Tag Archives: HIV/AIDS

Tale of Two Elizabeths: Bringing Hope to New Hope

By Tamara Fagin, Guest Blogger

I did not grow up watching Elizabeth Taylor on the silver screen. If I did, I’m sure that like many young people who did come of age with her (like my parents), I would have been utterly distracted by her dark-haired beauty, her striking violet blue eyes and all of those marriages. She was a superstar.

I, on the other hand, came of age during the 1980’s. During a period of tumultuous change – somewhat like now come to think of it. I witnessed (on television) the fall of the Berlin Wall, the fallout of Chernobyl and individuals, families and institutions grappling with the HIV/AIDS epidemic. The Elizabeth Taylor that I grew up with was the most famous AIDS activist in the world.

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Reclaiming the Means of Reproduction


Lilith Magazine asked me to review Michelle Goldberg’s The Means of Reproduction. The book waspublished earlier this year and at first I thought this review would be a bit dated. As it turns out, given the health reform debate in which women’s reproductive health is once again the battering ram for Republicans who want to kill reform and controversial fodder for the pundits, the subject matter couldn’t be more timely. In particular, Goldberg’s discussion of the damage done globally to women’s health by the Helms amendment shouts the warning about what might well happen in the U.S. if the Stupak-Pitts amendment prevails.

Michelle Goldberg’s captivating book, The Means of Reproduction: Sex, Power, and the Future of the World (Penguin Press, 2009) is perfectly timed to remind those who came of age post-Roe v Wade and might think they can relax under an Obama administration, just how much work is left to do. An investigative journalist and author previously of Kingdom Coming: the Rise of Christian Nationalism, Goldberg has imbued this long-running story with fresh power by telling it in her young feminist voice.

The Means of Reproduction is a sweeping history of U.S. foreign policy on international family planning that spans four continents and the covers issues such as birth control, abortion, HIV/AIDS, their intersections with environmental concerns and economic development, and the gender politics of all, while staying in intimate touch with how America’s policies affect real women globally.

The story begins during the 1960’s cold war when Republicans like John D. Rockefeller and, yes, George H.W. “Rubbers” Bush led the charge to secure U.S. funding for international family planning, convinced that population pressures threatened national security. Then as now, family planning proponents met predictable adversaries. Goldberg writes, “There is one thing that unites cultural conservatives throughout the world, a critique that joins Protestant fundamentalism, Islamists, Hindu Nationalists, ultra-Orthodox Jews, and ultramontane Catholics. All view women’s equality and self-possession as unnatural, a violation of the established order. Yet in one society after another, we can see the absence of women’s rights creating existential dangers.”

Posted in Reproductive Health | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

The Yanks Are Coming–Back–Now What?

The road to the international agreements forged in Cairo and Beijing was long and fraught with cultural potholes, but nothing like the challenges that our own government placed in the path of women’s reproductive self-determination. Now, there’s been a 180 degree turn back to the future, and the world is relieved. But other countries have moved forward, so what’s the next step for the U.S.?

Linda Hirshman, author of Get to Work and columnist for Slate’s new XX among many other accomplishments, and I wrote this commentary. After we were rejected by the New York Times and the Washington Post (what else is new?), we decided it was too important an issue not to see the light of day. So we’re publishing it on RHREalityCheck, Huffington Post, and here on good ol’ Heartfeldt.

At the very moment the Obama administration’s decision to seek a U.S. seat on the U.N. Human Rights Council grabbed headlines, the United States quietly took the reins on the most important human rights issue for humanity’s future: sexual and reproductive rights. On March 31, State Department Acting Assistant Secretary for Population, Refugees, and Migration, Margaret Pollack, told delegates to the United Nations Commission on Population and Development, meeting in New York, that America was back.

Marking a 180 degree turnaround from Bush administration policies that fought international efforts to enable people to control their own reproductive fate, the U.S. will once again defend the “human rights and fundamental freedoms of women” and support “universal access to sexual and reproductive health.” Abstinence-only sex education, the bête noir of health providers attempting to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS, was Kung-Fu kicked aside. Human rights apply to all regardless of sexual orientation. The U.S. commits to ratify CEDAW, the women’s rights treaty already signed by 185 nations, and even endorses “equal partnerships and sharing of responsibilities in all areas of family life, including in sexual and reproductive life.”

The global sigh of relief was palpable. For with all its money and diplomatic resources, the U.S. is the 10,000 gorilla in international reproductive policy. Now the question is, while this is certainly change we can believe in, is it all the change we need?

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This is What Winning an Election Will Do

Madam Chair,

I am honored to be here today to express the renewed and deep commitment of the United States Government to the goals and aspirations of the ICPD Program of Action. President Obama, Secretary of State Clinton, and Ambassador Rice as well as the United States Congress, have already acted strongly to support women’s and young people’s health, human rights, and empowerment; global partnership; and the wider development agenda embraced by the Program of Action.

These opening lines of the U.S. government’s official statement, so calmly delivered March 31 by Margaret J. Pollack, Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration, and Head of the United States Delegation to the United Nations Commission on Population and Development, belied the sea change they represent in U.S. relationship with the United Nations in general and in particular with the global consensus reached at the ICPD in Cairo fifteen years ago that women’s human rights and health, including reproductive rights and health, are central to global economic development, poverty reduction, environmental sustainability, and global security.

Pollack, a career civil servant who has worked in the State Department under both Republican and Democratic administrations referred to herself in an interview with me last week as “the lantern in the cave” simply delivering the current administration’s message that the U.S. is going “back to the future”–i.e., the one when Bill Clinton was president–in our policies and leadership for women’s rights globally.

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