Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Cuckoldry: Reality or Urban Legend?

New York Times (Apr. 8, 2016): Fathered by the Mailman? It Mostly an Urban Legend, by Carl Zimmer:

Stories about adultery and uncertainty about paternity permeate mass media and popular culture.  At the dawn of the era of DNA testing, some data suggested that up to 30% of the children born to married couples were the product of adultery.  But those data involved requests by husbands who suspected their wives' had extramarital paramours.  New research suggests that births of children from wives' adulterous liaisons actually occurs very seldom. 

The new study looks at inheritance of the Y chromosome.  The Y chromosome is passed down in almost identical form from fathers to sons.  By studying the chromosomes of living related men in various countries (Spain, Italy, Germany, Mali and Belgium), researchers came up with an adulterous paternity rate of less than one percent. 

One reflection of the low rate may lie in the inefficacy of human sperm to compete for fertilization as compared to other species'.  "The only way for men to have evolved comparatively ineffectual sperm," according to one researcher, "was for them to have experienced high rates of paternity over time."  She added that better assurances of paternity lead to higher investments of fathers in their children.  These investments have been critical to the survival of the species given that humans are completely helpless when they are born.  

April 12, 2016 in Men and Reproduction, Science | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Marco Rubio Responds to Criticism Over Ill-Advised Climate Change Comments by Dubiously Claiming Scientific High Ground on Abortion

ThinkProgress: Marco Rubio’s scientific blunder on abortion, by Tara Culp-Ressler:

Rubio_MarcoSen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), who has recently come under fire for failing to name a single source to justify his assertion that “there’s no scientific evidence” to prove humans are contributing to climate change, is defending his comments by claiming that at least he knows the science about abortion.

In an interview with Sean Hannity on Wednesday, the senator said that liberals who criticize him for ignoring climate science are revealing their “hypocrisy” because they ignore the science supporting the idea that life begins at conception. Rubio claimed this concept is a “proven fact” that people on the left are ignoring. . . .

If Rubio is trying to use abortion politics to prove that he and his Republican colleagues have a clear grasp of science, though, he waded into the wrong issue area. . . . 


I've written about the anti-choice movement's deliberate exploitation of the ambiguity of the term "life" here.


May 15, 2014 in Abortion, Anti-Choice Movement, Politics, Science | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, November 29, 2013

New Emergency Contraception Label Undermines Corporations' Objections To Health Plans Covering the Pills

As I was saying in my last post, the evidence shows that emergency contraceptive pills work before fertilization, not after (contrary to the claims of corporations like Hobby Lobby).  Now European health authorities are changing the labeling to reflect this information.  


The New York Times:  New Birth Control Label Counters Lawsuit Claim, by Pam Belluck:

European health authorities have made two significant changes to the label of an emergency contraception pill that is equivalent to Plan B One-Step. One of the changes could be relevant to two cases that the Supreme Court added to its docket on Tuesday.

The new label of the drug, Norlevo, says it “cannot stop a fertilized egg from attaching to the womb,” contradicting a claim by some abortion opponents that has fueled their objections to the Affordable Care Act.

The new label also warns that Norlevo loses effectiveness in women weighing more than 165 pounds and does not work in women over 176 pounds.

Norlevo is not sold in the United States, but Plan B One-Step and two generic versions are identical to it. . . .

November 29, 2013 in Contraception, In the Courts, Religion and Reproductive Rights, Science | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Promise of Post-Fertilization Contraceptive Methods Is Limited By Politics

Birth control pillsLiveScience: Politics Is Main Hurdle to 'After Sex' Birth Control, Experts Say, by Bahar Gholipour:

Political opposition is the main hurdle to developing birth control methods that could be more suitable than current options for many women, health experts said today (Sept. 23) in an editorial. The authors called on researchers to embrace and study birth control methods that act after sex, and can be taken only occasionally.

Current contraception methods are designed to work primarily by keeping sperm and eggs apart, but it is also possible to prevent pregnancy after an egg is fertilized. . . .

September 24, 2013 in Contraception, Science | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Dubious Scientific Claims Behind "Fetal Pain" Abortion Bans

The New York Times:  Complex Science at Issue in Politics of Fetal Pain, by Pam Belluck:

It is a new frontier of the anti-abortion movement: laws banning abortion at 20 weeks after conception, contending that fetuses can feel pain then.

Since 2010, a dozen states have enacted them, most recently Texas.Nationally, a bill passed the Republican-dominated House of Representatives in June.

The science of fetal pain is highly complex. Most scientists who have expressed views on the issue have said they believe that if fetuses can feel pain, the neurological wiring is not in place until later, after the time when nearly all abortions occur. . . .

