Thursday, January 31, 2008
NY Times: Tainted Drugs Tied to Maker of Abortion Pill, by Jake Hooker & Walt Bogdanich:
BEIJING — A huge state-owned Chinese pharmaceutical company that exports to dozens of countries, including the United States, is at the center of a nationwide drug scandal after nearly 200 Chinese cancer patients were paralyzed or otherwise harmed last summer by contaminated leukemia drugs.
Chinese drug regulators have accused the manufacturer of the tainted drugs of a cover-up and have closed the factory that produced them. In December, China’s Food and Drug Administration said that the Shanghai police had begun a criminal investigation and that two officials, including the head of the plant, had been detained.
The drug maker, Shanghai Hualian, is the sole supplier to the United States of the abortion pill, mifepristone, known as RU-486. It is made at a factory different from the one that produced the tainted cancer drugs, about an hour’s drive away.
The United States Food and Drug Administration declined to answer questions about Shanghai Hualian, because of security concerns stemming from the sometimes violent opposition to abortion. But in a statement, the agency said the RU-486 plant had passed an F.D.A. inspection in May. “F.D.A. is not aware of any evidence to suggest the issue that occurred at the leukemia drug facility is linked in any way with the facility that manufactures the mifepristone,” the statement said.
The Chicago Tribune: School sex ed lacking in Illinois, study finds, by Stephanie Banchero:
Doctors should begin teaching adolescent sex education, a new study argues, because schools in Illinois aren't doing a good enough job.
The study, to be published Thursday in the American journal Obstetrics & Gynecology, found that one-third of sex education teachers in Illinois public schools were not teaching comprehensive sex ed.
About 30 percent of the teachers had never been trained to deliver sex ed classes and many of them did not have the textbooks and other necessary curriculum material.
Nina J. Crimm (St. John's University School of Law) has published and posted The Global Gag Rule: Undermining National Interests By Doing Unto Foreign Women and NGOs What Cannot Be Done At Home, Cornell International Law Journal,Vol. 40, No. 587, 2007, on SSRN. Here is the abstract:
The Mexico City Policy, also known as the Global Gag Rule (GGR), is an executive-based foreign assistance policy that constrains USAID financial aid for family planning programs in developing countries. It has had enormous unconscionable impact on the lives of individuals and to the operations of foreign nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). The policy has compromised women's health and welfare, jeopardized children's well-being, and adversely affected victims of HIV/AIDS. It unjustly has denied women's rights to self-determination and dignity with respect to reproductive matters. The GGR also has caused NGOs to curtail programs vital to maintaining health clinics and essential to delivery of critical healthcare services. It financially has threatened the existence of some foreign NGOs, has caused the demise of others, and has precluded alliances of NGOs essential for solving public health crises. The GGR has chilled the speech and stifled expressive associations of foreign NGOs, which likely would be constitutionally impermissible with respect to domestic NGOs. The many problematic consequences of the policy have been contrary to U.S. national interests in advancing the spread and stability of political democracies, free markets, and in enhancing the health, education and economic well-being of populations in developing countries. And, as a foreign assistance policy not true to the best U.S. traditions adopted from Judeo-Christian precepts, the GGR has tainted the image of the U.S. as a model democracy. Its real, but objectionable, contribution has been only to the self-interests of several U.S. presidents. So, now the Senate and House of Representatives, with their recently installed Democratic majorities, should enact legislation to reject the GGR.
Tuesday, January 29, 2008
The Indiana Senate has been busy, and that's not good for women. Indianapolis Star: Senate approves abortion-medicine bill:
The Senate today passed a bill that would let a pharmacist refuse to dispense medicines they believed will lead to abortion or assisted suicide.
The vote -- 30-18 -- erased an earlier defeat for the bill in the Senate....
Senate Bill 3, authored by Sen. Jeff Drozda, R-Westfield, has come under fire from some lawmakers, particularly women, and from Planned Parenthood of Indiana, who say it would allow a pharmacist to refuse to give a woman birth control.
