Thursday, August 30, 2007
Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) on Tuesday signed into law a measure (SB 4) that prohibits human cloning but allows several kinds of stem cell research, including human embryonic stem cell research, the Chicago Tribune reports (Garcia, Chicago Tribune, 8/29).
The law will require the Department of Public Health to further develop and administer the Illinois Regenerative Medicine Institute, which was established in July 2005 by an executive order issued by Blagojevich and has since distributed $15 million for stem cell research. The law also will establish an oversight committee of seven members appointed by Blagojevich to oversee the institute's grant decisions.
Wednesday's case of a pregnant woman suffering a miscarriage inside an ambulance after being turned away by nine hospitals in Nara and Osaka prefectures is an indication of the slow progress in efforts to improve the nation's emergency ambulance system.
The incident follows the death last year of a pregnant woman in Nara Prefecture who had fallen into a coma during delivery at a public hospital, having been turned away by 19 hospitals in Osaka and nearby prefectures before arriving there. The woman died eight days later at the hospital that finally accepted her.
Based on the lessons from last year's case, the Nara prefectural government and other administrative authorities made urgent improvements to their systems for transporting pregnant women by ambulance.
But a shortage of obstetricians has resulted in an increasingly serious trend of hospitals across the nation closing their obstetrics departments.
Via AP/New York Newsday:
Teenagers in the city are about as sexually active as youths elsewhere in the country but are less likely to use birth control pills, a new study says.
A survey released Wednesday by the city's health department found that 8 percent of the city's sexually active teens reported that they or their partners were on the pill, compared to 18 percent nationwide.
About 1 in 5 sexually active girls said they used no birth control the last time they had sex, versus about 1 in 7 nationwide.
Lars Noah (visiting at Vanderbilt) has posted Too High a Price for Some Drugs?: The FDA Burdens Reproductive Choice, San Diego Law Review, Vol. 44, No. 1 (2007), on SSRN. Here is the abstract:
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has imposed increasingly restrictive conditions on access to pharmaceutical products such as isotretinoin (Accutance) and thalidomide that carry a serious risk of birth defects. This Article focuses on the requirement that female patients agree to use two forms of contraception, drawing parallels to suggestions that similar conditions apply to certain persons on welfare or probation, and posing hypothetical variations of the FDA's access restriction. If anyone ever challenged this aspect of the agency's risk management strategy, a court would have to decide whether the policy (1) grew out of state action (complicated by the fact that the FDA did not technically mandate it and could not sanction patients who failed to comply); (2) affected the exercise of a fundamental right (e.g., procreative liberty (declining contraception), free exercise/speech); (3) inappropriately conditioned access to a benefit on the waiver of one of these rights; and (4) failed strict scrutiny (in light of the argument made in other contexts that, even though the government may seek to minimize the risk of in utero exposure to teratogens, it lacks a compelling interest in preventing the birth of a child so exposed).
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
Via the Philadelphia Inquirer:
The Justice Department asked a federal judge yesterday to order a Reading man to stop posting violent threats against abortion providers in Philadelphia, Allentown and Reading on an Internet site.
U.S. Attorney Patrick Meehan alleged that John Dunkle, 72, "encouraged his readers to kill a specific clinic physician by shooting her in the head."
Via The Scotsman:
CARDINAL Keith O'Brien today announced he is to resign from Amnesty International following its decision to support women's right to abortion.
The leader of Scotland's Catholics wrote to the charity's director saying he made the decision with "great sadness" as the stance contravened the "basic right to human life". He joined as a student more than 40 years ago.
Background (via the Kaiser Daily Women's Health Policy Report (8/21)):
Amnesty International on Friday affirmed a policy that supports a woman's right to have an abortion under certain circumstances despite opposition from Roman Catholic and conservative leaders worldwide, BBC News reports (Pigott, BBC News, 8/18). The organization at the end of its biennial meeting in Mexico City said it would work to "support the decriminalization of abortion, to ensure women have access to health care when complications arise from abortion and to defend women's access to abortion ... when their health or human rights are in danger" (Reuters, 8/17). According to London's Times, the new policy is automatically binding for Amnesty's members in each member country, including where abortion is illegal (Caldwell/Syal, Times, 8/21).
When women develop diabetes during pregnancy and don't get treatment, their kids face an increased risk of childhood obesity, but new research suggests that treatment can essentially eliminate that risk.
It's "remarkable" that the doubling of the risk of obesity can be completely reversed in these children, said study author Teresa Hillier, an endocrinologist and senior investigator with the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research Northwest and Hawaii.
