|Summer 2012 Newsletter|
A school crosses a line: and youth activists respond!
Forcing girls to take pregnancy tests. Sending them home if they refuse. Sending them home if they are pregnant. Did this really happen in 2012?
Unfortunately, in a public charter school in Louisiana, it did. And when Natasha, a young mother, activist, and writer on Amplify, heard the ACLU’s investigation into the policy, she took action. She created a change.org petition to demand the school change its policy – and in just 1 day, it got over 100,000 signatures! Thanks to the ACLU and the work of activists like Natasha, the school will change its policy. Read More...
Youth Activists Shine at the International AIDS Conference
Advocates for Youth was loud and proud at late July’s XIX International AIDS Conference (IAC), one of the most important events for those working toward an AIDS-free generation. From organizing the Youth PreConference, to recruiting volunteers and cosponsoring the opening ceremony of the AIDS Quilt on the National Mall; from a collaborative satellite session with the Red Cross to an inspiring and informative youth-led panel hosted by Ronnie Cho (President Obama’s Liaison to Young Americans) and featuring Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA), staff and youth activists worked tirelessly to ensure young people’s meaningful participation.
The week culminated in Advocates spearheading an effort by more than 15 coalition partners to create National Youth HIV & AIDS Awareness Day and calling on President Obama, Congress, and HHS to formally recognize the day and demonstrate the political will necessary to ensure ALL young people’s rights to the sexual health education and services that can help protect their health and save their lives. Read more about Advocates at the IAC and see some great photos!
The National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance held an awards gala on Saturday, July 21, honoring Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.), the Asian American Justice Center, and our own Associate Director of Racial/Ethnic Disparities and Social Justice, Urooj Arshad! Urooj has not only provided capacity-building training to organizations working with youth of color for eight years; she also conceived and implemented Advocates’ Muslim Youth Project, helping organizations which serve Muslim youth address issues of reproductive health and rights. She has also been a bold advocate for LGBT Muslim rights. As Urooj said in her acceptance speech:
“We have provided countless workshops on the intersection of Islamophobia and homophobia/transphobia, marched in pride parades to show our visibility, helped folks get asylum, provided spiritual counseling, developed and advocated for scholarship that looks at Islam in the context of LGBT issues…but most importantly we have changed the discourse. The discourse that looks at LGBT Muslims as only non-religious, somehow outside the realm of mainstream Muslim life, somehow not impacted by Islamophobia, somehow not quite able to be both LGBT and Muslim. And as we continue to change the discourse, I am heartened by how much our community has grown in sophisticated ways that pushes and propels us forward and truly reflects the diversity of our community: From cultural/secular Muslims to religious Muslims; from an aesthetic of blingy hijabs to that of shaved heads; Shias, Sunnis and Ismailis; converts and those born into Islam; we are leading the change from within to create a just world based on our love for Islam.”
Welcoming New Staff
With fall right around the corner and many of our esteemed colleagues heading back to school for graduate degrees or to pursue other adventures, we wish our departing friends Nickie Imanguli, Durryle Brooks, Nikki Serapio, Meghan Rapp, and Mimi Melles the best . And we welcome our two newest additions to the family, Angel Brown (Sr. Program Manager, GLBTQ Health and Rights), who held the position until 2009 and now returns to Advocates; and Ian O’Brien (Coordinator, Youth Activist Network), who comes to us from the Gay-Straight Alliance Network. They have both hit the ground running, joining us in the week of the International AIDS Conference. We’re still filling some positions, so check out our job listings.
Introducing the Youth Fundraising Advisory Board (Y-FAB)!
We are thrilled to introduce the members of Y-FAB! Y-FAB is a group of young people who are passionate about sexual and reproductive health issues and committed to creating a sense of giving among their peers. The group fosters and sustains youth support for Advocates’ sexual and reproductive health programming, serves as a sounding board for the organization’s youth-focused fundraising initiatives, and helps implement such initiatives. Read more about them here, and don’t forget to donate!
Birth control with no co-pay: On August 1, 2012, under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), private insurance plans will begin to cover the cost of birth control – meaning millions of women will no longer have to pay the up to $600 a year birth control can cost.
Most young women with insurance will soon be able to choose among birth-control methods -- oral contraception, injectables, the ring, IUDs, and others. They will be able to select the method that best fits their needs and lives, without cost standing in the way of their decision. You helped make birth control with no co-pay a reality. You sent thousands of letters and participated throughout the year in a campaign urging President Obama and Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to stand firm and supporting them in the face of relentless attacks from social conservatives. And you were heard!
With this new mandate, making women’s preventative care affordable for those with insurance, we are inching closer to the day when all young women will be able to choose the type of contraception that is right for them; when they can take full control of protecting their health and planning for their futures.
Unfortunately, not everyone has coverage yet. Conscience clauses still allow churches and other houses of worship to deny coverage to their employees. And, nonprofit employers who, based on religious beliefs, do not currently provide contraceptive coverage in their insurance plan, will have an additional year to prepare, until August 1, 2013, to comply with the new law – meaning many students at colleges and universities which claim a religious exemption may not be covered until next year. And, last week, in Colorado a judge granted an injunction allowing one business to deny its employees access to birth control while its lawsuit challenging the ACA is decided.
So we still have a long way to go to ensure all women have access to affordable contraception and the full range of reproductive health services. But today, thanks to your activism and commitment, private insurance coverage begins to reflect the health care needs and priorities of women. And that’s something to celebrate.
State legislators have introduced hundreds of provisions that would restrict abortion this year, with 76 passed by at least one legislative chamber and 9 enacted. The most common measures are those which require an ultrasound before an abortion procedure; those which ban later-term abortions; and those which limit the provision of medication abortion. Though attacks on abortion rights in the states are expected to continue, there is an increasing amount of pushback from activists.
Learn more about state laws in the first half of the year at the Guttmacher Institute State Center.
In the poorest countries, contraception is a matter not just of family planning, but of life and death. Complications from pregnancy, including childbirth and unsafe abortion, are the number one cause of death among young women ages 15-19 in low and middle income countries. In fact, simply fulfilling the unmet need for contraception in developing countries could reduce maternal deaths by 1/3. Advocates’ youth activists held a blog-a-thon to observe World Population Day – check out these entries!
A day to support contraception around the world – Janine Kossen
Universal access to reproductive health services in Nepal - Sagar_Gyawali
Poverty begins when we fail to act – GastonKwa
In the last newsletter we shared a new project: examining the viewpoints of Millennials, the most pro-sexual-health generation in U.S. history. Since then we’ve shared our findings on our own websites and on RH Reality Check on three occasions.
Learn more and grab some cool infographics in our Millennial Thinking section!
New Publications from Advocates for Youth
GACC Applications are Open! The Great American Condom Campaign is a youth-led grassroots movement to make the U.S. a sexually healthy nation. Each year, GACC members give out one million Trojan Brand condoms on college campuses across the United States, educate their peers about sexual health, and organize to improve the policies that affect young people’s health and lives. Apply to become a SafeSite today!
October is Let’s Talk Month. Let's Talk Month is an opportunity for community agencies, religious institutions, businesses, schools, media, parent groups and health providers to plan programs and activities which encourage parent/child communication about sexuality. Check out our materials to help plan for Let’s Talk Month – including the new Let’s Talk Month Planning Guidebook!
The Urban Retreat begins September 27! Each year over 120 youth activists gather in Washington, D.C. to share expertise with one another and Advocates for Youth staff; learn about the latest findings and legislation that affect reproductive health; participate in trainings; and make a commitment to be lifelong advocates for young people's reproductive and sexual health and rights. We can’t wait!