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As reported by the Huffington Post, Argentina has advanced rights for freedom of gender identity in significant ways. Yesterday, the senate approved a gender rights law which mandates that private and public health care cover a sex-change surgery or hormone therapy, and will also allow people to specify how their gender is listed in the civil survey, regardless of physical characteristics. The senate unanimously passed the law; President Cristina Fernandez is in support of the law and will likely sign it. As Sen. Miguel Pichetto said during the debate, “This is truly a human right: the right to happiness.” Sen. Osvaldo Lopez, the only openly gay national lawmaker in Argentina, said, “This law is going to enable many of us to have light, to come out of the darkness, to appear.”

According to Katrina Karkazis, author of “Fixing Sex,” this type of law is “unheard of” because it does not ask people to change their body in order to change their gender. Sex change procedures can be painful and irreversible and this law allows people to legally assume their preferred gender identity without such drastic measures. If they do choose to proceed with either surgery or hormone therapy, however, both options will fall under their “Obligatory Medical Plan,” which means neither private nor public health care providers can charge extra for them.

Two years ago Argentina became the first country in Latin America to legalize gay marriage. Its policymakers see this law as a natural progression to ensuring basic rights for all its citizens. According to Argentine paper Los Andes, this law will further the rights and increase the visibility of trans people in Argentina, many of whom work in prostitution and do not have secondary education. By instituting a that law will allow people autonomy over their own bodies and identities without the approval of doctors or judges, Argentina is setting itself at the forefront of gender rights.

Argentina Approves Transgender Rights Legislation, Makes Sex-Change Surgery A Legal Right [Huffington Post]

El Senado aprobó por unanimidad la Ley la Identidad de Género [Los Andes]

In the US, one in six women will face rape or attempted rape in her lifetime. Specify that to Native American women, and statistics say one in three will face rape at least one in her lifetime. Yet despite facing the highest national rates of rape of any ethnic group, Native American women are largely left behind when it comes to federal measures to protect their reproductive health. A new report from the Native American Women’s Health Education Resource Center (NAWHERC) says that Native women living on reserves face huge obstacles in accessing the emergency contraceptive pill, Plan B. The 2010 Tribal Order Act mandated that the federal Indian Health Service develop and implement sexual assault policies, but the NAWHERC report shows that they have been negligent in actually doing so at a local level. The IHS oversees most health facilities within reservations, and as NAWHERC executive director Charon Asetoyer discusses in her interview with Colorlines, these facilities have been limiting Native women’s access to emergency contraception.

So are you saying that IHS facilities don’t offer emergency contraception to rape victims?

They do offer it, but they’re using the old, harsh formula of several high-dose birth control pills. First of all, why would a woman have to go through that? And second of all, to get the old treatment, you have to have a prescription. A lot of women who have experienced spousal rape or date rape don’t want to report it to a physician. Even if they do, the [only] clinic within 100 miles is closed for the weekend and there’s no emergency room close by. Basically they’re being denied a service they’re entitled to under the Affordable Care Act.

Asetoyer says the Department of Health and Human Services needs to demand that the IHS make Plan  B available on demand and over the counter to women 17 or older. Considering the disproportionate rate at which Native women face rape, providing access to emergency contraception should be a priority. And since 86% of reported rapes against Native women are committed by non-Native men, this is not a problem only the Native women in need of contraception should be fighting.

Native American Women Lack Access to Plan B [The Feminist Wire]

Why Native American Women Are Battling for Plan B [Colorlines]

Read the full report by NAWHERC here.

“Women’s health takes a backseat to a bureaucracy focused on policing her body.”

Contraception and access to it has been a huge issue in recent US politics, buy why is it such a hotly debated topic (between some)? Why is there such conflict over providing affordable contraception?

Conservatie radio host Rush Limbaugh has finally put the reason for such discomfort over affordable contraception into the the open: People are uncomfortable with women having sexual freedom. It all comes down to slut-shaming.

As shown in the video above, Georgetown Law Center student Sandra Fluke testified before the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committe on women’s health and contraception. Following this, Rush Limbaugh called her a “slut” and a “prostitue.” Limbaugh’s disgusting words against Fluke have since received a huge amount of media attention. Here is an excerpt of some his language, via the Huffington Post where you can listen to an audio clip of it:

“So the woman comes forth with this frankly hilarious claim that she’s having so much sex – and her buddies with her – that she can’t afford it,” Limbaugh continued. “And not one person says, did you ever think about maybe backing off the amount of sex that you have?”

In addition to the publicity Limbaugh has incurred, his hateful speech has brought upon some backlash. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand has condemned Limbaugh’s words, Obama has personally called Fluke to offer support, and advertisers have even pulled spots from Limbaugh’s programming. As New York Magazine points out, in calling Fluke a “slut” Limbaugh has finally put the underlying reason for the contraception debate into the open, thus eliciting a huge mainstream media response:

I suspect it’s because it almost feels like a relief to have the bile out in the open, instead of in a coded subtext as it has been in the recent debate surrounding women’s contraception.

