Roundup: Parental Notification Risky for Some Teens

Brady Swenson

Parental notification can be risky for teens who live in abusive homes; Teens speak out explaining why parental notification is not a good idea; South Dakota's proposed abortion ban is tied in most recent poll; Catholic bishops' narrow anti-abortion effort hurts 'pro-life' cause.

Parental Notification Risky for Some Teens

A regular advice column for teens written in cooperation by a panel of teen commentators and counselor Lauren Forcella, Straight Talk for Teens, asks what teens think of California’s proposed parental notification law.  The responses show that requiring parental notification might seem like a good idea at first blush but the reality many teens face would make parental notification unlikely and even dangerous.  Here are a few of the reponses:

I was pregnant at 16. I refused my boyfriend’s advances for eight
months. The night before he moved we made love. He was gone, I was
pregnant. My parents were hard-core alcoholics and divorced. The first
person to speak face-to-face with me about sex was the nurse at family
planning. Sex-ed consisted of an embarrassing film and my parents were
silent on the topic. I was too scared to tell them, and going to high
school pregnant, pre-Juno, pre-Sarah Palin, was unthinkable. California
wants to remove the right of a young woman to seek an abortion without
parental notification. But a pregnant teen is wiser than you think and
deserves privacy if she feels she needs it. Abortion rates are down.
Girls only seek it as a last resort. Many fear violence, emotional
abuse, or being kicked out — into poverty. What do teens, who can’t
vote, think of losing their rights?

Tip for parents: if you practice open communication with your child,
are loving and supportive, you have nothing to worry about. On the
other hand, if you don’t talk to your kids about safe sex and let
parenting go by the wayside, forfeit your right to be notified. You
aren’t being notified because of the relationship you’ve built and how
you’ve handled past situations. Teenagers should be able to seek a safe
abortion without parental notification if they feel they need to. This
law will only lead to shady, unsafe abortions. I’m glad I can vote.

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The 52-member youth panel of this column is evenly split between
conservative and liberal families, yet almost all want the right to a
private abortion for women under 18 to remain in effect. They know, if
not firsthand, then secondhand, how in the wrong family, a mistaken
teen pregnancy can result in violence, emotional cruelty, and/or a life
of abject poverty. Every step of a pregnant teen’s journey she is urged
to tell her parents. Those who feel unsafe doing so will be made
at-risk by this law. And to think at-risk teens will navigate the
courts for a waiver is naïve. Most won’t. This law is cruel to girls
who already suffer. They have my prayers.

A recent column by a doctor echoes these sentiments and argues against Proposition 4:

As doctors, we encourage our patients to speak with their parents. And we know from research that a majority of adolescents do confide in their parents about the decision to have an abortion.

But as doctors, we need to be there for teens when they can’t talk
to their parents. Prop. 4 puts a barrier between us and the teenagers
that need our care the most.

In a recent survey of California teens, 37% said they would travel out
of state and 12% said they would leave the country to obtain abortion
care if parental notification was required.

Studies show that when young women do not confide in their parents,
they have good reason. One in three of these teens has experienced
violence in their home, is afraid it will recur, or fears being thrown
out of the house. Others are victims of incest, raped by a family
member. No law can force these families to start talking.


South Dakota Abortion Ban Proposal Tied in Polls

The abortion ban proposal, the third of its kind in five years in South Dakota, is tied, 44% supporting and 44% opposing, in the latest Argus Leader poll.  Opponents of the ban are working hard to raise doubts about the workability of the proposal’s new features, exceptions for rape and incest and a very strict exception for the health of the mother, saying that the health exception’s standard is "impossibly high:"

Though the initiative allows an abortion to protect the mother’s
health, abortion rights advocates say the standard is impossibly high: the threat of a major organ failure. They note that a pregnant woman
with breast cancer, for example, couldn’t seek chemotherapy or other
treatment that could cause a miscarriage because an organ was not
immediately at risk.

They also have publicized a memo from attorneys for the state’s largest
hospital chain that warns Measure 11 "will require a physician to
choose between possibly committing a felony or subjecting a pregnant
woman to a higher degree of medical risk than what would otherwise be
clinically desirable."


