Roundup: How Beneficial Is Breastfeeding?

Emily Douglas

How beneficial is breastfeeding?; Vatican rejects Caroline Kennedy as ambassador; abortion legislation in Kansas after Sebelius; comparing the struggles for marriage equality and reproductive rights.

How Beneficial Is Breastfeeding?

In the Atlantic, Hanna Rosin debates the merits of breast-feeding.  Does evidence really suggest that breast-feeding offers as many advantages as is often touted?  And does it set up an unequal parenting dynamic in which women are more responsible for their baby’s sustenance? 

Thousands of such studies have been published, linking
breast-feeding with healthier, happier, smarter children. But they all
share one glaring flaw.

An ideal study would randomly divide a group of mothers, tell one
half to breast-feed and the other not to, and then measure the
outcomes. But researchers cannot ethically tell mothers what to feed
their babies. Instead they have to settle for “observational” studies.
These simply look for differences in two populations, one breast-fed
and one not. The problem is, breast-fed infants are typically brought
up in very different families from those raised on the bottle. In the
U.S., breast-feeding is on the rise—69 percent of mothers initiate the
practice at the hospital, and 17 percent nurse exclusively for at least
six months. But the numbers are much higher among women who are white,
older, and educated; a woman who attended college, for instance, is
roughly twice as likely to nurse for six months. Researchers try to
factor out all these “confounding variables” that might affect the
babies’ health and development. But they still can’t know if they’ve
missed some critical factor. “Studies about the benefits of
breast-feeding are extremely difficult and complex because of who
breast-feeds and who doesn’t,” says Michael Kramer, a highly respected
researcher at McGill University. “There have been claims that it
prevents everything—cancer, diabetes. A reasonable person would be
cautious about every new amazing discovery.”

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Vatican Rejects Caroline Kennedy As Ambassador
The Vatican has rejected Caroline Kennedy as an ambassador, the reports.  A pro-choice representative, no matter how Catholic or high-profile, won’t fly:

daily] Il Giornale claims that the appointment of a new US ambassador
succeed Mary Ann Glendon has proved difficult because of the “strained”
relations between the White House and the Holy See, which has been less
than enamoured of Barack Obama’s public support for both abortion and
stem cell research.  A former US representative to the Vatican said
that Kennedy’s pro-choice position would make her an unacceptable pick.

What Will Happen to Kansas?

After former Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano headed to Washington
to be Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, we wondered
what would happen to anti-choice bills in the state now that the pro-choice governor was no longer around to veto them.  Now that Kansas
Governor Kathleen Sebelius is likely headed to DC herself to head the
Department of Health and Human Services, some are wondering what will
happen to her state’s abortion laws.  Reports the AP,

A recent bill is described by
anti-abortion groups as an attempt to strengthen enforcement of Kansas’
existing restrictions on late-term abortions.

It won legislative approval with some bipartisan support but not veto-proof majorities.

The Legislature didn’t delivers it to Sebelius’ desk last week.

Neither abortion opponents nor abortion rights supporters are sure that Sebelius actually will deal with it.

Sebelius Addresses Abortion for Senate Finance Committee

In response to written questions from the Senate Finance Committee,
Sebelius said that she does not anticipate creating more
abortion-related regulation. Reports the Kansas City Star,

Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius has told the Senate Finance Committee
that she does not anticipate issuing new abortion regulations if she is
approved as U.S. secretary of health and human services.

“I am
personally opposed to abortion, and my faith teaches me that all life
is sacred,” she told Sen. Jon Kyl, an Arizona Republican. “I have tried
to reduce unwanted pregnancies and thus curtail the need for abortion.”


Comparing the Movements for Same-Sex Marriage and Abortion Rights 

In the New York Times, Adam Liptak looks at recent wins for same-sex
marriage rights and compares the movement for marriage equality to the
fight for abortion rights.  Will the Supreme Court weigh in?  Probably not, in part because of their experience with Roe.

And now there are four. In the space of a week, the number of states allowing same-sex marriage
has doubled, with Iowa and then Vermont joining Massachusetts and
Connecticut. In California, gay and lesbian couples were exchanging
vows for five months before voters put a stop to the practice in
November. Californians are still talking it over, though, and loudly.
New York and New Jersey may be next to debate the question.

In other contexts, this sort of turmoil might amount to an invitation for the United States Supreme Court
to step in. But there are all sorts of reasons the court is likely to
keep its distance, and a central one is the endlessly debated 1973
decision that identified a constitutional right to abortion.

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