Thursday, July 13, 2017
Human Rights Watch (July 10, 2017): Contraception is Lifesaving but Often Out of Reach, by Nisha Varia
This week, the Family Planning Summit met in London. The goal of this annual meeting is to bring governments, donors, and civil society together to discuss progress and future goals in expanding access to modern contraception for millions of women globally.
Family planning and effective contraception saves lives.
Complications from pregnancy and childbirth are the second leading cause of death for adolescents ages 15 to 19 globally and cause 800 women and girls to die each day. The World Health Organization estimates that at least 22,000 women die from abortion-related complications each year.
This year, many lobbied for the Summit to include conversations on the effects of the Trump administration's reimplementation of the "Global Gag Rule." The controversial policy prohibits foreign nongovernmental organizations from receiving any U.S. health funding if they use funds from any source to provide information about abortions, advocate for or provide abortions.
The policy affects $8.8 billion of foreign assistance. The anticipated consequences of the Gag Rule include increases in unplanned pregnancies and dangerous abortions as well as a higher maternal death rate.
Vox (Jun. 29, 2017): California decided it was tired of women bleeding to death in childbirth, by Julia Belluz:
At the same time the global maternal death rate fell by nearly 44 percent, between 2000 and 2014, the United States watched its maternal mortality rate skyrocket 27 percent. Maternal mortality refers to "the death of a mother from pregnancy-related complications while she's carrying or within 42 days after birth." Childbirth is more dangerous in the U.S. than any other wealthy nation. The reason? The U.S. does not value its women.
The United States is in the company of only 12 other countries whose maternal mortality rates have actually increased in recent years, including North Korea and Zimbabwe.
Researchers and health care advocates argue that a high maternal death rate is a reflection of how that culture views its women.
[In the U.S.,] policies and funding dollars tend to focus on babies, not the women who bring them into the world. For example, Medicaid, the government health insurance program for low-income Americans, will only cover women during and shortly after pregnancy.
Texas, having rejected Medicaid expansion and closed the majority of its Planned Parenthood clinics, has the highest maternal mortality rate in the developed world. California, however, has proven to be an exception within the nation. The California maternal mortality rate has steadily decreased over the same time that the rest of the nation's has risen, thanks in large part to the California Maternal Quality Care Collaborative (CMQCC).
60% of maternal deaths are preventable and the complications that cause them should be anticipated. The CMQCC finds that even within an imperfect health care system, death from childbirth need not be an inevitability. Maternal deaths in the U.S. often result from common complications like hemorrhaging and preeclampsia. The CMQCC has enacted simple, lifesaving procedures over the last decade to reduce the number of unnecessary maternal deaths. And, they're working.
First, they aimed to lower the number of unnecessary C-sections performed. Cesarian sections are often prematurely offered by obstetricians who are short on time. The procedure can leave mothers with internal scar tissue that ultimately makes future pregnancies more dangerous by increasing the mother's risk of hemorrhaging.
As many maternal deaths are a result of hemorrhaging--a mother can bleed to death within five minutes--doctors set out to prepare every delivery room in hospitals participating in their program with a "hemorrhage cart," equipped with everything necessary to handle a bleeding problem the moment it begins.
In a recent study, researchers found a 21 percent reduction in severe complications related to hemorrhages in the hospitals participating in CMQCC's program. Hospitals not participating in the program saw only a one percent reduction.
California has demonstrated that even in our messy and imperfect health care system, progress is possible. They’ve shown the rest of the country what happens when people care about and organize around women’s health. Policymakers owe it to the 4 million babies born in the US each year, and their mothers, to figure out how to bring that success to families across the country.
How the current health care debate and the resulting volatility of the insurance market will affect the United States' maternal mortality rate going forward remains to be seen.
Thursday, February 9, 2017
New York Times (Jan. 27, 2017): Duterte’s Free Birth-Control Order Is Latest Skirmish With Catholic Church, by Aurora Almendral:
The Philippines, where six million women have no access to contraceptives, delivers free birth control to indigent women through a program that also offers prenatal care and mandates that sex education be taught in schools and that companies provide reproductive health services to their employees. The program has been billed as "pro-life, pro-women, pro-children and pro-economic development."
