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How State Educators Are Fighting Back Against Harmful "Abstinence-Only" Programs

It's back-to-school school time for students and families across the country. And that means young people will be filing into classrooms to expand their minds and learn.

But when it comes to reproductive health, many students are censored from getting the facts to help them avoid unintended pregnancy until they're ready, prevent STIs, and have a positive self-image. That's because anti-choice politicians have forced teachers to teach "abstinence-only" programs in classrooms across the country, even though they're a huge disaster:

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Thankfully, cities and school districts are thinking twice about gambling with young people's futures and are putting a stop to the "abstinence-only" approach.

Just look at Baltimore. The city has developed a program that teaches students about reproductive health by having them create their own comic book about STIs and birth control. Talk about an innovative way to engage young people while also teaching them the facts!

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The school district of Lawrence, Kansas is ditching the state's "abstinence-only" programs and are instead following national standards, which include information about birth control and sexual orientation and teaches that sexual development is a natural and normal part of becoming an adult.

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And the second-largest school district in Oklahoma gave up on "abstinence-only" when it found that the state had the fourth-highest teen pregnancy rate.

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It's time for even more states to stand up to anti-choice politicians who are pushing "abstinence-only" programs that jeopardize young people. Withholding information about their reproductive health is never the way to go.

Race to Watch: Colorado Senate

David de la Fuente is the Political Assistant at NARAL Pro-Choice America.

This is the latest edition of our blog series "Races to Watch." Through this series, we'll highlight competitive races across the country featuring pro-choice and anti-choice candidates. Please share our posts with pro-choice friends who will support our candidates. When we know the stakes and we vote together, we change the game.


MarkUdall-Senate_Portrait_small.jpgSenator Mark Udall (D-CO) is many things. He is an avid mountaineer. He's a craft beer enthusiast (Colorado is the largest beer producing state in the country after all). He is a husband and volleyball dad. This all makes Sen. Udall a really likeable guy. But it's what he does everyday for Colorado women and families that makes him a cherished ally and leader who deserves our support. Sen. Udall believes that women and families should have the resources, education, and support to make the best decisions and thrive at all points in our reproductive lifetimes.

NARAL Pro-Choice America PAC has proudly endorsed Sen. Udall because of his long history of fighting for women's reproductive health. His leadership is even more important now in the post Hobby Lobby world. Just days after the Supreme Court's decision, he worked with fellow senators Patty Murray (D-WA) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA) to introduce the "Not My Boss's Business" Act to prevent employers' religious beliefs from trumping the religious liberty and reproductive rights of their employees. Udall stated, "My common-sense proposal will keep women's private health decisions out of corporate board rooms, because your boss shouldn't be able to dictate what is best for you and your family." Unfortunately, Republican leaders blocked the bill. But we know that this set-back won't stop Sen. Udall from continuing to push for women's access to birth control.

Sen. Udall is running for reelection this November and faces stiff opposition from anti-choice Congressman Cory Gardner (R-CO). Gardner originally said he wasn't going to run, which allowed other less prominent Republicans to run - but then changed his mind 9 months later, forcing all others to drop out. It seems changing his mind about things and leaving people without options is a specialty of Gardner's.

Gardner has also built a reputation as an anti-choice congressman. In 2008 and 2010, Gardner actively supported "personhood" ballot initiatives in Colorado when he was running for office. But since announcing his statewide campaign, Gardner has changed his mind again and opposes the latest initiative, Colorado Amendment 67, which could ban all abortion in cases of rape and incest, as well as most common forms of birth control.

Gardner claims he "opposes" Amendment 67 because of newfound concerns that it would restrict women's access to birth control. But come on. His only concern is about getting women to vote for him! This is the same man who supported the Hobby Lobby decision and is still a cosponsor of a federal "personhood" bill that would ban abortion in cases of rape or incest as well as most common forms of birth control. Guess he hasn't changed his mind on that one yet.

We can't trust Cory Gardner to stick to his word, but you can count on him to stick it to Colorado women and families.

The decision couldn't be clearer, which is why NARAL Pro-Choice America is fully supporting Sen. Mark Udall this November. Coloradans need someone in the Senate who will always protect women's reproductive health care -- not someone who tries to win pro-choice votes in Colorado while pushing anti-choice legislation in Washington, D.C.

