Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Gov't Study Shows Benefits of Gardasil, and Some Potential Complications

NY Times: Study on Vaccine for Cervical Cancer Finds Benefits Despite Some Risks, by Roni Caryn Rabin:

The new vaccine designed to protect girls and young women from cervical cancer has a safety record that appears to be in line with that of other vaccines, a government report has found. Some serious complications occurred, including at least 20 deaths and two cases of Lou Gehrig’s disease, but they were not necessarily caused by the vaccine, the study said.

The most common serious complications after vaccination with Gardasil were fainting episodes and an increased risk for potentially fatal blood clots, possibly related to oral contraceptive use and obesity, the study found.

The vaccine has been given to more than seven million girls and young women nationwide and there is no way to prove that complications came from the vaccine. . . .

August 19, 2009 in Medical News, Sexually Transmitted Disease, Teenagers and Children | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Oklahoma Law Requiring Ultrasounds for Abortions Is Struck Down

Wash. Post: Law Requiring Ultrasounds for Abortions Is Struck Down, by Kari Lydersen:

Oklahoma Judge Says Measure Violates State Constitution

An Oklahoma judge decided Tuesday that doctors do not need to perform ultrasounds and offer women detailed information about the tests before performing abortions, striking down the strictest such law in the country.

Oklahoma County District Judge Vicki L. Robertson ruled that the 2008 law, which included other abortion-related provisions, violated a state constitutional provision that requires laws to address only one subject.

Thirteen states regulate the provision of ultrasounds by abortion providers, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive-health think tank. The provisions have been pushed by abortion opponents as a means of deterring women from having the procedures.

The Oklahoma law, which was never enforced, was the first to mandate that any woman seeking an abortion must have an ultrasound and that doctors describe the image in detail, including organs and extremities, even if the woman objects.

A Tulsa clinic run by Nova Health Systems, represented by the New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights, filed a lawsuit charging that the law not only violated the state Constitution's "single-subject" rule but also infringed on a woman's right to privacy, violated her dignity and endangered her health. . . .

August 19, 2009 in Abortion, In the Courts, Mandatory Delay/Biased Information Laws, State and Local News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sex, Pregnancy, and Abortion on U.S. Military Bases

NYT: Living and Fighting Alongside Men, and Fitting In, by Steven Lee Myers:

American flag FORWARD OPERATING BASE WARHORSE, Iraq — There is no mistaking that this dusty, gravel-strewn camp northeast of Baghdad is anything other than a combat outpost in a still-hostile land. And there is no mistaking that women in uniform have had a transformative effect on it.

They have their own quarters, boxy trailers called CHUs (the military’s acronym for containerized housing units, pronounced “chews”).

There are women’s bathrooms and showers, alongside the men’s. Married couples live together. The base’s clinic treats gynecological problems and has, alongside the equipment needed to treat the trauma of modern warfare, an ultrasound machine.

Opponents of integrating women in combat zones long feared that sex would mean the end of American military prowess. But now birth control is available — the PX at Warhorse even sold out of condoms one day recently — reflecting a widely accepted reality that soldiers have sex at outposts across Iraq.

This article talks about the increasing prevalence of sex at military outposts, and the "personnel disruptions" that occur when pregnant women are sent off-base immediately.  It is utterly silent on the Congressionally imposed lack of abortion access on U.S. miltary bases, however.  I address that in this letter to the NYT today.

August 19, 2009 in Abortion Bans, Congress, Contraception, Pregnancy & Childbirth | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Study Shows Young People Need Better HIV Education

Lesbian & Gay Foundation: Research reveals need for better HIV education for young people:

Over half the world's teenagers ignorant to HIV risks

A study by the international student organisation AIESEC has revealed that half of the world's teenagers admit to being ignorant about HIV risks.

The research, involved 1,566 young people from 99 countries, and showed that one in three youngsters apparently do not believe using protection stops the spread of sexually transmitted infections.

The results of the study highlight the need for improved health messages and sex education targeted at all young people from governments, parents and teachers.

