Thursday, January 26, 2017
Teen Vogue (January 25, 2017): Bills to be Introduced in 18 States to Protect Reproductive Rights, by Jennifer Gerson Uffalussy:
On Wednesday, lawmakers in 18 states announced that they are introducing legislation to counter federal attacks on reproductive rights and to to dismantle reproductive health care services.
The coordinated effort of legislators in Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico, Ohio, Oregon, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin today mean the introduction of bills that include: requiring crisis pregnancy centers to identify themselves as non-medically licensed facilities, increasing emergency contraception access for survivors of sexual assault, recognizing abortion as healthcare in need of both public and private insurance coverage, and keeping employers from discriminating against employees who have made reproductive health decisions to which they are personally opposed.
The legislation is the result of efforts of the Public Leadership Institute to provide model state legislation that protects reproductive rights. Gloria Totten of PLI stated that the legislation has been in the works for a long time, but that after President Trump's election there is increased energy to support initiatives to protect reproductive rights.
“Since the election, no one is sitting down,” continues Gloria. “Many, many more people are approaching us and saying, ‘We didn’t think we were ready before because we live in a red state and don’t have the votes.’ But now we’re hearing, ‘We’ve had it — it’s enough.’ Trump has really inspired a lot of advocates and policymakers to stand up and say, ‘I’m going to be bold now.’”
Independent (January 23, 2017): Irish women to go on strike in protest over the country's abortion ban, by Sioban Fenton:
Irish women are planning a strike on March 8 to demand that the government call a referendum to repeal the 8th Amendment of the Irish Constitution. The 8th Amendment recognizes “the right to life of the unborn . . . with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother.” The 8th Amendment has been cited as an obstacle for liberalizing Irish law, which currently criminalizes abortion, except for when the pregnancy endangers a woman's life. Lack of clear guidelines around this exception led to the 2012 death of a woman who was severely bleeding after a miscarriage. Hospital officials refused to intervene because the fetus' heart was still beating. Last summer, Ireland was criticized by the UN Human Rights Committee for prohibiting an abortion to a woman whose fetus had a fatal condition. The Committee recommended that Ireland revise its abortion law and amend the 8th amendment if necessary.
The Irish strike follows October 2016 protests in Warsaw and several other European Cities against Polish legislation that would have criminalized abortion in all circumstances. Following the protests, the Polish government scrapped the legislation.
The strike calls on women to book a day off work as annual leave and also wear a black armband or black clothing in protest. For women who do not work, the strike asks them to withdraw emotional or domestic labour, such as housework or caring duties, roles which are disproportionately performed by women.
Tuesday, January 24, 2017
Slate (January 24, 2017): Trump Didn't Just Reinstate the Global Gag Rule. He Massively Expanded it, by Michele Goldberg:
Earlier this week, President Trump signed an executive order banning U.S. aid to organizations overseas that provide, counsel or advocate for changes in abortion law. This funding restriction, known as "the Global Gag Rule" has been a political football in the U.S. for the last thirty years. Instituted by Ronald Reagan in 1984, it was rescinded by Bill Clinton in 1993, reinstated by George W. Bush in 2001, and rescinded again by Barack Obama in 2009. While the rapid shift of U.S. policy makes for a good photo op for incoming presidents, the flip flop in funding has real consequences for organizations on the ground trying to provide reproductive health care services in poor countries.
A few important points to note here. First, the Global Gag Rule goes much farther than prohibiting the use of U.S. funds for abortion. The rule prohibits organizations from using their own funds to provide abortions and it prohibits the organizations from counseling clients that abortion is an option or advocating for reform of abortion law. These prohibitions place health care providers in a serious ethical quandary. As a result many organizations may refuse U.S. funding. Ironically, the resulting cuts in family planning services is likely to increase the number of unwanted pregnancies and the number of abortions. Second, Trump's version of the Global Gag Rule goes even further than his predecessors'. In the past the Global Gag Rule has only be tied to U.S. family planning funding. Trump's version applies to all U.S. international health care funding. According to [Suzanne] Ehlers [of PAI], the new rule means that rather than impacting $600 million in U.S. foreign aid, the global gag rule will affect $9.5 billion. Organizations working on AIDS, malaria, or maternal and child health will have to make sure that none of their programs involves so much as an abortion referral
Saturday, January 21, 2017
NPR (January 17, 2017): Abortion Rate in U.S. Falls to Lowest Level Since Roe v. Wade, by Sarah MacCammon:
The Guttmacher Institute reports that the U.S. abortion rate fell to its lowest level since 1973. In 2014, the abortion rate was 14.6 abortions per 1,000 women of childbearing years, compared to a peak of 29.3 in 1980.
