Friday, April 18, 2008

On-Line Resource Helps Determine "Extremely Preterm Birth Outcome Data"

NY Times: New Calculator Factors Chances for Very Premature Infants, by Denise Grady:

Researchers are reporting that they have developed a new way to help doctors and parents make some of the most agonizing decisions in medicine, about how much treatment to give tiny, extremely premature infants.

These are infants at the edge of viability, weighing less than 2.2 pounds and born after 22 to 25 weeks of pregnancy, far ahead of the normal 40 weeks. About 40,000 babies a year are born at this very early stage in the United States.

The new method uses an online calculator developed for such cases factoring in traits like birth weight and sex and generating statistics on chances of the baby’s survival and the likelihood of disabilities.

The calculator is available here.

See also:  Wall Street Journal: Weighing Which Babies Get a Costly Drug, by Laura Landro:

In the mounting debate about how best to spend scarce health-care dollars, pediatric experts are wrestling with an emotionally fraught issue: whether to let some babies at risk for a potentially serious respiratory virus take their chances with the disease or to preventively administer an expensive drug that may or may not work.

Respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, may be the most prevalent disease parents have never heard of: It is the leading cause of hospitalization for infants and children. It will infect nearly all children at least once before they reach the age of two, and while it usually doesn't cause serious problems, the risks are higher for the growing number of premature babies and for those with lung and heart problems.

April 18, 2008 in Bioethics, Medical News, Pregnancy & Childbirth | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Yale Claims Student's Art Project Is Fiction

In a statement yesterday by Yale University spokewoman Helaine Klasky, Yale asserted that the controversial art project described in the Yale Daily News (see yesterday's post) was a work of "creative fiction":

Ms. Shvarts is engaged in performance art.  Her art project includes visual representations, a press release and other narrative materials. She stated to three senior Yale University officials today, including two deans, that she did not impregnate herself and that she did not induce any miscarriages.  The entire project is an art piece, a creative fiction designed to draw attention to the ambiguity surrounding form and function of a woman’s body.         

She is an artist and has the right to express herself through performance art.            

Had these acts been real, they would have violated basic ethical standards and raised serious mental and physical health concerns.

According to the Yale Daily News, however, Shvarts is disputing this claim.   Yale Daily News: University calls art project a fiction; Shvarts '08 disputes Yale's claim, by Zachary Abrahamson, Thomas Kaplan and Martine Powers:

According to a statement released by the University today, Aliza Shvarts ’08 was never impregnated. She never miscarried. The sweeping outrage on blogs across the country was apparently for naught....

But Shvarts stood by her project, calling the University’s statement “ultimately inaccurate.”

...Shvarts reiterated Thursday that she repeatedly use a needleless syringe to insert semen into herself. At the end of her menstrual cycle, she took abortifacient herbs to induce bleeding, she said. She said she does not know whether or not she was ever pregnant.

“No one can say with 100-percent certainty that anything in the piece did or did not happen,” Shvarts said, “because the nature of the piece is that it did not consist of certainties.”

Thanks to Reva Siegel for these updates. 

See also this comment on another blog, injecting some much-needed sanity regarding the likely medical realities of a project like this, even assuming the project was for real.

April 18, 2008 in Culture | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Supreme Court Upholds KY's Use of Lethal Injection

I know, it's not about abortion.  But it is about life.  Was "'serious' and 'humble' Catholic" Chief Justice Roberts trying to impress the Pope on his visit to the United States?

NY Times: Justices Uphold Lethal Injection in Kentucky Case, by Linda Greenhouse:

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld Kentucky’s method of execution by lethal injection, rejecting the claim that officials there administered a common sequence of three drugs in a manner that posed an unconstitutional risk that a condemned inmate would suffer acute yet undetectable pain.

While the 7-to-2 ruling did not shut the door on challenges to the lethal injection protocols in other states, it set a standard that will not be easy to meet. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. said in the court’s controlling opinion that challengers must show not only that a state’s method “creates a demonstrated risk of severe pain,” but also that there were alternatives that were “feasible” and “readily implemented” that would “significantly” reduce that risk.

April 17, 2008 in Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

SC House and Senate Reach Compromise on Abortion Ultrasound Bill

And another ultrasound bill advances. These bills are gaining momentum in the states, thanks to the Supreme Court's tacit encouragement in Gonzales v. Carhart. Abortion ultrasound compromise reached:

Women seeking an abortion would have the option of viewing an ultrasound photo of the fetus under a compromise struck between the House and Senate Wednesday.

For more than a year lawmakers have been debating whether to make viewing of an ultrasound a requirement or whether to make it optional. The Senate passed a bill making it optional last session. House lawmakers wanted to make it mandatory.

