Tuesday, March 31, 2009
NY Times: Sebelius Confirmation Hearings Start, by Kate Phillips:
It was a Kansas-fest this morning as the first of two hearings began on the confirmation of Gov. Kathleen Sebelius to become the administration’s secretary of health and human services.
This morning, the Democratic governor of Kansas faced a largely friendly audience from the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. Its chairman, Senator Edward M. Kennedy, who is battling brain cancer, first welcomed her and mentioned his own condition.
...Today’s hearing, while Ms. Sebelius’ debut as the president’s nominee, is expected to be friendlier than Thursday’s before the Senate Finance Committee because it’s the panel which actually votes on her suitability as a Cabinet member. Mr. Enzi, however, alluded to one line of questioning she’s expected to face because of her views on abortion. Anti-abortion advocates have mounted a campaign against her nomination.
Ms. Sebelius is the last of the nominees to the Cabinet awaiting confirmation.
Monday, March 30, 2009
Wash. Post: Why Notre Dame Should Welcome Obama, by Kenneth L. Woodward:
The nation's Catholic bishops have another sticky issue on their plates. President Obama has accepted an invitation to deliver the commencement address at the University of Notre Dame in May and to receive the customary honorary degree. It is quite a coup for the nation's most resonantly Catholic university. American Catholics and their bishops should be proud.
But the bishops have a policy that says "Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our [Catholic] fundamental moral principles." Upon taking office, Obama lifted Bush administration restrictions on funding for abortions and for embryonic stem cell research, as he had promised to do. Both actions violated fundamental Catholic principles on the protection of human life.
Although the bishops' policy is directed at dissident Catholic politicians such as Sen. Ted Kennedy, Notre Dame is being criticized for putting institutional prestige ahead of moral principle by allowing its graduating class to hear from the president of the United States, who is not a Catholic. And at least some Catholic bishops agree with the critics.
Gallup: Catholics Similar to Mainstream on Abortion, Stem Cells, by Frank Newport:
The accompanying chart shows the percentage of Catholics and non-Catholics who find each of nine moral issues morally acceptable. Catholics are at least slightly more liberal than non-Catholics on the issues of gambling (an issue to which the Catholic church is not totally opposed), sex between an unmarried man and woman, homosexual relations, and having a baby out of wedlock. Catholics are essentially tied with non-Catholics on the moral acceptability of abortion, divorce, and stem-cell research using human embryos. Only on the death penalty are Catholics slightly less likely than non-Catholics to find the issue morally acceptable.
NY Times: Jurors Acquit Kansas Doctor in a Late-Term Abortion Case, by Joe Stumpe:
Kansas law permits late-term abortions when two independent doctors agree that the pregnant woman would be irreparably harmed by giving birth
Prosecutors charged that the doctor, George Tiller, had an improper financial relationship with a doctor from Lawrence, Kristin Neuhaus, who provided a second opinion in the 19 cases cited.
Dr. Tiller’s clinic is one of three in the United States that perform late-term abortions, and he has been reviled by anti-abortion forces for decades.
Saturday, March 28, 2009
NY Times: Amid Abuse in Brazil, Abortion Debate Flares, by Alexei Barrionuevo:
But this is a women’s health clinic specializing in treating victims of sexual violence. Of the 15 such cases the hospital averages each day, nearly half involve children under 12.
Friday, March 27, 2009
NY Times: Judge Sees ‘Serious’ Issues in Cellphone Photos Case, by Sean D. Hamill & Liz Robbins:
A federal judge said at a hearing on Thursday that “serious constitutional issues” were raised in a lawsuit filed by three teenage girls and their mothers against a county district attorney who threatened to arrest the students on pornography charges after seminude photographs of them appeared on other students’ cellphones.
“It seems like the children seemed to be the victims and the perpetrators here,” the judge, James M. Munley, told a lawyer for the district attorney, George P. Skumanick of Wyoming County. “How does that make sense?”
The lawyer, A. James Hailstone, said state law “doesn’t distinguish between who took the picture and who was in it.”
Judge Munley, of the Federal District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, said he would not rule until early next week on a request by a lawyer for the girls and their mothers for a temporary restraining order forbidding Mr. Skumanick from filing the charges, which they contend are retaliation for the parents asserting their First and Fourteenth Amendment rights to oppose his deal.
The moves would aim to cut high levels of teenage pregnancy, but anti-abortion campaigners said they would "sexualise young people" and lead to greater promiscuity, as well as killing unborn children.
Ads for pregnancy advice would be allowed on prime-time television and radio slots, under changes being considered by the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) and the Broadcast Committee on Advertising Practice (BCAP) watchdogs.
NY Times: Circumcision Is Found to Curb Two S.T.D.’s, by Nicholas Bakalar:
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, at least 45 million people in the United States ages 12 and older have had herpes, or H.S.V.-2, the incurable infection that can cause recurrent painful genital warts. About 20 million are currently infected with human papilloma virus, or H.P.V., which causes various genital cancers, including most cervical cancers. There is no treatment or cure for H.P.V., but there is a vaccine now licensed only for girls and women.
