Wednesday, March 31, 2010
This piece, a short entry in The Child: An Encyclopedic Companion, examines the legal regulation of pregnant women. In particular, the article discusses whether and under what circumstances the state can force pregnant women to undergo unwanted medical treatments or physically restrain or punish pregnant women for engaging in otherwise legal conduct when the state believes that these interventions are necessary to protect the fetus from potential harms.
The Huffington Post: Facebook Blamed For Rise In Syphilis, by Bianca Bosker:
According to a report published in a slew of publications--including the Telegraph, Sun, and Daily Mail--British health experts have linked Facebook to a rise in syphilis, a sexually transmitted disease, in the UK.
The Telegraph explains the NHS' findings:
The virus has increased fourfold in Sunderland, Durham and Teesside, the areas of Britain where Facebook is most popular, because it has given people a new way to meet multiple partners for casual sexual encounters.
Professor Peter Kelly, director of public health in Teesside, said staff had found a link between social networking sites and the rise in cases, especially among young women.
'I don't get the names of people affected, just figures. And I saw that several of the people had met sexual partners through these sites,' Professor Kelly said. 'Social networking sites are making it easier for people to meet up for casual sex. There is a rise in syphilis because people are having more sexual partners than 20 years ago and often do not use condoms.' . . .
The Cypress Times: Personhood Certified to be on Colorado Ballot:
Personhood Colorado has sponsored a ballot initiative to amend the State Constitution recognizing the Personhood rights of all humans, from their biological beginning to their natural death. The Amendment states: “Section 32. Person defined. As used in sections 3, 6, and 25 of Article II of the state constitution, the term "person" shall apply to every human being from the beginning of the biological development of that human being.”
On March 4, the Colorado Secretary of State disclosed that 15,690 of the 79,648 signatures submitted by Personhood Colorado were invalid. As allowed by Colorado law, volunteers then had 15 days to replace the invalid signatures with new, valid voter signatures. In response, Personhood Colorado volunteers collected 47,114 signatures, three times as many signatures as were required. . . .
Almost fifty years ago, Congress began protecting against sex discrimination in federal statutory law. Almost forty years ago, the Supreme Court expanded constitutional law to include protection from discrimination based on sex. Since then, guarantees against sex discrimination have proliferated in federal and state law, and societal norms of sex equality have become entrenched. Yet, in 2010, we still live in a society that is highly segregated by sex.
This article is the first part of a multi-part project that will analyze sex segregation as a systemic issue by exploring the contours of modern American sex segregation and what this phenomenon means for law, feminism, gender, and identity. In this first article, I set the stage for the entire project by providing a systematic account of sex segregation in America. In addition, I situate this empirical data within a broader doctrinal and theoretical framework. My goal in this piece and the others that will build upon it is to provide a comprehensive framework for thinking and dealing with the problem of sex segregation.
This article begins the argument in favor of an anti-essentialist theoretical approach that would prohibit all but the most private or necessary forms of sex segregation. Because of the various ways in which modern sex segregation plays a major role in limiting personal identity and overall equality by forcing people to fit into a strict sex/gender binary, I argue here and throughout this project for this anti-essentialist approach.
This project’s second article, which analyzes sex segregation’s impact on masculinity, is available at http://ssrn.com/abstract=1544576. . . .
Guttmacher Institute news release: The New Health Care Reform Legislation: Pros and Cons for Reproductive Health:
For the nation’s consumers and providers of reproductive health care, and for advocates of reproductive health and rights, the health care reform legislation just enacted is something of a mixed bag. The bill’s onerous abortion restrictions have been rightly denounced by reproductive rights supporters. New funding for evidence-based sex education was regrettably paired with the retention of a failed and discredited abstinence-only program. But, taken together, a number of other provisions in this sweeping measure constitute a clear and significant step forward for the reproductive health of America’s women and men.Abortion: Insurance Coverage Now an Endangered Species
The bill’s restrictive abortion provision is putatively designed to uphold the status quo on the question of federal funding. Accordingly, federal funds—in this case, subsidy dollars for individuals purchasing insurance plans on the new health care “exchanges” that are slated to become operational in 2014—may not be used to pay for abortion coverage (except in extreme cases), but individuals, at least in theory, may purchase a plan that includes abortion coverage so long as the abortion coverage itself is paid for with their own money. (This mirrors the Hyde Amendment, under which federal Medicaid dollars may not be used to pay for most abortions, but states may cover the procedure for their Medicaid recipients using their own funds.)
In practice, however, the complex, politicized arrangements the legislation necessitates militate heavily against the likelihood that many such plans will be purchased—or even offered. . . .
