Family

3 awkward questions about reproductive freedom — and how to answer them.

Talking about abortion and birth control with your not-so-feminist relatives can be awkward. These facts help.

If your family is like mine, political disagreements are as much a part of the Thanksgiving tradition as pumpkin pie.

Charged discussions are basically inevitable. And you can't always use Adele to deflect the conversation.

After years of practice, I've developed a pretty good plan for fielding questions about birth control, abortion, and reproductive freedom in general. Here's what I've got.


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Image from "SpongeBob SquarePants."

1. Aunt Margaret says: “I'm OK with people using birth control, but the government shouldn't be paying for it, and employers shouldn't have to cover it if they don't want to."

Here are the facts you need to know:

Obamacare requires insurance plans provided by employers to cover contraception and other preventive health services like annual well-woman visits.

This plan has been hugely successful.

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According to the Guttmacher Institute, the number of people with a $0 copay on their birth control has more than tripled for pill and ring users since 2012, and it has doubled for those who use injectable contraception. Graphic from the Guttmacher Institute, used with permission.

Since cost can be a huge barrier to contraception access, birth control coverage means fewer unplanned pregnancies, fewer teenage births, and healthier families.

The zinger:

Making birth control more accessible has enabled more Americans to make reproductive decisions for themselves. Also, contraception does count as basic health care, so there's no reason a health insurance plan should be excluding it.

2. Uncle Randall says: “Planned Parenthood should be defunded. Have you seen those sting videos?"

Uncle Randall is probably talking about those misleading videos — you know, the ones released by a group that's trying to exclude Planned Parenthood from any federal funding. The videos that claimed that health care providers are selling fetal tissue.

Here are the facts you need to know:

It's true. Some Planned Parenthood clinics DO donate fetal tissue from abortions. They do this with patients' full consent, and the tissue is used for life-saving medical research.

While Planned Parenthood once accepted reimbursements for storing and transporting that tissue (which is completely legal, by the way), they have stopped doing so in order to “reveal the true political purpose behind these attacks," according to Planned Parenthood Federation of America President Cecile Richards.

It's also worth mentioning that the controversial donated tissue has helped researchers develop the polio vaccine and better treatments for Alzheimer's disease. And so far, there has been no evidence of wrongdoing in any of the investigations into Planned Parenthood.

The zinger:

Planned Parenthood provides important reproductive health care, including abortions. And because Planned Parenthood serves many uninsured patients, they provide care to people who otherwise may not be able to access health care at all. That's really important.

YASSS. You deserve another slice of pie for that one.

3. Cousin Elliott explains: “I'm pro-choice, but I think too many women use abortion as birth control."

Here are the facts you need to know:

1 in 3 women will have an abortion in their lifetime.

Image from this awesome Mic video.

That's a lot of women, which means that there are many different reasons behind the decision to get an abortion. Maybe the woman wasn't ready to parent, she couldn't afford a child, or something went wrong with the pregnancy. Or maybe that person doesn't want to explain their decision because they don't owe anyone an explanation.

Here's the thing that many people don't know, though: Most women who have an abortion were using contraception when they became pregnant, according to these stats from the Guttmacher Institute. Therefore, it's statistically unlikely that "many people" are using abortion as their "only form of birth control."

The zinger:

Regardless of the above stats, any reason for an abortion is a sufficient reason. The decision to have or not have a child is a personal, intimate one — and no one should feel shame for making the choice that is right for them.

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Image from "Glee."

Bam. If you've gotten through these three questions, it's probably already time for dessert (#teampie).

Reproductive freedom can be a contentious topic, and chances are good that you'll disagree with someone sitting across the table this week. It happens to me a lot.

What I've found personally, though, is that feelings about abortion, or reproductive freedom in general, aren't as black and white as politicians can make them seem. In fact, lots of people consider themselves to be both pro-life and pro-choice. There aren't just two sides to the story.

Images from "Real Time With Bill Maher." <3 Sarah Silverman.

And if there aren't simply two sides to these issues, that means there's a lot of middle ground in the reproductive freedom conversation.

That's space for all of us to talk about birth control, abortion, and women's bodies in a way that's respectful, informed, and productive — a middle ground that you can hopefully find at your Thanksgiving table.

Go get 'em, friends.

Images courtesy of Letters of Love
True

When Grace Berbig was 7 years old, her mom was diagnosed with leukemia, a cancer of the body’s blood-forming tissues. Being so young, Grace didn’t know what cancer was or why her mother was suddenly living in the hospital. But she did know this: that while her mom was in the hospital, she would always be assured that her family was thinking of her, supporting her and loving her every step of her journey.

