Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Pros and Cons of Circumcision

Philippine Congress Considers Measure to Expand Access to Birth Control

NY Times: Birth Control Bill Has Enemies in Philippines, by Carlos H. Conde:

Philippine Abortion is illegal in the Philippines, though birth control and related health services have long been available to those who can afford to pay for them through the private medical system. But 70 percent of the population is too poor and depends on heavily subsidized care through the public health system. In 1991, prime responsibility for delivering public health services shifted from the central government to the local authorities, who have broad discretion over which services are dispensed. Many communities responded by making birth control unavailable.

More recently, however, family planning advocates have been making headway in their campaign to change this. Legislation before the Philippine Congress, called the Reproductive Health and Population Development Act, would require governments down to the local level to provide free or low-cost reproductive health services — from condoms and birth control pills to tubal ligation and vasectomy. It would also mandate sex education in all schools, public and private, from fifth grade through high school.

October 28, 2009 in Contraception, International, Poverty, Religion and Reproductive Rights, Reproductive Health & Safety, Sexuality Education, Sterilization | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Advocates in Maine Fight to Keep Same-Sex Marriage Law

NY Times: Focus of Gay-Marriage Fight Is Maine, by Abby Goodnough:

Maine Flag Gay pride Supporters of the marriage law, which the Legislature approved in  May, have far more money and ground troops than opponents, who have been led by the Roman Catholic Church. Yet most polls show the two sides neck and neck, suggesting that gay couples here, as in California last year, could lose the right to marry just six months after they gained it.

Although Maine’s population is a tiny fraction of California’s and the battle here has been comparatively low profile, it comes at a crucial point in the same-sex marriage movement. Still reeling from last year’s defeat in California, gay-rights advocates say a defeat here could further a perception that only judges and politicians embrace same-sex marriage.

If Maine’s law is upheld, however, it would be the movement’s first victory at the ballot box; voters in about 30 states have banned same-sex marriage.

Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts and Vermont allow gay couples to marry, but courts and legislatures, not voters, made it possible.

October 28, 2009 in Politics, Sexuality, State and Local News, State Legislatures | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Two Missouri Abortion-Related Ballot Initiatives Are Approved for Circulation

Kansas City Star: Two Missouri ballot initiatives on abortion-related issues OK'd, by Jason Noble:

Balllor JEFFERSON CITY | Two ballot initiatives concerning abortion were approved for circulation this week by the Missouri secretary of state.

One of the proposals would prohibit state and local governments from providing funds to medical facilities for some research and services, including abortion and certain types of stem-cell research.

The other would define the term “person” to include all human beings from the beginning of biological development and grant such persons constitutional rights. Advocates and opponents of the initiative say the change would ban abortion.

Both initiatives would change the state constitution. To get them on the ballot for a statewide popular vote, supporters must gather signatures from at least 8 percent of voters in six of the nine Congressional districts — about 150,000 signatures.

October 28, 2009 in Abortion Bans, Anti-Choice Movement, Fetal Rights, State and Local News, Stem Cell Research | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Women of Color Advocate for Health Care Reform

National Latina Institute: National Latina Institute and Women of Color United Demand Demand Health Care Reform Now, by Samantha Harper:

NLIRH Concerned women of color from around the country are sounding off on health care reform this Tuesday, October 27 in a national Congressional call-in day organized by the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (NLIRH) and other members of the Women of Color United for Health Reform. Activists are urged to call Congress and demand passage of a health care bill that ensures access to high-quality, affordable and easily accessible comprehensive health care for all.

“Latinas are the fastest growing segment of small-business owners, yet nearly 40% of us are uninsured. Women, particularly Latinas, and immigrants are being treated as negotiating chips in health care debates,” said Silvia Henriquez, executive director of NLIRH. “The health of women is vital to the health of our families and this nation.”

Working in coalition with social justice groups and communities of color, NLIRH has put forward a policy agenda that advocates for the inclusion of comprehensive coverage for reproductive health care services, including cervical cancer screenings, breast exams, contraception, and abortion access, for all residents in the United States.

October 27, 2009 in Abortion, Congress, Contraception, Politics, Race & Reproduction, Reproductive Health & Safety, Women, General | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

For Children Who Flee or Are Kicked out of their Homes, Sex Is Often the Cost of Survival

NY Times: For Runaways, Sex Buys Survival, by Ian Urbina:

Running in the Shadows
. . . Most of the estimated 1.6 million children who run away each year return home within a week. But for those who do not, the desperate struggle to survive often means selling their bodies.

