Wednesday, August 22, 2007
Via yesterday's Washington Post:
The Bush administration, engaged in a battle with Congress over whether a popular children's health insurance program should be expanded, has announced new policies that will make it harder for states to insure all but the lowest-income children.
New administrative hurdles, which state health officials were told about late last week, are aimed at preventing parents with private insurance for their children from availing of the government-subsidized State Children's Health Insurance Program. But Democrats and children's advocates said that the announcement will jeopardize coverage for children whose parents work at jobs that do not provide employer-paid insurance.
Listen to an NPR segment by Julie Rovner.
Via yesterday's New York Times:
A study in Uganda has come up with a surprising finding about sex and H.I.V. Washing the penis minutes after sex increased the risk of acquiring H.I.V. in uncircumcised men.
The sooner the washing, the greater the risk of becoming infected, the study found. Delaying washing for at least 10 minutes after sex significantly lowered the risk of H.I.V. infection, Dr. Fredrick E. Makumbi reported on July 25 at an International AIDS Society Conference in Sydney, Australia.
The researchers do not have a precise explanation for the findings, which challenge common wisdom and the teaching of many infectious disease experts who urge penile cleansing as part of good genital hygiene. Health experts have suggested that washing the penis after sex could prevent potentially infectious vaginal secretions from entering the body through the uncircumcised penis.
The August 16th issue of the New England Journal of Medicine reports on a study showing that use of the early abortion pill (mifepristone, also known as RU 486) carries no significant increased risk (as compared with surgical abortion) of ectopic pregnancies or other subsequent adverse pregnancy outcomes. Here is the abstract:
Background The long-term safety of surgical abortion in the first trimester is well established. Despite the increasing use of medical abortion (abortion by means of medication), limited information is available regarding the effects of this procedure on subsequent pregnancies.
Methods We identified all women living in Denmark who had undergone an abortion for nonmedical reasons between 1999 and 2004 and obtained information regarding subsequent pregnancies from national registries. Risks of ectopic pregnancy, spontaneous abortion, preterm birth (at <37 weeks of gestation), and low birth weight (<2500 g) in the first subsequent pregnancy in women who had had a first-trimester medical abortion were compared with risks in women who had had a first-trimester surgical abortion.
Results Among 11,814 pregnancies in women who had had a previous first-trimester medical abortion (2710 women) or surgical abortion (9104 women), there were 274 ectopic pregnancies (respective incidence rates, 2.4% and 2.3%), 1426 spontaneous abortions (12.2% and 12.7%), 552 preterm births (5.4% and 6.7%), and 478 births with low birth weight (4.0% and 5.1%). After adjustment for maternal age, interval between pregnancies, gestational age at abortion, parity, cohabitation status, and urban or nonurban residence, medical abortion was not associated with a significantly increased risk of ectopic pregnancy (relative risk, 1.04; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.76 to 1.41), spontaneous abortion (relative risk, 0.87; 95% CI, 0.72 to 1.05), preterm birth (relative risk, 0.88; 95% CI, 0.66 to 1.18), or low birth weight (relative risk, 0.82; 95% CI, 0.61 to 1.11). Gestational age at medical abortion was not significantly associated with any of these adverse outcomes.
Conclusions We found no evidence that a previous medical abortion, as compared with a previous surgical abortion, increases the risk of spontaneous abortion, ectopic pregnancy, preterm birth, or low birth weight.
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
Amnesty International Affirms New Abortion Policy Despite Opposition From Catholic, Conservative Leaders
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. 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". According to London's Times, the new policy is automatically binding for Amnesty's members in each member country, including where abortion is illegal.
Friday, August 17, 2007
Via Time Magazine (8/9/07):
The remarkable comeback by leftist political parties in Latin America in recent years has been accompanied by moves to roll back the region's abortion laws, widely considered some of the world's most restrictive. Mexico City's leftist-dominated legislature legalized first-trimester abortions earlier this year, while Chile's socialist President, Michele Bachelet, allows government-run hospitals to dispense the "morning-after" emergency contraception pill.
