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.

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Should a man lose his home because the grass in his yard grew higher than 10 inches? The city of Dunedin, Florida seems to think so.

According to the Institute of Justice, which is representing Jim Ficken, he had a very good reason for not mowing his lawn – and tried to rectify the situation as best he could.

In 2014, Jim's mom became ill and he visited her often in South Carolina to help her out. When he was away, his grass grew too long and he was cited by a code office; he cut the grass and wasn't fined.

France has started forcing supermarkets to donate food instead of throwing it away.

But several years later, this one infraction would come back to haunt him after he left to take care of him's mom's affairs after she died. The arrangements he made to have his grass cut fell through (his friend who he asked to help him out passed away unexpectedly) and that set off a chain reaction that may result in him losing his home.

The 69-year-old retiree now faces a $29,833.50 fine plus interest. Watch the video to find out just what Jim is having to deal with.

Mow Your Lawn or Lose Your House! www.youtube.com

Cities

The world officially loves Michelle Obama.

The former first lady has overtaken the number one spot in a poll of the world's most admired women. Conducted by online research firm YouGov, the study uses international polling tools to survey people in countries around the world about who they most admire.

In the men's category, Bill Gates took the top spot, followed by Barack Obama and Jackie Chan.

In the women's category, Michelle Obama came first, followed by Oprah Winfrey and Angelina Jolie. Obama pushed Jolie out of the number one spot she claimed last year.

Unsurprising, really, because what's not to love about Michelle Obama? She is smart, kind, funny, accomplished, a great dancer, a devoted wife and mother, and an all-around, genuinely good person.

She has remained dignified and strong in the face of rabid masses of so-called Americans who spent eight years and beyond insisting that she's a man disguised as a woman. She's endured non-stop racist memes and terrifying threats to her family. She has received far more than her fair share of cruelty, and always takes the high road. She's the one who coined, "When they go low, we go high," after all.

She came from humble beginnings and remains down to earth despite becoming a familiar face around the world. She's not much older than me, but I still want to be like Michelle Obama when I grow up.

Her memoir, Becoming, may end up being the best-selling memoir of all time, having already sold 10 million copies—a clear sign that people can't get enough Michelle, because there's no such thing as too much Michelle.

Don't like Michelle Obama? Don't care. Those of us who love her will fly our MO flags high and without apology, paying no mind to folks with cold, dead hearts who don't know a gem of a human being when they see one. There is nothing any hater can say or do to make us admire this undeniably admirable woman any less.

When it seems like the world has lost its mind—which is how it feels most days these days—I'm just going to keep coming back to this study as evidence that hope for humanity is not lost.

Here. Enjoy some real-life Michelle on Jimmy Kimmel. (GAH. WHY IS SHE SO CUTE AND AWESOME. I can't even handle it.)

Michelle & Barack Obama are Boring Now www.youtube.com

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via EarthFix / Flickr

What will future generations never believe that we tolerated in 2019?

Dolphin and orca captivity, for sure. They'll probably shake their heads at how people died because they couldn't afford healthcare. And, they'll be completely mystified at the amount of food some people waste while others go starving.

According to Biological Diversity, "An estimated 40 percent of the food produced in the United States is wasted every year, costing households, businesses and farms about $218 billion annually."

There are so many things wrong with this.

First of all it's a waste of money for the households who throw out good food. Second, it's a waste of all of the resources that went into growing the food, including the animals who gave their lives for the meal. Third, there's something very wrong with throwing out food when one in eight Americans struggle with hunger.

Supermarkets are just as guilty of this unnecessary waste as consumers. About 10% of all food waste are supermarket products thrown out before they've reached their expiration date.

Three years ago, France took big steps to combat food waste by making a law that bans grocery stores from throwing away edible food.According to the new ordinance, stores can be fined for up to $4,500 for each infraction.

Previously, the French threw out 7.1 million tons of food. Sixty-seven percent of which was tossed by consumers, 15% by restaurants, and 11% by grocery stores.

This has created a network of over 5,000 charities that accept the food from supermarkets and donate them to charity. The law also struck down agreements between supermarkets and manufacturers that prohibited the stores from donating food to charities.

"There was one food manufacturer that was not authorized to donate the sandwiches it made for a particular supermarket brand. But now, we get 30,000 sandwiches a month from them — sandwiches that used to be thrown away," Jacques Bailet, head of the French network of food banks known as Banques Alimentaires, told NPR.

It's expected that similar laws may spread through Europe, but people are a lot less confident at it happening in the United States. The USDA believes that the biggest barrier to such a program would be cost to the charities and or supermarkets.

"The logistics of getting safe, wholesome, edible food from anywhere to people that can use it is really difficult," the organization said according to Gizmodo. "If you're having to set up a really expensive system to recover marginal amounts of food, that's not good for anybody."

Plus, the idea may seem a little too "socialist" for the average American's appetite.

"The French version is quite socialist, but I would say in a great way because you're providing a way where they [supermarkets] have to do the beneficial things not only for the environment, but from an ethical standpoint of getting healthy food to those who need it and minimizing some of the harmful greenhouse gas emissions that come when food ends up in a landfill," Jonathan Bloom, the author of American Wasteland, told NPR.

However, just because something may be socialist doesn't mean it's wrong. The greater wrong is the insane waste of money, damage to the environment, and devastation caused by hunger that can easily be avoided.

Planet

The world is dark and full of terrors, but every once in a while it graces us with something to warm our icy-cold hearts. And that is what we have today, with a single dad who went viral on Twitter after his daughter posted the photos he sent her when trying to pick out and outfit for his date. You love to see it.




After seeing these heartwarming pics, people on Twitter started suggesting this adorable man date their moms. It was essentially a mom and date matchmaking frenzy.

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