Paid for by NARAL Pro-Choice America, www.ProChoiceAmerica.org, and not authorized by any candidate or candidate's committee.

Tax Dollars Wasted on "Discredited Expert"

You've gotta be kidding me!

According to Mother Jones, anti-choice Republicans are falling all over themselves to defend their extreme abortion-blocking laws. That's what happens when you get sued for making it impossible for some women to access legal health care. And they're using your tax dollars to defend these terrible laws.

But what really boggles the mind is that Alabama, North Dakota, Texas, and Wisconsin have hired a "discredited expert" to push their agenda to the tune of $192,505.50.

What is wrong with these anti-choice politicians? If they hate abortion so much, how about using these funds to support women's health programs that would help prevent unintended pregnancy?

Here's a better way to spend $192,000:

Cover a year of birth control for 1,200 women.

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Enroll 2,560 teens in a local comprehensive sex education program.

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Hand out 505,263 condoms.

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Screen 6,193 women for cervical cancer.

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But hey, when you're an anti-choice politician, what's hundreds of thousands of dollars to a quack to make sure women in your state don't have reproductive freedom and access to basic health care? At least they're making their priorities crystal clear.

Female Voters Say "No" to Hobby Lobby Logic

NMBBA Sign.jpgIt's been five weeks since the Supreme Court ruled in Hobby Lobby that bosses could deny their employees insurance coverage for birth control - and the blow back is picking up speed across the country.

Female voters have had enough of the attacks on our basic health care. A majority said they won't vote for candidates who side with Hobby Lobby, with a full 71 percent saying that politicians who are rolling back access to birth control have their priorities all wrong. Instead of taking away contraceptive coverage, lawmakers should work to pass legislation to improve access to women's health care.

Pro-choice legislators are leading the charge to fix the Hobby Lobby decision. They've introduced bills in New York, North Carolina, and the District of Columbia to keep bosses from taking away birth control coverage, and even more pro-choice bills are in the works.

But that's not all. Pro-choice members of Congress are also making it a top priority to fix the Hobby Lobby decision. They've introduced the "Not My Boss's Business" Act in both the U.S. Senate and House, and Majority Leader Reid fast-tracked it to try to undo the damage. We came just two votes short. Two votes! We'd have won in the Senate if it weren't for Mitch McConnell and his cronies who think that women should have to pay twice for their birth control.

Members of Congress are back to their states now for the congressional August recess, and we plan to hold politicians who sided with Hobby Lobby accountable for blocking the "Not My Boss's Business" Act, but we need your help!

Want to help us ask them why they keep attacking health care that only women need? Sign up to join the 7 in 10 pro-choice community.

What Could We Do if 7 in 10 Members of Congress Were Pro-Choice?

Did you know that 7 in 10 Americans believe in a woman's right to choose? You might be shocked to learn that even though the majority of Americans are pro-choice, our values aren't represented in Congress.

Right now, only 4 in 10 members of Congress share our pro-choice values!

Imagine all of the ways we could improve access to reproductive-health care if anti-choice politicians weren't running the show.

Here are 7 things we could do if 7 out of 10 members of Congress were pro-choice:

  1. Protect and expand reproductive rights for all women and families - today and for future generations - by passing forward-looking, proactive legislation. If we had more pro-choice champions representing our values, we could make dangerous anti-choice restrictions a memory of the past.
  2. Ruth Bader Ginsburg is my personal hero. Wouldn't it be great if we had even more Supreme Court justices like her? Hobby Lobby bosses would have been told that women can't be denied birth control coverage. With 7 out of 10 pro-choice Congress members we'd be able to easily confirm Supreme Court nominees who we could count on to protect women's reproductive freedom and not rule to discriminate against women.
  3. The Supreme Court is important, but don't forget about the hundreds of judges who rule every day whether access to safe abortion care remains protected. Last year, we were so happy to hear about a federal judge in Indiana who prevented politicians in the state from withholding Medicaid funds from Planned Parenthood. This decision goes a long way for thousands of women who many otherwise not be able to access health care. With more pro-choice champions in Congress, we could confirm more judges who would rule based on justice, not their personal agendas.
  4. Insurance should cover abortion. Period. That's why we'd fight to ensure that abortion care is covered for women who get their health care from the government. We could roll back bans on abortion care for women in the military, the Peace Corps, federal employees, and even women who live in D.C.
  5. We'd pass the Women's Health Protection Act into law to put a stop to anti-choice states that are closing clinics and making it impossible for some women to access abortion care.
  6. Support legislation that teaches the facts about sex - and how to stay safe and prevent pregnancy - to teens. It's time to put science back into sex education, stop with the shaming, and fund programs that work. With pro-choice elected officials fighting for pro-choice policy change, we could end ineffective, and often inaccurate, abstinence-only programs that do more harm than good for young people.
  7. And of course, we'd have no problem stopping extreme anti-choice measures, like the one that banned abortion coverage in Obamacare.

