Roundup: Abortion Decriminalization Push in Queensland

Amy Dempsey

Obama administration may drop push for public option; abortion law reform under consideration in Queensland, Australia; North Carolina college will not provide contraception.

Obama Administration Considers Dropping Public Option

The New York Times reports that the Obama administration may be willing to scrap a public option in order to get health care reform legislation through Congress, in favor of non-profit insurance cooperatives:

The White House, facing increasing skepticism over President Obama’s
call for a public insurance plan to compete with the private sector,
signaled Sunday that it was willing to compromise and would consider a
proposal for a nonprofit health cooperative being developed in the
Senate.

Progressive Democrats continue to speak out in favor of a public option:

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On Sunday, Senator John D. Rockefeller IV,
Democrat of West Virginia, affirmed his support for the public option.
“I believe the inclusion of a strong public plan option in health
reform legislation is a must,” Mr. Rockefeller said in a statement. “It
is the only proven way to guarantee that all consumers have affordable,
meaningful and accountable options available in the health insurance marketplace.”

Abortion Law Reform Considered in Queensland, Australia
In Queensland, Australia, draft abortion reform laws have been revealed by Bonny Barry, a former Labor MP, reports The Australian. Barry is speaking out to reform Queensland’s abortion laws, which only allow abortion if the mother’s life is at risk.

According
to Barry, laws pushing for the decriminalization of abortion were drawn
up in 2003, but were ignored by Premier Anna Bligh and the previous
premier Peter Beattie.

Bligh, meanwhile, "reaffirmed her position that, while she would
personally support legislation to decriminalise abortion, the
government would put no such bill before parliament."

North Carolina College Will Not Provide Contraceptives
The
President of Belmont Abbey College in North Carolina said he would
close the school’s before going against the church’s teachings about
contraception, the Washington Times
reported. The  Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) decided
that Belmont Abbey violated discrimination laws by not covering
contraception, and the two are now in a fight involving health
insurance laws and religious freedom.

"By denying prescription contraceptive drugs, [the college] is
discriminating based on gender because only females take oral
prescription contraceptives," the EEOC wrote in a letter to the North
Carolina college. "By denying coverage, men are not affected, only
women."

"I hope it would never get this far," college President William K.
Thierfelder told The Washington Times, "but if it came down to it we
would close the college before we ever provided that." 

Catholics Forgiving Rick Pitino
Some Catholics are
saying University of Louisville’s basketball coach Rick Pitino should
be removed from his position after having extramarital sex with a woman
who later had an abortion. Other church members are forgiving Pitino,
and say his decisions are between Pitino and God, The Associated Press reported.
The article said:

The 56-year-old Pitino has admitted to police that he had sex in 2003
with Karen Cunagin Sypher, who was indicted in May on charges of lying
to the FBI and attempting to extort up to $10 million from the coach.
The 49-year-old has pleaded not guilty in that federal case.
In police documents which became public last week, Pitino acknowledged
giving Sypher $3,000 after she said she was pregnant and was getting an
abortion, but didn’t have health insurance. Pitino’s lawyer, Steve
Pence, has insisted the money was for insurance and Pitino never paid
for an abortion.


OTHER NEWS TO NOTE:

August 17: Post Crescent: Survey, poll results can tell you only so much

August 17: Cleveland Plain Dealer: Would abortions be funded under health reform measure?

August 17: RenewAmerica: The making of a pro-life advocate  

August 17: San Francisco Chronicle: Misconception over key issues at core of debate

August 17: Globe and Mail: Health minister retreats on plans to tighten rules for abortion clinics 

August 17: Catholic Exchange: Radical NGO Paints Abortionists as Human Rights Defenders  

August 17: Omaha World-Herald: Gearing up for abortion protests 

August 16: LifeNews: Pro-Life News: No Public Option? Euthanasia, Kansas, Quebec, Pitino, Abstinence, Obama  

August 16: Rocky Mount Telegram: Relative of Dr. King to speak against abortion

August 17: WaPo: Abortion and the Virginia Race  

August 16: AP:Some Catholics in Louisville forgiving of Pitino 

August 17: Daily Mail: Attenborough joins campaign to curb world’s population

August 16: Change.org Women’s Rights: Counter Protest: Pro-Life Group to Organize Against Abortion Clinic 

August 16: Beliefnet: EEOC: The Pill more important than religious liberty

August 16: Examiner: Leroy Carhart’s abortion Clinic 

August 16: Florida Today:Matt Reed: Health care fact or fiction 

August 16: MLive: Student pro-life group, Wayne State University settle lawsuit

August 17: The Australian: Draft abortion laws ready for Anna Bligh 

August 16: Mail Tribune:Bills will use taxes to increase abortion

August 16: News Star: (Letter) Insist that bill has no abortion funds 

August 16: SF Gate:When lies get in the way of reform 

August 15: Norwich Bulletin: (Letter) Don’t force taxpayers to fund abortions 

August 15: Covenant News: JUDGE DISMISSES OBSTRUCTION CHARGE AGAINST ABORTION PROTESTER AT PLANNED PARENTHOOD CLINIC

August 15: Newsweek: The Last Abortion Doctor?  

August 15: Newsweek: Competing Emotions  

August 15: Newsweek: The Abortion Evangelist 

August 15: Washington Times: Catholic college faces lawsuit over contraceptives

August 15: RenewAmerica: The Pill and the debt   

August 14: Feministing: 78% of Americans think abortion should be legal 

August 15: Catholic Exchange: From Family Planning to Death Planning   

August 14: Examiner:Pro-life group applauds resumed strict regulation of RU486 in Ohio

August 15: Catholic News Agency: Trek across the country reveals a pro-life America

August 14: Feministing: Come to Nebraska to Defend Women’s Rights & Protect Dr. Carhart  

August 15: Windsor Beacon:(Letters) Gary Crist: Do research on adoption

August 15: Des Moines Register:Don’t be fooled on abortion issue

August 14: NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia: Anti-Choice Incumbent Spotlight: Delegate G. Glenn Oder  

August 15: Examiner: Health Care Reform Would Allow Planned Parenthood Clinics in Schools

August 14: Suzy B:Abortion Industry Can’t Have it Both Ways

August 14: ABC News: Fact Check: Is The Right to Abortion Included in Health Care Reform? 

August 14: LifeNews: Wisconsin Medical Society Rejects OKing Assisted Suicide, Pro-Life Group Elated

August 14: Politico: Deeds camp pushes abortion issue but stays away from Robertson

August 14: Deseret News:Teen going to trial in desecration case 

August 14: Newsweek:Health-Care Reform and the Abortion Debate

August 14: Examiner:Anti-abortion activist does not help the cause

August 14: WSJ: Look Who’s Discriminating Now

August 13: Feministing: Annoying Misconception #1: Abortion providers think that abortion is always the right decision.

August 14: BBC News: Abortions on under-14s revealed 

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.