Thursday, March 19, 2009

US Birth Rate In 2007 Breaks Record

NY Times: ’07 U.S. Births Break Baby Boom Record, by Erik Eckholm:

Triplets More babies were born in the United States in 2007 than in any other year in American history, according to preliminary data reported Wednesday by the National Center for Health Statistics.

The 4,317,000 births in 2007 just edged out the figure for 1957, at the height of the baby boom. The increase reflected a slight rise in childbearing by women of all ages, including those in their 30s and 40s, and a record share of births to unmarried women.

But in contrast with the culturally transforming postwar boom, when a smaller population of women bore an average of three or four children, the recent increase mainly reflects a larger population of women of childbearing age, said Stephanie J. Ventura, chief of reproductive statistics at the center and an author of the new report. Today, the average woman has 2.1 children.

Also in 2007, for the second straight year and in a trend health officials find worrisome, the rate of births to teenagers rose slightly after declining by one-third from 1991 to 2005.

March 19, 2009 in Pregnancy & Childbirth | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Obama Makes First Judicial Appointment, to Seventh Circuit

Wash. Post: Obama Names Judge to Appeals Court, by Michael A. Fletcher:

Scales of justice President Obama yesterday made his first judicial appointment, naming U.S. District Judge David F. Hamilton to the federal appeals court, a choice excoriated by some conservatives even as the White House touted him as the type of moderate who could cool the nation's long-simmering judicial battles.

The White House held out Hamilton as a prototype for the nominees Obama will seek as he reshapes the federal appeals courts -- and by extension, the laws governing contentious social issues such as abortion and affirmative action -- during his presidency. Currently, there are 17 vacancies on the nation's appeals courts, which are organized into 12 circuits across the country....

In 2003, Hamilton struck down part of an Indiana law requiring abortion clinics to give women information about alternatives to abortion in the presence of a physician or nurse. The information had to be given to women 18 hours before the procedure, requiring them to make two visits to the doctor's office to obtain the procedure. That decision was also overturned on appeal.

March 18, 2009 in In the Courts, President/Executive Branch | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

New York Ends Mandatory Pregnancy Testing For National Guard Soldiers

Via ACLU press release: New York Ends Mandatory Pregnancy Testing For National Guard Soldiers:

NEW YORK – Under a new policy announced today, women in the New York National Guard serving on a state active duty task force will no longer be required to take mandatory pregnancy tests or face dismissal from the force if they become pregnant. Instead, they will be treated the same as men who become injured or disabled during a state active duty mission. The change occurred in response to objections raised by the American Civil Liberties Union and the New York Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU's New York State affiliate.

Soldiers in the New York National Guard had alerted the ACLU about a discriminatory policy requiring women in active duty positions to take periodic pregnancy tests and to periodically sign a form agreeing that becoming pregnant would end their assignments and cancel all associated health benefits, including health benefits for their families. In contrast, male National Guard soldiers on state active duty whose spouses became pregnant were not fired and their families retained health benefits.

"I hope this change will enable women to come forward if they feel they are being discriminated against. Many soldiers were against this policy of pregnancy testing but feared they would lose their jobs if they spoke up," said Tammy Sullivan, a soldier in the New York National Guard. "The new policy is a step in the right direction to protecting a woman's right to privacy and ending discrimination against women in the military."

The ACLU and NYCLU brought their concerns to Governor David A. Paterson's administration, which resulted in discussions that culminated with this new policy.

Continue reading

March 17, 2009 in Pregnancy & Childbirth | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

REAL Act Provides Needed Funding For Comprehensive Sex Ed

Via ACLU press release: “Responsible Education About Life Act” Provides Needed Funding For Comprehensive Sex Ed:

Representative Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) today introduced the Responsible Education About Life (REAL) Act, a bill that designates federal funds for age-appropriate and medically accurate information to help young people make informed decisions about their relationships and sexual behavior. Research has shown that comprehensive sex education programs help reduce risk behaviors by delaying the onset of sexual intercourse, reducing the number of sexual partners and increasing condom or contraceptive use among teens.

