Tuesday, December 29, 2009
NPR: Reflecting on a Decade of Stem Cell Research, by Joe Palca:
Some say they hold the potential for medical miracles. Others claim they are a moral abomination. Either way, human embryonic stem cells captured headlines during the past decade in a way few areas of scientific research have before. . . .
So where does the science of embryonic stem cells stand after a decade of political wrangling? A lot of exciting basic research is being done with embryonic stem cells, says Len Zon, a stem cell researcher at Children's Hospital in Boston. But using stem cells for therapy? . . .
Huffington Post: Rosa DeLauro, Key Pro-Choice Dem, Makes Case For Senate Abortion Language, by Sam Stein:
A key pro-choice House Democrat, working on health care in Congress, hinted on Monday that said she might be willing to support the Senate's abortion language.
Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) who has been tasked by leadership with helping hammer out a compromise on abortion between the two chambers, said she was not thrilled with either the House or Senate legislation's provisions. But in an interview with the Huffington Post, the Connecticut Democrat did say she would support the Senate's version of abortion-related language provided that she could confirm her belief that it did not go beyond current law. . . .
Salon.com: Breast cancer goes blue, by Tracy Clark-Flory:
PSAs about women's health use sex to target men
Air a public service announcement in which a woman speaks soberly about the grave risk of breast cancer and male viewers are all: Zzzzzzzzz. But have a male celebrity winkingly pretend to be a gynecologist, lecture his "bromigos" on the importance of breast cancer screenings and perform a mammogram on his own man-boob, and men just might perk up and wipe the slobber from their chins. At least, such is the wisdom of the Men for Women Now campaign, which produced that very spot starring stoner-dude comedian Jack Black — and, as Danielle Friedman points out today in the Daily Beast, it's just one of a handful of recent PSAs about women's health issues to feature and target men. But while she celebrates them for successfully getting out the message, I think they've failed miserably. . . .
Monday, December 28, 2009
Tulsa World: State's bills stack up in fight over anti-abortion laws, by Barbara Hoberock:
In August, an Oklahoma County district judge tossed out Senate Bill 1878, which would have required a woman seeking an abortion to have an ultrasound within an hour of the abortion and have the details explained to her.
Oklahoma County District Judge Vicki Robertson said the measure violated a provision of the Oklahoma Constitution that requires a law to deal with a single subject. The bill also covered the posting of signs in clinics, administration of the "abortion pill" RU-486 and lawsuits.
Her ruling has been appealed to the Oklahoma Supreme Court.
The state spent $97,000 to hire an abortion law expert to defend the law, said Charlie Price, a spokesman for Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson.
Adding to the cost is the staff time of an assistant attorney general who worked on the case. His salary is $62,000 a year, but he works on other cases as well, Price said.
"It is our responsibility to defend these statutes," he said.
The state is also defending House Bill 1595 . . . .
Wash. Post: Antiabortion pregnancy center figures in state Senate race, by Derek Kravitz:
One brochure boldly states that condoms fail one-third of the time -- by flaws, breaking or deterioration. A nearby diagram of a broken condom shows a small "HIV Virus" particle looming near the spot where the latex ripped. Another flier claims that the "most preventable cause of breast cancer" is abortions.
The literature, until recently circulated by a church-affiliated pregnancy center in Annandale, has become political fodder in the closely watched contest for Virginia's 37th Senate District between Stephen M. "Steve" Hunt, a Republican and former Fairfax County School Board member, and Del. Dave W. Marsden, a first-term Democrat.
Abortion rights and antiabortion groups agree that the information in the fliers is misleading and outdated. Jane P. Fuller, executive director of the Assist Pregnancy Center on Backlick Road, said the pamphlets have been removed.
But NARAL Pro-Choice America and other abortion rights groups are using the brochures as part of a broader attempt to attack so-called crisis pregnancy centers and locally to paint Hunt, a former official of the pregnancy center, as an out-of-touch extremist. . . .
Sunday, December 27, 2009
Business Week: Scientists study car safety for pregnant women, by Zinie Chen Sampson:
Researchers and automobile designers are looking for ways to reduce fetal deaths by making automobile travel safer for expectant mothers.
Researchers at the Virginia Tech-Wake Forest University School of Biomedical Engineering and Sciences are working to develop a computer-aided model of pregnant drivers and passengers so they can develop better crash protection systems. . . .
LA Times: Mexico antiabortion forces swaying state legislatures, by Ken Ellingwood:
Reporting from Mexico City - Abortion rights activists dreamed of legislative victories across Mexico after the Supreme Court last year upheld a Mexico City law allowing abortion during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.
Instead, the opposite has happened.