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
Slate Magazine: The Egg Market, by William Saletan:
What determines the price of a woman's eggs? SAT scores.
. . . A market in lucrative traits is developing. Wealthy people are buying smarter babies. Even if your kids get the same private schooling, their kids will do better. Money is buying more than tutors and test prep. It's buying merit.
I'm not talking about all-out consumer eugenics. We're far from clarifying the genes involved in complex traits, and even further from verifying a safe way to mess with those genes. But where genetic correlates are known, market forces have already moved in. Last year, a U.S. fertility company advertised eye-, hair-, and skin-color selection in human embryos. Facing a backlash, the company suspended its plan, but not for lack of technical ability, and not before half a dozen potential clients requested the tests.
How big is the market for trait selection? In a New York University survey, 10 percent to 13 percent of patients seeking genetic counseling said they would screen embryos to select height, intelligence, or athletic ability. That's the number who admit they'd do it. . . . .
Levine analyzed more than 100 ads placed in 63 college newspapers to recruit egg donors. Of these ads, 21 specified a minimum requisite SAT score. Half offered more than $5,000, and among this group, 27 percent specified an "appearance requirement." The bigger the money, the choosier the client: Above the $10,000 level, most ads "contained appearance or ethnicity requirements." . . .
Wash. Post: Health bill restores $250 million in abstinence-education funds, by Rob Stein:
The bill restores $250 million over five years for states to sponsor programs aimed at preventing pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases by focusing exclusively on encouraging children and adolescents to avoid sex. The funding provides at least a partial reprieve for the approach, which faced losing all federal support under President Obama's first two budgets.
"We're very happy to see that funding will continue so the important sexual health message of risk avoidance will reach American teens," said Valerie Huber, executive director of the National Abstinence Education Association, a Washington-based lobbying group. "What better place to see such an important health issue addressed than in the health legislation?"
But the funding was condemned by critics, who were stupefied by the eleventh-hour rescue. . . .
IndyWeek.com: N.C. Eugenics Survivors Seek Justice, by Lara Torgeson:
...In 1968, at just 14 years old, Elaine became one of the thousands of victims of North Carolina's forced sterilization program. Quietly and efficiently operating from 1929 until 1974, the program's purpose was to weed out the "unfit" of society by stopping them from reproducing....
Like Elaine, tens of thousands of people across the country were victims of eugenic sterilizations. But North Carolina was something of an anomaly. Most of the states with eugenic sterilization programs dismantled them after World War II when the horrors of the Holocaust were uncovered. North Carolina, however, ramped up its program in the postwar years, increasingly targeting poor black women during the '50s and '60s....
Sadly, more than half of the forced sterilization victims have already died, without ever receiving any kind of acknowledgement that what happened to them was wrong. But for the estimated 2,800 individuals still expected to be alive today, there is still a chance to do what's right. Sharing their stories, acknowledging the past and trying to learn something from it is a start. The $20,000 compensation being considered for survivors is not a hefty sum when you think about what the trade-off has been. Still, it is something, and it should be paid while the survivors are still surviving.
Monday, March 29, 2010
NPR: Health Law Divides Anti-Abortion Allies in Congress, by Julie Rovner:
One of Washington's most enduring partnerships appears headed for a nasty breakup. Republicans and Democrats who oppose abortion have found themselves on opposite sides of a major issue — the health care overhaul legislation that President Obama signed Tuesday. And the war of words has gotten increasingly ugly.For nearly as long as abortion has been legal, Democratic and Republican opponents of abortion rights have worked together. In fact, the Congressional Pro-Life Caucus, the group that promotes the anti-abortion point of view among lawmakers, has always had two leaders — one Democrat and one Republican.
But that alliance was blasted apart Sunday, when a group of anti-abortion Democrats, led by Pro-Life Caucus co-chairman Bart Stupak of Michigan, negotiated a deal with Obama to support the version of the health care bill that passed the Senate in December. In exchange for their vote, Obama promised to issue an executive order ensuring that no federal funds would be used to pay for elective abortions under the new law. Obama signed that order Wednesday. . . .
Election-Year Confrontation Over Future of Supreme Court Appears Likely Should Justice Stevens Retire
NY Times: In Possible Retirement, the Likelihood of an Election-Year Confrontation, by Peter Baker:
WASHINGTON — No announcement has been made, but the widely anticipated retirement of Justice John Paul Stevens in coming weeks has the White House, Senate and lobbying groups bracing for an election-year confrontation over the future of the Supreme Court.