These victories would just be the beginning.

If we elect a Congress that looks like the rest of America, we'll have champions who will fight for a country where all women can have the freedom to decide their own destinies, including when, how, and with whom to start a family.

Look, this isn't going to be easy, but we can make this dream a reality if the pro-choice majority refuses to stay silent. Join the community of 7 in 10 pro-choice Americans to help us win. And share our graphic on Facebook to help get the word out:

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SCOTUS: Discrimination Against Women Isn't Discrimination

Yesterday, the Supreme Court handed down an alarming and disappointing decision when it ruled that bosses at Hobby Lobby, an arts and crafts store, can deny insurance coverage for birth control to their employees.

Seriously, it's beyond messed up. Why are we still debating birth control when 99 percent of women will use some form of it in their lifetime? In her 35-page dissent, even Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg called the ruling "a decision of startling breadth" and said, "The court, I fear, has ventured into a minefield."

Bosses have no place intruding on their employees' private medical decisions. Imagine if your boss suddenly wanted to deny you essential health care like vaccines or blood transfusions based on their personal beliefs. Offensive much? And the vast majority of Americans agree: more than 70 percent of Americans support insurance coverage for birth control.

We've been working to expose the bosses and politicians who want control over our health-care decisions and lives -- including their hypocrisy. Hobby Lobby's 401(k) plan actually had investments in birth-control manufacturers, and the company has given no sign that it will stop covering vasectomies. Talk about a double standard.

We rallied at the Supreme Court yesterday for birth-control coverage and keeping bosses out of our bedrooms.

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Our president, Ilyse Hogue, appeared on MSNBC's "Now with Alex Wagner" to discuss this horrible ruling for women, she said:

"Make no mistake, what the five male justices did today was to actually say that discrimination against women's health care is not discrimination at all. They took an entire class of Americans, more than half, and said that it is okay for your bosses to know better than you do about what we need to take care of our bodies and ourselves and that is a very dangerous precedent with very powerful forces behind it."

Watch the video below:

What's next for women's access to birth control? We're looking to Congress to fix this decision. We'll be working with our allies to eliminate all discrimination in health-care coverage. Second, voters must make their voices heard come November. We're going to make sure voters know which candidates will stand with women's health over corporate bosses.

If you're as outraged as we are that the Supreme Court ruled in favor of discrimination against women, share our graphic on Facebook and make sure your friends know about this sexist attack on women's health:

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Race to Watch: Maine's 2nd Congressional District

Erika West is the Political Director at NARAL Pro-Choice America.

Right now, we're seeing anti-choice politicians launch some of the worst attacks on our reproductive freedom, including going after women's access to birth control, taking away insurance coverage of abortion and passing regulations that are closing clinics all over the country. If we're going to protect and even expand reproductive freedom, we have to win at the ballot box in November.

That's why we're posting a new blog series called "Races to Watch." We'll highlight competitive races across the country featuring pro-choice and anti-choice candidates. Please check back often for the latest on these key races, and share our posts with pro-choice friends who will support our candidates. When we know the stakes and we vote together, we change the game.


ME_EmilyCain_crop.jpgA couple of weeks ago, we scored a victory for reproductive freedom when NARAL Pro-Choice America PAC-endorsed candidate Emily Cain won in the Democratic primary in Maine's 2nd congressional district. She soundly defeated her anti-choice opponent Troy Jackson with 72 percent of the vote.

