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Developing New Birth Control Methods for Men, Will It Change the Debate?

9:20 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Martha Kempner for RHRealityCheck.org. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

I wonder if Bill O’Reilly would be so worried about alcohol getting in the way of contraception if men were responsible for birth control. Currently, the only options for men other than “pulling out” are condoms or a vasectomy. The idea of a birth control pill for men has been floating around for many years with few results, but an article in the New York Times this weekend, suggests that “prompted by women’s organizations, global health groups and surveys indicating that men are receptive, federal agencies are financing research.”

At this point researchers are still looking for methods that are as safe, reliable, and reversible as existing birth control options for women and that have few side effects. Some of the options they are looking at include:

    • Using hormones to stop sperm production. Described as “the most studied approach in the United States,” researchers are using progestin, a hormone used in female birth control pills, which interrupts testosterone production and stops the testes from making sperm. In order to make sure that men don’t lose libido and muscle mass, they are also given limited testosterone.
    • Interrupting sperm maturation. Researchers at the University of Kansas are working on a pill which interrupts the maturation process of sperm so that they are not functional.
    • Blocking retinoic acid. Other researchers are working on drugs that would block retinoic acid which is important for sperm production. Unfortunately, thus far at least one of these drugs is completely incompatible with alcohol – drinking while on it makes men quite sick.
    • Reducing the mobility of sperm. A neurobiologist at Harvard “discovered that sperm tails contain calcium-ion channels, with electrically charged ions ‘turbo-charging the sperm’ to reach eggs.” He is working on a drug that would disable this channel.
    • Inactivating sperm with shots. Called Risug (reversible inhibition of sperm under guidance), this method involves periodically injecting gel into the scrotum.
    • Halting sperm production with ultrasound. This method involves heating the testes which can stop sperm production for months.

      Like Viagra, which was discovered during development of treatment for high blood pressure and angina, many of these potential new birth control options were developed for other purposes including treating cancer, worm infections, skin diseases, hypertension, and psychosis. The last two drugs were found to keep men from ejaculating during orgasms, of course, in order to use them as birth control researchers will have to change them to make sure they no longer impact blood pressure and mood.

      It may be awhile before any of these methods are widely available though it does make one wonder if a slew of new male-control options will change the debate over contraception. Will critics still be suggesting that easy access to inexpensive birth control methods will create a new generation of sluts?

       

      House Committee Votes to Reinstate Global Gag Rule (Again) and Other Misogynistic Amendments

      8:23 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

      Written by Editor-in-Chief Jodi Jacobson for RHRealityCheck.org. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

      A central motto of today’s GOP and Tea Parties appears to be: Never let evidence get in the way of efforts to pass a law undermining women’s access to healthcare.

      An addendum to this motto appears to be: Never let an opportunity pass to deny funding to or politicize services providing care to the poorest and least-enfranchised women in the world, most particularly those who suffer high rates of maternal death due to lack of access to family planning services and high rates of complications of pregnancy and unsafe abortion.

      In keeping with this, just weeks after publication of a major report underscoring the benefits of robust U.S. investment in family planning worldwide, the GOP-controlled House Foreign Affairs Committee voted in the early hours of the morning today to reinstate the Global Gag Rule (GGR) as part of the draft Fiscal Year 2012 State Department Authorizations Act, except this time with broader and more damaging implications than ever before.

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      In Missouri, Legislators Fail to Protect Women’s Basic Rights, Undermining Justice for All

      8:11 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

      Written by Pamela Merritt for RHRealityCheck.org. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

      On July 14, 2011, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon allowed two identical abortion restriction bills to become law. In a bizarre move toward the end of the 2011 legislative session, Missouri legislators passed two versions of the same restriction bill, one originally filed in the Senate and the other in the House. The passage of identical abortion restriction bills was likely fueled by more than one legislator wanting to take credit.

      Often erroneously reported as banning abortions after 20 weeks gestation, HB213 & SB65 can more accurately be described as eliminating certain health exceptions that protected women facing serious pregnancy-related complications. The legislation changes the factors physicians must consider before performing a post-viability abortion and creates criminal penalties for physicians not following the new regulations. Governor Nixon, a Democrat who successfully ran as a pro-choice candidate in 2008, did not sign the abortion restriction bills into law nor did he veto the legislation.  The identical abortion restriction bills automatically became law once the July 14, 2011 veto deadline passed.

      Reproductive justice advocates had hoped that Governor Nixon would veto the abortion restriction bills. In the weeks leading up to the 2011 veto deadline, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch published an editorial that called on the Governor to do just that and send a message to state legislators that it is time to get serious and cease treating women’s health like a political football. The Post-Dispatch editorial points out that Missouri’s annual legislative pander to anti-choice special interest groups in lieu of focusing on prevention is both fiscally irresponsible and hypocritical; unintended pregnancies cost tax payers billions, while reducing the number of unintended pregnancies would also reduce the number of abortions. But as the hours ticked by Thursday July 14th it became clear that the Governor was not going to capitalize on this leadership opportunity to send a message through his veto.

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      At Global Leadership Council Meeting, Silence on Family Planning

      10:08 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

      Written by Suzanne Ehlers for RHRealityCheck.org. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

      What Washington insider—or aspiring insider like myself—doesn’t relish the chance to be in the same room with Secretary Clinton, The Honorable Tom Ridge, NBC’s Chuck Todd, and World Bank President Bob Zoellick to talk policy? They were just a few from the lineup at Tuesday’s annual meeting of the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition (USGLC), a network of 400 businesses and NGOs dedicated to pursuing “smart power” in foreign policy. Congratulations to their team for pulling off such an impressive forum in a moment of political uncertainty and distraction.