See also: ThinkProgress: Scientists Studying ‘Fetal Pain’ Don’t Actually Want Their Research To Justify Abortion Bans, by Tara Culp-Ressler.

September 17, 2013 in Abortion Bans, Fetal Rights, Science | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Safety Trials in Australia Test New Contraceptive for Women

The Age (Australia): Experts hope new contraceptive will cut abortion rates, by Natasha Wallace:

A radical female contraception that simultaneously paralyses sperm and protects from sexually transmitted diseases aims to stem abortion rates in Australia among the next generation of young women.

The compound, which may eventually take the form of a sponge or vaginal ring to be inserted two or three days before sexual intercourse, is unique in that it is activated only on contact with semen, said University of Newcastle professor John Aitken said. . . .


Here's Professor Aitken attempting to explain how the contraceptive works: "Like the Sleeping Beauty, it [the contraceptive] only becomes woken at the moment of insemination."  And you thought she was awakened by a kiss.


August 25, 2013 in Contraception, International, Science | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Research Shows Promise for Use of Embryonic Stem Cells to Restore Sight

The Guardian: Embryonic stem cells could help restore sight to blind, by Alok Jha:

Stem cellPhotoreceptors grown from embryonic stem cells have been successfully implanted in the retinas of blind mice

Scientists have shown that light-sensitive retinal cells, grown in the lab from stem cells, can successfully integrate into the eye when implanted into blind mice. The technique opens up the possibility that a similar treatment could help people who have become blind through damage to their retinas to regain some of their sight. . . .

July 21, 2013 in Science, Stem Cell Research | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

A Look at the Science Behind Claims About Fetal Pain

The Daily Beast: The Uncertain Science of Fetal Pain, by Michelle Goldberg:

As the Republican-led House of Representatives passes a far-reaching bill that would ban most abortions after 20 weeks based on the science of ‘fetal pain,’ Michelle Goldberg reports on whether the unborn can feel hurt.

Despite being passed by the House of Representatives, the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which bans abortion after 20 weeks, has no chance of becoming law as long as Democrats control the Senate and the White House. It’s significant, though, as evidence of a broad new legislative assault on Roe v. Wade, one that aims to use the uncertain science of fetal pain to ban abortion before viability. . . .

June 19, 2013 in Abortion Bans, Congress, Fetal Rights, Science | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, December 28, 2012

Stem Cell Research Produces Small But Steady Gains

Stem cellThe Atlantic: 2013: Year of the Stem Cell, by Lindsay Abrams:

Researchers have already safely injected stem cells into patients with neurodegenerative diseases and spinal cord injuries -- and they've seen the potential to vastly improve lives.

. . . In 1998, when human embryonic stem cells were first isolated, we anticipated a "rush of medical advances," as The New York Times put it. That promise -- along with all of the ensuing controversy -- is still alive, has already become reality in select cases -- for example, with bone marrow transplantations -- and still has plans to live up to all of the expectations that have been set for it.

"The question now," the Times wrote then, "is what use can be made of the potentially awesome power to rejuvenate human cells." After 15 years, there are a lot of people waiting for a miracle, for the day cell-based therapy gives back what's been taken from them.

December 28, 2012 in Medical News, Science, Stem Cell Research | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Opinion Piece Challenging Purported Appeals to Science in Support of "Fetal Pain" Abortion Bans

The New York Times - Opinionator:  Can Neuroscience Challenge Roe v. Wade?, by William Egginton:

When I was asked this summer to serve as an expert witness in an appellate case that some think could lead to the next Supreme Court test of Roe v. Wade, I was surprised.

Rick Hearn is the attorney representing Jennie McCormack, an Idaho woman who was arrested for allegedly inducing her own abortion using mifepristone and misoprostol — two F.D.A.-approved drugs, also known as RU-486 — and for obtaining the drugs from another state over the Internet. While the case against Ms. McCormack has been dropped for lack of evidence, Mr. Hearn, who is also a doctor, is pursuing a related suit against an Idaho statute, the “Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act” (Idaho Code, Section 18-501 through 18-510), and others like it that cite neuroscientific findings of pain sentience on the part of fetuses as a basis for prohibiting abortions even prior to viability. . . . 

October 30, 2012 in Abortion, Abortion Bans, Bioethics, Fetal Rights, Science | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Two Scientists Receive Nobel for Cloning and Stem Cell Research

The New York Times: Cloning and Stem Cell Work Earns Nobel, by Nicholas Wade:

Two scientists who were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine on Monday helped lay the foundation for regenerative medicine, the hotly pursued though still distant idea of rebuilding the body with tissues generated from its own cells. They are John B. Gurdon of the University of Cambridge in England and Shinya Yamanaka of Kyoto University in Japan. . . .