August 18, 2009 in Reproductive Health & Safety, Sexuality Education, Sexually Transmitted Disease, Teenagers and Children | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Justice Sotomayor Casts Her First Supreme Court Vote

LA Times: Sonia Sotomayor casts first Supreme Court vote, supporting a stay of execution, by George G. Savage:

Newly seated Justice Sonia Sotomayor has cast her first recorded vote on the Supreme Court, joining a dissent by three liberal justices to stop a pending execution in Ohio.

The full court turned down the last-minute appeal from lawyers for Jason Getsy late Monday evening by a 5-4 vote.

Getsy, 33 and a convicted hit man, is scheduled to die by lethal injection at 8 a.m. Pacific time today.

In a 1995 murder-for-hire attack, Getsy shot Charles Serafino seven times, though the victim survived. Ann Serafino, his mother, was killed in the shooting.

No one questioned Getsy's guilt, but his lawyers argued he should be spared because other participants in the murder-for-hire plot, including its architect, John Santine, did not receive the death penalty. . . .

August 18, 2009 in In the Courts, Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, August 17, 2009

Staying Neutral: Abortion Coverage and Health Care Reform

Wall Street Journal: Keeping Health Reform Neutral on Abortion, by Steven Waldman:

Lost in the vitriol about health care is a surprising development: pro-life and pro-choice leaders say they don't intend to use health reform to shift the balance of power in their direction. Many activists on both sides say any big changes to health care should maintain the status quo in the abortion stalemate.

Less surprisingly, while both sides agree on that goal, they look at the same words in the same bills and come to opposite conclusions about what they mean. For instance, the bill passed by the House Energy and Commerce Committee declares, "Nothing in this Act shall be construed as preventing the public health insurance option from providing for or prohibiting coverage" for abortion in the "public option." Pro-choicers say that this neither-this-nor-that language is self-evidently neutral. Pro-life activists argue that since abortion "could" be covered, it will be covered.

My personal view: the legislation passed by the House Energy and Commerce Committee does not mandate abortion coverage, as pro-life groups claim, but does leave open the possibility that the government might pay for abortion. . . . 

August 17, 2009 in Abortion, Congress, Politics | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

"Family Guy" Cast Members Perform Reading of Nixed Abortion-Themed Episode

Wash. Post: 'Family Guy' Channels Controversy Onstage, by Emily Yahr:

Picture of TV LOS ANGELES, Aug. 13 -- Several weeks after "Family Guy" creator Seth MacFarlane announced that the Fox network refuses to air an abortion-themed episode -- on a series best known for combining controversial topics with off-color jokes -- the puzzle remained: How offensive could it possibly be?

"It's not as bad as you think," MacFarlane promised a group of reporters and TV Academy members Wednesday night at the Ricardo Montalbán Theatre in Hollywood, right before he and his cast members, including Mila Kunis and Alex Borstein, launched into a live table reading of what he called the "infamous abortion episode."

There's been a mystique surrounding MacFarlane's unaired opus -- that it would violate taste boundaries that even Fox, which once let loose "Osbournes: Reloaded" and "Temptation Island," had never dared to cross. But MacFarlane's shrugging assessment proved largely on the mark. Only a few jokes, all very much unprintable, caused audible gasps and demonstrated the episode is not TV-safe. . . . 

August 17, 2009 in Abortion, In the Media | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

The Cost of Raising a Child

Time Magazine: Raising a Child Costs Some $221,000, Before College, by Nancy Gibbs:

This is the time of year — second only to December, maybe — when we're reminded how much kids cost. It's nice when states suspend their sales tax for a week of back-to-school shopping, but it doesn't change the fact that somehow we have to start over in September: new sneakers, new notebooks, maybe a new lunch box, because SpongeBob is so last season. Even in hard times, economists have found, children are "recession resistant." As investments, they are living proof of irrational exuberance, a leading indicator of our loss of fiscal discipline. offers a calculator to help determine the cost of raising a child; I wonder how great a deterrent this represents. It uses figures from an annual report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which I suppose would be the expert in growing corn — or kids. This year's report says a typical family will spend about $221,000 raising a child through age 17; that's 21% more than families spent the year I was born. Food and clothing are cheaper now, but housing and health care cost more. . . . 

