Independent | Amal Clooney is fighting Isis – but thankfully we’re discussing more important matters like her pregnancy


Amal Clooney is pregnant! Did you know that? Pregnant! Enriched with the Hollywood sperm of her husband George, Clooney is currently in the process of growing not one but two – two! – babies. And she is “blossoming”, says the Sun. Also, she wore yellow, which is a “brave colour” in which to “show off” her bump (the Mirror). Brave Amal Clooney. But also, oh dear, reckless Amal Clooney, because what has she got on her feet? Heels. Not one, not two, not three, but four inch heels. “Towering heels”, in fact, the Daily Mail reports.

As we all know this is a very unwise thing for a pregnant woman to do. Although given that only weeks ago the Mail was engaging in important investigative journalism revealing that: “A flat shoe may be comfortable, but it can have the effect of making any saddlebags more evident.” Perhaps we should instead be saying “sensible Amal Clooney”? After all, when the world’s media is looking at, scrutinising and inspecting every portion of your body, it would be unfortunate to draw attention to the wrong kind of bumps.

Read the full post at the Independent

New Statesman | Should feminists talk about “pregnant people”?


I argue the case for “no” in a debate with Jennie Kermode, chair of Trans Media Watch

“I’m not sure what the public health issue is that would require a focus only on those who become pregnant, as opposed to any of those involved in pregnancy, either becoming pregnant or causing someone else to become pregnant,” Dr Elizabeth Saewyc, a Canadian professor in nursing and adolescent medicine at the University of British Columbia, recently told journalist Jesse Singal when he asked her for clarification on a study she conducted into trans youth and pregnancy.

Her statement is, on the face of it, extraordinary: unlike those who “cause someone else to become pregnant” (males), those who “become pregnant” (females) actually, well, become pregnant. But as absurd as Saewyc sounded, her position is the logical endpoint of “gender neutral” language about pregnancy.

Read the full post at the New Statesman


Does paying drug addicts to be sterilised work?

Cross-posted to Liberal Conspiracy.

Barbara Harris (right), the founder of Project Prevention, is the definition of a social entrepreneur. She’s the kind of person who, under the Big Society ideology of the Conservatives, might be represented as a worthy provider of a public service.

She saw a social problem where she lived in LA, and she – with the time, money and inclination to do it – implemented her own solution. She even uses the language of entrepreneurship to describe the poor and desperate people she works with: they’re her “paid clients”.

And now, she’s bringing that solution to the UK, campaigning from the This Morning Sofa and the BBC’s Hard Talk.

The problem she identified is the birth of babies to drug-addicted parents. And the solution? Paying addicts to be sterilised.

Before her current UK tour, Harris claimed to have received 400 requests for her services and a $20,000 donation. That’s enough to pay about 65 women to get sterilised at the standard rate of $300 a time.

While Project Prevention doesn’t exclusively offer sterilisation – long-term, reversible contraceptive methods such as the coil, implants and injections are also supported – more than a third of her “clients” do take the tubal ligation option, according to Project Prevention’s own statistics.

In interviews Harris fequently describes herself as offering sterilisation. It’s fair to say that sterilisation is presented as the first choice for drug-addicted women. (And the “clients” mostly are women – fewer than 50 of Project Prevention’s “paid clients” had a vasectomy, which means that fewer that 2% of them are men.)

There are some pretty obvious ethical issues in offering drug addicts money for medical procedures. Harris has said (in an interview for Radio 4’s Taking A Stand) that that “in most cases” the money Project Prevention hands out goes to pay for more drugs.

Ultimately, Project Prevention’s money could be used to subsidise the drugs trade, supporting dealers and helping to create new addicts.

But Harris’ interest isn’t in the long-term outcomes for the women she works with or the areas they live in. There’s no subsequent monitoring programme and no requirement that addicts sign up for treatment – Project Prevention’s involvement with these women begins and ends with their fertility.

If they should later regret their sterilisation, Harris says “that’s no worse than if they got AIDS prostituting”, putting Project Prevention on the same level of responsibility as a virus.

At the bottom of this, Harris is responding to a genuine problem, even if she does exaggerate its severity. Babies born to drug-addicted mothers have a bad start of it.

If the pregnancy comes to term (drug or alcohol abuse both increase the risk of miscarriage), it’s more likely to result in a premature or early birth, low birth weight, infant mortality and other health problems. And then there are the social costs: children of the addicted are more likely to grow up in impoverished or disrupted conditions, and more likely to end up in care. It’s fair to say that drug addiction isn’t a great foundation for family.

Dr Petra Boynton, agony aunt and sex educator, acknowledges this, but says that Project Prevention’s approach isn’t the answer either: ”

Aside from their work being based on ideology rather than evidence (they’ve not published any research on the effectiveness of their approach for example), there is the issue of existing UK services.

We have got overstretched reproductive health services, but generally they are good and are currently seeking to improve their work. It seems odd that an organisation from outside the UK wants to parachute in and start their own approach which may run counter to what’s being attempted here.

After all, all the options offered by Project Prevention are available for free in the UK through the NHS. A better way for Harris to help addicts access contraception would be to help drug services and sex educators to work together – but then, that would take a much more sympathetic approach than Harris seems able to offer.

Harris says that she’s happy to accept donations from far right organisations, so long as the money can help her cause. Distasteful as that all might be, it isn’t the reason we should reject what she’s offering: Project Prevention should be turned back at the border because what it’s offering is short-sighted, liable to exacerbate the problem it’s supposed to solve, and most of all, it just isn’t needed.

Text © Sarah Ditum, 2010