Nearly a third of the children who flee or are kicked out of their homes each year engage in sex for food, drugs or a place to stay, according to a variety of studies published in academic and public health journals. But this kind of dangerous barter system can quickly escalate into more formalized prostitution, when money changes hands. . . . 

October 27, 2009 in Current Affairs, In the Media, Teenagers and Children | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Republican Obstructionism on Pres. Obama's Judicial Nominees

Slate Magazine: The Bench in Purgatory, by Doug Kendall:

It's still early in President Obama's first term, but not too soon to conclude that the president's effort to "put the confirmation wars [for judges] behind us" is not going well. Only three of his 22 lower court nominees have been confirmed so far. The latest one, Roberto Lange for a federal district court in South Dakota, was cleared last week after waiting for three and a half months (including three weeks on the floor). The slow pace of the president's nominations is part of the problem. But the larger issue is a new form of obstructionism in the Senate.

It seems clear that Senate Republicans are prepared to take the partisan war over the courts into uncharted territory—delaying up-or-down votes on the Senate floor for even the most qualified and uncontroversial of the president's judicial nominees. If this continues, it will worsen an already serious problem of vacancies on the federal courts. And it will discourage from ever entering the confirmation process precisely the type of nominees both parties should want.

Over the past several decades, senators in both parties have used an escalating set of procedural tactics to block confirmations, particularly near the end of an out-going president's term in office. To date, however, the tit-for-tat game has played out within a fairly narrow category of nominees who are deemed controversial. While there has never been an agreed-upon definition of what that means—it's an eye-of-the-beholder type of thing—there has consistently been a large category of nominees that are not considered controversial. They have typically made it easily through the Senate confirmation process, no matter how rough the ride is for their controversial counterparts. . . .

October 27, 2009 in Congress, In the Courts, President/Executive Branch | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, October 26, 2009

Anti-Choice Activists to Auction Anti-Abortion Memorabilia to Raise Funds for Man Charged with Murdering Dr. Tiller

Kansas City Star: Online auction to raise funds in Scott Roeder case, by Judy L. Thomas:

An Army of God manual. A prison cookbook compiled by a woman doing time for abortion clinic bombings and arsons. An autographed bullhorn.

These are among the items that abortion foes plan to auction on eBay and other Web sites in a fundraiser for Scott Roeder, the Kansas City man charged with killing Wichita abortion doctor George Tiller.

“This is unique,” said Regina Dinwiddie, a Kansas City anti-abortion activist who will sign the bullhorn. “Nobody’s ever done this before. The goal is that everybody makes money for Scott Roeder’s defense.”

One abortion-rights leader called the auction deplorable and said it could lead to more violence.

October 26, 2009 in Anti-Choice Movement | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Anti-Abortion, "Personhood" Ballot Initiative May Energize Nevada Democrats

Las Vegas Sun: Anti-abortion bid may have unintended effect, by David McGrath Schwartz:

Nevada flag The biggest fans of social conservative Richard Ziser’s newly filed anti-abortion ballot initiative might be Nevada Democrats facing the ballot in 2010.

With the top of the party’s ticket likely to be the uncharismatic duo of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and his son, gubernatorial candidate and Clark County Commission Chairman Rory Reid, political observers say an issue like abortion could mobilize the Democratic base.

“The top of the Democratic ticket right now doesn’t inspire a lot of enthusiasm,” said Erik Herzik, professor of political science at University of Nevada, Reno. “If you throw in a red meat issue like abortion rights, it will activate the progressives and the second-tier voters in a way they weren’t before.

“This is a gift to the Democratic Party.”

October 26, 2009 in Abortion, Abortion Bans, Politics, State and Local News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

South Korean Court Finds Stem Cell Scientist Guilty of Research Fraud

ABC News/BBC: Stem cell scientist guilty of research fraud:

Stem cell A South Korean court has given a suspended two-year jail sentence to disgraced stem cell scientist Hwang Woo-suk after finding him guilty of fraud in a case that shocked the global scientific community.

His work raised hopes of finding cures for diseases such as Alzheimers, but three years ago an investigation found some of his work had been faked.

After a long legal process, a court of law has now found him guilty of using his fabricated research to embezzle state funds, some of which it says were diverted for his personal use.