Mifepristone, the early abortion pill, is dispensed directly by physicians. So this refusal bill is likely to be invoked by pharmacists who are morally opposed to emergency contraception (EC), also known as the "morning after pill," which is an entirely different medication. EC works to prevent pregnancy by preventing ovulation, fertilization, or implantation. It will not disrupt an existing pregnancy.
Here's a link to SB 3 (text and tracking).
Scientists who made stem cells from ordinary skin cells showed it may not be necessary to experiment on human embryos, President George W. Bush said in his State of the Union address on Monday.
Bush said his government would expand funding "for this type of ethical medical research."
Late last year three teams of scientists reported they had tricked ordinary skin cells into behaving like embryonic stem cells -- the body's ultimate master cell with the potential to produce any type of tissue or cell.
Indianapolis Star: Indiana Senate OKs abortion bill:
The Senate voted 39-9 today to require that pregnant women considering an abortion be given information about the possibility of fetal pain and when life begins.
Under Senate Bill 146, sponsored by Sen. Patricia Miller, R-Indianapolis, women would be told that medical opinions differ on whether the fetus feels pain. They also would be told that life begins when human sperm penetrates the human ovum and the cells begin to divide and grow.
Monday, January 28, 2008
Twenty years ago today, Canada made a landmark judgment when our highest court struck down Criminal Code restrictions on abortion.
The 5-2 ruling in the case of R. v. Morgentaler overturned the law that had required the consent of three doctors for any abortion and limited the procedure to full-service hospitals rather than free-standing clinics.
The court ruled that those restrictions violated the Charter of Rights' guarantee of "right to life, liberty, and the security of the person."
But, as the story reports, access to abortions services continues to be a problem in many parts of Canada.
An Arizona agency wrongly denied an anti-abortion group permission to print their message "Choose Life" on license plates, a federal appeals court ruled on Monday.
The Arizona License Plate Commission allows nonprofit groups to highlight their cause on license plates, but the commission in 2002 and 2003 denied the Arizona Life Coalition permission for a specialty plate with the "Choose Life" slogan.
Sunday, January 27, 2008
Julie Goldscheid (CUNY School of Law) has posted Elusive Equality in Domestic and Sexual Violence Law Reform, Florida State University Law Review, Vol. 34, 2007, on SSRN. Here is the abstract:
This Article evaluates the application of sex equality theory to the harms resulting from domestic and sexual violence. Sex equality theory and related antidiscrimination remedies widely have been heralded as holding the potential both to advance victims' economic recovery and to transform public understanding of the problem. Laws such as the civil rights remedy of the 1994 Violence Against Women Act struck by the U.S. Supreme Court in United States v. Morrison are rooted in this theory. Because Morrison rested on questions of federalism, the decision neither resolved nor addressed a large category of concerns that led to the enactment of that and similar laws.
To reinvigorate discussion of those important issues, this Article reconsiders the value of framing the harm that flows from domestic and sexual violence as a civil rights violation. I argue that civil rights remedies are important legal tools for victims of domestic and sexual violence. Nevertheless, their practical appeal necessarily will be bounded by realities inherent in the nature of the remedy and in the nature and experience of abuse. A variety of considerations, including survivors' rational reluctance to reengage with an abuser, will deter victims from invoking civil rights remedies. Civil rights remedies' transformative potential to produce either policy or other forms of social change will be limited unless their enactment and use are closely tied to grassroots organizing efforts. I advocate alternative and complementary approaches to the remedies' dual and laudable goals of expanding avenues for economic recovery and transforming the discriminatory attitudes that allow domestic and sexual violence to persist.
Friday, January 25, 2008
The word "abortion" puts many people on edge, but director Cristian Mungiu wanted viewers to experience what it was like to try to get one in a country where it was illegal. The result is 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, a film that follows two Romanian college women in 1987.
For more on the film and its awards, see also this post.
