Thursday, December 27, 2007
Via The Tide Online:
Several reports by the World Health Organisations (WHO) have shown that Nigeria’s Maternal mortality rate is among the highest in the world. The statistics released about two years ago confirmed that six maternal deaths occurred per hour in Nigeria, 140 per day, 4,200 per month and 800 in every 100,000 live births. Of 550,000 annual global deaths, Nigeria, according to reports, accounted for 50,000.
Today, these figures have risen. For instance, a recent research carried out shows that of 100,000 births in Nigeria, about 1,500 maternal deaths occur. Of this figure, unsafe abortion arising from unwanted pregnancies account for a good percentage.
The Associated Press reports:
Shares of Sequenom Inc., which makes genetic analysis products, soared Thursday on word New York state approved a noninvasive prenatal test for a fetal disorder called Rh disease.
The test uses Sequenom's SEQureDx technology to extract fetal nucleic acid material from a blood sample of the mother. This compares with current standards of harvesting placental tissue cells or entering the uterus to sample amniotic fluid surrounding the baby to test for Rh disease, or Rhesus D incompatibility. The ailment can cause anemia, jaundice, hearing loss and mental retardation; in severe cases, it can be fatal.
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
The New York Times reports:
Under a bill signed into law on Wednesday, all pregnant women in the state will be tested for the virus as part of their prenatal care unless they object. The law also requires testing for newborns if the H.I.V. status of the mother is unknown.
The new testing procedures are some of the most aggressive H.I.V.-prevention measures in the country for pregnant women and newborns, making New Jersey one of just a handful of states with laws requiring some form of prenatal testing.
Sunday, December 23, 2007
From Political Punch (ABC News):
American Right to Life Action -- a 527 group that believes National Right to Life Committee is too soft, and describes itself as existing "to provide leadership in the fight to advocate enforcement of God's enduring command, Do not murder (Luke 18:20)" -- announced this week it has started running a TV ad against Mitt Romney on the Fox News Channel in Iowa.
David Crary reports for the Associated Press:
In the new hit movie "Juno" and now in real life with Jamie Lynn Spears, 16-year-old girls get pregnant and decide to bear the child rather than opt for abortion. For social conservatives, it's a challenging story line — they condemn the teen sex but hail the ensuing choice.
"It's a double-edged sword in the Christian community," said Bill Maier, a vice president of the conservative ministry Focus on the Family.
"We should commend girls like Jamie Lynn Spears for making a courageous decision to have the baby. On the other hand, there's nothing glamorous or fun about being an unwed teen mother."
Via AP/ Joplin News:
Abortion opponents are watching the appointment of a new attorney general closely and don’t trust Gov. Kathleen Sebelius because of her support for abortion rights.
They oppose one potential appointee, Securities Commissioner Chris Biggs, because of unsuccessful efforts by Wichita abortion provider Dr. George Tiller to help elect Biggs to the office in 2002.
Attorney General Paul Morrison, a Democrat elected last year, plans to leave office Jan. 31 because of a sex scandal. Anti-abortion groups frequently criticized Morrison over his handling of abortion issues and remained angry about his successful campaign to oust Republican incumbent Phill Kline, an abortion opponent.
The state constitution gives Sebelius the power to appoint someone to fill the remaining three years of Morrison’s term. The new attorney general will take over a prosecution of Tiller already derided by abortion opponents as not aggressive enough.
Saturday, December 22, 2007
Via The Plain Dealer:
Women who agree to carry a surrogate pregnancy when the egg involved is not theirs have no parental rights over the child after it is born, a sharply split Ohio Supreme Court ruled on Thursday.
In a case that questioned the legality of a contract involving a Kirtland man, the justices said Ohio laws that prohibit parents from dissolving their parental responsibilities through financial agreements do not apply in such situations.
The case began when a Cleveland State University professor sued a Pennsylvania woman for breaching a contract after she bore triplets for him but then refused to give up custody of the children as they had agreed.
Thursday, December 20, 2007
Abortions increase the risk of low birth weight in future pregnancies by a factor of three, and of premature birth by a factor of two, according to the largest U.S. study of its kind. The study is hardly perfect; the data is more than 40 years old and doesn't distinguish between medical abortions and "spontaneous abortions," better known as miscarriages. Yet the report, published today in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health (JECH), shows one of the strongest links yet between miscarriage or abortion on premature birth and low birth weight — major risk factors for infant death or sickness.
The Guttmacher Institute has issued the following comments on the study:
Comments on Brown JS, Adera T and Masho SW, “Previous abortion and the risk of low birth weight and preterm births,” Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, 2008, 62: 16–22
Prepared by the Guttmacher Institute, December 2007
The 2008 study by Brown, Adera and Masho purports to show a causal connection between abortion and subsequent premature births. In reality, the study does not even show an association between induced abortion and premature birth. The study suffers from several fundamental flaws:
1. The study does not distinguish between spontaneous abortions (i.e., miscarriages) and induced abortions (commonly known as “abortions”).
It is well known that miscarriages are associated with low birthweight and prematurity because the physiological conditions responsible for some miscarriages can also cause prematurity and low birthweight. Thus, a study that does not distinguish spontaneous from induced abortion says nothing about the effect of induced abortion. (Although the term “spontaneous abortion” as a synonym for miscarriage is well understood in the medical community, the general public equates “abortion” with induced abortion, a fact that makes this study’s title and content prone to misinterpretation.)
2. Abortion is dramatically underreported by women in surveys.
Even today, many women do not report their prior induced abortions, and even fewer would have done so at the time these data were collected (1959–1966), when abortion was generally illegal. We can tell that abortion was underreported in this study because the number of miscarriages plus abortions reported in the study was about 13% of the number of births; this is fewer than the number of miscarriages alone that one would expect given the number of births that occurred. Therefore, it is likely that very few of the “abortions” reported in the study were in fact induced abortions.
3. The Brown study looks at preterm births that occurred more than 40 years ago, before induced abortion was legal nationwide.
At that time, most abortions were performed by dilation and curettage; even if these abortions (many illegal) were associated with later reproductive problems, this has no bearing on the effect of induced abortions as performed today, most of which are performed by vacuum aspiration. Several reviews of the available scientific literature affirm that vacuum aspiration — the modern method most commonly used during first-trimester abortions — poses virtually no long-term risks of future fertility-related problems, such as infertility, ectopic pregnancy, spontaneous abortion or congenital malformation.
• In 2006, the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies released a comprehensive, 772-page report, Preterm Birth: Causes, Consequences, and Prevention. Induced abortion is not mentioned anywhere in the body of the report, and only appears once in an appendix table of factors that have been suggested to be associated with preterm birth.
• The preterm birth rate (for singleton births only) rose 13% between 1990 and 2005. In contrast, the abortion rate has declined since 1980, most rapidly from 1990–1996. If abortion were an important risk factor for preterm birth, we might expect to see the preterm birth rate decline as the rate of abortion declined, but there is no evidence of this.
To prevent teen pregnancy, should students be taught only the merits of abstaining from sex? Or should they also learn about contraception, just in case? Believers on both sides are facing off again, after a government announcement in early December that teen birthrates rose 3 percent last year following a 14-year decline. Some public-health experts blame increasingly popular sex-ed programs that preach abstinence only and keep kids in the dark about other pregnancy-prevention methods: A study published recently in the American Journal of Public Health attributed most of the 14-year birthrate drop to wider contraceptive use. "Abstinence-only programs are ideology driven," says Marilyn Keefe, director of reproductive health and rights at the nonprofit National Partnership for Women and Families, "and not a good use of our public-health dollars."
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
The Boston Globe reports:
CAMBRIDGE - The stem cell wars are not over, say leading researchers at Harvard and other universities who believe that the cloning of human embryos still represents the key to developing effective treatments for an array of horrific diseases.
Recent weeks have seen spectacular breakthroughs in creating embryonic-like stem cells without making or destroying human embryos. Politicians, including President Bush, together with religious activists and some highly visible biologists have been quick to proclaim that the new technique for genetically "reprogramming" ordinary adult skin tissue into stem cells marks the moral high road to the future....
But researchers at Harvard, viewed by many as the world's leading center of stem cell research with some 750 lead scientists at 119 laboratories in the Boston area, are worried that a stampede to the new technique is a gamble that medicine can ill afford to make.
Although new reprogramming techniques are all but certain to yield giant advances in researching disease, they remain far too dangerous for actual treatment, the scientists say. The so-called induced pluripotent stem cells, or IPS, made by the process may never be safe for humans, making it vital to maintain the pace of research on more controversial fronts.
Monday, December 17, 2007
There will be a Hot Topic panel on "Reproductive Justice after Carhart" at the AALS Annual Meeting in New York. Here is the information:
Friday, January 4, 2008
10:30 a.m.-12:15 p.m.
Petit Trianon, 3 rd floor, New York Hilton
Moderators: Pamela S. Karlan, Stanford Law School
Jack M. Balkin, Yale Law School
Panelists: Michael C. Dorf, Columbia University School of Law
Reva B. Siegel, Yale Law School
Kenji Yoshino, Yale Law School
Angela P. Harris, University of California, Berkeley School of Law
This roundtable will discuss Gonzales v. Carhart, the Supreme Court's 2007 decision upholding the federal Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act. Panelists will focus on the ways that Carhart has emerged from and is reshaping debate over questions of reproductive justice in popular movements, the academy, state legislatures, and the courts.
Carhart suggests a new understanding of the state' s interest in regulating abortion, as well as a new understanding of the abortion right itself. Discussion will explore how the abortion right might be grounded in principles of sexual freedom and gender equality. Drawing on examples of abortion regulation now in state legislatures, the roundtable will examine the constituent elements of the government's interest in regulating abortion, including the government's asserted interest in protecting women from psychological harms associated with the abortion decision and the equities of imposing more extensive and value-laden informed consent requirements, as many states are now contemplating. The group will also discuss changes in the structure of abortion-related litigation, such as the distinction between as-applied and facial attacks on abortion regulations, especially as this bears on the requirement of a health exception.
Washington D.C. Bd. of Education Approves Sex Ed Guidelines That Cover Contraception and Sexual Orientation
The Washington Times reports:
The D.C. State Board of Education last night unanimously approved guidelines for sex-education classes that call for teaching students about sexual orientation and trends in contraception...
The standards were developed in part by using input from focus groups that included parents and educators and from highly touted health standards elsewhere in the country.
They have received support from civic leaders and health professionals, who have said the guidelines will help develop a much-needed defense against the District's HIV/AIDS epidemic.
A U.S. advisory panel said on Thursday that an experimental device made by Hologic Inc...to permanently sterilize women could be approved if several post-marketing studies are conducted.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration will have the final say on whether to approve the Adiana system, which uses a catheter to implant a silicone device in the fallopian tubes to prevent pregnancy.
The FDA usually accepts the advice of its advisory panels.
The only current FDA-approved nonsurgical female sterilization procedure is the Essure system made by Conceptus Inc... which uses a metal coil device implanted in the fallopian tubes.
Both systems work by stimulating scar tissue growth in the fallopian tubes, effectively blocking the tubes, and preventing sperm from reaching the egg.
I really wish we would see more options for sterilization and family planning that impose the medical burdens on the man.
The Washington Post reports:
Congressional Democrats completed work last night on a sprawling, $515.7 billion domestic spending bill that would shave billions from cherished Democratic programs but would challenge President Bush's tough line on domestic spending with billions of dollars for added veterans care, border security and Southeastern drought relief...
Democratic aides said the aim is to win the president's signature by week's end, when Congress hopes to adjourn for the year. To do so, Democrats made scores of concessions, pulling hundreds of millions of dollars from the National Institutes of Health, special education and other programs they had said deserved far more than Bush was willing to spend. They also dropped a challenge to the president's policy of prohibiting aid to international family-planning groups that offer abortions.
