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Public Voice in Action: Summer 2011 Update

Our Bodies Ourselves continues to advocate for change in multiple arenas. Here are a few examples of work we are currently involved in:

Reproductive and GeneticTechnologies

Sally Whelan, program manager of the OBOS Global Initiative, and Judy Norsigian, executive director of OBOS, worked closely with the Center for Genetics and Society on the second of three annual "Tarrytown Meetings," held July 25-27, 2011 in Tarrytown, N.Y. These meetings bring together "people and organizations working to ensure that human biotechnologies and related emerging technologies support rather than undermine social justice, equality, human rights, ecological integrity and the common good."

About 125 civil society leaders, scholars, advocates and others confered on topics and action agendas that address such pressing issues as gene patenting, assisted reproductive technologies, human genetic modification, consumer genetic testing and personalized medicine, the storage and use of human biologic tissues and genetic privacy. Visit thetarrytownmeetings.org for more details.

OBOS also has been especially involved in efforts to better educate young women about the risks of donating eggs for in-vitro fertilization and has served as a co-plaintiff in the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) lawsuit against the Utah-based Myriad Genetics, Inc. This suit argues that patents on two human genes associated with breast and ovarian cancer are unconstitutional and invalid. For more information, read "ACLU Challenges Patents On Breast Cancer Genes."

Midwifery Advocacy

OBOS continues to advocate strongly for expanded access to both Certified Nurse-Midwives as well as Certified Professional Midwives.

In a country where the cesarean section rate has been rising steadily (with worsening outcomes in many regions, both in terms of infant and maternal mortality), midwives offer important alternatives to conventional obstetrical care. One reason women seek midwifery care is to avoid the growing problem of labor induction outside of evidence-based medical indications. Such labor inductions increase prematurity and low-birth weight babies. The March of Dimes has launched a new campaign, "Healthy Babies Are Worth The Wait," to draw attention to this issue.

Our 13-minute DVD on the topic, "Why Choose a Midwife," has been viewed by more than 9,000 people at various online sites and continues to educate policy makers trying to address major cost and quality-of-care challenges in maternity care. In addition, hundreds of maternity care providers have signed our statement, "Choices in Childbirth: A Statement by Physicians, Midwives and Women's Health Advocates Who Support Safe Choices in Childbirth."

Education About the Risks of Breast Implants

Two small grants have supported community screenings and discussions of "Absolutely Safe," a documentary about breast implant safety by filmmaker Carol Ciancutti-Leyva. Judy Norsigian has joined Ciancutti-Leyva to lead discussions and encourage community-based activism in Los Angeles, Albuquerque, San Francisco, Portland, Oregon, and other locales. This coming fall, film events are scheduled at Arizona State University, University of Nevada-Las Vegas, University of Missouri, the National Women's Studies Association conference in Atlanta, and elsewhere.

Questionnaires filled out at these events make clear that most women are poorly informed about the risks of breast implants and that a documentary such as "Absolutely Safe" can be a valuable tool for those working on community-based educational efforts. Offsetting the misinformation and misleading pictures of women's bodies now widely available on the internet is a major challenge that many younger women are taking on, especially as they grow to appreciate the widespread failure of plastic and reconstructive surgeons to provide adequate counseling.

OBOS offers support to these educators and activists, including providing copies of the film for viewing at college dormitories, religious organizations and other community-based settings where women discuss body image issues and potential health dangers associated with risky cosmetic surgical procedures.

All of the above advocacy work could not happen without our hard-working summer intern/volunteers who donate their time and skills including: Eliza Duggan, Sailaja Neel-Ganti Joshi, Julia Bronstein and Kasey Klavelle. Many thanks to all of you!



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