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Blogs Comment On Supreme Court News, Pregnant Prisoner Health Care, Withdrawal Method, Other Topics

The following summarizes selected women's health-related blog entries.
~"Considering Common Ground and Our New Supreme Court Nominee," Cristina Page, Birth Control Watch: Page writes that the fact that appeals court Judge Sonia Sotomayor, Obama's nominee to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice David Souter, has served on the board of Childbirth Connection is of great interest, since Sotomayor's own views on women's health could mirror those of the organization. Page explains that the organization "takes no policy position on abortion, but it is very much a proponent of women's rights during childbirth." According to Page, Sotomayor's work with Childbirth Connection "stands out" on her resume as "the only entry that does not have a purely legal focus." Page writes, "To me, it's an important sign, and one from which pro-choice and women's health advocates can derive some comfort," as the group is "dedicated to identifying and promoting best practices in women's health based on rigorous scientific evidence." She adds, "If Sotomayor's connection to the group is any indication of the value she places in science and her respect for the field of medicine, her nomination is good news for women's health." Page also provides a link to audio of her appearance on a radio show to discuss "common ground" in the abortion-rights debate. She writes that David Gushee, an abortion-rights opponent who also appeared on the show, was genuinely "reasonable and looking for solutions." Page adds, "Listening to him gives me faith in this new and albeit small movement of pro-lifers who genuinely want to support policies that help reduce the need for abortion" (Page, Birth Control Watch, 5/27).
~ "Unshackling Female Prisoners in Labor," Abigail Kramer, Salon's "Broadsheet": Last week, the New York state Legislature passed a measure that would prevent the state's prisons from using handcuffs or shackles on pregnant female inmates during labor. Similar laws exist in three other states. Kramer writes, "Handcuffs and shackles for women in labor pose problems beyond the obvious snafu of being brutal, inhumane and bat's balls freaking crazy." She continues, "Having a baby is generally understood to be a wee bit uncomfortable," adding, "Not being able to move can increase the pain and slow down or complicate labor" and "restraints can cause a delay if a woman has to be rushed off for an emergency C-section -- which, as a doctor points out in Amnesty's original report on institutional violence against women prisoners, can lead to brain damage for the baby." In addition, "women giving birth have not turned out to pose a tremendous flight risk to the nation's criminal [justice] system: When Amnesty International asked prison administrators to provide examples of past in-labor escape attempts, they came up with exactly... well, zero," Kramer concludes (Kramer, "Broadsheet," Salon, 5/28).
~ "Be Responsible: Give Your Partner Drugs!" Norah Hazelton, National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association's "Family PlanIt": "One thing I remember pretty clearly from sex ed in high school health class ... was that if one person in a couple is diagnosed with an [sexually transmitted infection] and gets treatment, it's very important to get the other partner tested and treated because otherwise you can just end up passing it back and forth," Hazelton writes. She continues, "Trouble is, a lot of STIs don't have symptoms and it can be difficult getting someone with no symptoms to take the time (and money) to go see a doctor." Hazelton writes, "Thankfully, expedited partner therapy (EPT), the practice of treating partners without a medical assessment, is becoming more and more popular." She adds, "With 19 million new cases of STIs each year in the U.S. (costing an estimated $15.9 billion annually), any options that could reduce those numbers need to be considered seriously." Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended and endorsed EPT, "there are still many legal barriers," according to Hazelton, who adds that "EPT is likely prohibited in 11 states, and its status is unclear in 24 states as well as the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico." However, "the tide does seem to be turning in favor of legalizing EPT," as 15 states already have fully legalized some form of EPT, with several additional states considering similar laws. She concludes, "Gotta love it when legislative trends favor sensible, medically sound options that work to improve people's reproductive health!" (Hazelton, "Family PlanIt," National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association, 5/28).
~ "Exit Strategy," Dana Goldstein, The American Prospect's "Tapped": A new paper published in the journal Contraception argues that the "withdrawal method -- known colloquially, of course, as 'pulling out' before ejaculation" -- is "actually nearly as effective as condoms in preventing pregnancy," Goldstein writes. She continues, "Against the back-drop of a rising teen pregnancy rate and ongoing political fights over the Obama administration's decision to cut some abstinence-only funding, public health experts are sharply divided on the implications of the new paper, especially with regard to sex education." While some advocates "believe teenagers should be encouraged to practice withdrawal in some contexts" -- for example, if they don't have a condom or if their religious views oppose hormonal birth control -- "others caution that emphasizing withdrawal's success rate ignores teen boys' relative lack of self-control compared to adult men, and downplays teen girls' need to share control over contraception," Goldstein writes. Furthermore, she continues, there is "no reliable research on the method's success rate among adolescents in particular," and "talking positively about withdrawal takes the focus off condoms, which are the only way to protect against" sexually transmitted infections. Yet the paper's lead author, Rachel Jones of the Guttmacher Institute, warns that anecdotal evidence shouldn't be relied upon when assessing withdrawal. Jones says that "it does substantially reduce the risk of pregnancy." Debra Hauser, executive vice president of Advocates for Youth, concurs, stating, "When sex is held out as forbidden fruit, young people are not prepared for planning it. It just sort of happens. If at that point, all you have is withdrawal, then my goodness, withdraw!" Martha Kemper, vice president of SIECUS, adds, "I think everything should be talked about with teens." According to Goldstein, "As the political consensus shifts away from abstinence-only, debates like this one will likely become more common." She adds, "Even those skeptical of the reported withdrawal success rates say disagreement over the method provides a perfect opportunity to teach teenagers the kind of critical thinking and evidence-assessment necessary in making health decisions" (Goldstein, "Tapped," The American Prospect, 5/26).
~"Supreme Court Decision Pretends Pregnancy Discrimination Doesn't Harm Women," Kay Steiger, RH Reality Check: Steiger writes, "Few things underscore the Supreme Court's lack of diversity more than the recent ruling in a pregnancy discrimination case, AT&T Corp. v. Hulteen," in which the court ruled that AT&T's policy -- set prior to passage of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act in 1978 -- of defining unpaid maternity for employees as personal leave allows the company to keep such leave out of women's pensions. In Hulteen, "the court was primarily concerned with 'seniority systems,'" and because AT&T's decision of "treating pregnancy leave as personal leave was considered legal at the time, the company is not required to amend its pension system now," Steiger says. According to Steiger, "One of the most disturbing things" about the ruling "is that it seems to suggest that pregnancy discrimination is not sex discrimination. That determination could have vast and reaching impacts on women in this country." In addition, she writes, the "underlying context" in the case is that pregnancy discrimination cases "are becoming harder and harder to win." Steiger continues, "It's not beside the point to note that the court is composed mostly of white men." She adds that President Obama's nomination of a female judge to replace retiring Justice David Souter "is well justified if the interests of victims of discrimination are to be better protected by the Supreme Court" (Steiger, RH Reality Check, 5/27).
Reprinted with kind permission from You can view the entire Daily Women's Health Policy Report, search the archives, or sign up for email delivery here. The Daily Women's Health Policy Report is a free service of the National Partnership for Women & Families, published by The Advisory Board Company.
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