October 26, 2009 in In the Courts, International, Stem Cell Research | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Katherine Pratt on Federal Tax Law and Deductions for Fertility Treatment Costs

Katherine Pratt (Loyola Law School - Los Angeles) has posted Deducting the Costs of Fertility Treatment: Implications of Magdalin v. Commissioner for Opposite-Sex Couples, Gay and Lesbian Same-Sex Couples, and Single Women and Men on SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

Pratt This Article considers whether federal tax law permits taxpayers to deduct medical expenses (or exclude flexible spending account reimbursements) for fertility treatment costs, including the costs of in vitro fertilization (IVF), egg donor, and surrogate procedures. Magdalin v. Commissioner (December 2008) calls into question the deductibility of IVF, egg donor, and surrogacy costs, and, perhaps unintentionally, the deductibility of the costs of various other types of reproductive medical care (e.g., sterilizations, birth control pills, legal abortions, and vasectomies). This Article explores the tax implications of the case for infertile and fertile taxpayers, including opposite-sex married and unmarried couples, gay and lesbian same-sex couples, and single women and men. The case indicates that the tax deductibility of fertility treatment costs turns on: (1) whether the taxpayer (or “his spouse”) has been diagnosed with “medical” infertility; (2) how we constitute “the body,” “of” “the taxpayer, his spouse, or dependents;” (3) the taxpayer’s sex, marital status, and sexual orientation; and (4) what the IRS and judges implicitly consider to be “natural” or “normal” reproduction. As the case illustrates, most legal discourse - including tax discourse - regarding assisted reproductive technologies assumes that: (1) the need for fertility treatment arises because of medical infertility; (2) women, not men, are infertile; and (3) fertility treatment is undertaken to allow an opposite-sex married couple to bear a child in the context of a traditional nuclear family. This Article also addresses the taxpayer’s argument that the status-based distinctions in section 213 are unconstitutional, discusses the circumstances in which section 213 does and does not aggregate “bodies,” and notes the ways in which law constitutes “the body,” based on notions of what is “natural” or “normal.”

October 26, 2009 in Assisted Reproduction, Fertility, Scholarship and Research | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Hope Lewis on FGM and FGC as a Violation of Human Rights

Hope Lewis (Northeastern University School of Law) has posted Female Genital Mutilation and Female Genital Cutting on SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) or Female Genital Cutting (FGC) refers to a range of harmful traditional practices performed on infants, girls, and women in certain ethnic groups. This article, published in The Encyclopedia of Human Rights (David Forsythe, et al, ed., Oxford University Press, 2009) discusses the practices in the context of international human rights law. FGM-FGC, violates a number of international human rights standards, including the right to bodily integrity, the right to life, the right to the highest attainable standard of health, the rights of children, and the rights of women and girls to equality and non-discrimination. Nevertheless, the practices have been difficult to eliminate because they are often deeply-rooted in cultural (but not religious) norms. The article discusses historical and contemporary indigenous and cross-cultural movements to end FGM-FGC.

October 25, 2009 in Culture, International, Scholarship and Research, Women, General | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Rep. Patrick Kennedy Criticizes Catholic Church Over Health Care Reform Stance

Boston Globe: Kennedy spars with church on abortion, by Milton J. Valencia:

Patrick Kennedy The late Senator Edward M. Kennedy seemed to mend his differences with the Catholic Church just before his death. But less than two months later, his youngest son has plunged into a firestorm of controversy with the church.

In strong rhetoric, US Representative Patrick Kennedy of Rhode Island and Bishop Thomas J. Tobin of the Providence Diocese have exchanged nasty comments over abortion and proposals for a health care overhaul in Washington, D.C. Kennedy is a strong supporter of health care overhaul, even if it includes public funding for abortion services, while the Catholic Church opposes the abortion component.

In a statement released yesterday, Tobin lashed out at Kennedy, a son of one of the nation’s most prominent Catholic families, for incendiary remarks the congressman made in an interview about abortion.

Kennedy, speaking in support of a public option for a proposed universal health care plan, told Catholic News Service in an article posted Thursday that he found it perplexing that the church would oppose the health insurance plan.

October 25, 2009 in Abortion, Congress, Politics, Religion and Reproductive Rights | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Bernard Dickens on Religious Refusals to Provide Medical Care

Bernard Dickens (University of Toronto Faculty of Law) has posted Legal Protection and Limits of Conscientious Objection: When Conscientious Objection is Unethical on SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

Bernard Dickens The right to conscientious objection is founded on human rights to act according to individuals' religious and other conscience. Domestic and international human rights laws recognize such entitlements. Healthcare providers cannot be discriminated against, for instance in employment, on the basis of their beliefs. They are required, however, to be equally respectful of rights to conscience of patients and potential patients. They cannot invoke their human rights to violate the human rights of others.

