Wednesday, July 23, 2008
NY Times: Many Gays Don’t Tell Doctors Their Sexuality, Study Finds, by Sewell Chan:
A survey of 452 New York City men who had had sex with other men within the past year found that 39 percent had not disclosed their sexual orientation to their doctors, a problem particularly acute among black, Hispanic and Asian men, the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene announced on Wednesday.
Health officials said the survey results had troubling implications for H.I.V. prevention. The survey found, for example, that men who disclosed their sexual activity with other men were twice as likely as men who did not to have been tested for H.I.V. (63 percent versus 36 percent).
Washington Post: Senate Agress to $50 Billion AIDS Plan, by Paul Kane:
On an 80 to 16 vote, the Senate dramatically increased the U.S. contribution to a global fund to combat AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. President Bush, who requested $30 billion over the next five years, has agreed to the larger amount for a program he started in 2003.
"We've made tremendous strides, but our work is not nearly finished. Two million people died last year of HIV-AIDS. Over two and a half million people died of malaria and TB," said Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.). He praised Bush's "bold" support for AIDS funding, launched in the 2003 State of the Union address, calling it his greatest achievement as president.
Once a politically contentious issue, fighting AIDS has become popular at both ends of the ideological spectrum. During the debate, Sen. John F. Kerry (Mass.), the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee, praised former senator Jesse Helms (R-N.C.), a conservative icon who died July 4, for his decision in 2000 to support global AIDS funding.
Center for Health and Gender Equity: It's Broke, But They Won't Fix It: The Senate Authorizes a Global AIDS Relief Package that Comes Up Short, by Serra Sippel:
The Senate missed a golden opportunity to epitomize the generosity of the American people by making U.S. global HIV/AIDS relief more effective, compassionate and fiscally responsible. As a result, millions of people are at greater risk of HIV infection.
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
ABC News: Lawmakers Urge Bush to Halt Abortion Proposal, by Matthew Jaffe:
More than 100 members of Congress wrote President Bush today, urging him to "halt all action" on a proposal they argue would change the definition of abortion, and drastically limit women's access to birth control.
The Department of Health and Human Services draft proposal, which began circulating around Capitol Hill last week, would require hospitals receiving federal funds to certify that, in their hiring, they do not discriminate against people who refuse to provide forms of contraception, such as birth control pills, due to personal religious beliefs.
The proposal immediately incited an uproar among Democratic lawmakers led by Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., who have also written to Bush. Now, 104 members of the House of Representatives have sent the president a protest letter of their own.
Human Nature (Slate): "Fetal Separation," by William Saletan:
Starting this week, under orders from the state attorney general and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit, medical providers in South Dakota must present a scripted statement to women who seek abortions. The script, dictated by the legislature three years ago, declares that any abortion "will terminate the life of a whole, separate, unique, living human being."
Until now, I wasn't aware that the fetus—a term that, according to the South Dakota law, includes "the implanted embryo"—was a whole, separate, living human being. I thought it was ... you know ... implanted. I mean, I'm just a guy, not really an expert or anything. But, um, placenta? Umbilical cord? Do those terms ring a bell? And that's not even getting to the tricky stuff, like the role of maternal RNA in directing embryonic growth or all the work done by the womb to facilitate the embryo's attachment and nourishment.
Read the whole thing. It's great.
Monday, July 21, 2008
RH Reality Check: McCain + Birth Control = Attention to His Position, by Marjorie Childress:
John McCain seems to be having increasing difficulty with the issue of birth control.
At his town hall here in Albuquerque Tuesday, three people wearing t-shirts with the logo of the pro-choice organization NARAL were ejected from the venue, despite having tickets. Originally reported by local media, including the New Mexico Independent, the incident got some attention in the blogosphere by Ben Smith of Politico. Smith spoke with McCain aide, Jeff Sadosky, and was told that the three were told to leave by Albuquerque police and hotel security, because they had originally been seen protesting the event.
Not so, according to Chris Salas, one of the three people ejected.
Sunday, July 20, 2008
Reuters: Clinton vows to fight "insulting" abortion plan, by Michelle Nichols:
A Bush administration plan to define several widely used contraception methods as abortion is a "gratuitous, unnecessary insult" to women and faces tough opposition, Sen. Hillary Clinton said on Friday.
The former Democratic presidential candidate joined family planning groups to condemn the proposal that defines abortion to include contraception such as birth control pills and intrauterine devices.