Nearly every day, Grace and her two younger sisters would hand-make cards and fill them with drawings and messages of love, which their mother would hang all over the walls of her hospital room. These cherished letters brought immeasurable peace and joy to their mom during her sickness. Sadly, when Grace was just 10 years old, her mother lost her battle with cancer.“

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Losing my mom put the world in a completely different perspective for me,” Grace says. “I realized that you never know when someone could leave you, so you have to love the people you love with your whole heart, every day.”

Grace’s father was instrumental in helping in the healing process of his daughters. “I distinctly remember my dad constantly reminding my two little sisters, Bella and Sophie, and I that happiness is a choice, and it was now our job to turn this heartbreaking event in our life into something positive.”

When she got to high school, Grace became involved in the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and a handful of other organizations. But she never felt like she was doing enough.

“I wanted to create an opportunity for people to help beyond donating money, and one that anyone could be a part of, no matter their financial status.”

In October 2018, Grace started Letters of Love, a club at her high school in Long Lake, Minnesota, to emotionally support children battling cancer and other serious illnesses through letter-writing and craft-making.


Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Much to her surprise, more than 100 students showed up for the first club meeting. From then on, Letters of Love grew so fast that during her senior year in high school, Grace had to start a GoFundMe to help cover the cost of card-making materials.

Speaking about her nonprofit today, Grace says, “I can’t find enough words to explain how blessed I feel to have this organization. Beyond the amount of kids and families we are able to support, it allows me to feel so much closer and more connected to my mom.”

Since its inception, Letters of Love has grown to more than 25 clubs with more than 1,000 members providing emotional support to more than 60,000 patients in children’s hospitals around the world. And in the process it has become a full-time job for Grace.

“I do everything from training volunteers and club ambassadors, paying bills, designing merchandise, preparing financial predictions and overviews, applying for grants, to going through each and every card ensuring they are appropriate to send out to hospitals.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

In addition to running Letters of Love, Grace and her small team must also contend with the emotions inherent in their line of work.

“There have been many, many tears cried,” she says. “Working to support children who are battling cancer and other serious and sometimes chronic illnesses can absolutely be extremely difficult mentally. I feel so blessed to be an organization that focuses solely on bringing joy to these children, though. We do everything we can to simply put a smile on their face, and ensure they know that they are so loved, so strong, and so supported by people all around the world.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Letters of Love has been particularly instrumental in offering emotional support to children who have been unable to see friends and family due to COVID-19. A video campaign in the summer of 2021 even saw members of the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings and the NHL’s Minnesota Wild offer short videos of hope and encouragement to affected children.

Grace is currently taking a gap year before she starts college so she can focus on growing Letters of Love as well as to work on various related projects, including the publication of a children’s book.

“The goal of the book is to teach children the immense impact that small acts of kindness can have, how to treat their peers who may be diagnosed with disabilities or illness, and how they are never too young to change the world,” she says.

Since she was 10, Grace has kept memories of her mother close to her, as a source of love and inspiration in her life and in the work she does with Letters of Love.

Image courtesy of Grace Berbig

“When I lost my mom, I felt like a section of my heart went with her, so ever since, I have been filling that piece with love and compassion towards others. Her smile and joy were infectious, and I try to mirror that in myself and touch people’s hearts as she did.”

For more information visit Letters of Love.

Please donate to Grace’s GoFundMe and help Letters of Love to expand, publish a children’s book and continue to reach more children in hospitals around the world.

This article originally appeared on 07.22.15



"So just recently I went out on a Match.com date, and it was fantastic," begins Dr. Danielle Sheypuk in her TEDx Talk.

If you've ever been on a bunch of Match.com dates, that opening line might make you do a double take. How does one get so lucky?!

Not Dr. Sheypuck's actual date.

Not Dr. Sheypuck's actual date. Photo by Thinkstock.


But don't get too jealous. Things quickly went downhill two dates later, as most Match.com dates ultimately do. This time, however, the reason may not be something that you've ever experienced. Intrigued? I was too. So here's the story.Gorgeous!

Gorgeous! Photo from Dr. Sheypuk's Instagram account, used with permission.

She's a licensed clinical psychologist, an advocate, and a model — among other things. She's also been confined to a wheelchair since childhood. And that last fact is what did her recent date in.