Elsewhere, however, it might seem as if a paradox was being played out: Instead of benefiting from the advance of the left, pro-choice advocates appear to be facing more setbacks. Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, whose Sandinista Front was once an icon of the hemispheric left, backed a 2006 law that outlaws all abortions, even where a doctor would recommend the procedure to save a mother's life. In Venezuela — led by the self-styled commandante of "21st-century socialism," President Hugo Chavez — efforts to decriminalize abortion have stalled. And, perhaps as early as this fall, Bolivia's new constitution, which is being drafted largely by those aligned with Chavez's ally, President Evo Morales, may well proclaim "the right to life from the moment of conception," rendering all abortions illegal without exception. (Abortion in the case of rape or to save a mother's life has been legal in Bolivia since 1973.) Far from advancing abortion rights, "the goal right now," says Paul Bustillos, political director for Catholics For the Right to Choose (CDD) in Bolivia, "is just to maintain the status quo."
"Status quo" was hardly the promise of a political movement that has put the screws on multinational energy corporations, shifted billions of dollars to social projects for the poor and, especially in Chavez's case, hurled a stream of anti-imperialist epithets at the U.S. With firebrands like Chavez and Morales in power, some were hoping for a continental breakthrough on reproductive rights. Yet while positions on abortion rights have been a clear marker between left and right on the U.S. political spectrum, the situation is quite different in Latin America, where the left declines, for various national, cultural and religious reasons, to make "the revolution" pro-choice.
The Health Systems Trust (HST) has called on health authorities to make a greater effort to provide abortion services to HIV-positive pregnant women, saying they have been largely neglected.
“The HIV sector has been very treatment focused and rightly so, but abortion has fallen through the gaps,” said HST senior researcher Marion Stevens. The HST is a non- profit organization focused on health policy and research.
Stevens said few HIV-positive pregnant women were offered the choice of terminating an unwanted pregnancy. Clinic services usually only give women information about ways to prevent the transmission of HIV to their babies and maintain a healthy pregnancy, she said.
The full text of the article can be found here.
Gary Schapiro reports for the August 16th New York Sun :
A Manhattan Mini Storage billboard on Manhattan's West Side Highway is again stirring up both opprobrium and approbation.
A large sign at 44th Street and Twelfth Avenue shows a wire hanger with the words "Your closet space is shrinking as fast as her right to choose." An earlier ad for the company read, "Your Closet's Scarier Than Bush's Agenda."
The president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, William Donohue, told The New York Sun the sign was "insulting and highly offensive." The president of a Manhattan-based nonprofit organization, Morality in Media, Robert Peters, said he did not know why the company would want to turn away a significant number of potential customers, such as immigrants from more conservative cultures. But the associate vice president of public affairs for Planned Parenthood of New York City, Roger Rathman, applauded the billboard. "We think it's fabulous," he said. "We salute Manhattan Mini Storage for helping to make New Yorkers as aware as we are of the growing restrictions on reproductive freedom in this country."
Via Boston Globe (8/10/07):
In response to the Supreme Court decision upholding the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act, many abortion providers in Boston and around the country have adopted a defensive tactic. To avoid any chance of partially delivering a live fetus, they are injecting fetuses with lethal drugs before procedures.
That clinical shift in late-term abortions goes deeply against the grain, some doctors say: It poses a slight risk to the woman and offers her no medical benefit.
"We do not believe that our patients should take a risk for which the only clear benefit is a legal one to the physician," Dr. Philip D. Darney, chief of obstetrics at San Francisco General Hospital, wrote in e-mail. He has chosen not to use the injections.
But others, although they do not perform the banned procedure, feel compelled to do all they can to protect themselves and their staff from the possibility of being accused. Upheld in April, the federal ban is broadly written, does not specify an age for the fetus, and carries a two-year prison sentence.
