Roundup: Is Male Birth Control Finally on Its Way?

Robin Marty

Less frequent than the shot, less permanent than a vasectomy, it's...the future of male birth control!

Ladies, your prayers are (slowly) being answered.  Sick of the pills, the inserts, the injections and the patches?  Well, it’s almost time to tell your partner that birth control is HIS problem now.

Just close your eyes and imagine

A man’s wife doesn’t feel good on the Pill. He’d like to have the “old her” back, and figures it’s his turn to take responsibility for contraception. But they want another child, so vasectomy is not an option. So what does he do? While he drops his electric car off for a quick charge, he pops into the doctor’s office for a recharge of his own: 15 minutes of ultrasound treatment, for 6 months of contraception. Sound futuristic? It’s not. The effect of ultrasound on sperm production has been known since the 1970’s, but never pursued since then.

So, how would it work, exactly?

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A one-off hit of ultrasound waves every six months could prevent a man’s testes from producing sperm and leave the man infertile temporarily, say scientists. It would wear off and would have no bad side affects, the researchers believe. However, the long-term effects are still unknown, such as whether a man’s fertility would return after multiple uses over the years.

“We think this could provide men with up to six months of reliable, low-cost, non-hormonal contraception from a single round of treatment,” said Dr James Tsuruta, from the University of North Carolina.

“Our long-term goal is to use ultrasound from therapeutic instruments that are commonly found in sports medicine or physical therapy clinics as an inexpensive, long-term, reversible male contraceptive suitable for use in developing to first world countries,” he also said.

Longer-term, non-hormonal birth control?  Sounds amazing!  But how do we know it’s really on the horizon?  Because some serious funding is being applied to make it so.

The team of researchers has been awarded $100,000 (£67,000) from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to prepare for a trial in humans. The first step is to establish the minimum intensity of ultrasound required to act as a contraceptive in rats. The team also plan to investigate the mechanism that causes temporary infertility.

“Establishing safety, efficacy and reversibility: these are our top concerns,” said Dr Tsuruta.

Still feel like you should back up his birth control?  How about adding a gel on top of it?

CBS 2 News visited a male fertility expert Wednesday. Dr. Laurence Levine at Rush University Medical Center said he sees one or two dozen patients each week, who are taking testosterone gel.

For decades, testosterone gels have been prescribed for men of all ages whose bodies are slowing down, but after several months something happens to their sperm count.

“We find that often times that when they take that testosterone they will have suppression or reduction of their sperm production. So it can compromise fertility status,” Levine said.

Researchers believe that, in the right dose, testosterone, perhaps enhanced with female horomones, might be the perfect male contraceptive

The gel is applied by rubbing a bit on your elbow and stomach.

Now the only question left is, how much will these new birth control developments upset Rachel Welch?

Mini Roundup:  It apears that now that she’s unfettered, Former First Lady Laura Bush is really for equal rights for gays and a woman’s right to choose. As one writer points out, that puts her “slightly to the left of the current occupant of the White House.”

May 12, 2010

A Culture of Recrimination or of Life? – America Magazine

British Pro-Life Group: David Cameron Won’t Be Better on Abortion Than Brown – LifeNews.com

More Condoms, Contraceptives, Midwives, and Educated Girls Could Prevent Most … – Kansas City infoZine

MCCL targets Horner – Minnesota Public Radio

Aldermen Fighting Against Abortion Restrictions – WCHL 1360

Roundup: Kagan backs abortion restriction – Congress.org

New Williams Ad Hammers On Onorato On Abortion, Guns. – Capitol Ideas with John L. Micek

Scott McInnis’s Abortion Stance Comes Full Circle With Support For ‘Personhood … – Huffington Post

Oklahoma Legislature Passes Anti-Choice Law Requiring Publication of Patient … – Ms. Magazine