The drop in the abortion rate may be due to increased restrictions on abortion. A spokesperson for Americans United for Life suggests that increased regulation, including requirements that women have ultrasounds before abortions may have resulted in women changing their minds and continuing pregnancies. But regulations also may have shut down clinics making it difficult or impossible for women who wanted abortions to obtain them.
The Guttmacher report says abortion restrictions do appear to be a factor in the declining numbers in some states. But principal research scientist Rachel Jones, lead author of the report, said that's not the whole story. She noted that abortion declined in almost every state, and "having fewer clinics didn't always translate into having fewer abortions."
A more important driver of the declining abortion rate, Jones said, appears to be improved access to contraception, particularly long-acting birth control options like IUDs. She noted that women in the United States have been using the highly effective devices in growing numbers for more than a decade, and said the declining birthrate suggests more women are preventing unwanted pregnancies.
"Abortion is going down, and births aren't going up," Jones said.
Tuesday, January 10, 2017
New York Times (Dec. 19, 2016): Pregnancy Changes the Brain in Ways That May Help Mothering, by Pam Belluck:
A recent study notes that pregnancy works changes in the brain, specifically in the part that perceives the feelings of others. Scientists query whether these changes have anything to do with mothers' emotional attachment to their offspring. The change actually involves the loss of gray matter in areas of the brain involved in social cognition, "that ability to register and consider how other people perceive things." The loss of gray matter sounds like a bad thing, but it may simply be a "neutral" offshoot of pregnancy-related stress or a beneficial sequella of pregnancy that prunes and trains the brain to be ready for the challenges of raising children, be they bonding, recognizing social threats, or recognizing the needs of an infant. The study seems to indicate that the more the brains of pregnant women changed, the better mothers they were (measured by emotional attachment, pleasure, and hostility toward the child). There is an analog to these changes in the brain in the brains of adolescents, whose brains sees a decrease of gray matter in several regions that scientists believe provide "fine tuning for the social, emotional and cognitive territory of being a teenager." The study detected no changes in the brains of new fathers.
Wednesday, January 4, 2017
International Justice Center Resource Center (January 3, 2016): IACtHR Holds Bolivia Responsible for Forced Sterilization in Landmark Judgment:
Last week, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights held that sterilization of a woman without informed consent violates her human rights. The case was brought by I.V., a Peruvian refugee who was sterilized after delivering her third child in a Bolivian public hospital in 2000. According to Court documents, the doctors decided while performing a cesarean section that a future pregnancy would be dangerous for I.V. and performed a tubal ligation. The parties contested whether or not the doctors' obtained I.V.'s consent during the C-section.
The Court's decision provides important guidance on informed consent for sterilization.
The Court articulated three elements of informed consent: that it is granted prior to initiating any medical act; that it is provided freely, voluntarily, autonomously, without pressure of any kind, without using it as a condition for submission to other procedures or benefits, and without coercion, threats, or disinformation; and that it is full and informed.
Although emergency exceptions can apply to informed consent the Court held that the risk of preventing a future pregnancy cannot be characterized as an emergency. Consistent with decisions from the European Court of Human Rights, the Court held that a woman cannot give informed consent when she has "just given birth, or is under epidural anesthesia, surgical stress, or lying in an operating room."
The decision is not yet available in English. The Spanish version can be found here.
Tuesday, January 3, 2017
Vox (December 30, 2016): The first steps toward over-the-counter birth control in the US are finally underway, by Emily Crockett:
A French drug company is planning to apply to the FDA for approval of over-the-counter birth control. The approval process is likely to take several years, but if a drug is approved it would remove a major barrier to contraceptive access.
Most states require that women get a doctor's prescription before obtaining hormonal birth control, but major medical organizations including, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Medical Association, and the American Academy of Family Physicians have said that oral contraceptives can be safe for over-the-counter use. In order to make contraceptives available over-the-counter, a drug company must go through the process of applying to get approval for one of its drugs. According to Vox:
HRA Pharma in Paris is partnering with advocates and experts from Ibis Reproductive Health, an international nonprofit research organization for reproductive health, to start the process of bringing an over-the-counter oral contraceptive to the US market.
HRA and Ibis plan to seek approval for a progestin-only pill because it is suitable for the broadest range of users.