August 17, 2009 in Parenthood, Teenagers and Children | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, August 14, 2009

Jonathan Klick, et al., on Abortion Liberalization and Sexual Behavior

Jonathan Klick (Penn Law), Sven Neelsen (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute for Economic Research), and Thomas Stratmann (George Mason University) have posted The Effect of Abortion Liberalization on Sexual Behavior: International Evidence on SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

Most industrialized countries have increased access to abortion over the past 30 years. Economic theory predicts that abortion laws affect sexual behavior since they change the marginal cost of having risky sex. We use gonorrhea incidence as a metric of risky sexual behavior. Using a panel of 41 North American, European and Central Asian countries over the period 1980-2000, we estimate the impact of abortion law reform on risky sex. Compared to the most restrictive legislation that permits abortion only to save the pregnant woman’s life or her physical health, more liberal abortion laws are associated with at least thirty additional gonorrhea cases per 100,000 individuals. The marginal effect of laws which make abortion available on request is larger than the effect of laws which allow abortion on socioeconomic and mental health grounds. Our results are robust against a set of alternative sample constructions and model specifications.

August 14, 2009 in Abortion, Abortion Bans, International, Scholarship and Research, Sexually Transmitted Disease | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

"Pro-Life Majority" Disappears in New Gallup Poll

Time Magazine: About That Pro-Life Majority . . ., by Amy Sullivan:

You may remember that back in May, Gallup released a poll showing that for the first time, a majority of Americans in their survey described themselves as "pro-life" rather than "pro-choice." The results represented a fairly dramatic flip in abortion numbers--51 to 42, when just six months earlier the spread had been a 50 to 44 pro-choice majority....

Now along comes a follow-up poll from Gallup and whaddya know, the much ballyhooed pro-life majority seems to have disappeared. The percentages of Americans calling themselves "pro-life" and "pro-choice" are essentially the same (47% for pro-life; 46% for pro-choice). Meanwhile, the positions they hold--a more useful indicator than the labels people choose for themselves--haven't budged. A solid 78% think abortion should be legal in some or all circumstances....

Gallup's most recent poll results are available here.

August 14, 2009 in Abortion, Public Opinion | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

TwitterBirth: Micro-Blogging Childbirth

Broadsheet ( The miracle of birth in 140 characters or less, by Lynn Harris:

A woman Twitters her way through the delivery room: #toomuchinformation?

Back in the old days (2005), we raised our brows over the trendlet of inviting people, people other than doctors and doulas and daddies, to witness the miracle of childbirth. Friends, in-laws, colleagues: live, right there in the delivery room. Pull up a birthing chair!

Now, through the miracle of YouTube, said guests no longer have to worry about what to wear to an epidural. They can watch the birth -- or not -- from the comfort of their own iBook.

But today, of course, even that is old-school. I mean, it's not even live! Welcome to the micro-trend of micro-blogging the blessed event in real time -- otherwise known as #twitterbirth.

As CNN recently reported, Sara Williams -- wife of Twitter CEO Evan Williams -- herself tweeted during labor and delivery ("Timing contractions on an iPhone app."). . . . 

August 14, 2009 in Culture, Pregnancy & Childbirth | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Student Scholarship: Racial Classification in Assisted Reproduction

Dov Fox (Yale 2010) has posted Racial Classification in Assisted Reproduction on SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

This Note considers the moral status of practices that facilitate parental selection of sperm donors according to race. Arguments about intentions and consequences cannot convincingly explain the race-conscious design of donor catalogs. This prompts us to examine the expressive dimension of wrongful discrimination. Even practices marked by innocent motives and benign effects can give reason for pause when they needlessly entrench divisive assumptions about how people of a particular race think or act. Race-based differentiation in voting ballots, dating websites, and donor catalogs helps us to tease out the subtle normative tensions that racial preferences occasion in the contexts of citizenship, romance, and reproduction. These reflections suggest that racially salient forms of donor disclosure are pernicious social practices, which, while operating beyond the reach of the law, ought to be condemned as bad policy. The Note concludes by developing reproductive choice-structuring mechanisms that aim to balance respect for intimacy, autonomy, and expressions of racial identity with responsibility to work against conditions that divide us.

