Area:    Feminism
  Msg:    #323
 Date:    12-15-94 18:05 (Public) 
 From:    Randy Edwards            
 To:      All                      
 Subject: Women's Health Collective
Date: Tue, 13 Dec 94 12:24:54 EST

    "Bloomington Women's Health Collective:  Your Full Cervix Station"

"What does my cervix look like?  Why do I get yeast infections all the
time?  Why do I get bad headaches while taking Depo Provera (a contraceptive
injection)?  What herbs or alternative methods can I use 
for menstrual cramps? 
What is menstrual extraction?  Can I transmit genital warts to my girlfriend
through oral sex?"

The desire to know answers to questions like these and much more about
women's health prompted the formation of the Bloomington Women's Health
Collective (bwhc).  The bwhc , a women-only collective, is about 2  years old;
it was started by Sarah Bortt and a few other active women.  Sarah began by
writing for information from various women's health organizations, and by
compiling a system of topical files on a variety of women's 
health issues.  She
also collected books and bibliographies for a women's health library.  A file
of  illness/condition forms and doctor evaluation forms was started, which can
be used when researching a topic and/or looking for a local doctor.

Some of the main goals have always been to educate women, to demystify
health and medical care, and to advocate alternative forms of health care
(herbal, homeopathic, acupressure, etc.)  Sarah strongly advocates a health
collective that is for women-ONLY, because she believes 
that "we need a women's
space where we can begin to really learn about our health, where we can share
knowledge with each other and feel comfortable."  In fact, with this
collective, we do have a women's space where we can 
comfortably and confidently
share our ideas and experiences.  Also, the collective provides us with a
support system of women who can be called upon in times of crisis.  

Currently, we are dedicated to researching women's health issues, to
providing self-help and health information to women of our community, and to
building a women's health resource library open to the 
public.  Because bwhc is
not a single-issue group, nor a closed study circle, we focus on relevant
personal issues, and also involve ourselves in public debates and activities
relevant to women and girls of our community.  We are interested in doing our
own research and pamphlet production because we do not trust the policies,
literature, and agenda of mainstream health care providers. 
  We feel that they
do not adequately inform us about controversial issues pertaining to women's
health, nor do they provide information vital to women who 
want to take control
of their own health. 

In the last year the collective has grown in membership to
approximately 15 women, and  has expanded its scope to include monthly topical
meetings, pamphlet production, fundraisers,  community-based actions,
collection of information and books for our resource 
library, and miscellaneous
activities such as flyering, herb walks, etc.

For almost a year we had meetings twice monthly (the 1st and 3rd
Sundays), but we have decided recently to have one general meeting on the 1st
Monday of every month, and have informal committee/topical meetings throughout
the month.  This seems to be working out better so far.  As far as group
dynamics are concerned, much of the grunt work always seems to fall on one or
two women.  Also, all the bwhc files, books, and stuff are kept in a
residence,which hinders people from freely using it.  However, we have started
a small resource file with our pamphlets, flyers, and resource list at
Bloomingfoods, a local co-operative grocery store.

We've had several excellent meetings where one or two women presented a
topic and everyone shared experiences on such subjects as yeast infections,
herbal abortifacients, breast cancer, self-cervical exams, STDs, and herbal
tinctures & salves.   For instance, we've had several self-exam meetings, and
it seems to be very popular with the women.  Self-exam does 
not have to be done
in the context of a collective, but it is an extremely exciting, empowering,
and new way to learn first-hand about one's body while sharing the experience
with other women.  We plan to have future topical meetings on midwifery, home
birth, herbal birth control, women's nutrition, and sexual 
abuse; there is talk
of having monthly self-exam meetings too!  

  At present, we have made several pamphlets on various topics such as: 
How to do Self-Exams, Yeast Infections, Home Birth, How to Make Herbal
Tinctures & Salves, Herbal & Alternative Methods for 
Treating STDs, and Women &
Health: An Overview (which compares first and third world women's health
issues, reprinted from Women in Development)   Our next pamphlet will cover
Herbal Abortifacients and Birth Control.  We distribute pamphlets for free or
for a small donation locally at various events.  We have also mailed our
pamphlets out-of-town and would love to send them to anyone 
interested!!!  (see
info below to order our pamphlets)
At first, we tried to sell the pamphlets in order to cover the
costs, but we thought this was a hindrance to getting our info out
there  and available. Over time, we have done other fundraising
activities such as selling stickers at local fairs, the 1994
Lalapaloosa, and the Detroit gathering last summer.  In addition
to donations of money and copy credit, selling stickers has helped
us produce pamphlets for free.  We recently put out our herbal
tinctures for sale at Bloomingfoods, and hope to also sell healing
salves there.  Future fundraising ideas include a bowl-a-rama
(inspired by the @zone), t-shirts, and a benefit concert.  

This past October, we sponsored a forum on "Sex Respect", an
abstinence-only sex (mis)education curriculum, which has 
been suggested for use
in our local schools by Crisis Pregnancy Center advocates 
(pro-life, anti-woman
clinic).  We sponsored the forum in order to  network with local teens, and to
get involved in community issues pertaining to women's health.  The forum
included a panel discussion of various community activists and professionals,
who criticized "Sex Respect" and all abstinence-based curricula, and offered
alternatives to them.  One success of this forum was the cooperation among
various women's groups in our community such as Reclaim Our 
Reproductive Rights
(RORR), Lesbian Avengers, Planned Parenthood of Southern IN, Middle Way House
(Domestic Violence Shelter/Rape Crisis Center), and bwhc.

To follow up on the issue of sex education in our local schools,
activists from different groups plan to put together a sex education pamphlet
and distribute it with condoms to local teens at Rhino's all-ages club,
schools, and community centers.  We have been inspired by 
the work of Coalition
for Positive Sexuality (CPS) in Chicago and their Just Say 
Yes sex ed pamphlet. 
Also, we hope to get involved with teachers and students at Harmony, a local
alternative private school   (K-12), using the CPS Just Say Yes pamphlet as a
participatory sex educational tool. 

One of the most important aspects of the collective is the information
that we use to educate ourselves and other women.  Our 
resource center contains
150 files on topics such as birth, contraceptives, STDs, HIV/AIDS,  sexual
abuse, domestic violence, menstruation, menopause, forced sterilization,
hysterectomy, genital mutilation,  homeopathy, herbal medicine, etc.  People
are free to use the resource center whenever, and they can 
take files and xerox
the information.  Our 50 books, which include The Yeast 
Connection, How to Stay
Out of the Gynecologist's Office, A Lesbian Guide to Women's Health, Beauty
Secrets, Verbally Abusive Relationships, Malepractice, etc. 
can also be checked
out.  We also provide a call in/mail out info retrieval service for anyone who
is searching for information on a particular subject.

If you are interested in finding out more about the collective, feel
free to call, write or e-mail us! To order our pamphlets, 
send two 29 cent (or 
32 cent) stamps per pamphlet or $3.50 for all six (or less 
if you REALLY can't 
afford it)  We really want to do more networking with other women's health 
collectives and women's centers!  Please pass on the word 
about us to all your 

ashley cruce
sasha hirst

bloomington women's
health collective
p.o. box 3207
bloomington, IN 47402  
(812) 339-4853 or 330-1944

@ ...go now ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall   @
@ come upon you.  Your riches are corrupted...your gold and silver is @
@ cankered, and the rust of them shall be a witness against you...    @
@                               --James 5:1-6                         @

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