Monday, December 10, 2007
The Associated Press reports:
The sponsor of a bill that would require hospitals to provide sexual assault victims with emergency contraception says a lack of support has stalled it in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives....
Disappointed advocates say the only way it would have passed is if it had been watered down considerably....
Pending state regulations will soon force hospitals to transport rape victims to another facility if they want emergency contraception and the hospital won't provide it.
Via The Trail (Wash. Post):
The most surprising conversations running through Republican circles this week are all about Mike Huckabee. As one veteran strategist put it in an e-mail message Monday morning, "I -- and I would suggest damn few others -- never anticipated you even asking [about Huckabee] this late in 2007."
Huckabee's rise is real, the result of months of dissatisfaction on the right with the rest of the Republican field. His success in Iowa, where he has dislodged Mitt Romney atop the polls, and in other early states, represents what another strategist calls "the revenge of the social conservative" wing of the party.
Sunday, December 9, 2007
The New York Times reports:
Anti-abortion Democrats in Congress this year joined abortion rights supporters to pass a foreign aid spending bill that they all said would reduce abortions in poor countries. It would allow the federal government to donate contraceptives to foreign groups that provide family planning services abroad, including those that offer abortions or favor making them legal.
But Democratic leaders in the House and Senate now have to decide whether to keep this provision in a major appropriations bill that includes popular programs to fight AIDS and malaria globally, knowing that President Bush is likely to veto it. Their decision is expected by Monday.
OAKLAND, Calif. (KCBS) -- Oakland may be the next city in the Bay Area to pass a law creating a buffer zone around abortion clinics to keep aggressive protestors from intimidating women.
The ordinance would require “sidewalk counselors” to keep at least eight feet away from women entering abortion clinics.
"Right now we do have some very aggressive protestors in Oakland,” said Amy Moy with Planned Parenthood Golden Gate. “Their tactics include stalking people from their cars all the way to the front entrance. They also try to force misleading and false information into our patients' hands from a very close proximity, so this buffer ordinance will help eliminate or reduce some of those tactics that our patients find extremely intimidating."
Protestors argue that counselors inside the clinics don’t inform women of alternatives to abortion.
Via the National Partnership's Daily Women's Health Policy Report:
New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine (D) on Friday said he would like to sign a bill (S 2249) by next month that would allow workers in businesses of any size to take up to 10 weeks off every two years to care for a newborn or a sick family member and continue to receive a portion of their wages, Gannett/Vineland Daily Journal reports (Stilwell, Gannett/Vineland Daily Journal, 12/3). The bill is awaiting a floor vote in the state Senate, but the state Assembly has not yet held a committee hearing on the bill, the Newark Star-Ledger reports (Howlett, Newark Star-Ledger, 12/1).
Workers would be required to use vacation time prior to using family leave and payments would be limited to two-thirds of an employee's gross salary up to $502 weekly, according to the measure. The program would be funded through an employee-only payroll deduction of 0.1% that would be set aside in a reserve in the state's disability fund (Gannett/Vineland Daily Journal, 12/3).
Friday, December 7, 2007
As the semester draws to a close, I want to thank my research assistants, CUNY Law students Mul Kim (3L) and Olivia Lieber (2L), for their invaluable assistance performing research for this blog. Thanks also to Amanda Allen (3L).
Advocates for Youth (AFY), Internet Sexuality Information Services, Inc. (ISIS), SFSU's National Sexuality Resource Center (NSRC), RH Reality Check, and the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS) announce the launch of Fresh Focus: Sex-Ed Digital Video Contest, a contest for people ages 15 to 30 to highlight youth voices in the national dialogue on sexuality education.
"While the debate about the need for comprehensive sexuality education rages, millions of young people in this country are left without the information and education that can help them to live healthy lives," said Amie Newman of RH Reality Check. "We are asking youth around the country to use their voices - and a video camera - for change within their communities."
Young people are invited to submit new digital videos showing how they envision the sex ed experience. Content of the video can cover:
1) Your sex ed experience so far, the good and the bad AND/OR
2) New delivery models for comprehensive sex education (cell phones, Internet, console games, robots, etc.).
Click here for more information.