October 9, 2012 in Scholarship and Research, Science, Stem Cell Research | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Researchers Offer New Theory for Why Human Pregnancy Lasts 9 Months

NPR: Why Does Pregnancy Last 9 Months?, by Scott Hensley:

Babies are lovely but altogether helpless creatures.

Wouldn't it be better if tiny humans were born able to walk, like horses, or generally were readier for the rigors of the world, like, say, chimps? . . .

August 28, 2012 in Pregnancy & Childbirth, Science | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, June 11, 2012

Claims that "Morning-After Pill" Causes Abortion Appear Unsupported by Science

The New York Times: Abortion Qualms on Morning-After Pill May Be Unfounded, by Pam Belluck:

Labels inside every box of morning-after pills, drugs widely used to prevent pregnancy after sex, say they may work by blocking fertilized eggs from implanting in a woman’s uterus. Respected medical authorities, including the National Institutes of Health and the Mayo Clinic, have said the same thing on their Web sites.

Such descriptions have become kindling in the fiery debate over abortion and contraception. . . .

But an examination by The New York Times has found that the federally approved labels and medical Web sites do not reflect what the science shows. Studies have not established that emergency contraceptive pills prevent fertilized eggs from implanting in the womb, leading scientists say. . . .

The New York Times: Drug's Nickname May Have Aided Politicization, by Pam Belluck:

Scientists say that one reason emergency contraceptives have become so politicized is that their nickname, “morning-after pills,” has given rise to misconceptions about how the drugs help preventpregnancy after sex.

“It’s not the morning after fertilization — it’s the morning after intercourse,” said Diana Blithe, program director for contraceptive development for the National Institute on Child Health and Human Development, part of the National Institutes of Health. “People think that the act of intercourse results in pregnancy immediately, within a minute after you have sex. They don’t understand how long it takes sperm to get ready to fertilize.” . . .

Slate.com: Emergency Contraception Is Not Abortion, by Amanda Marcotte:

No one is happier than I am to see the New York Times do an extensive piece debunking the myth that emergency contraception works, either primarily or secondarily, by killing fertilized eggs. The actual scientific evidence plus pre-existing knowledge of how hormones affect the body has long pointed to ovulation suppression as the only possible way that emergency contraception could work. Despite this, anti-choice activists and politicians have gone out of their way to confuse people about the difference between emergency contraception and abortion. Their excuse for why they "get" to lie to the public about this has been the packaging that states that hormonal contraception might also work by preventing the implantation of a fertilized egg. Even though that's not abortion—abortion terminates pregnancy, which begins at implantation—for the anti-choice crew, that was good enough to justify the lie. . . .

June 11, 2012 in Abortion, Contraception, Science | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Informational Mandates for Abortion Based on Shaky Science

Slate Magazine: Do Abortions Cause Breast Cancer?, by Elanie Schattner:

Image1 The shaky science behind Kansas’ House Abortion Act.

In Kansas, legislators recently passed the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act. If enacted into law, the bill would require doctors to tell pregnant women of a relationship between abortion and breast cancer. This news follows passage by the New Hampshire State House of the Women’s Right To Know Act Regarding Abortion Information. These related laws are unlikely to gain approval by the state senates. But there’s a trend: A similar measure took effect in Texas in February. Now, providers there must inform pregnant women about “the possibility of increased risk of breast cancer following an induced abortion,” the so-called ABC link. . . .

May 24, 2012 in Abortion, Mandatory Delay/Biased Information Laws, Science, State Legislatures | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, March 12, 2012

Despite Debunking of Link Between Mental Trauma and Abortion, Laws Allow Misinformation to Spread

The Washington Times: Group calls study on mental health, abortion 'debunked', by Cheryl Wetzstein:

Says research shows ‘no causal link’

In the simmering battle over abortion and mental-health problems, a reproductive-health organization says a published study linking the two has been “decisively debunked,” while the lead author of the study says her findings still stand.

The mental-health issue is relevant because at least 35 states require women seeking abortions to be counseled first, and “spurious research” already is leading to misinformation being spread via some of these counseling laws, the Guttmacher Institute said Monday. . . .

