Friday, February 12, 2016

Gene Editing Permitted in Britain

New York Times (Feb. 2, 2016): Britain Allows New Method to Edit Genes, by Nicholas Wade:

Gene editing refers to cutting and pasting DNA in and out of human embryos, eggs and sperm.  Used for reproductive purposes, these alterations would be passed down to subsequent generations.  A voluntary worldwide moratorium on making changes to DNA that could be passed down in this way, issued by the United States, Britain and China in December, will remain in place even after the British government's recent decision to allow gene editing of embryos that will not be implanted in a womb.  Researchers want to study "the cascade of genetic switches" thrown during a pre-embryo's progression through its first few divisions.  The research may lead to new and better ways to treat infertility, but the news also figures prominently in the anxious message of researchers that countries should tailor their regulations in order to become stronger competitors in the global race to be first in making advances in reproductive biology. 

February 12, 2016 in Scholarship and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 11, 2016

CRR organizes a rally for WWH v. Hellerstedt argument

The Center for Reproductive Rights is organizing a rally in D.C. on March 2 for the Supreme Court argument of Whole Women's Health v. Hellerstedt (formerly Cole).  The case challenges a Texas law which will result in the closure of over 75% of the state's abortion clinics.  In its first major abortion case in many years, the Supreme Court will decide if the law creates an undue burden.

Information about the rally is available at CRR's website.

February 11, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Access to Abortion for Adolescents in Developing Countries

Guttmacher Institute (Feb. 3, 2016): Adolescents in Developing Countries Face Barriers to Accessing Safe Abortion Services, by Rebecca Wind: 

This week, the Guttmacher Institute released a fact sheet on barriers to adolescents seeking abortion. According to the report, 3.2 million adolescent women in developing countries had unsafe abortions in 2008. 

The new fact sheet incorporates data from three recent studies of adolescent sexual and reproductive health needs and services in developing countries. It includes information about unsafe abortion incidence in specific countries and in the developing world in general, abortion service provision, access to postabortion care and barriers that adolescents face in accessing safe abortion services. The data show that adolescents are more likely than older women to self-induce abortion or go to an untrained provider, and they are more likely to have abortions later in pregnancy. Adolescents are also less likely than older women to start using contraceptives following postabortion care, which increases their likelihood of experiencing future unplanned pregnancies.

The report also highlights barriers to adolescents in seeking safe abortion services. Chief among these are cost and confidentiality. 

Find more information on the fact sheet here

February 10, 2016 in Abortion, International | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Bioethicists Approve '3 Parent' Embryos

The Washington Post (Feb. 3, 2016): Ethicists approve ‘3 parent’ embryos to stop diseases, but congressional ban remains, by Joel Achenbach: 

An advisory panel called together by the US Food and Drug Administration concluded, this week, that it is ethically permissible to proceed with in-vitro fertilization that combines the DNA of three parents to form an embryo. The panel, made up of scientists and bioethicists, approved a procedure called mitochondrial replacement techniques (MRT), but advises caution in its use. 

MRT replaces the nucleus of a donor's egg with the mother's nucleus and then fertilizes the egg with the father's sperm. The procedure guards against certain diseases that can be passed down from mother to child through the egg's mitochondria. 

Though the procedure has been approved by the House of Lords in the UK, it is currently on hold in the US due to a congressional ban. 

More information can be found at Slate

February 9, 2016 in Assisted Reproduction | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, February 8, 2016

More Progressive Reproductive Policies from the Pentagon

New York Times (Feb. 4, 2016): Pentagon to Offer Plan to Store Eggs and Sperm to Retain Young Troops, by Michael S. Schmidt:

In an effort to retain troops on active duty by making the military more family friendly, the Pentagon wants to reassure those who fear injury to their reproductive organs or who want to pursue a military career before having children.  Given the expense (an estimate is that the program will cost the Pentagon $150 million per year), almost no employers offer egg and sperm freezing to their employees.  Legal and ethical questions related to this service have yet to be resolved.

