Thursday, August 25, 2016
Human Reproduction (July 7, 2016): Is Underage Abortion Associated with Adverse Outcomes in Early Adulthood? A Longitudinal Birth Cohort Study up to 25 Years of Age, by Suvi Leppälahti, et al.:
Wednesday, August 24, 2016
New York Times (Jul. 25, 2016): One Woman’s Crusade for Her Husband’s Sperm, by Tamar Lewin:
Sarah Robertson, a Californian who lost her husband to a rare disease at the age of twenty-nine, desired to have a child using the sperm he had stored in an infertility clinic. But when she went to retrieve it, she was told it had vanished. Aaron had been a carrier of a Marfan syndrome, and there is a fifty per cent chance that the diseases will be passed along to any children created with his sperm. In vitro fertilization will be required to ensure that any of her embryos chosen for gestation do not carry the genes linked to the disease. Robertson worries that the clinic may have misappropriated vials of her husband’s sperm and sold them to unwitting women and couples. She wants the clinic to warn those who purchased sperm from the clinic and to pay for testing and treatment of any children born. Attempts at mediation and negotiation have led nowhere. Robertson has now filed suit.
Tuesday, August 23, 2016
New York Times (Jul. 19, 2016): Winning the Campaign to Curb Teen Pregnancy, by Tina Rosenberg:
It is common knowledge that girls who get pregnant have a range of difficulties. They have trouble finishing school and often have babies at risk for health problems and who themselves will experience academic difficulty and incarceration. The birthrate for teenage mothers in the United States has hit a new low. It is now even lower than it was in the 1950s. No one knows the cause of the drop in the birthrate, but it appears not to have to do with an increase in abortions (that rate has also dropped) but with an increase in contraceptive use.
The drop in the birth rate may also have to do with the show “16 and Pregnant.” After it began airing on MTV in 2009, teen pregnancy rates dropped three times as fast as previously. Such declines were most remarkable in regions where more teenagers were watching MTV. Google searches for “how to get birth control” spiked on days following an episode’s airing.
Colorado appears to have embraced the data. The state offers long-acting reversible contraceptives cost-free to women and girls. These “set and forget” methods have become the most reliable forms of birth control. Some of the cost to the state is subsidized by Obamacare and Medicaid. The Medicaid program saves on the cost of unwanted births and the medical care of children in poverty. Colorado’s experiment has been a success. Now the challenge lies in convincing other states to follow suit.
Monday, August 22, 2016
New York Times (Aug. 9, 2016): Four Lesbians, Suing, Say New Jersey Rule on Fertility Treatment is Discriminatory, by Megan Jula:
Couples who need infertility treatment to have children often do not have the resources to pay for it. Insurance is an important resource for filling the gap between the cost of treatment and a couple’s finances. Some states have laws that require insurers to provide coverage for some infertility treatment. By and large, though, the mandates cover only those who can demonstrate failure to conceive after two years of unprotected heterosexual intercourse. This leaves gay and lesbian couples without mandated coverage.
Two lesbian couples in New Jersey have sued the state, “claiming the mandate discriminates against their sexual orientation—essentially forcing infertile lesbian couples to pay for costly procedures to try to become pregnant.” They seek to recover the cost of their treatments, including artificial insemination and in vitro fertilization.
California and Maryland’s mandates have been updated to require fertility coverage without regard to sexual orientation.
Sunday, August 21, 2016
Guardian (August 20, 2016): Texas has highest maternal mortality rate in developed world, study finds, by Molly Redden:
From 2010-14 the rate of Texas women who died from pregnancy related complications doubled according to a new study by the journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. The study also found that maternal mortality rates in U.S. increased in every state except California, but the increase in Texas was the most startling, In Texas more than 600 women died for pregnancy related reasons between 2010-14. According the study, Texas' maternal mortality rate is now higher than the rest of the developed world.
The study did not investigate the cause of the increase but noted that the increase was hard to explain “in the absence of war, natural disaster, or severe economic upheaval”.
Indeed, the report said it was “puzzling” that Texas’s maternal mortality rate rose only modestly from 2000 to 2010 before doubling between 2011 and 2012. The researchers, hailing from the University of Maryland, Boston University’s school of public health and Stanford University’s medical school, called for further study. But they noted that starting in 2011, Texas drastically reduced the number of women’s health clinics within its borders.