There are legal limits to conscientious objection. Laws in some jurisdictions unethically abuse religious conscience by granting excessive rights to refuse care. In general, healthcare providers owe duties of care to patients that may conflict with their refusal of care on grounds of conscience. The reconciliation of patients' rights to care and providers' rights of conscientious objection is in the duty of objectors in good faith to refer their patients to reasonably accessible providers who are known not to object.

Conscientious objection is unethical when healthcare practioners treat patients only as a means to their own spiritual ends. Practitioners who would place their own spiritual or other interests above their patients' healthcare interests have a conflict of interest, which is unethical if not appropriately declared.

Professor Dickens has also published an op-ed, Unethical Protection of Conscience: Defending the Powerful against the Weak, in the American Medical Association's journal, Virtual Mentor:

In “The Personal is Political, the Professional is Not: Conscientious Objection to Obtaining/Providing/Acting on Genetic Information,” Joel Frader and Charles L. Bosk make a compelling argument that the invocation of personal conscience violates medical professional ethics. They believe that provisions like those in new federal legislation and regulations that prohibit discrimination against health care professionals who refuse to provide services or referrals on religious or moral grounds violate medical ethics.

The rules on protection of conscience issued by the federal Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) were given legal effect January 20, 2009, as a final gesture of the Bush administration, and are now under review by the Obama administration. They were proposed under three laws: the Weldon Amendment, named after former Representative Dave Weldon (R-FL), which amends the HHS Appropriations Act; section 245 of the Public Health Service Act, signed by President Clinton in 1996; and the Church Amendments, named after former Senator Frank Church (D-ID), and enacted following the Supreme Court’s 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade to ensure that physicians and hospitals were not required to perform abortions or sterilizations as a condition of receipt of federal funds. At least seven states and two abortion-rights groups are in federal court claiming that the Bush administration provisions are unconstitutional on the grounds that they interfere with state laws guaranteeing access to abortion-related and comparable health care services.

The protection that the federal provisions offer is glaringly at odds with the self-sacrifice that has characterized the four historically reputable professions, namely medicine, religious ministry, the profession of arms, and the law. . . . 

October 24, 2009 in Religion and Reproductive Rights, Scholarship and Research | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Religious Refusals Asserted in Ever-Wider Range of Medical Scenarios

USA Today: Conscience clauses not just about abortion anymore, by Adelle M. Banks:

Rosaries in hands WASHINGTON — Faced with a request to give an unmarried female patient a prescription for birth control pills, Dr. Michele Phillips looked to her conscience for the answer.

"I'm not going to give any kind of medication I see as harmful," said Phillips of San Antonio. The drugs would not protect her patient from "emotional trauma from multiple partners," Phillips reasoned, or sexually transmitted diseases. "I could not ethically give that type of medication to a single woman."

After the evangelical Christian refused to write the prescription, she resigned her position. She now does contract work at a faith-based practice that permits her to "prescribe according to my ethical values."

October 24, 2009 in Bioethics, Religion and Reproductive Rights | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

State Court Temporarily Blocks Oklahoma Law Requiring Online Posting of Abortion Patient Data

LA Times: Judge bars restrictive Oklahoma abortion law requiring online posting of patient data, by Robin Abcarian:

Gavel & flag While Californians mull whether a fetus is a person, a state judge has temporarily blocked enforcement of a new Oklahoma law that would require doctors to report detailed information about abortion patients, which would then be posted online.

The law, passed by a solid majority of the Oklahoma Legislature, would require physicians to report such information as age, marital status, race, number of children, education level and the mother’s relationship to the father. It would also require the reason for the abortion, the cost and the type of payment used. Names of patients would not be included in information that would be posted online by the state’s health department, but abortion rights advocates say because Oklahoma is such a small state it would not be difficult to identify some patients. Abortion rights advocates say the law would violate the privacy of patients and is an attempt to dissuade women from seeking abortions.

. . . A hearing in the case is scheduled for Dec. 4.

