Friday, December 18, 2009

Health Care Talks Are Down to the Wire

Wall St. Journal: 3rd UPDATE: Senate Health-Care Talks Come Down To Wire, by Patrick Yoest:

WASHINGTON (Dow Jones)--Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) worked Friday to secure the needed votes to pass sweeping health-care overhaul legislation, as Republicans threatened to use parliamentary tactics to drag out debate of the measure.

Reid held meetings with Sen. Ben Nelson (D., Neb.), whose vote could give him enough support--a total of 60 votes--to prevent a Republican filibuster of the measure.

Nelson said late Thursday after a negotiating session in Reid's office that, so far, "there's no deal." But Nelson, who opposes abortion, indicated that the two sides are looking closely at language aimed at bridging the two sides' differences on abortion.

"They are the kind of concepts that would exclude any kind of federal funds, directly or indirectly, being used to fund elective abortion," Nelson said, without offering further details. . . .

December 18, 2009 in Abortion, Congress, Politics | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

How About a Female "Person of the Year"? The (female) person of the year, by Kate Harding:

Female_symbol Since Time hasn't given a solo woman that honor since 1986, we asked some feminist writers for their picks

In 1999, Time magazine changed its "Man of the Year" title to "Person of the Year," but the linguistic switch had no apparent effect on the magazine's long and rarely interrupted stretch of honoring male persons at year's end. In fact, there hasn't been a stand-alone female honoree since Corazon Aquino was "Man of the Year" in 1986. "The Whistleblowers" of 2002 featured three women; 2003's winner was "The American soldier"; and Melinda Gates was one of 2005's "Good Samaritans," along with her husband and Bono. Oh, and I suppose female persons share in the 2006 "We couldn't really think of anybody this year" award. (They literally covered every woman who saw the cover with that one! What am I complaining about?) But Jeff Bezos, George W. Bush, Rudy Giuliani, Vladimir Putin, Barack Obama and, as of yesterday, Ben Bernanke have all earned solo "Person of the Year" covers since the language was changed -- as have Mikhail Gorbachev and Bill Clinton (twice each), George H.W. Bush, Ted Turner, Pope John Paul II, Newt Gingrich, David Ho, Andy Grove and Kenneth freakin' Starr, since Aquino's win. I am detecting a pattern. 

As Rachael Larimore said at Double X, it's not like there's "a burning need for affirmative action in the meaningless-year-ending-attention-grabbing awards department. I don't care who Time picks. (And, believe me, I'm not sad it wasn't Nancy Pelosi this year.) But if Time is so uncomfortable with itself because its 'Carbon-Based Life Form of the Year' award comes across as sexist, it should, you know, give the honor to a woman once in a while." Time did award Pelosi runner-up status for 2009, but like Larimore, we knew there were even better candidates going ignored. . . . 

December 18, 2009 in In the Media, Women, General | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Prolific Sperm Donor Now Voices Concerns About Fertility Clinic Policies

Newsweek Magazine: Mapping the God of Sperm, by Rachel Lehmann-Haupt:

One of the Midwest's most prolific sperm donors may hold the key to understanding how genes affect our health.

Sperm Cells It's a crisp fall day in Northville, Mich., a small suburb of Ann Arbor, and Kirk Maxey, a soft-spoken, graying baby boomer with a classic square jaw, is watching his 12-year-old son chase a soccer ball toward the goal. Maxey is doing what he does every Saturday, along with hundreds of other family men and women across the country, but he's not your average soccer dad. Maxey, 51, happens to be one of the most prolific sperm donors in the country. Between 1980 and 1994, he donated at a Michigan clinic twice a week. He's looked at the records of his donations, multiplied by the number of individual vials each donation produced, and estimated the success of each vial resulting in a pregnancy. By his own calculations, he concluded that he is the biological father of nearly 400 children, spread across the state and possibly the country.

