Tuesday, August 3, 2021
By Fallon Parker (Aug. 3, 2021)
Last week marked the 31st anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which seeks to affirm and protect the rights of people with disabilities. Among other provisions, the act guarantees equal opportunity to person with disabilities in employment, transportation, services, accommodations, and other areas. While the ADA has resulted in significant changes for the disabled community, persons with disabilities who use reproductive healthcare still struggle to gain access to services.
Disability rights and reproductive justice have always been closely linked. Buck v. Bell, which has not been overturned, allowed for sterilization of institutionalized persons in order to benefit the “welfare of society.” Eugenics, which was espoused as a way to “improve society” and specifically targeted disabled persons, among other marginalized groups, motivated some early supporters of birth control.
Today, it is recognized that persons with disabilities have the same reproductive and sexual health needs as persons without disabilities, and yet studies show that persons with disabilities do not access reproductive care at the same rates as their peers. According to the National Council on Disability, disabled persons reported avoiding regular gynecological visits because they were difficult to obtain, and that healthcare workers often refrained from discussing contraceptives or STD screening with disabled persons and expressed surprise to learn disabled persons were sexually active. Persons with disabilities are also likely to have fewer pap tests and mammograms than persons without disabilities. Additionally, disabled persons are poorer on average than non-disabled persons, and income is directly related to ability to access reproductive services. And some disabled persons who rely on Medicaid do not have access to insurance coverage for abortion services.
Recently there has been an influx of attention to the intersection of disability rights and the reproductive justice movement. Britney Spears, the singer who has been under a conservatorship for 13 years, finally had her day in court and revealed, among other things, that her conservatorship forces her to wear an IUD. While the exact terms and genesis of the conservatorship are not public, it reportedly followed an involuntary temporary psychiatric hold filed on her 13 years ago based on an assessment that she was a possible danger to herself or others.
This year, Spears expressed to a court her desire to have more children and her frustration with not having any control over that decision. In response to Spears’s testimony, several websites have published accounts from disabled persons noting the similarities between Spears’s lack of bodily autonomy and the restrictions that disabled persons face daily. Sara Luterman, a journalist who is disabled, was interviewed for Slate and broke down how difficult it is for people to remove themselves from a conservatorship or guardianship. Luterman mentioned Ryan King, a man with an intellectual disability who could not remove his conservatorship, even though his conservators, who were his parents, asked the court to remove it. Like it is for King, Luterman fears it will be difficult for Spears to remove herself from her conservatorship.
Spears’s conservatorship and her fight for bodily autonomy highlight a common reality for many disabled persons, especially those with reproductive needs. While the ADA was a significant moment in the fight for disability rights, it has fallen short in providing reproductive justice for disabled persons. Within the mainstream reproductive justice movement, disabled persons are often left out of the conversation. The anniversary of this landmark legislation is an opportunity to reaffirm commitment to the importance of disability rights in the fight for reproductive justice and consider how the next 30 years can be used to ensure equitable access to reproductive healthcare for all.
Tuesday, April 27, 2021
By Shelby Logan (April 27, 2021)
This month, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) issued a report on women's bodily autonomy detailing scenarios in which rapists in 20 countries can marry their victims, often against their will, to escape criminal prosecution. In Russia, for example, if an 18 year old statutorily rapes a minor younger than 16, the perpetrator is exempt from punishment if they marry the survivor. These laws, and other laws discussed in the report, deny women bodily autonomy and reflect archaic and discriminatory views about women and girls' right and ability to decide whether or when to have sex.
“Marry Your Rapist” laws deny justice to survivors and signal that rape is not a serious crime. The laws also put survivors at risk for continued abuse and perpetuate stigma against them. Human rights activists fear that even if these laws are abolished, families may still coerce women and girls who become pregnant as a result of rape into marrying their attackers in countries where abortion is criminalized and there are barriers to getting birth certificates for children born out of wedlock.
UNFPA reports that fifty percent of women in 57 countries that were analyzed in the report are denied the right to make their own decisions about having sex, using contraception, or seek reproductive healthcare. In addition to "Marry Your Rapist" laws, 43 countries have no legislation criminalizing marital rape. Further, it is estimated that there are 650 million women alive today who were married before the age of 18 and every year an additional 12 million girls are married before they become adults.
Although all but one of the world’s countries has ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child, many countries still allow marriage under the age of 18, sometimes with the consent of a parent, guardian, judge or other governmental official. Many countries that prohibit these types of marriage by law still struggle to prevent child marriage. Much like the forced unions resulting from “Marry Your Rapist” laws, many of these marriages take place in traditional or religious ceremonies and are never registered with civil authorities.