Catholic Bishops Narrow Anti-Abortion Effort Hurts "Pro-Life" Cause

The editorial board of the National Catholic Reporter joins the chorus of Catholics who are choosing to think more broadly than much of the Catholic leadership about who to support in the presidential election.  For decades now the Catholic Church has "promulgated the same message: Abortion trumps all other issues and the
only credible approach to fighting abortion is voting for candidates
who express a wish to overthrow Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion."  One of the lessons many Catholics have learned over the years is that "the bishops get little in return for their antiabortion political endorsements."  Abortion has steadily reduced since the inception of Roe and Democrats this year, led by Senator Barack Obama, are reaching across the aisle to Catholic leaders like Doug Kmiec to see if a bipartisan approach to reducing abortion through social support programs, improved sex education and access to contraception can be achieved:

The point is significant, especially this year when highly credible
voices in the Catholic community have been successful in reframing a
Catholic approach to the abortion issue. Legal scholars Douglas Kmiec
and Nicholas Cafardi, who have unimpeachable antiabortion credentials,
among others have advanced compelling arguments regarding the futility
of using a legal ban as a political litmus test.

Kmiec, who worked on briefs attempting to overturn Roe,
said earlier this year when explaining his support for Democratic
candidate Sen. Barack Obama: “We have been at the business of trying to
find the elusive fifth vote on the Supreme Court for 30 years. We
haven’t found it and even if we do find it, overturning Roe would not
save a single life, but instead merely return the question to the
states. While that would be important, it is not intended and never was
intended to close the American mind or, for that matter, the Catholic
mind to different or alternative ways to discourage abortion.”

This year, however, Democrats have added a plank to their platform
promising to enact programs aimed at reducing abortions by attacking
some of the root causes, especially among the poor and minorities. It
is distressing to witness so many members of the hierarchy eagerly
dismissing the possibility of an alternative approach.

A post by Silicon Valley-based CityMama blogger, Stefania Pomponi Butler, also does a great job laying out the arguments against Proposition 4 while noting that everyone, not just California’s citizens, should be concerned about the precedent Proposition 4’s passage would set for the rest of the country:

This issue is not just about California.  This proposition should
concern everyone who cares about women’s reproductive rights.  The
people who are trying to pass this proposition see it as a stepping
stone to making it mandatory for teens to have to ask their parents’
permission to obtain birth control. To overturning Roe v. Wade.  If
these issues are of concern to you, if you’d like to government to stay
out of your uterus, please read this.  Your state could be next.


News Politics

Clinton Campaign Announces Tim Kaine as Pick for Vice President

Ally Boguhn

The prospect of Kaine’s selection has been criticized by some progressives due to his stances on issues including abortion as well as bank and trade regulation.

The Clinton campaign announced Friday that Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) has been selected to join Hillary Clinton’s ticket as her vice presidential candidate.

“I’m thrilled to announce my running mate, @TimKaine, a man who’s devoted his life to fighting for others,” said Clinton in a tweet.

“.@TimKaine is a relentless optimist who believes no problem is unsolvable if you put in the work to solve it,” she added.

The prospect of Kaine’s selection has been criticized by some progressives due to his stances on issues including abortion as well as bank and trade regulation.

Kaine signed two letters this week calling for the regulations on banks to be eased, according to a Wednesday report published by the Huffington Post, thereby ”setting himself up as a figure willing to do battle with the progressive wing of the party.”

Charles Chamberlain, executive director of the progressive political action committee Democracy for America, told the New York Times that Kaine’s selection “could be disastrous for our efforts to defeat Donald Trump in the fall” given the senator’s apparent support of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Just before Clinton’s campaign made the official announcement that Kaine had been selected, the senator praised the TPP during an interview with the Intercept, though he signaled he had ultimately not decided how he would vote on the matter.

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Kaine’s record on reproductive rights has also generated controversy as news began to circulate that he was being considered to join Clinton’s ticket. Though Kaine recently argued in favor of providing Planned Parenthood with access to funding to fight the Zika virus and signed on as a co-sponsor of the Women’s Health Protection Act—which would prohibit states and the federal government from enacting restrictions on abortion that aren’t applied to comparable medical services—he has also been vocal about his personal opposition to abortion.

