A sunny NARAL July

If you’ve been wondering what’s been happening in the NARAL Pro-Choice South Dakota world this summer, the simple answer is: we’ve been celebrating!

Early in the month, the whole NARAL South Dakota team headed west for a weekend in Rapid City.

The weekend began with a fiesta in Whitewood, hosted by our lovely Board Member Elizabeth Moll. “Sangria, Salsa, and Standing up for Choice” was a great success – mouthwatering kabobs, refreshing sangria, the now famed margarita cupcakes and the company were well worth the drive to Whitewood. The fiesta was a great way to celebrate the reproductive choice movement and those we are fortunate enough to work with in the fight!

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DSC_1292While the team was in Rapid, we also celebrated Pride at the festival sponsored by the Black Hills Center for Equality. There was a great showing of vendors and attendees. The staff proudly sported “NOH8” tattoos, along with many of the festival goers. It was great to be see such an upbeat crowd of people taking pride in equality and all kinds of love.

DSC_0013DSC_0025After the Pride Festival, the League of Young Leaders (LoYL) hosted a happy hour and painting session – and some more celebration of equality.

DSC_0034Be you, for you. We love that!

In July we also celebrated the many triumphs and contributions of our former executive director, Alisha Sedor. While Alisha’s last day with the affiliate was at the end of July, we know that her legacy at the affiliate will carry on in the strength of the fight for reproductive rights in South Dakota.

DSC_0169DSC_0156We have been SO fortune to have a line of strong, fearless leaders who have championed our fight for women’s reproductive rights in South Dakota. Alisha’s departure served as reminder for how important it is to celebrate the strong women we have the good fortune of working with at NARAL Pro-Choice South Dakota.

Here’s to August!

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A playlist for celebrating Sen. Wendy Davis & the end of DOMA

Today brings the kind of news headlines that make a progressive heart happy. Historical rulings and an unwavering demonstration in Texas have made the nation buzz with hope.

So as you soak up all the emotion of this day – perhaps after shedding some tears of joy (goodness knows there were some from us) – we have created a playlist with songs to keep you in the feel-good mood that this day deserves.

First, some songs in honor of the amazing, inspiring Texas Senator Wendy Davis who stood and spoke against SB 5 – a bill that would have effectively close most of the clinics in Texas – for over ten hours yesterday. Obviously, she deserves some mad respect.

Because she was going to be on her feet – continuously – all day, Sen. Davis wore bright pink running sneakers for the filibuster. The shoes quickly became a symbol for her stand against the bill and her fight for women. Indeed, her sneaks (boots) were made for standing (walking) – and that’s just what she did.

Granted, we can’t be fully excited that the media jumped at the chance to focus on the Senator’s appearance above all else, but I digress.

While it appeared for awhile last night that the Texas Senate might have snuck in a vote at the last moment, this morning it was clear that Sen. Davis’ epic filibuster had succeeded in halting the passage of the anti-choice SB 5. She triumphed in protecting choice in Texas – at least until the next session.

An overwhelming crowd of pro-choice supporters in the Capitol building cheered and stayed late into the night to support the efforts of the filibuster. It was heartwarming to see those in the pro-choice movement refuse to back down.

Next we are dedicating songs to the historical Supreme Court decision that we’ve been waiting for. This morning, the Supreme Court ruled the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional, paving the way for marriage equality in the states. The Court also refused to take up Proposition 8 – allowing gay marriage to be legal again in California. Can you feel the love, or what?

DOMA was ruled unconstitutional by a 5-4 vote, with Justice Kennedy writing the majority opinion. You could say that Justice Kennedy is the best thing that (ever) happened to us (today).

The Supreme Court definitely made progress for the nation, taking a big step toward recognizing that it’s all the same love – and marriage is a right of every citizen.

Is it disappointing that marriage equality – equal rights – are still up for debate in this century? Yes.

Is it heartbreaking that Sen. Davis had to forgo food, drink, and even merely sitting, as a final defense against a terrible bill aimed at taking basic bodily autonomy from women? Yes.

But progress is progress. And we will take it and celebrate it.