The following can be attributed to Vania Leveille, ACLU Legislative Counsel:

“The REAL Act is a necessary antidote to counterproductive abstinence-only-until-marriage programs that spread misinformation, marginalize gay and lesbian youth and reinforce gender stereotypes. Young people need real help – not worn out ideological or political agendas – to make decisions that will prevent unintended pregnancies and reduce sexually transmitted diseases including HIV/AIDS.

“Thanks to the leadership of Representative Lee and Senator Lautenberg, this legislation will help fund effective comprehensive sex education in schools.”

March 17, 2009 in Congress | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Experts Link Pre-Eclampsia To Risk Of Heart Disease

NY Times: Pregnancy Problem Is a Heart Warning, by Sylvia Pagan Westphal:

Pregnant The aches and pains of pregnancy tend to be forgotten as soon as a mother sets eyes on her newborn.

But when it comes to pre-eclampsia, a condition that results in high blood pressure and leaky blood vessels, experts are urging women to realize that their temporary ordeal may come with lasting health risks.

Pre-eclampsia affects about 5 percent of pregnancies, or an estimated 300,000 women a year in the United States. Its causes are unknown; its hallmarks are high blood pressure and protein in the urine, a sign that the blood vessels are improperly leaking protein to other tissues. Other symptoms include severe swelling, headaches and vision problems.

The condition goes away soon after delivery, and many women never think about it again. But a growing body of evidence shows that women who develop pre-eclampsia have twice the risk of a later heart attack or stroke.

March 17, 2009 in Medical News, Pregnancy & Childbirth, Reproductive Health & Safety | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, March 16, 2009

Obama Nominates Former NYC Health Chief for FDA Commissioner

Women's Daily Health Policy Report: Obama Nominates Former NYC Health Chief Hamburg for FDA Head, Baltimore Health Chief as Deputy:

Fda President Obama on Saturday announced his selection of former New York City Health Commissioner Margaret Hamburg as his nominee for FDA commissioner and Baltimore health commissioner Joshua Sharfstein as Hamburg's deputy, the AP/Arizona Daily Star reports (AP/Arizona Daily Star, 3/15). According to the Washington Post, consumer groups, food-safety advocates and patients' organizations applauded the selection of Hamburg and Sharfstein to run FDA, which has "struggled to retain public confidence amid outbreaks of food-borne illnesses, poisoning scares and drug controversies." FDA oversees products that comprise about 25% of consumer spending, including food, medical devices, prescription and over-the-counter drugs.

Hamburg, a physician and bioterrorism expert, served as assistant health secretary during former President Clinton's administration.

March 16, 2009 in President/Executive Branch | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Peter Steinfels and William Saletan on Stem Cell Research

Peter Steinfels' "Beliefs" column in yesterday's New York Times laments the absence of "moral argument" in the debate over stem cell research.  Steinfels suggests that there are important moral questions at stake in the debate, but he doesn't venture to say what they are, let alone take a position on those questions. 

NY Times: In Stem Cell Debate, Moral Suasion Comes Up Short, by Peter Steinfels:

Stem_cell Almost no one was surprised this week when President Obama lifted restrictions on stem cell research that involved the destruction of human embryos. Even jaded Washington watchers are adjusting to the idea that this is a president with an eerie determination to do exactly what he said he would do during his campaign.

Those who approve such research applauded Mr. Obama’s action. (“Fantastic,” said one stem cell scientist on PBS.) Those who disapprove condemned it. (“Deadly,” said an anti-abortion leader in The New York Times.) But some commentary focused at least as much on the nature of the president’s moral argument as on the specific conclusions he reached.

When it comes to the controversy over human embryonic stem cell research, moral argument has not been much in evidence. The president spoke of a popular consensus in favor of it reached “after much discussion, debate and reflection.” That is a kindly description of the hype, exaggeration and denunciation that have dominated the controversy.