Saturday, August 20, 2016
New York Times (Aug. 18, 2016): The Courts Begin to Call Out Lawmakers, by Linda Greenhouse:
In this op-ed, Linda Greenhouse discusses why it is important for courts to call out legislators when they pass legislation with unconstitutional purposes. Courts often defer to legislators when it is possible to find a facially neutral purpose for legislation, which allows laws that undermine constitutional rights to remain in effect.
Greenhouse suggests that the Supreme Court's decision in Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt and appellate decisions invalidating voter ID requirements in the North Carolina and Texas show a new willingness for courts to question legislative motives and to engage in a detailed consideration of facts to consider whether proffered facially neutral purposes for legislation are plausible. She writes
it’s worth stopping to observe a notable development this summer. In the face of spurious explanations for public policies that would foreseeably inflict real damage on identifiable groups of people, judges and justices are abandoning the traditional diffidence of the judicial role and expressing a new willingness to call out legislatures for what they are really doing, not just what they say they are doing.
Greenhouse describes how in both Whole Woman's Health and in the North Carolina case, the courts struck down laws based on findings that (1) there was an absence of a documented problem, (2) a particular practice was singled out for onerous requirements, (3) the legislators were aware of the likely negative impact on the exercise of constitutional rights and (4) there was a lack of evidence to support the neutral justification for the law. She suggests that these decisions may mark a new willingness for courts to strike down laws passed with unconstitutional motives.
Huffington Post (August 12, 2016): What It's Like to Provide Abortions Where Access is Almost Non-Existent, by Catherine Pearson:
Legal restrictions on abortion provision in different states can have a major impact on doctors' ability to provide care. Dr. Erin King who practiced medicine in Chicago Illinois before moving to St. Louis, Missouri describes how restrictions in Missouri affect doctors and the patients they serve.
In Chicago, abortion provision was part of Dr. King's OB/GYN residency and abortion was not viewed as separate from the other gynecology services she provided. In St. Louis, patients who seek an abortion have to be referred out to abortion clinics which are often targeted by protesters who seek to intimidate providers and patients. Many women from Missouri travel to the Hope Clinic in Granite City, Illinois which is near the Missouri border. In addition to her private practice in Missouri, Dr. King is the Hope Clinic's Interim Exective Director.
I get asked a lot why I provide abortion care in Illinois, and not Missouri, and one of the main reasons is that [by working in a state with relatively few abortion restrictions], I’m able to treat my patients with the respect they deserve. I don’t have to put them through a certain consent process with mandated wording that may be very offensive to some women, or follow a set waiting period. I feel that women are smart and responsible and don’t need a lot of rules from the state about their bodies. Illinois has become a place that women can come get abortions with fewer burdens on them, and we can provide them with good medical care without having to do or say things that are offensive to them, or that imply they haven’t already thought really hard about their decision before they picked up the phone to make an appointment.
Friday, August 19, 2016
The Obama Administration Fails to Take Action to Make Abortion Funding Available to Victims of War Rape
Ms. Blog (August 17, 2016): How Seven Words Deny Abortions to Women Raped in War, by Grant Shubin:
In 1973, Congress passed the Helms Amendment which prohibits the use of U.S. foreign aid to "fund abortions as a method of family planning." Although the provision seems to allow funding for abortions where a woman's health is at risk or where pregnancy results from rape or incest, the George W. Bush administration interpreted the provision to prohibit all abortion funding. Despite growing attention to the rape of women in war and conflict situations, the Obama administration has failed to take action to correct the Bush administration's interpretation of the Helms Amendment.
The blanket restriction on abortion funding is inconsistent with international law and the Geneva Conventions.
At least two human rights committees at the United Nations have found that the mental and physical harm that comes with denying abortions for rape victims amounts to torture. This is not like waterboarding or other types of torture Americans may be used to hearing about, this is grounded in discrimination: only women must continue medically dangerous or unwanted pregnancies; only women suffer the mental agony and physical trauma of unsafe abortions; only women have to risk their lives because of the intentional absence of a medical procedure—to which they have a right.
U.S. allies including France, Great Britain and the European Union have said that the Geneva Conventions require access to abortion for war rape victims.