In state after state, antiabortion forces have won changes to local constitutions declaring that life begins at conception and explicitly granting legal rights to the unborn. In all, 17 state legislatures have approved such measures, often with minimal debate, since the August 2008 court decision validating Mexico City's law.
Saturday, December 26, 2009
Wash. Post: Abstinence proponents look for aid from new health bill, by Rob Stein:
Proponents of sex education classes that focus on encouraging teenagers to remain virgins until marriage are hoping that the rescue plan for the nation's health-care system will also save their programs, which are facing extinction because of a cutoff of federal funding.
The health-care reform legislation pending in the Senate includes $50 million for programs that states could use to try to reduce pregnancies and sexually transmitted disease among adolescents by teaching to them to delay when they start having sex.
Under the federal budget signed by President Obama, such programs would no longer have funds targeted for them. . . .
In Split With Bishops, Catholic Health Association Supports Senate Health Care Compromise on Abortion
NY Times: Catholic Group Supports Senate on Abortion Aid, by David D. Kirkpatrick:
WASHINGTON — In an apparent split with Roman Catholic bishops over the abortion-financing provisions of the proposed health care overhaul, the nation’s Catholic hospitals have signaled that they back the Senate’s compromise on the issue, raising hopes of breaking an impasse in Congress and stirring controversy within the church.
The Senate bill, approved Thursday morning, allows any state to bar the use of federal subsidies for insurance plans that cover abortion and requires insurers in other states to divide subsidy money into separate accounts so that only dollars from private premiums would be used to pay for abortions.
Just days before the bill passed, the Catholic Health Association, which represents hundreds of Catholic hospitals across the country, said in a statement that it was “encouraged” and “increasingly confident” that such a compromise “can achieve the objective of no federal funding for abortion.” An umbrella group for nuns followed its lead.
Thursday, December 24, 2009
Pro-Choice Legislators and Advocates Offer Contrasting Reactions to Senate's Abortion Compromise in Health Care Bill
Newsweek: The New Abortion Divide, by Sarah Kliff:
At first, it seemed like abortion-rights activists could count on their allies in Congress. When the House of Representatives voted to approve the Stupak amendment in early November, prohibiting plans on the public exchange from covering abortion, abortion-rights groups reacted with immediate outrage and activism. On Dec. 2, strong supporters of abortion rights—congresswomen such as Patty Murray, Barbara Boxer, and Lois Capps—gathered at a rally, surrounded by women in pink with STOP THE ABORTION BAN! signs. They both spoke out against the language. "I am one who cannot even envision voting for health-care reform that takes us back on women's rights," Capps told a cheering crowd.
But now there is fissure between pro-choice leaders inside and outside of government. . . .
When the Stupak amendment passed, there was common outrage among pro-choice organizations and their counterparts in Congress. But this time, it's different: while leaders of pro-choice groups call the Nelson language "outrageous" and "absurd," a number of their strongest supporters in Congress are taking a nuanced stance: we don't love it, we don't even like it, but if this is what it takes to move forward with health-care reform, we will live with it. . . .
NY Times Magazine: The Conservative-Christian Big Thinker, by David D. Kirkpatrick:
On a September afternoon, about 60 prominent Christians assembled in the library of the Metropolitan Club on the east side of Central Park. It was a gathering of unusual diversity and power. Many in attendance were conservative evangelicals like the born-again Watergate felon Chuck Colson, who helped initiate the meeting. Metropolitan Jonah, the primate of the Orthodox Church in America, was there as well. And so were more than half a dozen of this country’s most influential Roman Catholic bishops, including Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York, Archbishop John Myers of Newark and Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia.
At the center of the event was Robert P. George, a Princeton University professor of jurisprudence and a Roman Catholic who is this country’s most influential conservative Christian thinker. Dressed in his usual uniform of three-piece suit, New College, Oxford cuff links and rimless glasses, George convened the meeting with a note of thanks and a reminder of its purpose. Alarmed at the liberal takeover of Washington and an apparent leadership vacuum among the Christian right, the group had come together to warn the country’s secular powers that the culture wars had not ended. As a starting point, George had drafted a 4,700-word manifesto that promised resistance to the point of civil disobedience against any legislation that might implicate their churches or charities in abortion, embryo-destructive research or same-sex marriage. . . .
Chicago Tribune: NATION: Judge in abortion case rejects defense strategy:
A judge ruled Tuesday that Kansas law does not allow a so-called necessity defense in the trial of a man charged with killing one of the nation's few late-term abortion providers.
The decision was another blow to lawyers for 51-year-old Scott Roeder, who has confessed to shooting Dr. George Tiller on May 31 and says it was necessary to save "unborn children.". . .
A district judge in Kansas rules that Scott Roeder will be allowed to argue that he killed the doctor to save fetuses, but he cannot use the 'necessity defense.'