Cain's strong pro-choice values make her best positioned to advocate for Maine women and families in Washington and she has a track record that shows we can count on her to get the job done. She's the youngest woman to ever serve as Maine's House Minority Leader and knows the importance of breaking down barriers. Since she was elected to the State House in 2005, Cain has been dedicated to fighting to protect access to reproductive-health care. One of her biggest fights was to preserve funding for women's health care services, including cancer screenings, birth control and STI testing at Planned Parenthood, which benefit 10,000 Maine residents each year.

Cain is no stranger to working to stop anti-choice attacks - which is experience she is going to need when she goes to Washington. In 2011, she spoke out against a bill that would have created an unnecessary waiting period on women seeking abortion services. And at a town hall, Cain called for Maine politicians to stop interfering in reproductive health decisions and said politicians "should not hinder a woman's ability to make important choices about her body and her health."

While we are excited that she won her primary, she now faces anti-choice Bruce Poliquin in November. Poliquin has already been endorsed by the National Right to Life Committee and was endorsed by both the anti-choice Christian Conservation League of Maine and Concerned Women for America in 2012 when he ran for the Senate. Poliquin stated that he believes that, "at conception, a life has begun, and that is a life that should be protected." His anti-choice position was a key factor in his primary win against mixed-choice Kevin Raye. Numerous church leaders rallied their congregations in support of Poliquin and his abortion stance during the primary.

Poliquin's position is clearly out of touch with the values held by the constituents of Maine's 2nd congressional district.

Cain and Poliquin are vying for the open seat created when pro-choice Rep. Michael Michaud announced his run for governor this year. We're lucky to have another pro-choice leader on the ballot to fill his shoes and we need every pro-choice voter engaged in order to win in November. Today, our pro-choice allies in the U.S. House are outnumbered - and with Boehner at the helm, the House has moved bill after bill aimed at making it impossible for women to get the reproductive-health care they need. The people of Maine's 2nd district deserve a pro-choice leader who shares their values and Emily Cain has proven that she can deliver. Now, let's deliver the pro-choice vote in November for Cain and secure another win for reproductive freedom!

Paid for by NARAL Pro-Choice America, www.ProChoiceAmerica.org, and not authorized by any candidate or candidate's committee.

One Year Since Wendy

It's been one year since Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis' historic 13-hour filibuster to stop politicians from pushing through a draconian anti-choice bill during a special legislative session.

Ever since Wendy's epic stand, NARAL Pro-Choice Texas has been working with allies on the ground to make sure women can continue to access abortion and reproductive-health care in the Lone Star state. But the energy we saw in Texas from activists standing up to join Wendy one year ago has spread far beyond Texas.

We've seen pro-choice champions in Congress and state legislatures across the country fight back against anti-choice politicians who will do whatever it takes - even breaking their own rules - to make it next to impossible for women and families to get the health care they need.

Anti-choice Sen. Lindsay Graham tried to use the anniversary of the conviction of the illegal back-alley butcher, Kermit Gosnell, to ramp up support for his national 20-week abortion ban. But Sen. Richard Blumenthal stood up to Sen. Graham and talked about how a ban would endanger women's lives and criminalize doctors.

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Sen. Barbara Boxer joined him and talked about how the bill would drive women to rogue doctors or leave women with no choice by to try to self-abort. (One study in Texas showed that 7 percent of women who seek abortion care have already tried.) Sen. Harry Reid also called out Sen. Graham for using the debate to win votes.

In Michigan, when anti-choice politicians pushed legislation that would require women to buy a separate insurance plan for abortion care, even women who have been raped, state Sen. Gretchen Widmer spoke out and bravely shared her personal story of sexual assault for the very first time in public.

In Oklahoma, Republican state Rep. Doug Cox had it when fellow Republicans tried to ban coverage for emergency contraception for people who rely on Medicaid for their insurance. He bravely wrote an editorial and asked, "What happened to the party that I joined?" When these same politicians tried to push Texas-style restrictions, he condemned them for being "prejudiced against women."

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Pro-choice lawmakers are not just speaking out and refusing to stay silent - they're pushing legislative strategies to expose the true agenda behind the flood of medically unnecessary anti-choice restrictions.

Oklahoma state Rep. Constance Johnson stood up to "personhood" legislation in her state.

