Introducing Alyssa!

By Alyssa Seidorf, 2014 Advocacy & Communications Intern

Hello Virginia! My name is Alyssa Seidorf, and I am so thrilled to be working as a summer 2014 Advocacy & Communication Intern for NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia. I am a recent graduate of Virginia Tech where I spent my college years completely immersed in feminist activism. Working for gender equality and reproductive justice are passions of mine that I know I will dedicate the rest of my life to supporting.

Alyssa Seidorf, a new 2014 Advocacy & Communications Intern!

Alyssa Seidorf, a new 2014 Advocacy & Communications Intern!

My brand of feminism is about compassion, listening to others lived experiences, and working to make the world a more just place so that everyone might one day be respected, valued, and heard. As Hillary Clinton famously said, “Women’s rights are human rights”, and I am so excited to join forces with NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia as they support legislators who understand and respect this while also working to block policies that undermine women’s safety and bodily autonomy. Virginians deserve better than TRAP regulations, ‘Crisis Pregnancy Centers’, and politicians who are out of touch with Virginian women and their families!

I am so excited to embark on this new adventure with NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia to support work to ensure every Virginian has reproductive justice – access to a full range of healthcare options, comprehensive sex education, and the empowerment and means to raise (or not) a family at a time that is right for them. Advocacy to educate young people about their body and rights is one of the fundamental steps to ensuring our youth are equipped to make healthy reproductive health decisions, and I am so excited to start my first project to help get this vital information into their hands!

Mark Your Calendars! Event with 1 in 3, Advocates for Youth, Progress VA, and ACLU Virginia on October 23

Join 1 in 3, a project of Advocates for Choice, NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia, Progress VA, and American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia for an evening of story-sharing to break through the silence and stand up for safe and legal abortion care in all of our communities. 1 in 3 is a grassroots movement to start a new conversation about abortion by telling our own, authentic stories on our own terms. The event will take place on Wednesday, October 23 from 7 to 9 PM at Busboys & Poets Shirlington (4251 Campbell Avenue Arlington, VA 22206) and hors d-oeuvres will be served.

1 in 3 logo

The event will also feature Adele Hampton, a storyteller and poet who is a member of DC’s Beltway Poetry Slam Team and a Capturing Fire Queer Spoken Word Summit and Slam Finalist.


You can RSVP here  and please tell your friends! This is going to be a great event to listen to fellow women and communities member’s stories and interact with some incredible organizations in the area.

Tell your Senator: Protect Virginia’s Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative!

The Virginia General Assembly is back in Richmond this week for a special session to resume work on the budget, and there was some tentative good news today as the Senate Finance Committee advanced their version of the state’s two-year budget — but your legislators need to hear from you now to make sure it becomes a reality!

As you may remember, Governor Bob McDonnell’s version of the budget, introduced in January, proposed eliminating all state funding for Virginia’s Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative programs. The Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative, or TPPI, funds programs in seven health districts throughout the state with high rates of pregnancy among teenagers, including Alexandria, Petersburg, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Richmond, Roanoke, and the Eastern Shore. These programs provide sex education, information and resources on health and wellness, and access to contraception for thousands of Virginia young people.

The governor’s proposed budget eliminated all $455,000 in remaining state funding for TPPI programs, after the program’s funding was already slashed in his first two years in office.

Due to our advocacy and pressure by pro-choice legislators in the General Assembly, however, the version of the budget advanced by the Senate Finance Committee today does include restored funding for the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative! If this ends up in the final budget approved by the Governor, it would be great news for the thousands of teens throughout Virginia who are served by this program and receive the knowledge and resources they need to protect their health and prevent unintended pregnancy.

The full Virginia Senate is expected to vote on their version of the budget plan this coming Monday, March 26th. Please contact your Senator today and let them know that preserving strong funding in the budget for Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative programs is important to you!

You can find your state Senator and their contact information here.   Email or call their office today and urge them to support funding for teen pregnancy prevention initiatives in the budget plan!

(Once you’ve done that, please share this post and urge your friends and neighbors to do the same!)

Respect and access are key

By Autumn

I promised my husband a date at the movies this past Tuesday night. What he didn’t know was that I was taking him to see 12th and Delaware which was being screened in a lecture room at Virginia Commonwealth University, courtesy of NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia Foundation, NARAL Pro-Choice America Foundation and the VCU Department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies. It was hardly the kind of place where a guy can do the fake yawn move, but I think that in the end he enjoyed the show. We grabbed some bottles of water and a handful of Starburst candy, gratis, and squeezed into our plastic lecture hall chairs to await the dimming of the lights.