He has shown that he believes that women’s sexual choices are a public, governmental issue. His words show that he is afraid of a woman who chooses to be in control of her health and sexual choices, and thus he must belittle her.

The long-term effects of Limbaugh’s words remain to be seen. He has lost advertisers, but he is not the only one who has rallyed against contraception. Republican Nominee hopeful Rick Santorum has made it a centerpiece of his campaign to make judgement calls on other people’s sexual practices. Perhaps his stances against sexual freedom will be subject to backlash as well, or the slut-shaming mentality underneath them will be made visible. Fluke has demonstrated incredible bravery in speaking out in favor of women’s health, and I can only hope others will follow in her path.

Thanks to Lily for the tip.

Rush Limbaugh On Sandra Fluke, Obama Call: Having ‘So Much Sex’; Parents Should Be ‘Embarrassed’ (AUDIO) [Huffington Post]

Why Is Everyone Paying So Much Attention to Rush Limbaugh? [NYMag]

Rush Limbaugh’s ‘slut’ comment draws rebukes from all sides [LA Times]

Much of the United States legislature has as of late been bent on restricting women’s access to abortion. While neither the federal nor state governments can exactly overturn the Roe v. Wade ruling that made abortion legal, conservatives can do everything in their power to put huge impositions on women who seek abortions and doctors who provide them. The message is that the conservative government wants to control the movement of female bodies.

A recent development in various states’ attempts to restrict abortion rights is the imposition of an ultrasound on a woman seeking an abortion, and the image must be made clearly visible to the seeker by the doctor providing the abortion. As Talking Points Memo reports, Virginia and Alabama’s recent bills mandate that a woman potentially go through a very invasive procedure to produce the clearest image of the fetus:

The one particularly contentious point has been that these bills require a woman to receive whichever type of ultrasound provides the best picture of the fetus — which, since women typically get abortions early on in the pregnancy, means that the most effective ultrasound is transvaginal, an invasive procedure that opponents of the measure decried as “state-sponsored rape.”

This bill would have asked doctors to place a foreign object (the one pictured above) into a woman’s body without her consent. This is, in effect, rape. It did not pass, but it is an indicator of just how far state’s will go to make abortion as difficult, and even potentially traumatic, as possible.

An amended version of the bill passed in the Virginia legislature, which makes the trans-vaginal ultrasound optional, however not without other equally restrictive and imposing measures:

The new law requires a 24-hour waiting period after the ultrasound, in addition to the one already mandated by the state before an abortion to begin with. The law also requires that the doctor give a detailed verbal description of the image or show it to the woman. “All of these requirements are pretty awful, and they are getting lost in the shuffle in the outrage over the vaginal ultrasound,” Nash said.

A handful of other states are also attempting to restrict abortion and contraceptive rights, such as through imposed waiting times and personhood bills. Jezebel provides a run-down of some the measures, some of which have thankfully not been passed through legislature.

Abortion rights and contraception have been a topic of much debate in the current US Presidential election. The major Republican nominees see it is within their power to make judgment calls concerning women’s bodies, thereby removing the individual’s right to choose. In this interview with Piers Morgan, for example, Ron Paul shows that he is completely insensitive to the potential needs of a recent rape survivor. Without any consideration for their individual circumstances or the recent trauma they have just experienced, Paul believes any female victim of rape must immediately get to a hospital for a shot of estrogen in order to prevent pregnancy and conform to his personal beliefs on abortion and conception.

Contrary to what Morgan says, it is not actually completely unlikely that Paul’s daughters will face rape considering that one out of every six American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime.

Perhaps a new law ought to be that abortion is not simply legal, but accessible and provided without judgment.

Thanks to Renee for the tip. 

Vaginal Ultrasound Bills A Smokescreen, Say Pro-Choice Groups [TPM]

Your Depressing Digest of Proposed State Anti-Abortion Laws [Jezebel]

Jezebel has a post today written by a rape survivor on how to prepare for a pelvic exam after experiencing sexual assault. The writer advises disclosing one’s history of assault to the physician beforehand, whether verbally or in writing. Doing so may take a lot of courage on the part of the patient, but as the post describes, will aid the physician in better performing the exam. I do think there is a possibility that not all physicians will be equally receptive or sympathetic to this information, but they certainly ought to be. If feeling uncomfortable disclosing this information, perhaps take some steps beforehand to establish trust with one’s physician.

By taking steps to ensure one has control of the situation, the writer is able to turn a potentially frightening or triggering experience into an empowering one. These methods are applicable to anyone who may feel some discomfort with a pelvic exam, as everyone has the right to feel comfortable during any given medical exam.

How to Prepare for a Pelvic Exam if You’re a Sexual Assault Survivor [Jezebel]

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