Wash. Post: Ruling Gives South Dakota Doctors a Script to Read, by Peter Slevin:
CHICAGO -- In a victory for antiabortion forces, doctors in South Dakota are now required to tell a woman seeking an abortion that the procedure "will terminate the life of a whole, separate, unique living human being."
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit last week lifted a preliminary injunction that prevented the language from taking effect. A spokesman for Planned Parenthood, which runs the state's only abortion clinic, said doctors will begin reciting the script to patients as early as this week.
On another front, South Dakota voters will be asked in a Nov. 4 referendum to consider broad limits on abortion for the second time since 2006. The ballot measure includes exceptions for rape, incest and the woman's health that were not part of the 2006 wording rejected by voters.
Antiabortion forces in South Dakota have been trying for years to halt the procedure and to build a winnable challenge to Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion nationwide....
The measure on the SD ballot in November, Initiative 2-7, would ban all abortions except for those:
in which the pregnancy results from rape or incest, provided the abortion occurs prior to the end of the 20th week gestation and the physician reports the rape or incest to law enforcement, identifying the woman and the perpetrator if possible; or where the abortion “is necessary to avert the death of the pregnant woman”; or where the abortion “is necessary because there is a serious risk of a substantial and irreversible impairment of the functioning of a major bodily organ or system of the pregnant woman should the pregnancy be continued.”
This initiative is the second attempt by anti-choice forces in the state, where voters in 2006 rejected a proposal to ban abortions with no health, rape or incest exceptions.The strategy behind the new proposal is laid out in a chilling memo from anti-choice strategists as the best way to overturn Roe and Casey. The key to their approach is grounding the initiative in a "legitimate exercise of the State's power to prohibit abortion in order to protect, not just the life of the unborn child, but the interests, rights and health of their pregnant mothers." (p. 8) In other words, to protect women from the "severe depression and loss of esteem [that] can follow" an abortion, as the Supreme Court declared in Gonzalez v. Carhart, 127 S. Ct at 1634.
This new "woman protective abortion amendment" strategy, to use Reva Siegel's phrase, is where the anti-choice movement is heading, and the SD vote in November is the tip of the spear. Reva has an article forthcoming in Duke Law Journal tracing the political history of the strategy, from pregnancy "counseling centers" to government reports to legislation.
If the SD initiative passes, we will see similar laws pop up around the country. And four years from now, give or take, we may see five Justices of the Supreme Court uphold it.
Saturday, July 19, 2008
Wash. Post: Colorado Voters Will Be Asked When 'Personhood' Begins, by Ashley Surdin:
A proposal to define a fertilized human egg as a person will land on Colorado's ballot this November, marking the first time that the question of when life begins will go before voters anywhere in the nation.
The Human Life Amendment, also known as the personhood amendment, says the words "person" or "persons" in the state constitution should "include any human being from the moment of fertilization." If voters agreed, legal experts say, it would give fertilized eggs the same legal rights and protections to which people are entitled.
You might think it reasonable to want to know how the initiative would affect existing laws, including the right to abortion. But the initiative's sponsor was cagey:
As to what laws could then be modified, Burton would not elaborate. "We try not to focus on some of the issues that will be taken care of later on," she said, repeatedly saying that the amendment is not aimed at outlawing abortion.
Press reports have been building all week about the Census Bureau’s announcement that it will not count same-sex couples legally married in California or Massachusetts (or in other countries) as “married.” The San Jose Mercury News broke the story, which was picked up by the Washington Post, and the AP story ran in the Times and who knows where else. Now People for the American Way has started a petition campaign calling on the Bureau to change its policy. It's fascinating to me what legs this story has -- the issue isn't new (see below), but it's newly visible because it's being driven as a spin-off of the California drama.
Officials justify the decision as required by the Defense of Marriage Act (DoMA), which limits recognition of “marriage” to different-sex couples for purposes of all federal laws and agency actions. See the Bureau’s analysis, originally posted regarding the 2000 census: http://www.census.gov/population/www/cen2000/samesex.html
The United States Supreme Court decision in Gonzales v. Carhart upheld the constitutionality of the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban of 2003, despite the law's failure to include an exception for the health of the mother. This paper argues that the Court's decision in Carhart opens new doors for future politicized governmental interference in the lives of patients and their doctors. Those concerned with biopolitics, the use of governmental power to regulate and control the personal and private space of one's health care decisions, have new reasons to be worried about the future of reproductive freedoms and the exercise of clinical medical judgment.
