Meeting Minutes from inSPIRE Social on February 9, 2007

We had our second social event of 2007 at Shamah and Dave Gamrath's house in West Seattle. We had a nice turnout with about thirty guests to hear our guest speaker, Chris Charbonneau. Thanks so much to Shamah for allowing Dave to open up their home!

Our next meeting is set for March 31st. SAVE THE DATE! Stay tuned for more details!

Important Announcements!

Eric Oemig's Joint Memorial to Investigate Bush and Cheney: Fellow inSPIRE member and new Washington State Senator (45th district, Kirkland) Eric Oemig announced February 10, 2007 that he is sponsoring a "Joint Memorial" in the Washington State Senate which, if passed here in our state, would be required to be brought to the floor of Congress in Washington DC. This Joint Memorial calls for an investigation into the actions of the Bush Administration in regards to four items:

1) Warrant-less surveillance of Americans, including wire-tapping in direct violation of federal FISA laws
2) Intentional deception of the American public leading to the Iraq War.
3) Suspension of constitutional rights (including illegal search and seizure under the PATRIOT ACT, abandonment of habeas corpus, and the excessive use of signing statements)
4) Sanctioning torture as well as the imprisonment and extraordinary rendition of prisoners to foreign nations without due process of law.

The above actions are in conflict with the Constitution of the United States and if found guilty could ultimately lead to the impeachment of President Bush and Vice President Cheney. The February 10, 2007 press conference was sponsored by The Eastside Fellowship for Reconciliation (EFOR). Currently there are similar efforts to initiate impeachment proceedings in four other states (New Mexico, Minnesota, New Jersey and Vermont). For a more thorough explanation of impeachment and impeachment initiated under Jefferson's Manual by a state legislature (Jefferson's Manual, Sections 603 & 604):

Washington State Senator Eric Oemig:
The Eastside Fellowship for Reconciliation (EFOR):
Thanks so much to Eric for his willingness to be the prime sponsor of such an important piece of legislation after only 30 days in office!

Keynote Speaker, Chief Executive Officer of Planned Parenthood Western Washington, Chris Charbonneau! ( )

Chris started her career with Planned Parenthood in 1982. Planned Parenthood Western Washington (PPWW) has grown to become the second largest Planned Parenthood affiliate in the country. PPWW sees 150,000 clients per year, I.E., about one out of every three women in the Puget Sound area. PPWW provides health services and sexuality education to both women and men so that they understand what they're getting into regarding sexual activity. PPWW is a strong advocate of freedom of choice. PPWW provides many services, including services regarding infertility, adoption and abortion.

When Chris began her career with PPWW the Reagan Administration was in the White House. The Reagan Administration was adamantly against family planning, but their attitude and methods were fairly dated and ineffective. The image of what the "proper" role for American women should be to Reagan's crew could be boiled down to "barefoot and pregnant", and this paradigm did not market well in America society.

Since the time of Reagan, the anti-choice and anti-family planning caucus has become remarkably powerful. They have changed and evolved their tactics and have become masters of disinformation. As time has evolved they have become extremely powerful, even though they represent a minority view in being feverishly against family planning. Approximately 90% of Americans believe in making family planning available, affordable and accessible to all those who chose to use it. Less than 9% oppose family planning, yet this lobby has gained enormous power in Washington DC, as well as in Olympia.

At the core of the anti-family planning lobby is the James Dobson, Focus on the Family "strong father theory" regarding our society, which expounds that helping the poor and those in need is a bad thing because it de-motives people from helping themselves, that the rich and powerful deserve all that they have because they have clearly earned their advantages, as well as general sense of American entitlement within the global community. Their goal is to persuade our government to stop providing support to Americans, including any social services such as family planning. But their war on family planning goes far deeper than this.

The anti-family planning lobby tends to be at the far Christian-right. Their ideology refuses to condone or accept sexual activity for any reason other than procreation, which flies in the face of the reality of our society. Also, in their passionate efforts to remove abortion rights in America and around the world, they have politicized all aspects of family planning and population issues, making an honest, practical and pragmatic discussion on these topics extremely difficult if not impossible in today's American government. Ironically, a sad outcome of their efforts has been, as described in more detail below, a weakening of society's best tools for reducing abortions.