But the Catholic Church has long fought the implementation of the program, going so far as to block key components of it via petitions filed in the Supreme Court. Unable to implement the program, the Health Department's budget has been slashed. Sex education in schools remains substandard, based in abstinence-only rhetoric. The Philippines is the only country in Asia where rates of pregnancy among teenagers increased.
President Duterte's administration is coming back strong against the court's decisions, vowing to uphold the law and eliminating some of the decisions' ambiguous wording. Two archbishops have acknowledged defeat.
One commentator, contrasting Duterte's clash with the church with President Donald Trump's reinstatement of the Reagan-era global "gag rule" forbidding foreign NGOs from receiving U.S. family planning funds if they perform, counsel or refer women for abortion services or advocate for the liberalization of abortion laws where they work, sees the policy of the United States, not the Philippines, as the real threat to women's health.
Friday, September 30, 2016
HoustonPress (Sept. 19, 2016): Texas's Conservatism on Reproductive Rights May Make Fighting Zika Harder, by Carter Sherman:
As Houston braces for an outbreak of Zika (the city's mosquito season will extend well into October), activists are taking note of the likelihood that Texas's ultra-conservative stance on reproductive rights will make it harder for the state to fight the virus. The Population Institute, an international non-profit that aims to expand access to family planning resources, has reported that "Texas's especially dire track record on the issue makes the state 'particularly vulnerable." The state received an F-, the lowest possible grade, in the Institute's 2015 Report on Reproductive Health and Rights.
Despite the recent victory in Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt, the fact that many abortion clinics in Texas remain closed means that "some women who contract Zika may have no choice but to carry a pregnancy to term." And with the number of people traveling to Texas from other regions of the world, Zika will remain a year-round concern.
Genevieve Cato of the Lilith Fund expressed her consternation: “I personally have found it almost maddening that we are seeing this potentially devastating possibility of a Zika outbreak at the same time that the state is doubling down on its willful inaction on expanding access to reproductive healthcare.”
Tuesday, September 20, 2016
City Limits (Sept. 13, 2016): Reproductive Rights and Today's Primary Ballot, by Joan Malin:
Malin writes, "New York is a place where everyone is welcome and where we believe that everyone deserves access to the resources to achieve their dreams." In the area of abortion liberty, New York has been in the vanguard. Abortion was legal here before Roe v. Wade, the state provides Medicaid coverage for abortion services and requires health insurance coverage for birth control. But the current Senate majority is hostile to reproductive rights and has stymied forward progress. It has blocked the Women's Equality Act for three years in a row and has not been a friend to measures that would have eliminated barriers to birth control and would have barred employment discrimination on the basis of an employee's reproductive health decisions.
The good news is that Senators Toby Ann Stavisky and Gustavo Rivera have won in their primary contests against challengers who vowed to roll back reproductive rights in New York State. Businessman S.J. Jung does not support a woman's right to choose, even in cases of rape and incest. Fernando Cabrera champions "anti-abortion Crisis Pregnancy Centers that mislead women about their reproductive health care options." Both Jung and Cabrera have gone out of their way to express their disapproval of equal rights for same-sex couples and gay individuals.
New York has a rich history of championing reproductive rights, even if no progress has been made in recent years. With Democratic candidates for Senate like Stavisky and Rivera, come November voters will have a golden opportunity to show their support for reproductive liberty.
Monday, July 25, 2016
Buzzfeed (July 12, 2016): Prominent Trans Lawyer Picked To Run National Trans Rights Legal Group, by Meredith Talusan:
Jillian Weiss was just named the new executive director of the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund. With a background in employment law and teaching (as a professor at Ramapo College of New Jersey), Weiss is most noted for her successful suit against Saks & Co., where she represented a trans woman who was discriminated against by the company. While Weiss acknowledges the importance and significance of her identity and the position she has been appointed to, she is more focused on the intersectional work that is needed to move forward. “It’s really the system that is set up to discriminate and to be prejudiced against trans people, particularly people of color, and other people caught at the intersection of different kinds of prejudice, like race and class and gender,” she concluded. “It’s very important that we focus on that intersection and understand that it’s a much larger picture out there.”