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The legislation could ban abortion and common forms of birth control by introducing a measure to ban "non-procreative ejaculation." Constance said:

"As a woman and a 31-year veteran of the legislative process in Oklahoma, I am increasingly offended by state law trends that solely focus on the female's role in the reproductive process. With Oklahoma's new, never-before-experienced Republican majority, we are seeing enactment of more and more measures that adversely affect women and their rights to access safe medical procedures when making reproductive-health care decisions."

Ohio state Sen. Nina Turner introduced legislation to require men to seek counseling before accessing Viagra to expose just how ridiculous it is for anti-choice politicians to assume that women who choose abortion haven't given that decision enough thought.

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But pro-choice elected officials aren't the only people standing up for women's reproductive freedom. Pro-choice activists across the country have taken to the streets and to state capitals in masses to protest legislative attacks.

NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina helps organize rallies for "Moral Monday" to protest the GOP's extreme attacks, including laws to make it harder for people to vote, to weaken environmental protections, to cut funding for health care, and to close all but one of the state's reproductive-health clinics that provides abortion care. Thanks to thousands of progressive North Carolinians coming together week after week for months in different cities across the state, with hundreds arrested, these protests made national headlines.

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In Missouri, pro-choice people organized a 72-hour people's filibuster to protest an extreme anti-choice bill that would require women to wait three days and make multiple visits to the single abortion provider within the state in order to get abortion care.

Not only are our champions exposing hypocrisy and holding anti-choice politicians accountable for restricting women's access to health care, but they're protecting and expanding reproductive freedom. In Congress, they've introduced the Women's Health Protection Act to wipe away all the unnecessary obstacles that are designed to make it impossible for women to get the reproductive health care they need.

When we speak out, our voices become a roar that cannot be ignored. Sen. Wendy Davis showed the nation that there are hundreds of thousands of pro-choice people who won't put up with the anti-choice agenda any longer, and she, along with all of our pro-choice champions, inspired so many people to take a stand for reproductive freedom for the very first time.

How will you use your voice?

Choice Out Loud All-Stars: Sandra Sanchez

Our Choice Out Loud - On Campus representatives have done amazing work to engage the community around the issue of reproductive rights. We asked our graduating class of activists from this academic year to tell us why they decided to become a campus representative, what they accomplished, and what they've learned. Here's the latest post in this series.

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Meet Sandra Sanchez.

What was your major?
I am a Political Science and Women's and Gender Studies double major at the University of Mary Washington in Virginia.

Why is choice important to you?
For me, being pro-choice is simply the idea that women have the right to choose and have control of their bodies and their sex lives. Being pro-choice is the belief that women have the right to have a child, to give up her child in an adoption, to have an abortion, or any other choice about her body. Also, an important part of being pro-choice is that it encompasses all of reproductive rights. This includes contraception, sex education, advocacy for sexual assault victims, and of course, choices made during the pregnancy. As human beings and as American citizens, rights are afforded to us that allow us to be free thinking, free living individuals - choice, in any way, but especially in a reproductive standpoint, fits in with all those values.

How did you get involved in the pro-choice movement? Do you intend to stay involved after you graduate?
I interned with NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia in the Spring of 2013 as their Advocacy and Communications Intern. After that, I became the campus representative for the University of Mary Washington. Working for NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia got me to get heavily involved in the pro-choice movement, but, prior to that, I had attended various rallies and worked on pro-choice activities on UMW's campus, such as the Wear White for Women's Rights event. After I graduate, I plan on staying involved in the movement, although my current job is not in the realm of reproductive rights or even politics, I still plan on volunteering and spreading the word on what's going on.

What was your favorite event that you planned as a Campus Representative? My favorite event was when we held the 12th & Delaware documentary showing on campus! I had a good group of students that were engaged and interested in the documentary and afterwards the discussion that was facilitated was productive. After that event, many of the attendees wanted to work further to stop CPCs.

What is/are the greatest skill or skills that you've learned from being a Campus Representative?
The biggest skill I gained was engaging students and opening a dialogue. Especially since I am very passionate about reproductive rights, I wanted to really engage students so they could be just as passionate and potentially make a change. Engaging students and opening dialogue helped me not only as a campus rep but also in my current job where I'm engaging with clients about my company's product. I honestly believe that if you educate people then those lessons stick to them. It doesn't help to merely yell about being pro-choice, it's also important to engage people, to explain why this position is the right thing for society and for women.

