Thursday, April 30, 2009
Anti-choice activists are resorting to extreme measures to protest Notre Dame's invitation to President Obama to deliver a commencement speech. Women on the Web reports that "Anti-abortion groups, including Randall Terry’s Operation Rescue, have vowed to create a 'circus' surrounding Obama’s May 17 address." A Notre Dame student blogs about seeing a small plane flying over the campus pulling a banner with a graphic photo of an aborted fetus. The Associated Press is also reporting about alumni who have been targeted with letters from Operation Rescue sent to their home addresses.
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
Washington Wire blog (Wall St. Journal): Live-Blogging Obama’s Press Conference, by Susan Davis:
...8:33: Eighth question on abortion, and his support of legislation easing state and local restrictions. “My position on abortion has been very consistent,” he says. His goal is to reduce pregnancies, particularly among teems. Notes he has a taskforce that is working with groups that support and oppose abortion rights to reach consensus. The Freedom of Choice Act “is not my highest legislative priority,” he said. We need to focus on areas where we agree.
The transcript of this portion of the news conference is available here.
Juneau Empire: Alaska students want more sex ed, by Jeremy Hsieh:
News flash: Alaska high schoolers are interested in sex - or at least learning more about it.
The Alaska Association of Student Governments overwhelmingly passed a resolution during their spring conference in Sitka two weeks ago asking for "a mandatory, comprehensive, medically accurate, age-appropriate nine-week sex education course" for all high school students statewide.
"Comprehensive" in this context is the label used in contrast to "abstinence only" varieties of sex education, which some religious or politically conservative parents tend to favor. Because of that and other underlying controversies on the topic, the resolution's authors were unsure of how it would be received.
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
The Caucus (NY Times): Senate Confirms Sebelius as Health Secretary, by Robert Pear:
Senate confirmed with a vote of 65-31 the nomination of Kathleen Sebelius as secretary of health and human services on Tuesday, filling the last vacancy in President Obama’s cabinet with a seasoned politician who will take charge of the fight against swine flu.
Republicans had delayed a vote because of concerns about Ms. Sebelius’s record on abortion as governor of Kansas for the last six years. In addition, some Republicans complained that she and the administration intended to ration health care using the results of research comparing the effectiveness of different drugs and other treatments.
H/T: Nancy Borgmann
Huffington Post: Sebelius Nomination: Palin Supporters Fighting Despite Health Crisis, by Rachel Weiner:
Supporters of Sarah Palin are aiming to derail Health and Human Services nominee Kathleen Sebelius by pressuring Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kansas) to vote against his home state governor. The call to action came from Team Sarah (a social networking group for Palin fans) Tuesday, in spite of a burgeoning swine flu crisis. Last week, Team Sarah called on members to "flood the phone lines of the Senate Finance Committee," demanding votes against Sebelius. That campaign failed -- the committee approved of Sebelius in a 15 to 8 vote.
Wash. Independent: Pro-Life Activists Angry Over GOP Support for Sebelius, by David Weigel:
The battle against Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D-Kans.), President Obama’s nominee to lead the Department of Health and Human Services, has gone better than many pro-life activists had hoped. Yes, it’s true that Sebelius is expected to be confirmed after an eight-hour debate and cloture vote are held in the Senate today. It’s also true that activists have not managed to dislodge the support of Sebelius’s home state senators, Sam Brownback and Pat Roberts, both Republicans — an embarrassing setback that has prevented the Sebelius nomination from becoming quite the abortion rights showdown that they had hoped for. But they can count some small victories.
Politico.com: Specter to switch to Democratic party, by Martin Kady II & John Bresnahan:
Republican Sen. Arlen Specter has decided to switch parties and become a Democrat, stunning his GOP colleagues in the Senate while pushing Democrats and President Barack Obama one step closer to unfettered power in Washington.
Specter had been in secret talks with Senate Democratic leaders for months, according to Senate sources, but his final move to become a Democrat came after a recent poll showed him badly losing a Pennsylvania Republican primary next year. Specter talked with Obama Tuesday morning, and the president said he was "thrilled" to have Specter joining the Democratic side of the aisle. According to White House aides, Obama was handed a note by an aide that read: "Specter is announcing he is changing parties."
Monday, April 27, 2009
NY Times: Justices Could Weigh Free Speech vs. License Plates, by Adam Liptak:
The last time the Supreme Court considered what the First Amendment has to say about license plates was in 1977, when it ruled that New Hampshire could not force George Maynard to drive around with plates bearing the state’s motto, which is “Live Free or Die.”
Mr. Maynard said he was not satisfied with those options. He would, he said, choose life, “even if it meant living in bondage.”