The Clinton campaign has been attacking Obama's record on choice, which is a shame. Both Democratic front runners as well as John Edwards are pro-choice -- that is something to celebrate. If Clinton is serious about reproductive justice, she should not use it as a weapon to fight those who are on her side of the issue. (Full disclosure: although I would be happy to see Clinton in the White House, I am for Obama and am a member of his Women's Policy Committee). Here's what Obama had to say in honor of the 35th anniversary of Roe v. Wade:
Thirty-five years after the Supreme Court decided Roe v. Wade, it’s never been more important to protect a woman’s right to choose. Last year, the Supreme Court decided by a vote of 5-4 to uphold the Federal Abortion Ban, and in doing so undermined an important principle of Roe v. Wade: that we must always protect women’s health. With one more vacancy on the Supreme Court, we could be looking at a majority hostile to a women’s fundamental right to choose for the first time since Roe v. Wade. The next president may be asked to nominate that Supreme Court justice. That is what is at stake in this election.
Throughout my career, I’ve been a consistent and strong supporter of reproductive justice, and have consistently had a 100% pro-choice rating with Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America.
While I was in the U.S. Senate, South Dakota passed a law banning all abortions in a direct effort to have Roe overruled; I am the only candidate for President to raise money to help the citizens of South Dakota repeal that law. When anti-choice protesters blocked the opening of an Illinois Planned Parenthood clinic in a community where affordable health care is in short supply, I was the only candidate for President who spoke out against it. And I will continue to defend this right by passing the Freedom of Choice Act as president.
Moreover, I believe in and have supported common-sense solutions like increasing access to affordable birth control to help prevent unintended pregnancies. In the Illinois state Senate, when Congress failed to require insurance plans to cover FDA-approved contraceptives, I made sure those contraceptives were covered for women in Illinois. In the U.S. Senate, I've worked with Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) on a bill that would make birth control more affordable for low-income and college women, and introduced the Senate version of Representative Hilda Solis’ bill to reduce unintended pregnancies in communities of color. As President, I will improve access to affordable health care and work to ensure that our teens are getting the information and services they need to stay safe and healthy.
But we also know that Roe v. Wade is about more than a woman’s right to choose; it’s about equality. It’s about whether our daughters are going to have the same opportunities as our sons. And so to truly honor that decision, we need to update the social contract so that women can free themselves, and their children, from violent relationships; so that a mom can stay home with a sick child without getting a pink slip; so that she can go to work knowing that there’s affordable, quality childcare for her children; and so that the American dream is within reach for every family in this country. This anniversary reminds us that it’s not enough to protect the gains of the past – we have to build a future that’s filled with hope and possibility for all Americans.
See also these responses to a questionnaire the RH Reality Check blog sent to Obama's campaign staff.
Please. He supports FOCA and opposes the Hyde Amendment. Can we please attack the Republican front runners, who really do oppose reproductive freedom?
Nancy Keenan, President of NARAL Pro-Choice America, agrees:
Beginning in Iowa, continuing into New Hampshire, and now in South Carolina and the states voting in the February 5 contests, there has been an undercurrent of speculation and innuendo that calls into question Sen. Obama’s record on choice. This has the potential to divide the pro-choice community and create tension where none should exist. Today, for the sake of our issue and our movement, I am asking that these tactics stop. As someone who spent nearly two decades as an elected official before coming to NARAL Pro-Choice America, I know that, in the heat of the campaign, charges and counter-charges are made in the honest belief that one candidate is somehow better than another. I get that.
Read her full statement.
Washington Post (1/23): A Youthful Throng Marches Against Abortion, by Sue Anne Pressley Montes:
Tens of thousands of abortion opponents took to the cold, gray streets of Washington yesterday, buoyed by a recent report that the number of abortions in the United States had hit the lowest level in years and vowing to continue the fight.