Thursday, July 21, 2016
The Guardian (July 18, 2016): Doctors urged to advise patients about risks of abstinence-centric sex education, by Molly Redden:
In a recently released report, The American Academy of Pediatrics denounced abstinence only education programs, stressing the importance of educating young people about comprehensive approaches to things like STIs and contraception. Some interviewed view this as a triumph for doctors in areas where parents may want to mitigate their children gaining access to this kind of information, viewing the report as a scientifically-sound back up against the arguments of abstinence-focused parents. The report stresses the inadequacy of abstinence-only education and highlights conversations about consent and gender identity as a few of the topics pediatricians should feel encouraged to speak with patients about.
Abstinence-only groups have already taken issue with the report, but many are heralding this as an important step in the right direction for doctors and patients alike:
“This is the mothership telling pediatricians that talking about sex is part of your charge to keep children and adolescents safe,” said Dr Cora Breuner, a professor and pediatrician at Seattle Children’s research hospital and the report’s lead author.
Friday, July 15, 2016
New York Magazine (July 7, 2016): Why Do We Treat Sexually Abusive Doctors Differently Than Other Predators?, by Susan Rinkunas
Linking to a study done by the Atlanta Journal Constitution, this article and the study explores the safe space that doctors create with patients, and the physicians that violate that safe space with unwarranted sexual harassment or assault. For many women seeking reproductive - or other types of - healthcare, it is more confusing when doctors cross a line because of the power they hold, the space they share with patients, and the inherent vulnerability of being in an exam room with someone who has vowed to "do no harm." The medical profession also seems to look the other way when when people are courageous enough to step forward and report these offenders:
Medical boards do publicly reprimand doctors, with sanctions including treatment programs, required chaperones when seeing female patients, and monitoring of their practice. Still, the reporters found that, of 2,400 doctors publicly disciplined for sexual misconduct nationwide since 1999, half still had active medical licenses. Some doctors who lost their licenses simply applied for one in another state.
The report raises the question: Why are some doctors seemingly given a pass while abusive coaches, teachers, and, more recently, priests get registered as sex offenders?
Sunday, July 3, 2016
The Guardian (June 30, 2016): Planned Parenthood: eight states now striving to repeal abortion restrictions, by Molly Redden
The victory of the recent SCOTUS decision that slammed down Targeted Regulations of Abortion Providers (TRAP Laws) is already resonating within the reproductive rights community. Planned Parenthood made a statement about the next steps that their legal department plans to take now that the ruling has been handed down by the nation's highest court. In an effort to rally voters for the upcoming November election - both for the Presidency as well as more locally - Planned Parenthood, along with the Center for Reproductive Rights, has its eyes on states beyond Texas:
Lawmakers are formulating specific plans to target similar abortion restrictions in Arizona, Pennsylvania and Virginia, and they are broadly prepared to repeal laws in Florida, Michigan and Texas. In Tennessee, Planned Parenthood is looking to support litigation by the Center for Reproductive Rights against that state’s building requirement law. They will also target Missouri’s admitting privileges law. Earlier this week, officials with Planned Parenthood of Kansas and mid-Missouri signaled that they were prepared, if necessary, to mount a legal challenge.
While some state laws restricting abortion have already fallen in light of the Supreme Court decision, Planned Parenthood and The Center for Reproductive Rights intend to move forward against more challenging laws in the above mentioned states, as well as others, in order to protect reproductive rights nationwide.
Wednesday, June 22, 2016
The Atlantic, June 14, 2016 Can the U.S. End Teen Pregnancy?, by Caitlin Cadieux, Olga Khazan, Nicolas Pollock:
An animated video by the Atlantic discusses teen pregnancy in the U.S.:
Teen birth rates in the U.S. are down 9 percent from 2013, and they are the lowest they’ve been since 1940. However, America still has the highest teen pregnancy rate among 21 similar countries. Why is this? In this video, staff writer Olga Khazan explores how poverty, culture, and religion can all play a role.