Steinfels appears to admire an article by William Saletan in Slate, in which Saletan criticizes knee-jerk attacks on those who oppose stem cell research.  Steinfels then meekly concludes:

To label the opposition to embryonic stem cell research as “ideology,” Mr. Saletan suggests, is to “forget the moral problem.” To pursue this research is a moral choice. Not to pursue it is a moral choice. And moral choices of this nature properly wind up in the political arena.

Here's Saletan's piece: Winning Smugly: You just won the stem-cell war. Don't lose your soul. Saletan is more upfront about the kinds of moral choices at issue (and hints at where he stands on them, although he doesn't tell us where his concern about an ethical slippery slope should ultimately leave us on stem cell research):

At their best, proponents of stem-cell research have turned the question on its head. They have asked pro-lifers: How precious is that little embryo? Precious enough to forswear research that might save the life of a 50-year-old man? Precious enough to give up on a 6-year-old girl? How many people, in the name of life, are you willing to surrender to death?

To most of us, the dilemma is more compelling from this angle. It seems worse to let the girl die for the embryo's sake than to kill the embryo for the girl's sake, particularly since embryos left over from fertility treatments will be discarded or left to die, anyway. But it's still a dilemma. And as technology advances, the dilemmas will become more difficult. Already, researchers are clamoring to extend Obama's policy so they can use federal money to create and destroy customized embryos, not just use the ones left over from fertility treatments.

The danger of seeing the stem-cell war as a contest between science and ideology is that you bury these dilemmas....

On this point, Obama has been wiser than his supporters. "Many thoughtful and decent people are conflicted about, or strongly oppose, this research," the president acknowledged on Monday. "We will never undertake this research lightly. We will support it only when it is both scientifically worthy and responsibly conducted."

March 15, 2009 in Bioethics, In the Media, Religion and Reproductive Rights, Stem Cell Research | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Call for Papers: Feminism, Law, and Masculinity

The Feminism and Legal Theory Project of Emory University School of Law has issued a call for papers for a workshop, "Feminism, Law, and Masculinity," to take place Sept 11-12 2009:

Emory_law This workshop will explore the relevance of masculinities studies to feminist legal theory and activism. We have long struggled, both within and without the academy, to understand how law defines the feminine by articulating, constructing, and regulating women and the female body. Similarly, and more broadly, feminisms have focused on the place of gender in the construction of social relations that too often fail to protect the interests of women. This work notwithstanding, the place of masculinity has received relatively little attention. We hope to facilitate social and cultural resistance to assertions of hyper-masculinity, particularly those that arise in response to feminism itself.

We will interrogate the privileged positioning of the male body that results from its being cast as normative. We also invite papers which engage feminist ethics or approaches to address the relevance of masculinity to feminist legal theory. We particularly welcome submissions locating masculinity within those areas of study feminism has identified as key: violence, reproduction, state responsibility, poverty, and rights....

Please email a paper proposal of several paragraphs length by March 30, 2009 to: and

March 14, 2009 in Conferences and Symposia, Lectures and Workshops, Men and Reproduction | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Relentless Pursuit of Abortion Provider Dr. Tiller Soon To Culminate In Trial

Los Angeles Times: Eager for abortion provider's case to move forward, by Robin Abcarian:

For activists on both sides of the debate over legalized abortion, the criminal trial of Dr. George Tiller, which begins Monday in a Wichita courtroom, is an oddly unfulfilling culmination of a struggle that has wrenched Kansas for years.

Tiller, 67, is one of a handful of doctors in the country who terminate very late-term pregnancies and has virtually become public enemy No. 1 to those who oppose abortion. For years, prosecutors and activists have tried to bring him down, and for years, Tiller has survived legal and physical challenges.

In 1986, his clinic was bombed. In 1991, it was blockaded for six weeks. In 1993, he was shot in both arms by an abortion opponent. He has been investigated twice by grand juries that have found no cause to charge him with crimes.

