How will Obamacare Repeal Affect Family Planning in Colorado?


Photo by osucoverde at

The new Republican Government

How Will an Obamacare Repeal Affect Family Planning in Colorado?  

The Affordable Care Act now covers about 20 million people nationwide. Coverage by ACA, plus shrinking unemployment, has helped put the uninsured rate in Colorado at historic lows – down to 6.7% in 2015. That translates to 419,000 people in Colorado who obtained insurance since the ACA was enacted in 2010 …

What will happen to all when Obamacare is repealed? This article focuses on possible changes to family planning services in Colorado as Obamacare is rolled back.

Source: Colorado Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice

When I wrote this piece on family planning in Colorado a couple days ago, I had no idea Trump would act within hours of inauguration to dismantle a law that has helped tens of millions get healthcare. I am proudly marching today for human rights. Health care is not optional in one of the richest countries in the world.

Free glaciology and marine programs for girls seek applications

WOW! This experience for teenage girls is phenomenal, and FREE?!? I hope it is still running when my girls are old enough. What a way to inspire a sense of adventure, efficacy, empowerment, a love of the natural world and science!


Inspiring Girls Expeditions is accepting applications through January 31, 2017 for free summer science and wilderness expeditions in Alaska and Washington for girls ages 16 to 17. Three teams of u…

Source: Free glaciology and marine programs for girls seek applications

Standing Rock – this generation’s Selma?

December 1, 2016 is International NODAPL day of action! TAKE ACTION

This summer, I visited the site of the Wounded Knee massacre on the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota on my family’s annual road trip. It seemed like history then. But like the world, I’ve watched in horror as the standoff over the Dakota Access Pipeline has continued to escalate in recent days. The response of the Morton County Sheriff’s office is becoming more and more Orwellian, coordinated and militarized: an assault with water cannons, concussion grenades, and rubber bullets, arrests, a blockade of needed supplies to the camp, and social media reports of illegal flyovers with cropdusters. Are we really prepared to witness another mass violence against Native peoples? Strider Benston, a man I admire who was injured at notorious peaceful civil rights protest in Selma, Alabama over fifty years ago believes this standoff is very much shaping up to be “this generation’s Selma.” What will you be telling your grandchildren and great-grandchildren in 50 years about your role during this time? My friend Carol Pranschke hopped in her car and traveled to the Standing Rock protest a few weeks ago with a friend. Her powerful, simple story reminds us of the peace and care at the heart of this protest. I’m honored to share her words here.

A Prayer Gathering: A story about visiting Standing Rock

I went to Standing Rock on November 7 and 8, bringing supplies and a desire to help by chopping vegetables. I was at the camp less than 36 hours.

Pray Listen Observe Help repeat: the mantra I, Song of Joy, came away with from Standing Rock, N.D.

My friend Shining Light’s mantra: Give more than you take.

A Native American youth leaned his arms on the frame of Shining Light’s driver’s side window and poked his head slightly in – we had just stopped at the entrance to the largest water protector camp, Oceti Sakowin – and, greeting us with a warm smile said “Hello, my aunties. May I give you each a kiss?” With that, he handed two Hershey kisses through the window. Shining Light looked at him and said “I would be very proud to be your Auntie.” We had driven 10 hours to get here, and like the greeting, the roads had been welcoming – not a single pothole, no gravel, nice shoulders, pronghorns munching here and there.
As they chatted about where we could drop off the food and winter-useful supplies we had in the car, I looked ahead and saw Flag Alley, an amazing number of colorful flags flying high atop poles on either side of the road that led into camp. The flags were from many Indian nations, also from other places and groups around the world.

The day was sunny with a brisk wind. This was Standing Rock: people arriving with supplies, others sitting, talking, some cooking. Some kids with a puppy, lots and lots of tents and tipis, a few winter-ready buildings in process of being built, piles of supplies (food and other) outside several tents. The Cannonball River wound around two sides of the camp far at the back and to the right. A Native American elder sat near the main supply tent with microphone in hand, watching over a nearby sacred fire (nothing goes in except sage, tobacco, firewood and prayers), giving helpful directions to new arrivals and adding a touch of warmth and humor throughout the day.