New York Times (June 16, 2016): C.D.C. Reports 234 Pregnant Women in U.S. With Zika, by Sabrina Tavernise:
The number of pregnant women infected with the Zika virus in the U.S. has risen to 234. The CDC reported 6 cases of abnormalities: three deaths before birth and three babies born with birth defects. However, the CDC did not disclose how many of the infected women gave birth, making it difficult to determine how great a risk Zika poses as a cause of birth defects. The CDC also reported that 189 pregnant women were infected with Zika in U.S. territories including Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands but did not provide any birth outcomes for the group.
Dr. Denise Jamison, a leader of the CDC's pregnancy and birth defects team, stated that the CDC hopes to provide more information on birth outcomes in Zika pregnancies as the number of births rise.
“We’re sort of in a hard place,” Dr. Jamieson said. “We can’t provide a lot of information about where these women are in their pregnancy. We don’t want to inadvertently disclose information about difficult decisions these women are making about their pregnancies.
She said the numbers included the nine pregnant women the C.D.C. had reported on in February. Of the babies in those cases, at least one was born with microcephaly.
Dr. Jamieson stated that the estimated risk of birth defects based on available data is between 1 and 15%.
Tuesday, June 21, 2016
Refinery 29 (June 16, 2016): Denied Birth Control, Teens Still Have Sex — Unsafe Sex, by Hayley MacMillen:
From the 2016 International Conference on Family Planning in Indonesia, Refinery 29 provides first hand accounts of young people denied safe sex options and education. A recent Lancet study has identified unsafe sex as the fastest growing risk factor for ill health for young people around the world. At the conference, attendees stressed the importance of accurate, as well as widespread, sex ed to all adolescents. Haley MacMillen writes:
Birth control fallacies are, of course, not limited to East Africa but crop up wherever medically accurate, comprehensive sex ed is withheld. When I ask Philippines-based journalist and sex columnist Ana Santos, another attendee of the International Conference on Family Planning, about contraception myths in her country, she’s armed with some horrifying ones. People believe that "jumping after sex will prevent pregnancy" — although she notes, drily, that "a jump from what height is never mentioned" — and that "drinking coconut juice laced with bleach or Tide detergent will wash away the spermies." And since condoms can be hard to come by, people, especially young people, wrap Calypso plastic, a brand used to package iced candy, around their penises instead. "Totally ouchy, right?" Santos asks. Yes. And ineffective.
The article emphasizes the need for comprehensive sex ed - both internationally and locally - in order to help young people around the world and around the corner.
Friday, June 17, 2016
Refinery 29 (May 28, 2016): Unsafe Sex Is Now The Biggest Health Risk Among Women Worldwide, by Sara Coughlin
Researchers tracked health trends of participants for over 23 years in order to determine the causes of death among them. While the prevalence of STI's weren't even ranking as a major risk factor at the time the study commenced, they shot up the scale to the number one cause of death by the end, strikingly. This pattern seems to be a worldwide trend, bolstering the importance of getting tested, as well as communicating frankly and effectively to young people about the risks associated with unprotected sex, and how to stay safe when sexually active.
The report, which was published in theLancet and is the result of a commission to look at health challenges facing young people worldwide, found that today's teens are growing up in a world where preventable and treatable health issues, such as HIV/AIDS and unplanned pregnancy, abound. Among the most shocking findings of the report: For women between the ages of 10 and 24, unsafe sex is the fastest-growing risk factor for illness and death worldwide.
Wednesday, February 24, 2016
Ms. Magazine Blog (Feb. 19, 2016): Menstrual Products are Taxed in 40 States. Here's What You Can Buy Tax-Free, by Jennifer Weiss-Wolf:
Public attention has recently focused on sales taxes on menstrual-health products across the country. Such taxes impact women disproportionately, and particularly poor women. Even President Obama commented on the issue last month when prompted by YouTube star, Ingrid Nilsen. Response to the issue has varied from state to state.