Although Justice Stevens has not disclosed his intentions, he has suggested he may announce as soon as next month plans to step down after 35 years on the bench, providing President Obama his second opportunity to shape the nation’s highest court. A new nomination could set off another charged ideological battle heading into the fall midterm campaign.
Wary of appearing presumptuous, the White House has avoided overt moves to prepare, but it already has long dossiers on a host of candidates after last year’s nomination of Sonia Sotomayor. If Justice Stevens retires, Democrats close to the White House said, the leading contenders will be three runners-up from last year: Elena Kagan, the solicitor general; Diane P. Wood, an appeals court judge in Chicago; and Merrick B. Garland, an appeals court judge in Washington.
The choice would depend in part on what kind of fight Mr. Obama is willing to wage amid other tough legislative battles. . . .
Last week, I wrote a post about how NPR identifies people who support or oppose abortion. It engendered a lively debate inside and outside NPR. Today, some top editors got together to review the 2005 policy and decided to no longer use "pro-choice" or "pro-life."
Here's the memo that was just distributed to all NPR staff:
"NPR News is revising the terms we use to describe people and groups involved in the abortion debate.
This updated policy is aimed at ensuring the words we speak and write are as clear, consistent and neutral as possible. This is important given that written text is such an integral part of our work.
On the air, we should use "abortion rights supporter(s)/advocate(s)" and "abortion rights opponent(s)" or derivations thereof (for example: "advocates of abortion rights"). It is acceptable to use the phrase "anti-abortion", but do not use the term "pro-abortion rights". . . .
Thursday, March 25, 2010
The Washington Times: No media at Obama abortion-order signing, by Timothy Noah:
A day after a lavish bill signing White House ceremony on health care reform, President Obama will sign an executive order barring the law from allowing federally funded abortion, but he'll do so behind closed doors and with no media allowed.The executive order, which the White House said Tuesday "reaffirms the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Acts consistency with longstanding restrictions on the use of federal funds for abortion," was crucial to securing the votes of at least 10 pro-life Democrats. . . . .
On Wednesday, Mr. Stupak and 12 House Democrats will attend the subdued ceremony, along with Sen. Bob Casey, who helped draft compromise language.
At least according to the White House: Not even a photographer will be allowed into the Oval Office to capture the moment.
Time Magazine: China's Female Astronauts: Must Be a Married Mom, by Hillary Brenhouse:
The men chosen to lead China into outer space are often referred to locally as "superhuman beings" — and not just because they train to cross the final frontier. Would-be taikonauts have to meet near-impossible standards meant to weed out the less-than-flawless. Chinese astronauts cannot suffer from chronic sore throats or runny noses. They mustn't have food restrictions, strong regional accents, ringworm, cavities or scars. Bad breath, body odor and a snoring problem are all immediate disqualifiers. And if its spacemen are expected to satisfy an unlikely string of qualifications, so too are its new spacewomen — with two notable additional criteria. China's first two female reserve astronauts, selected earlier this month from a pool of fifteen women fighter pilots, were required to be wives and mothers.
The reasoning behind the prerequisite, according to officials, is that spaceflight could potentially harm the women's fertility. "It's out of the consideration of being responsible for the female pilots," Xu Xianrong, director of the PLA's Clinical Aerospace Medicine Center in Beijing and a member of the selection panel, told the official government news agency Xinhua. "Though there is little evidence on how the space experience will affect the female constitution, we have to be extra cautious because this is a first for China." Ensuring that the female astronauts have already reproduced, he said, will guarantee that their family planning is not disrupted. . . .
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Center for Reproductive Rights: The FDA and Emergency Contraception: One Year After the Decision:
On March 23, 2009, the Center scored a major victory when a federal court ruled that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration had put politics before women’s health when it decided to limit access to emergency contraception. . . . Today, emergency contraception is available without a prescription, but only for women age 17 and older. Pharmacies and clinics must keep it behind the counter and anyone seeking to buy it must show government issued identification proving their age in order to buy it without a prescription.
These intrusive restrictions, unprecedented for drugs with over-the-counter status, make it harder and more stigmatizing for consumers to get the contraception during its most effective window. . . .
See also: Back Up Your Birth Control Day.
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Slate Magazine: The Stupak Mystery, by Timothy Noah:
A lot of people are scratching their heads about the executive order Rep. Bart Stupak extracted from President Obama as a condition of supporting health care reform. "It's not clear the executive order changes anything," writes the New Republic's Jon Cohn. I'd have to agree. So why did Stupak hold out for it?