Thursday, August 18, 2016
(August 17, 2016) The Washington Post recently profiled Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) President Cecile Richards, highlighting PPFA's efforts to repeal the Hyde Amendment and restore full Medicaid coverage for abortion. In a letter written to the Post, Richards states that the article "overstated" her role and "did not do justice to our broad movement." She writes:
As with any bold movement, ours is being fueled by a generation of activists and leaders — primarily women of color — who are challenging the country, and all of us, to be unapologetic champions for the rights of all people to access abortion and reproductive care with a lens of social justice. The roots of this supposedly newfound boldness lie in the reproductive justice movement, which formally began 22 years ago this November, and which generated the growth across the country of organizing primarily led by women of color that has turned conventional attitudes and organizations on their heads.
Richards notes that the work to address the oppression of women of color did "didn’t start with Planned Parenthood. And many justifiably feel we have been late to the show." She states that it is time that reproductive justice leaders and women of color led organizations "get the recognition and credit that is long overdue."
Wednesday, August 17, 2016
The Atlantic (August 3, 2016): It's Time to Make 'Women's Work' Everyone's Work, by The Atlantic
In such a simple yet powerful video interview, Anne Marie-Slaughter contends that the women's movement is missing an "emphasis on caregiving policies." Slaughter asks why we have failed to recognize that traditional women's work is just as important as traditional men's work. She argues that cultivating the idea that breadwinning and caregiving are equally as important in a successful household is key in achieving true equality.
Tuesday, August 16, 2016
The Daily Beast (August 4, 2016): SCOTUS Denies Trans Teen’s Use of Boys Bathroom, by Samantha Allen:
Gavin Grimm, a 17 year old transgender boy, had his right to use the boy's bathroom at school placed on "temporarily on hold" by SCOTUS. In a 5-3 decision, the Court granted an emergency stay of a 4th Circuit ruling allowing Gavin to use the boys room while the Court decides whether or not to grant review of the case. If Court denies the request, the Fourth Circuit's decision will go into effect. If it grants review, Gavin will have to wait several months for the case to be briefed and argued before the Court issues a decision. Either way, his lawyers are upset that their client has to use a single stall bathroom that no other student in the school is required to use until the Court decides whether to take the case. Set against a slew of similar cases across the U.S., this case is sadly not the first of it's kind, nor does it look like it will be the last. Gavin's lawyers stated:
“I woke up this morning and couldn’t believe that we had to tell our client that the court considered it an ‘emergency’ to stop him from using the restroom,” said Chase Strangio, the ACLU staff attorney who started the #LoveForGavin hashtag.
Monday, August 15, 2016
The Huffington Post (August 5, 2016): Planned Parenthood Will Start Registering Voters At Its Clinics, by Laura Bassett:
A new campaign launched by Planned Parenthood called "My Vote, My Voice" aims to engage voters by helping patients of the non-partisan organization register to vote. The volunteer-based effort will register voters at Planned Parenthood clinics, as well as on college campuses and online. The campaign hopes to specifically engage voters that are otherwise commonly disenfranchised in the American political system:
The launch of the campaign is tied to the 51st anniversary of the Voting Rights Act― a 1965 law that aimed to protect African-Americans from legal barriers that affected their right to vote.
“Our purpose is to engage historically disenfranchised communities,” said Erin Carhart, the Planned Parenthood manager of youth organizing. “Our hope is to encourage folks to participate in democracy.”
Sunday, August 14, 2016
Rolling Stone (August 9, 2016): Trump's Assassination Dog Whistle Was Even Scarier Than You Think, by David Cohen:
Donald Trump's recent comment that maybe there is something that Second Amendment people can do if Hillary Clinton "gets to pick her judges" has been heavily criticized for potentially inciting violence. David Cohen categorizes the comment as "stochastic terrorism" a form of terrorism very familiar to those who combat anti-abortion violence.
According to Cohen, stochastic terrorism
means using language and other forms of communication "to incite random actors to carry out violent or terrorist acts that are statistically predictable but individually unpredictable."
Let's break that down in the context of what Trump said. Predicting any one particular individual following his call to use violence against Clinton or her judges is statistically impossible. But we can predict that there could be a presently unknown lone wolf who hears his call and takes action in the future.
Valerie Tarico described how stochastic terrorism occurs following the Colorado Springs murders at Planned Parenthood. She described how (1) a public figure demonizes a person or group of persons, (2) the target is gradually dehumanized, "depicted as loathsome and dangerous- arousing a combustible combination of fear and moral disgust," (3) violent images and use of righteous religious language are used that stop short of an explicit call to arms and (4) "[w]hen violence erupts, the public figures . . . [claim] no one could possibly have foreseen the 'tragedy.'"