Wichita, Kan. - A district judge ruled Tuesday that the man accused of killing abortion provider George Tiller would go on trial here next month, but he disallowed use of the "necessity defense."
Judge Warren Wilbert said he would "leave the door open" for Scott Roeder to present other evidence and arguments that he killed the Wichita doctor in the belief that he was saving the lives of fetuses. That means Roeder's public defenders could ask jurors to consider crimes less than first-degree premeditated murder.
Kansas law, for example, defines voluntary manslaughter as the "unreasonable but honest belief that circumstances existed that justified deadly force." A conviction of voluntary manslaughter would carry a sentence of fewer than 10 years in prison for Roeder, compared with a life sentence for murder.
Post-Partisan (Wash. Post): Sen. Ben Nelson offers a defense, by Michael Gerson:
I was up early this morning with a call from Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska, who was much kinder to me than I was to him in my column on Wednesday. . . .
He . . . insisted that the legislative language on abortion he accepted accomplishes most or all of what the Stupak amendment does in the House. Nelson has a background in the insurance industry, and he explained to me in detail how premium payments covering elective abortion would be segregated in his approach. He stands, as far as I can tell, alone among pro-life leaders in this view of the compromise, which is criticized by the National Council of Catholic Bishops, the National Right to Life Committee and Congressman Bart Stupak himself. The fact remains that the federal government, under the Reid-Nelson approach, would subsidize private health insurance plans that cover abortion – a departure from longstanding policy.
See also: Wash. Post: Both sides question health bill's abortion compromise, by Alec MacGillis:
The abortion language that was added to the Senate's health-care bill to win the vote of Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) has achieved a rare feat: It is drawing contempt from both sides.
That could be taken as a sign that senators finally found an elusive compromise on a thorny issue. But serious questions are already being raised about how the new language would work in practice and whether it would even be feasible to implement.
"This is why it's being attacked by both sides -- not because it's so moderate but because it's crazy," said Richard Doerflinger, a spokesman for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Sara Rosenbaum, a George Washington University professor of public health and law who criticizes the language as too restrictive, echoes that conclusion: "None of how this is supposed to work is even remotely in the bill, so I don't know what people are thinking about it."
The long-standing ban on federal funding for abortion has complicated congressional Democrats' health-care legislation. Medicaid bars federal funding for abortion, but 17 states and the District allow the procedure for female Medicaid enrollees paid out of their own funds. It is harder to reach middle ground in the bill before Congress, which would provide federal subsidies to millions of people to buy private health insurance plans on a new marketplace, or "exchange." The deal reached by Nelson and other Democrats over the weekend would allow those people to purchase insurance plans with abortion coverage. But they would have to write two separate premium checks -- one to cover the bulk of their plan and the other to cover the sliver for abortion coverage, probably a dollar or so per month. . . .
Retuers: Military to scrap pregnancy punishment:
BAGHDAD (Reuters) - The U.S. military in Iraq will scrap a policy early next year that has led to the punishment of some soldiers serving in Iraq for becoming pregnant, the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq said on Thursday.
General Ray Odierno said the new, Iraq-wide guidelines would take effect beginning January 1, lifting rules enacted by the U.S. commander in northern Iraq, who reports to Odierno, that laid out possible punishments for pregnancy among his soldiers.
The policy had been criticized by some women's advocates and on Tuesday four U.S. senators wrote to the secretary of the U.S. Army asking that it be rescinded. . . .
Slate Magazine: All Abort, by William Saletan:
The fight over abortion insurance is smaller than it looks.
After trillions of dollars, decades of debate, and months of legislative haggling, the fate of health care in the United States is coming down to an old-fashioned moral issue. Pro-lifers and pro-choicers are fighting over insurance coverage of abortions. Each camp seems capable of killing the legislation pending in Congress. Abortion, we're told, is different from other issues caught up in the health care debate. It's a question of ultimate values, impervious to compromise.
Nonsense. Lawmakers on both sides have already agreed on principles for working out the abortion question. The differences among the competing proposals are almost entirely technical. Zealots may care about the details, but most Americans don't. Let's cut a deal and move on.
None of the proposals under discussion would ban abortion. None would take away your right to buy abortion coverage with your own money. None would force you to pay for somebody else's abortion. These are the conceptual parameters on which all sides have, for the time being, agreed.
When the health care debate started, the big problem was the public option. If it covered abortion, pro-lifers would feel coerced to pay for killing babies. It it didn't cover abortions, pro-choicers would feel robbed of their rights. But now the public option is kaput. So the debate has narrowed to how we treat the mixture of public subsidies with private premiums in federally supervised insurance exchanges. This is a more manageable problem. The framework for addressing it has been broadly accepted: We have to keep public money from getting mixed up in abortions. The question is how. . . .