Thursday, March 26, 2009
Drug policy has benefited from the harm reduction movement's innovative approach to improving personal safety. The application of a harm reduction model to reproductive justice has the potential to transform the way we view reproductive justice issues and mobilize support for issues that are traditionally marginalized within the movement. I want to consider what we can learn from the harm reduction movement in advocating for sex workers' rights and comprehensive sex education.
Harm reduction is a public health philosophy that emphasizes individual safety, regardless of lifestyle choices, over prohibition. This approach acknowledges that some individuals may continue to engage in risky behaviors and aims to address the needs created by those behaviors. The harm reduction movement spearheaded efforts to improve safety and provide services to substance abusers, such as safer injection sites for heroin addicts - the theory being that if addicts were going to use, at least providing them with clean needles would benefit the addicts themselves as well as the overall public health. Because harm reduction focuses on social and environmental aspects of risky behavior, its application to sex work is intuitive.
EngenderHealth has released a short animated video that poses the provocative question, "If you had $1 billion to change the world, what would you spend it on: easing world hunger, reducing global instability, or preserving natural resources?"
Their answer is that you don't have to choose: Spend $1 billion on family planning and we can make a difference in all of these areas. The cost? Less than 1/20th of 1% of the proposed federal budget (.03%) -- less than a penny per day per american. EngenderHealth has set up a site (http://www.3for1.org) where you can tell Obama that international family planning is a priority for you and it should be one for him, too.
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Via the Back Up Your Birth Control Team:
Today is our chance to raise awareness about and increase access to emergency contraception (EC). This year's Day of Action is especially important in light of Tuesday's federal decision to open EC over-the-counter access to 17-year-olds.
With media attention sparking public interest in EC this week, now is the perfect time to spread the word about how EC is a safe and effective way to prevent pregnancy after sex. Participate in our Campus Challenge, join our on-line community, blog about the importance of EC access, or just learn the facts and talk to your friends! Every bit of activism helps!
Monday, March 23, 2009
NY Times: Plan B Must Be Made Available to 17-Year-Olds, by Natasha Singer:
A federal judge on Monday ordered the Food and Drug Administration to make the Plan B morning-after birth control pill available without prescription to women as young as 17. The judge ruled the agency had improperly bowed to political pressure from the Bush Administration when it set 18 as the age limit in 2006.
The F.D.A. has 30 days to comply with the order, in which the judge also urged the agency to consider removing all restrictions on over-the-counter sales of Plan B. The drug consists of two pills that prevent conception if taken within 72 hours of sexual intercourse....
On Monday, in a decision that criticized former F.D.A. officials, United States District Judge Edward R. Korman, of the Eastern District Court of New York threw out the F.D.A. ruling.
Judge Korman wrote that F.D.A. officials repeatedly delayed action on the over-the-counter petition, moving only when members of Congress threatened to hold up confirmation hearings on acting F.D.A. commissioners, including Andrew C. von Eschenbach. Several officials also violated the agency’s own policies, the judge wrote.
Citing depositions in the case, Judge Korman wrote that agency officials improperly communicated with White House officials about Plan B. And F.D.A. employees sought to influence decisions by appointing people with anti-abortion views to an independent panel of experts reviewing Plan B for the agency, according to the judge.
Via the ACLU:
When President Obama took office in January, the Bush Administration left him and the country to deal with its parting shot against women’s health: a Health Care Denial rule. Despite public objections, the rule undermines the ability of American women to obtain basic reproductive health care, including birth control and information about abortion.
The rule is unnecessary because federal law already carefully balances protections for individual religious liberty and patients' access to health care. The Bush rule, however, takes patients' health needs out of the equation. The rule appears to expand the ability of institutions and individuals to deny women access to birth control. It also permits individuals to refuse to provide information and counseling about basic health care services. And it appears to permit health care institutions to ignore other laws that guarantee access to reproductive health care.
Visit the ACLU action center to submit your comments.
The University of Minnesota Law & Inequality journal will host a symposium on April 10, 2009, on "Contested Contours in Assisted Reproduction: Interrogating Law, Race, Class & Sex":
For more details and to register, click here.
Wash. Post: Vatican Official Defends Child's Abortion, by Francis X. Rocca:
The statement, by Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, appeared as the lead article in last Sunday's issue of the official Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano....
The case drew international attention earlier this month after the local Catholic archbishop excommunicated the doctors who aborted the girl's twin fetuses, as well as the girl's mother.
The child was 15 weeks pregnant, allegedly after being raped by her stepfather. Weighing only 80 pounds, she might have died if forced to carry the pregnancy to term, the doctors said....
Fisichella's article also implicitly contradicted Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, head of the Vatican's Congregation for Bishops, who had publicly defended Cardoso Sobrinho's action earlier this month.