When Maxey was a medical student at the University of Michigan, his first wife, a nurse at a fertility clinic, persuaded him to start donating sperm to infertile couples. Maxey became the go-to stud for the clinic because his sperm had a high success rate of making women pregnant, which brought in good money for the clinic. Maxey himself made about $20 a donation, but says he was motivated to donate more out of a strong paternal instinct and sense of altruism. "I loved having kids, and to have these women doomed to wandering around with no family didn't seem right, and it's easy to come up with a semen donation," he says. . . .

December 18, 2009 in Assisted Reproduction, Bioethics, Fertility, Men and Reproduction | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Lower Chamber of Spanish Parliament Votes to Liberalize Abortion Laws

Herald Sun/AFP: Spanish lawmakers vote to legalise abortion:

Spain flag SPANISH lawmakers have approved a bill to legalise abortion, overriding a wall of protest from the Roman Catholic Church and the conservative opposition.

Tabled by the Socialist government, the abortion reform on Thursday won backing from 184 deputies in Spain's 350-seat lower chamber.

It will now go to the upper-house Senate before returning to parliament for final approval.

Under the new law, abortions would be allowed on demand up to the 14th week of pregnancy and up to 22 weeks if there is a risk to the mother's health or if the foetus is has serious problems, in line with most of Spain's European Union partners.

Under current legislation, Spain permits abortion only in cases of rape, foetal malformation or when a pregnant woman's mental or physical health is deemed to be at risk if the pregnancy goes to term. . . .

December 17, 2009 in Abortion Bans, International | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Obama Signs Omnibus Spending Bill Including Defunding of Abstinence-Only Sex Ed Programs and Lifting Ban on DC Abortion Funding

ACLU Press Release: President Signs Omnibus Bill Including Major Civil Liberties Policy Advances For Washington, D.C.:

Obama2 Bill Lifts 20-Year Ban On DC Abortion Funding, Ends Discriminatory School Voucher Program And Defunds Abstinence-Only Sex Education Programs

WASHINGTON – President Obama today signed into law the Fiscal Year 2010 Omnibus Appropriations bill, legislation that includes several positive civil liberties provisions for the District of Columbia including removal of a ban on financial aid for low-income women to receive abortions, expanded benefits for domestic partnerships and an end to D.C.’s discriminatory school voucher program. The omnibus bill includes several major appropriations bills: Labor, Health and Human Services, Financial Services and State and Foreign Operations. The American Civil Liberties Union hailed the omnibus bill as a huge step forward for civil liberties in the District of Columbia.

The passage of the Labor, Health and Human Services Appropriations bill finally ends funding for the failed Community Based Abstinence Education program and instead directs significant resources into medically accurate, evidence-based teen pregnancy prevention programs. . . .
“District of Columbia residents have a lot to be thankful for with the signing of this law,” said Michael Macleod-Ball, Acting Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “These significant and welcome changes to D.C. law will help to bring the District’s education program and drug and reproductive policies in line with the majority of the country and Constitution. We are especially encouraged to see Congress and the president reject abstinence-only education which censors information, promotes gender stereotypes, marginalizes gay and lesbian youth and jeopardizes the well-being of young people. We hope that the rest of the country will follow suit.”
The ACLU has long sought an end to the D.C. abortion ban, arguing that the District of Columbia ought to have the right, like other states, to use its own local, non-federal revenue to provide abortion care to its low-income residents. The ACLU has also made the elimination of abstinence-only-until-marriage funding a priority and was pleased to see the provision included in the Labor, Health and Human Services Appropriations bill. Unfortunately, another provision included in the FY2010 Omnibus Appropriations bill preserves other abortion bans and fails to codify the global gag rule rescission that was offered by Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and adopted by the Senate Appropriations Committee. . . .

December 16, 2009 in Abortion, Congress, Contraception, Politics, Poverty, President/Executive Branch, Sexuality Education, State and Local News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Congress Approves Omnibus Spending Bill, Affecting Funding for Abortion and International Family Planning

Women's Heath Policy Report (National Partnership for Women & Families): Senate Approves FY 2010 Omnibus Spending Bill:

Capitol The Senate on Sunday approved a $446.8 billion omnibus spending bill (HR 3288) that combines six of the seven remaining fiscal year 2010 appropriations bills, CQ Today reports. . . .

