Reproductive Rights in the News: In Case You Missed It

By Brooke

Here are some quick reproductive rights highlights featured in the news recently:

A Mother Jones article by Kate Sheppard talks about the new TRAP (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers) laws in Kansas, which are similar to those recently passed in Virginia. In the article, NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia executive director Tarina Keene notes TRAP regulations really serve “just to make life extremely difficult, if not impossible, for these facilities.”

Sharon Levin, the vice president of the National Abortion Federation, echoed the statement: “These are really politically motivated laws. These laws have nothing to do with patient safety.”

Providers in Kansas were given only two weeks to comply with the new regulations; it remains to be seen how long Virginia providers will have after draft regulations on September 15th (with final regulations approved by January 1, 2012). There is fear that the state health department will require Virginia providers to follow the same regulations South Carolina adopted in 2003 that “went so far as to dictate proper procedures for mowing the lawn.”

TRAP regulations use unwarranted and unnecessary restrictions to limit women’s ability to access full healthcare options. As Jezebel wrote so markedly in their response to: “We are curious to know what effect janitors’ closets have on the safety of women seeking care.”

An Op-Ed in the Daily Press from Tamara Dietrich recapped this year in reproductive news. Dietrich cited the attempt to narrow the definition of rape under abortion law, the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act,” and the Virginia General Assembly’s passage of TRAP legislation as the pronounced lows of this year. Tamara Dietrich quoted The Guttmacher Institute’s Elizabeth Nash stating: “It’s pretty much an all-out, anti-abortion free-for-all.”

The Richmond Times-Dispatch chose to fact check our “McDonnell’s War on Women: By the Numbers” video. They ultimately confirmed the sad fact that we were not exaggerating about the extent of Governor McDonnell’s recent attacks on women’s health and reproductive rights in Virginia.

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?

Virginia Becoming More Hostile Toward Women’s Health

By Sara Cardelle

There is currently a National War on Women in the United States regarding reproductive rights. The attacks on women’s health care access range from attempts to defund Planned Parenthood (on Wednesday, Indiana became the first state to succeed) to requirements that pregnant women undergo an ultrasound prior to obtaining an abortion. In total, there have been 916 state bills related to reproductive rights issues proposed throughout the country this year alone. Unfortunately, the war on women has been equally successful in the state of Virginia. We saw a total of 10 bills or amendments restricting reproductive health care proposed during the 2011 General Assembly. Three of the bills and amendments are now law and could have a devastating impact on women’s health and access to care in Virginia. At NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia’s Choice Legislative Debriefing, Delegate Patrick Hope, D-Arlington, stated, “We have essentially overturned a lot of case laws since Roe v. Wade, making Virginia one of the less desirable states in terms of women’s reproductive rights and I think it’s just outrageous.”

Delegate Hope’s statement certainly rings true as we review NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia’s 2011 Legislative Scorecard.

In comparing this year to last year’s results, there is evidence of a push to more anti-choice partisanship. The number of Virginia legislators earning a zero percent pro-choice rating from has nearly doubled from 2010 to 2011. Last year, 36 delegates and nine senators earned a zero percent pro-choice rating. In 2011, the number of Delegates earning a zero percent pro-choice rating went up to 60. This means that, this year, 60 percent of the House of Delegates voted in favor of any and all bills and amendments attacking reproductive rights.

The number of Senators with a zero percent pro-choice rating increased to 15 which, like the House of Delegates, nearly doubles that of last year. There was also a decrease in 100 percent pro-choice senators (from 22 in 2010 to only 19 in 2011). This means there is no pro-choice majority in the Senate. This small but crucial change came into play often during the session, as we saw three bills or amendments restricting reproductive choice pass by only one vote in the Senate.

During the legislative debriefing, Senator George Barker, D-Fairfax, discussed this issue stating, “The pressure on [moderate legislators] is extraordinary right now, from all kinds of groups out there. And the fear they have is if they take a vote that is not an anti-choice vote, on any single issue, [these groups] will automatically guarantee that they have a primary challenge and in most instances will guarantee that they lose that primary challenge.”