October 24, 2009 in Abortion, In the Courts, State and Local News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Mark Strasser on Distribution of Embryos Upon Divorce

Mark Strasser (Capital University Law School) has posted You Take the Embryos But I Get the House (and the Business): Recent Trends in Awards Involving Embryos Upon Divorce on SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

Mark Strasser More and more couples must decide what to do with frozen embryos upon divorce. This article discusses the developing jurisprudence, comparing different approaches adopted or suggested in various jurisdictions. The article concludes that while the enforceable agreement approach has its own difficulties, it is far preferable to some of the other approaches currently proposed or adopted.

October 24, 2009 in Bioethics, Scholarship and Research | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, October 23, 2009

Senate Approves Bill to Protect Victims of Gender- or Sexual-Orientation-Based Hate Crimes

NY Times: Senate Approves Broadened Hate Crime-Crime Measure, by David Stout:

Flag The Senate voted Thursday to extend new federal protections to people who are victims of violent crime because of their sex or sexual orientation, bringing the measure close to reality after years of fierce debate.

The 68-to-29 vote sends the legislation to President Obama, who has said he supports it.

The measure, attached to an essential military-spending bill, broadens the definition of federal hate crimes to include those committed because of a victim’s gender or gender identity, or sexual orientation. It gives victims the same federal safeguards already afforded to people who are victims of violent crimes because of their race, color, religion or national origin...

Opponents argued to no avail that the new measure was unnecessary in view of existing laws and might interfere with local law enforcement agencies. Senator  Jim DeMint, Republican of South Carolina, said he agreed that hate crimes were terrible. “That’s why they are already illegal,” Mr. DeMint said, asserting that the new law was a dangerous, even “Orwellian” step toward “thought crime....”

The Senate action came two weeks after the House approved the measure, 281 to 146, and would give the federal government the authority to prosecute violent, antigay crimes when local authorities failed to.

The measure would also allocate $5 million a year to the Justice Department to assist local communities in investigating hate crimes, and it would allow the agency to assist in investigations and prosecutions if local agencies requested help.

October 23, 2009 in Congress, Politics, Sexuality, Women, General | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

American Cancer Society Rethinks Breast Cancer Screenings

NY Times: Cancer Society, in Shift, Has Concerns on Screenings, by Gina Kolata:

Breast The American Cancer Society, which has long been a staunch defender of most cancer screening, is now saying that the benefits of detecting many cancers, especially breast and prostate, have been overstated.

It is quietly working on a message, to put on its Web site early next year, to emphasize that screening for breast and prostate cancer and certain other cancers can come with a real risk of overtreating many small cancers while missing cancers that are deadly.

“We don’t want people to panic,” said Dr. Otis Brawley, chief medical officer of the cancer society. “But I’m admitting that American medicine has overpromised when it comes to screening. The advantages to screening have been exaggerated....”

October 23, 2009 in Medical News, Reproductive Health & Safety, Women, General | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Neal Devins on Planned Parenthood v. Casey and State Abortion Politics

Neal Devins (William & Mary Law School) has posted How 'Planned Parenthood v. Casey' (Pretty Much) Settled the Abortion Wars on SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

Neal Devins More than twenty-one years after Robert Bork’s failed Supreme Court nomination and seventeen years after Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, the rhetoric of abortion politics remains unchanged. Pro-choice interests, for example, argue that states are poised to outlaw abortion and that Roe v. Wade is vulnerable to overruling. In this essay, I will debunk those claims. First, I will explain how Casey’s approval of limited abortion rights reflected an emerging national consensus in 1992. Second, I will explain why the Supreme Court is unlikely to risk political backlash by formally modifying Casey - either by restoring the trimester test or by overruling Roe altogether. Third (and most important), I will explain how it is that Casey stabilized state abortion politics. The national consensus favoring limited abortion rights remains intact. Correspondingly, the template of laws approved by the Supreme Court in Casey were politically popular at the time of Casey and remain politically popular today. Indeed, since Pennsylvania has always been one of the most restrictive states when it comes to abortion regulation, very few states are interested in pushing the boundaries of what Casey allows. And while a handful of outlier states have pushed the boundaries of what Casey allows, these states (which account for a quite small percentage of abortions) have largely worked within parameters set by the Court in Casey. Perhaps most telling, neither the confirmation of Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito nor the Supreme Court’s approval of federal partial-birth abortion legislation has significantly impacted state antiabortion efforts. For all these reasons, pro-choice and pro-life interests would be better served shifting their energies away from legalistic fights over abortion regulation and toward shaping the hearts and minds of the women who may seek abortions and the doctors and clinics that may provide abortion services. 

October 22, 2009 in Abortion, Scholarship and Research, Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)