Thursday, July 17, 2008
Via Feminist Law Professor Bridget Crawford:
The August 2008 issue of Details magazine reports on a new “trend” in young men receiving vasectomies. In ”The Birth-Control Extremists” Richard Morgan writes:
[L]ately, vasectomies are becoming the province of young, single men who claim to be tired of worrying about their partners’ vigilance with the Pill. So rather than use condoms—less than ideal in terms of pleasure and, compared with vasectomies, which have an estimated 1 in 2,000 failure rate, only so-so on the contraception front—they’re opting for a permanent fix. * * *
Men taking responsibility for birth control is a salutary move, but Details author Morgan fails to mention that condoms are not just contraceptive devices (duh). They are also a means to reduce or eliminate the risk that one will give (or get) a sexually-transmitted disease. In the AZT era, are young men not concerned about HIV infection? Genital warts, anyone? And will vasectomies be just another “excuse” for men to avoid condom use? (”Don’t worry, baby, I got snipped.”)
And Another Thing (The Nation): McCain Opposes Contraception -- Pass it on, by Katha Pollitt:
I realize it's not as world-shaking as the caricature of the Obamas on the cover of The New Yorker, which has the high-end media in a total tizzy. It's probably not even as important as the raunchy joke Bernie Mac told at an Obama fundraiser last week, which was bumped from the tizzy list by the New Yorker story. But can't the commentariat take a break from itself and let the world know how much John McCain opposes birth control? Vastly more people rely on contraception than read The New Yorker or know Bernie Mac from mac'n' cheese. In fact, vastly more people use birth control than believe Obama is a secret Muslim. They might like to know that when it comes to contraception, McCain is no maverick.
Here's the story. Last week, Carly Fiorina, the former CEO of Hewlett-Packard who has been helping McCain look bright-eyed and estrogen-friendly, told reporters that women wanted more choice in their health care plans; for example, it bothered women when plans covered Viagra but not contraception. Big mistake! McCain had voted against a bill that would have required plans to cover birth control if they covered prescription meds at all, like, um, Viagra. McCain's nonresponse when queried about this by a reporter was astonishing. As posted on Youtube, he squirms and grins and smirks (Viagra! embarrassing!) and fumfers about evasively. ""I don't know enough about it to give you an informed answer," he manages to splutter, " because I don't recall the vote, I've cast thousands of votes... it's something I've not thought much about."
Wash. Post/HealthDay News: Dietary Fiber Cuts Risk of Pregnancy Complication, by Amanda Gardner:
THURSDAY, July 17 (HealthDay News) -- Eating more fiber during the first trimester of pregnancy seems to reduce the risk of developing preeclampsia, a potentially fatal condition characterized by elevated blood pressure.
The finding appears to be another good reason for pregnant women to maintain good fiber intake, one expert said.
"There's not really a downside to taking more fiber," noted Dr. Jennifer Wu, an obstetrician/gynecologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. "Many women suffer from constipation in pregnancy, and it can only help that. If you can increase your fiber anyway for constipation, it may also decrease preeclampsia."
There are other benefits to increasing fiber intake, including lowering blood pressure.
ABC News: Bush Proposal to Change Abortion Definition, by Matthew Jaffe:
Congressional Democrats are criticizing the Bush administration for a draft proposal they say would change the definition of abortion and limit women's access to contraception.
The draft proposal from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which began circulating around Capitol Hill earlier this week, would withhold government funds from health-care providers and organizations that don't hire people who refuse to perform abortions or provide certain types of birth control.
It immediately incited an uproar from leading Democratic lawmakers, including Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y.
Sens. Clinton and Patty Murray, D-Wash., warned in a letter to HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt that the proposal has the "potential to affect millions of women's reproductive health."
"One of the most troubling aspects of the proposed rules is the overly-broad definition of 'abortion,'" write Clinton and Murray. "This definition would allow health-care corporations or individuals to classify many common forms of contraception including the birth control pill, emergency contraception and IUDs 'abortions' and therefore to refuse to provide contraception to women who need it.
See also: Bush abortion furor takes down Nancy Pelosi's website (Countdown to Crawford (LA Times), by James Gerstenzang and Johanna Neuman) and HHS Moves to Define Contraception as Abortion (Huffington Post, by Cristina Page).
Human Rights News: Peru: At-Risk Women Denied Legal Abortions:
The Peruvian government’s deliberate refusal to streamline procedures and approve guidelines for legal abortion is endangering the lives and health of women and girls who are often forced to use unsafe solutions for risky pregnancies, Human Rights Watch said in a new report released today.
