bad behavior? Especially since child support enforcement in the US is actually more effective in some respects for children who receive public aid than for many other children?

We also have to ask the Radiance and Issues4Life Foundations: If fatherhood begins in the womb-what active, concrete, practical, real-world, effective steps at the systemic/institutional level are you taking to support African American men as responsible, egalitarian fathers before, during and ever after birth? To promote healthy decisions about sex and access to comprehensive sex education, family planning, and prenatal care? To abolish the complicity of religious and other community institutions in sexual assault, domestic violence, and other forms of reproductive coercion? To create substantive educational and job opportunities? To prevent and heal community violence? To ensure that everyone has enough decent food, clothing, shelter and medical care? Among other things…

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More Evidence That Contraception Is Prolife

According to a 2006 paper from the British medical journal The Lancet, "Family Planning: The Unfinished Agenda", 13% of global maternal mortality is caused by abortions that are medically unsafe for women (as well as unborn children, for whom all abortions are unsafe). However, an estimated 90% of these maternal deaths (as well as the accompanying fetal deaths) could be prevented through access to effective family planning methods. 90%! That would represent an 11.7% drop in total maternal mortality worldwide (as well as prenatal mortality). This agenda remains unfinished, alas. But look how many lives it could save, whatever abortion's legal status in the countries where it becomes a reality.

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Last call for signing up for “Know Your Rights: A Conference Call for Pregnant and Parenting Students”

I'm planning to call in for this, and I hope some of our members will be there too. Supporting pregnant and parenting students is so important for women's equal access to economic opportunity. Pro-life advocates in particular should be eager to ensure that no woman feels she has to resort to abortion in order to complete her education and have a chance at a better life.

Know Your Rights: A Conference Call for Pregnant and Parenting Students!

(Please note that if you don't tick the box marked "Please continue to send me e-mail updates from the National Women's Law Center," you will not receive the call details in e-mail. This is annoying, but you can unsubscribe from the e-mail updates later if you want.)

Danielle Jackson of the NWLC writes (via email);

We’re hoping to reach a larger audience than just students who are pregnant or have children – we hope that this call can be a resource for educators, guidance counselors, and community members who work with teens and young women – and we’d love to have anyone who is interested to sign up to listen in on the call.

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Vital services for women to be available without co-pay under Affordable Care Act

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has accepted the Institute of Medicine’s recommendations about women’s health care services that should be provided by all insurers without co-payment under the Affordable Care Act. Among these services are HIV screening and counseling, domestic violence screening and counseling, support for breastfeeding, and contraception. These recommendations will be in effect for insurance policies with plan years beginning on or after August 1, 2012. Religious organizations which are opposed to contraception may opt out of having that coverage provided by their insurance.

All Our Lives applauds HHS’s acceptance of the recommendations. Having these vital services available without a co-payment will help more women and children live healthy lives as well as making it easier for women to avoid unintended pregnancy and abortion.

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Contraception Is Prolife

Blog Carnival LogoOf course the US Department of Health and Human Services should classify birth control-whatever the method or methods-as an essential preventive service for which health plans cannot charge copays. Of course.

Participation in today's "Birth Control: We've Got You Covered" blog carnival is a no-brainer for a prolife group like All Our Lives. Access to the contraceptive supplies and services of one's own choosing is essential to the voluntary, effective prevention of unintended pregnancies and abortions.

In other words, contraception is prolife. Pro the lives of women-and men-who choose to delay conception or forego it altogether. Pro the lives of children, who have the best chance at a good life if they are conceived by parents who are prepared to bear and support and love them.

Our organization calls itself prolife because we believe-on grounds open to people of all religions and no religion- that everyone, unborn or already-born, has a right to live, and live as well as possible, with all necessary supports from every level of human society. For real. That includes a thoroughgoing commitment of public policies and resources to make voluntary family planning as widely accessible and affordable as possible.

A word like "prolife" should mean what it says. All Our Lives will soon launch our "Contraception Is Prolife" educational campaign, starting with a downloadable slide presentation that explains in more detail just what we mean when we say this. We welcome your visit and participation here, and hope you will return to learn more about our "Contraception Is Prolife" effort. We have already challenged misinformation about Plan B that a Family Research Council staffer gave on National Public Radio. Please sign up for our email updates, subscribe to our Twitter feed, or join our Facebook group.

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Contraception: Hidden access issues

Blog Carnival LogoPeople who are opposed to contraception, or who simply think it isn’t that important often object, “How can there possibly not be enough birth control? Condoms are cheap and easy to get. And anyway, lack of access to birth control isn’t the problem—look at all the women who have abortions who were using birth control.”

While on the surface it may seem that women in the U.S. have adequate access to contraception—99% of women who have had sex have used birth control on at least some occasions—the bare statistics obscure some underlying access issues. For one thing, not all methods work equally well for all women’s situations. A woman who can afford condoms but would be better served by the pill or an IUD has an access problem if she can’t afford to go to the doctor to get those methods prescribed for her.