Within a couple of hours after dropping off supplies and parking the car, we found a large circle of people around a second sacred fire further back in camp, with a young man, perhaps 17 or 18 years old, of the International Indigenous Youth Council, saying all were welcome to this ceremony, and stepping the circle of about 400 people through the ceremony of preparing themselves for a silent prayer march. At first we joined in the circle, with me saying a quiet prayer about us needing to be in the right place. Shining Light nudged me, saying she wasn’t ready to commit to silence and a walk so early upon our arrival, and so we backed away and observed quietly. The silent group walked through camp up Flag Alley to the camp entrance, turned right and walked north to the police line and barriers on road 1806.

It was disconcerting yet peaceful. The long line of silent people walked 5-6 across, up to a barricade of police standing shoulder-to-shoulder in military gear with serious weaponry in their hands, and two more police officers standing on top of heavy vehicles just behind the line of police, again holding serious weaponry. I heard later that some of the youth leaders offered the police a bit of water as a blessing, and one policeman stepped out of line and accepted it. Four people on horses rode up to the back of the walkers, and then turned around and raced back down the road. The marchers turned also and walked silently back to camp.

A Native American man called up to where Shining Light and I sat on a hill overlooking the quiet scene, and said “Hey you two ladies sure are cute but we can’t have any stragglers. Come on back to camp with us.” I spoke quietly to Shining Light, “We drove 700 miles and I got called cute. Now I know the trip was worth it!”

Later, I helped in a kitchen tent by washing pans and chopping veggies for salads; Shining Light cut up fruit and attended the daily 2 p.m. nonviolent direct action training. The next day, we attended a 2-hour orientation and then drove to Bismarck to get copies made of handouts for the 9 a.m. orientations. This was not a trip filled with hardship, though while we traveled Shining Light shared many stories of hardship faced by Native Americans today. We may well have been there during one of the quietest two days in camp.

How did I end up in Standing Rock? This gathering after all is an unprecedented gathering of Indian nations; they are finding voice and brotherhood/sisterhood in the cause of clean water, and I am a 56-year-old white woman who would like to lose a little weight from around her middle. Perhaps the biggest three reasons I went are: (1) I like to pray, and I wondered, can’t people pray in peace in this country? (2) When I saw news accounts of Native Americans being arrested and having numbers written on their arms, that was an eerie reminder of Holocaust stories, and (3) The day after I had clarified for myself “I want to help. I want to go,” Shining Light spoke of her own concerns about what was happening, looked me in the eyes and said “Let’s Go!”

I’m glad I went. I’m still surprised that it worked out and that I’m now back. I’m grateful for all those who helped make it happen. I’m thankful for the prayers, supplies and well wishes that were sent with us.

I’m wondering if brownies (you know the grandma kind of chocolate only) would help the police put down their weapons for a moment. Yes, call me Naïve Yet Hopeful; I’m wondering what will stop the violence and why we aren’t using mediation and shared meals.

If you plan to go, I invite you to read more at The Native Americans know what they’re doing, and they cook up a good meal. The elders deserve our respect and we can follow their lead – and there’s a lot to learn. If they ever put out a call for brownies, I’m willing to return and bake ‘em up.

This is my truth, these are my words,
by Carol Pranschke

Four reasons to be grateful, post November 8

5b78f6cfc6a54f0262ef3d2fea360616.jpgWith Thanksgiving approaching, it’s time to count our blessings. I admit, I’m a gratitude junky. As a natural pessimist, I’ve realized how good gratitude feels and I’ve consciously cultivated it. We introduced a “three good things” daily discussion around the dinner table years ago for my also pessimistic now 9-year-old. My 4-year-old twins joined in as soon as they could talk. We recently upped the ante with a “Graditudinator,” a repurposed takeout container my kids decorated in which we put little pieces of paper all week with things we’re grateful for. Then we read them together Sunday night.

But this holiday season feels different. With the Cubs winning the World Series for the first time in 108 years (GO CUBBIES!!!) and the upset election, it feels a little apocalyptic. The Cubbies finally winning was a blessing beyond measure for Cubs fans all over the world, but the election last week rocked me to my core.

In hindsight, I kept my head in the sand about there being any real possibility that Donald Trump would win the presidency. From the moment I broke down in grief-filled sobs at 4 am November 9th,  I have experienced the full range of human emotions, and I never know what each new day is going to bring.

