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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Self-Help: Key to Understanding the Changes Our Bodies Go Through During Pregnancy

Excerpt from Chapter 1 of Woman-Centered Pregnancy and Birth by Ginny Cassidy-Brinn, R.N., Francie Hornstein, and Carol Downer
Federation of Feminist Women's Health Centers
Illustrations by Suzann Gage

Limited USED copies available online -
Now Available in its ENTIRETY online

To actually see your cervix and the opening to the uterus-the opening that will dilate to allow the baby's head to come out-can be one of the most exciting moments in your pregnancy. Suddenly, all of the diagrams and drawings that you have been looking at to try to understand what is happening, make perfect sense. And, just as when a woman is not pregnant, being able to look at the cervix makes it easier to ward off or alleviate common problems such as vaginal infections or urinary tract infections.

It is not essential to do vaginal self-examination in order to understand the processes of pregnancy and birth or in order to stay healthy. Any woman can carry out all of the suggestions in this book without ever seeing her cervix. Self-examination of the vagina and cervix using a plastic vaginal speculum is, however, very simple to learn, requires a minimum of equipment and is a common-sense health routine equivalent to standing in front of a mirror, opening your mouth and saying, "Ah."

Self-examination can be done by yourself or in a self-help group. The Self-Help Clinic started out in April, 1971, as a type of consciousness-raising group. The Self-Help Clinic is a meeting where women learn to do self-examination of the vagina, the cervix and discuss their health experiences. Depending on the age, sexual orientation, and wishes of the participants, the topic may be birth control, menopause, sexuality, childbirth, vaginal infections or feelings about our bodies.

The equipment needed for self-examination is a vaginal speculum, a light and mirror. Most women prefer a semi-sitting position on a bed, table or the floor, usually with a pillow behind them. Water soluble jelly can be used to moisten the bills of the speculum. The speculum is inserted with the bills closed, handle up. Many women are pleasantly surprised to find that, since they are in control, the procedure is not painful. You open the speculum by pushing down the front of the handle while simultaneously pulling up on the back. As the speculum opens, you will hear three clicks. You can lock the speculum into place at whichever notch is comfortable. Speculum's come in three sizes, narrow, medium and long. Most women use a medium. Many women who usually used a narrow speculum found it was easier to insert a medium size speculum during pregnancy. Many women have noticed that their cervixes moved further back in the vagina during pregnancy and found it necessary to switch from their usual medium size speculum to a long one.

The light, generally a flashlight or a high-intensity lamp, is reflected off the mirror so that the vaginal walls and cervix are illuminated. Magnifying mirrors can help you to see details.

Often, women need several attempts to bring the cervix into view. But, with practice it becomes much easier. No one who has tried persistently has failed to use the speculum successfully. As your abdomen gets larger with pregnancy it becomes more difficult to see your cervix. By lying flat, self-examination can be made easier with the help of one other person holding a large mirror over your cervix. As pregnancy progresses, the cervix grows along with the rest of the uterus. Some women's cervices get so large that it is possible to see only a portion of the cervix at any one time. By pointing the speculum in different directions, you can eventually see the entire cervix.

You can safely do vaginal self-examination throughout pregnancy as long as the bag of waters hasn't broken and you are having no signs of miscarriage. These guidelines are the same as the guidelines for deciding when it is safe to have coitus (see p. 61)

Two customs are observed in the Self-Help Clinic. A woman does self-examination if and when she feels comfortable doing so, and she gets to look at her cervix fist. Many women want to do self-examination at the first meeting; others take their speculum's home to have their first look in privacy. Initially, a woman may feel reluctant to do self-examination if she is menstruating of has a bad-smelling vaginal infection. When she finds out that the other women are eager to learn about menstruation or vaginal infections, she is generally happy to give them a chance to learn. Embarrassment is replaced by curiosity; some have called it "show and tell time."

The distinctive sounds of a Self-Help Clinic are the clicking of speculums, the buzzing of several conversations and intermittent choruses of laughter. An air of discovery and adventure exhilarate most women in the Self-Help Clinic.

Another important part of the Self-Help Clinic is the uterine size check. A member of the group can feel your uterus by inserting two fingers of a gloved hand into the vagina pressing with the flat of the fingers of the other hand just above the pubic mound. After the first three months of pregnancy it is not necessary to insert the fingers into the vagina. While lying flat, the uterus can be felt by pressing down under the ribs, with the flat of the fingers, and gradually moving the fingers down toward the pelvis until a hard muscular ball is felt. This is the top of the uterus which get approximately one inch higher per month during pregnancy. The purpose of the uterine size check is to learn the size, shape and position of the uterus. Its growth can be recorded by periodically measuring the distance from the top of the uterus to the pubic bone with a tape measure laid flat on the uterus. A uterine size check can also be done to see if the uterus is larger or softer than usual, indicating pregnancy.

At the first Self-Help Clinic we learned to do self-examination of the cervix and vagina. As woman after woman inserted her speculum, looked at her cervix, then passed around the flashlight so that others could look, we exclaimed over the different characteristics of each women. It soon became obvious that the so-called "disease" of yeast overgrowth is a common and generally harmless condition. In an era of tight jeans, nylon pantyhose, the Pill, and high sugar diets, we have varying amounts of yeast in our vaginas. We were struck by the absurdity of having made numerous trips to the doctor to deal with this everyday common problem. All but one of us had "tipped uterus," which merely means that is was angled wither toward the back or front instead of the classic, textbook angle. One women recalled that her doctor said her tipped uterus accounted for her problems in getting pregnant. Another said that her doctor had blamed her tipped uterus for her many pregnancies. Just by talking to each other and comparing notes, we could see how we had been made to feel like there was something wrong when, in fact, we were quite healthy.

That very first evening of self-help, like all those that have followed, liberated us from many of the myths and notions that had driven us to the gynecologist. We found that irregular menstrual cycles are not uncommon; very few of us fit the 28-day cycle model. Our normal secretions varied throughout our cycle, becoming very heavy around the time of ovulation. This "discharge" had caused many of us great concern.

Menstrual Extraction is an early accomplishment of the Self-Help movement. Lorraine Rothman invented the Del-Em, a device used by groups of women to suction out the uterine contents on or near to the time of the expected menstrual period. This technique, which shortens the menstrual period, lightens the flow, or terminates an early pregnancy, has been used by women for ten years with outstanding safety and success. If this technology were widely available to women, the dark ages of state control of women's reproduction would be over. We would cease to worry about what the predominately male Supreme Court or legislature dictate.