The Pentagon has recently improved the lives of service members in various ways related to having children, including longer maternity leaves, improved child care and the creation of lactation rooms at military facilities.  The initiatives are meant to address the greater emphasis that millenials place on work-life balance than did previous generations.   


February 8, 2016 in Fertility, Parenthood, President/Executive Branch | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Female Genital Cutting in Indonesia

New York Times (Feb. 5, 2016): Female Genital Cutting: Not Just "an African Problem," by Pam Belluck and Joe Cochrane:

New documentation shows that female genital cutting is widespread in Indonesia, one of the most populous countries in Asia and the world's most populous Muslim-majority nation.  It is estimated that 60 million women and girls have been cut, using a technique that is less invasive than is common in Africa.  Current regulations require the cutting to be performed by a medical professional who may do no more than scratch the clitoral hood without injuring the clitoris.  Most cutting is performed on infants.  Unicef has been working in Indonesia to end the practice. 

The practice of female genital cutting persists, despite reductions in its incidence worldwide.  The reductions are not keeping up with population growth with the result that the number of girls and woman being cut is expected to rise over the next 15 years.  Cultural beliefs about the practice vary, including that without it women cannot truly be women and cannot marry.   


February 7, 2016 in Culture, International, Religion | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Reproaction Launches to Advance Reproductive Justice

Feministing (Jan. 25, 2016): The Feministing Five: Reproaction, by Suzanna Bobadilla: 

Erin Matson and Pamela Merritt have founded Reproaction a direct action group working "to engage people across the US to fight for reproductive justice."  Erin Matson explains, 

[W]e are proud to be a direct action organization. Direct action involves taking demands directly to power, not asking someone to take action on your behalf, like lobbying. We draw inspiration from organizations like #BlackLivesMatter, immigration groups, and LGBT organizations. We as a reproductive organization are committed to elevating these tactics and working with others who are using these tactics to ensure that every single person in this country as access to abortion, no funny business.

 As a new organization, they have already made some big waves, including calling out DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz for her remarks about the complacency of of young women after Roe v. Wade with their hashtag #DearDebbie. 

Find out more about Reproaction and how to engage at their website

February 6, 2016 in Pro-Choice Movement | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, February 5, 2016

What the word's women pack in their maternity bags

The Guardian (Jan. 29, 2016): What the world's women pack in their maternity bags - in pictures, Global Development:

From plastic sheets, thermos flasks and torches to touchscreen tablets and massage oils, WaterAid has revealed, as part of their Deliver Life initiative, what women in Australia, Zambia, Madagascar, Malawi and a host of other countries pack in their maternity bags. Depending on where in the world they are giving birth, the items taken to the hospital might be luxuries or life-savers

Through photos, the Guardian's Global Development website illustrates women's hopes for their new babies as well as the struggle for safe maternity care that many women face around the world.

Global Development is supported in part by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. 

February 5, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Texas Funding Cuts Targeting Planned Parenthood and Other Family Planning Clinics Result in Increased Birth Rates

La Times (Feb. 3, 2016): After Texas stopped funding Planned Parenthood, low-income women had more babies, Deborah Netburn: 

A new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine finds that cuts to Planned Parenthood and other family planning clinics affiliated with abortion providers in Texas resulted in increased births among low-income women.  Researchers from the Population Research Center at the University of Texas calculated that the relative increase in births for women who lost access to Planned Parenthood was 27%.  

The funding cuts resulted in closures of family planning clinics and a shortage of appointments at the remaining facilities.

The first blow to Planned Parenthood and other family planning clinics in Texas came in 2011, when lawmakers cut family-planning grants by 66% across the state. The money that remained was directed toward community health centers and county health departments that provide more comprehensive care.

This dramatic cut in funding was responsible for the closure of 82 family-planning clinics in the state, researchers said. About one-third of them were affiliated with Planned Parenthood.