Via the New York Times:
A botched abortion in which a healthy twin fetus was terminated instead of its sibling with Down syndrome has reignited a fierce debate over how the abortion law is applied. “What happened in this hospital was not a medical abortion but an abortion done for the purposes of eugenics,” Senator Paola Binetti, a medical doctor and member of the national bioethics committee, wrote in the newspaper Corriere della Sera. The Vatican’s newspaper attacked the practice of aborting malformed fetuses, and anti-abortion campaigners seized on the case.
See also this article in The Times (London).
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
Via the Kansas City Star:
A federal judge Monday barred the state of Missouri from enforcing a new law that would require abortion clinics in Columbia and Kansas City to upgrade their facilities.
In issuing the temporary restraining order, U.S. District Judge Ortrie Smith gave lawyers representing the state and Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri until Sept. 7 to file further briefs before a planned preliminary injunction hearing three days later.
Peter Brownlie, president of Planned Parenthood, said he was grateful for the restraining order. Otherwise, the clinics would have to close, he said.
From the Chicago Tribune (8/22):
When the Albanian journalist and author Elvira Dones was traveling in the mountains of northern Albania, she asked for directions from someone she thought was a man walking his mule through a village, rifle on shoulder.
After the exchange, her guide whispered, "That is one of them."
Dones had just met an adherent of an ancient northern Albanian tradition in which women take an oath of lifelong virginity in exchange for the right to live as men. The process is not surgical. Rather, sworn virgins cut their hair and wear baggy men's clothes and take up manly livelihoods as shepherds or truck drivers or even political leaders. And those around them treat them as men.
Via Our Bodies, Our Blog.
The African Journal of Reproductive Rights (AJRR) is seeking submissions addressing sexual and reproductive rights, women's rights, gender discrimination, gender equality, gender violence, gender empowerment, maternity rights, harmful traditional practicies, international legal frameworks on reproductive rights, and related issues.
From the AJRR website:
The African Journal of Reproductive Rights is a multidisciplinary and international journal that publishes original research, comprehensive reviews of articles and commentaries on reproductive rights and gender issues in Africa. The Journal strives to share findings on reproductive rights and gender issues and to disseminate innovative and relevant information on this discourse in the African continent and to serve as agents for advocating positive changes on these issues in Africa.
The African Journal of Reproductive Rights is a novel publication of the Network for Justice and Democracy (a duly registered and internationally recognized non government organization) dedicated to promoting and defending reproductive rights and gender equality through research, education and advocacy.
The Journal is a scholarly journal which aims to encourage in depth research into reproductive rights in Africa and globally by providing a rich forum for scholarship and to monitor issues on reproductive rights and gender equality in the region. To achieve this aim, the Journal adopts a broad based and multi-disciplinary approach to issues on gender and reproductive rights.
Click here for submission guidelines.
China Planning Stricter Sex-Selective Abortion Regulations To Counter Gender Imbalance, Official Says
The Chinese government plans to implement new regulations to ban sex-selective abortion in an effort to counter the widening gender imbalance, Wang Yongqing, deputy head of the Office of Legislative Affairs of the State Council, recently said, Xinhua/People's Daily reports. Sex selection is currently banned in the country under the Population and Family Planning Law ,and the Law on Maternal and Infant Health, but there are no provisions on the applicable punishment if the laws are violated (Xinhua/People's Daily, 8/25).
China's one-child-per-family policy seeks to keep the country's population, now 1.3 billion, at about 1.7 billion by 2050. According to the "Strategic Research Report on National Population Development," released by the National Population and Family Planning Commission, the country's birth rate has decreased from 5.8 children per woman in the 1970s -- when the one-child policy was implemented -- to 1.8 children per woman currently. The one-child policy has led to a gender imbalance in the country because of a preference for male children. According to government statistics, about 117 boys are born for every 100 girls born in China, compared with an average of between 104 to 107 boys per 100 girls in industrialized countries (Kaiser Daily Women's Health Policy Report, 1/16).
Monday, August 27, 2007
Via AP/Washington Post (8/24):
U.S. women are dying from childbirth at the highest rate in decades, new government figures show. Though the risk of death is very small, experts believe increasing maternal obesity and a jump in Caesarean sections are partly to blame.
Some numbers crunchers note that a change in how such deaths are reported also may be a factor.
"Those of us who look at this a lot say it's probably a little bit of both," said Dr. Jeffrey King, an obstetrician who led a recent New York state review of maternal deaths.
The U.S. maternal mortality rate rose to 13 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2004, according to statistics released this week by the National Center for Health Statistics.
The rate was 12 per 100,000 live births in 2003 _ the first time the maternal death rate rose above 10 since 1977.