The concepts of Self-Help have had a tremendous impact on the women's health movement. Lorraine Rothman and Carol Downer, members of the first Self-Help Clinic, travelled around the country in the fall of 1971, visiting women's groups to lecture on abortion and to hold Self-Help Clinics. Many women's health groups had reached an impasse at that time. They were counseling and referring women to abortion facilities on the East and West coasts and they had read Women and Their Bodies, the predecessor to Our Bodies, Ourselves. But they felt unable to proceed further due to lack of funds and the lack of cooperation of the medical profession in their communities. Self-Help gave them the ability to directly learn well-woman health care. They were able to do independent research, to compile information and finally, to set up women-controlled clinics.

The women in a Self-Help group in Santa Cruz, California taught themselves to be midwives and later formed the United States' first birth center, the Santa Cruz Birth Center. The concept of a community center where women having home births could come for prenatal care and meet other pregnant women has since become very popular. One of the midwives in this group, Raven Lang, wrote the first and for several years the only book on home birth, The Birth Book. This book inspired many mothers to have home births and many women to become midwives.

Woman-Centered Pregnancy and Birth focuses on information that enables you to make important decisions about your pregnancy and birth. Learning self-examination is an important first step, and a self-help group is the best setting in which to learn it.

You can order a plastic speculum from the Feminist Women's Health Center or the Women's Health Specialists

Also, visit "Our Anatomy" webpage for further information.

Limited USED copies of Woman-Centered Pregnancy and Birth, available online -
Now Available in its ENTIRETY online

Woman-Centered Pregnancy and Birth published in 1984 - we encourage comments, insights and suggestions; please write

Monday, October 10, 2011

No Stopping: From Pom-Poms to Saving Women's Bodies

By Carol Downer

[Originally published in On The Issues Magazine]

In the 1970s, I got involved in the women's self-help movement in California, traveling the countryside to introduce women to vaginal self-examination and pioneering the use of menstrual extraction. I got there, and from there to here, because one action simply led to the next. And to the next. And the next. In fact, my own progression seems to have been to "Think Locally, Act Globally" – exactly the opposite of the popular activist slogan.

I have always been an active participator. I marched and waved pom-poms on the drill team in high school. I led a Girl Scout troop when my daughters were in elementary school in the late 50s and 60s. But my activities gradually changed from "brightening the corner where you are" to humanitarian, such as volunteering as a leader in a girl's club at a high school in a poor neighborhood in the mid-60s. Then I became involved in electoral-type activities through MAPA (Mexican-American Political Association), as did my Chicano husband.

My involvement mirrored the turbulent times. Everyone was getting more politically aware. I helped write a throwaway paper with other activists who were against U.S. military involvement in the Southeast; I headed a committee to recall the local councilman who was pushing an urban renewal program that would kick old people out of their homes, and my circle of mothers in my neighborhood enlarged to include activists in the northeast part of Los Angeles. When the "Watts riot" exploded in south central Los Angeles, I learned to call it "the Watts rebellion." Then, in 1969, along with thousands of others, I marched with my husband and my 16-year-old daughter, Laura Brown, in the Chicano Moratorium. At the march's end, we sat on the grass lawn of Laguna Park and listened to music and speakers until all of us were attacked by hundreds of Los Angeles sheriffs, clad in riot gear, who came across the field swinging billy clubs and shooting tear gas canisters.

With my moratorium experience, I "graduated" from the naive white liberal school. I saw the faces of my oppressors through their plexiglas masks. Afterward, when I complained loudly to one of my friends in Eagle Rock, the white working-class area where we lived, she asked me, "What were you doing there?" My disillusionment with community volunteer activities and electoral level projects was complete.

Stepping Into A New Women's Movement

I started my "post-graduate" work.

I answered the widely publicized call to work for women's rights and specifically abortion rights. In 1969, I attended a National Organization for Women (NOW) meeting. I had little in common with most of the members, white career women who apparently had not had the radicalizing experiences that I had. I was invited to join a committee. I had had an illegal abortion, so I joined the Abortion Committee, headed up by Lana Clark Phelan.

Lana, along with Patricia Maginnis, wrote The Abortion Handbook. I understudied her for a few months. Listening to Lana's devastatingly sarcastic speeches and reading her book demystified abortion laws for me. I learned that abortion had never been criminalized until the rise of the modern, industrialized nation-state. In nineteenth century France, women had figured out how to block the sperm and the egg, and the birth rate was declining. Napoleon Bonaparte needed more Frenchmen to serve as soldiers to fight wars of conquest for the French Empire; therefore, abortion was outlawed.

French peasants were encouraged in every way possible to have as many children as they could. The French peasant father received tax incentives, forms of "social security" to be paid in his old age and increased personal status based on the number of children he had sired. Under the "Code Napoleon," the status of women sank to an all-time low. French women were given in marriage at the earliest possible age. Young women were to be kept pregnant and at home for their own "fulfillment" as women.

Our three-woman committee -- Lana, Mary Petrinovich and me -- was small, but in 1969 and early 1970s, we were in demand. Progressive people wanted to hear about abortion reform and the need to end the estimated 5,000 deaths each year from illegal abortion. Mary traveled in from Riverside to bring women to an illegal clinic on Santa Monica Boulevard, and she introduced me to the abortionist, Harvey Karman, who was posing as a doctor and had been arrested for performing abortions, along with Dr. John Gwynne. Several demonstrations were held to support him and other Northern California doctors who had been arrested. Under the auspices of our committee, I organized a demonstration at Hancock Park of 500 people, the largest abortion demonstration in Los Angeles at that time.

A small, very loosely organized group of women coalesced around Karman's defense and some volunteered at his notorious clinic, which was under constant police surveillance. In the estimation of some of us, both Karman and Gwynne were "male chauvinist pigs." Also, we had a growing suspicion that we could learn how to do the abortions. Karman used an early abortion device that he claimed to have invented which suctioned the contents of the uterus out without the use of metal instruments to scrape its walls. He called it a "non-traumatic" abortion.

Mary invited me to visit the clinic. I accompanied her into the very small procedure room where Karman was inserting an IUD in a woman's uterus. I found myself looking into the woman's vagina, which was held open by a plastic speculum, and I saw her beautiful pink cervix, the opening to the uterus, which was well lit by the gooseneck lamp.