In the world I'm most familiar with, the world of anti-abortion violence, we see this again and again from leaders of the anti-abortion movement. Tarico's post linked above is one example. . . . Following Trump's comments, we all have to hope (and, if it's your cup of tea, pray) that it doesn't come to this – that the lone wolves out there don't read this as urging someone to take the next step in the cycle.
Friday, August 5, 2016
National Public Radio (July 20, 2016): Anti-Abortion Groups Take New Aim with Diverse Strategies, by Julie Rovner:
In the wake of the Supreme Court's decision in Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt, anti-abortion forces are reconsidering whether the strategy they have pursued for the last several years was ill-conceived. A new strategy among some groups is to lobby legislatures, at both the federal and state levels, to ban abortion after roughly twenty weeks of pregnancy and to ban all dilation and evacuation abortions. A federal bill to this effect passed the House but was defeated in the Senate.
But some anti-abortion groups want to continue fighting for TRAP (targeted regulation of abortion providers) laws and remain convinced that there is a way to formulate such laws that will pass constitutional scrutiny. Thus, the anti-abortion movement is currently divided into two camps, those who want to continue the battle to shut down abortion care clinics in the guise of fighting for women's health, and those who desire a renewed focus on banning abortion outright.
Anti-abortion forces remain convinced that they are winning the fight, despite recent setbacks and despite the social justice leanings of the up and coming generation of millennials. They view the question of who will inhabit the White House come next January as the factor that will be the most decisive in the short term.
Thursday, August 4, 2016
Truthout (July 20, 2016): Louisiana Becomes Latest Front in National Battle over Abortion, by Katie Klabusich:
In the wake of Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt, opponents of abortion have had to lay down their swords in several jurisdictions. Clinics in Mississippi, Wisconsin, Texas and Alabama will remain open, their admitting privileges and ambulatory surgical center provisions eviscerated. Advocates will now use the holding of Whole Woman's Health to argue against a raft of restrictions beyond the ones at issue in the case.
Louisiana holds the 2016 record for abortion-restricting laws, having passed seven, including a 72-hour waiting period and a ban on abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Other laws ban research on the aborted fetuses, prohibit dilation and evacuation, ban medication abortion de facto, and attempt to police the reasons a woman chooses to end her pregnancy. If the laws take effect, the battle for access to safe abortion care will continue to rage.
The Center for Reproductive Rights has sued to block these laws immediately, citing the unconstitutional burden they impose upon women and providers. Commenting on the case, CRR's president Nancy Northrup remarked, "'Louisiana politicians are trying to do what the US Supreme Court just ruled decisively they cannot: burying women's right to safe and legal abortion under an avalanche of unjustified and burdensome restrictions."
Wednesday, August 3, 2016
New York Times (July 19, 2016): I.V.F. Does Not Raise Breast Cancer Risk, Study Shows, by Catherine Saint Louis:
The use of estrogen and progesterone in in vitro fertilization has in the past stoked fears that the procedure could place patients at risk of developing breast cancer. A retrospective analysis published in 2008 found found "a potential increase in breast cancer among I.V.F. patients older than 40." But later studies, in Israel and Australia, suggested more of a danger for younger women. Some believed that infertility itself might be linked to breast cancer.
Several studies conducted in recent years, however, suggest that the fear is unfounded. The most comprehensive of these studies, published in July in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found "no increased risk among women who have undergone I.V.F." The study likewise found no increased risk among women who had less invasive treatments for infertility. Oddly, the study emphasized what appeared to be a reduced risk of breast cancer among women who have submitted to I.V.F. multiple times.
The JAMA study is not conclusive. More research needs to be conducted, including on the risk of breast cancer in postmenopausal women who have had I.V.F.
Tuesday, August 2, 2016
New York Times (July 26, 2016): Dolly the Sheep's Fellow Clones, Enjoying Their Golden Years, by Joanna Klein:
Dolly, the first cloned sheep, born in 1996, appeared to be older than her years and was put down at just age six after being diagnosed with osteoarthritis and tumors in her lungs. Other cloned mammals have developed diabetes or been plagued with obesity. Several jurisdictions have reacted to these development by passing restrictive legislation:
Not only did many countries, including Canada and Australia, ban reproductive cloning in animals, but the United Nations banned all kinds of cloning in humans in 2005. Last year the European Union made importing food from cloned animals or their offspring illegal.