On their third date over a romantic Italian dinner, Sheypuk noticed that he was sitting farther away from her than usual. And then, out of nowhere, he began to ask the following questions:

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Images courtesy of AFutureSuperhero and Friends and Balance Dance Project
True

The day was scorching hot, but the weather wasn’t going to stop a Star Wars Stormtrooper from handing out school supplies to a long line of eager children. “You guys don’t have anything illegal back there - any droids or anything?” the Stormtrooper asks, making sure he was safe from enemies before handing over a colorful backpack to a smiling boy.

The man inside the costume is Yuri Williams, founder of AFutureSuperhero And Friends, a Los Angeles nonprofit that uplifts and inspires marginalized people with small acts of kindness.

Yuri’s organization is one of four inaugural grant winners from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, a joint initiative between Upworthy and GoFundMe that celebrates kindness and everyday actions inspired by the best of humanity. This year, the Upworthy Kindness Fund is giving $100,000 to grassroots changemakers across the world.

To apply, campaign organizers simply tell Upworthy how their kindness project is making a difference. Between now and the end of 2021, each accepted individual or organization will receive $500 towards an existing GoFundMe and a shout-out on Upworthy.

Meet the first four winners:

1: Balance Dance Project: This studio aims to bring accessible dance to all in the Sacramento, CA area. Lead fundraiser Miranda Macias says many dancers spend hours a day at Balance practicing contemporary, lyrical, hip-hop, and ballet. Balance started a GoFundMe to raise money to cover tuition for dancers from low-income communities, buy dance team uniforms, and update its facility. The $500 contribution from the Kindness Fund nudged Balance closer to its $5,000 goal.

2: Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team: In Los Angeles, middle school teacher James Pike is introducing his students to the field of robotics via a Lego-building team dedicated to solving real-world problems.

James started a GoFundMe to crowdfund supplies for his students’ team ahead of the First Lego League, a school-against-school matchup that includes robotics competitions. The team, James explained, needed help to cover half the cost of the pricey $4,000 robotics kit. Thanks to help from the Upworthy Kindness Fund and the generosity of the Citizens of the World Middle School community, the team exceeded its initial fundraising goal.

Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team video update youtu.be

3: Black Fluidity Tattoo Club: Kiara Mills and Tann Parker want to fix a big problem in the tattoo industry: there are too few Black tattoo artists. To tackle the issue, the duo founded the Black Fluidity Tattoo Club to inspire and support Black tattooers. While the Brooklyn organization is open to any Black person, Kiara and Tann specifically want to encourage dark-skinned artists to train in an affirming space among people with similar identities.

To make room for newcomers, the club recently moved into a larger studio with a third station for apprentices or guest artists. Unlike a traditional fundraiser that supports the organization exclusively, Black Fluidity Tattoo Club will distribute proceeds from GoFundMe directly to emerging Black tattoo artists who are starting their own businesses. The small grants, supported in part with a $500 contribution from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, will go towards artists’ equipment, supplies, furnishings, and other start-up costs.

4: AFutureSuperhero And Friends’ “Hope For The Holidays”: Founder Yuri Williams is fundraising for a holiday trip to spread cheer to people in need across all fifty states.

Along with collaborator Rodney Smith Jr., Yuri will be handing out gifts to children, adults, and animals dressed as a Star Wars’ Stormtrooper, Spiderman, Deadpool, and other movie or comic book characters. Starting this month, the crew will be visiting children with disabilities or serious illnesses, bringing leashes and toys to animal shelters for people taking home a new pet, and spreading blessings to unhoused people—all while in superhero costume. This will be the third time Yuri and his nonprofit have taken this journey.

AFutureSuperhero started a GoFundMe in July to cover the cost of gifts as well as travel expenses like hotels and rental cars. To help the nonprofit reach its $15,000 goal, the Upworthy Kindness Fund contributed $500 towards this good cause.

Think you qualify for the fund? Tell us how you’re bringing kindness to your community. Grants will be awarded on a rolling basis from now through the end of 2021. For questions and more information, please check out our FAQ's and the Kindness Toolkit for resources on how to start your own kindness fundraiser.

This article originally appeared on November 5, 2013


When I saw these incredible photos Angelo Merendino took of his wife, Jennifer, as she battled breast cancer, I felt that I shouldn't be seeing this snapshot of their intimate, private lives.





















The photos humanize the face of cancer and capture the difficulty, fear, and pain that they experienced during the difficult time.

But as Angelo commented: "These photographs do not define us, but they are us."

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This article originally appeared on August 14, 2016


Time travel back to 1905.

Back in 1905, a book called "The Apples of New York" was published by the New York State Department of Agriculture. It featured hundreds of apple varieties of all shapes, colors, and sizes, including Thomas Jefferson's personal favorite, the Esopus Spitzenburg.






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