Following the Path of the Cervix

I was transfixed, looking at her rosy, knob-like cervix with a tiny opening. I thought of Lana's brilliant political analysis and I felt the frustration of our century-long suffering from these unjust laws. I had six children at this time, and I had never looked carefully at my genitals (except to look at my raw, bleeding episiotomy incision in the hospital to see where all that pain was coming from). I marveled at how close the cervix is; how simple it is and how accessible it is with the use of an inexpensive, plastic speculum.

A few weeks later, in April 1971, our small group called a meeting at a local women's bookstore, where we showed women the hand-held device that Karman used, and then we demonstrated vaginal self-exam. The women's skepticism about our learning to do abortion vanished upon seeing my cervix, and by the end of the meeting, we had seen several cervixes and had plans to learn to provide abortions underground. We held weekly "Self-Help Clinics" at the Los Angeles Women's Center. Lorraine Rothman was part of that group and she invented a modification of Karman's device, which we used in minimally-trained women's self-help groups to extract our menstrual periods, whether they were on time or late. We traveled up the West Coast and then across the country, demonstrating vaginal self-exam and talking about menstrual extraction, attracting many women to come to L.A. to work with us.

Our plans to open an illegal clinic were shelved because legal abortion was becoming available in Los Angeles just at that time. We believed that it was more important for us to give women the encouragement and the tools to learn about their bodies so that we would cease to be at the mercy of those who wanted to control us, whether to outlaw abortion or to manipulate birthing American women to consent to c-sections. And, we started WARS, a women's abortion referral service, where we counseled and physically examined women at the Women's Center and then accompanied them to the hospital for their abortion.

Our self-help movement grew; we wrote books, set up clinics around the nation after Roe v. Wade and we traveled to Europe, Canada, New Zealand and Mexico, among other places. Many of us became health professionals in traditional and alternative medical practices (and my marching daughter, Laura, began in self-help and then started the Oakland Women's Choice Clinic.) We attended national and international conferences. I witnessed the efforts of the anti-natalists who force birth control on women and want to limit the number of babies they have, such as in China. And I witnessed the pro-natalists, who want to force women to have more babies, such as the Catholic Church, but are also bankrolled by reactionary wealthy upper class people. I knew activism was needed to stop these forces, as well.

My actions have been rooted in my personal experiences, but as I expanded my worldview and became exposed to other ways of thinking and doing things, I was able to take new actions and develop new solutions, too. This is the power of activism on women's rights – constantly learning, constantly growing and constantly pushing the boundaries of activism in new and creative ways. I think I'll continue to be busy for many years to come.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Ina May Gaskin, US Midwife, founder of “The Farm” receives “Right Livelihood Award” for 2011

By Carol Downer


Everyone in the “natural childbirth” movement celebrates this award. The Swedish charity is giving formal recognition to the fact that birthing women in the U.S., their babies and their families face an urgent threat to their safety and their ability to have home birth or birth center without the social isolation and medical interference that comes with hospital birth.

The “natural childbirth movement” has been seeking to restore access to midwives and home birth for over a half-century, but its struggles and accomplishments are usually not publicized beyond its immediate circles, except for an occasional newspaper article that as a thinly disguised promotion of hospital birth which contains alarming quotes about the dangers of home birth.

Almost 40 years ago, Gaskin founded the Farm Midwifery Center, an intentional community in Tennessee, to take childbirth out of the firm grasp of the medical profession who have medicalized this normal physiological function. She joined a small but growing number of parents that were seeking “natural childbirth” and lay midwives that were risking arrest (or were actually arrested) for assisting women who gave birth at home.

At the time Gaskin founded The Farm, virtually all births in the U.S. took place in hospitals where birthing women were kept in isolation from their families, drugged and cut. With the invention of the fetal heart monitor, in which an electrode is placed in the fetus’ scalp, cesarean rates rose from 5% to 15% in most hospitals, because in its experimental stages, no one yet knew the significance of every blip on the screen, and so a cesarean was performed whenever anything unusual was seen, because no doctor wanted to risk a malpractice suit for ignoring an unusual blip that might indicate a serious complication.

Due to Gaskins’ and others’ pioneering work, today most states offer some form of licensure for midwives and highly motivated and well-situated parents are able to seek out and obtain the services of a midwife for their home, or birth center birth.

Sadly, the rate progress of the natural childbirth movement has been outspaced by that of the medical profession. Today, physicians (with the assistance of hospital certified nurse midwives which they control) routinely use drugs and surgery in a hospital setting. Over a third of babies are now delivered by cesarean section in the United States.

Perhaps the awarding of this well-deserved honor will highlight the need for all of us who see a U.S. woman’s right to have a un-interfered-with natural birth in a home or birth center setting as foundational to all other women’s rights, including other sexual and reproductive rights such as access to birth control and abortion.

Read Seven Stories Press Release

Read about leading organizations for Midwives
- Midwives Alliance of North America (MANA)
- Midwifery Education and Accreditation Council (MEAC)
- North American Registry of Midwives (NARM)
- The Big Push for Midwives

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

39th Anniversary of Gynecology Self-Help Clinics and women controlled health projects

Message from Cathy Courtney: Greetings, thirty-nine years ago, I traveled to Iowa with an amazing group of women from CMU to attend the first women's self help conference. I was never quite the same after learning what I learned and meeting the women who gathered.

Some of us who attended this conference and/or became involved in the self help women's health movement, Our Bodies Ourselves study groups & related activities are gathering at my home (Detroit area) on Sunday, October 2, 2011 to share stories and break bread together. Please feel free to join us. We are especially hopeful that we will have women of all ages gather, those who were involved in this movement and those who weren't even born yet!!! A full spectrum of young and old! Please spread the word to women who might be interested in the US midwest. Housing available overnite :)

Invitation for a Gathering of Women to honor, celebrate and share stories about the early days of the 1970’s women’s health movement. Come celebrate the 39th Anniversary of Gynecology Self-Help Clinics and women controlled health projects. Hear about the first national conferences some of us attended in 1972 and 1974 in Iowa. The 40th anniversary year of Our Bodies Ourselves! Hear about how life changing it was for so many!

Herstoric gathering~ discussion~ reflection~projection: When did you participate in your first GynSelf-Help Clinic? When did you first read the OBOS? How did the feminist health movement influence your health, your life? How are you connected to current struggles for autonomy, health, single payer nat'l health plan, other health related projects & economic justice?

Share food & beverage, materials, photos, GynSHC slide show (courtesy of Chico Feminist Women's Health Center & Ginny Cassidy-Brinn), film, fun & the personal as political self-help stories...