But four other sheep created from the same cell as Dolly was are now old and, in contrast to Dolly, are enjoying healthy lives. About sixty in human years, they show a normal incidence of heart disease, type two diabetes, and osteoarthritis. Their longevity appears to answer the lingering question whether cloned animals age prematurely. The data are reflected in studies of cloned cattle and mice. One conclusion that might be drawn is that "once cloned animals survive the first few years of life, they won’t die any sooner than other animals."
Scientists think that safe and efficient cloning procedures will emerge in five to ten years. One hope is that improved cloning techniques will help us grow food for the ever-growing human population, protect endangered species, and perfect new medical therapies.
Monday, August 1, 2016
New York Times (July 28, 2016): Sperm Banks Accused of Losing Samples and Lying about Donors, by Tamar Lewin:
A spate of lawsuits accuses sperm banks of deceiving and harming their patients. The allegations have arisen in cases alleging that sperm banks have mishandled sperm, even losing it in some cases, and have failed to put protocols in place to proven the transmission of genetic disorders. Other cases allege that sperm banks have sold sperm that was never meant to be donated in the first place and have misled consumers about donors' characteristics.
The law requires very little of sperm banks. The FDA requires only that sperm be tested for infectious diseases. Banks are not required to verify the information provide by donors or to set limits on the number of children a sperm donor may sire. The American Society for Reproductive Medicine's position is that there is no need for more regulation of sperm banks.
The lawsuits are evidence of dissatisfaction with sperm banks' practices, in an era when parents are more willing to be open with their children about their genetic origins. Still, the problem of sperm-donor anonymity persists. A significant number of donor-conceived children have tried in recent years to gain access to information about their biological fathers. The law provides no mandate for such access. Donor-conceived children are left to discover the information on their own, with success often dependent on their tenacity.
Friday, July 29, 2016
Huffington Post (Jul. 18, 2016): Voices of Faith Speak for Abortion Rights, by Marie Alford-Harkey:
Religious people who support abortion rights have largely been ignored in the debate over abortion. There is a widely held misconception that people with religious convictions are anti-abortion. This is a false dichotomy. It is not true, as Dr. Willie Parker has noted, that "people with a faith identity and abortion care are mutually exclusive.
For people of faith, making moral decisions is a sacred responsibility. According to this belief system, it is up to the individual, not the polity, to make decisions about his or her own body, "which we believe are gifts from God." It is thus unsurprising to find individuals of various belief systems advocating for dismantling barriers to abortion care. This kind of oppression is not consistent with religious faith; it contradicts it.
In support of allowing women on their own to make the personal decision to seek abortion care is the compassion that lies in ensuring that they have access to safe medical care. Indeed, healthcare for women that includes abortion care is a moral imperative. At the very least, ensuring safe access to abortion "avoids imposing one religious view on everyone."
Thursday, July 28, 2016
Huffington Post (Jul. 18, 2016): A Play about Abortion Care Shows How "Remarkably Normal" It Is, by Katherine Brooks:
A new documentary play, "Remarkably Normal," shares the stories of real women gleaned from in-depth interviews to emphasize the statistic that one in three American women will have an abortion in their lifetime but that, shockingly, access to medically safe abortion care remains in doubt. The play "aim[s] to express the emotions and humanity of a common experience that political discussions underplay" and for which we, no matter our political stripe, allow little room for honest conversation.
Playwrights Marie Sproul and Jessi Blue Gormezano believe that theater can inspire social change by opening audiences' hearts and minds. They envision "Remarkably Normal" as a game changer--a play by women about women--in an industry dominated by men.
Not only is "Remarkably Normal" a documentary play. It is also an interview play, "a play in which the playwright interviews people on a particular subject and then uses that material to create the play and the characters in it. The audience experiences the play as the interviewer, hearing the responses of the people to whom the questions were asked." The effect is a riveting portrait of women reliving an experience few can understand without experiencing it themselves. Nonetheless, whether one has lived these experiences or not, "Remarkably Normal" makes them impossible to dismiss and in the process deeply humanizes the women telling their stories.