March 14, 2009 in Abortion, Anti-Choice Movement, In the Courts, State and Local News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Caroline Corbin on Compelled Listening and Mandatory Pre-Abortion Counseling

Caroline Corbin (University of Miami School of Law) has posted The First Amendment Right Against Compelled Listening on SSRN. Here is the abstract:

Caroline_corbin This Article argues for a new First Amendment right: the right against compelled listening. Free speech jurisprudence-which already recognizes the right to speak, the right to listen, and the right against compelled speech-is incomplete without the right against compelled listening. The same values that underlie the other free speech rights also lead to this right. Furthermore, this claim holds true regardless of whether one conceives of the primary purpose of the free speech clause as creating a marketplace of ideas, enhancing participatory democracy, or promoting individual autonomy. The Article starts by examining the protection afforded to unwilling listeners by the captive audience doctrine, which balances private speakers' right to communicate against listeners' rights to privacy, equality, and voting. It then argues that protection for captive listeners can be grounded in free speech values, and explores two possible approaches to delimiting the free speech right against compelled listening. The Article concludes by applying the new right to state-mandated abortion counseling and state-mandated diversity training.

March 14, 2009 in Anti-Choice Movement, Mandatory Delay/Biased Information Laws, Scholarship and Research | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, March 13, 2009

Spokane, WA, Student Sues College Over Barring Of Anti-Abortion Display

MSNBC: Student barred from showing anti-abortion display suing college:

SPOKANE, Wash. - A Spokane Falls Community College student who was barred from putting up an anti-abortion display is suing the college in federal court in Spokane.

Beth Sheeran says the college violated her free speech rights.

The official complaint Sheeran filed in court states that when Sheeran and the Spokane Falls Christian Fellowship wanted to hold a pro-life event at the College on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the College refused to allow the event. Court documents say the College told Sheeran and SFCF "that their pro-life display was 'offensive' and 'discriminatory.'"

March 13, 2009 in Abortion, In the Courts | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

GOP Chair Suggests Abortion Is "An Individual Choice"

NY Times: In Interview, Republican Chairman Strays From the Party Line on Abortion, by Adam Nagourney:

Repub_elephant This was supposed to be the week that Michael Steele, the beleaguered new chairman of the national Republican Party, got his groove on, as he might put it: From filling vacancies left by the mass-firing he conducted upon taking office to issuing 100-day plans on how to make the Republican Party competitive on fund-raising and the Internet, among other things.

But no.

On Thursday Mr. Steele found himself yet again explaining what he had meant to say, this time after a lively interview with GQ in which he seemed to suggest, among other things, that women should have the right to decide whether to have an abortion. “I think that’s an individual choice,” he said.

A moment later, he appeared to clarify his remarks, saying that abortion policy should be decided by the states....

After the interview appeared online on Thursday, he issued a statement seeking to make clear that he is an opponent of abortion rights.

See also: Huffington Post: Michael Steele: Abortion Is An "Individual Choice"; The Fix (Wash. Post): Steele Steps In It (Again).

March 13, 2009 in Abortion, In the Media, Politics | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Chemical Castration of Sex Offenders Under Scrutiny In Europe

NY Times: Europeans Debate Castration of Sex Offenders, by Dan Bilefsky:

Eu_flag Whether castration can help rehabilitate violent sex offenders has come under new scrutiny after the Council of Europe’s anti-torture committee last month called surgical castration “invasive, irreversible and mutilating” and demanded that the Czech Republic stop offering the procedure to violent sex offenders. Other critics said that castration threatened to lead society down a dangerous road toward eugenics.

The Czech Republic has allowed at least 94 prisoners over the past decade to be surgically castrated. It is the only country in Europe that uses the procedure for sex offenders. Czech psychiatrists supervising the treatment — a one-hour operation that involves removal of the tissue that produces testosterone — insist that it is the most foolproof way to tame sexual urges in dangerous predators suffering from extreme sexual disorders....

Last year, the governor of Louisiana, Bobby Jindal, signed legislation requiring courts to order chemical castration for offenders convicted  of certain sex crimes a second time.