Contact Host- Janice Fialka for more information at or Cathy Courtney at RSVP appreciated so we can plan for dinner. Look forward to seeing you!

Friday, August 26, 2011

RESPONSE TO CONCERNED MOMMA-TO-BE - RE: Letter to accompany LA Times’ article re Katie McCall’s conviction

Email to Carol Downer and
Response from Carol Downer

Email from happymomma22:
Hi Carol,

I stumbled upon your blog site as I was researching my home birthing options in Los Angeles and was shocked and OUTRAGED to read your most recent posting about Katie McCall! My first instincts were to post but due to the sensitivity of the topic I thought it would be best to reach out to you. I am not an attorney nor a doctor. So please excuse any misused terminology.

You stated "The L.A. Times’ article states that both mother and baby are fine and that Katie McCall is now licensed as a midwife, therefore I fail to see the purpose behind this prosecution. "WOW! What a statement, especially from an attorney. At the time of the birth, the STUDENT midwife was NOT licensed, it doesn't matter what she is today.

"McCall assured the woman that she would contact a licensed midwife to supervise her when it came time for delivery, as required by state law." Need anyone say more? She knowingly broke the law. She knew the terms of her "training." The mother labored for hours and not once did the STUDENT attempt to call anyone else or re-suggest to the the mom to be that she's putting her and her baby at risk because she's not medically licensed. I understand a women's choice to chose but since when do patients education trump the education of a medical professional or in this case a NON licensed professional?

"In fact, since the shoulder getting “stuck” during birth constitutes one of the rare situations where expert assistance or technology are vital, it seems possible that McCall may have performed a tremendous service." Exactly, expert assistance, McCall was far from an expert; I highly doubt anyone would share these sentiments if we were reading about a death of mother and baby. Wouldn't McCall carrying/administering pitocin and stitches as a non licensed midwife illegal too? This case reeks of non professional/reckless behavior on the part of the STUDENT midwife. What she did was a huge dis-service to the midwifery professional and reputation. She behaved exactly as the stereotypical law breaking student midwife. We live in a county where laws are made to protect the innocent, McCall is far from innocent or protecting the public. She just happened to be LUCKY. NOTHING ELSE. Perhaps next time everyone would prefer to be reading manslaughter chargers.

"In my opinion, understanding these prosecutions can only be approached from a political perspective. The male-dominated medical profession has waged a relentless battle against midwives, ever since doctors have served the general public, not just wives of royalty and the wealthy elite, and presently midwives in the United States delivery only a small percentage of babies." Oh my goodness! She was put on trial by her peers and was given a fair trial - California's Operation Safe Medicine is comprised of MDs, Phds, LMs and JDs. She broke a law and we're not talking jwalking. "These" prosecutions are not political, they are a matter of public safety. If an attorney practices without a license there are consequences; the same for doctors who practice without a state license. If midwives want to be considered equals in the medical/professional community then they need to stop acting like idiots doing what they please and follow the laws that were put in place for this branch of medicine to survive and thrive. McCall put midwives two steps backwards in California. This has nothing to do with a witch hunt by other midwives, birthing community or "the male dominated" medical profession. If McCall was a man, the outcome would still be the same, guilty.

Unfortunately, there really is no organized, political effort to promote midwifery, doulas and to educate the public about the dangers of current obstetrical practices. The CDC is calling forth more midwives and Naturopathic Doctors, The AMA is publishing articles that home birthing is up by 20%, the UN is calling for breast feeding to be taught in the hospitals....Rome was not built in a day and you can't expect midwives to be received with credibility when they do things like break the law.

Again, I am a home birth advocate when done properly and legally. Please note that The Sanctuary, the birthing centre where Ms. McCall practiced which also houses an MD that has been sanctioned by the Medical Board until 2012 for having sex with his patient less than a week after removing a tumor after he medically advised her no sex for several weeks. Seems like the moral compass for these home birth professionals do not exist. Birds of a feather flock together I guess. Again, I am a feminist at heart and fight for women's right but I am not going to fight for someone that puts any women or baby's life at risk and puts me two steps back from my male counterparts.

You also mentioned that this case was on a gag order. You should look on line under CourtUpdates on Facebook and you will see Katie McCall as an administrator of a closed group that informs other midwives, doulas and other birthing professionals of the on goings of the trial. This woman is wreckless!!!! You out of all people should understand that all those people in that courthouse and in the group should be held in contempt of court for talking about the case with each other and the birthing community via Facebook, regardless of guilty verdict.

Would love to hear from you.
Concerned Momma to Be

Response from Carol Downer
Hi: I was happy to get your letter in which you expressed shock and outrage at the comments I made about the trial and conviction of Katie McCall for practicing medicine without a license. I hope that your letter and my response is the start of a dialogue around the vital issue of how best to safeguard the health and well-being of babies and moms.

First, I want to make some general comments about how the law works and what I read in the paper and about people’s behavior at the trial that I observed.

Since I still have not learned the specifics of McCall’s behavior (are you saying that she administered pitocin or stitched the mother up?), I accepted the LA Times’ statement that the mother and baby were both recovered. As a practicing attorney, I know that the District Attorney has “prosecutorial discretion”. The public expects him to weigh the various factors in each case, such as whether the alleged illegal behavior resulted in physical harm, to reach a decision.

I also know that to convict someone of a crime (not just an infraction), the prosecutor has to show not just that someone did a certain thing, but also that they had a bad intent, or at least were reckless. The LA Times summary gives no facts which indicate McCall set out to deceive or that she showed no concern for the mother’s and baby’s well-being.

I was informed by others attending the trial that the Judge had ordered McCall to shut down her website, and the supporters were hesitant to fill me in on what was happening. They showed me a copy of the judge’s order that forbade observers to even express warmth or encouragement to the defendant. Regarding your statement about McCall statement on CourtUpdates on Facebook, how does that lead you to think that they were discussing the ongoings of the trial?

Second, you believe that laws are made to protect the innocent, and that the prosecution of Katie McCall was a matter of public safety. My view is that laws come about for a variety of reasons, but licensure laws are put there to protect the certain interest of certain professional groups as well as an unwary public, and may or may not involve public safety. Since McCall went on to become a licensed midwife (a fact that the jury was not aware of), how did McCall’s prosecution increase public safety?

I stand by my statement that there is no organized political effort to promote midwifery, doulas and to educate the public about the dangers of current obstetrical practices. Perhaps the CDC is calling for more midwives, but they are not lobbying to create more schools of midwifery or developing programs to educate more midwives, and CDC has no influence whatsoever on the various state legislators to implement legislation to fund and train midwives.