The conference committee deal means a bill closer to the House version will be headed to Gov. Mark Sanford's desk.

April 17, 2008 in Abortion, Mandatory Delay/Biased Information Laws, State Legislatures | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

OK Legislature Overrides Gov's Veto of Abortion Bill

Oklagov Tulsa World: Legislature overrides Henry's veto of abortion bill, by World Capitol Bureau:

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Both houses of the Oklahoma Legislature have voted to override Gov. Brad Henry's veto of a controversial abortion bill.

Henry late Wednesday vetoed Senate Bill 1878, which would require women to get an ultrasound one hour prior to having an abortion, among other things. Henry said the measure did not make exceptions for victims of rape and incest.

.It is the first time Henry has had a veto overridden in his two terms as governor.

April 17, 2008 in Abortion, Mandatory Delay/Biased Information Laws, State Legislatures | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Norway: Christian Democratic Party Proposes New Abortion Law

Norwayflag Aftenposten: Christian party proposes new abortion law, by Catherine Stein:

The Christian Democratic Party (Kristelig Folkeparti, KrF) of Norway has proposed a new abortion law, which includes obligatory counselling for everyone considering abortion – and also free contraception for youths up to the age of 24.

The committee which came forth with the proposal wants to reflect the current social situation and replace the abortion law with one that secures the right to life of the unborn, reports newswire NTB.

The KrF committee has proposed that the right to life should be set down in the country's constitution, according to newswire NTB.

April 17, 2008 in Abortion, International | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Yale Senior's Art Project Stirs Controversy

Yale Daily News: For senior, abortion a medium for art, political discourse, by Martine Powers:

Beginning next Tuesday, Shvarts will be displaying her senior art project, a documentation of a nine-month process during which she artificially inseminated herself "as often as possible" while periodically taking abortifacient drugs to induce miscarriages. Her exhibition will feature video recordings of these forced miscarriages as well as preserved collections of the blood from the process.

The goal in creating the art exhibition, Shvarts said, was to spark conversation and debate on the relationship between art and the human body. But her project has already provoked more than just debate, inciting, for instance, outcry at a forum for fellow senior art majors held last week. And when told about Shvarts' project, students on both ends of the abortion debate have expressed shock — saying the project does everything from violate moral code to trivialize abortion.

April 17, 2008 in Culture | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

CDC Study Shows Dramatic Decline in US Teen Pregnancy Rate

AFP: US teen pregnancy rate near historic low: study:

CHICAGO (AFP) — The teen pregnancy rate in the United States has fallen to historic lows, abortion rates have declined dramatically and more women are having children out of wedlock, a study published Monday said.

The teen pregnancy rate dropped 38 percent from 1990 to 2004, with abortion rates down by half and birth rates down by more than a third, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Study said.

However, pregnancy rates among Hispanic and black teens and young women were more than double that of their white counterparts.

Research has revealed a similar trend in Canada.  Ottowa Citizen: A Healthy Trend:

...The U.S. numbers echo the Canadian trendline. Research released last year found that the teen pregnancy rate in Canada was at an all-time low. There has also been a corresponding drop in the abortion rate in Canada. "What we're seeing," said Alex McKay, author of a study published in the Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality, "is that fewer young women are becoming pregnant in the first place."

And that is a good thing, since teenage mothers face more challenges and the outcomes for them and their children are often worse than for older mothers and their children.

April 17, 2008 in Pregnancy & Childbirth, Teenagers and Children | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

FL Legislature Considers "Medically Accurate" Sex-Ed Bill

Orlando Sentinel: Some State Lawmakers Pitch Uniform Sex Education, by

The reason two neighboring school districts can teach sex ed so differently is because Florida law, while clearly preferring abstinence instruction, doesn't mandate it.

Two bills working their way through the Legislature would eliminate much of that ambiguity, mandating that, starting in the sixth grade, students must learn about contraceptives and "sexual decision-making."

The Healthy Teens Act, as the proposal is called, wants to ensure that students across the state receive "medically accurate" information, which includes birth control and ways to reduce the risk of sexually transmitted diseases.

April 16, 2008 in Sexuality Education, State and Local News, State Legislatures, Teenagers and Children | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Call for Papers: Reproductive Justice Anthology

Sistersong Via SisterSong: Women of Color Reproductive Health Collective:

SisterSong is excited to announce that the creation of a special anthology on Reproductive Justice is currently underway. Please accept this invitation from SisterSong to submit a contribution to be considered for this ground-breaking anthology....