This past session reminds us how important it is to make sure Virginians elect pro-choice candidates in the state legislature and especially in the executive branch. Of the three new anti-choice laws on the books, two were amendments from the governor. Governor McDonnell’s amendments include banning private abortion coverage for all women participating in the new health care insurance exchange, and prohibiting private insurance companies from offering coverage on abortions. The other amendment restores nearly $900,000 in funding for failed, abstinence-only programs. In addition to these two amendments (which are now law after passing the state Senate by only one vote), the governor will also have the final say on new, unwarranted regulations singling out first-trimester abortion providers.

This has been a hard year for reproductive rights in the state of Virginia and across the country. However, there is an opportunity for Virginia citizens to take our state back and that involves us coming out to vote this year on November 8th when all 140 General Assembly seats are up for grabs. The legislative scorecard gives you a chance to see if your legislator is pro-choice or not. I will certainly be taking that information with me into November, and I hope you will as well.

Another article on the Abstinence-only Assembly at Freeman High

Abstinence-only speaker stirs controversy
By Katherine Calos
Published: November 18, 2009
» 6 Comments | Post a Comment
nowBuzz up!Dr. Wendy S. Klein was concerned about Pam Stenzel long before the abstinence-only speaker created a controversy yesterday at Douglas Freeman High School.

Klein’s son, while a senior at Mills Godwin High School, came home upset after hearing Stenzel give a talk there three years ago.

“He was very distressed, because he knows better,” Klein said. “He said she tried to scare everybody not to use birth-control pills.”

Klein is an expert in women’s health. She’s co-founder of the Institute for Women’s Health at Virginia Commonwealth University, deputy editor of the Journal of Women’s Health and associate professor emeritus of internal medicine, obstetrics and gynecology at the VCU School of Medicine

“There is nothing wrong with promoting abstinence,” Klein said. “Stenzel uses a lot of scare tactics that are not accurate. It’s not OK to do that.”

Stenzel’s Web site lists her fee range as $3,500 to $5,000, but her appearance at Freeman was without charge, according to Mychael Dickerson, a spokesman for the Henrico County school system, which includes Freeman and Godwin.

Admission to the Freeman program was restricted to students.

Afterward, junior Connor Hill said the topic was good but the presentation was one-sided.

“She was very biased in her attempt to inform us,” he wrote in a post online. “She pretty much bashed any students in the school who have had sex at this point and told them that they will never be able to live it down.”

Two parents who watched from a foyer had opposite reactions to what they heard.

Nancy Godfrey, the mother of a Freeman junior, said she thought the presentation was excellent. “I couldn’t care less if the numbers aren’t exactly right,” she said. “If there’s any chance at all [of pregnancy or sexually transmitted disease], they need to understand that it’s there.”

Some students gave the speaker a standing ovation, Godfrey said.

Kathleen Burden, the mother of a freshman and senior at the school, took issue with the “shame aspect” of Stenzel’s remarks and such statements as “condoms are not safe” and “condoms do not provide any protection against [human papilloma virus].”

Klein countered the HPV statement with a 2006 report published in the New England Journal of Medicine. The study said women who reported 100 percent condom use had a third as much risk of getting infected as those who didn’t.

“To say in the same broad stroke of the brush that condoms are not safe” also raised concerns. “If teens are going to have sex, you want them to use condoms,” Klein said.

“Of course I don’t want teens to have sex. Of course I don’t want them to get pregnant,” she said. “But, you have to be careful about scaring them away from birth control.”


Contact Katherine Calos at (804) 649-6433 or

More on the Henrico Abstinence-only Situation…

Here’s an article from the Richmond Times Dispatch. We’ll be sure to follow-up with more about the repercussions of the yesterday’s Freeman High School Assembly as we hear them! And, this was the most viewed and most commented article in the Richmond Times Dispatch yesterday! Way to go NARAL Pro-Choice VA!

Abstinence-only speaker for Freeman stirs controversy
By Katherine Calos
Published: November 17, 2009
» 119 Comments | Post a Comment
nowBuzz up!The scheduling of an abstinence-only speaker today at Douglas Freeman High School has drawn protests from some teachers, an abortion-rights organization, and a gay and lesbian education network.

Pam Stenzel, founder of Enlighten Communications Inc., “tackles today’s tough issues of sex with candor, insight, humor and the challenge for young people to get the abstinence advantage,” according to a description on her Web site.