August 13, 2009 in Assisted Reproduction, Parenthood, Race & Reproduction | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Myth and Fact in the Debate About Abortion and Health Care Reform

NPR: Abortion In The Health Care Bills: What's True?

Melissa Block speaks with Robert Farley, staff writer for, about what is being said regarding abortion in the health care bills before Congress, and whether the claims are true or not.

Click on the link to listen to the segment or read the transcript.

August 12, 2009 in Abortion, Congress | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Judge Rules on Challenge to ND Ultrasound Law

KFYR TV (Bismarck, ND): Judge Rules on ND Abortion Dispute:

A judge says North Dakota`s only abortion clinic does not have to provide audio of a fetal heartbeat for women who want to end their pregnancies.

Judge Douglas Herman ruled today in a challenge to a new state law. It requires the Red River Women`s Clinic to offer patients ultrasound images of their fetuses at least 24 hours before they have an abortion.

The law also says women must have a chance to listen to the fetal heartbeat.

Opponents of the provision said it was confusing. Herman`s ruling says the clinic has to tell patients the audio may be available. But the judge says the clinic doesn`t have to provide the audio itself.

August 12, 2009 in Abortion, In the Courts, Mandatory Delay/Biased Information Laws, State and Local News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

New Revelations on What Takes Place in a Baby's Head

Slate Magazine: What's Inside a Big Baby Head?, by Paul Bloom:

New research brings surprising revelations

What's going on inside a baby's bulbous head? We ask the same question about our pets, but the frustrating thing about babies is that we once knew: We all once looked out at the world through those adorably large baby eyes.

In The Philosophical Baby, Alison Gopnik writes that developmental psychologist John Flavell once told her that he would give up all his degrees and honors for just five minutes in the head of a 2-year-old. I would give up a month of my life for those five minutes—and two months for five minutes as an infant.

In the absence of magic, we are left with the imperfect tools of developmental psychology—observation and experiment, hypothesis and guesswork. The science of baby consciousness is a central topic of Gopnik's new book. One of the most prominent researchers in the field, Gopnik is also one of the finest writers, with a special gift for relating scientific research to the questions that parents and others most want answered. This is where to go if you want to get into the head of a baby....

August 12, 2009 in Scholarship and Research | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Clinton Unveils Plan to Fight Sexual Violence in Congo

NY Times: Clinton Describes Plan to Fight Sexual Violence in Congo, by JEFFREY GETTLEMAN and SHARON OTTERMAN:

GOMA, Congo — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton unveiled a $17 million plan on Tuesday to fight the widespread sexual violence in eastern Congo, a problem she said was “evil in its basest form.”

Speaking during an unprecedented visit by an American secretary of state to Goma, in the epicenter of Congo’s war-torn east, she said the American government would help train gynecologists, supply rape victims with video cameras to document violence and send military engineers to help train Congolese police officers to crack down on rapists....

Eastern Congo has been awash in bloodshed for more than a decade, and it is now going through another horrific period. Recent Congo-Rwanda military operations along the volatile border have provoked revenge attacks and driven more than 500,000 people from their homes. Dozens of villages of have been burned, hundreds of villagers massacred and countless women raped. Since 1998, more than five million people throughout the in Congo are estimated to have died, and hundreds of thousands of women sexually assaulted. Rapes of men have begun to increase as well.

August 11, 2009 in International, President/Executive Branch, Sexual Assault | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, August 10, 2009

VA Dem. Gubernatorial Candidate to Attack Opponent's Anti-Choice Views

Wash. Post: Deeds to Wage Risky Attack On Opponent's Abortion Views, by Rosalind S. Helderman & Sandhya Somashekhar:

Virginia Democratic gubernatorial candidate R. Creigh Deeds will launch a campaign this week to portray his opponent's longtime efforts to restrict abortion as out of the mainstream, a potentially risky strategy for a Democrat in the once solidly conservative state.