The theory, strategy and practice of Reproductive Justice was created by African American women in 1994 because we were looking for a way to articulate the needs of our communities of color that face multiple forms of reproductive oppression. We needed an intersectional analysis defined by the human rights framework -- based on the practice of self-help -- that would be inclusive and applicable to everyone. SisterSongs three core Reproductive Justice principles developed since our founding in 1997 reflect the theory and practice we collectively learned and shared. We believe that every woman has the right to:

1. Decide if and when she will have a baby and the conditions under which she will give birth

2. Decide if she will not have a baby and her options or preventing or ending a pregnancy

3. Parent the children she has with the necessary social supports in safe environments and healthy communities, and without fear of violence from individuals or the government.

The deadline is June 1, 2008.  More information and submission guidelines are available here.

April 16, 2008 in Race & Reproduction, Reproductive Health & Safety, Scholarship and Research | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Internet Sexuality Information Services (ISIS) Exposes Ideas for Preventing HIV and other STDs with Underwear Design Contest

Via press release from Internet Sexuality Information Services, Inc. (ISIS) and Brickfish:

SAN DIEGO, CA (April 5, 2008) Internet Sexuality Information Services, Inc. (ISIS), a not-for-profit organization dedicated to promoting sexual health, and Brickfish, a social media advertising platform, are inviting people to design intimate apparel to help get the word out about preventing HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, and developing lifelong healthy relationships. The In Brief campaign, located at (, invites entrants to develop their own art and slogans for boxer shorts, womens underwear, or t-shirts containing a message about sexual communication, including preventing HIV and other STDs. The Grand Prize winner will receive a $1,000 scholarship or cash equivalent, and twelve pairs of underwear.

With recent statistics published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that 1 in 4 female adolescents in the U.S. have a sexually transmitted disease, this timely contest tackles a critical public health issue head-on. Talking about HIV and STDs is uncomfortable, especially in the heat of the moment, so we are excited at this opportunity to create a forum for bringing prevention to the forefront, said Deb Levine, Executive Director of ISIS. The In Brief' campaign is designed to help sexually active people (and those thinking about having sex) communicate about the risks before they take their clothes off. We are confident the awareness raised by this campaign will encourage people to talk about their sexual health before they are in a risky situation.

In addition to the Grand Prize winner, an ISIS expert panel of judges will award a $250 scholarship (or cash equivalent) for their favorite entry chosen from the top 100 generating the most buzz across the Internet. And, all people who enter or vote in the contest will be eligible to win another $250 scholarship or cash equivalent awarded at the end of the contest.

Continue reading

April 16, 2008 in Culture, Reproductive Health & Safety, Sexually Transmitted Disease | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Student Scholarship: A Feminist Legal Response to Plan B Regulation

Amanda Allen (3L, CUNY Law School) has posted A Plan C for Plan B: A Feminist Legal Response to the Ways in Which Behind-the-Counter Emergency Contraception Fails Women on SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

On August 24, 2006, the Food and Drug Administration approved Plan B, the brand-name drug sold for emergency contraception, for sale to pharmacy customers eighteen and over without a prescription. However, Plan B must be shelved behind the pharmacy counter; thus, a customer over the age of eighteen seeking this medication must ask a pharmacist for it. A pharmacist with a moral or religious objection to emergency contraception can, therefore, still pose a barrier to a customer seeking to obtain it.

I use a feminist legal perspective to examine the regulation of behind-the-counter sale of emergency contraception to customers over the age of eighteen, addressing two problems with the regulation. First, because the regulation permits only behind-the-counter sale of Plan B, pharmacists are in a unique position to decide whether they think the customer should receive the requested medication - thus making pharmacist refusals possible. Second, the regulation surreptitiously adds an age requirement that was neither contemplated by the manufacturer nor medically justified, which hinders the access of young women and women without the required identification.

Continue reading

April 15, 2008 in Contraception, Law School, Scholarship and Research | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Clementine Rossier on Abortion Secrecy in Burkina Faso

Clementine Rossier has posted Abortion: An Open Secret? Abortion and Social Network Involvement in Burkina Faso, Reproductive Health Matters, Vol. 15, No. 30, pp. 230-238, November 2007, on SSRN.  Here is the abstract: 

Abortion in Burkina Faso is a subject that neither abortion providers nor women want to talk about. Abortion providers fear criminal prosecution; women's silence is dictated more by the wish to avoid the stigma of a shameful pregnancy....What prompts women and providers to reveal something they want to be kept totally secret, and how do women keep their abortion secret while nevertheless talking to others about it? The study found that young women in Burkina Faso are impelled to talk to their boyfriends, friends and in fewer cases women relatives about their unplanned pregnancy, first to decide to have an abortion and then to get help in finding a clandestine provider.