In recent times, through the efforts of organizations such as PPWW, teen pregnancies have been decreasing. Today, teen pregnancies have been dropping except with girls 14 years old or younger, who frequently have become pregnant by rape. Teen pregnancies didn't reach their high point in the "sex-crazed" '60s or '70s, but rather in 1957 when contraception and Sex Ed were fairly unavailable. With the availability of Sex Ed and family planning services, sexual activity is typically delayed among teens by nine months, and when teens then choose to engage in sex they are aware of the dangers and have the skills to keep themselves protected.

The Christian Right, through the Bush Administration, has been a rigid proponent of Abstinence Only Sex Ed. They have developed a full curriculum around abstinence. Tragically, this curriculum is full of misinformation and falsehoods. Examples include their claims that condoms are ineffective against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and AIDs (not true), that the AIDs virus can pass through a condom (a lie), that birth control and abortion can lead to severe medical problems such as cancer (again, not true), etc. The Bush Administration has allocated millions of taxpayer dollars for Abstinence Only education while fighting to restrict comprehensive Sex Ed. Repeated studies have shown that Abstinence Only programs have no impact on the sexual activity of teens. The tragic outcome of this is that when teens don't have the tools to protect themselves when they do engage in sex, they are then exposed to STDs and unintended pregnancies. There are extremely high STD rates among girls that have made the "virginity pledge" promoted in the Abstinence Only programs. Reality always wins out, and the reality is that teens typically begin to engage in sex around 16 or 17 years of age. PPWW strives to deal with this reality and provide teems with the skills to stay safe. In their efforts PPWW also strongly advocates abstinence as well, but by also acknowledging reality, PPWW's programs are far more effective.

There have been multiple initiatives brought forward in Olympia to require comprehensive Sex Ed in our schools, but these have been largely defeated. Initiatives are also repeated brought forward to just require medically accurate Sex Ed, and even these initiatives are feverishly opposed by the far right! The Religious Right is willing to have society pay the price of more STDs, more unintended pregnancies, more abortions and more unwanted children for their rigid ideological belief refusing to acknowledge that sex for reasons other than procreation happens in our society and thus needs to be addressed with policies and programs based on this reality. Their lobby is extremely strong in our state, even though over 90% of Washingtonians support family planning.

Two programs have been key in helping to drop the unintended pregnancy rate in Washington State, Plan B (Emergency Contraception) and Depo-Provera, an injection that provides excellent birth control for three months. PPWW, as with the Public Health Department, lobbies the federal government for financial support. Federal funding comes through two main avenues, Title X (Public Health) and the "Take Charge" program. These programs have been very effective. However, the Bush Administration has engaged in a concerted attack on effective family planning programs. First, the Bush Ad. determined that men should not be covered in these programs, somehow determining that the responsibility for the family process, when it comes to sex, falls only with women. Next, they eliminated financial support for the prevention of STDs, not understanding or willing to acknowledge that concerns with STDs are what bring a large portion of clients into family planning clinics. Third, this past November, through the Deficit Reduction Act, the Bush Administration took illegal immigrants off Medicaid. One may think that this is reasonable, I.E., that as a taxpayer they don't want to pay for healthcare for illegal immigrants. But that misses the impact of this decision. Care for illegal immigrants is a very minor cost in Medicaid. But, the new process of making all clients verify their legal status, including providing one's social security number, providing proof of US citizenship as well as providing a new requirement of proof of income level has severely impacted clients, especially teenagers, from coming to clinics. Kids tend not to carry around proof of their low incomes! So, the process has just become much more difficult and the result is less people seeking family planning, which is in line with the true goals of the Religious Right.

This new federal policy comes with severe penalties if the states don't comply. When these changes were mandated by the federal government and the Bush Ad, all 50 governors from all 50 states joined together to protest. The Bush Ad ignored them. Ironically, government officials in charge of Title X funding demanded that family planning NOT collect the same client information that the new Bush requirements mandated, putting two government program requirements at odds with each other! When the Take Charge program was initiated in the 1990s, PPWW saw their number of clients increase each year by 25% for five straight years. It really made a difference to be able to offer services for free to low income clients. With the new rules, clientele is dropping.

A current initiative supported by PPWW in Olympia is the Healthy Youth Act (see ). This initiative requires that Sex Ed will be medically accurate. PPWW has been including the testimony of teens in Olympia. This testimony has been very effective " hearing how teens think and act in person makes it hard to deny! PPWW has also been supporting the Family Planning Protection Act. Chris discussed her concerns that if Dino Rossi would have been elected he would have been vetoing these types of pro-family planning bills and initiatives.

