Public Voice in Action: Winter 2011/2012 Advocacy Update
Our Bodies Ourselves has long worked in collaboration with other organizations to improve public policies affecting women’s health. Our current activities focus on the following:
- Calling for policies that preserve or expand access to sexual and reproductive health services. The new health reform law requires health plans to cover certain preventive services – including contraceptive services – without copayments, coinsurance or deductibles. However, religious groups have been lobbying intensively to allow for exemptions. We have joined with many others in protesting attempts to undermine women’s access to contraception.
- Serving as co-plaintiff in the ACLU lawsuit against Myriad Genetics regarding the patenting of human genes. OBOS is one of two women’s health advocacy organizations involved in this role. Plaintiffs recently petitioned the Supreme Court for review of the case, and the outcome will have substantial implications for public health. Visit ACLU.org/brca for more details.
- Advocating for improved maternity care policies, especially expanded access to midwifery care in all settings. This includes calling for wider availability of vaginal births after cesarean (VBACs), as well as reducing the number of labor inductions lacking medical justification. We are also collaborating with other consumer groups to ensure that Certified Professional Midwives (CPMs) become licensed and regulated in Massachusetts within the next year, which will increase the safety of home birth for families choosing this option.
- Serving on the Steering Committee for the third Tarrytown Meeting in 2012, the final in a series of meetings bringing together prominent health advocates and academics who are seeking increased public engagement and more responsible governance of new human genetic technologies. Recently, Judy Norsigian, OBOS executive director, served as lead debater for the Yale Political Union at an event addressing whether parents should be allowed to ge¬netically modify their children. With Sally Whelan, program director of OBOS’ Global Initiative, they engaged students in a wide-ranging conversation about human germline genetic manipulations, em¬bryo stem cells, and related topics that are the focus of the Tarrytown Meetings convened by our close partner, the Center for Genetics and Society.
- Establishing better informed consent for women who undergo multiple egg extraction techniques – whether for themselves or as part of so-called egg donation arrangements that frequently involve paying large sums of money to women struggling economically. We are also working with the Infertility Family Research Registry at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center to increase participation of IVF clinics in their NIH-funded voluntary registry. Without more participation, critical research about the long-term safety of assisted reproductive technology practices will not be possible.
- Urging better FDA oversight of silicone breast implants. In August, we joined other consumer advocates and public health experts in asking the FDA to rescind approval of Mentor Corporation’s silicone gel breast implants, since Mentor’s own study lost track of more than 80 percent of 40,000 augmentation patients. We continue to hold community screenings of the documentary Absolutely Safe (often accompanied by filmmaker Carol Ciancutti-Leyva) to reach more women about the lack of adequate safety data for silicone breast implants. A recent presentation at the National Women’s Studies Association conference in Atlanta resulted in several dozen professors committing to use this film in their courses and communities.
As always, OBOS deeply appreciates the interns and volunteers who make this advocacy work possible. Student interns Eliza Duggan and Hannah Lucal have helped recently with the above-mentioned efforts.