LA Times: College student leads undercover campaign against abortion, by Robin Abcarlan:
The girl's voice in the videotape is tiny and tentative. She is talking to a nursing aide in a Planned Parenthood clinic in Bloomington, Ind. The girl says she wants an abortion.
The aide explains that the girl will need a parent's consent because she is only 13. The girl balks; she does not want to name the father. Her boyfriend, she explains, is 31....
In truth, the boyfriend does not exist. The girl is not pregnant, and she is not 13.
She is Lila Rose, a 20-year-old UCLA student with a plan to expose what many abortion foes think are wrongdoings by Planned Parenthood, which operates about 900 health centers in the U.S.
Since 2006, Rose has orchestrated undercover "stings" at Planned Parenthood clinics in Los Angeles; Indianapolis; Bloomington; Tucson, Ariz.; Phoenix; and Memphis, Tenn....
MSNBC.com: Abortion Foe Declines Notre Dame Award, by Christopher Wilson:
Glendon is staunchly anti-abortion, and she expressed disappointment that Notre Dame was awarding someone -- in this case the president of the United States -- whose position on abortion is so starkly different from Catholic Church's and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops'.
Saturday, April 25, 2009
Kansas City Star editorial: The (mis)labeling of Kathleen Sebelius, by Barb Shelly:
The only thing different was the red-hot spotlight on Sebelius as she awaits U.S. Senate confirmation as health and human services secretary. With the heat on and anti-abortion groups calling for her head, she did the right thing and vetoed this year's flawed bill.
The proposed legislation presented a clear threat to women's privacy by enabling family members to sue if they believed an abortion provider had violated the law. How could you prove a claim like that without airing the women's situation and medical details in legal documents and possibly open court?
See also: NYT/AP: Kansas: Governor Vetoes Abortion Bill
Law Students for Reproductive Justice has announced the following winners of the Fourth Annual Sarah Wedding Writing Prize:
Joanna Nairn (Harvard ’09) was this year’s first-place winner with her piece, Is There a Right to Have Children? Substantive Due Process and Probation Conditions that Restrict Reproductive Rights.
Kelsey Collier-Wise (University of South Dakota School of Law ’09) won second place this year with her piece, Bearing Witness: Looking for Remedies for Forced Sterilization of Indigenous Women.
Papers will soon be posted at www.lsrj.org
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
NY Times: 'Morning After' Pill Cleared for 17-Year-Olds, by Gardiner Harris:
The decision on Wednesday by the Food and Drug Administration, which overturns one of the most controversial health rulings of the Bush administration, was scorned by anti-abortion advocates and hailed by their abortion rights counterparts.
The long-running controversy involving Plan B has had more of a political impact than a public health one. The drug consists of two pills that can prevent conception if taken within 72 hours of sexual intercourse, and is not related to RU-486, the abortion pill. Since 2006, when Plan B became widely available to women 18 and over without a prescription, it has had no measurable effect on the nation’s abortion or teenage pregnancy rates.
Like their older counterparts, 17-year-old women will now be able to go to almost any pharmacy, clinic or hospital and, after showing proof of age, buy Plan B without a prescription. Men 17 and older may also buy Plan B for a partner.
Monday, April 20, 2009
By limiting federal funding to research on stem cells derived from embryos that were created for reproductive purposes and that were slated for disposal, the National Institutes of Health's draft guidelines, issued yesterday, offer an intelligent solution to an issue that demanded great sensitivity. While a decision with such deep moral and ethical considerations shouldn't have been left to scientists alone, the NIH outcome is a good one.
President Obama issued an executive order last month that lifted the ban on federal funding of research on stem cell lines created after Aug. 9, 2001, and he instructed the NIH to develop guidelines for the research. Because stem cells can be transformed into different kinds of cells, scientists (and quite a few hopeful patients and their loved ones) believe them to hold the key to cures for a host of debilitating diseases and conditions, such as Parkinson's. But because stem cell lines are grown from human embryos, many people have ethical or religious objections to their use. President George W. Bush proposed a compromise that limited federal funding to a set of existing stem cell lines. But they proved too few, limiting potential research.
Somehow, Gov. Palin manages to twist the fact that she was able to consider all her options and make her own decision into an argument for denying other women the same autonomy.
Wash. Post: Palin Says She Weighed Abortion, by Garance Franke-Ruta:
Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin told an antiabortion audience in Indiana on Thursday night that, "for a fleeting moment," she considered having an abortion after learning that her son Trig would have Down syndrome.
The experience, she added, "now lets me understand a woman's, a girl's temptation to maybe try to make it all go away."
Ultimately, Palin said, she decided she had to "walk the walk" concerning her long-standing antiabortion views. She avoided using the word "abortion" in her speech, preferring the phrase "change the circumstances."
See also: Wash. Post: Palin's Personal Choice, by Ruth Marcus.