I thought I was past the initial shock and grief, but then Friday’s announcements of a KKK sympathizer and pro-torture guy for two powerful government positions brought me low again. Despair, fury, anger, fear have all run their course through me, as have a need to understand. And a poignancy to daily life, an appreciation of the things I so often take for granted. Here are five things I’ve found to be grateful for, as we approach this holiday season:

1 – The simple things in life

My 4-year-old daughter’s tiny hand grasps a crayon, her perfect little knuc867c72942be27e759481883ad35cab48.jpgkles illuminated by the early morning sun, as she carefully traces her letters at the kitchen table this morning. Her whole body is focused on the effort of spelling and writing the word “apple sauce.”

There’ve been moments like this each day throughout the past week where I’m overwhelmed by the simple joys of life, that normally might have slipped by unnoticed. But in the backdrop of intense uncertainty in the broader world, I have slowed down enough to truly appreciate my small beings.

My three kids don’t know why the adults around them are so upset about the election, but they notice everything. Their joy is contagious. They teach me so much every single day about kindness. When I uncharacteristically vented about being cut off by a big pickup truck the morning of November 9th, I was greeted by a shocked silence from the back of the minivan that was broken by my son, “Mommy, that wasn’t nice. We don’t call names.” I apologized and admitted I was wrong.

We’ve talked some about the election, at age appropriate levels. I was blessed to catch a live webcast on Facebook by Hand In Hand Parenting founder Patty Wipfler the day after the election, and some friends put together an info sheet with parenting resources (and a lot more regional resources).

2 – Spiritual practice

I am intensely _DSC6547-01.jpggrateful for the Buddhist practices I discovered 3 years ago. I’d be lost in a storm of emotions if it weren’t for this anchor. Buddhism has allowed me to hold all my conflicting, intense emotions with compassion. With Buddhist practices, I know I’m not the sum of my emotions. I’m the ocean in which my emotions swim.

I’m also grateful for my Unitarian church. Having a place to go and be with loving, supportive, nonjudgmental people who have so much collective wisdom and heart in this time of grief has enriched my healing, centeredness, and resolve immeasurably. Liberals don’t have many choices when it comes to organized spirituality – I spent 20 years without a spiritual community knowing I would fail the “litmus test” of beliefs in traditional religion on just about every count. Finding the Boulder Valley fellowship a couple years ago, I had no idea then what a “port in the storm” this group would be in this time of difficulty.

3 – A wake-up call to engage more

Sometimes it takes a shock to the system to be able to see clearly. I’ve been working in racial justice on and off over the past couple years, but this week I’ve been painfully aware of my white privilege as I make my way in the world. Something as simple as leaving the rec center Saturday morning, I saw an armed policeman who I knew wouldn’t look twice at me, a middle-aged white woman. That’s white privilege in action, and so easily not noticed.

Belatedly, I’ve made a pact to not shy away from difficult discussions on race, on politics, on women’s rights.

My sister speaks heartbreakingly of the palpable fear parents, students, and teachers alike are feeling at the school where she teaches, a majority Latino charter school in Chicago since November 8.

The election of a man who proposed banning Muslims, says most Mexican immigrants are rapists, and speaks of women in terms that make me feel violated makes it really impossible to avoid the problems this country is facing.

This, in the backdrop of social turmoil that was beginning to resemble the ‘60s even before this crazy election. A lot of people, including me, believe that race was an unspoken draw for the white voters who flocked to Trump – read The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander for the full story, or watch the new hit Netflix documentary, 13th.

A controversial article on the safety pin movement made me realize painfully that I personally helped to contribute to the election of Donald Trump, by not talking more openly with my fellow white Trump-supporting friends and relatives. Belatedly, I’ve made a pact to not shy away from difficult discussions on race, on politics, on women’s rights.

Not wanting to offend or start a confrontation is a powerful muzzle, even though I engage in activism in other ways. Luckily, I recently joined a compassionate communication practice group (also known as nonviolent communication). There are some really great tips out there for engaging in these tough conversations, such as this article. The trick is not getting attached to changing the other’s opinion, but rather to focus on listening and really hearing what the other person is saying. In essence, this means focusing on process over result, a teaching that has become so ubiquitous in management training, parenting, and emotional intelligence guides. And it takes some pressure off these types of discussions – you’re not trying to convince, you’re listening and sharing your truth in return.