In Boston, three major Harvard-affiliated hospitals -- Massachusetts General, Brigham and Women's, and Beth Israel Deaconess -- have responded to the ban by making the injections the new standard operating procedure for abortions beginning at around 20 weeks' gestation, said Dr. Michael F. Greene, director of obstetrics at Mass. General.
Sunday, August 12, 2007
Via the BBC (7/30/07):
Animal rights groups support using the contraceptive in preference to other methods such as gates which give electric shocks and poisoning.
OvoControl P, which interferes with egg development, will be put in bird food in new rooftop feeders in Hollywood.
The pilot program is expected to show results within a year.
Laura Dodson, president of the Argyle Civic Association, the group leading the effort to try the new contraceptive, said: "We think we've got a good solution to a bad situation."
As reported by Tempo news service (8/2/07):
Agents of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) arrested in Manila a woman doctor for allegedly maintaining a makeshift clinic where she was performing abortion.
The NBI set up an entrapment and sent an asset to pose as a pregnant woman who wanted her baby aborted. She met Ventura at her clinic. The latter allegedly agreed to initiate the abortion procedures but advised the asset to undergo obstetrical ultrasound as a basis to determine the service fee.
On July 24, the NBI asset presented to Ventura the ultrasound result. She demanded an amount of R10,000 for the procedure. Two days later, the asset returned to the clinic for the abortion. Ventura allegedly had just received the marked money from the asset when the law enforcers barged into the clinic and arrested her. Ventura is facing violation of Article 259 (abortion practiced by a physician) of the Revised Penal Code and corruption of public officials under Article 212 of the RPC.
Professor Erika R. George of University of Utah - S.J. Quinney College of Law has posted her article: "Virgin Territory? Virginity Testing as HIV/AIDS Prevention: Human Rights Universality and Cultural Relativism Revisited" on SSRN. Here is the abstract:
I explore the tensions between gender equality,
personal autonomy and evolving cultural practices when a
traditional practice that arguably violates universal
international human rights and domestic constitutional norms also
enjoys strong support - as is the case with virginity testing in
South Africa. The practice of virginity testing has reemerged,
advanced not only as a return to tradition but also as an
HIV/AIDS prevention strategy. I examine the debates about
virginity testing and its recent prohibition by the government in
order to more fully consider the limitations of liberalism as the
foundation for human rights when operating within a pluralistic
cultural context under pressure from pandemic disease. Observing
that neither legal nor biomedical approaches absent an
appreciation for culture can in isolation address pandemic
disease, I call for a discursive shift from the politics of
culture towards a substantive right to health informed by
"capabilities theory," a pragmatic approach to cultural
pluralism, and an appreciation of both rights and culture as
contextual and adaptable.
Saturday, August 11, 2007
Anthony J. Bellia, Jr. (Notre Dame) has posted "Federalism Doctrines and Abortion Cases: A Response to Professor Fallon" on SSRN. Here is the abstract:
This Essay is a response to Professor Richard Fallon's
article, "If Roe Were Overruled: Abortion and the Constitution in
a Post-Roe World." In that article, Professor Fallon argues that
if the Supreme Court were to overrule Roe v. Wade, courts might
well remain in the "abortion-umpiring business." This Essay
proposes a refinement on that analysis. It argues that in a
post-Roe world courts would not necessarily subject questions
involving abortion to the same kind of constitutional analysis in
which the Court has engaged in Roe and its progeny, that is,
balancing a state's interest in protecting life against a
pregnant woman's interest in choosing to terminate a pregnancy.
Though questions of state power to regulate abortion might well
implicate the legitimacy of state interests to regulate abortion
in certain ways, questions of federal power to regulate abortion
might more implicate structural constitutional concerns that
transcend the perceived worth of particular regulatory outcomes.
Thus, whether post-Roe the Court would remain involved in
resolving the legitimacy of governmental interests in regulating
abortion may depend on what kind of federal or state regulation
emerged in a post-Roe world.