Yet, as much as there is a tremendous amount of work to be done, progress is slowly being made. Tunisia, Jordan, and most recently, Lebanon, repealed and reformed clauses within their penal codes that enabled perpetrators to evade prosecution by marrying the women they raped. In August 2017, Lebanon removed a discriminatory legal provision related to article 522 of the Lebanese Penal Code after a successful nationwide advocacy campaign led by UN Women Lebanon and ABAAD Institution for Gender Equality. Activists mobilized during the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence to strengthen legislation to protect women and girls from sexual violence and exploitation and to spur broader changes of societal norms. All three countries also closed loopholes that enabled families to force women into marriage with their rapists to prevent the social stigma of pre-marital sex.
These changes are historic legal victories for women’s movements in the protection of bodily autonomy, and examples of the path forward to combatting these patriarchal laws. By centering the stories of real women harmed by these violent policies, advocates are demonstrating how passionate and skillful activism can bring about landmark change and provide a blueprint for legal reform in the countries where these harmful laws remain.
Wednesday, February 7, 2018
Rewire (Jan. 25, 2018): For Nonbinary Parents, Giving Birth Can Be Especially Fraught, by S.E. Smith
Pregnancy and childbirth are vulnerable times in any parent's life. Add to that the highly gendered-status of both pregnancy and birth, and trans and non-binary parents are finding it difficult to locate an inclusive community with educated medical staff as they, too, enter childrearing chapters.
With the trans community, conversations about birth and parenting are few and far between and often fraught with discomfort. Now, though, more parents-to-be identify as trans men or somewhere else on the non-binary spectrum of gender identity. And the medical community has not yet caught up. "And, as in any area of reproductive health-care services, this isn’t simply a matter of gender: Race, class, and geography can play a huge role in whether non-binary people are able to access inclusive, affirming birth care."
Gender-affirming care--including asking for a patient's pronouns with their name, using gender-affirming language, and regularly seeking consent before performing examinations, particularly those that require a medical professional to touch the patient's genitalia--is important. When it is absent, patients report both physical and psychological trauma.
Many in the trans and non-binary communities are increasingly seeking home births with gender-affirming midwives in order to create the most comfortable environments for themselves. Midwifery can be prohibitively expensive though, and insurance rarely covers it. So for others, a hospital may be the safest or the only choice. Advocates say that hospitals and birth collectives would do well to invest in specialized training for medical providers "to ensure that everyone at a facility is trans-competent, or working on getting there."
This issue is likely to amplify in coming years with a more visible nonbinary community, as well as a more active movement to reframe the way we look at pregnancy and birthing. Trans people—binary and otherwise—are some of the biggest stakeholders in the conversation, and they’re contributing with inclusive birthing classes and provider training in addition to working as care providers themselves.
The trans and non-binary communities call on leaders within the medical community to initiate changes from the inside, including re-training initiatives and reframing core educational documents for inclusivity.
Friday, August 18, 2017
The New York Times (Aug. 16, 2017): Sperm Count in Western Men Has Dropped Over 50 Percent Since 1973, Paper Finds, by Maya Salam
The sperm count of men in Western countries has been declining precipitously with no signs of “leveling off,” according to new research, bolstering a school of thought that male health in the modern world is at risk, possibly threatening fertility.
By examining thousands of studies and conducting a meta-analysis of 185 — the most comprehensive effort to date — an international team of researchers ultimately looked at semen samples from 42,935 men from 50 countries from 1973 to 2011.
They found that sperm concentration — the number of sperm per milliliter of semen — had declined each year, amounting to a 52.4 percent total decline, in men from North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand.
Possible causes that researchers have identified include exposure to cigarette smoke, alcohol, and chemicals--such as phthalates--in utero. Age, obesity, and stress also play a role in lowered sperm count and quality. While long-term consequences have yet to be identified, research shows that fertility rates in Western nations are too low to sustain the current population.
Tuesday, April 12, 2016
New York Times (Apr. 8, 2016): Fathered by the Mailman? It's Mostly an Urban Legend, by Carl Zimmer:
Stories about adultery and uncertainty about paternity permeate mass media and popular culture. At the dawn of the era of DNA testing, some data suggested that up to 30% of the children born to married couples were the product of adultery. But those data involved requests by husbands who suspected their wives had extramarital paramours. New research suggests that births of children from wives' adulterous liaisons actually occurs very seldom.
