Our Bodies Ourselves Update: November 2019

By Judy Norsigian — November 30, 2019

by Judy Norsigian, OBOS Board Chair

During these politically volatile times, Our Bodies Ourselves (OBOS) continues to do our part as a now volunteer-driven nonprofit. We are grateful for the continued commitment of our part-time consultants (Kiki Zeldes, our web manager; Barbara Beltrand, our finance consultant; and Sally Whelan, who is working on commercial surrogacy), all of whom have helped immensely to “keep us on track.”

We are also lucky to have a multi-talented board of directors as well as some wonderful colleagues whose pro bono work has strengthened all that we do.

Here is just a sampling of the activities and activism of the organization, in large part possible because of the volunteer contributions of OBOS board members and the OBOS founders group:

  • OBOS has advocated for best practices in the arena of commercial surrogacy. Diana Namumbejja, who recently joined the OBOS board, attended a consultation this past July on international commercial surrogacy hosted by our colleagues at the Center for Genetics and Society. OBOS’s new statement outlining best practices for global commercial surrogacy (now receiving input from knowledgeable colleagues) will be circulated soon and also posted at the OBOS website. In addition, we will send a letter/position statement to members of the New York state legislature regarding a commercial surrogacy bill that will be re-introduced again in January.
  • OBOS continues to advocate for greater access to midwifery care in ALL settings. OBOS is part of the Bay State Birth Coalition, which has been working hard to secure regulation and licensure for Certified Professional Midwives (CPMs) in Massachusetts. This will enable Medicaid to cover CPM fees for low income women who could not otherwise access such midwifery care. (Already, 35 states formally recognize CPMs, so Massachusetts lags far behind.)
  • We also organized a lively panel discussion in late October at Boston University, after a screening of the new documentary “Women of Earth” (about three indigenous midwives and community leaders in rural Brazil). The film, the creation of Mayara Boaretto, a young Brazilian woman and recent midwifery school graduate, was also screened in November at the FemLibrary in Yerevan, Armenia, again to a highly receptive audience. OBOS has also been involved in organizing the Boston premiere for the film at the Coolidge Theatre on December 12, when Mayara herself will be in attendance.
  • Board member Alex Spadola and I attended the Birth Summit IV (Santa Fe) on behalf of OBOS. This diverse and lively gathering included more than 100 researchers, midwives, physicians, and others committed to improving birth outcomes in all settings. The 3-day session was filled with creative ideas for achieving greater success in all venues where birth takes place.
  • Board member Mariya Patwa, currently a medical student at Tufts School of Medicine, has been the organizational liaison to the Every Voice Coalition, a Massachusetts group dedicated to combating campus-based sexual violence.
  • OBOS helped our California colleagues to educate members of the California Assembly about the importance of making medication abortion available on all public college campuses in that state. Recently, a bill requiring such access became law – a victory for the many reproductive justice advocates who worked on this issue.
  • OBOS provides limited technical support to women’s groups that translate or adapt material from “Our Bodies, Ourselves” into their own languages. We recently started working with a terrific team of faculty and community activists/educators from San Paolo and Rio de Janeiro who are translating chapters into Portuguese and then adapting them for the Brazilian context. Raquel Pereira, who is part of the lead community organization Coletivo Feminista Sexualidade e Saúde, is coordinating this effort from her current base in Boston. Co-founder Norma Swenson and I are volunteering to facilitate this project.
  • OBOS recently hosted a close colleague from Vancouver, Dr. Jerilynn Prior, an endocrinologist who founded the Center for Menstrual and Ovulation Cycle research (CEMCOR). She gave a fascinating talk about the early perimenopause at Tufts Medical Center that is now posted at the OBOS website. Special thanks to OBOS board member Dr. Alex Spadola, director of labor and delivery at Tufts Medical Center, for making this possible. In addition, Dr. Prior and Dr. Marcie Richardson, a local ob-gyn and longtime OBOS contributor, have both given generously of their time to a wonderful new non-commercial website about the perimenopause co-created by Nina Coslov.
  • Each month, several hundred thousand people visit the OBOS website. While our subject matter is no longer actively updated, the information on our most popular pages – on early abortion options, miscarriage, pain during penetration, and what to expect in perimenopause – remains relevant, and the website and our Facebook page continue to highlight important concerns often missing in public discourse.
  • Board member Charlie Ruth Castro has begun a project with her organization Mujeres con Derechos that addresses menstrual equity for girls and women in Colombia and Mexico. They are working to bring sustainable and more environmentally friendly menstrual cups to women and girls in selected middle schools and a few women’s prisons based in Sogamoso and Bogotá (Colombia) as well as Zapopán and Guadalajara (Mexico). You can read more about Charlie Ruth’s efforts in her blog post at the OBOS website.
  • Board member Diana Namumbejja is exploring the possibility of translating material from her adapted Luganda translation of material from “Our Bodies, Ourselves” into Acholi, a language spoken in Northern Uganda.
  • Diana Namumbejja and I appeared on WGBH, Boston’s public television station, where we discussed the history and impact of Our Bodies Ourselves as we approach our 50th anniversary.
  • Many OBOS co-founders continue to meet regularly and stay active volunteering for OBOS, providing interviews with journalists and writers interested in OBOS’s legacy, sorting through their personal archives, and planning a variety of intergenerational events. Some worked on the May 2019 celebration at Suffolk University that commemorated the 50th anniversary of the women’s liberation conference at Emmanuel College (May 1969), where the workshop co-led by Miriam Hawley resulted in a series of meetings and workshops out of which “Our Bodies, Ourselves” was produced.
  • Co-founders Elizabeth MacMahon-Herrera, Jane Pincus, and Norma Swenson created a draft position statement about abortion and reproductive justice that was reviewed, revised and approved by other co-founders and the OBOS board of directors. You can read the final statement here.

Please consider supporting our ongoing work by donating to Our Bodies Ourselves!

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