Labor-HHS-Education, the largest of the FY 2010 appropriations bills, would provide a total of $730.6 billion, which is 9% more than FY 2009 levels and 0.3% above President Obama's request (Stern, CQ Today, 12/14). The bill would continue existing federal restrictions on abortion (CQ Today, 12/13). The package includes $603.7 billion for HHS, much of which is mandatory spending for programs like Medicaid and Medicare (CQ Today, 12/14).

The bill also would remove restrictions on Washington, D.C.'s use of locally derived tax revenue to fund abortion services for low-income women, as well as ease restrictions on D.C.'s use of federal funds for needle-exchange programs designed to curb the spread of HIV among injection drug users. The bill would allow federal funding for such programs except in locations "that public health or law enforcement agencies determine to be inappropriate."

In addition, the bill calls for an increase in foreign aid spending by 10% to 15%. A provision that would have permanently repealed the "global gag rule" was removed during House negotiations after antiabortion-rights lawmakers threatened to block the bill's passage. The rule bans U.S. foreign aid from going to organizations that offer abortion services and information, even if they use their own funds for such services (Women's Health Policy Report, 12/11).

December 16, 2009 in Abortion, Congress, Contraception, International, Politics | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Abortion Remains Sticking Point in Health Care Debate

OnPolitics (USA Today): Abortion remains issue in health care debate:

As Democrats met at the White House to discuss how to get a health care bill passed, a group of anti-abortion advocates from Pennsylvania staged a "pray-in" today in their home senator's office -- underscoring one of the last political hurdles the legislation still faces.

"We appeal to him to put his Catholic faith above his Democratic Party allegiance," said Mike McMonagle, who led several dozen people in a prayer vigil at the offices of Sen. Bob Casey, an anti-abortion Democrat. McMonagle said the group later met with Casey's staff: "We didn't agree on much," he said, "but at least they listened."

With the public option and a proposed Medicare buy-in for Americans age 55 to 64 now out of the Senate's 10-year, $848 billion health care proposal, the abortion issue remains a key sticking point to getting a bill passed by the end of the year. . . .

December 16, 2009 in Abortion, Congress, Politics | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Low-Income Women Denied Cancer Screenings

Time Magazine: Poor Women Denied Free Cancer Screenings:

Medical Symbol (ALBANY, N.Y.) — As the economy falters and more people go without health insurance, low-income women in at least 20 states are being turned away or put on long waiting lists for free cancer screenings, according to the American Cancer Society's Cancer Action Network.

In the unofficial survey of programs for July 2008 through April 2009, the organization found that state budget strains are forcing some programs to reject people who would otherwise qualify for free mammograms and Pap smears. Just how many are turned away isn't known; in some cases, the women are screened through other programs or referred to different providers. "I cried and I panicked," said Erin LaBarge, 47. This would have been her third straight year receiving a free mammogram through the screening program in St. Lawrence County. But the Norwood, N.Y., resident was told she couldn't get her free mammogram this year because there isn't enough money and she's not old enough. Watch TIME's video "Uninsured Again.". . .

December 16, 2009 in Medical News, Poverty, Women, General | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Washington D.C. City Council Passes Marriage Equality Ordinance

NY Times: D.C. Approves Gay Marriage, by Ian Urbina:

Gay The City Council passed a measure Tuesday legalizing same-sex marriage, making the nation’s capital the first jurisdiction below the Mason-Dixon Line to allow such unions.

The bill, which passed by an 11-to-2 vote, may still face obstacles in Congress, among city voters and in the courts, but most advocates of same-sex marriage say they expect it to become law by spring. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty has said he will sign the bill....

Republicans and conservative Democrats in the House, which oversees the District of Columbia’s budget, are considering a variety of legislative methods to block the bill, including adding a rider to future appropriations bills. But Democrats who support the measure can probably prevent that....