The 52-page report, “My Rights, and My Right to Know: Lack of Access to Therapeutic Abortion in Peru,” documents the difficulties women face in accessing therapeutic abortion – those needed to save the life of the woman or avoid serious health risks – in Peru’s public health system. While no reliable statistics are available on how many women have been turned away from a legal abortion, in interviews with women, healthcare providers, rights activists and government officials, Human Rights Watch found that women in general lack accurate information about their right to a legal abortion, and public health care professionals are often unclear about the intent of laws guaranteeing women access to legal abortions.
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
New York Times: Too Fat and Pregnant, by Annie Murphy Paul:
After decades in which the obesity epidemic spread to every demographic group in the nation, it has also ended up here: the maternity ward. One in five women who give birth in the U.S. is obese, according to Susan Chu, an epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And doctors are seeing more pregnant women who are morbidly obese, weighing 400, 500, even 600 pounds. Excess weight makes pregnancy riskier: obese women are more likely to develop hypertension and diabetes, and to deliver prematurely. The need to manage their conditions, and to meet their logistical needs, is giving rise to a new medical subspecialty, what some are calling “bariatric obstetrics.” Chames, who already sees at least a dozen morbidly obese pregnant women each month, will direct his hospital’s new Center for Bariatric Obstetric Care when it opens later this summer.
New York Times: Abortion Proposal Sets Condition on Aid, by Robert Pear:
The Bush administration wants to require all recipients of aid under federal health programs to certify that they will not refuse to hire nurses and other providers who object to abortion and even certain types of birth control.
Under the draft of a proposed rule, hospitals, clinics, researchers and medical schools would have to sign “written certifications” as a prerequisite to getting money under any program run by the Department of Health and Human Services.
Such certification would also be required of state and local governments, forbidden to discriminate, in areas like grant-making, against hospitals and other institutions that have policies against providing abortion.
The proposal, which circulated in the department on Monday, says the new requirement is needed to ensure that federal money does not “support morally coercive or discriminatory practices or policies in violation of federal law.” The administration said Congress had passed a number of laws to ensure that doctors, hospitals and health plans would not be forced to perform abortions.
Saturday, July 12, 2008
Newsweek: TEEN PREGNANCY: Baby 101, by Sarah Kliff:
When OK! Magazine announced 16-year-old Nickelodeon star Jamie Lynn Spears' pregnancy in December 2007, it was the best-selling issue since the magazine's American debut in 2005. "We knew it was a very big story, but it took us a little bit by surprise just how big the story became," says Rob Shuter, OK!'s executive editor. "The nightly news was talking about it."
But the story wasn't exactly a publicist's dream. Jamie Lynn was after all, barely old enough to get her driver's license, and she was a tween icon thanks to her sitcom, "Zoey 101." Jamie Lynn, had in October of 2007 told NEWSWEEK, that she didn't have a boyfriend. Ooops! More than a few adolescent health experts cringed at the headlines. "The media doesn't show the downside to teenagers getting pregnant," says Warren Seigel, a pediatrician who founded the Adolescent Medicine Program at Coney Island Hospital.
Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN), RWANDA: Military to Lead the Way in Male Circumcision
The soldiers in the Rwanda Defence Force (RDF) will be the first men to benefit from a government policy to use male circumcision as a tool in the fight against HIV/AIDS, according to senior health officials.
Early in 2008, the Rwandan Ministry of Health declared its intention to include circumcision – scientifically proven to reduce a man's risk of contracting the virus from an infected sexual partner by as much as 60 percent – in its HIV prevention programmes. The voluntary circumcision programme is expected to start in August.
"We will use the military as role models for the rest of the population – they are adult enough to give consent, and if young men see that soldiers are willing to suffer the pain of circumcision, they will also get the courage to do it," said Dr Agnes Binagwaho, executive secretary of Rwanda's national AIDS commission (CNLS).
Friday, July 11, 2008
The Press Association: Fear Over Abortion Pills Website:
Women living in countries where abortion is restricted - including Northern Ireland - are using the internet to buy medication enabling them to perform an abortion at home, it emerged.
A medical study found more than one in 10 customers on one of the most well-known websites needed a surgical procedure after taking the medication.
Women in more than 70 countries, including Northern Ireland, have used the internet site Women on Web to purchase the drugs for £55 a time. Anti-abortion campaigners have labelled the development "worrying".