If you are a home birth advocate, I would be interested in working with you on ideas on how to stir up some real political support. C-section rates are skyrocketing and U.S. maternal and morbidity rates are abysmally high.

I hope to hear from you soon.

Carol Downer

Friday, August 19, 2011

Letter to accompany LA Times’ article re Katie McCall’s conviction

By Carol Downer

I stumbled upon Katie McCall’s trial by accident. I was in the County Courthouse when Rebecca Pridiletto passed me in the hall and she told me about it. The trial was almost over, and I wasn’t able to hear the proceedings, so I wasn’t able to find out the bare facts until I read the L.A. Times’ article. There were about 20 women, mostly friends, family and fellow church members in attendance. When I asked where I could obtain more information about the trial, I was told that the Judge had forbidden any publicity, making Katie take down her website and had forbidden those in attendance from discussing what they observed in the courtroom with each other or anyone else.

I do not practice criminal law, so I had to do some quick legal research into “gag orders” and found that in California, they are disfavored and only issued when there are strong reasons why publicity would be harmful to the defendant getting a fair trial. There has to be notice, and the parties have a chance to oppose any motion for such a gag order. I do not know what happened in this case.

The L.A. Times’ article states that both mother and baby are fine and that Katie McCall is now licensed as a midwife, therefore I fail to see the purpose behind this prosecution. In fact, since the shoulder getting “stuck” during birth constitutes one of the rare situations where expert assistance or technology are vital, it seems possible that McCall may have performed a tremendous service.

In my opinion, understanding these prosecutions can only be approached from a political perspective. The male-dominated medical profession has waged a relentless battle against midwives, ever since doctors have served the general public, not just wives of royalty and the wealthy elite, and presently midwives in the United States delivery only a small percentage of babies.

Has this takeover benefitted women? Generally, I think not. Depending on local economic and cultural conditions, midwives have either been experienced women who shared a common lore regarding childbirth practices and provided birthing women with a high quality of services, or they sometimes were simply older women who supplemented their incomes by bringing their help and experience to birthing women, and their expertise was questionable. When doctors took over, sometimes the care women received was improved, but many, many times, it was not, and sometimes it was disastrous. Today, we see childbirth turned into a medicalized event, replete with drugs, surgery and isolation from loved ones and community.

Unfortunately, there really is no organized, political effort to promote midwifery, doulas and to educate the public about the dangers of current obstetrical practices. Midwifery is an old and honorable profession; not a social or political movement. In contrast, the medical profession is extremely well organized with it “code of silence”, and its paid lobbyists. They have used mystification of the birth process and parents’ fear of pain and death to convince the public that birth is a medical event and should only take place in a hospital, and they have used their money and political influence to get laws passed in every state to maintain their stranglehold on the “business” of childbirth.

As I find out more about this case, I will keep you posted.

LA Times article hyperlink -

Thursday, July 7, 2011

My Abortion. My Life. Conversation Night

My Abortion. My Life. Conversation Night
May 26, 2011

We want to share reports of My Abortion. My Life.'s successful Conversation Night as an inspirational tool to hopefully aid in developing your own speakout.

The website, My Abortion. My Life. is a public awareness campaign in Cleveland, Ohio - sponsored by Preterm, They seek to end the silence and shame surrounding abortion by creating a new and positive conversation about abortion in the lives of American women.

According to My Abortion. My Life.’s Facebook and Website, on May 26, 2011 My Abortion. My Life. held a Conversation Night at the B-Side Lounge in Cleveland Heights, which was attended by close to 100 people.

One of the organizers, Linda Jane, Director of Development and Communication of Preterm in Cleveland, told us the lounge was installed with 20 of Heather Ault's posters. Candles, flowers, food, and abortion songs added to the decor. Huge panels of paper hung for people to write on. “Several women came up to tell their stories. Many of the stories were funny. A mother and daughter talked about their mother’s abortion. Two women told their stories of serial abortions and the feelings involved. There was also a photo booth where women could have their pictures taken holding signs that said, ‘Abortion Saved My _____.’ They filled in the blank. “

Their website explains that My Abortion. My Life. “wants to promote a new dialogue, one that shifts the conversation from the rhetorical to the experiential, from the language of politics to the language of real women and men. Only through sharing our truths about abortion can we truly support women’s full range of reproductive options."

And Women's Health in Women's Hands fully agrees!

Please get in contact with us and let’s work to de-stigmatize abortion.

My Abortion. My Life. -
Women’s Health in Women’s Hands -

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Self-Help for Sex


What would happen if groups of laypeople examined each other's bodies and talked about their health-related experiences? What if they were all women and the part of the body they were examining was their genitals? Shocking? Dangerous? Frivolous? Or a totally new approach to the understanding of female sexuality and reproduction?

In 1971 in Los Angeles, several women, in turn, removed their pants, lay down and inserted a plastic vaginal speculum, looked at themselves with a mirror, and then allowed others in the group to look at their vaginal walls and uterine cervices using a flashlight. Throughout the evening, they freely shared experiences with one another. This type of session, which we named the self-help clinic, has been repeated by many groups of women throughout the United States and abroad. Meetings like this continued and, in the next few years, became the basis for the Federation of Feminist Women's Health Centers, which includes centers in Los Angeles, Orange County, San Diego, and Chico, California, and in Atlanta, Georgia, and Tallahassee, Florida.

By breaking the societal taboo of letting our genitals be viewed outside a medical or sexual setting, we have been able to let the feelings of shame (Greek for the genital area is pudendum, meaning "shame") fall away and to learn directly about our own bodies.

Since 1971, through participating in self-help clinics, writing and distributing health pamphlets and books, and establishing feminist women's health centers and women's clinics, self-helpers have amassed a new body of knowledge about the healthy functioning of woman's body, including improved fertility-detection methods, new and safer birth-control methods, natural home remedies for common problems of well women, and healthy alternatives to estrogen-replacement therapy in menopause.