Sunday, December 20, 2009
Court Extends Temporary Injunction of Oklahoma Law That Allows Posting of Abortion Patient Information Online
CNN: Online posting of women's abortion information challenged in Oklahoma, by Wayne Drash:
In extending the restraining order, Oklahoma County District Judge Daniel Owens denied the state's motion to dismiss the case, putting the measure on hold until a February 19 hearing. . . .
The law, passed in May, requires doctors to fill out a 10-page questionnaire for every abortion performed, including asking the woman about her age, marital status, race and years of education. In all, there are 37 questions the women are to answer.
Critics say the act would be harassment and an invasion of privacy.
Stars and Stripes: U.S. personnel in Iraq could face court-martial for getting pregnant, by Teri Weaver:
The Army general commanding U.S. forces in northern Iraq has added pregnancy to the list of prohibitions for personnel under his command.
The policy, which went into effect Nov. 4, makes it possible to face punishment, including a court-martial and jail time, for becoming pregnant or impregnating a servicemember, according to the wording of the policy and confirmations from Army officials.
The rule governs all those serving under Maj. Gen. Anthony Cucolo III, who commands Multi-National Division-North, including Balad, Kirkuk, Tikrit, Mosul and Samarra. According to the order, it is “applicable to all United States military personnel, and to all civilians, serving with, employed by, or accompanying” the military in northern Iraq, with few exceptions.
Someone would violate the policy by “becoming pregnant, or impregnating a soldier, while assigned to the Task Force Marne (Area of Operations), resulting in the redeployment of the pregnant soldier,” according to the order. . . .
Pregnant military personnel do not have access to abortion on U.S. military bases except in rare circumstances. Here is more about how this policy puts pregnant U.S. servicewomen between a rock and a hard place: Military Abortion Ban Imposes Unconscionable Burdens on American Servicewomen
NY Times: Abortion Compromise Draws Fire From Both Sides, by Katharine Q. Seelye:
The abortion compromise in the Senate has angered advocates on both sides of the issue.
Senator Ben Nelson, the Nebraska Democrat, had been holding up the Senate health care bill until he was satisfied with new anti-abortion language, which was made public on Saturday by the majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada.The National Right to Life Committee issued a statement saying it “strongly opposes” the abortion language.
The National Organization for Women also issued a statement strongly opposing the language. And in a second statement, more heated and personal, Terry O’Neill, president of NOW, said she was outraged that the Senate Democratic leadership “would cave in to Senator Ben Nelson.”
“Right-wing ideologues like Nelson and the Catholic Bishops may not understand this, but abortion is health care,” Ms. O’Neill said. “And health care reform is not true reform if it denies women coverage for the full range of reproductive health services.”
If this language stays in the bill as is, she said, she would call on senators “who consider themselves friends of women’s rights” to vote against “this cruelly over-compromised legislation.”. . .
See also: Wash. Post: To sway Nelson, a hard-won compromise on abortion issue, by Paul Kane:
The Democrats wouldn't even sit in the same room.
At one end of the majority leader's office, Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), the antiabortion senator whose support was crucial to health-care legislation, huddled with White House staff in a conference room. At the other end, Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.), the chamber's leading advocates of abortion rights, hunkered as far from Nelson as possible, in the office of Reid's chief of staff. . . .
But by 10:30 p.m. Friday, a handshake deal sealed a hard-won compromise over abortion. Within minutes senators were on the phone with Obama, who was flying aboard Air Force One, having just forged his compromise with world leaders on global warming, according to senators and aides who participated in the negotiations. "We did it, Mr. President," Reid told Obama.
The deal faced an immediate assault from both ends of the abortion spectrum Saturday morning. The National Organization of Women dubbed it "cruelly over-compromised legislation" and the antiabortion Family Research Council dismissed it as a "phony compromise."
Wall St. Journal: Abortion Continues to Be Dividing Issue, by Janet Adamy:
The Senate nudged its health bill toward tighter restrictions on abortion coverage, a change that left advocates on both sides of the issue unsatisfied.
Under a deal with Sen. Ben Nelson, women who receive a new tax credit to buy insurance would write a separate check with their own money for abortion coverage, and states would explicitly have the option of barring such coverage from plans sold on new insurance exchanges. However, the language is less sweeping than that adopted by the House in November, which abortion-rights groups interpreted as the most significant setback in Congress for their cause in many years.
Friday, December 18, 2009
Salon.com: Being anti-life in defense of pro-life, by Thomas Schaller:
I'm sure you're familiar with the critique of the so-called "pro-life" movement as a group of people interested in protecting life at conception and on the death bed but caring little for what happens during the long stretch of life in between. Well, this morning Matt Yglesias reminded us that Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson's resistance to the healthcare reform's abortion provisions epitomizes this hypocrisy. . . .