Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Bioethicists Approve '3 Parent' Embryos

The Washington Post (Feb. 3, 2016): Ethicists approve ‘3 parent’ embryos to stop diseases, but congressional ban remains, by Joel Achenbach: 

An advisory panel called together by the US Food and Drug Administration concluded, this week, that it is ethically permissible to proceed with in-vitro fertilization that combines the DNA of three parents to form an embryo. The panel, made up of scientists and bioethicists, approved a procedure called mitochondrial replacement techniques (MRT), but advises caution in its use. 

MRT replaces the nucleus of a donor's egg with the mother's nucleus and then fertilizes the egg with the father's sperm. The procedure guards against certain diseases that can be passed down from mother to child through the egg's mitochondria. 

Though the procedure has been approved by the House of Lords in the UK, it is currently on hold in the US due to a congressional ban. 

More information can be found at Slate

February 9, 2016 in Assisted Reproduction | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, February 8, 2016

More Progressive Reproductive Policies from the Pentagon

New York Times (Feb. 4, 2016): Pentagon to Offer Plan to Store Eggs and Sperm to Retain Young Troops, by Michael S. Schmidt:

In an effort to retain troops on active duty by making the military more family friendly, the Pentagon wants to reassure those who fear injury to their reproductive organs or who want to pursue a military career before having children.  Given the expense (an estimate is that the program will cost the Pentagon $150 million per year), almost no employers offer egg and sperm freezing to their employees.  Legal and ethical questions related to this service have yet to be resolved.

The Pentagon has recently improved the lives of service members in various ways related to having children, including longer maternity leaves, improved child care and the creation of lactation rooms at military facilities.  The initiatives are meant to address the greater emphasis that millenials place on work-life balance than did previous generations.   


February 8, 2016 in Fertility, Parenthood, President/Executive Branch | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Female Genital Cutting in Indonesia

New York Times (Feb. 5, 2016): Female Genital Cutting: Not Just "an African Problem," by Pam Belluck and Joe Cochrane:

New documentation shows that female genital cutting is widespread in Indonesia, one of the most populous countries in Asia and the world's most populous Muslim-majority nation.  It is estimated that 60 million women and girls have been cut, using a technique that is less invasive than is common in Africa.  Current regulations require the cutting to be performed by a medical professional who may do no more than scratch the clitoral hood without injuring the clitoris.  Most cutting is performed on infants.  Unicef has been working in Indonesia to end the practice. 

The practice of female genital cutting persists, despite reductions in its incidence worldwide.  The reductions are not keeping up with population growth with the result that the number of girls and woman being cut is expected to rise over the next 15 years.  Cultural beliefs about the practice vary, including that without it women cannot truly be women and cannot marry.   


February 7, 2016 in Culture, International, Religion | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Reproaction Launches to Advance Reproductive Justice

Feministing (Jan. 25, 2016): The Feministing Five: Reproaction, by Suzanna Bobadilla: 

Erin Matson and Pamela Merritt have founded Reproaction a direct action group working "to engage people across the US to fight for reproductive justice."  Erin Matson explains, 

[W]e are proud to be a direct action organization. Direct action involves taking demands directly to power, not asking someone to take action on your behalf, like lobbying. We draw inspiration from organizations like #BlackLivesMatter, immigration groups, and LGBT organizations. We as a reproductive organization are committed to elevating these tactics and working with others who are using these tactics to ensure that every single person in this country as access to abortion, no funny business.

 As a new organization, they have already made some big waves, including calling out DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz for her remarks about the complacency of of young women after Roe v. Wade with their hashtag #DearDebbie. 

Find out more about Reproaction and how to engage at their website

February 6, 2016 in Pro-Choice Movement | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, February 5, 2016

What the word's women pack in their maternity bags

The Guardian (Jan. 29, 2016): What the world's women pack in their maternity bags - in pictures, Global Development:

From plastic sheets, thermos flasks and torches to touchscreen tablets and massage oils, WaterAid has revealed, as part of their Deliver Life initiative, what women in Australia, Zambia, Madagascar, Malawi and a host of other countries pack in their maternity bags. Depending on where in the world they are giving birth, the items taken to the hospital might be luxuries or life-savers

Through photos, the Guardian's Global Development website illustrates women's hopes for their new babies as well as the struggle for safe maternity care that many women face around the world.

Global Development is supported in part by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. 

February 5, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Texas Funding Cuts Targeting Planned Parenthood and Other Family Planning Clinics Result in Increased Birth Rates

La Times (Feb. 3, 2016): After Texas stopped funding Planned Parenthood, low-income women had more babies, Deborah Netburn: 

A new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine finds that cuts to Planned Parenthood and other family planning clinics affiliated with abortion providers in Texas resulted in increased births among low-income women.  Researchers from the Population Research Center at the University of Texas calculated that the relative increase in births for women who lost access to Planned Parenthood was 27%.  