December 16, 2009 in Politics, Sexuality, State and Local News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Drug Combination May Benefit Women With Advanced Breast Cancer

Wall St. Journal: Drug Combination Shown to Aid Breast-Cancer Survival:

Breast cancer SAN ANTONIO -- Some women with very advanced breast cancer may have a new treatment option. A combination of two drugs that more precisely target tumors significantly extended the lives of women who had stopped responding to other medicines, doctors reported Friday.

It was the first big test of combining Herceptin, made by GlaxoSmithKline PLC, and for Genentech Inc.'s Tykerb. In a study of 300 patients, women receiving both drugs lived nearly five months longer than those given Tykerb alone.

Doctors hope for an even bigger benefit in women with less advanced disease, and were elated at this much improvement for very sick women who were facing certain death.

"We don't see a lot that works in patients who have seen six prior therapies as they did in this trial, so that alone is exciting," said Dr. Jennifer Litton, a breast cancer specialist at the University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center. . . . 

December 15, 2009 in Medical News, Women, General | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Menopausal Drugs and Big Pharma

NY Times: Menopause, as Brought to You by Big Pharma, by Natasha Singer and Duff Wilson:

Pills MILLIONS of American women in the 1990s were told they could help their bodies ward off major illness by taking menopausal hormone drugs. Some medical associations said so. Many gynecologists and physicians said so. Respected medical journals said so, too.

Along the way, television commercials positioned hormone drugs as treatments for more than hot flashes and night sweats — just two of the better-known symptoms of menopause, which is technically defined as commencing one year after a woman’s last menstrual cycle.

One commercial about estrogen loss by the drug maker Wyeth featured a character named Dr. Heartman in a white coat discussing research into connections between menopause and heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease and blindness. . . . 

December 15, 2009 in In the Courts, Medical News, Women, General | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Irish Supreme Court Rules Sperm Donor Has Right to Visit His Son

Boston Globe: Irish court says sperm donor can see son:

Judge DUBLIN - The Irish Supreme Court ruled that a gay man who donated his sperm to a lesbian couple should be permitted to see his 3-year-old son regularly - in part because Ireland’s constitution doesn’t recognize the women as a valid family.

The ruling was a legal first in Ireland, where homosexuality was outlawed until 1993 and gay couples are denied many rights given to married couples. Critics contend the case highlights how Ireland’s conservative Catholic 1937 constitution conflicts with contemporary European norms and fails to address the reality that hundreds of gay couples in Ireland have children.

In their unanimous decision, the five judges said a lower court erred by trying to apply the European Convention on Human Rights in favor of the lesbian couple. The Supreme Court concluded that when the two are in conflict, the Irish Constitution is superior to European human rights law. . . .

December 15, 2009 in Assisted Reproduction, In the Courts, International, Men and Reproduction, Parenthood, Sexuality | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Uganda Bans Female Genital Mutilation

Time Magazine: Uganda Outlaws Female Circumcision:

Uganda (KAMPALA, Uganda) — Uganda's parliament has approved a bill banning female genital mutilation.

Minister of Ethics and Integrity James Nsaba Buturo said that the new law, passed without opposition late Thursday, could give offenders a life sentence. (Read "Uganda's Anti-Gay Bill: Inspired by the U.S.")

Female genital mutilation, also known as female circumcision, is prevalent in portions of West and East Africa to limit women's sexual activity. More than 3,000 girls are affected each December in northeastern Uganda.

The girl's clitoris and sometimes other genital parts are removed. Doctors say it eliminates any pleasure for women during sex and can lead to complications during childbirth. . . .

December 15, 2009 in Culture, International, Reproductive Health & Safety | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Latinas and Abortion Coverage in Health Care Reform

CNN Opinion: Latinas Need Voice in Abortion Debate, by Sylvia Henriquez (National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health):

Silvia Henriquez When Justice Sonia Sotomayor delivered her oath last summer, many women -- and especially Latinas -- felt renewed hope as a champion of women's rights took her place on the U.S. Supreme Court.