Song List: Respect – Aretha Franklin I Won’t Back Down – Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers These Boots Are Made for Walkin’ – Nancy Sinatra Every Little Thing She Does is Magic – The Police Don’t Stop – Fleetwood Mac I Will Wait – Mumford and Sons You are the Best Thing – Ray LaMontagne Same Love – Macklemore Can you Feel the Love Tonight? – Elton John You Don’t Own Me – Leslie Gore

Emergency contraception odds shift in women’s favor

Just last week we were shaking our heads in frustration and wondering what the deal was with the government, the courts and emergency contraception.

We wrote a whole post about how disappointed and confused we were that restrictions continued on emergency contraceptive access.

We even created a set of graphics to display the “games” we saw being played with emergency contraceptives – and how women were clearly set up to constantly lose.

ImageImageImageImageImageImageBut this week, (we think partially in response to our clever graphics, of course) the Obama administration decided to stop blocking the over-the-counter sale of emergency contraceptives to women and girls. This means that the Food and Drug Administration will comply with Judge Edward Korman’s ruling that emergency contraceptives be accessible without a prescription and without age restrictions or proof of age.

Plan B One Step will now be available over-the-counter without age restrictions, and its generic counterparts are likely to apply for the same approval. Two-pill forms of emergency contraceptives will still fall under restrictions, due to concerns that young girls might struggle to understand dosage directions.

The access rules to emergency contraceptives haven’t necessarily simplified, then, but we are hopeful that now women and girls are more likely to succeed in obtaining emergency contraceptives when they need them.

**In South Dakota all of this could make no difference if your pharmacist refuses to distribute emergency contraception, which they can do under current state law.

For help dealing with this, look for a copy of our recently updated Emergency Contraception Pamphlet for information on which pharmacies do carry emergency contraception in the state. Or request one by emailing us at jenny@prochoicesd.org.

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The confusing story of emergency contraception access

As many of you may have heard, the world of emergency contraception (EC) access is getting rather complicated. We’re going to do our best to break it down for you. Hold on to your hats, campers.

In the beginning, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) made a recommendation that emergency contraceptives should be sold over the counter, without restrictions. But then the Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius overturned that recommendation (something that had never been done before), retracting the FDA’s support of universal access to EC.

Then along came Judge Edward R. Korman (he’s awesome) who made a ruling in April that all emergency contraceptives should be available over-the-counter, without restrictions – just like the original recommendation from the FDA.

He said let there be access, and it was good. But the FDA no longer supported the unrestricted access.

So then the FDA, under the orders of the administration, appealed the decision by Judge Korman, and the issue was sent to the next level of the courts, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

For simplicity’s sake, let’s review the progression so far (yay flow chart):

FDA recommendation –> Secretary Sebelius overturns FDA recommendation –> Judge Korman ruling –> FDA appeals Judge Korman’s ruling –> issue sent to 2nd U.S. Court of Appeals

So that’s how the issue of emergency contraception access ended up at the 2nd U.S. Court of Appeals.

Now this past Wednesday, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan made a ruling on some forms of emergency contraceptives, determining that they be available over the counter immediately and without restrictions.

So that’s the good news – but unfortunately, it gets further complicated from there.

Seriously, prepare to be confused.

Amid the ongoing drama from the FDA, Secretary Sebelius and the courts, the current status of emergency contraceptives access is as follows:

The 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals has permitted two-pill versions of emergency contraception to be sold over the counter, without restrictions. That includes the original Plan B and any generic two-pill forms of contraception.

Now, as for Plan B One Step, which mirrors the effects of the original two-pill Plan B except in a convenient one-pill dosage, it still remains in the limbo of the appeals court and remains available only for women ages 15 and older who can prove their age with an official form of ID. Which is problematic, since many states don’t issue learner’s permits or driver’s licenses until age 16. So they’re asking for forms of ID that many young girls won’t have access to, making it so they then can’t access the emergency contraception.

Every other generic form of emergency contraception that involves only one pill is available over the counter to women 17 and older who can prove their age with an official form of ID.

It is yet unclear why the different pill forms have been distinguished from each other, since they offer the exact same result, just in fewer steps. Although, obviously simplicity in access is not an underlying goal here.

In summary, as of Wednesday emergency contraception access is as follows:

Form of Emergency Contraception

Number of Pills

Accessibility

ID Required?

