I coincidentally found out about this at the same night that we played Ladyfest in Chicago a few days ago. I didn’t end up talking about it at the show because the sound was kind of weird and I’m not sure if people could hear me and because I was nervous about talking about the topics of family planning and sex education in a space so connected with gender. While I think these things definitely have a huge impact on the lives of women, I think that they are also really relevant to people in general and I think that only viewing them as “women’s issues” has allowed many people who do not identify as women to not question how the topics of contraception or sex education apply to their life or to not take responsibility for considering these things, either in their personal lives or in the public sphere.

Recently, the Bush administration nominated Susan Orr as deputy assistant secretary for population affairs (DASPA). DASPA is a part of the federal government that oversees a program that provides family planning health care to low-income people. Orr is a really bad choice for this position because she has a history of not only conservative views but of actively opposing family planning health care. In the past she has worked with a conservative group called the Family Research Council that supported the Bush administration’s proposal to eliminate contraceptives from the health care coverage for Federal Employees.

Susan Orr has also worked in a part of the government that, under the Bush administration, dramatically increased the funding for abstinence-only sex education. Without a doubt, this increase was at the expense of useful sex education that reflected the reality of people’s lives.

Planned Parenthood has a petition that you can sign to tell the president that you oppose Orr’s nomination. The online petition is at While it’s a good idea to be vocal to the federal government that appointing someone who has a history of being very anti-contraceptives to head a Federal family planning program is a really bad thing, this is not the first time that the Bush administration has made similar policy decisions. I think this subject is also a reminder about how limited or endangered the access to contraceptives or realistic, helpful sex education is in so many communities. I’m sure that if you don’t feel affected by this, there is someone who close to you who is. Or, if this issue seems totally remote, it might be a good chance to ask why social taboos within your community or social network keep people from talking about, and therefore addressing needs surrounding sexuality. Finally, in some communities, there are organizations ranging from mainstream ones like Planned Parenthood, to more grassroots, community-specific ones that are struggling to offer access to contraceptives, other family-planning health care, or good sex education. I urge folks to find out more about what is available in your community and use and support those services. I took the Planned Parenthood in Bloomington for granted until I went there for a routine STD test (I figured that I was a grownup and it was the responsible thing to do to my partners to get tested) and realized the breadth of services that were offered, at accessible prices, and that the people I dealt with were really respectful and helpful and had to put up with a lot of shit.


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