With Democrats in the White House and both houses of Congress, we believed that we could stop playing defense and actually advance women's rights, including access to abortion.

However, the health care debate quickly convinced us that we had to mobilize. . . .

December 15, 2009 in Abortion, Congress, Politics, Race & Reproduction | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

HPV Vaccine No Longer Mandatory for Immigrant Women

RH Reality Check: Eliminating HPV Vaccine Mandate For Immigrant Women: A Victory on the Road to Reproductive Justice, by Miriam Yueng (National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum) & Amanda Allen (Reproductive Justice Fellow/Georgetown Women’s Law and Public Policy Fellow):

Needle This week the reproductive justice movement is celebrating a significant victory. Effective December 14, immigrant women and girls will no longer be forced to get Gardasil, a vaccine developed by Merck and Company to prevent transmission of the strains of human papillomavirus (HPV) linked to cervical cancer.  This marks the reversal of a harmful and discriminatory rule originally put in place in July 2008 by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) that took away the ability of immigrant women and girls to make informed choices of whether or not to get the Gardasil injection. The National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF), along with other immigrant rights, reproductive justice, civil rights, public health and women’s rights advocacy groups, led the effort to reverse the rule. The successful outcome highlights the ways in which the reproductive justice framework is essential to achieving equitable results for historically marginalized communities. We believe this approach is also essential to securing accessible and affordable health care for all.

December 15, 2009 in President/Executive Branch, Race & Reproduction, Sexually Transmitted Disease | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Military Abortion Ban Imposes Unconscionable Burdens on American Servicewomen

Religion Dispatches: Military Abortion Ban: Female Soldiers Not Protected by Constitution They Defend, by Kathryn Joyce:

Unable to get an abortion during a tour of duty in Iraq a soldier is left with no option but to do it herself—a humiliating but not uncommon dilemma. Women in the military are forced to obtain a leave to get the care they need; but if they’re honest about why, they put their military career in jeopardy. If they’re not, they put their career in jeopardy.

You hear these legends of coat hanger abortions,” a 26-year-old former Marine sergeant told me recently, “but there are no coat hangers in Iraq. I looked.” Amy (who prefers not to use her real name) was stationed in Fallujah as a military journalist two years ago when she discovered she was pregnant. As a female Marine, a distinct minority in the branch, Amy was fearful of going to her chain of command to explain her situation.

For military women, who lack all rights to medical privacy, facing an unplanned pregnancy is a daunting obstacle. Thanks to anti-abortion forces in Congress, military hospitals are banned from providing abortion services, except in cases of life endangerment, rape or incest (and for the latter two, only if the patient pays for the service herself). . . .

Caitlin Borgmann, a CUNY law professor and board member of the National Abortion Federation, wrote a letter to the editor of the New York Times this August when the paper ran a story on the challenges facing American servicewomen that omitted mention of the abortion ban altogether. Borgmann says that while reproductive rights groups following this issue hoped the Obama transition would address the ban, the failure of the new government to aggressively defend reproductive freedom has left the rights of military women a largely forgotten inequality. . . .

December 15, 2009 in Abortion, Abortion Bans, Congress, Politics, President/Executive Branch | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Mothers in the Military

Newsweek Magazine: This Mom's Army, by Kathleen Deveny:

A mother prepares for war.

War Mandi Bohrer has wanted to be in the military ever since high school. After graduating from West Point in 1998, she was stationed in South Korea, where she met her husband. She was looking for excitement and was eager to be deployed. As a captain, she served at the Pentagon after 9/11, and went to Baghdad twice. After her second tour in Iraq, she and her husband decided to start a family.

In January, Bohrer, now 34 and a major, will be deployed again, this time to Afghanistan. But preparing for this tour was more complicated. Bohrer and her husband, who is also an Army major, now have a 4-year-old daughter. Her husband, too, is being deployed to Afghanistan. "It weighs very heavily on me," says Bohrer. "But if I don't step in and go, someone else will have to. Someone else will have to leave their family." As President Obama looked out over the cadets at West Point on Dec. 1 and announced plans to send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan, I was struck by how many women were in the audience. And when the first of those troops were called up last week, I found myself thinking about how women like Major Bohrer prepare themselves for war.