April 15, 2008 in Abortion, Culture, International, Scholarship and Research | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, April 14, 2008

Access to Safe and Legal Abortion in Europe

The report "Access to Safe and Legal Abortion in Europe," by the Committee on Equal Opportunities for Women and Men of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly, was issued last month.  Here is the summary:

Abortion is legal in the vast majority of the Council of Europe member states. The Committee on Equal Opportunities for Women and Men considers that a ban on abortions does not result in fewer abortions, but mainly leads to clandestine abortions, which are more traumatic and more dangerous. By the same token, the Committee notes that in many of the states where abortion is legal, numerous conditions are imposed which restrict the effective access to safe abortion.

The Parliamentary Assembly should therefore invite the member states of the Council of Europe to:

– decriminalise abortion, if they have not already done so;

– guarantee women's effective exercise of their right to abortion and lift restrictions which hinder, de jure or de facto, access to safe abortion;

– adopt appropriate sexual and reproductive health strategies, including access of women and men to contraception at a reasonable cost and of a suitable nature for them as well as compulsory relationships and sex education for young people.

More from the report is available here, including a draft resolution and an explanatory memorandum by Gisela Wurm, Rapporteur.

April 14, 2008 in Abortion, International | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Law Student Writing Contest: Alice Paul Feminist Jurisprudence Essay

Alicepaul The Women and the Law and Legal Rhetoric programs at American University Washington College of Law are seeking student submissions for the Alice Paul Feminist Jurisprudence Essay Contest. 

The award is $1000 for the best unpublished student essay. The winner will deliver her or his paper at Washington College of Law and will receive help in placing the essay in a publication.

For more information, visit the contest website.

April 14, 2008 in Law School, Scholarship and Research | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Obama Endorsed by Two "Abortion Foes"

Obama Wash. Post: For Obama, Unexpected Support: Antiabortion Lawmakers' Backing May Help in Pa., Ind., by Shailagh Murray:

As strong and consistent abortion foes, Sen. Robert P. Casey Jr. and former congressman Timothy J. Roemer are anomalies in a Democratic Party that has overwhelmingly advocated abortion rights. Yet both are backing Sen. Barack Obama, whom one conservative blogger dubbed "the most pro-abortion candidate ever."

As firmly as Casey (Pa.) and Roemer (Ind.) have adhered to their opposition, Obama has never supported a single measure that would curtail access to abortion -- even under controversial circumstances. But Casey and Roemer have chosen to ignore Obama's legislative record, and are promoting the Democratic presidential candidate to their antiabortion allies as someone who could achieve a new consensus on the issue. "He has the unique skills to try to lower the temperature and foster a sense of common ground, and try to figure out ways that people can agree," Casey said, although the freshman senator added, "On this issue, it's particularly hard."

April 14, 2008 in 2008 Presidential Campaign, Abortion, Politics | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Dr. Pablo Rodriguez on the POPLINE Controversy

RH Reality Check: A Slippery Slope: The POPLINE Controversy, by Pablo Rodriguez, MD:

Call it censored, call it buried, call it lost—the search term “abortion” was all of the above for approximately a month on POPLINE —a publicly-funded database that its administrators describe as “Your connection to the world’s reproductive health literature.”

Last week, researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, uncovered this ironic situation while trying to “connect” to “reproductive health literature.” Health care providers, researchers, and advocates around the country were alarmed to learn that POPLINE (POPulation information onLINE), had rendered the search term “abortion” a stopword—which directs the database to ignore the term when used in a search....

The medical and scientific needs of the reproductive health professional community were impeded by POPLINE’s decision to remove abortion as a search term on its publicly funded database. If this action had gone unchecked, the decision would have limited the medical and scientific community’s ability to access information on a range of patient care scenarios, including women experiencing both wanted and unintended pregnancies.

April 14, 2008 in Abortion, Scholarship and Research | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

The Pope's Visit

NY Times: The Pope’s Visit: Candles, Clergy and Communion for 57,000, by Sewell Chan:

...He will be accompanied on this trip by an entourage of about 30 Vatican officials and 70 journalists. The Archdiocese of Washington estimates that the pope’s three-day visit there will cost at least $3 million, financed by wealthy Catholic donors; the Archdiocese of New York would not provide a cost estimate but said that it, too, would rely on contributions from parishioners.

In Washington, the pope will stay at the Vatican Embassy, on Massachusetts Avenue NW, and in New York at the East 72nd Street residence of Archbishop Celestino Migliore, the papal nuncio to the United Nations.