Sunday, March 22, 2009
"Imaging utilization has not been previously studied in the pregnant population," said Elizabeth Lazarus, M.D., assistant professor of diagnostic imaging at the Warren Alpert School of Medicine at Brown University and a radiologist at Rhode Island Hospital in Providence, R.I. "This population may be vulnerable to the adverse effects of radiation."
Dr. Lazarus and colleagues conducted a retrospective review of nuclear medicine, CT, fluoroscopy and plain-film x-ray imaging examinations performed at Rhode Island Hospital and Women and Infants' Hospital from 1997 through 2006 to determine how often these imaging exams were performed on pregnant women and the estimated radiation dose to the fetus. Data were then compared to the number of infant deliveries per year for that same time period.
The researchers found that from 1997 to 2006, the total number of imaging studies performed on pregnant women at their institution increased by 10.1 percent per year, but the number of CT exams increased by 25.3 percent per year. CT delivers a higher amount of radiation than many other radiologic procedures.
Joanna L. Grossman (Hofstra Law) and Gillian Thomas (Legal Momentum) have posted Making Pregnancy Work: Overcoming the Pregnancy Discrimination Act's Capacity Based Model on SSRN. Here is the abstract:
article considers the gaps and obstacles in current law faced by the
pregnant woman whose job duties may conflict with pregnancy's physical
effects. While there is no inherent conflict between pregnancy and
work, women in physically strenuous or hazardous occupations, from
nursing to law enforcement, routinely confront situations in which they
are physically unable to perform aspects of their job or, though
physically able, they seek to avoid certain tasks or situations because
of the potential risks to maternal or fetal health. The Pregnancy
Discrimination Act of 1978 (PDA) broadly protects against "pregnancy
discrimination," but it provides absolute rights only to the extent a
pregnant woman is able to work at full capacity, uninterrupted by
pregnancy's physical effects. To the extent that the law grants the
pregnant worker with temporary physical limitations "affirmative"
rights, such as the right to workplace accommodation, it is only on a
comparative basis - that is, only to the extent those rights already
are provided to "similarly situated" temporarily disabled employees. In
this way, pregnancy continues to inhibit equal employment opportunity
for millions of women, three decades after the PDA's passage.
After briefly examining the medical literature documenting the conflicts between pregnancy and certain kinds of work, as well as the law as applied to pregnant workers who are fully capable or fully incapable due to the effects of pregnancy or childbirth, we consider the predicament of women in physically demanding fields whose work capacity is partially diminished by pregnancy. We focus here on the problem of access to "light-duty" work - temporary alternative job assignments that accommodate the pregnant worker's limitations. Without such accommodation, the pregnant firefighter or home health care aide whose doctor directs her to avoid heavy lifting or other tasks is faced with a Hobson's choice: ignore medical advice and continue to perform all job duties, or stop working altogether, usually sacrificing wages and other benefits for several months. We describe the limits of the existing PDA framework for protecting these pregnant workers, and suggest litigation strategies for maximizing pregnant workers' rights under current law. These include re-framing the "similarly situated" analysis for disparate treatment challenges to light-duty policies, and exploring the untapped potential of the disparate impact theory in the light-duty context.
Friday, March 20, 2009
NY Times: AIDS Agency Takes Issue With the Pope, by Neil MacFarquhar:
Catholics for Choice press release: Pope Not Infallible on Condoms:
A transcript of the pope's comments on the Vatican's Web site altered the comment to suggest that condoms "risked" aggravating the problem.
Jon O'Brien, president of Catholics for Choice, welcomed the change as a sign that the pope is not infallible on this issue and is willing to acknowledge his mistakes.
"The pope has admitted that he is unsure whether condoms can help alleviate the spread of HIV. Where there is doubt there is freedom and Catholics can make up their own minds whether they use condoms or not. Indeed, the vast majority of Catholics has already made this call and use condoms to protect themselves and their partners against STIs, including HIV.
discoveries in the world of reproductive medicine allow prospective
parents to peer into the genetic future of their children from the
earliest moments of life. Armed with this information, parents can
choose whether or not to continue along the procreative path by
selecting or discarding embryos on the basis of their genetic
composition. In making this decision, a parent's view of health and
disability figure prominently, sometimes yielding outcomes that cause a
larger community to rethink the concept of health.
This article explores the use of preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) to detect the genetic health of early embryos prior to implantation. Genetic selection for medical reasons is explored from three rationales: 1) to ensure the health of the embryo, 2) to ensure the health of an existing person, and 3) to ensure the continuity of a genetic trait within the family structure. Ultimately, a matrix is suggested for policy-makers to utilize in reflecting on legal strcutures to govern the use of PGD and other advancing reproductive technologies.
Thursday, March 19, 2009
Huffington Post: Octomom, Sextomom and the Looming Incursions on Reproductive Rights, by Arlene M. Roberts:
Last week I attended a forum titled "Race, Reproductive Rights Policy and the New Administration hosted by the Women of Color Policy Network. I followed up with panelist and law professor Dorothy Roberts, author of "Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction and the Meaning of Liberty", since I wanted to learn about her reaction to the proposed legislation.