The balancing act between career and family is always difficult. But the military's frequent and long tours—one year is now standard—make an already complicated situation unimaginably so. . . .

Women now make up 11 percent of our forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. More than 40 percent have children, according to a report by Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, and some 30,000 single mothers have been deployed since 2001. . . .

December 15, 2009 in Parenthood, Women, General | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, December 14, 2009

Survey Shows that Recession Has Strained Family Planning Centers as Demand Rises

Guttmacher Institute news release: Recession Puts Strain on Family Planning Centers as Demand Rises and Resources Shrink:

Women of Reproductive Age Disproportionately Uninsured

Guttmacher Publicly funded family planning providers are struggling to meet a growing need for subsidized contraceptive care, which is being driven by more women wanting to postpone childbearing during tough economic times. This surge in demand is straining already-limited resources, and is exacerbated by rising unemployment that has resulted in more women losing employer-based insurance coverage, according to “A Real-Time Look at the Impact of the Recession on Publicly Funded Family Planning Centers,” based on a new survey by the Guttmacher Institute.

Two-thirds of the responding centers reported an increase in the number of clients seeking contraceptive services between the first quarter of 2008 and the first quarter of 2009, and more than four in five reported an increase in the number of clients who are poor or low-income and therefore eligible for free or reduced-fee care. In addition, nearly two-thirds reported a decline in the number of clients who are able to pay the full fee for services.

“The recession has put many women in an untenable situation. They want to avoid unintended pregnancies more than ever, but are having trouble affording the contraceptive services they need to do so,” says Dr. Sharon Camp, Guttmacher president and CEO. . . .

December 14, 2009 in Contraception, Poverty | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Male Prostitution Legalized in Nevada Nevada legalizes male prostitution, by Kate Harding:

But a lobbyist fears equal opportunity will destroy the brothel industry 

On Friday, one of Nevada's most important industries took a big step toward gender equality. Unfortunately, that doesn't mean men in leotards will now be serving cocktails on casino floors at 9 a.m., but it does mean that people who like to have sex with men will legally be able to purchase an opportunity to do so.

Technically, male prostitution wasn't expressly prohibited before, but health codes required "that prostitutes must undergo 'cervical' testing for sexually transmitted diseases," leaving those without a cervix out of a job. Bobbi Davis, owner of the Shady Lady Ranch, hired an ACLU lawyer to ask that the language be changed, and the health board approved the request. Davis intends to have male prostitutes working for her in the new year. Like her female employees, they'll decide whether to accept men, women or both as clients.

Although Davis and other brothel owners will probably be happy to have a new revenue stream in tough economic times, you know that whenever the subject of men having sex with men comes up, somebody's going to A) be unhappy and B) say something remarkably stupid on the record. . . .

December 14, 2009 in Sexuality, Sexually Transmitted Disease, State and Local News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Lieberman Will Vote Against Health Care Bill

NY Times: Lieberman Rules Out Voting for Health Bill, by Robert Pear & David M. Herszenhorn:

Joe Lieberman WASHINGTON — In a surprise setback for Democratic leaders, Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, independent of Connecticut, said on Sunday that he would vote against the health care legislation in its current form.

The bill’s supporters had said earlier that they thought they had secured Mr. Lieberman’s agreement to go along with a compromise they worked out to overcome an impasse within the party.

But on Sunday, Mr. Lieberman told the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, to scrap the idea of expanding Medicare and to abandon the idea of any new government insurance plan, or lose his vote.

On a separate issue, Mr. Reid tried over the weekend to concoct a compromise on abortion that would induce Senator Ben Nelson, Democrat of Nebraska, to vote for the bill. Mr. Nelson opposes abortion. Any provision that satisfies him risks alienating supporters of abortion rights. . . .

December 13, 2009 in Congress, Politics | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)