4 – A heartfelt understanding of things we all have in common

Unfortunately, a big thing most of us share is fear. It’s so close to the surface within American culture these days. Many sociologists have written on the “culture of fear,” one memorably in a collaboration with Michael Moore a few years back. But this week, I’ve really felt the bodily sensation of fear. Fear for country, for the world, for Muslims in the US, immigrants, minorities, and fear for my daughters, growing up under a president who speaks so derisively of women (the words, “Grab em by the p***sy!” kept maniacally repeating over and over again in my head November 9th).

In the precious moments when I get past the horror and quiet my mind, I feel like I understand better now how some people on the other side of the political spectrum might have felt when Barack Obama was elected eight years ago.

In an interview on her new book, Strangers in Their Own Land, author and sociologist Arlie Hochschild dissects the rise of the Tea Party based on her travels in rural Louisiana. She stresses the need for greater empathy in the Trump era. She talks of our “deep stories” – our sometimes unconscious worldviews that inform everything from career choices to religiosity to political affiliation. The story of many of those she spoke to is one of continued stagnation and trying to stay afloat in an economy that seems to have forgotten them. “[Y]ou, in fact, are not feeling good about yourself. In a way, you’re kind of in mourning for a lost identity and way of life,” says Hochschild of her interviewees’ perception after Barack Obama’s election. I was fascinated by the premise, and I need to read that book. Just reading the interview opened up a window into the humanity we all share. I never thought I would be struggling to make ends meet, with two biochemistry PhDs in my family. It doesn’t feel good. At least I know it’s temporary. Some people don’t feel that assurance.

We don’t consciously experience it this way, but everyone just wants to feel safe, to feel like we can provide for our kids, to feel like life is fair. But getting stuck in blaming the “other” – whoever that other happens to be – just doesn’t work. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote:

Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.

From A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches

May we all dig deep to find lessons from this election, and focus on all the things we can be grateful for in this crazy, terrible, and amazing life. For those of us feeling overwhelmed by fear, especially if you personally have experienced aggression during this difficult time, please reach out to someone you can trust, a community organization, or depression resources in your community. We are truly in this together!




Maternal mortality rising in the US

A recent New York Times article, “America’s Shocking Maternal Deaths,” was aptly titled. I was genuinely shocked that we’ve seen a nearly 25% increase in maternal deaths across the US, in contrast to the trends in the rest of the world, where rates have been dropping over the last quarter century. The article didn’t specifically mention my home state of Colorado, though. I did some digging, and found that Colorado is not immune from this virtual epidemic of maternal deaths in recent years. The actual number of women who die from pregnancy, childbirth or complications of childbirth is extremely small in the developed world, so no statistically significant conclusions can be drawn, but there has been a spike in maternal deaths here starting in 2013 that is troublesome…Read more in the full article:  Shocking Maternal Mortality in Colorado.

Colorado is one of 49 states and the District of Columbia that saw a jump in maternal deaths in the past quarter century, bucking worldwide trends that saw a 44% decrease over the same period. How did this happen?

Creating the (Physical and Mental) Space to Write

“But one’s ‘space to write’ goes beyond the tangible: we also need the mental space to tell our stories.” Four bloggers reflect on what kind of space they need to write.

via Creating the (Physical and Mental) Space to Write — Discover

Wow – seeing as I haven’t posted all summer, this post on ‘finding space’ to write seems meant especially for me. But I suspect it speaks to a larger theme that many of us have in our lives, writers or not: finding the time and space for things we care about that (a) aren’t paying (at least right now), and (b) are not related to the needs of family, friends, coworkers, church, school, or other community members. Why do we put ourselves last? And why do we try to cram so much into our busy lives?

Colorado Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice Newsletter available

CO-RCRC, the Colorado Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, provides a unique, compassionate voice to the sometimes polarizing issues of reproductive choice. I am humbled and honored by this opportunity to contribute to the conversation on this important spectrum of topics. In the June issue, I talk about BC4U, an organization that provides free birth control and routine health services to teens in the greater Denver area.



This issue’s spotlight is on Birth Control 4 You, (BC4U), a non-profit that provides free education, birth control, and medical treatment for teens. Funded through an anonymous donor, BC4…

Source: BC4U

Making the Leap into the Work You Love with Scott Youmans

Scott Youmans knows his way around Right Livelihood, having left a lucrative career in the corporate world for the work of his heart, which turned out to be its own winding rock trip. He’s al…

Source: Making the Leap into the Work You Love with Scott Youmans

Reproductive choice is about so much more than abortion

“If we, as a society, want women to have true, viable choices, we need to support women who want to keep their pregnancies.”