Many of the participants in the March for Life were young people, many from religious clubs and church-run schools from as far away as Ohio, Texas and Tennessee. The march has been held each year since 1974 to protest the Supreme Court's Jan. 22, 1973, decision that most laws against abortion violate a constitutional right to privacy.
In many ways, the march resembled a gigantic pep rally, with smiling teenagers in matching scarves or sweat shirts holding school banners high as they moved along Constitution Avenue NW toward the Supreme Court. But the individual signs they clutched told of their commitment to a cause: "Give Life, Don't Take It" and "Your Mother Was Pro-Life."
Thursday, January 24, 2008
Boston Globe: Clinic buffer zones face legal challenge:
Antiabortion activists have filed a legal challenge against a new state law that expanded the buffer zone keeping protesters away from abortion clinics, saying the 35-foot zone violates their free-speech rights.
The law is "an unconstitutional regulation designed and intended to ban virtually all citizens from engaging in fundamental rights and liberties on significant portions of public sidewalks and streets" adjacent to abortion clinics, the lawsuit, filed Wednesday in federal court, charged....
A spokesman for the Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts, which runs three clinics in the state where abortions are provided, defended the new law in an interview.
"This law strikes the appropriate balance between free speech and the right to access health services free from violence, harassment, and intimidation," said Angus McQuilken, vice president of public affairs for the group.
BBC News: Rwanda in mass circumcision drive:
Rwanda has launched a campaign to encourage all men to be circumcised, to reduce the risk of catching HIV/Aids.
A health minister told the BBC that soldiers, policemen and students would be asked to come forward first for circumcision.
The UN World Health Organisation has said male circumcision reduces the risk of heterosexual HIV infection. But correspondents say it is rare in Rwanda where the majority Christian population do not practise it.
Rwanda has successfully managed to lower the spread of Aids in recent years thanks to its HIV campaign.
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
The New York Times (Sunday Magazine 1/20), A Cutting Tradition, by Sara Corbett:
When a girl is taken — usually by her mother — to a free circumcision event held each spring in Bandung, Indonesia, she is handed over to a small group of women who, swiftly and yet with apparent affection, cut off a small piece of her genitals. Sponsored by the Assalaam Foundation, an Islamic educational and social-services organization, circumcisions take place in a prayer center or an emptied-out elementary-school classroom where desks are pushed together and covered with sheets and a pillow to serve as makeshift beds. The procedure takes several minutes. There is little blood involved. Afterward, the girl’s genital area is swabbed with the antiseptic Betadine. She is then helped back into her underwear and returned to a waiting area, where she’s given a small, celebratory gift — some fruit or a donated piece of clothing — and offered a cup of milk for refreshment. She has now joined a quiet majority in Indonesia, where, according to a 2003 study by the Population Council, an international research group, 96 percent of families surveyed reported that their daughters had undergone some form of circumcision by the time they reached 14.
These photos were taken in April 2006, at the foundation’s annual mass circumcision, which is free and open to the public and held during the lunar month marking the birth of the prophet Muhammad. The Assalaam Foundation runs several schools and a mosque in Bandung, Indonesia’s third-largest city and the capital of West Java. The photographer Stephanie Sinclair was taken to the circumcision event by a reproductive-health observer from Jakarta and allowed to spend several hours there. Over the course of that Sunday morning, more than 200 girls were circumcised, many of them appearing to be under the age of 5. Meanwhile, in a nearby building, more than 100 boys underwent a traditional circumcision as well.
View the slide show. (The photographs are powerful but not graphic.)
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
I am blogging for choice today in honor of Roe's 35th Anniversary. Why do I vote pro-choice? Because pro-choice candidates, by working for reproductive justice and fighting for women's access to the full array of reproductive health services -- from comprehensive sexuality education to contraception to STD treatment and prevention to abortion to prenatal care -- are working to ensure women's equality across the board. Having access to affordable reproductive health services, and being able to decide freely whether and when to have children, is especially critical for low-income women to be able to participate fully and equally in society. I will never vote for a candidate who does not understand these basic truths.