The movie, which features a women’s health clinic and a crisis pregnancy center (CPC) that share the corner of 12th and Delaware in a Florida town, was extremely well done and completely free of narration, leaving the viewer to simply observe the operations of both organizations as they interact with patients and each other. Observation was all that it took to make me want to scream. The CPC used all their usual harassing and deceptive tactics, including misinforming of the gestational age of the fetus and providing medically-inaccurate information about contraception. My personal *headdesk* moment occurred toward the end of the movie. The film crew visits with 15 year-old Widline whom we met at the CPC in the beginning of the film. In a voiceover, Widline tells us that she decided to keep her baby because the CPC told her she’d be infertile if she aborted. Widline tells us that rather than get a safe abortion, she drinks vinegar and tries to miscarry. Of course, the audience knows that Widline will most likely give birth to a child which she is unable, physically or psychologically to care for.

The panel discussion afterward featured Senator Donald McEachin, D-Henrico, Shelley Abrams, an owner of several women’s health centers in the southern U.S., Vanessa Wellbery from NARAL Pro-Choice America and Joey Richards from NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia. The discussion was very lively from the start and took on a life of its own. In fact, the main topic of the evening was something not even covered in the documentary – the race-based attacks that the anti-choice movement is now disseminating to African-American communities. Senator McEachin noted the entire community must be involved in combating these tactics, and called for greater involvement by pro-choice proponents in refuting these attacks. (For example, see some of the great work by Trust Black Women.)

I would go a step farther. In addition to fighting racist tactics from anti-choice groups, we need to do a better job of explaining the need for choice to the next generation. One way to do this is to ensure that we have comprehensive sex education in our schools, so our young people can learn to make lifelong, healthy choices. Get involved, find out what your school or your child’s school is teaching and make it clear that you want medically-accurate and age-appropriate facts taught.

Everyone deserves respect. And everyone deserves access.

Couple-Focused Services in Publicly Funded Family Planning Clinics

By Leigh

The Guttmacher Institute recently released a study entitled, “Couple-Focused Services in Publicly Funded Family Planning Clinics: Identifying the Need, 2009.” In sifting through the sixty-nine page report, I learned it essentially states that both males and females are interested in receiving counseling on family planning and birth control, but that clinic administrators often underestimate this desire for joint counseling.

According to the report, some people believe a joint discussion on family planning will reduce the rate of unintended pregnancy and alleviate the issue of misuse of contraception.

While women want services for couples, family planning administrators deal with limited funds, often underestimating couples’ desire for joint counseling.  Men would go to joint counseling if they could fit it in their schedule but definitely want some form of birth control.

I read the information without much thought or surprise, except for one bit, when I finally connected with the data.

I remember when my friends and I were younger and first talking to our parents about the birds and the bees. A common theme amongst my friends was that if you giggled at the condom aisle, you probably weren’t mature enough to have sex. The other agreed-upon truth was that if you couldn’t talk to your partner about sex, then you shouldn’t be sleeping with them in the first place. For me, this survey echoed some of these ideas – if you can’t discuss family planning, birth control, or your health with your partner, why are you engaging in sexual acts with them?

I was not surprised that two-thirds of adult female clients wished to talk to their male partner about “planning to have a baby, choosing and using birth control, and talking about birth control.”  But I was a little concerned that 19 percent of men felt uncomfortable at a family planning clinic and six percent even said they wouldn’t go with their partner. I couldn’t help but wonder, if a man can’t go to a clinic for a discussion, how is he going to survive the delivery room? Luckily, 83 percent of men did say they were willing to go with their female partner and 57 percent wanted to know more about preventing pregnancy.

Women’s health isn’t just a women’s issue. It’s a general health issue. Reproductive rights and health is a conversation we must all be willing to have. Everyone deserves to know where a partner stands on birth control and protection against sexually transmitted infections. Honest conversation, education and preparedness can help reduce the rates of STIs and unintended pregnancies.

So what do you think? Would you and your partner want the option to receive family planning services and counseling together?

It’s campaign season again — and not just the one you’re thinking of!

Hey federal government employees – did you know you can support the NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia Foundation through the Combined Federal Campaign? The Combined Federal Campaign (CFC) is a workplace giving program that allows employees of the federal government to easily contribute to charitable organizations, with donations automatically deducted from your paycheck.