Here's my best guess: Stupak was holding out not for language that merely reaffirmed what the Senate bill already says, but for language that delinked the fate of health reform's abortion ban from the fate of the Hyde Amendment. As I've explained before, the Hyde Amendment is not a permanent ban on government (actually, just Health and Human Services) funding of abortions. It's a ban that gets attached to appropriations bills and therefore must be renewed year after year. In the Senate bill, the ban on government funding of abortions through the new health insurance exchanges is dependent on the Hyde Amendment's renewal. The word "abortion" is defined "based on the law [governing HHS appropriations] as in effect as of the date that is six months before the beginning of the plan year involved." (This is on Page 119.) If Congress fails to renew the Hyde Amendment in any given year, the abortion ban in the health care reform bill will vanish. . . .
Wash. Post: London seminar offering free IVF from Virginia clinic sparks controversy, by Rob Stein:
A Virginia infertility clinic sparked an international ethical controversy Wednesday by sponsoring a seminar in London that gave away an attempt to get pregnant using an American woman's eggs.
More than 100 people attended the 90-minute session at the Millennium Gloucester Hotel, which was organized by the Fairfax City-based Genetics & IVF Institute, one of the United States' largest infertility clinics. As organizers had promised, one of the attendees learned at the end of the seminar that she had won a free cycle of in vitro fertilization using the eggs of a woman from the Washington area, worth about $23,000.
The seminar, designed to entice infertile British women to seek donor eggs in the United States, drew intense criticism from infertility experts, bioethicists and others in Britain and the United States, who likened the event to a crass, commercial come-on similar to a lottery, with the prize being a human body part. . . .
Fertility clinics and financing companies often offer refund programs in which patients pay a premium up front for fertility treatments. If the treatment fails, clinics refund part of the fee. This is an innovative tool for financing fertility treatments that is virtually unparalleled in other areas of medicine. Despite the prevalence of this financing tool, academic commentary has offered little analysis of how it operates, how fertility clinics promote it, and how patients evaluate whether to use it. Moreover, academic commentary has not assessed whether current regulations adequately protect patients who use refund programs to finance their treatments. This Article offers the first in-depth study of how fertility refund programs are presented to patients. The author conducted an empirical assessment of the website of every United States fertility clinic that is a member of the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology, coding the information presented on these websites about refund programs. The findings are surprising. According to the study, clinics largely fail to comply with professional self-regulations that mandate the disclosure of specific information about their refund program. Additionally, clinics often present information about refund programs deceptively or in a manner that exploits poor patient decision-making. Using the data in the study and applying insights from behavioral law and economics, the author argues for additional consumer protection regulations for refund programs. Refund programs currently operate in a regulatory vacuum, and voluntary self-regulation has failed to promote accurate and effective disclosures. Moreover, evidence suggests that patients evaluating refund programs make predictable, systematic mistakes and that clinics offering refunds frame the program in a way that exploits patients’ defective reasoning. To protect patients considering refund programs, the author proposes that policymakers require refund providers to make certain mandatory disclosures when presenting information about their refund programs.
NY Times: Cesarean Births Are at an All Time High in U.S, by Denise Grady:
The increases have caused debate and concern for years. When needed, a Cesarean can save the mother and child from injury or death, but most experts doubt that one in three women needs surgery to give birth. Critics say the operation is being performed too often, needlessly exposing mothers and babies to the risks of major surgery. The ideal rate is not known, but the World Health Organization and health agencies in the United States have suggested 15 percent....
National Organization for Women, Statement by NOW President Terry O'Neill: Health Care Reform Victory Comes with Tragic Setback for Women's Rights:
As a longtime proponent of health care reform, I truly wish that the National Organization for Women could join in celebrating the historic passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. It pains me to have to stand against what many see as a major achievement. But feminist, progressive principles are in direct conflict with many of the compromises built into and tacked onto this legislation.
The health care reform bill passed by Congress today offers a number of good solutions to our nation's critical health care problems, but it also fails in many important respects. After a full year of controversy and compromise, the result is a highly flawed, diminished piece of legislation that continues reliance on a failing, profit-driven private insurance system and rewards those who have been abusive of their customers. With more than 45,000 unnecessary deaths annually and hundreds of thousands of bankruptcies each year due to medical bills, this bill is only a timid first step toward meaningful reform. . . .
The Washington Post offers an interactive on-line tool to help answer: What Does the Health Care Bill Mean to Me?
The health-care overhaul will change the way millions of Americans get health insurance and require nearly everyone to have health insurance or face penalties. A number of factors - including income, age, location and family size - will determine how it specifically impacts your life. This tool looks at what it could mean for your health coverage and taxes based on your income, family size and current insurance status.