The ACLU is running a multimedia campaign against abstinence-only sex education that includes spoken word poetry and comic strips. Spoken word artists Steve Connell and Sekou have written a poem entitled "The Fallacy of Unicorns" that attacks current educational closed-mindedness. "I believe there are few things more critical for our well being as a country then a good education for all its' citizens," Connell argues, "and few issues more demanding of a good education then the issue of sex. Without honest, open, candid dialogue about sex our children and our future is in jeopardy." The ACLU's campaign also includes a series of comics by artist Matt Bors, that includes "The Abstinence Class," which depicts a sex ed teacher grossly exaggerating the threats of sex and forcing his religious convictions on the students. Also available are a series of postcards that feature particularly absurd quotations from abstinence-only pamphlets.
Friday, August 10, 2007
Stephen Dinan reports for the August 9 Washington Times :
After a 30-minute, immigration-packed stump speech, Republican presidential candidate Tom Tancredo figured that he was done talking, but his campaign chairwoman wouldn't let him sit down until he assured supporters here of his perfect 30-year voting record on pro-life issues.
In a state where "choose life" yard signs dot the mowed grass between the cornfields and country lanes, abortion can be a make-or-break issue for Republicans, both in the top tier and among those such as Mr. Tancredo looking to break out of the lower tier.
Dedicated pro-life voters make up more than 60 percent of potential Republican caucusgoers, and an even larger portion of the dedicated activists who get their family, friends and church members to turn out to vote. As a result, the issue has popped up continuously in the weeks leading up to Saturday's Iowa Republican Party straw poll.
The full text of the article can be found at: http://washingtontimes.com/article/20070809/NATION/108090084/1001
British Columbia To Launch Program To Provide HPV Vaccine to Sixth-Grade Girls Next Fall if Approved
Via the August 9th Kaiser Daily Women's Health Report :
The Canadian province of British Columbia will begin providing Merck's human papillomavirus vaccine Gardasil at no cost to all sixth-grade girls in the province in September 2008 if the program is approved, Perry Kendall, B.C.'s provincial health officer, said on Tuesday, Toronto's Globe and Mail reports (Drake, Globe and Mail, 8/8). The Canadian government in March announced that it is including about $258 million in the 2007-2008 budget to help pay for provincial HPV programs. Canada's health ministry, Health Canada, last year approved Gardasil for girls and women ages nine to 26.
Gardasil in clinical trials has been shown to be 100% effective in preventing infection with HPV strains 16 and 18, which together cause about 70% of cervical cancer cases, and about 99% effective in preventing HPV strains 6 and 11, which together with HPV strains 16 and 18 cause about 90% of genital wart cases, among women not already infected with these strains.
The August 10, 2007 New York Times reports:
Mitt Romney is undergoing the stiffest test yet of his effort to win over conservatives wary of his ideological credentials.
In the days leading up to the Iowa Straw Poll in Ames on Saturday, Mr. Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, has come under a furious assault from some of his rivals and the powerful network of abortion opponents in this state. He has been pummeled in videos on YouTube, in automated telephone calls, in daily barrages of e-mail to lists of Republican caucus voters and on the airwaves of the state’s conservative talk radio network.
In almost all cases, the attacks are built on the idea that because Mr. Romney became an opponent of abortion rights only relatively recently, he cannot be counted on as a committed social conservative. . . .
In an interview, Mr. Romney suggested that a victory in the straw poll in Iowa, with its base of evangelical and socially conservative voters, could be read as evidence that the abortion issue would not hobble his hopes of appealing to conservatives across the country.
“If I do well here, my belief is that my message will have connected with the voters in Iowa, and they’ll think that I’m a person who could potentially be their nominee,” he said. “It’s a message that’s much broader than the issue of abortion.”
Should Mr. Romney be proved wrong, this could, for abortion opponents, turn into a case of unintended consequences. The Republican most likely to benefit from Mr. Romney’s faltering might be Rudolph W. Giuliani, the former New York mayor, who is a supporter of abortion rights. But it could also help former Senator Fred D. Thompson, who is expected to enter the race next month and has been trying to position himself as the best alternative for Republicans unhappy with the current field.
Thursday, August 9, 2007
On August 8, 2007, Forbes reported that:
Bisphenol A, a chemical found in many plastics and resins, may present some risk to a developing fetus and children, a U.S. government panel concluded Wednesday.
Experts convened by the U.S. Center for the Evaluation of Risks to Human Reproduction (CERHR), part of the National Toxicology Program, unanimously concluded that exposure to bisphenol A (BPA) presents some risk to human development and reproduction.
BPA is chemical used in the production of polycarbonate plastic and several types of resins. It is found in products used everyday such as compact discs, DVDs, baby bottles and other food and drink packaging. It is also commonly found in cars, sports safety equipment and water pipes.
Anna Quindlen writes for Newsweek:
Buried among prairie dogs and amateur animation shorts on YouTube is a curious little mini-documentary shot in front of an abortion clinic in Libertyville, Ill. The man behind the camera is asking demonstrators who want abortion criminalized what the penalty should be for a woman who has one nonetheless. You have rarely seen people look more gobsmacked. It's as though the guy has asked them to solve quadratic equations. Here are a range of responses: "I've never really thought about it." "I don't have an answer for that." "I don't know." "Just pray for them."
You have to hand it to the questioner; he struggles manfully. "Usually when things are illegal there's a penalty attached," he explains patiently. But he can't get a single person to be decisive about the crux of a matter they have been approaching with absolute certainty.
Watch the video on YouTube.
Wednesday, August 8, 2007
Lambda Legal reports on an August 3, 2007 victory:
In a 35-page decision, a panel of the U. S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit rejected the Oklahoma Department of Health's challenge to a lower court decision striking down an Oklahoma law so extreme that it threatened to make children adopted by same-sex couples in other states legal orphans when the families are in Oklahoma. The ruling is important not only in Oklahoma, but also to families across the United States, including in Seattle and Houston, home to two of the families who joined in the suit. . . .
In the opinion released today, U. S. Senior Circuit Judge David M. Ebel wrote, "final adoption orders by a state court of competent jurisdiction are judgments that must be given full faith and credit under the Constitution by every other state in the nation. Because the Oklahoma statute at issue categorically rejects a class of out-of-state adoption decrees, it violates the Full Faith and Credit Clause."
The Adoption Invalidation Law, hastily passed at the end of the 2004 Oklahoma legislative session, had said that Oklahoma "shall not recognize an adoption by more than one individual of the same sex from any other state or foreign jurisdiction." Lambda Legal argued that the law was unconstitutional based on the United States Constitution's guarantees of equal protection and due process, as well as the mandates of the Full Faith and Credit Clause.
Today's decision leaves intact a decision by the U.S. Court for the Western District of Oklahoma that agreed with these challenges and held that the statute indeed violates the United States Constitution by singling out a specific group. Neither the governor nor the attorney general of Oklahoma challenged the trial court's decision that struck down the antigay Adoption Invalidation Law. The appellate court's decision also requires the Oklahoma Department of Health to issue a birth certificate to the daughter of a same-sex couple in Oklahoma accurately listing the names of both parents.
Guest columnist for the New York Times Judith Warner has published a column arguing that partial birth abortion bans are dangerous for women's health. Warner claims that:
When the Supreme Court voted 5 to 4 to uphold the federal Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act this spring, the ambivalently pro-choice public was largely quiescent, believing, as Congress had previously ruled, that the procedure was “gruesome and inhuman,” medically unnecessary, highly controversial in the medical community and so rare as to be little missed.
What’s clear, however, as the ban has become a reality, is that fetuses will be spared no brutality. Second trimester abortion is still legal and the most common method for it — dismembering a fetus inside the womb before removing it in pieces — is no less awful to contemplate than the outlawed procedure, in which an intact fetus’s skull was punctured and collapsed to ease its removal. But women are now more at risk. And doctors have been forced into a danger zone where they must weigh what they believe to be best medical practices against the need to protect themselves from the threat of prosecution.