March 12, 2009 in International, Sterilization | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Provider Shortages Loom As Abortion Clinic Workers Near Retirement

The New York Times: Where to Pass the Torch? by, Michael Winerip:

WHEN Anne Baker graduated from Southern Illinois University in 1975, she was pleased to be hired as a birth control counselor for a Planned Parenthood clinic, though it was not her dream job. “I wanted to be an abortion counselor,” she recalled. “I wanted it so bad.”

Ms. Baker was thrilled when the Supreme Court legalized abortion in its 1973 Roe v. Wade decision...

And so, the following year, in 1976, when a counseling job opened at the abortion clinic here, a 30-minute drive across the Mississippi River from her home in St. Louis, Ms. Baker grabbed it and never left, becoming the head of counseling at the Hope Clinic for Women...

But here is the question: As Ms. Baker’s generation approaches retirement — women whose commitment to abortion was forged in the pre-Roe v. Wade days — will younger women take their places at the clinics?...

A recent survey of 273 abortion clinics published in the journal Contraception found that 64 percent of their doctors were at least 50 years old, and 62 percent were men. Abortion advocates like Kelli M. Conlin, president of Naral Pro-Choice New York, say that while it’s not a problem finding younger doctors and support staff to work in clinics in large urban areas like New York City, Los Angeles and Chicago, it is an issue in more conservative places, like upstate New York; smaller Midwestern cities; Southern states, including Texas; and rural areas.

March 11, 2009 in Abortion, Contraception, Culture, Medical News, Women, General | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Georgia Bill That Attempts To Grant Embryonic Rights And Increase IVF Oversight Advances

The Atlanta Journal Constitution: Embryo Rights go too far in Senate (Editorial), by Maureen Downey:

Ga Senate Bill 169 —- the Ethical Treatment of Human Embryos Act —- declares: “A living in vitro human embryo is a biological human being who is not the property of any person or entity.” Should that bill become law, it will halt the embryonic stem cell research in Georgia that offers the promise of curing Alzheimer’s and repairing spinal cord injuries.

More immediately, it will so complicate legal questions around frozen embryos that it could drive in vitro fertilization clinics out of the state, forcing desperate Georgia couples to go out of state as well.

The law’s real intent is to outlaw abortion, a goal its proponents acknowledge. At the hearing, testimony in favor of SB 169 came from Georgia Right to Life, the Georgia Baptist Convention and the Georgia Catholic Conference. While stem cell research may potentially save many lives, those opponents argued it deals a death blow to the embryo itself, which they see as an unconscionable trade-off.

March 11, 2009 in Assisted Reproduction, Bioethics, Fertility, Fetal Rights, State and Local News, State Legislatures, Stem Cell Research | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

FDA Approves New, Lower-Cost Version of Female Condom

Reuters/Center for Health and Gender Equity press release: U.S. Food and Drug Administration Approves New Female Condom:

Female_condom Today, the U.S. Food and Drug
Administration (FDA) granted regulatory approval to the FC2 female condom, a lower-cost, second generation product manufactured by the Female Health Company -- a move widely praised by HIV/AIDS and women's health and rights advocates globally.... 

The female condom is currently the only method available to prevent HIV
infection and unintended pregnancy that is designed for women's initiation.
FDA approval of the FC2 is significant since the new product will sell for
about 30% less than its predecessor, the FC1.  Female condoms have been
relatively expensive in many parts of the world, due to a constellation of
factors including manufacturing costs, bulk purchasing, and government and
donor investment.  Reduction in manufacturing costs, therefore, is one of many
important avenues for making the new female condom more affordable and
accessible to women and men in the U.S. and internationally.

March 10, 2009 in Contraception, President/Executive Branch, Sexually Transmitted Disease | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Senate Restores Affordable Contraception For Community Health Centers and College Clinics

RH Reality Check: And the Beat Goes On: Senate Passes Omnibus, Including Affordable Birth Control Act, by Jodi Jacobson:

Capitol_2 The Senate tonight passed the $410 billion omnibus appropriations bill, originally passed by the House of Representatives two weeks ago. Included in the bill was a provision, known as the "Affordable Birth Control Act," that will make birth control more available and affordable for women who obtain contraceptives at community health centers and college clinics....