Chris discussed her recent dealings with our new Democrat controlled Congress. Sadly, Democrats in control such as Nancy Pelosi don't want anything to do with family planning issues. They describe family planning issues as "abortion politics", showing the effectiveness of the far right in labeling the many, many issues around family planning as just coming down to one issue, abortion. Pelosi doesn't want the feds to pick up family planning at a federal level if corporations won't cover family planning in the healthcare plans they offer their employees. So far, 35 states have picked this up, including Washington, in part due to the efforts of PPWW. But there has been total resistance at the federal level. We all need to work on our elected officials to remind them whey we voted for them!

Chris discussed her conversation with Senator Patty Murray in regards to then potential Supreme Court Justice Sam Alito. Murray indicated she was unsure how she would vote on Alito. Chris reminded Murray of what her constituents expected from her, and that for many of her constituents, the shape and direction of the Supreme Court is their top issue. Chris discussed how Justice Kennedy is the new "middle" of the court and how he has already almost overturned Roe v. Wade. A new case regarding third term abortions (so called "partial birth abortions", which is an effective but completely inaccurate framing of late term abortions by the Religious Right) will soon be presented before the Supreme Court. This case may redraw the definitions of Roe v. Wade and even overturn America's right to choose.

As a fallback, 18 states currently have laws protecting choice within their state, including our state of Washington. If abortion is disallowed at a federal level, the geographic make-up of the states that currently have state laws allowing abortion is the far-west and the northeast of America, with the vast area in between looming without the freedom of choice. In this time of strong risk against abortion rights, there are no real activists for choice in the Democrat caucus.

In regards to international family planning, Chris discussed the Bush Administrations refusal to allocate family planning funds authorized by Congress (such as those to UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund), severe coercion by the Bush Administration to force foreign countries to disallow abortions or even discussions about abortions or face the withdrawal of American funding on many different programs, etc. Even when countries comply with Bush's demands (demands that, by the way, would be unconstitutional in America) funding is still often cut. Fortunately, many other countries have picked up with the US has dropped off, including Germany, Japan and Holland.

At this point in our discussion, Dave Gamrath showed a 6 minute DVD that was produced by inSPIRE member R. Scott Vance for Population Connection, an environmental organization that educates people on the issues of overpopulation and over-consumption and their impacts on social and environmental degradation. Population Connection promotes population stabilization (but never population control!) as a key element of earth stewardship. This DVD shows world population growth from the year 0 to the year 2030 in the time span of 6 minutes. It's a very dramatic and effective way to show the impact of exponential growth and the direction we are heading on this planet. To obtain a copy of this DVD for a $20 donation, go to:

Next, Dave shared a short PowerPoint presentation he uses when lobbying in support of family planning and in regards to overpopulation. For a copy of this presentation, please contact Dave at

Dave's first chart captured the key programs and policies that are necessary to tackle overpopulation. As with family planning, the population issue is one of the most political issues in our society and rarely is there an opportunity for an honest and open discussion about the severity of the problem or effective and humane solutions. This first chart emphasized that.

Key focus areas for tackling overpopulation are very difficult to oppose for most individuals, and are strongly supported by most Americans. These focus areas include enhancing women's rights; providing women with access to education; providing women economic opportunities that are sustainable and environmentally friendly through methods such as micro-credit; lowering infant mortalities; basic healthcare during pregnancy and after birth; ensuring the availability of clean water and sufficient food; vaccinations and the prevention of diseases (Malaria, AIDS, etc.); reducing poverty; environmental protection; family healthcare; reducing deaths of women due to pregnancy related issues; comprehensive, medically accurate and society/cultural sensitive sexuality education; providing family planning services including contraception, counseling, education, communication skills, etc.; and policies based on science and effectiveness, not ideology. Clearly, these things are not inhumane or immoral, yet they are constantly opposed by the far right, at the detriment to our society and our planet.