P.S . Don't you think this post goes well with the previous one?
Via the New York Times:
The birth rate among teenagers 15 to 19 in the United States rose 3 percent in 2006, according to a report issued Wednesday, the first such increase since 1991. The finding surprised scholars and fueled a debate about whether the Bush administration’s abstinence-only sexual education efforts are working.
The federal government spends $176 million annually on such programs. But a landmark study recently failed to demonstrate that they have any effect on delaying sexual activity among teenagers, and some studies suggest that they may actually increase pregnancy rates.
“Spending tens of million of tax dollars each year on programs that hurt our children is bad medicine and bad public policy,” said Dr. David A. Grimes, vice president of Family Health International, a nonprofit reproductive health organization based in North Carolina.
Thursday, December 6, 2007
Men once had to resort to violence in attempting to end their partners' pregnancies, but now they have a frightening and more surreptitious means at their disposal: spiking the woman's beverages with medications used to induce abortion. In addition to the Wisconsin case in the news last week, the Appleton Post-Crescent reports today:
A Virginia man was sentenced to a prison term last month for surreptitiously giving his girlfriend a medication that caused a miscarriage.
Although the drug used was different than RU-486 — the "morning after contraceptive" Manish Patel, of the Town of Kaukauna, is accused of slipping his lover — the case parallels Patel's Outagamie County case in some ways, according to the Associated Press and Virginia news outlets....
According to the Associated Press, when the 19-year-old student at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va., had a miscarriage 11 weeks into her pregnancy last February, she wasn't at first suspicious.
Her boyfriend, 21-year-old Daniel Riase, had argued with her — and punched her in the stomach — when she told him she was having second thoughts about having an abortion, but then he seemed to dote on her.
She thought the miscarriage was due to natural causes. However, a few days later she found an e-mail and discovered Riase had purchased a drug on the Internet, and gave it to her in a glass of milk, causing the miscarriage.
The drug, misoprostol, or the trade name Cytotec, is used to induce labor, soften the cervix and cure ulcers.
Riase last month pleaded guilty to aggravated malicious wounding leading to the involuntary termination of a woman's pregnancy and one count of adulterating a drink, and was sentenced to five years in prison.
Please note that the story confuses mifepristone (brand-name Mifeprex, also known as RU-486) (the early abortion pill) with emergency contraception (brand-name Plan B). Emergency contraception works after intercourse to prevent pregnancy from occurring. It will not disrupt an established pregnancy. Had the Wisconsin man tried to use emergency contraception, he would have failed to cause a miscarriage.
Misoprostol (brand-name Cytotec), the drug used in the Virginia case, is an ulcer medication with multiple off-label uses that has long been available in the U.S. on the black market. It induces contractions that cause an abortion. The Wisconsin man, however, reportedly is alleged to have used mifepristone, a drug specifically approved by the FDA for abortion. Given that the drug is typically used in conjunction with misoprostol, I wonder whether there are particular dangers to a pregnant woman who unknowingly ingests it. While mifepristone blocks the hormone progesterone needed to maintain the pregnancy, it is the subsequent administration of misoprostol that usually induces the contractions that cause the woman to expel the embryo.
Wednesday, December 5, 2007
NBC/NJ's Aswini Anburajan writes for First Read (NBC):
Describing it as a press conference gone awry would be putting it mildly. Before the start of the NPR debate yesterday afternoon, the Clinton campaign arranged for Ellen Malcolm, the head of Emily's List, to hold a press conference with reporters.
Malcolm took the podium and argued that Clinton was the only candidate in this race who had stood up when it was tough, especially on women's issues. She said that Clinton -- standing up to the Bush Administration -- had led the fight to get the FDA to approve the Plan B contraceptive. She also cited the nomination of Chief Justice John Roberts as a time when Clinton had been the strongest voice against his nomination, taking the floor and giving a passionate speech on why his nomination threatened Roe vs. Wade.
But the minute Malcolm stopped speaking, she was hit by questions from reporters armed with info sent out by the Obama campaign. Malcolm hadn't mentioned Obama by name, but she said that those who vote "present" at tough times don't show a true commitment to leadership -- referring to Obama's "present" votes on some anti-abortion measures while serving in the Illinois state Senate. But reporters asked Malcolm why the head of the Illinois Planned Parenthood had said in the Los Angeles Times that Obama was getting in trouble for a "present"-vote strategy that the pro-choice group had devised....