NY Times: Afghan Women Protest New Law on Home Life, by Dexter Filkins:
The law, approved by both houses of Parliament and signed by President Hamid Karzi, applies to the Shiite minority only. Women here and governments and rights groups abroad have protested three parts of the law especially.
Thursday, April 16, 2009
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation: Making the Case for Laws That Improve Health:
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) seeks to build the evidence for and strengthen the use of regulatory, legal and policy solutions to improve public health. The effective application of law—which includes statutes, regulations, case law and policies—is essential to the protection and promotion of the public’s health. As public health practitioners, policy-makers and others consider the use of law as a tool to improve the public’s health, it is important to have evidence to inform questions such as: How does law influence health and health behavior? Which laws have the greatest impact? Can current laws be made more effective through better implementation or amendment?
Preference will be given to those applicant organizations that are either public entities or nonprofit organizations that are tax-exempt under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Applicant organizations must be based in the United States or its territories at the time of application. The focus of this program is the United States; studies in other countries will be considered only to the extent they may directly inform U.S. law and policy.
May 19, 2009 (3 p.m. ET)—Deadline for receipt of brief proposals. Apply Online.
RH Reality Check: Young People Need, Demand Sex Education, by Jane Fonda:
It's about time we make the well-being of our young people more important than ideology and politics. As a country, we benefit from investing in their future by investing in teen pregnancy prevention. Our youth deserve the opportunity to complete their high school and college education, free of early parenthood. Their future children deserve the opportunity to grow up in financially and emotionally stable homes. Our communities benefit from healthy, productive, well-prepared young people.
We can make a difference by advocating for effective sex education. The Title V funding for abstinence-only programs is up for reauthorization by Congress. Since 1982, the US government has allocated $3.6 billion to abstinence only-until-marriage programs and has received a dismal return on its investment. And not surprisingly - these programs have very little evidence of effectiveness. Mathematica Policy Research conducted a national evaluation of abstinence-only programs and its findings show abstinence-only programs have no beneficial impact on whether young people abstain from sex, delay sexual activity, or reduce the number of sexual partners. This lack of evidence demands we take a different approach to sexual health education. The US has the highest teen birth rate of all industrialized nations at 41.9 per 1,000 girls age 15-19. By comparison, the next closest country is the United Kingdom at 26.7 per 1,000.
On Women (US News & World Report blog): Teens and Sex Education at the Doctor's Office, by Deborah Kotz:
I was heartened by a recent story in the Houston Chronicle discussing how some Texas moms concerned about their teens and sex have found a suitable alternative to sex education when their daughters' schools teach only abstinence: the gynecologist. While most of us feel comfortable having the basic birds-and-bees discussion with our girls, these parents rely on a gynecologist to answer the kinds of questions about sex that their daughters may not feel comfortable asking or that they themselves may not know the answers to: Will I gain weight on the pill? Can I get a sexually transmitted disease even if I don't have intercourse? Why is one breast larger than the other?
It may sound strange to take a 13-year-old to the gynecologist, but many moms are doing so these days. Some bring their daughters in for the Gardasil vaccine against the cervical-cancer-causing human papillomavirus. Others figure it's a good transition time from pediatrician to family doctor. In fact, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends a first visit to the gynecologist for those ages 13 to 15 and, in this helpful online pamphlet written for girls, says this visit "may just be a talk between you and your doctor" and won't necessarily involve a pelvic exam.
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
NY Times: Paterson Will Introduce Same-Sex Marriage Bill, by Jeremy W. Peters:
Mr. Paterson’s move, which he first signaled last week after Vermont became the fourth state to allow gay and lesbian couples to wed, reflects the governor’s desire to press the issue with lawmakers in Albany as other states move ahead with efforts to grant more civil rights to homosexuals....
Mr. Paterson has said in recent days that the State Legislature should move ahead now with the legislation regardless of whether it can muster enough votes. His reasoning, which some gay rights advocates have challenged, is that New York should make a statement that it is committed to treating same-sex couples the same way it treats opposite-sex couples.
NY Times: Another Awkward Sex Talk: Respect and Violence, by Perri Klass:
Not long ago, in the clinic, a fellow pediatrician and mother asked whether we were still teaching our sons old-fashioned elevator etiquette: stand back and let the ladies off first.
We all protested that we don’t particularly like it when men pull that elevator stunt — hospital elevators tend to be packed, and the best thing to do if you’re near the door is get out promptly — but we had to admit we thought our adolescent sons should know the drill.
Once you start asking about whether there are special lessons that should be taught to boys, people jump pretty quickly from elevators to sex (or maybe that’s just the crowd I run with). Sex, after all, is a subject on which pediatricians give plenty of advice. And it becomes very tricky to formulate that advice without making some unpleasant assumptions about adolescent sexuality.