Via Reuters (8/24):
Oral contraceptive use and loss of normal menstrual function may negatively impact bone health, according to a study of female military cadets.
By contrast, “greater amounts of exercise and increased milk intake were found to be important to skeletal health,” co-investigator Dr. Jeri Nieves told Reuters Health.
Nieves, of Columbia University in New York City and Helen Hayes Hospital, West Haverstraw, New York, and colleagues looked at associations between lifestyle, diet and exercise factors and bone health in 107 female Caucasian cadets who averaged 18.4 years of age upon entering the United States Military Academy in West Point, New York....
“A loss of normal menstrual function was found to have a detrimental impact on the skeleton and, in these young adults, oral contraceptives also had a negative impact on the skeleton,” Nieves said.
Via the New York Times:
Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, whose tenure has been marred by controversy and accusations of perjury before Congress, announced his resignation in Washington today, declaring that he had “lived the American dream” by being able to lead the Justice Department.
Mr. Gonzales, who had rebuffed calls for his resignation for months, submitted it to President Bush by telephone on Friday, a senior administration official said. There had been rumblings over the weekend that Mr. Gonzales’s departure was imminent, although the White House sought to quell the rumors.
Mr. Gonzales appeared cheerful and composed when he announced that he was stepping down effective Sept. 17. His very worst days on the job were “better than my father’s best days,” he said, alluding to his family’s hardscrabble past.
Saturday, August 25, 2007
The following articles have been posted on SSRN:
Abortion and Islam: Policies and Practice in the Middle East and North Africa, Reproductive Health Matters, Vol. 15, No. 29, pp. 75-84 (May 2007), by Leila Hessini (Ipas). Here is the abstract:
This paper provides an overview of legal, religious, medical and social factors that serve to support or hinder women's access to safe abortion services in the 21 predominantly Muslim countries of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, where one in ten pregnancies ends in abortion. Reform efforts, including progressive interpretations of Islam, have resulted in laws allowing for early abortion on request in two countries; six others permit abortion on health grounds and three more also allow abortion in cases of rape or fetal impairment. However, medical and social factors limit access to safe abortion services in all but Turkey and Tunisia. To address this situation, efforts are increasing in a few countries to introduce post-abortion care, document the magnitude of unsafe abortion and understand women's experience of unplanned pregnancy. Religious fatāwa have been issued allowing abortions in certain circumstances. An understanding of variations in Muslim beliefs and practices, and the interplay between politics, religion, history and reproductive rights is key to understanding abortion in different Muslim societies. More needs to be done to build on efforts to increase women's rights, engage community leaders, support progressive religious leaders and government officials and promote advocacy among health professionals.
Abortion in Democratic Spain: The Parliamentary Political Agenda 1979-2004, Reproductive Health Matters, Vol. 15, No. 29, pp. 85-96 (May 2007), by Belen Cambronero-Saiz (University of Alicante - Dept. of Public Health, Spain), et al. Here is the abstract:
Since Spain's transition to democracy, abortion has been a public policy issue both inside and outside parliament. This paper describes the history of abortion law reform in Spain from 1979 to 2004 and analyses the discourse on abortion of members of the Spanish parliament by sex and political allegiance. The analysis is based on a retrospective study of the frequency of legislative initiatives and the prevalence of different arguments and positions in debates on abortion found through a systematic search of the parliamentary database. Little time was given to abortion in the parliamentary agenda compared to other women's issues such as violence against women. There were 229 bills and other parliamentary initiatives in that period, 60% initiated and led by pro-choice women. 143 female and 72 male parliamentarians took part in the debates. The inclusion of socio-economic grounds for legal abortion (64%), and making abortion on request legal in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy (60%) were the most frequent forms of law reform proposed, based most often on pro-women's rights arguments. Male and female members of anti-choice parties and most male members of other parties argued for fetal rights. Pro-choice parties tabled more bills than anti-choice parties but till now all reforms proposed since 1985 have been voted down.