What is your earliest memory of interacting with NARAL Pro-Choice America?
My earliest memory of interacting with NARAL Pro-Choice America was going to a women's rights rally my sophomore year of high school. To be honest, I went on a whim! I had a friend who lived in Richmond and she asked if I wanted to go to a rally that was against VA's TRAP bill, and I went. After that I just wanted to keep going to rallies, so, for the next one I went to, I spray-painted a sign that said "End the War on Women," and I was wearing a shirt I made. Then, a few months later, I was on the NARAL website!

Out of all the different ways to engage with this issue, why did you choose to engage with NARAL Pro-Choice America?
As a political science major, I think people getting together and protesting, rallying, and making noise are the best ways to make change. I wanted to engage with a group that did those things. I also think that NARAL Pro-Choice America does a good job of providing information about the issue and raising awareness. They have such a loyal volunteer base, and I really loved that about them.

What are your future plans?
After school, I actually got a job with a digital advertising start-up company. I will, of course, continue to spread the message of choice. I would like to eventually go back and get my masters and maybe a Ph.D! Who knows? The world is full of choices and I plan on keeping it that way!

Why Everyone Needs to See the Pro-Choice Film Obvious Child

The amazing pro-choice comedy Obvious Child hit select theaters across the country and will open nationwide on June 27.

Seriously, go see this movie. I was lucky to see it in an advanced screening and was blown away. It was hilarious, heartwarming, and, most importantly, it was honest in its portrayal of abortion care.

So, why am I personally thrilled to see a movie tackle a woman's unintended pregnancy and decision to have an abortion with respect and humor?

There are plenty of movies, like Juno and Knocked Up, that share stories of women who face an unintended pregnancy. In these films, the option to choose abortion is either glossed over or talked about as something dirty or a decision to be ashamed of. When we watch story lines that depict abortion negatively, they feed into a culture that teaches women that it's not okay to talk about abortion and that having an abortion makes you a bad person.

Obvious Child is unlike any film I've seen before about young people like me and our real-life experiences. To see a main character choose abortion and be happy and content with her decision to do so is pretty awesome. When I watched Obvious Child I could immediately relate and laugh about some of the real conversations about relationships, sex, and our bodies that I've had with my friends, and I loved the courage Jenny Slate's character showed when she made the best decision that was best for her. It was refreshing to finally see a complex female character deal with issues that are rarely shown on screen. I could also relate to the fear of sharing something so personal and being pleasantly surprised by the outpouring of support from friends and family when you didn't know if they'd have your back.

The movie also debunks some of the most common myths about abortion and the women who have them.

It's kind of amazing when you think about how unique Obvious Child is - because it shouldn't be unique at all. One in three women has an abortion in her lifetime and research shows that the majority of those women - 95 percent - feel relieved and like they made the right decision afterwards. Shouldn't the majority of stories about abortion and unplanned pregnancy in pop culture reflect this breakdown? It's troubling and hugely problematic that we're afraid or made to feel ashamed to talk about our real experiences because Hollywood isn't getting this issue right.

But based on the numbers, maybe Obvious Child can convince filmmakers to treat these topics in a more honest way. So far, Obvious Child has the best per-screen ticket sales of the summer independent releases. These numbers show that there's no monetary excuse not to change the way stories about abortion are told in movies. People will show up to watch movies about real women and their experiences.

It's important that we help build momentum for Obvious Child. That's why we teamed up with Cosmopolitan to host a screening of it that featured a panel discussion moderated by our president Ilyse Hogue. Director Gillian Robespierre, lead actress Jenny Slate, producer Elisabeth Holm and editor of Cosmopolitan Amy Odell joined her to talk about why honest stories of abortion and women's lives are essential to breaking down stigma and uniting women in their shared experiences.


Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.

Hopefully, Obvious Child will make filmmakers and members of the media think twice before they pedal more negative stereotypes about abortion. And maybe we'll even start to see more plot lines that accurately portray a woman's decision to choose abortion with honesty and empathy.

Check out the trailer below for Obvious Child and see it in theaters starting today!

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