In a June interview on NBC’s Meet the Press, Kaine told host Chuck Todd he was “personally” opposed to abortion. He went on, however, to affirm that he still believed “not just as a matter of politics, but even as a matter of morality, that matters about reproduction and intimacy and relationships and contraception are in the personal realm. They’re moral decisions for individuals to make for themselves. And the last thing we need is government intruding into those personal decisions.”

As Rewire has previously reported, though Kaine may have a 100 percent rating for his time in the Senate from Planned Parenthood Action Fund, the campaign website for his 2005 run for governor of Virginia promised he would “work in good faith to reduce abortions” by enforcing Virginia’s “restrictions on abortion and passing an enforceable ban on partial birth abortion that protects the life and health of the mother.”

As governor, Kaine did support some existing restrictions on abortion, including Virginia’s parental consent law and a so-called informed consent law. He also signed a 2009 measure that created “Choose Life” license plates in the state, and gave a percentage of the proceeds to a crisis pregnancy network.

Regardless of Clinton’s vice president pick, the “center of gravity in the Democratic Party has shifted in a bold, populist, progressive direction,” said Stephanie Taylor, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, in an emailed statement. “It’s now more important than ever that Hillary Clinton run an aggressive campaign on core economic ideas like expanding Social Security, debt-free college, Wall Street reform, and yes, stopping the TPP. It’s the best way to unite the Democratic Party, and stop Republicans from winning over swing voters on bread-and-butter issues.”

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article included a typo that misidentified Sen. Tim Kaine as a Republican. We regret this error.

Roundups Sexual Health

This Week in Sex: The Sexually Transmitted Infections Edition

Martha Kempner

A new Zika case suggests the virus can be transmitted from an infected woman to a male partner. And, in other news, HPV-related cancers are on the rise, and an experimental chlamydia vaccine shows signs of promise.

This Week in Sex is a weekly summary of news and research related to sexual behavior, sexuality education, contraception, STIs, and more.

Zika May Have Been Sexually Transmitted From a Woman to Her Male Partner

A new case suggests that males may be infected with the Zika virus through unprotected sex with female partners. Researchers have known for a while that men can infect their partners through penetrative sexual intercourse, but this is the first suspected case of sexual transmission from a woman.

The case involves a New York City woman who is in her early 20s and traveled to a country with high rates of the mosquito-borne virus (her name and the specific country where she traveled have not been released). The woman, who experienced stomach cramps and a headache while waiting for her flight back to New York, reported one act of sexual intercourse without a condom the day she returned from her trip. The following day, her symptoms became worse and included fever, fatigue, a rash, and tingling in her hands and feet. Two days later, she visited her primary-care provider and tests confirmed she had the Zika virus.

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A few days after that (seven days after intercourse), her male partner, also in his 20s, began feeling similar symptoms. He had a rash, a fever, and also conjunctivitis (pink eye). He, too, was diagnosed with Zika. After meeting with him, public health officials in the New York City confirmed that he had not traveled out of the country nor had he been recently bit by a mosquito. This leaves sexual transmission from his partner as the most likely cause of his infection, though further tests are being done.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s recommendations for preventing Zika have been based on the assumption that virus was spread from a male to a receptive partner. Therefore the recommendations had been that pregnant women whose male partners had traveled or lived in a place where Zika virus is spreading use condoms or abstain from sex during the pregnancy. For those couples for whom pregnancy is not an issue, the CDC recommended that men who had traveled to countries with Zika outbreaks and had symptoms of the virus, use condoms or abstain from sex for six months after their trip. It also suggested that men who traveled but don’t have symptoms use condoms for at least eight weeks.

Based on this case—the first to suggest female-to-male transmission—the CDC may extend these recommendations to couples in which a female traveled to a country with an outbreak.

More Signs of Gonorrhea’s Growing Antibiotic Resistance

Last week, the CDC released new data on gonorrhea and warned once again that the bacteria that causes this common sexually transmitted infection (STI) is becoming resistant to the antibiotics used to treat it.

There are about 350,000 cases of gonorrhea reported each year, but it is estimated that 800,000 cases really occur with many going undiagnosed and untreated. Once easily treatable with antibiotics, the bacteria Neisseria gonorrhoeae has steadily gained resistance to whole classes of antibiotics over the decades. By the 1980s, penicillin no longer worked to treat it, and in 2007 the CDC stopped recommending the use of fluoroquinolones. Now, cephalosporins are the only class of drugs that work. The recommended treatment involves a combination of ceftriaxone (an injectable cephalosporin) and azithromycin (an oral antibiotic).