Plan B

••

everyone

no

generics

••

everyone

no

Plan B One Step

ages 15 and older

yes

generics

ages 17 and older

yes

BUT the federal administration (cough, Secretary Sebelius, cough) has two weeks from yesterday to  decide whether it will appeal the two-pill ruling (keep in mind that they are still currently in the appeals process for the one-pill forms). If the FDA does additionally appeal the two-pill ruling then it will go to either a full review by the 2nd Circuit Court or directly to the Supreme Court.

Of course, in South Dakota all of this could make no difference if your pharmacist refuses to distribute emergency contraception, which they can do under current state law.

For help dealing with that, look for a copy of our recently updated Emergency Contraception Pamphlet for information on which pharmacies do carry emergency contraception in the state. Or request one by emailing us at jenny@prochoicesd.org.

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Find more information on the ongoing emergency contraception drama here: from Mother Jones or from Huffington Post.

Choice Out Loud causes “controversy” and campus-wide sexuality discussion

We recently finished up our launch academic year of the Choice Out Loud (COL) campaign on three South Dakota campuses: the University of South Dakota, South Dakota State, and Augustana College. We had three interns, one from each campus, that represented NARAL Pro-Choice South Dakota and brought COL to their campus. These ladies have worked hard for us in the past nine months, and we are grateful for the foundation they laid for the COL program, and we are excited to see where they will go in the future.

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From left to right: Executive Director Alisha Sedor and Choice Out Loud interns Amy Dahl and Libby Trammell.

Throughout the academic year these three have hosted documentaries, rallies with pro-choice legislators, pro-choice bingo nights, along with participating in our annual Lobby Day and Pro-Chocolate fundraiser. They have been essential in expanding our contact with the pro-choice, millennial students who are ready to be more vocal in the fight for reproductive choice.

The campus where we made the most noise was at Augustana. Without a women’s rights or reproductive advocacy group on campus in recent years, we created quite a stir by tabling about comprehensive sex education and handing out condoms each week.

After sitting at the Valentine’s Day dinner on campus, our intern and table made the front page of the campus newspaper (the full article is transcribed below). And although the table was described as a “blemish” we are proud to have the campus discussing an issue that it hadn’t approached in awhile, if ever.

We were also encouraged by a great quote from Campus Pastor Paul Rohde. He said, “I’m certainly in favor of people having good information about healthy sex. I think sexuality is a gift of God and can be discussed. And should be discussed.”

The article also prompted a sexuality discussion held by a campus theater group, the Social Justice League. Our work had sparked a truly campus-wide discussion on sexuality, and we consider that a success and testament to our visibility work.

We are looking forward to starting campus groups at USD and Augustana in the fall, as well as continuing our work on the SDSU campus.

Please read the front page article about our tabling, as it appeared in The Augustana Mirror, below:

Condoms Cause Controversy

by Sarah Kocher (sakocher12@ole.augie.edu)

Students who dined in the Commons on Feb. 14 found themselves in the presence of condoms as well as condiments.

The Valentine’s Day meal for many students meant time with special someones, prime rib and a chocolate fountain. For others, however, the student-run table set up near the Commons’ exit was a blemish on an otherwise delightful dinner.

Senior Amy Dahl wasn’t doing anything out of the ordinary when she checked out a table for that Thursday night. Dahl interns at NARAL, a national pro-choice reproductive health advocacy group. Dahl and other students staffed a table that provided students with condoms, candy, pens, sticky notes, safe sex pamphlets and information about reproductive health.

Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) president senior Kadyn Wittman helped to staff the table, but not on behalf of GSA.

“It was not a GSA-affiliated event,” she said, and Dahl concurs. Dahl approached Wittman about helping on a personal level, and the topic was broached at a GSA meeting one night before the event. Members could participate – or choose not to participate – at their own volition.

Dahl and Wittman have passed out condoms and pamphlets about reproductive health on campus before and admit that at no point have they been well-received.

“I was called a whore and a slut and a baby killer and told I was going to hell,” Dahl said. The “baby killer” comment was voiced by a professor, she added.

“I was told by a few people that…’I need to return to my Christian values,” Wittman said.

But neither Dahl nor Wittman believe that discussions about God and sex have to be mutually exclusive. Wittman said people should not act like students aren’t having sex simply because Augustana is a Christian school.

