Roundup: New Members of the Faith-Based Initiatives Council Announced

Emily Douglas

New members of Office of Faith-Based Initiatives announced; breakthrough for male contraceptive; anti-choice perspective on Commission on Population and Development; China's restrictive family planning policies result in a black market in boys; Kristof on family planning.

New Members of Office of Faith-Based Initiatives Announced


On
Religion Dispatches, Frances Kissling takes a look at some new nominees to the Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Initiatives.  One is pro-gay and, we hope, pro-choice; the other is not:

 

Two new nominees have stepped forward and confirmed that they have
been asked to join the Council. The first, Harry Knox of the Human
Rights Campaign’s faith based program (and an RD advisory council
member), is a good choice. His voice will be critical in ensuring that
religious groups that receive government funds not receive exemptions
from anti-discrimination laws. And I certainly hope that Harry is
equally active in protecting a woman’s right to choose and
non-discrimination against women on the grounds of their sexual and
reproductive lives. We do not need single issue advocates on this
Council that is so stacked against progressive religious thought.

The
other candidate is very disturbing and should be rejected. Tony Dungy,
former NFL coach and staunch opponent of gay marriage. In endorsing an
Indiana measure to ban same sex marriage, Dungy noted he was promoting
“family values—family values the Lord’s way.

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Breakthrough for Male Contraceptive
Marie Claire UK reports on a scientific breakthrough that may lead to effective male contraception: "A contraceptive pill for men might one day be possible
following the discovery of a genetic fault that leads to male
infertility, scientists said. The faulty gene affects the movement of sperm and means they cannot penetrate the membrane of an egg in order to fertilise it."

The Anti-Choice View on the Commission on Population and Development
We’ve
reported on the Commission on Population and Development negotiations,
but do you want to know how the anti-choice movement saw the conference?  Visit Worldmag.com:

Margaret J. Pollack spoke on behalf of the United
States at CPD, making a statement declaring U.S. commitment to ICPD
goals: “most particularly universal access to sexual and reproductive
health and the protection and promotion of reproductive rights.” The
statement also applauded President Obama’s rescinding of the Mexico
City policy (a Bush policy that refused funding to international groups
that promote abortion), and the decision to give $50 million to the
United Nations Population Fund. 

Other countries, however, made pro-life
statements. On Wednesday, Malta’s delegation reiterated its stance that
no position or recommendation should “create an obligation on any party
to consider abortion as a legitimate form of family planning,
reproductive health rights, services or commodities.” It added that the
phrase “abortion should be safe” can lend itself to the interpretation
“that abortion can be completely free of medical and other
psychological risks, while ignoring altogether the rights of the
unborn.

China’s Restrictive Family Planning Policies Result in Black Market in Boys

China’s restrictive family planning policies are resulting in the kidnapping of young boys, the New York Times reports: "The demand is especially strong in rural areas of south China, where a
tradition of favoring boys over girls and the country’s strict family
planning policies have turned the sale of stolen children into a
thriving business…The centuries-old tradition of cherishing boys — and a custom that
dictates that a married woman moves in with her husband’s family — is
reinforced by a modern reality: Without a real social safety net in
China, many parents fear they will be left to fend for themselves in
old age."

Lost Ground on International Family Planning

In an op-ed column and a blog post,
Nicholas Kristof looks at challenges to promoting family planning
abroad — and the serious gaps in care and counseling that face women
who do desire a smaller family.  The "unmet need for contraceptives" can simply be solved by providing any contraceptive to women in the developing world without counseling, education, or other advancement in their rights and health, Kristof writes. 

Nahomie’s story helps explain the enigma. She tried injectables, but
she says they caused excess bleeding that frightened her. The clinic
had little counseling to explain and reassure her, so she stopped after
nine months.

A sexually transmitted infection at the time meant
that she couldn’t use an IUD just then, and a doctor told her that the
pill would be inappropriate because she has vascular problems.
Reluctant to return to a clinic that seemed scornful of poor women, she
drifted along with nothing.

 

In his blog, Kristof meditates further on the challenges:

In the West, women were eager for contraceptives when they arrived on
the market, and once they were available, they were used. It’s much
more complicated in the developing world, where women have less
autonomy and many women desire large numbers of children — or at least
are ambivalent in a way that doesn’t always come through in the
fertility surveys. We sometimes imagine that family planning promotion
is a matter of handing out condoms or inserting IUD’s, and in fact it’s
so much more than that. It’s a comprehensive policy of counselling
women, offering a range of options, providing them some respect and
dignity and follow-up, and raising their status more generally. That’s
why girls’ education is so fundamental, for nothing has a more powerful
effect on a girl’s trajectory than going to school.

Other News to Note

April 2: Heritage Foundation Blog: Removing Conscience Rights: A Dangerous Prescription in Health Care

April 3: WKOW: STD awareness campaign

April 4: World Magazine: Population debate: The UN Commission on Population and Development grappled this week over abortion language and declining populations

April 4: Chicago Tribune Blog: With all due respect, Cardinal

April 4: Times Online UK: Vasectomies and abortions on the rise as economic meltdown hits US families

April 4: Emax Health: Minorities Hit Hard By Infectious Disease

April 3: Right Wing Watch: Fresh Off White House Call, Wright Decries
"Abortion Holocaust"
http://www.rightwingwatch.org/content/fresh-white-house-call-wright-decries-abortion-holocaust

April 3: AP: Anti-abortion bill passes House

April 3: Radio Kenai: House Approves Parental Consent Bill for Teenage Abortions

April 3: KFYR: Abortion Bill Defeated

April 3: Chicago Breaking News Center: Anti-abortion protesters allege hate crimes

April 3: Jezebel: Oklahoma Fetus-Defense Bill Does Not Make Abortion Less Legal

April 3: C-FAM Press Release: Breaking News: UN Commission Ends with Delegations Saying No to Abortion

April 4: Science Blogs: Catholics Accept Abortion and Stem Cell Research

April 4: Kansas Liberty Journal: Legislature tries again for late-term abortion law reform


April 5: Great Falls Tribune: Abortion, homosexuality becoming heated battlegrounds in legislative ‘culture war’

April 2: International Consortium of Medical Abortion: Massey University Study on Abortion Flawed

April 5: Chicago Tribune: IU professor’s friends await Senate confirmation

April 5: The Hill: Anti-abortion groups decry GOP silence on Sebelius

April 5: WaPo: Birth-Control Pill Lands Fairfax Girl 2-Week Suspension

April 5: Philadelphia Inquirer: Diocese in Pa. warns colleges on birth control

April 5: Detroit Free Press: Fertility and age: What women should know

April 2: World Net Daily: Mental health screening targets moms-to-be: Questionnaire will be used to determine ‘depression’ in patients

April: The Voice Magazine: Georgia Passes Nation’s First Embryo Adoption Law

April 3: Life News: Illinois Version of Radical, Pro-Abortion Freedom of Choice Act Defeated

April 3: Examiner: NARAL Pro-Choice America to launch Three-for-Three campaign to confirm key Obama nominees

April 3: Daily Gotham: Eight council members (all men) voted against NYC’s Clinic Access Bill

April 5: Philadelphia Inquirer: The American Debate: Catholic hierarchy finds the flock isn’t so easily led: For many, the economy,
not "values," is central now. And the Catholic left is gaining its
voice.

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.