Since January, there has been a flurry of activity in state houses across the country, with “Tampon Tax” bills introduced or resurrected in California, Connecticut, Michigan, New York, Utah,Virginia and Wisconsin, most with bipartisan sponsorship. The City of Chicago introduced a comparable ordinance, along with a statement of approval from Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
While some argue that taxes cannot be lifted due to state budgetary concerns, all state tax codes already exempt some products from sales tax, including pop-tarts, garter belts, and snowmaking equipment. As such, state legislatures may opt to subsidize the basic health products for women in the United States.
Tuesday, February 23, 2016
RH Reality Check (Feb. 18, 2016): Pope Francis Suggests that Contraception May Be Acceptable for Catholics Fearing Zika Virus, by Jodi Jacobson:
The Zika virus, now found in 34 countries, may cause microcephaly in infants born to recently infected women. Some countries, including El Salvador, have responded to the recent increase in microcephaly by advising that women avoid pregnancy for up to two years. Last week, Pope Francis responded to questions about Zika virus, saying that it may be acceptable for Catholics to use contraception to avoid pregnancy when fearing possible infection.
Asked during a press conference whether abortion or birth control could be considered a “lesser evil” in response to the Zika virus, which appears to be linked to birth defects, the Pope replied that he believes abortion is a crime and is never acceptable, but that the use of modern birth control (“artificial contraception” in church parlance) may be permitted in exceptional circumstances.
Abortion “is an evil in and of itself” the Pope claimed. “On the other hand, avoiding pregnancy is not an absolute evil,” he said, referring to prior circumstances in which the church has sanctioned the use of birth control, such as in the 1960s, when nuns were subject to rape as a weapon of war in the Belgian Congo.
The Pope's statements may encourage Catholic countries to make contraceptives more readily available, thus avoiding increased birth defects due to Zka virus.
Wednesday, October 14, 2015
Last week, the Nuestro Texas campaign—a joint project of the Center for Reproductive Rights and the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health—issued a report documenting a women’s human rights hearing held last March in the Rio Grande Valley. Lately, Texas has made front-page headlines because a challenge to HB 2 a Texas abortion statute is making its way to the Supreme Court. Abortion access was very much an issue at the hearing, but the testimony made it clear that the human rights problems in the Valley are much broader and deeper.
Wednesday, July 30, 2014
Jezebel: Legalizing Prostitution Could Lower the Spread of HIV by One-Third, by Hillary Crosley:
Here's a crazy thought; legalizing prostitution could reduce the number of international HIV infections for female sex workers by at least a third in several countries. Health experts presented this new research drawn from Canada, India and Kenya during the 20th International AIDS Conference in Melbourne, Australia on Tuesday. . . .
Saturday, July 26, 2014
The Hill - Contributors blog: Debunking the bad science on abortion and women's health, by Andrea Flynn:
Last week, the Senate Judiciary Committee heard testimony on the Women's Health Protection Act (WHPA), a bill that would prevent unnecessary restrictions on abortions and abortion providers. The opposition used overblown and often incorrect claims to drive home the familiar message that abortion is dangerous, bad for women and shouldn't be considered part of women's healthcare.
In the face of tireless attacks on reproductive rights, it is important to revisit those claims, set the record straight and remind the opposition of the real health threats facing too many U.S. families. . . .
Monday, January 20, 2014
Jezebel: American Gets and Embarassing C- in Women's Reproductive Health, by Erin Gloria Ryan:
The Population Institute has released its annual State of Reproductive Health And Rights report card, and it seems that in the opinion of the massive educational nonprofit, America isn't doing so hot. If America were a high schooler, America would be grounded until America gets its grades up, otherwise America won't be getting into any colleges.
The report consolidates information most people who have been paying attention to the news probably suspected: as the federal government attempts to expand access to reproductive health care, right wing ideologues at the state level are working busily to ensure that women can't physically access the care the federal government is trying to expand. . . .
The fifty-state report is available here.
Monday, December 30, 2013
NPR: Abortion Rights Groups Say It's Time To Stop Playing Defense, by Kathy Lohr:
Abortion rights activists are working on a counterattack to the 200 bills that have passed in states across the U.S. since 2010.
In the past three years, Republican-led legislatures have backed bills to regulate abortions and the doctors and clinics that perform them.
. . .So abortion rights activists say they're pushing a new legislative strategy. . . .