Referencing the battle Planned Parenthood had waged in South Dakota to repeal a law that had banned all abortions in the state, Malcolm was asked why Clinton had done nothing to help support that effort. Obama had sent money and written a letter in support of the group. The head of the South Dakota Planned Parenthood had called Clinton's silence on the issue "mystifying."
Princeton University has started subsidizing the cost of birth control pills for its students amid the skyrocketing cost of the drugs on college campuses.
Since Saturday, students going to the university's health center have been able to get a one month's supply of generic birth control pills for $6, versus the $15 they were paying since March, according to Princeton spokeswoman Cass Cliatt.
To cover the difference, Princeton is dipping into a private discretionary fund. Early estimates, according to Cliatt, place the cost of the subsidies at about $69,000 a year....
Prices for oral contraceptives, or birth control pills, doubled and tripled at some student health centers across the country as a result of a complex change in a Medicaid rebate law that essentially ended an incentive for drug companies to provide deep discounts to colleges.
Is the current trend of showing off pregnant bellies liberating? Or has the social obsession with perfect women's bodies invaded one of the few times in their lives when women could feel their bodies were less scrutinized? Kim Powell writes for The Australian:
Women are increasingly concerned about their shape and weight during pregnancy, partly due to the media's focus on celebrity yummy mummies, experts say.
Psychologist Beth Shelton from Swinburne University said there seems to be “strong, unwritten social rules” about how much weight is acceptable to gain, where that weight goes and how long it takes to lose it after the baby is born.
“For the women in the study, a big tummy and large breasts were ok, even desirable, but weight on any other body part was often a source of anxiety,” Dr Shelton said.
“These social rules are also evident in the increasing preoccupation of women’s magazines with celebrities’ pregnancy and post-birth bodies.”
The Associated Press reports:
Women seeking an acne medicine that can cause severe birth defects may find it a little easier to fill their prescription: The government announced some changes Wednesday designed to ease access to the troublesome drug.
A program called iPledge was designed to ensure that every user of Accutane or its generic competitors — and every doctor who prescribes it and every pharmacy that sells it — follows strict rules to make sure that women don't get pregnant while on the drug. Among those rules are month-by-month prescriptions based on passing pregnancy tests.
But last summer, the Food and Drug Administration heard evidence that iPledge hasn't ended the problem: There were 122 pregnancies in the program's first year and another 37 in the four months since. Another 19 pregnancies occurred in women who managed to get the drug despite never enrolling in iPledge.
Still, in October the FDA agreed to a few changes to the program, and announced Wednesday that iPledge is now implementing these changes....
Tuesday, December 4, 2007
Via Agence France-Presse:
BEIJING -- Chinese police are to stop arresting women who carry condoms, traditionally seen as evidence of prostitution, in an effort to help curb the spread of AIDS, state press said Friday.
Despite efforts to stop the practice, women in China are still being sent to labor camps for prostitution offences merely because they were carrying condoms when detained by police, the report said, quoting an expert.
"We have investigated many education-through-labor camps and we have found that for those sentenced for prostitution, the sole evidence was that they possessed condoms," Xinhua quoted the unnamed expert as telling an AIDS conference here.
The comment appeared to contradict remarks by Han Mengjie, a senior official at the cabinet-level AIDS prevention office, who was quoted by Xinhua as saying a campaign to end the practice was put in place as early as in 2001.
Via New America Media:
Editor's Note: Even though some 44 percent of reported AIDS cases in India occur among 15 to 29 year olds, sex education that promotes safe sex in public schools is facing major opposition from local governments. But this conundrum could be deadly for the country with the highest number of infection rates in the world. Viji Sundaram is New America Media's Health editor.
Back in the 1940s, when my mother was going to an all-girls Catholic school in southern India, the sex education she and her classmates received was limited to the importance of abstinence, with the nuns tiptoeing around the word ‘sex’. The girls, for their part, sat giggling, their eyes lowered to the floor.