The funding cuts resulted in closures of family planning clinics and a shortage of appointments at the remaining facilities.

The first blow to Planned Parenthood and other family planning clinics in Texas came in 2011, when lawmakers cut family-planning grants by 66% across the state. The money that remained was directed toward community health centers and county health departments that provide more comprehensive care.

This dramatic cut in funding was responsible for the closure of 82 family-planning clinics in the state, researchers said. About one-third of them were affiliated with Planned Parenthood.

Because the state’s federally funded Medicaid program was prohibited from discriminating against Planned Parenthood clinics in 2013, the state set up its own state-funded Texas Women’s Health Program, which could legally withhold funds from any clinic affiliated with an abortion provider. The funding cuts and closures hit low-income women particularly hard.  Before 2013, Planned Parenthood served 60% of the state's low income women of childbearing age. 

The study's results are instructive as to the possible outcome of similar policies to defund Planned Parenthood enacted in Arkansas, Alabama, New Hampshire, Louisiana, North Carolina and Utah.

February 5, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Parental Leave Could Solve the Culinary Gender Gap

Eater (Jan. 27, 2016): Escaping the Restaurant Industry's Motherhood Trap, by Amanda Kludt: 
[T]he United States is one of only two countries in the world that doesn't grant paid leave for new mothers (the other is Papua New Guinea). We simply require that all businesses with over 50 employees offer twelve weeks of unpaid leave to full-timers who have been with them for one year. And there's no guarantee of the woman keeping the job: after those twelve weeks, the employer must offer only an "equivalent" job back to the employee.
This policy disproportionately affects the restaurant industry, where women have been historically shut out of high-level positions. 
In fact, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics, only four percent of food service workers — roughly 490,000 of the12.3 million individuals employed in this field — get any sort of paid family leave at all. The fact that restaurant workers make up the seven of the 10 lowest-paid positions in their survey compounds the problem.

Kludt calls for changed legislation mandating parental leave for all. 

Women are primary or secondary breadwinners in two thirds of American families, so the loss of income for three months is no small matter.So paid leave specifically and childcare in general is an issue that all of us — not women, but our entire society, and the restaurant industry as a whole — need to grapple with. What's happening right now is unacceptable, and women can't right the wrongs alone.

More information on exploitation and gender-inequity in the restaurant industry can be found at WNYC





February 5, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Zika Virus Forcing Brazil to Consider Exceptions to Its Strict Abortion Law

Ny Times (Feb. 3, 2016): Surge in Zika Virus Has Brazilians Re-examining Strict Abortion Laws, by Simon Romero:

RECIFE, Brazil — The surging medical reports of babies being born with unusually small heads during the Zika epidemic in Brazil are igniting a fierce debate over the country’s abortion laws, which make the procedure illegal under most circumstances.

In Brazil, abortions are only allowed in cases of rape, where the mother's life is in danger or when the the fetus suffers from anencephaly, a birth defect that causes part of the brain or skull to be missing.  Concern that pregnant women's exposure to the Zika virus may cause microcephaly in their fetuses has spurred debate over whether access to abortion should be broadened. 

The abortion debate is further complicated because severe cases of microcephaly aren't detected until around 24 weeks.  While anencephaly is almost always fatal, microcephaly outcomes are less predictable.  

“Some children with severe-appearing brain malformations seem to be relatively unaffected,” said Dr. Hannah M. Tully, a neurologist at Seattle Children’s Hospital specializing in brain malformations. “Yet others with relatively minor structural problems may have profound disabilities.”

At least 10 percent of babies with microcephaly have no mental deficits. These children end up “intellectually and developmentally normal,” said Dr. Constantine A. Stratakis, a pediatric geneticist and a scientific director at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development in Bethesda, Md. But any child whose head measures “three or four standard deviations below the mean, then it’s very unlikely that you will be dealing with normal intelligence.”

Because of Brazil's restrictive abortion laws, an estimated 850,000 women obtain illegal abortions.  These procedures are unregulated and create unnecessary health risks - hospital records show that 150,000 women seek attention for complications from illegal abortions each year.  They also pose the risk that women will be arrested.  The NY Times reported that one Brazilian woman was "handcuffed to a bed and arrested after she sought medical attention for a botched abortion."

The anencephaly exception was recognized in 2012 by a ruling from Supreme Federal Tribunal of Brazil following ten years of activism and litigation. Abortion rights groups are planning to file a similar lawsuit seeking to legalize abortion in cases of microcephaly.