Unfortunately, the data released last week—which comes from analysis of more than 5,000 samples of gonorrhea (called isolates) collected from STI clinics across the country—shows that the bacteria is developing resistance to these drugs as well. In fact, the percentage of gonorrhea isolates with decreased susceptibility to azithromycin increased more than 300 percent between 2013 and 2014 (from 0.6 percent to 2.5 percent).

Though no cases of treatment failure has been reported in the United States, this is a troubling sign of what may be coming. Dr. Gail Bolan, director of CDC’s Division of STD Prevention, said in a press release: “It is unclear how long the combination therapy of azithromycin and ceftriaxone will be effective if the increases in resistance persists. We need to push forward on multiple fronts to ensure we can continue offering successful treatment to those who need it.”

HPV-Related Cancers Up Despite Vaccine 

The CDC also released new data this month showing an increase in HPV-associated cancers between 2008 and 2012 compared with the previous five-year period. HPV or human papillomavirus is an extremely common sexually transmitted infection. In fact, HPV is so common that the CDC believes most sexually active adults will get it at some point in their lives. Many cases of HPV clear spontaneously with no medical intervention, but certain types of the virus cause cancer of the cervix, vulva, penis, anus, mouth, and neck.

The CDC’s new data suggests that an average of 38,793 HPV-associated cancers were diagnosed each year between 2008 and 2012. This is a 17 percent increase from about 33,000 each year between 2004 and 2008. This is a particularly unfortunate trend given that the newest available vaccine—Gardasil 9—can prevent the types of HPV most often linked to cancer. In fact, researchers estimated that the majority of cancers found in the recent data (about 28,000 each year) were caused by types of the virus that could be prevented by the vaccine.

Unfortunately, as Rewire has reported, the vaccine is often mired in controversy and far fewer young people have received it than get most other recommended vaccines. In 2014, only 40 percent of girls and 22 percent of boys ages 13 to 17 had received all three recommended doses of the vaccine. In comparison, nearly 80 percent of young people in this age group had received the vaccine that protects against meningitis.

In response to the newest data, Dr. Electra Paskett, co-director of the Cancer Control Research Program at the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center, told HealthDay:

In order to increase HPV vaccination rates, we must change the perception of the HPV vaccine from something that prevents a sexually transmitted disease to a vaccine that prevents cancer. Every parent should ask the question: If there was a vaccine I could give my child that would prevent them from developing six different cancers, would I give it to them? The answer would be a resounding yes—and we would have a dramatic decrease in HPV-related cancers across the globe.

Making Inroads Toward a Chlamydia Vaccine

An article published in the journal Vaccine shows that researchers have made progress with a new vaccine to prevent chlamydia. According to lead researcher David Bulir of the M. G. DeGroote Institute for Infectious Disease Research at Canada’s McMaster University, efforts to create a vaccine have been underway for decades, but this is the first formulation to show success.

In 2014, there were 1.4 million reported cases of chlamydia in the United States. While this bacterial infection can be easily treated with antibiotics, it often goes undiagnosed because many people show no symptoms. Untreated chlamydia can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease, which can leave scar tissue in the fallopian tubes or uterus and ultimately result in infertility.

The experimental vaccine was created by Canadian researchers who used pieces of the bacteria that causes chlamydia to form an antigen they called BD584. The hope was that the antigen could prompt the body’s immune system to fight the chlamydia bacteria if exposed to it.

Researchers gave BD584 to mice using a nasal spray, and then exposed them to chlamydia. The results were very promising. The mice who received the spray cleared the infection faster than the mice who did not. Moreover, the mice given the nasal spray were less likely to show symptoms of infection, such as bacterial shedding from the vagina or fluid blockages of the fallopian tubes.

There are many steps to go before this vaccine could become available. The researchers need to test it on other strains of the bacteria and in other animals before testing it in humans. And, of course, experience with the HPV vaccine shows that there’s work to be done to make sure people get vaccines that prevent STIs even after they’re invented. Nonetheless, a vaccine to prevent chlamydia would be a great victory in our ongoing fight against STIs and their health consequences, and we here at This Week in Sex are happy to end on a bit of a positive note.