Laura Bush: pro abortion and gay marriage – The Guardian

AP: Abortion rights group endorses Specter foe – The Associated Press

No bills vetoed by McDonnell – Richmond Times Dispatch

Personhood Amendment gains support of once-skeptical Republicans – Westword

How did a new politics turn into rule by rich, white men? – The Guardian

Memos reveal Kagan’s centrist side – Kevin Sites in the Hot Zone

West Virginia Loss Sends Another Warning Shot to Incumbents – The AtlanticWire

Laura Bush Supports Gay Marriage, Abortion – ABC News

Commentary: New UK Government Spells Dangers for Both Born and Unborn – Lifesite

Family Values In Red States Vs. Blue States – NPR

Sarah Palin Hits Washington on Friday for Anti-Abortion Fundraiser – Politics Daily

Laura Bush: I’m Pro Choice – The New Ledger

Birth Control Pill Sparked Contraceptive Revolution – Voice of America

Groundbreaking form of contraceptive turns 50 – WDAY

Raquel Welch: ‘contraceptive pill has caused the decline in marriage’ – Grazia

Why Is Population Control Such a Radioactive Topic? – Mother Jones

Kenyans urged to adopt family planning – Capital FM

No more pills: Male contraceptive takes new approach – EurekAlert

Male contraception – administered by ultrasound?! – MadeForMums

World Bank Announces Five-Year Plan To Reduce Maternal Deaths, Fertility Rates … – Kaiser Family Foundation

Beyond The Bedroom: What The Birth Control Pill Really Did For Women – Forbes

Scientists find new role for ultrasound — as a male contraceptive – Times Online

Researchers Testing Birth Control Gel For Men – CBS2 Chicago

Human Trials Starting On Ultrasound As Birth Control – Babble Magazine

Gates Foundation Backs New Contraceptive Method – Tom’s Guide

New HIV and AIDS vaccine for Kenyan men – VSO International

HIV+ cases on the rise in Milwaukee area – Examiner.com

US Expands HIV/AIDS Programs In Caribbean – Kaiser Family Foundation

Advances Against AIDS – Imperial Valley News

Capps Introduces Maternal Health Bill – Ms. Magazine

The Role of the United States in Combating Human Trafficking – US Department of State

Women and Cancer: Cervical, Ovarian, and Uterine – HealthNewsDigest.com

Bill Gates signs agreement with Bihar to boost health standards – The Hindu

Time to stop celebrating mothers’ sacrifice – China Daily

May 13, 2010

Kagan Now Welcomes Confirmation “Charade” – The New American

Stupak disappointed abortion almost derailed health care reform – Daily Kos

State high court justice steps away from abortion lawsuit – Anchorage Daily News

Oklahoma GOP lawmaker speaks against abortion, insurance bill – NewsOK.com

UN head steers clear of abortion debate – Toronto Star

On Capitol Hill, Kagan Gets to Know Her Voters – New York Times

Guest Column: ‘Pill’ let women have a family and a career – Memphis Commercial Appeal

FDA approves new birth control pill – Hindustan Times

World Bank Announces Increased Lending For Family Planning, Maternal Health … – Medical News Today

Clinic Credited for Reducing Pregnancy, STD Rates – WSET

New plan to reduce maternal deaths – Public Service

Less Money for AIDS Treatment – UN Dispatch

Latina teen pregnancy on conference agenda – Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Surviving Motherhood – Macau Daily Times

Viewpoints: Breast cancer tests save money, lives – Sacramento Bee

Birth-control opponents greenwash their message – Grist Magazine

Analysis Law and Policy

Justice Kennedy’s Silence Speaks Volumes About His Apparent Feelings on Women’s Autonomy

Imani Gandy

Justice Anthony Kennedy’s obsession with human dignity has become a hallmark of his jurisprudence—except where reproductive rights are concerned.

Last week’s decision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt was remarkable not just for what it did say—that two provisions in Texas’s omnibus anti-abortion law were unconstitutional—but for what it didn’t say, and who didn’t say it.