Here is the entry I wrote when I blogged for choice on this day last year:
In celebration of the 34th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, I join pro-choice bloggers in writing about why I am pro-choice. Becoming a pro-choice advocate was, for me, a natural extension of being a feminist and believing in women's rights. A woman who cannot control her own reproduction can never achieve full equality and autonomy. More than a third of all women in the United States will have an abortion by the time they are 45. Some of these women will terminate wanted pregnancies, because their own life or health is at risk. because of a grave fetal anomaly, or because they cannot afford another child. Most, however, will find themselves with an unwanted pregnancy. It has become in vogue among even pro-choice politicians to talk about abortion as a tragedy. Certainly, unwanted pregnancy is a tragedy. Ideally, all unwanted pregnancies would be prevented through contraception or abstinence. Abortion is often the result of tragic events -- including rape -- and misguided policies -- including the failure to ensure adequate access to contraception and to provide sufficient financial support to poor women who want to bear children. But abortion will always be needed. Contraception will fail, women will be raped, awkward teenagers new to sex and lovers in the heat of passion will forgo a condom.
In all likelihood, you know a woman who has had an abortion. Women who decide what to do about an unwanted pregnancy make weighty moral decisions. They bear the responsibility for those decisions. As pro-choice people, we do no good by talking about abortion as shameful and wrong. Instead, we should recognize women's autonomy in making this fraught, moral decision, just as we recognize the autonomy of people to make equally weighty decisions in countless other situations. In 2003, in commemoration of Roe's 30th anniversary, I wrote a moral defense of abortion, in an article that remains just as relevant today. You can read it at: Caitlin Borgmann & Catherine Weiss, Beyond Acopalypse & Apology, A Moral Defense of Abortion, Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, vol. 35, p. 40 (Jan./Feb. 2003).
ACLU of Arizona press release (1/18):
PHOENIX - The American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona today applauded Governor Janet Napolitano’s decision to reject funding for the state’s abstinence-only-until-marriage programs, which have proven ineffective, inaccurate, and gender-biased.
Napolitano made the announcement to eliminate the abstinence-only funds from her FY 2009 General Fund Executive Budget at a luncheon today sponsored by Planned Parenthood Arizona, stating she does not believe Arizona should spend money on “an educational system that doesn’t educate.”
Napolitano added she will send a letter next week to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announcing her intention to reject the federal, Title V abstinence-only funds, affirmatively refusing any money that will not fund “real, complete sex education in our schools.”
With this announcement, Arizona becomes the 16th state to turn down federal dollars that support abstinence-only programs....
Great news from the 8th Circuit on the 35th anniversary of Roe v. Wade:
ST. LOUIS, MO – In a case brought by the American Civil Liberties Union, a federal appeals court in Missouri today upheld a ruling allowing women prisoners in Missouri to obtain timely, safe, and legal abortion care ....
In 2005, prison officials in Missouri went to extreme lengths to deny a woman prisoner abortion care. The ACLU asked a court to require the prison to transport the woman for an abortion as they would for all other serious medical needs. When the court ruled that the prison must transport the woman to a nearby health care facility, the state unsuccessfully asked the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene; the woman received the care she needed.
The ACLU then had the case certified as a class-action lawsuit on behalf of all incarcerated pregnant women in Missouri seeking abortions. In July 2006, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri ruled that women prisoners do not lose their constitutional right to abortion care. Today’s decision affirms that ruling....
In a similar ACLU case, Doe v. Arpaio, an Arizona court of appeals held last year that women in a county jail could not be denied timely and safe access to abortion care. The county has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review the case.
Today’s decision was issued by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eight Circuit in the case of Roe v. Crawford, et al., No. 06-3108. Lawyers on the case include Kasdan and Talcott Camp of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, Anthony Rothert of the ACLU of Eastern Missouri, and Thomas M. Blumenthal cooperating counsel for the ACLU of Eastern Missouri.
Read the ACLU's full press release.