Knowledge and Perception of Abortion and the Abortion Law in Trinidad and Tobago, Reproductive Health Matters, Vol. 15, No. 29, pp. 97-107 (May 2007), by Cedriann J. Martin (Advocates for Safe Parenthood: Improving Reproductive Equity), et al. Here is the abstract:
As for most of its Caribbean neighbours, Trinidad and Tobago's leading cause of maternal morbidity is unsafe abortion. Yet activism to introduce public policy and legislation that effectively address this aspect of women's reproductive rights and health has been met with public outcry. With almost hysterical opposition coming from certain religious quarters, there is the unsubstantiated impression that Trinidadians are over-whelmingly opposed to abortion law reform. A national survey was therefore carried out of people's knowledge and views on the current abortion law in Trinidad and Tobago. The survey found that although almost half of respondents had an unfavourable perception of abortion, more than half of them were in favour of broadening the legal grounds for accessing terminations. Incest, rape and danger to a woman's life were cited as the most significant circumstances under which abortions should be permitted. The vast majority of respondents agreed that voting on abortion law reform by members of the legislature should not be based on personal beliefs. The findings demonstrate that there is not the degree of opposition to abortion law reform that is widely assumed. On the other hand, given the wide variance of views and perceptions, we argue that public health concerns and human rights should always trump public opinion.
Friday, August 24, 2007
The Associated Press reports (8/22):
In the year since it was approved for over-the-counter sales, the morning-after pill has become a huge commercial success for its manufacturer, but its popularity and solid safety record haven't deterred critics from seeking to overturn the milestone ruling.
The pill, marketed by Barr Pharmaceuticals Inc. as Plan B, was the focus of bitter debate for three years. After repeated delays, the Food and Drug Administration declared on Aug. 24, 2006 that customers 18 and older should be able to buy it in pharmacies without a prescription.
Learn more about emergency contraception (not to be confused with the early abortion pill).
Katie Rooney writes for Time Magazine:
For decades college campus health centers have been a resource for budget-conscious female students seeking birth control. Because of agreements with pharmaceutical companies, most campus clinics were able to distribute brand name prescription contraceptives, from pills to the patch to a monthly vaginal device like NuvaRing, for no more than a couple of bucks.
That all ended earlier this year. Health experts say the price bump for college students was inadvertent — a byproduct of the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005, a federal law that went into effect in January. The law alters how drug makers calculate Medicaid-related rebates paid to states, but it ultimately made it expensive for companies to offer schools such deep discounts on birth control. As a result, brand name prescription prices for campus clinics rose from about the $3 to $10 range per month to the $30 to $50 range. Organon, the maker of Cyclessa and Desogen birth control pills and the NuvaRing, says the company is not happy about having to increase prices for colleges. But Nick Hart, Organon's executive director of contraception, says they were forced to make "a business decision" after the law went into effect.
See also these related posts: Federal Deficit Reduction Act Means Female Students Will Face Sharply Higher Prices for Contraception and End to birth control discounts for students.
Thursday, August 23, 2007
Via today's Washington Post:
Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney said this week that as president he would allow individual states to keep abortion legal, two weeks after telling a national television audience that he supports a constitutional amendment to ban the procedure nationwide.
In an interview with a Nevada television station on Tuesday, Romney said Roe. v. Wade should be abolished and vowed to "let states make their own decision in this regard." On Aug. 6, he told ABC's George Stephanopoulos that he supports a human life amendment to the Constitution that would protect the unborn.
"I do support the Republican platform, and I do support that being part of the Republican platform, and I'm pro-life," Romney said in the ABC interview, broadcast days before his victory among conservative Iowa voters in the Ames straw poll.
The two very different statements reflect the challenge for Romney, who has reinvented himself as a champion of the antiabortion movement in recent years and is seeking to become the conservative alternative to former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani in the battle for the Republican presidential nomination.
Via RH Reality Check (8/10/07):
A veritable who's who of reproductive health champions filed a legal challenge with the Colorado Supreme Court late yesterday to stem a proposed ballot measure that would advance anti-abortion law and limit access to some contraception methods.
The action is designed to thwart a proposed state constitutional amendment that was initiated by the recently-formed Colorado for Equal Rights. The group won approval last month to begin collecting ballot petition signatures to ask Colorado voters to decide: is a fertilized egg a person with legal rights and Constitutionally-protected due process?
Yesterday's Supreme Court challenge was filed on behalf of seven Colorado women all long time advocates of reproductive choice: Ellen Brilliant (affiliation unknown); Trudy Brown (affiliation unknown); Toni Panetta (NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado); Lizzy Annison (Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains); Vicki Cowart (Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains); Cathryn Hazouri (American Civil Liberties Union); and Jacy Montoya (Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights).
The opponents' concerns were outlined in a press release issued by Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains:
Defining a fertilized egg as a person in the state constitution would have sweeping consequences. "As providers of reproductive health care Planned Parenthood is gravely concerned about what this measure could mean for women using birth control to prevent unintended pregnancies, as well as couples using in vitro fertilization to start their families," said Annison. "We are still trying to understand the implications for giving an egg access to the courts by granting 'equality of justice' and protecting its 'due process of law.' Defining an egg as a person in the Colorado constitution is extreme."