Let’s look more closely at those figures from women who have had abortions. It is true that 54% of women who have abortions used some form of birth control during the month when they conceived. Of course, that doesn’t mean that they remembered to use it every time, or used it correctly. Proper counseling—one of the services recommended by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) to be covered without copays under the Affordable Care Act—could help with that. But inconsistent use can also be due to an access problem. For instance, a staggering 76% of women who used the pill report using it inconsistently. Many of them could be having trouble getting their pills on time every month. Most women can only get one to three months’ worth of contraception prescriptions at a time; one study showed that allowing low-income women to get twelve months’ worth of pills at a time decreased the odds of unintended pregnancy by 30%, and the odds of an abortion by 46%. Alternatively, some women may need a method that doesn’t have to be remembered every day, such as an IUD—but those can have a large up-front cost. Reproductive coercion is another factor that can cause women to use contraception inconsistently. Though it isn’t strictly an access issue, family planning clinics and other health care providers have a role to play in helping women recognize and prevent reproductive coercion. Reproductive coercion often accompanies partner violence, and screening for such violence is also recommended by the IOM. Finally, some of the women who report using contraception were actually using ineffective methods such as withdrawal. They could benefit from counseling and access to more effective methods.

If 54% of women who have abortions were using contraception during the month when they conceived, that means 46% weren’t. Twelve percent of these women directly cited barriers to access as a reason for contraceptive nonuse. Another 10% reported that their partners didn’t want to use contraception; again, this could be reproductive coercion at work. Others didn’t know they were at risk for unintended pregnancy; counseling could certainly help there. Still others cited concerns about side effects or bad experiences with contraception in the past. Many of these women could benefit from assistance to help them find and afford a method that works well with their particular bodies.

Access is a complicated issue; it’s not simply a matter of whether a woman can afford a packet of pills every month or whether the pharmacy down the block sells condoms. There is still plenty of room for improvement in the way we make contraception information and methods available to women. If the Department of Health and Human Services accepts the IOM’s recommendations, more women will get the help they need to avoid unintended pregnancy and abortion.

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Plan B Is Prolife

All Our Lives is preparing to take part in the National Women’s Law Center “Birth Control: We’ve Got You Covered” blog carnival on July 21. Please join if you too have a blog and support the inclusion of contraceptives as essential, copay-free preventive services in US health plans.

National Public Radio ran a story this morning called “Birth Control Without Co-Pays Could Soon Become Mandatory”. Unfortunately an interviewee for the story repeated an all too often repeated bit of misinformation, in the name of prolife.

As well as contacting this interviewee, All Our Lives sent this message to NPR.


–In your piece on [the effort to abolish] contraceptive copays, Jeanne Monahan of the Family Research Council explains her opposition with the misinformation that the emergency contraceptive Plan B causes abortions. Levonorgestrel emergency contraceptives like Plan B work *prior* to conception, by suppressing or delaying ovulation and possibly by altering sperm function. They do *not* prevent implantation. (Details: Anyone who identifies as prolife has the responsibility to expand access to Plan B and indeed all contraceptive methods, because this is one of the most powerful ways to help women prevent crisis pregnancies and abortions.–

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Contraception does not increase abortion

One of the arguments contraception opponents commonly make is that the acceptance of contraception leads to abortion. For a good debunking of that argument, read "Examining the argument that provision of contraception leads to increased abortion rates".

What leads to increased use of both contraception and — especially when contraception is unavailable or inadequate — abortion is the desire for relatively low fertility. Contraception and abortion are going to be much less of an issue when people fully expect to have six or eight or ten kids. Those days are over for most people in the developed world, for complex social and economic reasons. What we have to decide now is whether we're going to deal with that reality in an evidence-based manner, or pretend it's not happening (or that it shouldn't be happening, and therefore people who want to have sex but not have a lot of babies are just immoral).

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Can you help us?

All Our Lives seeks dedicated volunteers to help us:

  • Upgrade our global directory of abortion-reducing resources.
  • Design visually appealing PowerPoint slides, fact sheets, flyers, and posters, especially for our new "Contraception Is Prolife" campaign.
  • Form an outstanding board of directors.
  • Launch as a US-based official nonprofit with a global focus.

Email your statement of interest and resume to  We especially encourage applications from women, people of color, people with disabilities, and LGBT persons. All Our Lives fosters a pro every life, pro nonviolent choice agenda.

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Happy 46th Birthcontrolday!

Today is the 46th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court decision Griswold v. Connecticut, which held that laws criminalizing the provision of contraception were unconstitutional. Unfortunately, even though it is no longer against the law to sell or use birth control, anti-contraception lawmakers are still trying to undermine access to it.

If you live in the United States, we urge you to contact your members of Congress to let them know that you're pro-life and pro-contraception. Ask them to resist further efforts to defund Title X family planning — most Title X recipients don't perform abortions, so don't let them claim otherwise. Remind them that evidence from around the world indicates that access to modern contraception reduces abortion, and that women are more likely to use contraception consistently (and avoid unintended pregnancy and abortion) if they are ensured an adequate, affordable supply. Let them know that existing evidence does not support claims that either hormonal methods or the IUD prevent implantation. Finally, remind them that opposition to contraception is simply one viewpoint, held by a small minority of Americans, and that the rest of us deserve representation too.