The women's health movement, for which the self-help clinic is the training ground, has exposed many medical myths perpetrated by male physicians whose only knowledge of women's bodies is derived from medical textbooks, their clinical practices, or personal sexual contact. But of all aspects of women's health, certainly women's sexuality has been the most neglected and misunderstood by the male dominated medical profession and the related fields of psychotherapy and psychology. Despite some substantial contributions made by William Masters and Virginia Johnson and by Mary Jane Sherfey, whose book, The Nature and Evolution of Female Sexuality (1972), is based largely upon Masters and Johnson's work, the first reliable glimpse of women's sexuality in today's society has come from Shere Hit. In the Hite Report (1976), which consists of over 1000 responses to a lengthy questionnaire, Hite argued persuasively that women are "sexual slaves," habitually satisfying men's needs during sex and ignoring their own:

The fact is that the role of women in sex, as in every aspect of life, has been to serve the needs of others-men and children. And just as women did not recognize their oppression in a general sense until recently, just so sexual slavery has been an almost unconscious way of life for most women-based on what was said to be an eternally unchanging biological impulse. . . . Women are sexual slaves insofar as they are (justifiably) afraid to "come out" with their own sexuality, and forced to satisfy others' needs and ignore their own . . . The truth is that almost everything in our society pushes women toward defining their sexuality only as intercourse with men, and toward not defining themselves as full persons in sex with men. Lack of sexual satisfaction is another sign of oppression of women.
At first, self-help clinics concentrated on the urgent topics of birth control, breast surgery, and alternatives to steroid hormones. But in 1976, in conjunction with writing a book on women's health care, a group of six women in Los Angeles were selected by the Federation of Feminist Women's Health Centers to spend several months studying the female sexual response and the structure and function of the sexual organ. Suzann Gage, an anatomical illustrator and member of the health center staff, brought in thick anatomy books in various languages for the group to consult. We sat on the floor and, using mirrors and flashlights, each carefully examined our genitals and compared them to the illustrations. First we found that although all of us had most of the structures pictured, the variation in size, proportion, coloration, texture, and shape of each component part gave each woman's genitals a markedly different appearance-different from one another, but especially different from the standard drawing. Among other differences, the drawings always show the opening that leads to the vagina as a gaping hole rather than the neatly closed opening that may or may not be visible, depending on the shape (or existence!) of the fourchette, a membranous fold of skin that stretches across the lower part of the opening. (See Figure 1, 2, and 3.)

As part of the study, some of the women masturbated to orgasm while being photographed so that the changes in the sexual organs during the sexual response cycle could be observed. These changes, while not as obvious as those that occur in the penis, are nevertheless pronounced and quite identifiable. Women at the Orange County FWHC also made motion pictures of sexual response. In some instances, the speculum was inserted and kept open throughout so that the changes in the vaginal walls and in the cervix could be seen during the phases of excitement, plateau, orgasm, and resolution.

Careful comparison of living genitals to drawings largely based on dissections of dead tissues, combined with our observations of the sexual response cycle, enabled us to piece together a full description of the clitoris, the female organ. We learned that the clitoris is an intricate organ located in the crotch below the ischium bones (the bones we sit on), which flare out, forming a triangular space. It consists not only of the hooded glans, the shaft, and the crura, as generally believed, but also of the ligament that suspends these structures from the symphysis (or midline) of the pubic bone; the muscles that bound the triangle; the networks of nerves and blood vessels that branch into the clitoral structures; the spongy erectile bodies, such as the urethral sponge, the clitoral bulbs, and the perineal sponge; and the inner lips, which extend from the hood until they again join and form the fourchette just above the perineum between the clitoral opening to the vagina and the anus. (See Figures 4, 5, and 6.)

In self-examination, the clitoris can be distinguished from the surrounding vulva (the pubic mound and the outer lips) by the fact that it has no hair. The inner part of the clitoris extends to the depth of the hymen, which separates it from the vagina, except along the roof, where a pad of spongy erectile tissue, the urethral sponge, extends back into the vagina. By inserting the index finger and pressing against the ischium bones, the crura (or legs) and the clitoral muscles that extend from the shaft and the pubic bone can be felt as thick rubber bands. By inserting the finger a little deeper and pressing sideways, the soft clitoral bulbs can be felt.

During sexual excitement, the suspensory ligament shortens, pulling the glans and the shaft up under the hood and into the groove of the symphysis. The erectile tissue of the shaft and the crura (corpus cavernosum) fills with blood and becomes bone-hard. As stimulation continues, the muscles begin to tighten, and the soft erectile tissues (corpus spongiosum) of the urethral sponge, the perineal sponge, and the clitoral bulbs swell with blood, causing the vaginal opening to become smaller and to "sweat" and become very moist. (See Figure 7.)
During the plateau phase, erection and muscular tension increase and the inner lips often become bright red or wine-colored from vasocongestion. (See Figure 8.) At orgasm, the mucles (ischiocavernosus, bulbocavernosus, and transverse perineal) contract rhythmically four to eight times at four-fifths of a second. The whole clitoral pulsates as it muscles force the blood from its engorged tissues back into the body. (See Figure 9.) During resolution, the ligament stretches, the shaft returns to its usual position, and muscle tension gradually subsides. This sequence of events closely parallels those that occur in the penis, with its comparable but somewhat differently arranged structures.

In our study, we observed that Masters and Johnson's extremely important discovery, that the male and the female sexual responses are similar instead of complementary, applies to the structure and the function of the sex organs as well as to the generalized body responses of systemic changes, such as increasing heart rate, rise in blood pressure and respiration, nervous excitation, vasocongestion, and muscle tension. 1

Since the women participating in this project had no access to dissection rooms, they were forced to rely on Masters and Johnson, Sherfey, anatomy texts, the drawings of Robert Latou Dickinson (an artist-physician who interviewed and sketched thousands of his patients in the 1920s and 1930s), and the observation of their own bodies. Some people may quibble with the claim that the women discovered "something new" in this study, since all of the structures they identified as being part of the clitoris can be found described in one anatomy book or another, especially if one searches back over the last 75 years. In defense of Masters and Johnson, who failed to describe the clitoris fully and who instead designated most clitoral structures as being, somehow an extension of the vagina called the "orgasmic platform" and located in the "outer third of the vagina," the functional unity of the clitoris is totally obscured by the literally fragmented approach that anatomists use. (Feminists will be forever grateful, however, to Masters and Johnson's recognition of the vital role that the glans and the shaft play in orgasm.)

Anatomical artists, first of all, cut out and study sections of tissue and, unless they conceptualize structures as belonging to a unit, do not see them as a unit. Second, for purposes of illustrating certain parts, the artist omits others; therefore, anatomical drawings of cross sections of the body seldom show all of the structures. Certainly, no one illustration or set of illustrations we found included all of the clitoral structures. For example, the urethral sponge was missing from all illustrations and descriptions except in three texts: Testut (1931), Toldt (1928), and Netter (1970). The perineal sponge is never pictured; it is merely alluded to in Kinsey's Sexual Behavior in the Human Female (1965). (See Figure 10.)

