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Joss Whedon made a video to explain why Planned Parenthood is important. In 3 minutes.

Two different outcomes powerfully explain what happens when Planned Parenthood isn't around.

Ever wonder what would happen if the people who want to get Planned Parenthood shut down got their way?

In 2011, Texas cut off most of Planned Parenthood's funding in the state. Planned Parenthood served around 50,000 patients there at the time. The result? One-quarter of publicly funded health clinics shut down. And there was a 35% drop in claims for long-acting birth control. As a result, there was a 30% increase in Medicaid-paid births.

Women in Texas, particularly those in poverty, have seen a significant loss of access to health care services and birth control — which would prevent them from getting pregnant and potentially needing an abortion.


Texas isn't the only state where this is happening. Other states are following in its footsteps.

This powerful three-minute film by director Joss Whedon shows just how much of a difference Planned Parenthood makes in people's lives.

In the video, Whedon ("The Avengers," "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," "Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog") shows just what the world would look like if those attacks on Planned Parenthood are successful. The film follows three women but shows two different versions of their lives: one where Planned Parenthood provides the family planning and health care they need, and another in which Planned Parenthood is shut down.

Take three minutes and watch it.

Planned Parenthood is a lifeline for millions of people.

4 in 10 U.S. women rely on health centers like Planned Parenthood as their only source of medical care. And the services they provide save us over $10 billion a year.

Women deserve access to safe health care. This is not a bold statement. This is basic common sense.

If you really want to decrease abortions, here's one common-sense way to do it.

All you have to do is copy what Colorado did. The state funded access to education, health services like Planned Parenthood, and long-term birth control access. From 2009 to 2014, teen pregnancy rates plummeted by 40%. And abortion rates plummeted too — by 42%.

Do the math. And share their story. We can't afford to go backward anymore.

You can learn more about Planned Parenthood's video here. And you can learn more about the issues at Planned Parenthood's resources site.

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The teen pregnancy rate has dropped 25% in recent years. Here's why.

A massive change happened for a really obvious reason.

Here's some good news: The U.S. teen pregnancy rate has been on a steady decline since 2007. And the reason why shouldn't come as much of a surprise.

A new study by the Guttmacher Institute shows that from 2007 to 2011, teen pregnancy rates dropped by a whopping 25% across the U.S. The study, which surveyed women ages 15 to 19, found that while respondents' sexual activity rates didn't change, one very important thing did: contraception use.

Image by Guttmacher Institute.


“Our new data suggest that recent declines in teens’ risk of pregnancy — and in their pregnancy rates — are driven by increased contraceptive use," concludes study author Dr. Laura Lindberg.

In 2015, Colorado released its own data showing that a state program providing free long-term contraception led to a 40% drop in its teen pregnancy rate.

After all, that's pretty much the whole purpose of contraception: to reduce the chance of getting pregnant. It turns out that when contraception is more affordable and easier to get, people are more likely to use it. Even better, thanks to the Affordable Care Act, most forms of birth control are now available without an insurance co-pay.

GIF from "The Daily Show."

The undeniable truth is this: Abstinence-only education doesn't work.

Proponents of abstinence-only education argue that the only true way to eliminate the unintended teen pregnancy rate is for teens not to have sex. And they're right — in the same way that the only way to eliminate fatal car accidents is to not drive. Knowing this, we still teach teens how to drive cars, just as we should teach them the basics about safe sex.

GIF from "Mean Girls."

But what does abstinence-only education have to do with this? A government study found that students who received abstinence-only sex education were more likely to not use (or to incorrectly use) contraceptives, were more likely to end up with unintended pregnancies, and were more likely to contract sexually transmitted infections.

As of September 2016, just 18 states and the District of Columbia require sex-ed courses to include information on contraception. There's a lot of room to improve.

Earlier this year, President Obama proposed eliminating federal funding for abstinence-only education programs for the 2017 annual budget. Over the past 25 years, the federal government has spent close to $2 billion on abstinence-only programs despite the fact that there's no science backing up their effectiveness. Obama's push to cut off the last $10 million a year going to these programs coincided with his allocation of $4 million to the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program.

President Obama and then-Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius discuss contraceptive coverage for workers in 2012. Photo by Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images.

Whether state legislatures will take action to require schools to teach comprehensive sex education in high school classrooms remains to be seen, but the mountain of evidence highlighting those programs' successes continues to grow.

Want to see that teen pregnancy rate continue to decline? Then write your representatives and senators on the state and national levels. Let them know this is important to you.

Improved access to knowledge and resources to prevent unwanted pregnancies is a position we should all be able to get behind.

Concerned about the number of babies born with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, the Centers for Disease Control has made quite the recommendation.

Health officials at the government agency on Feb. 2, 2016, suggested that all women of child-bearing age who are sexually active and not using birth control should ... wait for it ... avoid drinking alcohol altogether.