“I’ve seen what happens at parties and I’ve seen people leave together at parties,” Wittman said. “To ignore that seems hypocritical. Turning a blind eye and acting like this doesn’t happen doesn’t equal Christian values.”

Dahl agrees. “Christianity is never about ‘Shut up, you can’t talk about that,’” Dahl said.

Campus Pastor Paul Rohde echoes Dahl’s sentiment. “I’m certainly in favor of people having good information about healthy sex,” he said. “I think sexuality is a gift of God and can be discussed. And should be discussed.”

However, Rohde suggested groups like NARAL and students who hand out information should remember that abstinence should be offered as a kind of safe sex along with other advocated methods.

“[Sex] shouldn’t be a taboo subject,” Dahl said. She thinks teens are having sex younger and younger, and if it’s a taboo subject, “we’re just being foolish about it.” She set up the table in the Commons with the goal of empowering the younger generation to make decisions about their own bodies.

Dahl admits she didn’t receive any education about sex or reproductive health at a young age. Her parents never had “the talk” with her, and she didn’t know about sex until she was forced to learn.

“I applied [for the NARAL internship] because I was raped when I was 16, and that’s how I experienced sex. Who knows what could have been different, had I known?”

However, while Rohde advocated proper information, he also admitted that he has questions about the choice of setting for the distribution of this material. “Is that helpful venue on a conversation about safe sex?” he said.

This questions is one the Augustana’s administration has particularly been struggling with, but less because of the content than how it was dispersed.

“The controversy is really not that there’s something wrong with the group,” Associate Dead of Students Jim Bies said. Indeed, part of what Augustana advocates in its student handbook is the freedom of inquiry and expression. “[This incident] serves as a very good reminder that the reason students go to college is to become engaged in topics as a learning issue,” Bies said.

The student handbook itself states that, “Student and student organizations are free to examine and discuss all questions of interest to them and express opinions publicly and privately.” The problem, then, is not the content, Bies said, but that the group was invited outside of procedures.

Dahl checked out the table as usual, she said, admitting to the administrative personnel in charge of such interactions that NARAL was not a student organization, but that GSA agreed to partner with NARAL so that a student-run booth could be set up. Approval was granted.

But “GSA had nothing to do with the event, and that’s a problem,” Bies said. Because of the outside organization, approval should have been granted directly to NARAL in a different way. Bies said approval would not have been granted had the proper procedures been executed because dining services worked so hard on a meal that was then disrupted and distracted from..

The NARAL table in the dining hall “added a little lightning to the jar,” Bies said.

According to Bies, the trusting set of procedures are being reviewed and the administration is now drafting proposed changes, which will be brought before ASA to ensure that students are involved in the decision-making process.

And many students want to have a say. Wittman and Bies break the student body into thirds based on their perceived responses regarding NARAL’s booth.

One third said that the table was upsetting and inappropriate. Another third offered no acknowledgement or made a joke out of the situation: “We saw condoms stuck on doorknobs across campus. Condoms strewn here and there,” Bies said. The last third saw it as a non-issue or were in favor of the motivations of the students working the table.

Freshman Christian Einertson admitted he had been very vocal about the event, placing himself in the first third of student, those upset by the disruption.

“[The booth] was pretty much blocking the exit,” he said. “It was hard to get past if you didn’t want to participate.”

Einertson said that the conversation promoted by the table was not one students should be having at all. According to Einertson, NARAL was “handing out something that would cause other people to sin.”

Dahl sees it a bit differently.

“God made sex for marriage,” she said. “Our generation breaks that, and I think that breaks God’s heart, but he recognizes that we’re all sinners.”

“Who do we think we are to declare what is or is not okay with God, or to cast judgment?” Dahl said. Instead, when all things are said and done, “I’m trying to love my neighbors by making them aware.”

For more information on student rights and freedoms, visit the student handbook online at www/augie.edu/campuslife/dean-students-office/student-handbook/student-handbook-table-table-contents.

Susan B. Anthony trusted women

susan-b-anthony-writing-600x350Susan B. Anthony was a passionate activist for women’s rights. She proposed the 19th Amendment to give women the right to vote. She fought so women would have the right to earn an education. She maintained that women deserved better pay and the right to retain their earnings. She believed that women should be able to own property. Susan B. Anthony trusted women. She was definitely a feminist, if not the feminist of her time.