The 2010 CFC campaign season started on September 1 and will continue through December 15.  If you participate in the Combined Federal Campaign of the National Capital Area, the Potomac Combined Federal Campaign, or the Combined Federal Campaign of the N. Shendandoah Valley, please designate NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia Foundation, CFC ID #83291, on your pledge form this year!

So you may be asking yourself – just what is the NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia Foundation (NPCVF) and how is it different than just “NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia”?

NPCVF, a 501(c)(3) organization, is our research and educational arm. The Foundation’s mission is support and protect a woman’s right to make the full range of reproductive choices through proactive research and educational initiatives, training programs, and public policy efforts. The Foundation’s program work is a critical complement to the direct political and lobbying work of our main 501(c)(4) organization.

A few of NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia Foundation’s current programs include:

Crisis Pregnancy Centers (CPC) investigation and awareness:

  • A year-long undercover investigation of “crisis pregnancy centers” in Virginia. (Read our report, “Crisis Pregnancy Centers Revealed,” for our findings about the deceptive tactics and misinformation used by these fake clinics.)
  • Support Without Shame campus CPC awareness campaign: This past year, a campus intern and campaign at the University of  Mary Washington raised awareness about CPCs in the area and resulted in changes to the Student Health Center’s website and referral policy. (We’re bringing this campaign to more campuses around Virginia this fall!)
  • Our Crisis Pregnancy Center Road Tour is traveling around the state sharing the findings of our investigation.
  • Check out press coverage of our CPC work in TIME Magazine!

Advocating for comprehensive sex education: We have an organizer working to raise awareness and support for increased comprehensive, medically accurate sex education in the Petersburg, VA school system. (The city of Petersburg has Virginia’s highest teen pregnancy rate and one of the highest rates of HIV/STI infections in the state!)

Emergency Contraception access survey: A survey of the availability of emergency contraception and the accuracy of information shared about EC at pharmacies across Virginia (Report coming soon! See regional maps of the results of our survey here.)

The generous contributions NPCVF received through last year’s CFC have been vital to the success of our Foundation’s research and educational work – and we hope to get even more support this year!  So if you’re a federal employee, please consider designating the NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia Foundation, CFC ID #83291, on your pledge form this year to help us continue and expand our work.

If you’re not a federal employee or your workplace doesn’t participate in one of the campaigns listed above, please share this information with a pro-choice Virginian who is – or you can always make a tax-deductible contribution to support the NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia Foundation yourself!

NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia Statement on Governor McDonnell Rejecting Funding for Comprehensive Sex Ed Programs

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                September 1, 2010


NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia issued the following statement in response to Gov. Bob McDonnell’s decision to reject federal funding for comprehensive sex education programs and instead apply for abstinence-only funding.

“It is disappointing that Governor McDonnell has put political ideology before our teens’ health,” said Tarina Keene, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia. “It is perplexing that the governor chooses to show his disregard for the health of Virginia teens on the same day we learn about a survey of Roanoke parents showing solid support for teaching comprehensive sex education in schools. It is unconscionable that, at a time when rates of teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections are on the rise the governor chooses to favor programs that do not work. The governor’s opposition to teaching teens about abstinence and contraception defies common sense that creates a lose-lose situation. The state loses money and young people lose out on learning ways to stay safe and healthy.”

Background Information: Support for comprehensive sex education programs

A survey of parents in Roanoke city shows that 80% believe comprehensive sex education should be taught to students.

Former Virginia Governor Tim Kaine rejected abstinence-only funding on the basis that such programs were not successful.

A report for Representative Henry A. Waxman shows that abstinence-only curricula are fraught with medically inaccurate and misleading information about contraception and sexually transmitted infections.

After years of Bush administration support for abstinence-only programs, teen pregnancy rates are on the rise.

Governor McDonnell Chooses Ideology Over Teen Health

Yesterday, we let you know that Governor Bob McDonnell had the chance to accept federal funding for comprehensive sex education through the Personal Responsibility Education Program (PREP). As we mentioned, the Obama Administration offered the funding for this program for states with no state match (meaning states would not have to put up their own money for the program). Additionally, accepting this funding would not prevent the state from also accepting Title V abstinence-only-until-marriage curricula funding (programs that do require that the state match funding). McDonnell could have applied for both.

So did he opt for commonsense programs that would protect the health of Virginia’s youth and save the Commonwealth money? Nope.