That message is appropriate for high school students, Freeman Principal Anne L. Poates said in an e-mail to staff at the school Thursday. “No, it does not present all sides of this issue, as it is not a family life education presentation. Yes, it presents one choice — abstinence — as an important choice for teenagers in a way that seems to reach them and have a lasting impact.” Poates used the school’s phone-message system to offer the choice of opting out.

Michelle Gajda, a Freeman teacher who emphasized that she was speaking as a private citizen and not as a representative of the school, worried that Stenzel represents a conservative social agenda.

“She’s not apolitical, and that’s to be expected of a speaker in a public school,” Gajda said. “Her message is most often given [to], and is appropriate for, church audiences.”

An e-mail to Henrico Superintendent Patrick Russo said that more than 10 faculty members had written the principal in opposition. Russo replied that the School Board attorney had reviewed the matter and found no legal justification to prevent Stenzel from speaking.

The abortion-rights organization NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia wrote the principal, saying Stenzel’s previous presentations included “medically inaccurate myths.” The Richmond chapter of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, in another letter, referred to religious bias that would add to the alienation felt by gay and lesbian students.

Stenzel has been asked to delete some portions of her usual speech, Gajda said, such as referrals to crisis pregnancy centers that counsel against abortions.


Contact Katherine Calos at (804) 649-6433 or

Medically Inaccurate Information in our own Schools?

pamOn Thursday, NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia got word that Pam Stenzel, the well-known abstinence-only speaker will be coming to the Henrico County School District, and ‘performing’ at Freeman High School on Tuesday afternoon. While the Commonwealth promotes abstinence-only education as part of its Family Life Education cirricula, Ms. Stenzel’s program also includes egregiously medically inaccurate information. Our students need the truth, and our students need accurate facts in order to make educated decisions about their reproductive health!

Here’s the letter we sent to our members who live in the County, asking them to take action. If you live in Henrico County, please take action NOW. The Assembly is scheduled for tomorrow:

“Birth control makes her 10 times more likely to contract a disease…This girl could end up sterile or dead.”
Pam Stenzel, “Sex Still Has A Price Tag.” (

You and I know this comment isn’t true. But our teens and pre-teens don’t. They need REAL sex education; they need medically-accurate, evidence-based information. And in order to make smart decisions to protect their reproductive health, they need the TRUTH.

But, this lie about birth control is exactly what “Health Educator” Pam Stenzel is telling our youth. And Pam Stenzel, an anti-choice and medically-inaccurate abstinence-only speaker is coming right to our school district tomorrow!

Pam Stenzel is on record stating the following- both live in presentations and on her website (
1. Abortion causes anorexia, bulimia, depression, and suicide.
2. Girls facing unintended pregnancies should go visit Crisis Pregnancy Centers, which we know give intentionally deceptive and medically inaccurate information to fulfill an anti-choice agenda.
3. Birth control- pills, patches, and shots- leads to higher rates of sexually transmitted infections and possible sterility and death.
4. Condoms don’t prevent the contraction of Chlamydia.
5. Her website links to which tells visitors that abortion causes breast cancer, infertility, and permanent psychological damage. Her website also sites the egregiously anti-choice Family Foundation as her ‘friend.’

We need your help to make sure our teens hear the truth at public school assemblies! But right now, Pam Stenzel is scheduled to speak at Freeman High School tomorrow.

As tax payers, we cannot support the use of public school time to promote medical inaccuracies and a political agenda thinly disguised as sex education. And as parents, and community members, we cannot allow our school district to support these lies. That’s why we’re asking you to take action!

Please call the school district and send Freeman High School’s principal an email tonight! Tell these community leaders that you don’t support Pam Stenzel speaking at Freeman High tomorrow. Tell them that her medically inaccurate statements don’t prevent sexually transmitted infections and teen pregnancies. They only promote risky behaviors.
Act now!
1. Call Superintendant Patrick Russo at (804) 652-3600
2. Call High School Coordinator Eric Jones at (804) 652-3600
3. Call Principal of Douglas Freeman High School, Anne Poates at (804) 673 3700
4. Email Principal Anne Poates at

Please, Act Now!
Thank you for all you do,

Emily, and the NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia Team