March 12, 2012 in Abortion, Anti-Choice Movement, Mandatory Delay/Biased Information Laws, Scholarship and Research, Science | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, February 6, 2012

Komen Foundation's Defunding of Groups Associated with Stem Cell Research Has Largely Flown Under the Radar

Jezebel: Komen Halted Funding for $12 Million in Stem Cell Research Like We Wouldn't Notice, by Erin Gloria Ryan:

Now, that Susan G. Komen for the Cure has sufficiently pissed off progressives, they've changed course and reinstated existing grants to Planned Parenthood, pissing off the anti-abortion crew they'd initially been trying to appease. But before Komen was loudly defunding— and then reinstating funding for— Planned Parenthood, they were stealthily defunding organizations that associate with embryonic stem cell research. And the financial damage from this iteration of their pro-life ideology totals in the millions.

When Komen messed with Planned Parenthood, they messed with an organization with millions of vocal supporters tired of seeing the health care provider being politically stigmatized. But when Komen's newly Karen Handel flavored muscle messed with Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, the University of Kansas, the US National Cancer Institute, the Society for Women's Health Research, and Yale University, last fall the only people who noticed were the researchers who were no longer receiving the more than $12 million in funding Komen had provided. . . .


I have received the following correction from a University of Kansas Medical Center official:

The information appearing on some websites is incorrect. Komen did not defund the University of Kansas Medical Center. In 2010 it granted one of our researchers $4.5 million in 2010 to study whether an estrogen found in flax seed might help prevent breast cancer -- that release is here: http://www.komenkansascity.org/about-us/news/multi-million-dollar-komen.html. The researcher, Carol Fabian, MD, has not lost any Komen funding.

February 6, 2012 in Politics, Science, Stem Cell Research | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, September 19, 2011

Two Scientists Opposed to Embryonic Stem Cell Research Appeal Court Ruling Allowing U.S. Gov't Funding

Stem cell Reuters: U.S. scientists appeal on embryonic stem cell funding:

Two scientists on Monday appealed a ruling that permitted federal funding of human embryonic stem research to go forward, an effort by the U.S. government to try to find cures for deadly diseases.

Dr. James Sherley, a biological engineer at Boston Biomedical Research Institute, and Theresa Deisher, of Washington-based AVM Biotechnology, opposed such research and had sued to block funding. . . .

September 19, 2011 in In the Courts, Science, Stem Cell Research | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Simple Blood Test Can Determine Fetal Sex at Seven Weeks

The New York Times: Test Can Tell Fetal Sex at 7 Weeks, Study Says, by Pam Belluck:

Scientists A simple blood test that can determine a baby’s sex as early as seven weeks into pregnancy is highly accurate if used correctly, a finding that experts say is likely to lead to more widespread use by parents concerned about gender-linked diseases and those who are merely curious, as well as people considering the more ethically controversial step of selecting the sex of their children.

The appeal of the test, which analyzes fetal DNA found in the mother’s blood, is that it can establish sex weeks earlier than other options, like ultrasound, and is noninvasive, unlike amniocentesis and other procedures that carry small risks of miscarriage. . . .

August 11, 2011 in Abortion, Bioethics, Medical News, Pregnancy & Childbirth, Scholarship and Research, Science | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, October 29, 2010

High BPA Exposure Among Chinese Factory Workers Linked to Low Sperm Counts

The Huffington Post: High BPA Exposure Linked to Low Sperm Count, by Lindsey Tanner:

Sperm Chinese factory workers exposed to high levels of the plastics chemical BPA had low sperm counts, according to the first human study to tie it to poor semen quality.

The study is the latest to raise health questions about bisphenol-A and comes two weeks after Canada published a final order adding the chemical to its list of toxic substances.

Whether the relatively low sperm counts and other signs of poor semen quality translate to reduced fertility is not known. Study author Dr. De-Kun Li, a scientist at the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research in Oakland, Calif., noted that even men with extremely low sperm counts can father children.

October 29, 2010 in Fertility, Men and Reproduction, Science | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Babies Conceived via IVF Perform Better Than Peers on Some Educational Development Tests

Time Magazine: Building a Brighter Kid: Consider IVF, by Bonnie Rochman:

Most parents-in-waiting like to daydream that their unborn child might develop a cure for cancer or improve upon the theory of relativity — in short, save the world. Now, new research indicates that your best shot of birthing a brainy baby might be to first conceive via in vitro fertilization (IVF).

According to a University of Iowa (UI) study published in the October issue of the journal Human Reproduction, IVF babies scored better than age- and gender-matched peers on the Iowa Test of Basic Skills – a widely used test that evaluates students' abilities — and the Iowa Test for Educational Development (ITBS/ED), which is generally considered an objective measure of educational outcomes. . . .

October 5, 2010 in Assisted Reproduction, Bioethics, Scholarship and Research, Science | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)