The new study looks at inheritance of the Y chromosome. The Y chromosome is passed down in almost identical form from fathers to sons. By studying the chromosomes of living related men in various countries (Spain, Italy, Germany, Mali and Belgium), researchers came up with an adulterous paternity rate of less than one percent.
One reflection of the low rate may lie in the inefficacy of human sperm to compete for fertilization as compared to other species'. "The only way for men to have evolved comparatively ineffectual sperm," according to one researcher, "was for them to have experienced high rates of paternity over time." She added that better assurances of paternity lead to higher investments of fathers in their children. These investments have been critical to the survival of the species given that humans are completely helpless when they are born.
Wednesday, July 9, 2014
Northern Virginia Daily (6/13): Edinburg Man's Plea Deal Includes Vasectomy, by Joe Beck:
An Edinburg man will undergo a vasectomy as part of an agreement in which he pleaded guilty to child endangerment, hit and run driving and driving on a suspended license...
Jessie Lee Herald, 27, was also sentenced to a total of one year and eight months in prison and three years supervised probation and two years unsupervised probation. . . .
Saturday, May 3, 2014
Jezebel: Floyd Mayweather Posts Ex's Sonogram, Accuses Her of 'Killing Babies', by Erin Gloria Ryan:
Earlier this year, boxer Floyd Mayweather got dumped by his fiancee Shantel Jackson after he allegedly cheated on her. But Mayweather has since apparently gone batshit insane, insisting that it was he who dumped her, and that he did it because she had "a abortion." To support this accusation, he posted what he claims are images from a sonogram Jackson had in December. Holy shit.
Mayweather posted the images — complete with identifying details and measurements, which we've blurred out — to Facebook this morning . . . .
Saturday, March 1, 2014
Study Finds that Men's "Biological Clock" Means Higher Risk of Mental Illness in Children Born to Older Fathers
The New York Times: Mental Illness Risk Higher for Children of Older Fathers, Study Finds, by Benedict Carey:
Children born to middle-aged men are more likely than those born to younger fathers to develop any of a range of mental difficulties, including attention deficits, bipolar disorder, autism and schizophrenia, according to the most comprehensive study to date of paternal age and offspring mental health. . . .
. . . Men have a biological clock of sorts because of random mutations in sperm over time, the report suggests, and the risks associated with later fatherhood may be higher than previously thought. The findings were published on Wednesday in the journal JAMA Psychiatry. . . .
Monday, November 4, 2013
Salon: The 10 strangest facts about penises, by Tracy Clark-Flory:
Simone de Beauvoir called it “a small person … an alter ego usually more sly … and more clever than the individual.” Leonardo da Vinci said it “has dealings with human intelligence and sometimes displays an intelligence of its own.” Sophocles said that having one was to be “chained to a madman.”
These great thinkers were referring so exasperatedly, so powerlessly, to none other than the penis. That’s a lot of hype for a body part that can “be seen as something the Creator doodled in an idle moment,” as Tom Hickman puts it in the new book, “God’s Doodle: The Life and Times of the Penis.” . . .
Monday, August 12, 2013
The Los Angeles Times - op-ed: Assisted reproduction: When does a father become one?, by Naomi Cahn & June Carbone:
A bill in the California Senate would add to uncertainty about parenthood in cases of donated sperm.
When does a man become a father — the legally recognized parent of a child, responsible for support and eligible for custody? Historically, parenthood has involved something more than simply a biological connection. In some eras that meant the law recognized only fathers who married the mothers. Today, recognition extends to unmarried parents who raise a child together.
The new question on the table is whether it extends to a man who donates sperm to a woman and establishes a relationship with the child. . . .
Saturday, July 6, 2013
The Guardian UK: Why I Support Women's Access to Safe, Legal Abortion, by Rob Delaney:
I so love my kids, I can be envious of my wife for carrying them when pregnant. But I care about her right to choose just as much
I support a woman's right to safe, legal abortion because centuries of history shows us that women are going to get abortion whether they are safe and legal or not. And when they're not safe and legal, these women will often die terrible or be damaged irreparably. . . .
Sunday, June 16, 2013
The New York Times - Well blog: A Different Kind of Fatherhood, by David Tuller:
I came out long before gay men yearned for weddings, much less baby showers. In 1979, when I was 22, New York offered young men like me many freedoms, including the freedom to not have to propagate. Like many other gay men — and like many straight men — I had not been close to my own father. I could not imagine wiping runny noses, attending parent-teacher conferences or playing Candy Land.