Sunday, December 16, 2007
Via the Washington Post:
The number of states refusing federal money for "abstinence-only" sex education programs jumped sharply in the past year as evidence mounted that the approach is ineffective.
At least 14 states have either notified the federal government that they will no longer be requesting the funds or are not expected to apply, forgoing more than $15 million of the $50 million available, officials said. Virginia was the most recent state to opt out.
Two other states -- Ohio and Washington -- have applied but stipulated they would use the money for comprehensive sex education, effectively making themselves ineligible, federal officials said. While Maryland and the District are planning to continue applying for the money, other states are considering withdrawing as well.
Until this year, only four states had passed up the funding...
The number of states spurning the money has grown even as Congress considers boosting overall funding for abstinence-only education to $204 million, with most of it going directly to community organizations.
Friday, December 14, 2007
Four Stanford University scientists received up to $3 million each Thursday for stem cell research, university officials announced.The California Institute for Regenerative Medicine granted the money to assistant professors Anne Brunet, Howard Chang, Karl Deisseroth and Joanna Wysocka in an effort to foster the state's next generation of stem cell scientists, according to the university.
The right to abortion is meaningless if the procedure is unavailable. Anti-choice advocates know this, but the public, which generally favors the basic right to abortion but is more than willing to pile on the restrictions, often seems not to. At the recent conference on abortion at the University at Buffalo School of Law, attendees from the U.S. thought the situation in Canada seemed so much better. But Professor Sanda Rodgers (University of Ottawa Faculty of Law) pointed out that access is a problem in many places in Canada too, as the following article demonstrates. Via the Belleville Intelligencer:
Having an abortion in Quinte area hospitals isn't just difficult, it's impossible.
"There's nowhere," said Bill Sherlock, manager of the sexual health department at the local health unit.
No doctor here will perform an abortion, said one physician, and a Quinte Health Care official said none of its four hospitals perform the procedure.
The same policy applies to women whose lives are threatened if they do not terminate a pregnancy, those who have become pregnant after a sexual assault and want to terminate the pregnancy and those who want to have an abortion because they choose to not have a child. "They go to Kingston or Toronto," Sherlock said.
Because area residents have to go elsewhere for the procedure, it is impossible to get numbers on how many women in Hastings and Prince Edward counties have had abortions.
"It would be pretty hard to determine," Sherlock said Thursday.
It is equally difficult to learn much on the policies at area hospitals on abortions because even though the procedure is not illegal, it is shrouded in controversy.
Thursday, December 13, 2007
Why don't pregnant women tip over? Science.Daily reports:
When a pregnant woman leans back, and shifts her weight to stand more comfortably, she is performing a motion that for millions of years has helped to compensate for the strain and weight of childbearing on the body. According to a new study from researchers at Harvard University and the University of Texas at Austin, women's lower spines evolved to be more flexible and supportive than men's to increase comfort and mobility during pregnancy, and to accommodate the special biology of carrying a baby for nine months while standing on two feet.
See also the New York Times.
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
A woman has been sentenced to a year in prison after the magistrate's court in Rukungiri found her guilty of helping a girl carry out an abortion.
Appearing before the chief magistrate, Deborah Wanume, on Friday, Danavence Twinomugisha, 35, of Kihanga trading centre was found guilty of helping Gloria Niwagaba, 18, get rid of the foetus...
Twinomugisha, who operates a private drug shop in Kihanga, could not pay the fine of sh500,000 and was sent to Rukungiri Government Prison.
According to the Center for Reproductive Rights, Uganda bans abortion except when a woman would otherwise die.
FORA.tv is an online network offering video discourse, discussion and debate on politics, technology, business and culture. Today the network is featuring The Abortion Controversies, a panel presented by the Wolfson Center for National Affairs at The New School in New York on October 23, 2007. The panel focused on the Supreme Court's recent decision in Gonzalez v. Carhart. I was one of the panelists, along with Nancy Keenan, President of NARAL Pro-Choice America, and Daniel MacGuire, Professor of Moral Theological Ethics at Marquette University and author of Sacred Choices. You can join in a forum discussion about the panel at the FORA.tv website.