Deeds (Bath), a state senator who supports abortion rights, said he will join female supporters in Annandale on Monday for the first of three events across the state where he will argue that Republican Robert F. McDonnell devoted too much of his 17 years in public office working to limit access to abortions. McDonnell has said he is against abortion in every instance, including rape and incest, except when the life of the mother is in danger.

August 10, 2009 in Abortion, Politics, State and Local News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

"Abortion Neutral" Health Care Reform?

Huffington Post: Abortion and Health Care Reform: A Common Ground Solution?, by Chris Korzen:

Before leaving for August recess, the House Energy and Commerce Committee adopted an amendment to proposed health care reform legislation that raises hopes of a detente in ongoing tensions over abortion funding. The amendment, put forth by California Democrat Lois Capps, clearly states that federal funds cannot be used to pay for so-called "elective" abortions, ensures that private plans participating in a proposed regional health care exchange system will neither be prohibited from nor required to pay for abortion services, prohibits the preemption of state abortion laws (such as those requiring parental notification and consent), and extends existing conscience protections to health care providers participating in the exchange. It also attempts to chart a common ground course by requiring at least one plan in each regional exchange to include, and one not to include, abortion coverage.

The Energy and Commerce Committee's decision came as both sides of the abortion debate voiced support for "abortion neutral" health care reform -- that is, in order to reach consensus on the larger issues, reform ought to preserve policies that are currently in effect regarding federal support for abortion services. While the Capps Amendment does make significant progress toward common ground, some important questions still remain. For instance, does abortion neutrality really serve as an adequate standard to gauge common ground in the health care debate? Does the Capps Amendment really constitute abortion neutrality? And how do we define abortion neutrality in areas where federal precedent does not exist?

August 10, 2009 in Abortion, Congress | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Some Highly Developed Countries See Rise in Fertility

Wash. Post: In Reversal, Highly Developed Nations See Rise in Fertility, by Rob Stein:

For decades, the rate at which women were having babies in many of the world's most highly developed countries slowly declined.

While the trend cheered some environmentalists worried about overpopulation, it stoked increasing concern among policymakers, demographers and social scientists about the long-term impact on societies as their populations aged and sometimes began to shrink.

Now, however, new research has produced the first glimmer of hope that economic prosperity may not be linked to an inexorable decline in fertility. The new analysis has found that in many countries, once a nation achieves an especially high level of development, women appear to start having more babies again.

August 10, 2009 in Fertility, International | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Jim Hawkins on Fertility Clinic Doctors as Bankers

Jim Hawkins (University of Houston Law Center) has posted Doctors as Bankers: Evidence from Fertility Markets on SSRN. Here is the abstract:

Jim Hawkins In a variety of medical contexts, doctors play a prominent role as bankers, lending directly to patients or arranging for patients to obtain loans from third party lenders. This Article offers evidence of this activity from fertility markets based on an empirical study of virtually every fertility clinics’ website in the United States and on interviews with key market participants. I find that doctors play an important role in patients’ decisions about credit, discussing credit with patients and even recommending and promoting specific lenders to patients while excluding consideration of other potential lenders.

Despite the prevalence of this conduct, the law does not generally regulate doctors as bankers. Patients are largely left unprotected by current regulations, but they face significant problems when doctors act as bankers. Patients, vulnerable to their physicians’ suggestions, often uncritically accept financial advice from their doctor. Instead of shopping for the best loan, they take the loan their doctor selects for them. But, doctors face a conflict of interest when choosing which lender to recommend because different lenders charge physicians different amounts when patients pay with loans. Also, patients are often left confused when doctors present piecemeal information about lenders, and patients end up taking out loans with unfavorable terms.

In light of these problems, I offer a potential regulatory framework to regulate doctors acting as bankers. I suggest that regulations should require doctors to disclose the basic loan information that the Truth in Lending Act currently requires that lenders disclose. Moreover, policymakers should require physicians to disclose the financial arrangement between themselves and the lenders they recommend and, if they recommend lenders, to recommend at least three potential lenders to patients to encourage price shopping.

August 10, 2009 in Fertility, Scholarship and Research | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)