February 4, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Pentagon Extends Paid Maternity Leave

Huffington Post (Jan. 28, 2016): Pentagon to Announce Longer Family Leave for Service Members (AP):

Defense Secretary Ash Carter intends to double the length of fully paid maternity leave for female service members and will also work to boost time off for paternity leave and adoptions, U.S. officials said.

Carter also intends to expand health care coverage to include more benefits for women trying to get pregnant. He also will direct the military services to expand the hours that military child care facilities are open and the number of children that can be accommodated, the officials said.

The proposals are scheduled to be announce Thursday as part of an ongoing effort to modernize and improve its ability to retain and recruit quality forces.   T he changes will increase paid maternity leave from six weeks to twelve weeks.  According to AP, "pregnancy is a key issue for military women, who often have to deploy for months at a time and try to plan childbirth around their more stable duty assignments."


January 31, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Planned Parenthood Bridges Gap in Access to Hormone Therapy

Slate (Jan. 29, 2016): Planned Parenthood is Helping Transgender Patients Access Hormone Therapy, by Vanessa Vitiello Urquhart: 

For transgender Americans, finding safe, affordable, and nonjudgmental medical treatment can be a struggle. Hormone therapy, which typically consists of testosterone (for patients seeking to become more masculine) or estrogen plus androgen blockers (for patients seeking a feminizing effect), is among the most commonly used treatments in medical transition. Across much of the country, it can be difficult to find doctors who are willing to prescribe the drugs required for hormone replacement therapy, and medical practitioners who choose not to prescribe hormones to these patients may be ignorant or insensitive to patients who come in to request them.

Planned Parenthood has taken this issue on, currently offering hormone therapy to transgender patients in 26 locations across the country and working to increase that number. 

While all the other local clinics require a letter from the patient’s therapist before they will prescribe HRT, Planned Parenthood operates on an informed consent basis. This means that all patients whose bloodwork indicates they are good candidates for the treatment will be prescribed testosterone or estrogen and androgen blockers, so long as they understand the likely effects and accept the possible side effects that go along with it, after those side effects have been explained to them. This distinction can be crucial to poorer patients, who may struggle to afford the months of therapy that can be required before a letter is forthcoming.


Check out Planned Parenthood's website for further resources.

January 31, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

State Legislators Propose Anti-Trans Laws

ACLU (Jan. 21, 2016): Legislators Across the Country Set Their Sights on Transgender People, by Chase Strangio:

After last year became the most violent in history toward the transgender community, 2016 is off to an inauspicious start with anti-trans rhetoric heating up in the states. Bills are being introduced in state legislatures, from Washington state to Virginia (and everywhere in-between), aimed at dehumanizing and discriminating against LGBT people. In many, transgender people bear the brunt of the most extreme proposals.

The radical bills include:

  • 9 anti-LGBT proposals in Virginia, including a $50 civil penalty for those using the "wrong" bathroom. 
  • A bill in South Dakota intended to force transgender students into separate restrooms and locker room facilities. 
  • Indiana's legislature considers a fine of up to $1,000 and a sentence of up to one year in jail for transgender people using facilities that correspond to their gender. 

The ACLU has launched a petition the protect transgender students' rights.   Information is available here

January 31, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Apple Maps Criticized for Sending Abortion Seekers to CPCs

RH Reality Check (Jan, 29, 2106): Apple Maps Sends Abortion Seekers to Crisis Pregnancy Centers, by Jenn Stanley: 

iPhone owners in many cities who use the Apple Maps app to search for abortion clinics have been led astray, instead finding results for adoption agencies and deceitful crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs).

RH Reality Check describes an investigation by Fast Company in January, which tested Siri and Apple Maps in San Francisco.  When searching "abortion" in Maps or asking Siri "Where can I find an abortion provider," no abortion providers were included in the search results.  Instead, users were directed to an adoption agency almost 30 miles outside of San Francisco.  

Apple first received complaints about the problem five years ago.  

“My hunch is that this isn’t political at all, even now,” Sean Gourley, a data scientist and learning algorithms expert based in Silicon Valley, told Fast Company. “Apple is not a search company, unlike Google, and its knowledge base is very different.”

After it first received complaints in 2011, Apple responded that the results were not intentional and that steps would be taken to improve Siri as it was moved from "beta to a final product."  Other tech companies have taken proactive steps to provide accurate information about abortion.  In 2014, Google took steps to remove deceptive ads for Crisis Pregnancy Centers because they violated Google police against deceptive advertising.  RH Reality Check reports that since the initial Fast Company investigation,  "[s]earch results seemed to have improved over the past week."


January 30, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, January 28, 2016

As Zika Virus Spreads, El Salvador Urges Against Pregnancies

Scientific American, Reuters (Jan. 22, 2016): El Salvador Urges Against Pregnancies Until 2016 as Zika Virus Spreads, by Reuters Staff:

El Salvador on Thursday urged women in the Central American nation to avoid getting pregnant until 2018 to avoid their children developing birth defects from the mosquito-borne Zika virus which has rampaged through the Americas.

The Zika virus is transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which is also known to carry the dengue, yellow fever and Chikungunya viruses. Health experts are unsure why the virus, which was first detected in Africa in 1947 but unknown in the Americas until last year, is spreading so rapidly in Brazil and neighboring countries.

The virus has been found in 21 countries in the Caribbean, North and South America, though there is currently no treatment or vaccine. Zika virus has been linked to children born with underdeveloped brains and paralysis in adults. While it is primarily transmitted by mosquitos, new evidence suggests that Zika virus may also be sexually transmitted. 

Response to the spread of the virus has varied from country to country, with some governments issuing travel warnings to countries where the virus has been found. Other countries have issued recommendations that women avoid pregnancy for as long as two years, despite lack of access to birth control methods or abortion in some cases. 

More information can be found at the BBC or New York Times and Vocativ


January 28, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Women Wrote Only 37% of Reproductive Issue Stories in 2014-15

Feministing (Jan. 22, 2016): Infographic: Women Only Wrote 37% of Reproductive Issue Stories, by Sesali B.: 

A report issued by the Women's Media Center on major news outlets between 2014 and 2015, found that more than half of reproductive issues stories were written by men. 

[A]fter looking at 1,385 news stories, columns, op-eds, and editorials covering reproductive issues, 52% of the stories were written by men, while only 37% were written by women. And in presidential election coverage related to abortion and contraception, the gender gap widened with male reporters accounting for 67% of the writers. 

Looking at 12 of the top media outlets, not a single one of them had women writing the majority of their stories. WMC’s research also reveals how this imbalance has consequences for who gets quoted in those stories. They found that male reporters were more likely to quote male sources in their stories, while female reporters were more likely to quote women. The study also looked at which topics related to reproductive health were covered most.

January 27, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Texas Grand Jury Clears Planned Parenthood and Indicts Makers of "Sting" Video

NY Times (Jan. 26, 2016): A Charged Blend of Law and Politics in a Texas Planned Parenthood Case, by Manny Fernandez:

On Tuesday, the Harris County district attorney announced that a grand jury investigation - based on an undercover video at a Houston abortion clinic purporting to show Planned Parenthood officials seeking to illegally profit from the sale of fetal tissue - had cleared Planned Parenthood of any wrongdoing.  However, the grand jury indicted two of the individuals involved in making the video.  David R. Daleiden and Sandra S. Merritt were charged with tampering with a government record,  a felony,  for creating fake IDs that resembled California drivers licenses that they used in their meeting at Planned Parenthood.  Daleiden also faces a misdemeanor charge relating to purchasing human organs based on a email he sent offering to buy fetal tissue. 


January 27, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Bureau of Justice Statistics Releases Report on Sexual Assault on College Campuses

Feministing (Jan. 21, 2016): DOJ Campus Survey: At One School, 1 in 2 Women have been Sexually Assaulted, by Mahroh Jahangiri:

The Bureau of Justice Statistics released yesterday the overall results of a sexual assault survey of nine schools. More than 23,000 students responded. .... Overall, 25% of female respondents across the 9 schools reported experiencing some form of sexual assault since they enrolled at their schools. There was high variability between schools: at one, 1 in 2 women were sexually assaulted during their time in college; at another, 1 in 8.

Issues highlighted by the report include: 

  • Rates of sexual assault are highest not only among undergraduate women, but for those students identifying as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or another identity not listed on the survey.
  • Intimate partner violence: nearly one out of ten college students has experienced violence within a relationship.
  • Rates of reporting are low, with only "1.1% of sexual battery incidents and 4.2% of rape incidents" reported to any law enforcement agency.
  • The educational impacts of campus rape are serious, with many victims considering dropping out of school or transferring, and others dropping classes as a result. 