Anthony felt strongly that women needed to right to vote so that politicians would listen to them.

Wait – politicians listen to women? That’s a dream of hers that often still isn’t realized!

But what’s worse, is that her name is being used to brand an anti-choice group with an extreme anti-women agenda: the Susan B. Anthony List (SBA).

NARAL Pro-Choice America and Bridge Project just released a new report exposing the Susan B. Anthony List’s extreme anti-choice agenda for the 2013 and 2014 election cycles. And let me tell you, the legislators they are trying to elect and the legislation they are backing is bad for women.

SBA ListSo here’s a short list of what SBA List wants to do:

–defund Planned Parenthood

–enact extreme anti-choice legislation to ban abortion, support forced ultrasounds, and deny access to birth control

support Todd Akin (“legitimate rape”) and Richard Mourdock (“pregnancy from rape is a gift from God”)

–become an anti-choice “political machine” (like the NRA)

Theirs goals are dangerous; threatening to strip women of bodily autonomy and dignity.

For Anthony, who fought tirelessly for the expansion of women’s rights, it seems disrespectful and deceptive to associate her name with a group working toward the exact opposite goal – to diminish women’s rights and the authority that women have over their own bodies. Anthony believed that women should have custody rights to their children, but there is no evidence that she opposed the right to abortion. That’s why we need to stand up for women against this group – to honor the true, feminist legacy of Susan B. Anthony.

Click here to take the pledge to stop Susan B. Anthony List and their extreme anti-woman agenda.

Click here to read what NARAL Pro-Choice America President Ilyse Hogue has to say about SBA List.

Lessons from the Gosnell trial

After 10 days of deliberation, the jury tasked with weighing more than 250 charges in the capital murder trial of Kermit Gosnell handed down its verdicts today.

Gosnell has been found guilty on three counts of first-degree murder, for the deaths of three babies, and on one count of involuntary manslaughter for the death of Karnamaya Mongar, a woman who died in his clinic after an anesthesia overdose during an abortion in 2009. There are other convictions as well, including infanticide and conspiracy.

Gosnell’s trial began in late March and sparked an anti-choice frenzy – they are out to convince people that Gosnell is the reason why abortion should be outlawed.

But please, don’t be fooled. That is far from the truth of the matter.

It is true that the details of what happened in the West Philadelphia clinic operated by 72-year-old Kermit Gosnell are horrific – absolutely stomach-churning.

However, abortion itself is not the danger. The danger is the circumstances under which Gosnell was allowed to practice – unsafe, unregulated, appalling medical conditions – and the reasons why women went to an unsafe clinic and kept silent about their mistreatment.

The true lessons to be learned from the horrible clinic and Gosnell’s trial are about access and shame.

Access

The fact is, when it comes to abortions in the country, a clinic like Gosnell’s is the exception and not the rule – but outlawing abortion entirely would quickly reverse that.

The procedures Gosnell performed were not legal abortions protected under Roe v. Wade, but rather late-term abortions past the 24-week cutoff for legal abortions in Pennsylvania. The Women’s Medical Society, his facility, wasn’t inspected for 17 years and complaints were ignored. The conditions were only discovered as the result of a federal drug raid.

These crimes did not happen because abortion is legal, rather, they happened because safe, affordable abortion wasn’t accessible and the facility and doctor were not held accountable for ensuring the medical safety of patients.

Low-income women, especially those of color, represented the majority of the patients at the Women’s Medical Society clinic. These women had limited funds and felt that they had no where else to go. They were at the last stop, the final destination. So even if Gosnell was compromising their dignity and their safety, he was also providing their escape. He was the only one providing an abortion that they could afford.

Abortion, for those who would struggle to travel to a clinic and pay for the procedure, is only as legal as their means to obtain it. South Dakota faces this reality every day as one of the four states (along with North Dakota, Arkansas and Mississippi) with only one clinic providing abortion services. Where do the women who can’t make it to a clinic, or women who can’t afford a procedure, turn? In this case, they turned to Kermit Gosnell – and he did nothing but take advantage of them and mistreat their bodies. If there had been another option for these women, maybe his clinic wouldn’t have been so busy.

