Roundup: Spain to Liberalize Abortion Laws

Emily Douglas

Spain to liberalize abortion laws; anti-choicers target state funding for Planned Parenthood; Brazil shuts down websites selling misoprostol; medical records follow Phill Kline to Virginia; Sarah Palin silent as National Abstinence Education Association criticizes Bristol; men's reactions to abortion.

Spain to Liberalize Abortion Laws
Despite a strong Catholic presence in the country, Spain is set to liberalize its abortion laws, GMANews reports: "
A parliamentary committee took the first step this week, recommending
that the government legalize early stage abortions, while gradually
imposing more restrictions as pregnancies progress." 
Despite the fact that abortion, except in the case of threats to a
woman’s physical or mental health, is currently illegal in the country,
Spain has one of the highest rates of abortion in Europe.

Anti-Choicers Target State Funding for Planned Parenthood
Big losses in Congress and the White House haven’t
deterred anti-choicers, of course.  Instead they’re focusing their
efforts on state-level legislation and attacking state-level funding of Planned Parenthood.  Writes the Springfield, Ill., State Journal-Register, "In its largest-ever state-based initiative, the Family Research Council
(FRC) is contacting every state lawmaker in the country with a plea to
eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood, one of the nation’s largest
providers of family planning and abortion services…Planned Parenthood has long been a favorite target for abortion
opponents, who chafe at the $337 million that the organization receives
from public sources to help run its 880 clinics nationwide. States are
the center of the action because 17 state legislatures permit their
funds to be used for abortions. Federal funds, by contrast, can support
only non-abortion services, such as counseling and birth control."  Planned Parenthood responds:

“Public funding of family planning services is an investment in
prevention care that has numerous dividends,” Tait Sye, spokesperson
for the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, says in an e-mailed
statement. “Cutting public funding of family planning is bad public
policy, will leave even more women without access to vital health care
services, and will lead to increased health care costs for the state.”

 

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Brazil Shuts Down Websites Selling Misoprostol

Around 75 websites distributing misoprostol in Brazil, where abortion is illegal, have been shut down, the Christian Telegraph reports. Some women’s health advocates argue that where unsafe abortion is not available, misoprostol can be a safe option.  Abortion is illegal in Brazil.

Medical Records Follow Phill Kline to Virginia

How did the medical records of women seeking late-term abortions in Kansas end up in Virginia?  By accident, claims the attorney for Phill Kline, the former Kansas Attorney General whose witch-hunt against abortion provider Dr. George Tiller led him to subpoena women’s medical records without justification.  Kline now lives in Virginia, working as a university instructor, KansasCity.com reports. It’s enough for the Kansas City Star to editorialize:

 

Regardless of who is at fault, the judge in the case initiated by
Kline should be very disturbed by the thought of patients’ records
zipping across the country and back.

Kline may be an unwitting bystander in this latest outrage, but a
former aide testified that he kept patients’ records in his apartment
dining at one point while Kline was changing jobs. And the Kansas
Supreme Court criticized Kline when he was district attorney for his
handling of records from the Planned Parenthood Clinic in Johnson
County

These instances validate the concerns of the operators of clinics in
Johnson County and Wichita, who predicted that patients’ privacy would
be jeopardized. If investigations of this sort are begun in the future,
judges have to come up with a more secure system.

 

Sarah Palin Silent as National Abstinence Education Association Criticizes Bristol Palin
On The Huffington Post, Geoffrey Dunn points out that Gov. Sarah
Palin has not stepped in to defend her daughter Bristol after the
National Abstinence Education Association sent out press releases
criticizing her arguments in a recent Fox News interview.  Writes Dunn,

But only weeks after Sarah Palin said "leave my kids alone," her biggest "news" promoter, Van Susteren, sneaks into Alaska behind Palin’s back for a ratings-grabbing interview with Bristol. And then a conservative Christian group goes after her daughter.

Where’s Palin’s vituperative comeback at Van Susteren or the NAEA?

Her silence says truck loads.

Men’s Reactions to Abortion
On Nerve, Lauren B. writes about telling progressive, pro-choice men about her abortion – and their less-than-gracious reactions:


Before my abortion I never would have
imagined that seemingly antiquated ideas about gender — that women need
to be taken care of, that women always have binding ties to motherhood,
that female body processes are somehow alien or scary — would ever
surface in the New Yorker-toting media men I was dating, even if just for a moment, even if just when drunk.
Then they did, more than once, and it was
more than a bit depressing to realize that a fair number of liberal men
still possess confining notions about women, and while they would argue
wholeheartedly for reproductive rights in the political abstract, they
might personally judge me in bed at night.

Other News to Note
Feb 20: Time: Catholic Judges and Abortion: Did the Pope Set New
Rules?

Feb 20: Weekly Standard: Time Magazine’s False Report on FOCA

Feb 21: News Leader:  Learning a new life: Bailey Alternative program
helps young parents finish education, cope with new responsibilities.

Feb 23: WA Today: Spray-on contraceptive could replace pill

Feb 20: Catholic Exchange: Focus on Foca

Feb 21: Renew America: University of Notre Dame’s new pro-life fund

Feb 21: The Christian Post: Seven States Seek Personhood Rights for Pre-Born

Feb 20: LifeSiteNews: CNN Rejects Life-Affirming Obama Ad – 2nd Major
Network to Do So

Feb 21: Beliefnet: Contraception: The Practical Pro-Life Approach

Feb 23: Denver Daily News: Personhood being adopted: Effort underway
in other states to enact failed Colo. initiative

Feb 20: The Texas Observer: Access Denied: Countless women are sexually assaulted as they attempt to immigrate into the United States. What happens to their reproductive rights when they wind up in U.S.
custody?

Feb 20: Cody Enterprise: Sex-ed task force stalled

Feb 22: Border to Border Radio: Florida House Calls for Criminal
Charges in Hialeah Abortion Clinic Death

Feb 22: In Forum: Let’s hope our common sense prevails over fertilized egg bill

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 (R-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.”

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.