I got involved in the pro-choice movement after college at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana in the mid-1990s, when a teen very close to me faced an unexpected pregnancy. I hadn’t really thought about abortion in a personal sense at all until that time, and then I couldn’t believe the beautiful child I’d known most of my life actually wanted to “throw it all away” to have a baby at 17. But it wasn’t to be – it was a molar pregnancy and ended in the first trimester. My friend didn’t become a mother until many years later. Still, the experience left a mark that changed both our lives.

I was devastated that abortion was an option my young friend felt she could not even consider. When the pregnancy turned out to be unviable, I thanked my lucky stars that the universe had saved her from her predicament. I also did what many of us do when emotionally overwhelmed, I found a group to blame and demonize: the pro-life movement, which had “poisoned” my friend against what I then viewed as the only sane choice under the circumstances.

My friend didn’t become a mother until many years later. Still, the experience left a mark that changed both our lives.

After that heartbreaking episode, I developed an interest in my local Planned Parenthood in Urbana-Champaign. I went there a few times for women’s health services after graduation. I found the few, lonely protestors who kept trying to talk me out of going into the building so otherworldly; who were these people, in this sleepy, mostly empty downtown area in semi-rural Illinois, and why were they trying to prevent me from getting a PAP smear and birth control? I was trying to be responsible, and I felt like I was being treated as a criminal.

In 1997, I packed up all my belongings in the back of my parents’ minivan and moved out to Boulder, Colorado for graduate school in biochemistry at the University of Colorado. I began volunteering in my spare time, phone banking and knocking on doors for NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado. I attended rallies and direct actions for pro-choice candidates, wrote lots of letters, and even dabbled in lobbying my state representatives.

For years, I was basically a one-issue activist, but my conception of feminism broke apart in the aftermath of the huge life wake-up of having my first daughter in 2007 (I’m now the proud mother of three little ones, an 8-year-old girl and 4-year-old boy/girl twins). As I entered the proverbial next phase, I had a trial-by-fire expansion of my understanding of the social, cultural and economic complexities that affect reproductive choice.

If we, as a society, want women to have true, viable choices, we need to support women who want to keep their pregnancies.

I realized that choice is really about a whole range of issues. It means offering evidence-based reproductive education in schools, access to effective contraception, all-options counseling, and yes, the right to choose an abortion.

And it doesn’t end there. If we, as a society, want women to have true, viable choices, we need to support women who want to keep their pregnancies. That means universal paid family leave and health care, including mental health care, for all new mothers. With my first pregnancy, I actually had no health insurance past the first two weeks of maternity leave, without even knowing my coverage had lapsed until after I was back at work.  Real choice means having high quality pre-natal and post-natal care, and it means having the birth you want that is safe for mother and baby whether it’s at a birthing center, at home, or at the hospital.

It also means offering accessible, affordable quality daycare and after-school care so parents can support their families. I was shocked when I found myself paying annual daycare bills that rivaled college tuition costs (Colorado has the 5th highest tuition by state at a whopping $12,900 per year average for full day care in 2012).

Real choice means ending wage discrimination, and raising the minimum wage. We still make $0.79 for every dollar white men earn, and for black women, that’s $0.63. Women who find themselves pregnant – because 45% of pregnancies in the US are unplanned – need to find raising a baby a financially viable decision.

Real choice means reversing the shrinking middle class piece of the pie, so families can afford to have one parent stay home with their babies and young children if they choose.

All these issues are inextricably linked to the reproductive choices women make. And we have so much more work to do.

Gwen Murphy is a PhD biochemist, medical writer, blogger and activist. Visit for more information. 



  1. Tran AB. Map: The average cost for child care by state. Boston Globe. Published July 02, 2014. Accessed May 3, 2016.
  2. American Association of University Women. The Pay Gap Is Even Worse for Black Women, and That’s Everyone’s Problem. Published  July 21, 2015. Accessed May 3, 2016.
  3. Guttmacher Institute. Unintended Pregnancy in the United States Fact Sheet. Published March 2016. Accessed May 1, 2016.

Stock photo by adamr from