Shame

In an article about Gosnell’s victims on philly.com, there is a particularly powerful quote: “Abortion, some say, carries such a stigma that they were too ashamed to report their alleged mistreatment.”

The anti-choice movement has managed to create such a stigma of shame around abortion that women are allowing themselves to be horribly mistreated and they never report it.

One patient said that she didn’t want to report what happened and be “treated like trash.”

This shame from making the medical decision of abortion is a direct result of politicizing the procedure. It draws lines that divide us and strip away empathy in favor of judgment and condemnation.

In this sense, it was Gosnell who committed the crimes, but society that forced his victims underground afterwards.

These woman, his victims, were so certain that they would be condemned for seeking an abortion that they would receive no help, no comfort and no support, even in face of this doctor’s nightmarish practices.

The acts described in the testimony for Gosnell’s trial put him and his clinic in the same column with pre-Roe v. Wade back-alley abortions. And adding to the horror of the actual operations is the fact that women felt as though Gosnell represented their only option – their last chance to affect change in their own lives.

Without access to safe, legal abortion women will compromise their safety and their dignity to find another means of terminating a pregnancy. That is what happened pre-Roe v. Wade. That is what happened in Gosnell’s clinic.

Women should never have to sacrifice their dignity or their safety to access abortion care. They should never be ashamed for making the right decision for themselves and their families – and that is exactly what the pro-choice movement is fighting for ­everyday.

Could birth control be down aisle 5?

A federal judge – Judge Korman – made a ruling last month that called on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to make emergency contraceptives available over the counter with no age restrictions. But so far the Department of Health and Human Services and the FDA have only partially implemented this ruling – pharmacies may now sell emergency contraceptives without a prescription to women as young as 15 years old, but only if they can prove their age.

And as you read that you’re thinking, “Well, proving your age is easy, right?” Think again – because for some women it’s not.

PlanB_One-Step_photo_0907“This compromise doesn’t address the reality that not every woman has a photo ID – especially women in urban areas who may not drive and women age 15 and 16,” the President of NARAL Pro-Choice America Ilyse Hogue said about the decision.

While some 15-year-olds might have a learner’s permit already, there are 16 states that limit learning permits to those older than 15. Without a driver’s license or learner’s permit, women can use either a passport or birth certificate to verify their age. However, for young women still living at home, it is likely that these important documents are filed away in a desk or fire-safe box – which may or may not be locked or easily accessible. So this lowering of the age restriction to 15 for over-the-counter access to emergency contraceptives becomes only as helpful as the reality of the access.

All the while, the clock is ticking on the 72 hours or less that it takes in order for Plan B to be effective. There just isn’t enough time to scramble for any of these documents.

The Administration’s challenges, previously to the FDA and now to a federal judge, are simply putting politics over science. Their hesitation to implement these rulings is seemingly based in discomfort – an unwillingness to acknowledge that teenage girls as young as 15 years old might be having sexual experiences. Similarly, making contraceptives accessible over the counter would relinquish a level of control and familiarity that they’re using as a crutch.

We need to protect the rights of young women to access emergency contraceptives so that they don’t end up with unintended pregnancies at ages when they have barely grown up themselves.  It’s simple, the proof-of-age requirement leaves in place barriers that still restrict women. It robs them of bodily autonomy. It sets a standard that sexual behavior is worthy of punishment or, at the very least, the loss of dignity.

But even if the proof-of-age restriction was eliminated, the question remains of why Plan B, along with other forms of contraceptives, shouldn’t be available as over-the-counter drugs to women and girls of all ages. The reality is that there is no reason why they shouldn’t be over-the-counter, readily available drugs.

In 2011 the FDA determined that, based on scientific evidence, that morning-after pills were safe for “all females of child-bearing potential.” And last December the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists deemed that it was time to make non-emergency birth-control pills readily available on pharmacy shelves, without a prescription.

As drugs, birth control pills pose no greater risk than pain pills or decongestants to health – and we trust women to handle their own stuffy noses and sore throats. Contraceptives are especially safe now, with birth control pills containing lower doses of estrogen than when they first became available in the United States more than 50 years ago.

It may be  hard to imagine a world where birth control pills are sitting on the shelf next to the cough syrup and Tylenol, but just because the concept is unfamiliar does not mean that isn’t the right direction to move in. If we change the way we think about access and we make the choice to prioritize it, then we as a society can empower women, and undoubtedly affect the rate of unintended pregnancies in the country.