No birth control, no more Wine Wednesdays for you, says the CDC. Photo by iStock.

The CDC provided a handy infographic for health care providers, wherein they suggest that "[p]roviders can help women avoid drinking too much, including avoiding alcohol during pregnancy, in 5 steps."

Seems legit. But then step #3 is a little disconcerting (emphasis added):

"Advise a woman to stop drinking if she is trying to get pregnant or not using birth control with sex."

Hmmmm.

Yep, you read that correctly. If you're a woman who's having sex, who's capable of reproducing, and who's not using contraception, the CDC suggests your health care provider advise you to quit drinking alcohol completely.

At first, I thought maybe they just weren't being very clear. Maybe they were talking about women who are trying to become pregnant AND not using contraception. But, alas, no.

“Alcohol can permanently harm a developing baby before a woman knows she is pregnant,” principal deputy director of the CDC Anne Schuchat said, according to USA Today. “About half of all pregnancies in the United States are unplanned, and even if planned, most women won’t know they are pregnant for the first month or so, when they might still be drinking."

She continued, "The risk is real. Why take the chance?”

Let's break this down.

Late in 2015, the American Academy of Pediatrics took the definitive stance that absolutely no amount of alcohol during pregnancy is safe for a developing fetus.

For years, there's been a lot of debate about how much, if any, alcohol an expectant mother can consume before she should worry that her baby could be born with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD).

The CDC says FASD affects up to 1 in 20 U.S. schoolchildren and can result in many physical issues, such as: "low birth weight and growth; problems with heart, kidneys, and other organs; and damage to parts of the brain." Those problems can cause behavioral and intellectual disabilities, which in turn can cause problems with "school and social skills; living independently; mental health; substance use; keeping a job; and trouble with the law."

Photo by iStock.

FASD is a serious condition, no question.

While some are still skeptical that even small amounts of alcohol are dangerous, the AAP published a clinical report in the November issue of Pediatrics, and the abstract contained the group's clear-cut stance:

"During pregnancy:
— no amount of alcohol intake should be considered safe;
— there is no safe trimester to drink alcohol;
— all forms of alcohol, such as beer, wine, and liquor, pose similar risk; and
— binge drinking poses dose-related risk to the developing fetus."




According to the CDC, planned pregnancies apparently make up half of all pregnancies each year in the U.S. So based on that info from the AAP, the CDC's recommendation that women who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant abstain from alcohol is logical. They included women trying to become pregnant because, according to health officials, even planned pregnancies often remain unknown until a woman is four to six weeks along.

But the way the CDC wants to address potential FASD in the other half of pregnancies — the unintended ones —is where things veer off course.

To be fair, step #2 on the info graphic for health care providers instructs them to:

"Recommend birth control if a woman is having sex (if appropriate), not planning to get pregnant, and is drinking alcohol."

But for health officials to jump from that to step #3, which is essentially saying "no more alcohol for you, the end!" is a just a tiiiiiiny bit paternalistic.


No, CDC. No. GIF via "The Matrix."

And it's problematic.

First, it's still difficult for some women to access birth control. What if instead of telling women to use birth control or give up alcohol forever — or at least until menopause — the government made absolutely certain that all women have easy, free access to birth control?

Second, why are we not more concerned with the fact that half of women who become pregnant each year do so unintentionally? That seems like the actual problem that needs addressing, not that women are going around being adults and having a glass of wine or a few cocktails in the course of, you know, living their lives.

Third, where's the recommendation and handy infographic for men about their contribution to unintended pregnancies (and potential FASD in the babies that result from those unintended pregnancies)? After all, if men were using condoms correctly 100% of the time they engaged in sex, that should reduce the number of unintended pregnancies drastically, thereby reducing the instances of FASD. Women who are not using birth control while consuming alcohol would be far more unlikely to become pregnant in the first place if their partners were using condoms.

I'd venture to guess that most people care about healthy babies.

But in the course of trying to protect potential future babies that don't yet exist, the CDC missed an opportunity to address the real problems: Women need easy, affordable (or free) access to birth control, men need to take responsibility to prevent unwanted pregnancies, and, again, why don't we care more about the number of unintended pregnancies that occur each year in the first place? The bottom line: Telling adult women they shouldn't drink alcohol isn't a solution to any of these problems.

One of the first women of country to really "tell it like it is" was singer Loretta Lynn. She was never shy about her life.

Her song "The Pill" — released in 1975, 15 years after the birth control pill was introduced— was no exception. Take a listen:

That's right, a major pop star singing about birth control way ahead of her time! Whoa.

It's sometimes hard to find songs these days that have any depth beyond their catchy beat. But in 1975, Loretta Lynn nailed it.


She wasn't just trying to grab headlines — Loretta had four kids by the time she turned 20. So if you feel some truth in her delivery of this song about a rural farm wife who's grateful for finally having some control over her own body, you wouldn't be remiss.