In the lead-up to the decision, many court watchers were deeply concerned that Justice Anthony Kennedy would side with the conservative wing of the court, and that his word about targeted restrictions of abortion providers would signal the death knell of reproductive rights. Although Kennedy came down on the winning side, his notable silence on the “dignity” of those affected by the law still speaks volumes about his apparent feelings on women’s autonomy. That’s because Kennedy’s obsession with human dignity, and where along the fault line of that human dignity various rights fall, has become a hallmark of his jurisprudence—except where reproductive rights are concerned.

His opinion on marriage equality in Obergefell v. Hodges, along with his prior opinions striking down sodomy laws in Lawrence v. Texas and the Defense of Marriage Act in United States v. Windsor, assured us that he recognizes the fundamental human rights and dignity of LGBTQ persons.

On the other hand, as my colleague Jessica Mason Pieklo noted, his concern in Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action about the dignity of the state, specifically the ballot initiative process, assured us that he is willing to sweep aside the dignity of those affected by Michigan’s affirmative action ban in favor of the “‘dignity’ of a ballot process steeped in racism.”

Meanwhile, in his majority opinion in June’s Fisher v. University of Texas, Kennedy upheld the constitutionality of the University of Texas’ affirmative action program, noting that it remained a challenge to this country’s education system “to reconcile the pursuit of diversity with the constitutional promise of equal treatment and dignity.”

It is apparent that where Kennedy is concerned, dignity is the alpha and the omega. But when it came to one of the most important reproductive rights cases in decades, he was silent.

This is not entirely surprising: For Kennedy, the dignity granted to pregnant women, as evidenced by his opinions in Planned Parenthood v. Casey and Gonzales v. Carhart, has been steeped in gender-normative claptrap about abortion being a unique choice that has grave consequences for women, abortion providers’ souls, and the dignity of the fetus. And in Whole Woman’s Health, when Kennedy was given another chance to demonstrate to us that he does recognize the dignity of women as women, he froze.

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He didn’t write the majority opinion. He didn’t write a concurring opinion. He permitted Justice Stephen Breyer to base the most important articulation of abortion rights in decades on data. There was not so much as a callback to Kennedy’s flowery articulation of dignity in Casey, where he wrote that “personal decisions relating to marriage, procreation, contraception, family relationships, child rearing, and education” are matters “involving the most intimate and personal choices a person may make in a lifetime, choices central to personal dignity and autonomy.” (While Casey was a plurality opinion, various Court historians have pointed out that Kennedy himself wrote the above-quoted language.)

Of course, that dignity outlined in Casey is grounded in gender paternalism: Abortion, Kennedy continued, “is an act fraught with consequences for others: for the woman who must live with the implications of her decision; for the persons who perform and assist in the procedures for the spouse, family, and society which must confront the knowledge that these procedures exist, procedures some deem nothing short of an act of violence against innocent human life; and, depending on one’s beliefs, for the life or potential life that is aborted.” Later, in Gonzales, Kennedy said that the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban “expresses respect for the dignity of human life,” with nothing about the dignity of the women affected by the ban.

And this time around, Kennedy’s silence in Whole Woman’s Health may have had to do with the facts of the case: Texas claimed that the provisions advanced public health and safety, and Whole Woman’s Health’s attorneys set about proving that claim to be false. Whole Woman’s Health was the sort of data-driven decision that did not strictly need excessive language about personal dignity and autonomy. As Breyer wrote, it was a simple matter of Texas advancing a reason for passing the restrictions without offering any proof: “We have found nothing in Texas’ record evidence that shows that, compared to prior law, the new law advanced Texas’ legitimate interest in protecting women’s health.”

In Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s two-page concurrence, she succinctly put it, “Many medical procedures, including childbirth, are far more dangerous to patients, yet are not subject to ambulatory-surgical-center or hospital admitting-privileges requirements.”

“Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers laws like H.B. 2 that ‘do little or nothing for health, but rather strew impediments to abortion,’ cannot survive judicial inspection,” she continued, hammering the point home.

So by silently signing on to the majority opinion, Kennedy may simply have been expressing that he wasn’t going to fall for the State of Texas’ efforts to undermine Casey’s undue burden standard through a mixture of half-truths about advancing public health and weak evidence supporting that claim.

Still, Kennedy had a perfect opportunity to complete the circle on his dignity jurisprudence and take it to its logical conclusion: that women, like everyone else, are individuals worthy of their own autonomy and rights. But he didn’t—whether due to his Catholic faith, a deep aversion to abortion in general, or because, as David S. Cohen aptly put it, “[i]n Justice Kennedy’s gendered world, a woman needs … state protection because a true mother—an ideal mother—would not kill her child.”

As I wrote last year in the wake of Kennedy’s majority opinion in Obergefell, “according to [Kennedy’s] perverse simulacrum of dignity, abortion rights usurp the dignity of motherhood (which is the only dignity that matters when it comes to women) insofar as it prevents women from fulfilling their rightful roles as mothers and caregivers. Women have an innate need to nurture, so the argument goes, and abortion undermines that right.”

This version of dignity fits neatly into Kennedy’s “gendered world.” But falls short when compared to jurists internationally,  who have pointed out that dignity plays a central role in reproductive rights jurisprudence.

In Casey itself, for example, retired Justice John Paul Stevens—who, perhaps not coincidentally, attended the announcement of the Whole Woman’s Health decision at the Supreme Court—wrote that whether or not to terminate a pregnancy is a “matter of conscience,” and that “[t]he authority to make such traumatic and yet empowering decisions is an element of basic human dignity.”

And in a 1988 landmark decision from the Supreme Court of Canada, Justice Bertha Wilson indicated in her concurring opinion that “respect for human dignity” was key to the discussion of access to abortion because “the right to make fundamental personal decision without interference from the state” was central to human dignity and any reading of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms 1982, which is essentially Canada’s Bill of Rights.

The case was R. v. Morgentaler, in which the Supreme Court of Canada found that a provision in the criminal code that required abortions to be performed only at an accredited hospital with the proper certification of approval from the hospital’s therapeutic abortion committee violated the Canadian Constitution. (Therapeutic abortion committees were almost always comprised of men who would decide whether an abortion fit within the exception to the criminal offense of performing an abortion.)

In other countries, too, “human dignity” has been a key component in discussion about abortion rights. The German Federal Constitutional Court explicitly recognized that access to abortion was required by “the human dignity of the pregnant woman, her… right to life and physical integrity, and her right of personality.” The Supreme Court of Brazil relied on the notion of human dignity to explain that requiring a person to carry an anencephalic fetus to term caused “violence to human dignity.” The Colombian Constitutional Court relied upon concerns about human dignity to strike down abortion prohibition in instances where the pregnancy is the result of rape, involves a nonviable fetus, or a threat to the woman’s life or health.

Certainly, abortion rights are still severely restricted in some of the above-mentioned countries, and elsewhere throughout the world. Nevertheless, there is strong national and international precedent for locating abortion rights in the square of human dignity.

And where else would they be located? If dignity is all about permitting people to make decisions of fundamental personal importance, and it turns out, as it did with Texas, that politicians have thrown “women’s health and safety” smoke pellets to obscure the true purpose of laws like HB 2—to ban abortion entirely—where’s the dignity in that?

Perhaps I’m being too grumpy. Perhaps I should just take the win—and it is an important win that will shape abortion rights for a generation—and shut my trap. But I want more from Kennedy. I want him to demonstrate that he’s not a hopelessly patriarchal figure who has icky feelings when it comes to abortion. I want him to recognize that some women have abortions and it’s not the worst decision they’ve ever made or the worst thing that ever happened to him. I want him to recognize that women are people who deserve dignity irrespective of their choices regarding whether and when to become a mother. And, ultimately, I want him to write about a woman’s right to choose using the same flowery language that he uses to discuss LGBTQ rights and the dignity of LGBTQ people.  He could have done so here.