In any inquiry, the best test of theory is how well it fits the facts. As we described our understanding of how the sex organs work in self-help clinics, woman after woman has commented matter-of-factly, "Yes, that's how it is with me," not realizing how ignorant the medical profession has been of this simple truth: that the clitoris is an organ as complex and active as the penis. Also, another test is usefulness. After demonstrating self-examination and showing the parts of the clitoris and how it functions, discussions of our sexual experiences become much more concrete and specific. We now have a vocabulary and a conceptual framework to communicate with.

One of the major accomplishments of this group self-study project is to put to rest forever the controversy over clitoral or vaginal orgasms. Now that it is understood that the clitoral structures surround and extend into the vagina, the fact that women report pleasurable feelings deep in the vagina in no way contradicts Masters and Johnson's correct if inadequately pursued finding that all orgasms are of clitoral origin. The vagina is involved passively in the orgasm, and the pleasure that women receive from the thrusting of the penis comes from the sensations of the penis rubbing against the erect clitoris.

As part of our research, we gathered accounts of individual experiences. We were more interested in the actual sexual experiences than in feelings about sexuality. We found that some women experience the entire sexual response cycle from the time that they are toddlers. On the other hand, it became clear that many women do not experience orgasm until they are in their 20s or 30s or even later, or never. We found few women who experience orgasm regularly and dependably during coitus. Women agreed with the subjects of the Masters and Johnson study who reported that orgasm from masturbation is frequently stronger than from coitus. Of course, as feminists, we were not very concerned with whether or not the orgasm was obtained during coitus, or by manual or oral stimulation, or with a vibrator. Our aim was not to train ourselves to have orgasms in dull sexual sessions where the only clitoral stimulation is from the penis. We found that women usually strive to achieve orgasm during coitus to reassure the partner. In self-help clinics, one of my favorite questions to ask is 'Would everyone here who has never faked an orgasm, please raise your hand?" I have yet to see one hand raised.

Other feminists, many of whom participate in self-help, conduct therapy groups for women called preorgasmic groups. Rather than viewing women's sexuality solely in the context of heterosexual intercourse, they help women to learn to achieve orgasm through masturbation. These groups use a variety of approaches, but all include group discussion, instruction on the basic facts of the sexual response cycle, and practical tips on how to masturbate to orgasm. Women who participate in these groups have excellent results.

Women in self-help groups not only reexamined the emphasis on a woman's having an orgasm during coitus but reexamined the advice given to couples to aid the woman in achieving orgasm at that time in light of our improved understanding of the structure and function of the clitoris. A typical piece of therapists' advice is to have the woman sit astride the male, in order to bring her glans and shaft into closer proximity to his penis and public bone. While this advice is successful in many cases, especially if a couple work together conscientiously with the one goal being the woman's orgasm, it seems probable to us that the success comes more often from the woman's ability to maneuver freely and to control the amount of stimulation she receives and the man's sincere interest in helping her to achieve orgasm, rather than from direct stimulation of the glans and the shaft.

Of course, we talked to women who wanted-indeed, needed-very strong direct stimulation of the glans and shaft, but most seemed to prefer stimulation of the other parts of the clitoris instead. The penis is in good contact with the clitoris at all times in all positions. For example, when the male inserts the penis from behind, the penis is thrusting toward the urethral sponge, which is along the roof of the vagina. Also, many women have said that direct stimulation of the floor of the clitoris, the perineal sponge, gives maximum pleasure.

Misunderstanding the clitoris as merely the glans and the shaft, along with the patriarchal insistence that women rely only on penile stimulation for "normal" orgasms, has led to shocking consequences. Some therapists refer women for female circumcision (clitoridotomy) to have their clitoral hoods removed so that they can be more sensitive to the thrusts of the penis. One gynecologist, James Burt of Dayton, Ohio, has even developed a two-hour operation for surgically redesigning the vagina, referred to as the "reborn Burt vagina." In addition to moving the glans and the shaft closer to the clitoral opening, he narrows and tightens the vagina, cuts the pubococcygeal muscle (which forms the floor of the pelvis and through which the vagina runs), and removes the hood. Some of the women who have this surgery are very satisfied, but others have had problems, such as vaginismus, afterward.

These operations are reminiscent of surgeries and mutilations performed on women's clitorises in the 19th century-and even today in a few countries. As far as we could determine, most of these surgeries were limited to excising the glans and some or all of the shaft (although an operation called infibulation can include the inner lips also). Surely these mutilations had a devastating impact on women's ability to have sexual pleasure and to achieve orgasm, but, physiologically it would seem that since most of the clitoris was left intact, including extensive networks of nerves, blood vessels, erectile bodies, and muscles, orgasm would still have been possible. Masters and Johnson even cite a case where a woman had orgasm despite amputation of the shaft. As for men, those who have had the outer shaft amputated are still capable of having orgasm.

As part of our sex research, we reviewed current sex theraphy practices and discussed them in self-help groups. One criticism women have consistently made of therapeutic measures is that often the assumption is made that it is possible for a woman to have a carefree, uninhibited sex life despite the difficulties she faces in a sexist society: "Oh, sure, just casually lie down in the field of wildflowers and have sex! What about birth control? Or is everybody supposed to use the Pill or IUD?" Or, "Well, I'm forty, and frankly, most men my age or even older just want casual sex with me and they seek out younger women to have even semipermanent relationships with." We came up with a list of institutions, laws, and practices that reinforce women's oppression or sexual repression; our evaluation of this list amounted to a broad-scale condemnation of patriarchal society. Any therapist who tells a women "it is up to her" and implies that she is responsible for her "hang-ups" is merely rubbing salt in the wounds inflicted by her church, which preaches the evil of sexuality, especially women's; by schools, which withhold sex education from her, except for perhaps a lecture on menstruation in junior high and another lecture on birth control in high school; and the ubiquitous pornography that degrades her.

Current sex therapy that relies primarily on sex histories and taeching techniques to overcome problems such as vaginismus, inability to achieve orgasm, or inability to maintain an erection seems to be of most help to men and women. Although Masters and Johnson pioneered this type of therapy, their excellent works is tainted with sexism in their use of prostitutes for research and the use of women as surrogate partners.