"The Pill" outlines some of the reasons women getting control over their bodies is awesome. Here are seven.

And all in one catchy tune, to boot.

1. Ownership over the financial consequences of childbirth and child-rearing.

Remember how your mom got you dressed and got you presents and smiled the whole time? Though she certainly relished the opportunity to give love to her family, it's no easy task! Image via Smithsonian Institution/Flickr Commons.

It's crazy to imagine a time just over 50 years ago, when the pill didn't exist. How did married couples do it?!

Well, in the case of Loretta's in-song character, she got pregnant a lot:

But all I've seen of this old world
Is a bed and a doctor bill

Preach! If life is a constant roll of the reproductive dice — one that results in the major financial and emotional investment that is raising a new human being — you probably won't be able to see much more than "a bed and a doctor bill."

But not anymore:

There's a gonna be some changes made
Right here on nursery hill
You've set this chicken your last time
'Cause now I've got the pill


It's no coincidence that the lyrics compare a woman without birth control to a chicken laying eggs. But there's humanity and power in having a choice.

2. More diverse clothing choices.

They look great! But they deserve greater. Image via The Library of Virginia/Flickr Commons.

Speaking of choice...

This old maternity dress I've got
Is goin' in the garbage
Miniskirts, hot pants and a few little fancy frills
Yeah I'm makin' up for all those years
Since I've got the pill



Get it, girl!

Miniskirts are the perfect way to make up for the never-ending maternity-wear struggle. Even though there are better maternity choices now than there were in the '70s, maternity wear shouldn't have to be all-the-time-wear.

Image via McCalls Patterns/Mikhaela Reid/Flickr Commons.

3. A body that doesn't get overused.

This incubator is overused
Because you've kept it filled

It's a little bit edgy to compare yourself to a roosting chicken, but when you think about it, this lyric is intentionally jarring. Women are people, so why should they be made to feel like chickens, subject to the reproductive decisions of others?

That's right. It's MOM's turn to get pushed around in a stroller, kiddo. Image via Internet Archive/Flickr Commons.

As Mary Beth Powers of Save the Children told CNN, 1 in 7 women giving birth in developing nations will experience complications, which is even more dangerous when they are far from advanced medical care.

4. The chance to see the world.

Image via Internet Archive/Flickr Commons.

You wined me and dined me
When I was your girl
Promised if I'd be your wife
You'd show me the world


This one's a double-edged sword.

Essentially, the character is saying: "We got married and we were gonna conquer the world together. And now we can!" Which is awesome.

But it also shows just how far we still have to go on a lot of issues, as Loretta references a time when a woman needed the financial support of her husband to see the world.

5. A new reason for men to be happy, too.

Teamwork — not just for modern folk. Image via Missouri State Archives/Flickr Commons.

When it comes to reproduction, men play a pretty important role. So there's plenty of reason for them to be happy about safer, um, marital relations.

The feelin' good comes easy now
Since I've got the pill
It's gettin' dark it's roostin' time
Tonight's too good to be real
Oh but daddy don't you worry none
'Cause mama's got the pill




See? The "feeling good" comes easy now! All genders can breathe sighs of relief.

6. Being more than just "mothers-in-waiting."

Image via The Library of Congress/Flickr Commons.

If you're constantly on deck to have and care for kids, that can become your sole way of being seen by society. It's true!

All these years I've stayed at home
While you had all your fun
And every year that's gone by
Another baby's come



I'm tired of all your crowin'
How you and your hens play
While holdin' a couple in my arms
Another's on the way


When women gained control over their bodies, they also gained control over how society views them.

Neat!

7. No more being the default caregivers.

Raising kids is cool, but it doesn't make me want to sing a song about ironing. Image via Internet Archive/Flickr Commons.

This chicken's done tore up her nest
And I'm ready to make a deal
And ya can't afford to turn it down
'Cause you know I've got the pill


For so many generations, women's work was taken for granted. But it has value. And with control comes power.

I'm not certain just what deal the character is making here, but the point is, with control over her body, she's also in control of her future. It could be a future of caregiving, and that would be great. It might also include an education — or maybe even a fabulous country music career, à la Loretta Lynn.

To many, Loretta's acknowledgement of birth control was scandalous. But it was also very successful.

"The Pill" was such a scandal in country radio that it was banned from some stations, stalling its performance in country radio at a time when a Loretta Lynn single was almost a guaranteed #1.

But the song was such a sensation in the music world overall that this sly, tongue-in-cheek song about birth control was Loretta Lynn's highest-charting single in pop music, hitting #70 on the Hot 100.

In a world that's fraught with conflict around choice, let's celebrate how far we've come and how much more control ladies in America have gained in just a few generations.

Love'em. Image via Internet Archive/Flickr Commons.

Good job, America.