What’s more, establishing contraceptives as over-the-counter drugs would eliminate so many discrimination lines created by the current access standards – those of economic status, geographic location, age, race and circumstance. It would also ease the stigma about women taking control of their reproductive health. Because empowering women undoubtedly benefits everyone.

Take responsibiltiy for your sexual health

April was Sexually Transmitted Diseases Awareness month. Our coalition partner Planned Parenthood refers to it as Get Yourself Tested Month – which we think it an important call to action.

The month was aimed at promoting education, prevention, and of course, getting tested for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Because really, getting tested is pretty easy.

Sure, it’s not something you look forward to – but if you aren’t getting tested then you aren’t taking responsibility for your own health or the health of your sexual partner(s).

And it’s not just something you need to do in your 30s. Teens and young adults account for more than half of the cases of Gonorrhea in South Dakota and there were 707 cases reported in the state during 2012. What’s more, a sexually active teen who does not use contraception has a 90-percent chance of becoming pregnant within a year.

Regardless of your age: sex comes with responsibilities. It’s important to protect yourself by using condoms – other contraceptives do not protect against STDs. It’s also important to talk about your sexual history, and that of your would-be partner, before having sex (wait until after and you might be unpleasantly surprised). Get tested for STDs. Ask your doctor questions.

Getting tested is even more important because some STDs, like Chlamydia, don’t always present symptoms. Up to 75 percent of women with Chlamydia don’t have symptoms, which is dangerous because left untreated Chlamydia can lead to complications such as inflammation, infertility or miscarriage. But again, it is completely treatable if caught early. In 2012 alone there were 3,922 cases of Chlamydia reported in South Dakota.

The statistics aren’t great: 1 in 2 sexually active people will get a STD by the age of 25. So in other words, if you get a STD, you’re not alone. But there is good news – some STDs are curable and all are treatable.

So, if you didn’t get around to it in April, you should still go out and celebrate Get Yourself Tested Month the right way – by taking responsibility for your sexual well-being today. While April may be the month when we celebrate it officially, taking responsibility for your sexual health is important throughout the year.

Bro-Choice = Pro-Choice

The “Bro-Choice” campaign created by Choice USA is ending their celebration of a “Week of Visibility” to call attention to Sexual Assault Awareness month, as the project expands to include conversations on rape culture and sexual assault prevention.

But we wanted to take a moment and go back to the original goal of Bro-Choice, which is “disrupting the dominant narrative that reproductive justice is a ‘women’s issue.’”

The Bro-Choice project lifts up the work that young men are doing for reproductive justice – and we were just thinking today about how fortunate we are to have pro-choice men who consistently support our work in South Dakota.

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At the center of the fight for reproductive justice ourselves, NARAL Pro-Choice South Dakota knows that our movement is dominated mostly by ladies – because it is the rights of the female body that are in question. But there are men who fight alongside the strong women of this movement, and it’s refreshing to see them trust women and advocate for female bodily autonomy in this state.

Bro-choice men know that reproductive oppression affects them personally, along with the ones they love. Attacks on reproductive freedom restrict a family’s ability to make choices about their pregnancies – choices that expectant mothers AND fathers should make together. Family planning benefits the entire family unit – both parents and their children. Just because a woman herself carries a pregnancy, doesn’t mean that a man isn’t equally involved and invested in the process and product. What’s more, access to comprehensive sex education is beneficial to all genders and reproductive health clinics, which offer services such as STD testing and education, serve both women and men.

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When it often seems as though South Dakota is filled with men who want to legislate and regulate women’s bodies (especially in Pierre), it’s encouraging to know that there are men who acknowledge that only a woman herself can and should by in charge of her reproductive present and future.

If you’re a lady who knows a Bro-Choice man, be sure to give him a shout-out comment on this blog post or our Facebook page or Twitter.

If you’re a gentleman who is Bro-Choice, know that we are grateful to have you with us in the on-going fight for reproductive justice.

You can become a part of the Bro-Choice movement by signing the pledge to become part of the solution here: bit.ly/BroChoicePledge.

Also, feel free to tweet @naralsd why you are #BroChoice.

Keep up the good work, ladies AND GENTS.

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