Brian Lehrer discussed the Pope's visit on WNYC this morning:

Coming to America

Peter Steinfels, religion columnist for the New York Times, co-director of the Fordham Center on Religion and Culture at Fordham University, and the author of A People Adrift: The Crisis of the Roman Catholic Church in America, previews the Pope's visit to New York. He's joined by Deacon Jorge Gonzalez, director of deacon formation in Brooklyn and Queens.

Many callers wanted to discuss the Catholic Church's position on contraception and "natural family planning."  You can listen to the Brian Lehrer Show episode on the Pope's visit here.

April 14, 2008 in Religion and Reproductive Rights | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Democratic Candidates on Religion and Reproductive Rights

At the CNN faith forum last night, the Democratic candidates discussed reproductive rights issues.

Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report: Obama, Clinton Call for Allocating More Resources To Fight Spread of HIV/AIDS:

Sens. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) on Sunday both called for allocating more resources to fight the spread of HIV/AIDS, AFP/ reports (AFP/, 4/14). The Democratic presidential candidates' comments came during a forum at Messiah College that was sponsored by Faith in Public Life, the Hartford Courant reports (Buck, Hartford Courant, 4/14).

The candidates also discussed their views on abortion and "whether life begins at conception."  The statements of both candidates are fully described on NYT's The Caucus.  Here are the highlights of Senator Clinton's remarks:

On abortion, Senator Clinton emphasized the work she has done to try to reduce teenage pregnancies. And renewing a stance she has expounded on in recent years, she walked a middle line while remaining supportive of abortion rights. Asked whether life began at conception, she replied: “I believe that the potential for life begins at conception. I am a Methodist, as you know. My church has struggled with this issue. ... But for me, it is also not only about a potential life; it is about the other lives involved. And, therefore, ... individuals must be entrusted to make this profound decision...

Clinton also echoed her husband's "safe, legal, and rare" refrain:

And as some of you’ve heard me discuss before, I think abortion should remain legal, but it needs to be safe and rare.”

Senator Obama was asked whether common ground could be found on the issue of abortion:

...Mr. Obama replied: “I absolutely think we can find common ground. And it requires a couple of things. Number one, it requires us to acknowledge that there is a moral dimension to abortion, which I think that all too often those of us who are pro-choice have not talked about or tried to tamp down. I think that’s a mistake because I think all of us understand that it is a wrenching choice for anybody to think about.

“The second thing, once we acknowledge that, is to recognize that people of good will can exist on both sides. That nobody wishes to be placed in a circumstance where they are even confronted with the choice of abortion. ...“And if we can acknowledge that much, then we can certainly agree on the fact that we should be doing everything we can to avoid unwanted pregnancies that might even lead somebody to consider having an abortion.”

Asked specifically when he believed life began, the Illinois Democrat said: “This is something that I have not, I think, come to a firm resolution on. I think it’s very hard to know what that means, when life begins. Is it when a cell separates? Is it when the soul stirs? So I don’t presume to know the answer to that question...."

While both candidates are clearly pro-choice, both also dance near the "abortion is a tragedy" rhetoric that I would love to see them avoid.  Casting abortion that way exacerbates the professional marginalization of abortion providers and the social stigmatization of abortion and women who seek it.  While Obama is surely right that no woman is happy to face an unwanted pregnancy, some will find abortion a "wrenching choice" and some will not.  Politicians should stop presuming what women do or should feel about abortion and instead focus on the work they will do to decrease unintended pregnancy, promote reproductive health and safety, and increase support for low income mothers.

April 14, 2008 in 2008 Presidential Campaign, Abortion, Reproductive Health & Safety | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, April 10, 2008

NPR on Johns Hopkins Database Fiasco and George Tiller Saga

You can listen to the following segments by clicking the links below.

Magazine Led to Database's 'Abortion' Search Block, by Brenda Wilson:

An inquiry into why the world's largest database on reproductive health blocked searches using the term "abortion" has found the restriction was put in place because of articles from an abortion advocacy magazine available on the site.

The block was an "overreaction," says Michael Klag, the dean of Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, which maintains the POPLINE database. When Klag learned that the search function for abortion had been removed, he ordered it restored. The block was taken down Friday afternoon.

Kan. Court Weighs Medical Records in Abortion Case, by Kathy Lohr:

The Kansas Supreme Court will hear oral arguments Tuesday in a case involving a Wichita doctor who performs abortions. A grand jury is seeking thousands of George Tiller's medical records in an effort to see whether he broke the law by performing illegal third-trimester abortions.

April 10, 2008 in Abortion, In the Courts, President/Executive Branch, State and Local News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)