In most schools in India, educators are still tiptoeing around the subject of sex, although there’s been a strong shift in the mindset of private school students, who are trying their best to force their teachers to get sex out of the closet – especially because their own parents won’t. After all, these kids have seen and heard it all – on the Internet, in salacious music videos, Bollywood movies and even on temple carvings. They know it’s their country that gave the world the Kama Sutras. So what’s all the fuss about?
Via the Sunday Times, Australia:
GIRLS at a private school are being forced to write letters to their yet-to-be born children discouraging them from having sex before marriage.
But outraged parents say they pay Methodist Ladies' College in Claremont top dollar for a balanced education, not for bizarre, outdated "religious dogma'' to scare their daughters off sex.
The WA AIDS Council and parents said a ``fire and brimstone'' approach deprived teens of balanced information that helped them make informed decisions about sex, which could lead to problems such as unwanted pregnancies and sexual diseases.
"(The Year 11 students) aren't being allowed to have any other perspective when they write this `Letter to my future child','' one angry dad, who didn't want to be named, told The Sunday Times.
``We discourage our kids from being promiscuous, but we're outraged that the school could use such dogma to teach sex education.''
From the New York Times editorial page on Sunday:
President Bush’s veto of Congress’s main social spending bill has Democratic leaders looking for places to make trims to satisfy the president’s sudden zeal for fiscal discipline. A small, but sensible, place to begin would be to eliminate the bill’s $28 million increase for one of Mr. Bush’s signature boondoggles — abstinence-only sex education.
Federal government spending on highly restrictive abstinence-only sex education has ballooned under President Bush, while evidence of the program’s danger as a public health strategy has continued to mount.
Last April, a Congressionally mandated evaluation found that students who received abstinence instruction in elementary and middle school were just as likely to have sex in the following years as students who did not get such instruction.
Sunday, December 2, 2007
Via AFP (Berlin):
The film "4 months, 3 weeks and 2 days", a drama about a woman who assists her friend to arrange an illegal abortion in 1980's communist-era Romania, won the top prize at the European Film Awards in Berlin on Saturday.
The film by Romanian director Cristian Mungiu also won the Palme d'Or at this year's Cannes Film Festival.
Mungiu also took the award for top director, and his film will compete in the 2008 Oscars.
See also this post.
The Los Angeles Times reports:
It would seem an ideal time for Kansas politicians opposed to abortion to push that agenda, hard. The state's two biggest clinics are under criminal indictment, and two grand juries will soon convene to consider additional charges.
But as the political season revs up, the executive director of the Kansas Republican Party has issued a stern warning to his fellow conservatives: Abortion is not a winning issue.
Saturday, December 1, 2007
OK, Ann Bartow has tagged me for the Truly Bad Movie Meme, and I am ready to rise (sink?) to the occasion. I just watched 12 Monkeys on DVD last night, and that was probably bad enough to qualify, but I think I have a few worse ones. For me, the movies that make the grade are the ones that I couldn’t even bear to sit all the way through (so if they miraculously became marvelous half way through, I confess I never found out).
One of these is Northfork. Being from Montana, I was initially intrigued by the background plot, which is the building of the Hungry Horse Dam, and its flooding of a town, not far from where I grew up. But, alas, while a great movie could have been made from that premise, I found Northfork simply pretentious and, worse, dull. After a while, I just could not stand the sight of the four weird angels that kept appearing in what I guess was supposed to be a dreamlike way.
But Dogville was also a real dog of a movie, probably more so. Again, I may be influenced by my Montana roots, but how could a movie be based in the Rocky Mountains and not only fail to show the stunning beauty of that setting (at least the cinematography in Northfork was hauntingly beautiful), but actually fail to use any real setting at all? There were just chalk outlines on the ground, and the actors pretended to turn knobs and open doors that were not there. I kept hoping that this was a weird introduction and that a real movie would soon begin, but sadly it did not.
Wow… I have to say that when I initially discovered Ann had tagged me, I felt the vaguely sinking sensation I got as a kid receiving a chain letter. But griping about bad movies is strangely cathartic. Thanks, Ann! (And thanks to my husband for reminding me of these awful movies.) I tag Paul Caron.