Lizz Winstead is a prolific comedian. First off, she's the co-creator and former head writer of The Daily Show. She left months before Jon Stewart became the host (but not before discovering Stephen Colbert) and went on to co-found Air America Radio and hosted the show Unfiltered with Chuck D and Rachel Maddow. In May 2012, she published a book of biographical essays, Lizz Free or Die, that chronicle her life growing up in a Catholic family in Minnesota, getting an abortion at age 17, becoming a stand-up comedian, and moving to New York to revolutionize the way Americans see the news.
Winstead is coming to Portland, Oregon this Saturday to speak at NARAL Pro-Choice Oregon’s Annual Choice Gala. She took time to talk with me over the phone on Monday about her history, Twitter fights, and how comedians have become the watchdogs of media.
As of August, the emergency contraception pill Plan B is supposed to be available over the counter for women of all ages. This 20-minute show investigates whether that's actually true. Meet the Native American activists pushing to make emergency contraception accessible to all women. Plus, we secretly shop for Plan B in pharmacies around Portland, Oregon.
• All-star young adult author Malinda Lo has put together an annual report on LGBT characters in young adult books. This year, she found more YA books had LGBT characters—but fewer of them were published by the big mainstream publishers. Plus, there are significantly more male characters than female ones. [Malinda Lo]
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Historically, the birth control pill is revolutionary. Today, it's nearly mundane. In the 50 years since its approval, the Pill has radically changed contraception, placing it directly in the hands of women, changing the way they plan their lives, the way conduct their relationships, and—of course—the way they have sex; in 1993, The Economist named the Pill one of the "Seven Wonders of the Modern World." Now, it's part of the everyday lives of 10.5 million American women.
That's not to say that the birth control pill is not beyond reproach.
For the last four years I have been researching and writing about abortion rights and access, the latest trends in laws meant to overturn Roe v. Wade, and the politicians and activist groups pushing laws meant to ban abortion and even birth control itself. Frequently, people ask me if I get depressed (yes, sort of), how I keep up with it all (Google, RSS feeds, wine), and how I always know so much about what abortion opponents are thinking.
The answer to that final question is simple: I read right-wing literature. A lot. Everything they write.
The news on reproductive rights this year has not been good. Texas is shutting down health clinics, Ohio is forcing women to get an ultrasound before they get an abortion, Oklahoma is trying to restrict teens from buying Plan B over the counter—the country's reproductive options are generally going to hell in a Republican handbasket.
But there's one area of reproductive health that has been quietly and steadily improving for years: reducing teen pregnancies. During the last years of the Bush administration, the teen birth rate rose for the first time since 1992. But from 2007-2011 (the four most recent years the experts crunched the numbers), the trend swiftly reversed and the teen birth rate nationwide dropped a whopping 25 percent.
The reasons behind the drop are much more complex than just statistics on birth control use and funding for sex education—looking only at the dollars and data ignores the fact that we all learn about sex from the culture around us.
Clear Channel is a behemoth—the media conglomerate owns 850 radio stations, making them the gatekeeper of mainstream radio airwaves across much of the country. And this week, the company is being a total douchebag.
The crime? Refusing to run ads for the South Wind Women's Center, a full-spectrum reproductive healthcare clinic in Witchita, Kansas that opened this year in the space that was Doctor George Tiller's clinic before he was murdered. Clear Channel says the Kansas clinic's ads violate the company's "decency standards."
Laws restricting abortion rights have recently swept the country like a flood—legislatures in Texas, North Carolina, Ohio, and Wisconsin have all launched into high-profile debates over abortion-rights rollbacks in the past month.
In 1923, 17-year-old Carrie Buck was raped and impregnated. Her adoptive family, trying to avoid the public shame of having an unwed mother in their midst, had her committed to an institution for the "feeble minded." Because she was supposedly "feeble-minded" and the daughter of an unwed mother herself, the State of Virginia sought to sterilize her and, in 1927, the Supreme Court ruled in its favor.
One would think we've come a long way since 1927. But apparently we haven't.