Too Depressed for Sex
Even on a Wednesday
Abortion is healthcare. Abortion is sexual health care. As of Monday night, however, when a draft copy of the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health was leaked to Politico, it looks like abortion is no longer a right in this country. Or more accurately, it will no longer be a right when this decision becomes official this summer. I’m horrified and sad and angry and tired, but I’m not on the front lines of this fight and as such I’m not the right person to analyze the legal or practical ramifications of the leaked decision.
It seems obvious that this ruling will make safe abortion a lot harder to find in many parts of the country and more obvious that the burden will be shouldered by poor women. It also seems obvious that the court’s rejection of the right to privacy will have consequences that extend beyond abortion to other personal issues like same sex marriage, gender affirming care, and even birth control. For more in-depth analysis of what this decision means legally and politically, I suggest heading over to Rewirenewsgroup.com and listening to Imani Gandy and Jessica Mason Pieklo on the emergency episode of their podcast Boom! Lawyered. For an understanding of who gets abortions and now won’t be able to, see Jamie Kenney’s article in Romper. And, for a look at how we survive practically in our new Handmaid’s Tale-inspired reality, I recommend Robin Marty’s Post Roe Handbook.
We’ve already established that not all weeks can be as amusing as Tucker’s tanned testicles but this one is downright depressing, almost enough to make people want to avoid sex, even on Wednesday.
Hailey Bieber Had a Mini-Stroke; Birth Control Pills Are Only Part of the Story
Model-actress-Instagram-persona-wife-of-Justin-daughter-of-the-nutty-Baldwin-brother Hailey Bieber went public this week with the story of her recent health scare and now the internet is buzzing about what could cause a “mini-stroke” in a seemingly healthy 25 year old. Headlines are once again making the connection between birth control pills and blood clots, but—especially in this case—that’s only part of the story.
Bieber does a really great job describing what happened to her—first telling the story from her own point of view and then giving in-depth, easy-to-understand medical explanations. Check out her Instagram for the account in her own words.
To summarize, at breakfast one morning in March, Bieber began to feel tingling in her fingertips. Then the right side of her face drooped, and she had trouble speaking. She said that she knew what was going on but could not form the words to explain it or answer the questions Justin and an onsite medic were asking.
These are classic symptoms of a stroke which include numbness or weakness in the face, arm, or leg; confusion and difficulty speaking or understanding speech; vision problems; and severe headache.
Most of Bieber’s symptoms had subsided by the time she got to the emergency room where doctors diagnosed her with a transient ischemic attack (TIA). Sometimes called mini-strokes, TIAs are usually caused by a blood clot that forms elsewhere in the body and travels to the brain, temporarily blocking blood flow. TIAs don’t cause permanent damage and may be missed by individuals or dismissed by doctors because the symptoms can subside within minutes. They are often, however, harbingers of worse things to come: about one-third of patients experience a more severe stroke within a year of having a TIA.
Doctors ran numerous tests to figure out why this young woman in top shape would suffer a clot. What they came up with was a bit of a perfect storm of possibilities. Bieber had recently had Covid-19 which seems to increase the risk of clots. She had recently been on a long flight and had not moved around at all while in the air, which is known to increase the risk of clots. She had also recently started taking birth control pills.
About 8 in 100,000 taking the pill will have a stroke each year but how much the pill is to blame is up for debate. Research has shown that progestin-only pills do not raise the risk of any type of stroke. Combined pills, those that contain both estrogen and progestin, don’t raise the risk of hemorrhagic strokes (those caused by bleeding). The findings on combined pills and ischemic stroke (those caused by blood clots) like the one Bieber had are less clear.
Early formulations of these pills—which had very high doses of estrogen—increased the risk of these strokes as much as three-fold. Newer versions have less estrogen and come with less risk of stroke. A 2018 study suggested that today’s combination pills only really raised the risk in people who had other risk factors like high blood pressure, smoking, or a history of migraines.
It turns out that Bieber had a history of migraines but had not told her doctor about it before being prescribed the pill. The takeaway here is neither that birth control pills are dangerous nor that birth control pills are completely safe. The lesson is that it’s essential to go over your personal risk factors with a provider before starting birth control pills or any other hormonal birth control method.
In Bieber’s case, however, the primary culprit may have been a heart issue that she’d had all of her life but had never known about. Testing revealed that Bieber had a patent foramen ovale (PFO), a small opening between the two upper chambers of the heart that is supposed to close shortly after birth. If it doesn’t, blood—and blood clots—can flow between the chambers. PFOs put people at increased risk for strokes.
Bieber has since had a procedure to close it and says that apart from some ongoing anxiety she feels good and wanted to go public about her experience to help others who might face something similar.
What’s the takeaway message here (other than that being a model-actress-Instagram-persona-wife-of-Justin-daughter-of-the-nutty-Baldwin-brother gives you a great platform)? Talk to your provider before starting birth control and give them your whole medical history.
Anti-Sex Ed School Board Member Posts Porn Site, Asked to Resign
Here’s a little piece of schadenfreude that might brighten our day. In an attempt to show just how egregious the information young people were being offered really was, Lakota (Ohio) School Board member Darbi Boddy posted a link to teen sexual health resource Scarleteen. Only she didn’t. She posted a link to scarletteen with two Ts which is—wait for it—a porn site.
Boddy ran on a platform opposing critical race theory and has said that she also opposes sexuality education that teaches “about masturbating, sex toys, anything taught besides abstinence.” She posted the link in an effort to show content that she finds objectionable, and show it she did.
Well, actually not. Whereas Scarleteen (the information site) is a deep well of information, advice, and resources, scarletteen (the porn site) is really just homepage that offers you teens chatting or singles dating but sends you through multiple links without actually showing you anything.
Still, Board President Lynda O’Connor took Boddy to task, telling the local media: “To post pornographic content on an official, public-facing school board member account that can be accessed by many of our own students is absolutely unacceptable. Furthermore, to make a public accusation that our curriculum contains such pornographic material is deplorable.” The board held an emergency meeting and asked for her resignation.
I must say, while I am horrified that anyone who ran on a racist, anti-sex ed, pro-abstinence platform got elected in the first place, I’m not sure one fat-fingered typo should get her fired.
This may be the only thing Darbi Boddy and I ever agree on. Boddy is standing by her convictions, her typo, and her belief that viewing the legitimate Scarleteen site would be traumatic for young people. In a Facebook post, she invites parents to visit the site as proof.
Okay, there is one more thing Darbi and I agree on. Parents should visit Scarleteen—which offers “inclusive, comprehensive, supportive sexuality and relationships info for teens and emerging adults”—not because they’ll be traumatized but because they’ll be educated.
The website, for its part, is having a little fun with the story. A tagline on the home page welcomes new readers from Ohio.