Did he at least compromise and apply for abstinence-only-until-marriage funding and the no-cost funding for proven effective comprehensive sex education funding? Not even close.

McDonnell, in his quest to uphold his and Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli’s medieval views on reproductive health, decided to forego the federal grant for the PREP curriculum in favor of ab-only funding that the state of Virginia will have to match. Worth pointing out is the fact that Virginia’s previous governor declined “abstinence-only” funds in the past because the programs were such a failure. McDonnell chooses to let ideology trump teen health.

He announces his decision on the same day that the Roanoke Times reports that parents in Roanoke city support school-based comprehensive sex education programs! If our governor is not even listening to his constituents, to whom is he listening?

We have to put ideology behind us and focus on promoting age-appropriate comprehensive medically accurate sex education for our youth. After years of Bush-administration deference to abstinence-only-until-marriage programs teen birth rates are again on the rise, which has serious consequences, including the fact that teen mothers are more likely to drop out of high school than teens who delay childbearing. We should not continue funneling money into these ineffective programs.

Time and again, studies show that abstinence-only curricula are fraught with misinformation, including inaccuracies about condoms and stereotypes of girls as gatekeepers and boys as aggressors. Additionally, these programs fail to have any appreciable effect whatsoever on knowledge or behavior.

We are highly disappointed that Governor McDonnell has chosen to put the welfare of our youth in jeopardy just so he can adhere to an ideology espoused by like-minded anti-choice Virginia elected officials like out-of-touch Attorney General Cuccinelli.

Yours in choice!

The Huffington Post writes about McDonnell’s folly.

Also, be sure to check out NARAL Pro-Choice America’s Blog For Choice post on McDonnell and his Minnesota counterpart rejecting common sense.

[Thanks to our intern Kripa for her work on this post.]

Governor McDonnell Has The Chance to Protect The Health of Virginia’s Youth

It’s hardly news that abstinence-only sex education doesn’t work. Many states, including Virginia, have recognized the failures of abstinence-only education, and in 2009, chose not to apply for Title V abstinence-only funding. Now Virginia faces a choice: Governor McDonnell can apply for Title V funding, for new funding for comprehensive sex ed or for both.

The funding for comprehensive sex education comes in the form of $55 million a year, for five years, through the Personal Responsibility Education Program (PREP). The Obama administration has made this funding available for states to implement sex ed programs that have been proven effective. And unlike funding for abstinence-only, PREP does not require matching funds that come from the state. All Governor McDonnell has to do is request it.

What difference could comprehensive sex ed make for Virginia’s youth? A significant one. In Virginia, 60,000 unintended pregnancies occur every year, 13,000 teen pregnancies occur every year, and in 2008, 43,000 Virginians reported having gonorrhea, Chlamydia, or syphilis. Approximately one in four sexually active teens contracts an STD, and half of all new HIV infections are estimated to occur in people under age 25. Comprehensive sex ed can combat these trends. Studies have shown that medically accurate, age-appropriate comprehensive sex ed successfully delays first intercourse, reduces the frequency of sex, and reduces the number of sexual partners, all of which may reduce the risk of unintended pregnancy or STIs.

Abstinence-only-until-marriage education, on the other hand, does not effectively decrease sexual activity and may even put teens at higher risk of unintended pregnancy and STIs. This increased risk is due to misinformation (or lack of information) about contraception, combined with the unrealistic representation of abstinence as the only possibility for teens to protect themselves. Denying teens information that can protect their health is a dangerous move.

Requesting funding for the PREP program is a logical move, supported by evidence. It costs the commonwealth of Virginia nothing, unlike the matching funds required for abstinence-only-until marriage programs, and can help reverse the disturbing trends observed among Virginia’s teens.

Today is the deadline for Governor McDonnell to request these funds. Let’s be sure to email him and ask that he support education that works for Virginia’s youth!

Yours in choice!

For more reading, our good friends at Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia have a letter to the editor in the Richmond Times-Dispatch outlining the benefits of PREP funding.

Additionally, WTVR in Richmond covered the story.

[Thanks to our intern Julia for her work on this post.]

2010 Legislative Scorecard

Our annual scorecard is up and you can check to see how your own legislators performed this past session when it comes to bills related to reproductive freedom and health. Sadly, since 2009, we lost a handful of 100% pro-choice delegates. And while we gained a 100% state senator, we still don’t have a majority.

Check out the scorecard and then send an email to thank your elected official is s/he is 100% pr0-choice in her/his voting record!