Access to contraception has been adversely affected in recent years both by politics and by cost. According to the Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA):

"In 2005, Congress passed the Deficit Reduction Act, which tightened eligibility for nominally priced drugs.  In doing so, Congress inadvertently cut off safety-net providers and every college and university health center from obtaining contraception at a low cost, and passing on those savings to their patients. As a result, women have been paying up to 10 times more each month for basic contraception."

March 10, 2009 in Congress, Contraception | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

President Obama's Reversal of Stem Cell Funding Ban Reflects Administration's Broader Approach to Science

NY Times: Obama Puts His Own Spin on Mix of Science With Politics, by Sheryl Gay Stolberg:

Obama President Obama’s directive on Monday to “guarantee scientific integrity” in federal policy making could have a far-reaching impact, affecting issues as varied as climate change, national security, protection of endangered species and children’s health....

Mr. Obama delighted many scientists and patients by formally announcing that he was overturning the Bush administration’s limits on embryonic stem cell research. But the president also went one step further, issuing a memorandum that sets forth broad parameters for how his administration would choose expert advisers and use scientific data.

The document orders Mr. Obama’s top science adviser to help draft guidelines that will apply to every federal agency. Agencies will be expected to pick science advisers based on expertise, not political ideology, the memorandum said, and will offer whistle-blower protections to employees who expose the misuse or suppression of scientific information.

...During the Bush years, Congressional Democrats and scientists themselves issued report after report asserting that the White House had distorted or suppressed scientific information: including efforts to strip information about condoms from a government Web site and the editing of air quality reports issued by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The Union of Concerned Scientists, for example, maintains an “A to Z” list on its Web site of “case studies” in what it calls the politicization of science under Mr. Bush, like his decision to devote federal money to programs promoting abstinence education despite studies showing that such programs have limited effectiveness....

March 10, 2009 in Politics, President/Executive Branch, Stem Cell Research | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, March 8, 2009

MA Catholic-Affiliated Hospital System Faces Anti-Choice Criticism For Proposal To Join Forces With Secular Organization

Boston Globe: Caritas draws fire on abortion, by Kay Lazar:

Catholic and antiabortion groups in Massachusetts are criticizing a proposal by the Caritas Christi Health Care network, an affiliate of the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, to join forces with a nonreligious health organization that would cover abortions and other "confidential family planning services."

The joint insurance venture with a St. Louis company - part of Caritas's proposed entry into the state's subsidized health program, Commonwealth Care - was unveiled last week and drew protest over the weekend....

State regulators are scheduled to vote March 12 whether to accept the Caritas-Centene bid, as well as four others submitted by companies already providing coverage in the state's subsidized system.

For more on Catholic-affiliated hospitals, religious refusals, and reproductive health services, see this post.


March 8, 2009 in Religion and Reproductive Rights | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Vatican Defends Excommunications Related to Nine-Year-Old Rape Victim's Abortion

NY Times/Agence France-Presse: Vatican Backs Excommunications Stemming From an Abortion

Vatican A senior Vatican cleric on Saturday defended the excommunication of the mother and doctors of a 9-year-old girl who had an abortion in Brazil after being raped. The child was pregnant with twins.

Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, head of the Roman Catholic Church’s Congregation for Bishops, told La Stampa, an Italian daily newspaper, that the case was sad, but that “the real problem is that the twins conceived were two innocent persons, who had the right to live and could not be eliminated.”

The regional archbishop, José Cardoso Sobrinho, excommunicated the mother for authorizing the operation. He also excommunicated the doctors, who carried out the operation for fear that the 80-pound girl would not survive a full-term pregnancy.

March 8, 2009 in Abortion, International, Religion and Reproductive Rights, Teenagers and Children | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)