Like the use of surrogate partners, other tools of the sex therapist are less acceptable to feminists-tools like permission giving, advising, role playing or setting examples by role modeling and desensitization. Permission giving is the reverse side of the authoritarian coin that has denied people the right to decide their own sexuality. Advising is only as good as the adviser, and our experience is that therapists are as much a part of our culture as anyone else and pass on their own biases and hang-ups; the same criticisms applies to role playing and role modeling. Desensitization involves bombarding the clients with films of tapes of explicit scenes or shocking words to numb them to any feelings of shock or embarrassment. Feminists see a problem with these methods if a woman, in the process of losing her upsetness, also loses her very necessary armor against hurtful influences. Sexist jokes and pornography are more than distasteful; they shame and humiliate women and support sexist practices that cause harm to women.

If sex therapists, male or female, are sincere in wanting to help their female clients, they would be wise to consult feminists, especially those in the women's health movement, to reduce to the minimum their inevitable sexism. Unless sex researchers, counselors, and therapists raise their consciousness about women's oppression, they will perpetuate the models of heterosexuality that suppress women's sexuality. For example, Multi Media Resource Center puts out a series of films showing people having sex. One film starts out with a couple riding their motorcycle on a country road (of course, the man is in the lead, but perhaps that is nit-picking). As they turn down the lane toward their house, they dismount and lie down together among the leaves. The man, Rich, playfully pulls at Judy's clothes. She resists, he persists, and he finally succeeds in disrobing her. Then, in a scene on the sundeck next to their pool, he first applies suntan lotion to her and incorporates it as foreplay, but then he starts teasing her, then chases her and wrestles her down to the mat. He mounts her and embarks on a vigorous (actually borderline violent) coital session. Then, after his orgasm, he picks her up and throws her into the pool! When I asked a representative of the organization who made the film, he sidestepped any responsibility for the mock rape format by saying that this was the way this couple had sex and that their aim was not to judge but to record.

As part of their well-woman health-care program, the Women's Choice Clinic of the Feminist Women's Health center in Los Angeles has initiated a special self-help program where women can learn in groups about the female organs and sexual response. During the group session, which lasts two to three hours, women do self-examination and identify the parts of the vulva, clitoris, vagina, uterus, egg tubes, and ovaries. The phases of the sexual response cycle are presented. Each woman prepares an extensive sexual "herstory" as the group share their experiences and problems. Specific techniques for enhancing sexual enjoyment are demonstrated. The difference between these groups offered at the clinic and at the self-help clinics is that although all self-help clinics talk about sexuality to a greater or lesser extent, and some self-help clinics have chosen to concentrate on sexuality, the clinic sessions offer women the opportunity to come together for the express purpose of learning more about sex.

So a century after Freud asked plaintively, "What do women really want?", women are coming together and overcoming patriarchally instilled and socially enforced taboos to find out what type of sexuality they really want, and of course, from there, it is a short step to demanding that institutions change so that both men and women will be free to express their sexuality to other human beings constructively, joyously, and for mutual satisfaction.

1 The vagina, uterus, uterine ligaments, egg tubes, and ovaries-as well as the breasts, indeed, the whole body-are involved in female sexual response. We are merely focusing on the clitoris. For a detailed description of the clitoris, compatible with the observations in our study, see Masters and Johnson (1966, pp. 56, 60-61).

-Hite, The Hite report. New York: Dell Publishing, 1976, pp. 419-420.
-Kinsey, A.C., Pomeroy, W. B., Martine, C.E., and Gebhard, P.H. Sexual behavior in the human female. New York: Pocket Books, 1965, p. 577
-Masters, W., and Johnson, V. Human sexual response. Boston: Little, Brown, 1966, pp. 56, 60-61.
-Murry, L. Building a better vagina. Playgirl, 1977, 5, 40+.
-Netter, F. H. The CIBA collection of medical illustrations, Vol 2. Summit, N.J.: CIBA Pharmaceutical Company, 1970.
-Sherfey, M. J. The nature and evolution of female sexuality. New York: Random House, 1972.
-Testut, J. L. Traite d'anatomie humaine (ed. 8, revised and enlarged by A. Latarjet), Vol. 5: Appareil urogenital peritoine. Paris: Doin, 1931.
-Toldt, C. Anatomisher Atlas. Berlin and Wien: Urban and Schwarzenberg, 1928.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Vessel The Film

Donate To and Visit:

Women on Waves, sail a ship around the world to countries where abortion is illegal. Using a hotline for communication, the activists pick up women at the port and transport them twelve miles offshore, just outside of domestic waters, where doctors on board can administer safe and legal medical abortions at sea.

Message from Diana Whitten: "After producing and collecting footage from 10 years of campaigns and a three month initial editing phase, I am now on hiatus from editing to find the last of the post-production and finishing funds. As an independent filmmaker - who has done this project primarily as a labor of love, but can't move forward without support - I feel the more people who know and care about the project, the closer I will get to finding this funding.

A few days ago my TEDx talk, about the film and media strategies I am working with WoWeb to develop, was posted here:"

Donate To and Visit:

Monday, April 18, 2011

Feminist: Stories from the Women's Liberation Movement

Project by Jennifer Lee

From Carol Downer: "Several years ago, Jennifer Lee interviewed me for her film about feminists in the 70's. Her interview questions were quite good. She is now ready to release and distribute it. I will be sending her a small contribution and I hope many people do, so that she can complete the project.

Please forward this to anyone you think would be interested."

Link: Feminist: Stories from the Women's Liberation Movement

Monday, January 31, 2011

CIMS "Reframing Birth and Breastfeeding: Moving Forward" Conference

March 11-12, 2011 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

Carol Downer will attend the CIMS conference in March. She will have a booth on behalf of the Women's Health Specialists and Women's Health in Women's Hands. If you have any questions, suggestions, or comments re: Carol's trip or booth please feel free to email

FROM CIMS: As our Valentine's Day gift, we're extending the deadline for registrants to take advantage of reduced Early Bird registration rates through February 14, 2011.

Another way that we are sharing the love this Valentine's Day is by offering an exceptional conference program. The conference program includes more than 22 hours of educational programming, and attendees may qualify for more than 13 contact hours for their participation. Speakers include Eugene Declercq, Miriam Labbok, Penny Simkin, Susan Ludington, Lori Dorfman, Best for Babes' Bettina Forbes and Danielle Rigg, Bernice Hausman, Jacqueline Wolf, and many more. That's a lot to love!

Monday, January 24, 2011

BACORRs "Celebrate Choice - Pro Choice Parade"

The following are photographs taken on January 22, 2011 at BACORRs "Celebrate Choice - Pro Choice Parade" in San Francisco, CA.

Visit BACORRs website for further information on the organization.