An example of how difficult it is to publicly campaign for and work on population issues is the work and contributions by Bill Gates and Warren Buffet. Both Gates and Buffet have repeatedly indicated that they believe overpopulation is the core issue facing our planet. When Gates with his wife Melinda formed their foundation, they publicly shared their efforts to contribute to solving this problem of overpopulation. But soon there were protests by various ministers on the Redmond Microsoft campus, and the Gates Foundation changed their strategy. No longer does one hear their foundation publicly discussing population. Instead, they heroically fund many of the necessary programs to solve the problem, which are considered to be completely human and acceptable. Yet it is these same programs that are necessary to combat the problem of overpopulation. It's just much easier to not voice this connection, for once population is brought into the discussion, (mainly religious) protests begin immediately.

Next Dave shared the charts he uses in lobbying for support of family planning. These charts cover the key reasons as to why family planning is a wise investment.

Reason #1 is that family planning prevents unintended pregnancy and prevents abortions, by providing birth control information, medical exams and supplies, counseling on multiple birth control methods, education to encourage family communication, education for school-age youth " physical development, birth control, communication skills, and refusal skills (Saying "No"), counseling, referrals, etc.

Reason #2 is that family planning improves children's health by reducing infant mortalities, by reducing instances of low birth-weight, by preventing teen pregnancy, by helping women to better space their pregnancies, by providing counseling on drug, alcohol and smoking use during pregnancy, by providing nutrition guidance and pregnancy testing as well as appropriate referrals for needed medical care.

Reason #3 is that family planning improves the health of parents by serving as the entry point into health care system for many people, by providing the only medical care that many low income individuals, teens and street youth receive, by providing screens for cervical cancer (cervical, testicular, breast) and sexually transmitted diseases, by teaching self-examination for early detection of breast and testicular cancer, by providing diagnostic services: colposcopies, biopsies, and referrals for specialized medical care,

Reason #4 is that family planning improves responsible decision making by helping parents to talk about sex with their kids, by helping to get kids to make better choices, by providing educational programs covering communication skills, physical development, refusal skills (saying "No"), birth control, STDs and AIDS/HIV as well as sexual abuse prevention.

Reason #5 is that family planning helps to protect our environment. Dave showed graphs representing the consumption and pollution levels of the average American, the impact on these levels through "normal" recycling and conservation efforts (not much reduction) and the total elimination of consumption and pollution by the avoidance of an unintended birth. Dave noted that the choice we make when choosing our family size is the biggest environmental decision most people will ever make. The key point is that a world of planned and wanted children is a better, healthier world for children, women, families AND our environment!

Reason #6 is that family planning saves taxpayer's money. Dave showed the actual reported cost in Washington State and/or King County of providing low income clients with family planning services and contrasted this with the much higher cost of providing medical care through the delivery of a child, and the average cost of welfare based on TANF (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families) data. The contrast in cost is amazing. In Washington State, 48% of all births are paid for by taxpayers. The key points are that investing in family planning provides a high return on investment and that cutting investment in family planning costs our society much more than we save.

Reason #7 discussed the benefits of international family planning. International family planning supports our national interests by expand markets for American goods and services, by combating poverty by helping expand the middle class in impoverished nations so that they can afford American products, by prevent the occurrence of tragic and destabilizing events such as the spread of AIDs and its devastating impact, by lowering rapid population growth and its demands on scarce resources (food, potable water, arable land, medicine, etc.), and by help to maintain American security. Impoverished people, facing little or no hope, are much more easily convinced to resort to acts of violence.

Reason #8 is that family planning is a key element of growth management. Washington State is forecast to grow by 2.4 million people in the next 30 years. Births are the biggest source of the growth (over twice that of net migration). Approximately 38% of all births in King County are unintended. Result: 44% of the growth in Washington State will be from unintended births. This equates to over 1,000,000 new people in the state from unintended births over the next 30 years. Family planning has a dramatic impact towards achieving our growth management goals, yet is not included in our state's Growth Management Act.

Finally, Dave showed the core components of a full family planning program. Effective family planning consists of an interdisciplinary team of experts and services working together including a well trained staff of family planning providers and health educators, effective sexually transmitted disease prevention, emergency contraception, school-based or school-linked health centers, preventative care, immunizations (Hep B, etc.), Language interpreters, home visits if necessary, links to other health care and social services, primary care, substance abuse prevention, health care access specialists, social workers and counselors and financial assistance necessary to make family planning available, accessible and affordable to everyone.

As always, many, many questions were asked but not recorded. Sorry!

Many thanks to Chris Charbonneau for her informative and important talk!

Other announcements

inSPIRE Book Club! " We will be discussing The End of Faith by Sam Harris at book club on Sunday, February 25th.


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