Because the state’s federally funded Medicaid program was prohibited from discriminating against Planned Parenthood clinics in 2013, the state set up its own state-funded Texas Women’s Health Program, which could legally withhold funds from any clinic affiliated with an abortion provider. The funding cuts and closures hit low-income women particularly hard.  Before 2013, Planned Parenthood served 60% of the state's low income women of childbearing age. 

The study's results are instructive as to the possible outcome of similar policies to defund Planned Parenthood enacted in Arkansas, Alabama, New Hampshire, Louisiana, North Carolina and Utah.

February 5, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Parental Leave Could Solve the Culinary Gender Gap

Eater (Jan. 27, 2016): Escaping the Restaurant Industry's Motherhood Trap, by Amanda Kludt: 
[T]he United States is one of only two countries in the world that doesn't grant paid leave for new mothers (the other is Papua New Guinea). We simply require that all businesses with over 50 employees offer twelve weeks of unpaid leave to full-timers who have been with them for one year. And there's no guarantee of the woman keeping the job: after those twelve weeks, the employer must offer only an "equivalent" job back to the employee.
This policy disproportionately affects the restaurant industry, where women have been historically shut out of high-level positions. 
In fact, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics, only four percent of food service workers — roughly 490,000 of the12.3 million individuals employed in this field — get any sort of paid family leave at all. The fact that restaurant workers make up the seven of the 10 lowest-paid positions in their survey compounds the problem.

Kludt calls for changed legislation mandating parental leave for all. 

Women are primary or secondary breadwinners in two thirds of American families, so the loss of income for three months is no small matter.So paid leave specifically and childcare in general is an issue that all of us — not women, but our entire society, and the restaurant industry as a whole — need to grapple with. What's happening right now is unacceptable, and women can't right the wrongs alone.

More information on exploitation and gender-inequity in the restaurant industry can be found at WNYC





February 5, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Zika Virus Forcing Brazil to Consider Exceptions to Its Strict Abortion Law

Ny Times (Feb. 3, 2016): Surge in Zika Virus Has Brazilians Re-examining Strict Abortion Laws, by Simon Romero:

RECIFE, Brazil — The surging medical reports of babies being born with unusually small heads during the Zika epidemic in Brazil are igniting a fierce debate over the country’s abortion laws, which make the procedure illegal under most circumstances.

In Brazil, abortions are only allowed in cases of rape, where the mother's life is in danger or when the the fetus suffers from anencephaly, a birth defect that causes part of the brain or skull to be missing.  Concern that pregnant women's exposure to the Zika virus may cause microcephaly in their fetuses has spurred debate over whether access to abortion should be broadened. 

The abortion debate is further complicated because severe cases of microcephaly aren't detected until around 24 weeks.  While anencephaly is almost always fatal, microcephaly outcomes are less predictable.  

“Some children with severe-appearing brain malformations seem to be relatively unaffected,” said Dr. Hannah M. Tully, a neurologist at Seattle Children’s Hospital specializing in brain malformations. “Yet others with relatively minor structural problems may have profound disabilities.”

At least 10 percent of babies with microcephaly have no mental deficits. These children end up “intellectually and developmentally normal,” said Dr. Constantine A. Stratakis, a pediatric geneticist and a scientific director at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development in Bethesda, Md. But any child whose head measures “three or four standard deviations below the mean, then it’s very unlikely that you will be dealing with normal intelligence.”

Because of Brazil's restrictive abortion laws, an estimated 850,000 women obtain illegal abortions.  These procedures are unregulated and create unnecessary health risks - hospital records show that 150,000 women seek attention for complications from illegal abortions each year.  They also pose the risk that women will be arrested.  The NY Times reported that one Brazilian woman was "handcuffed to a bed and arrested after she sought medical attention for a botched abortion."

The anencephaly exception was recognized in 2012 by a ruling from Supreme Federal Tribunal of Brazil following ten years of activism and litigation. Abortion rights groups are planning to file a similar lawsuit seeking to legalize abortion in cases of microcephaly.

February 4, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)