The full report can be found here

January 26, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Trust Black Women and Halt Attacks on Bodily Autonomy

RH Reality Check (Jan. 14, 2016): For Black Women's Lives to Matter, Legislators Must Halt Attacks on Our Bodily Autonomy, by Monica Simpson:

Monica Simson of SisterSong responds to comments made by Congressman Sean Duffy (R-WI) criticizing the Congressional Black Caucus and the Black Lives Matter movement for not working to limit abortion access.  Simpson calls out Duffy and other politicians who seek to push aside the Black Lives Matter movement's emphasis on Black lives by declaring that all lives matter.  Recent attempts such as the "All Lives Matter Act" introduced by Rep. Mike Moon (R-MO) which seeks to define a fertilized egg as a person further co-opt the movement.  "Rep. Moon sees an opportunity to use the mantle of a movement that is about the dignity of the Black community to mount an attack on Black women’s access to care." Simpson writes:

Black women have historically faced disparities in access to reproductive health care, including abortion. Chronic health conditions plague our community, and yet many of the lawmakers who claim to care about all lives—which should mean our lives too—have been silent, or worse, they have pushed for steeper cuts to health programs.

Where is their care for Black babies when Black women have endured forced sterilization in hospitals, in prisons, in our doctor’s offices? Where is their concern about the fact that Black women experience a high rate of maternal mortality or that Black families are more likely to struggle with food insecurity and to become homeless?

Simpson emphasizes that for Black women the fight to dismantle white supremacy and the fight against those who seek to control Black women's reproduction has always been intrinsically linked. "We do need politicians to Trust Black Women to make our own decisions about our bodies, our families, and our lives and to join us in speaking out against such vitriol when their colleagues don’t."

January 26, 2016 in Race & Reproduction | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, January 25, 2016

California Jails Denying Reproductive Health Care

RH Reality Check (Jan. 19, 2016): ACLU Report: California Jails Denying Reproductive Health Care, by Nicole Night Shine:

Incarcerated California women are denied abortion services, prenatal care, and even menstrual pads, according to a scathing American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of California report released Tuesday that finds some county jails deny, delay, and ignore prisoners’ reproductive health care.

Among the issues highlighted in the report:

  • Delayed and denied abortion access
  • Influencing abortion access: Interviews with one jail administrator indicated that jail staff would encourage certain women—those with multiple children or those with chemical dependencies—to have an abortion.
  • Dangerous conditions for pregnant inmates, including denial of prenatal and emergency visits with medical staff and use of shackles on pregnant inmates.
  • Lack of accommodations for nursing inmates.
  • Shortage of menstrual supplies.
  • Lack of safeguards for LGBTQ people.
  • Poor tracking of sexual assault.

The report also urges abolition of policies that limit reproductive health care to women whose gender identity matches their biological sex at birth. It recommends addressing the heightened risk of sexual assault for incarcerated transgender women and providing menstruation pads to all those who need them, regardless of whether the person is housed in a men’s or women’s jail.

January 25, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Significant increase in abortion restrictions since 2011

Vox (January 22, 2016): A quarter of all post-Roe abortion restrictions were passed in the last 5 years, by Sarah Kliff and Javier Zarracina:

States have passed 288 abortion restrictions since 2008. These restrictions constitute 27% of restrictions passed in the 42 years since Roe v. Wade.  Abortion restrictions began rising in 2011 following the national debate about whether abortion would be covered in health plans offered on the health care exchanges created by Obamacare.  Republican legislators took the battle to the state level to introduce legislation banning insurance coverage for abortion. According to Vox "Abortion restrictions often come in waves; one state will pass a new type of law, and then others follow":

The waves of new abortion restrictions tend to cluster around specific approaches to regulation. About half of those enacted since 2011 fall into four categories: bans on abortion at 20 weeks, limitations on insurance coverage of abortion, limitations on medical abortions, and targeted regulations of abortion providers (like the admitting privilege laws).

January 24, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Tubal Ligation at Issue in Lawsuit

Daily Beast (Jan. 20, 2016): Catholic Hospitals Are Blocking a Basic Form of Contraception, by Brandy Zadrozny:

Many women choose to have their tubes tied as a pregnancy preventative.  Married women may choose this method of sterilization when they have finished growing their families.  They sometimes desire to have this procedure performed at the same time they are in surgery for  a Caesarean section. 

But the belief that tubal ligation is intrinsically evil is a stance assumed by Catholic hospitals in many regions without alternative sources of medical care.  A lawsuit brought by Physicians for Reproductive Health (PHR) against what may be the largest hospital provider in California charges violates of the state's anti-discrimination, business and health and safety laws.  PHR is arguing that the religious refusal places an undue burden on women who have to travel to facilities often far away from where their physician practices or who are forced to submit to two separate surgeries.  The group objects to the intrusion of Catholic doctrine in the doctor-patient relationship. 

According to the ACLU and MergerWatch, the number of Catholic acute-care hospitals in the United States continues to rise.

January 23, 2016 in Contraception | Permalink | Comments (0)