In my 30s I moved to San Francisco and, to my surprise, found myself contemplating parenthood. . . .
Friday, June 7, 2013
I. Glenn Cohen and Travis G. Coan (both of Harvard Law School) have posted Can You Buy Sperm Donor Identification? An Experiment. Here is the abstract:
In the United States, most sperm donations are anonymous. By contrast, many developed nations require sperm donors to be identified, typically requiring new sperm (and egg) donors to put identifying information into a registry that is made available to a donor-conceived child once they reach the age of 18. Recently, advocates have pressed U.S. states to adopt these registries as well, and state legislatures have indicated openness to the idea. This study re-lies on a self-selected convenience sample to experimentally examine the economic implications of adopting a mandatory sperm donor identification regime in the U.S. Our results support the hypothesis that subjects in the treatment (non-anonymity) condition need to be paid significantly more, on average, to donate their sperm. When restricting our attention to only those subjects that would ever actually consider donating sperm, we find that individuals in the control condition are willing-to-accept an average of $$43 to donate, while individuals in the treatment group are willing-to-accept an aver-age of $74. These estimates suggest that it would cost roughly $31 per sperm donation, at least in our sample, to require donors to be identified. This price differential roughly corresponds to that of a major U.S. sperm bank that operates both an anonymous and identify release programs in terms of what they pay donors.
Monday, May 20, 2013
The Los Angeles Times - op-ed: A birth control double standard, by Meg Waite Clayton:
Condoms are readily available without identification. Why not Plan B?
In the uproar about making the morning-after contraceptive known as Plan B available to our daughters, there has been no similar outcry about condoms and our sons. Anyone of any age can walk into a drugstore — as well as most grocery and big-box stores — and buy condoms. . . .
Monday, May 13, 2013
The current attention to the “end of men” is occurring as men’s role as biological fathers is becoming radically deemphasized through assisted reproductive technologies and alternative family formation. As other historians have noted, since the nineteenth century, there have been serial crises of masculinity in the United States, in which the perceived loss of power by white middle-class heterosexual men has been decried. This essay, written for an on-line forum considering Hanna Rosin's The End of Men, analyzes the current crisis in the context of earlier explorations of the biological end of men, from early twentieth century feminist utopian fiction to lesbian dreams of virgin birth in the 1970s.
Sunday, January 27, 2013
Medical News Today: Reproductive Coercion Common in Abusive Relationships, by Kelly Fitzgerald:
Adolescent girls and women should now be screened for reproductive coercion, a form of abuse that occurs when male partners sabotage their contraception intentionally.
This form of abuse, known as reproductive coercion, can manifest in several ways, such as deliberately giving a partner a sexually transmitted disease (STIs), forcing a partner to have an undesired abortion or pregnancy, or seizing control of a woman's contraceptive pills. . . .
Monday, December 17, 2012
Udo Schuklenk (Queen’s University) has posted Europe Debates Circumcision...And What About the Child's Best Interest? on SSRN. Here is the abstract:
This Editorial discusses the ethics of male circumcision on the background of current debates within various European countries about this practice.
Thursday, October 18, 2012
The Los Angeles Times: Restaurateur accused of poisoning girlfriend to cause miscarriage, by Andrew Blankstein:
Joshua Woodward, an investor in Los Angeles and Miami restaurants, pleads not guilty to four counts of attempted murder.
A prominent restaurateur pleaded not guilty Wednesday to multiple counts of attempted murder after prosecutors said he tried to cause his pregnant girlfriend to miscarry by poisoning her with a substance known to induce labor. . . .
H/T: Amanda Zoda & Carol Sanger
Saturday, August 25, 2012
The New York Times op-ed: Men, Who Needs Them?, by Greg Hampikian:
Mammals are named after their defining characteristic, the glands capable of sustaining a life for years after birth — glands that are functional only in the female. And yet while the term “mammal” is based on an objective analysis of shared traits, the genus name for human beings, Homo, reflects an 18th-century masculine bias in science.
That bias, however, is becoming harder to sustain, as men become less relevant to both reproduction and parenting. Women aren’t just becoming men’s equals. It’s increasingly clear that “mankind” itself is a gross misnomer: an uninterrupted, intimate and essential maternal connection defines our species. . . .
Thursday, August 23, 2012
CBS News – Healthpop.com: Experimental cancer drug makes mice infertile without side effects, scientists claim male birth control discovery, by Ryan Jaslow: