The Book that Deserves to be Banned

Banning certain books in schools has become the current trend to protect a child against uncomfortable information that some parents would prefer be discussed in the home rather than the classroom. This uncomfortable information is plentiful; sex education, sexual orientation, racism, offensive language etc. I would argue that the bible contains all of this information and more, but yet is considered by many who want to ban books as a book that should be taught more frequently in schools.

As a white Christian, I should feel incredibly guilty that some of my ancestors (the Romans) killed a person of color (Jesus), who is considered the prophet of my religion. The way in which he was killed by hanging is depicted at the front of many churches with a cross and sometimes a dead body. That symbol has always caused me to shudder but yet we think nothing of exposing our children to the message via the Easter celebration every year.

The bible has plenty of other stories that parents would want banned from classrooms if they were contained in modern literature. Genesis starts us off believing that Adam and Eve were the origins of God created humans, but then doesn’t explain how the rest of us came to be if they only had 2 sons. Later in Genesis, Lot has sex with his daughters (of course, this is the fault of his daughters and not Lot). The great king David had an adulterous relationship with Bethsheba when he lusted after her and tried to pass off the unborn child as belonging her husband, who he later murdered. The bible is rife with misogyny – women are considered the property of their husbands, they are seldom given names unless they are the mothers of great men, women could be required to marry their rapist, multiple wives were the rule rather than the exception in the Old Testament. So much for the original nuclear family!

Lot and Daughters

As a child hearing bible stories, these are the not the stories I heard or the interpretations that I made. I was left with the impression of Jesus as a kind man who tried to help the poor, sick, women and children. I didn’t focus on incest, polygamy or misogyny because those concepts were above my development level. The same can be said for many of the books on the banned book list. Children/young adults get the message that is age appropriate for them and tend to ignore parts of the story that is beyond their comprehension.

Life experiences also affect how a student interprets a book. Have you ever picked up a book that you might have read and loved in high school and then read again 10-15 years later? Quite often, it is hard to believe that it is the same story that you read before. Life experiences get in the way of how you appreciate literature. I read Gone with the Wind in high school and remembered it as a romance/love story. Rereading it in my 50’s, I was appalled at the racism and treatment of people of color. I had moved from an all white rural community to be part of a diverse urban environment and I was a different person than I had been in my teens. Similarly, students come from many different backgrounds and will interpret literature differently depending on their life experiences.

The other reason that parents want certain books banned is that they feel that sexuality should be taught at home and not in the schools. As an Ob/Gyn doc, I have intimate discussions with women of all ages on a daily basis. This is what I have learned about sex education taught at home.

  1. It is often difficult for women to accept new info that is different from what has been taught by their loved ones. Much of my time is spent dispelling myths that women have learned from their female friends and family.
  2. Info that I learned in medical school is often displaced by new scientific understandings. The most up to date info is provided by someone who does this as part of their job.
  3. Parents have biases and communicate those biases around sexuality to their children. Books and sex ed classes deliver facts that are age appropriate for the developmental level of the student.
  4. Parents often don’t have the “sex ed conversation” with their kids because it is uncomfortable. I had a hard time with my own children when we had the “talk” and they were even more uncomfortable than I was. When no one talks about sex, either at school or at home, the student is led to believe that the subject is taboo and then gets the information in the wrong places (internet).

The attacks on our public schools are numerous and those who speak the loudest are the ones being heard by the public. Only 28% of Americans believe that certain books should be banned from schools. Unfortunately, this is double the rate since 2011. The 72% of us who believe in our education system choosing wisely for our students need to become more vocal and supportive of teachers and administrators. Speak out and Vote!

A letter for Elected Officials

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Dear Senator, Representative, Governor, State Officials,

It has recently become noticeable that many of you are trying to pass laws that affect women’s bodies, without the knowledge of how women’s bodies work.  As an Ob/Gyn for 25+ years I feel that I am somewhat of an expert on this topic and would like to set the record straight on a few common misperceptions.

  1. On average, women start menstruating at age 12-13 and finish around age 52-53. The lifetime cost of pads and tampons is estimated to cost a woman approximately $1800. Most women I know do not consider bleeding for 7 days each month a luxury, but many of you have legislated the addition of a luxury tax on feminine hygiene products. Women already pay more for our clothing than similar clothing choices for men, so an additional tax on a product that only women use seems to be singling women out for monetary punishment. Not only should the luxury tax be abolished, but we should provide tampons/pads in every bathroom that has toilet paper.
  2. We also bear the financial burden of contraception. Short of permanent contraception with a vasectomy, the only method of contraception available for men is a condom, which is relatively inexpensive and does not involve an office co-pay to obtain. With the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, contraception is provided free of charge under the majority of insurance plans and has markedly increased the use of the more expensive, but vastly more reliable, long acting contraceptive methods such as IUD’s and Nexplanons. Abolishing the ACA will allow insurance companies to retract this coverage.
  3. Contraception does not cause a pregnancy to abort. Please educate yourselves on the scientific facts behind contraception and don’t spread false information that makes it all the more difficult for those of us who care for women to do our jobs. Birth control methods such as pills, Depo-Provera, Nexplanon, rings and patches work by preventing ovulation (the release of an egg from the ovary). IUDs thicken cervical mucous and provide a hostile environment to sperm, killing them before they get far in their journey to the egg. Plan B, or the morning after pill, also disrupts ovulation and prevents fertilization.
  4. A “normal” menstrual cycle is considered 25-34 days. As most women will tell you, sometimes our cycles can be shorter or longer than average. This accounts for the reason we have stashes of tampons/pads in interesting locations outside of our homes (car, purse, backpacks, office desks, suitcases etc). We have busy lives and are not always counting the days until our next menses and may not realize that we are late until a few weeks have passed. Thus, the 6 week heartbeat bill that many of you have passed does not allow us time to recognize we have missed a period, take a pregnancy test (also paid for by women at an approximate cost of $20) and then make an appointment at a clinic to confirm that double blue line that appeared on a pee stained stick at midnight when our long day was finished.  All of this usually occurs while our partner is clueless as to what his plans are for the upcoming weekend.
  5. Responsibilty.  Pregnancy happens when a man AND woman have sex. The “and” is the important part. Texas has introduced a bill that would allow for the death penalty if a woman seeks an abortion, with no mention of a penalty for the other sex. Our society needs to start holding men as accountable as women for an unintended pregnancy and the decision to end that pregnancy.
  6. Hormonal methods of contraception can provide long-term health benefits to women. 5 years use of birth control pills decreases the risk of ovarian cancer by 50%. Because of the obesity epidemic, the rate of endometrial cancer is soaring and Mirena IUDs can be used for both prophylaxis and early treatment in those women who are not good surgical candidates. The recent federal funding of anti-abortion clinics in California that are opposed to any form of contraception outside of natural family planning, do not provide “comprehensive women’s health care” as advertised in that they have no resources for treating women’s health problems outside of reproduction.
  7. Sex Education. Just as you as an elected official should educate yourselves, we also need to provide sex education for our children so that they can best take care of themselves. Abstinence only education has been proven not to reduce teen pregnancy. Comprehensive sex education not only reduces teen pregnancy but also decreases the rate of abortion as there are fewer unintended pregnancies. Seems contradictory to be both pro-life and anti-sex ed, but that is what many of you embrace.

Women have trusted me with their health and bodies for years and I have respected that trust by staying up-to-date on the changes in health care as well as offering each patient the full spectrum of choices without judgement. I would expect that our government officials would do the same. Please feel free to contact me if you have questions.

Sincerely yours,

Leslee Jaeger, MD

 

#MeToo in Women’s Healthcare

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The #MeToo Movement, in regards to sexual harassment, has created a great awakening in our country as to what we have tolerated in the past and what we are willing to tolerate in the future. This powerful movement needs to extend beyond just sexual harassment and into other platforms that are unique to women but have been controlled by men. One of these areas is women’s healthcare policy, a sphere that has been traditionally dictated by men as the people in positions of power in government  that make the decisions around funding and laws.

Two conversations with patients this week made me realize how far we have come in women’s healthcare over the past 10 years …. and how far we have backtracked in the last year. A new patient in her early 20’s presented for discussion of contraceptive options. After reviewing the pluses and minuses of each contraception method, I realized that her job was with Hobby Lobby. This is one of the businesses that have used the religious objections to birth control by their founders to justify that they will not provide coverage of contraception to employees who use employer-provided healthcare. Although many forms of hormonal contraception are used for non-contraception reasons, these are also not covered. Luckily the patient was well aware of these limitations and had remained on her parents insurance plan for this reason.

The second patient was an immigrant from Liberia and delivering her first child. When the baby was born she and her husband informed the delivery room staff and their family that the baby was being named after the husband’s sister – a woman who had died in her late 20’s of an illegal abortion in Liberia, leaving behind 3 small children. That same week, CNN published an article with the statistics that only 1 abortion clinic exists in Kentucky and the governor is working hard to outlaw abortion in the state. With 47% of pregnancies in Kentucky being unplanned and the teen birth rate 68% higher than the rest of the country, it does not seem that the women of Kentucky are being served well by their male governor.

The most effective way to prevent abortions and reduce the teen pregnancy rate is providing education and free or reduced cost access to contraception. Statistics prove that contraceptive education does not increase teenage sexual encounters but does reduce the teenage pregnancy rate.  When teens in a rural area of Colorado were provided with contraception education and free access to long-term contraception (Nexplanon or IUD), both the teenage pregnancy and abortion rate declined by almost 50%, saving the state $70 million in public assistance.

The current administration is attempting to take away the gains that were made in women’s health care over the previous 8 years by limiting funding for sex education, removing contraception as a required insurance benefit and pushing the anti-abortion agenda to include the persistent attempts at de-funding Planned Parenthood. This affects not only women but also their partners. We need to use the tidal wave of the #MeToo movement to include a push back against the current culture of anti-women healthcare policies that have been put into place by male legislators. Speak out, call and write your legislators, donate money. But don’t be SILENT. We have seen the power of our words changing a culture of sexual harrassment and we know that a long history of silence didn’t effect such a change.