Forcing the closure of clinics based on empty promises of advancing public health is an affront to the basic dignity of women. Not only do such lies—and they are lies, as evidenced by the myriad anti-choice Texan politicians who have come right out and said that passing HB 2 was about closing clinics and making abortion inaccessible—operate to deprive women of the dignity to choose whether to carry a pregnancy to term, they also presume that the American public is too stupid to truly grasp what’s going on.

And that is quintessentially undignified.

News Politics

Trump University ‘Preyed Upon the Elderly and Uneducated,’ Claims Former Trump Staffer

Ally Boguhn

The almost 400 pages of documents released Tuesday included Trump University’s “playbook,” detailing techniques the so-called university’s salespeople were instructed to use. The book told employees to identify seminar “buyers” by sorting through student profiles based on their liquid assets.

Recently unsealed court documents from a class action lawsuit against Trump University—a for-profit company founded by presumptive presidential Republican nominee Donald Trump—revealed the tactics employed by the business to aggressively push their classes.

The almost 400 pages of documents released Tuesday included Trump University’s “playbook,” detailing techniques the so-called university’s salespeople were instructed to use. The book told employees to identify seminar “buyers” by sorting through student profiles based on their liquid assets, CNN reported. Staff members were told to address buyers’ doubts about going into debt with scripted responses:

I don’t like using my credit cards and going into debt: “[D]o you like living paycheck to paycheck? … Do you enjoy seeing everyone else but yourself in their dream houses and driving their dreams cars with huge checking accounts? Those people saw an opportunity, and didn’t make excuses, like what you’re doing now.”

Testimony from former Trump University Sales Manager Ronald Schnackenberg uncovered by the New York Times claims that staff were pushed to exploit those struggling financially. Schnackenberg claimed in written testimony that he was once “reprimanded” for not pushing a couple he felt was in a “precarious financial condition” to buy a $35,000 real estate class using their disability income and a loan.

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Schnackenberg said he believed “Trump University was a fraudulent scheme, and that it preyed upon the elderly and uneducated to separate them from their money.”

Some of the released documents were later ordered to be resealed after U.S. District Judge Gonzalo P. Curiel, who is presiding over two of the three lawsuits against Trump University, on grounds that they were “mistakenly” released to the public. Trump University faces a second class action lawsuit as well as a $40 million lawsuit brought by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

Schneiderman on Thursday told Good Morning America host George Stephanopoulos that Trump University had engaged in fraud. “We have a law [in New York] against running an illegal, unlicensed university,” Schneiderman said. “This never was a university. The fraud started with the name of the organization, and you can’t just go around saying this is the George Stephanopoulos Law Firm/Hospital/University without actually qualifying and registering, so it was really a fraud from beginning to end.”

Trump’s pending Trump University lawsuits have been under increasing scrutiny. The Republican made headlines again Friday for lobbing “racially tinged” attacks on Curiel.

“I have a judge who is a hater of Donald Trump, a hater. He’s a hater,” Trump said at a campaign rally in San Diego, going on to speculate that the judge may be “Mexican.”

Trump nevertheless vowed in a Thursday tweet to reopen Trump University once the pending lawsuits against the business have concluded.

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s campaign wasted no time this week blasting the presumptive GOP nominee for his role in Trump University after the release of the case’s documents. Speaking about the matter during a campaign rally at Rutgers University in New Jersey, Clinton called out Trump’s for-profit school.

“This is just more evidence that Donald Trump himself is a fraud. He is trying to scam America the way he tried to scam all of those people at Trump U,” Clinton said. “Trump and his employees took advantage of vulnerable Americans, encouraging them to max out their credit cards, empty their retirement savings, destroy their financial futures—all while making promises they knew were false from the beginning.”