      Population Action International (PAI) has long advocated for investments in family planning worldwide because they improve development outcomes. Our work on security, climate change, and aid effectiveness all show how it’s a cornerstone for progress. So to have a coalition like USGLC, which stresses how investments in development and diplomacy go as far as (if not further than) larger investments in defense, is an incredibly powerful platform for a group like PAI.

      That said, such a large and diverse coalition will sometimes leave a reproductive health advocate like myself wanting more.

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      Supporting Family Planning Abroad: A Sound Investment for the US and A Way to Save Lives

      10:34 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

      Written by Maureen Greenwood-Basken for RHRealityCheck.org. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

      Currently, more than 215 million women around the world want access to quality reproductive health care but don’t have it. On Monday, July 11th, we recognized World Population Day, and I was reminded that this unmet need is only likely to increase when the world’s population crosses the 7 billion mark in the fall. Global investment in international reproductive health and voluntary family planning is one of the best ways to save maternal and infant lives, and build sustainable communities.

      According to the Council on Foreign Relations’ recent report, Family Planning and U.S. Foreign Policy,” meeting the unmet need for family planning would result in a 32 percent decrease in maternal deaths, reduce abortion in developing countries by 70 percent, and reduce infant mortality by 10 percent. However, the reproductive health needs of many women in developing countries remain unmet. Sometimes, this occurs even when subsidized contraceptives are sitting unused and expiring in warehouses miles away.

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      For More Than 200 Million Women, A World Without Options

      7:23 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

      Written by John Skibiak for RHRealityCheck.org – News, commentary and community for reproductive health and justice.

      Today, there are over 200 million women in the developing world who want to prevent or delay pregnancy, but are not using any means of modern contraception. This is, without a doubt, a horrifying figure. But the greatest tragedy for us—those of us who have dedicated our professional lives to ensuring global access to family planning—is that this figure has not budged in nearly two decades.

      The gap was 200 million in the 1990s; it was 200 million in at the beginning of this decade; and it remains roughly 200 million today. Yes, contraceptive prevalence around the world is increasing — as is the number of new family planning users. But each step forward is more than matched by comparable increases in demand in new users. Therefore, despite our best efforts, we are caught in a deadlock.

      We need to find a way to meet the family planning needs of a growing number of women so can we see these numbers fall.

      By the year 2020, an estimated $424 million will be required in commodity support to satisfy total demand for contraceptives in donor-dependent countries. If donor funding were to remain at or near current levels, the shortfall would be almost $200 million annually, with a cumulative shortfall of about $1.4 billion over the 2008 to 2020 period. Data on other essential reproductive health (RH) commodities are less available, but it is clear that the need and demand for sexually transmitted infection diagnosis and treatment—as well as antenatal and emergency obstetric supplies—are also rapidly increasing.

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      “You Are A Man. Why Are You Interested in Family Planning?”

      7:32 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

      Written by Peter Belden for RHRealityCheck.org – News, commentary and community for reproductive health and justice.

      It happens frequently when I meet someone new.  We each say what work we do, and then he or she says, “You are a man.  Why are you interested in family planning?” 

      This is a problem.  Most people perceive family planning and reproductive rights as women’s issues.  I think that is largely the fault of those of us who work in the field of family planning and reproductive rights. We talk primarily about the benefits this field has for women’s health and autonomy.  While these benefits are great, I believe that when we focus only on them, we fail explain to many audiences why they might also be interested in family planning and reproductive rights. 

      Many men do, of course, care about family planning. They value the ability to plan when to become fathers. They want to be protected against sexually transmitted diseases, and they support the health and wellbeing of women.

      However, it is no secret that many people–voters, leaders and politicians–are not particularly interested in women’s health and autonomy. … Read more

      Defund It All, Let God Sort It Out

      7:21 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

      Written by Robin Marty for RHRealityCheck.org – News, commentary and community for reproductive health and justice.

      As the tale is told, during the crusades, a monk was asked how soldiers could separate the Catholics from their enemy.  The monk infamously replied, “Kill them all. For the Lord knows them that are His,” the anecdotal origins of the phrase “Kill them all, let God sort it out.”

      We’re in the midst of a new crusade, just as religious, and growing to be just as dangerous – the crusade against sexuality, fertility and human rights.  Sex, our newly empowered conservative leaders seem to believe, is something that should only happen for procreation, should never involve people who aren’t either married or willing to be married should they get pregnant, and should definitely never occur for the sake of pleasure and intimacy.

      To push their agenda, they’ve replaced their swords with the newest and sharpest weapons they own – their tax dollars.  Their new rallying cry is to defund: Defund Planned Parenthood!  Defund Sex Ed! Defund Websites! Defund Prenatal Care! Defund WIC! Anything that in any way is associated with the sex or procreation with which they disagree should be defunded, disbanned and eliminated.

      Even when these projects actually support their goals.

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      The Authoritarian Agenda Behind Attacks on Contraception

      7:58 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

      Written by Amanda Marcotte for RHRealityCheck.org – News, commentary and community for reproductive health and justice.

      In a recent piece for the American Prospect, Sarah Posner outlined how the fringe of the religious right increasingly dictates the larger conservative agenda, as evidenced by the bold Republican push towards open war on contraception.  Sarah writes about the reason for the attacks on Planned Parenthood:

      It is not solely about shutting down Planned Parenthood’s federal funding because the organization provides abortion services (indeed federal funding of abortion is already banned by the Hyde Amendment). It’s about shutting down Planned Parenthood because it provides contraceptives. That is a target because, as Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota has put it, “an arrogant corrupt Washington elite” has “declared war on marriage, on families, on fertility, and on faith.”

      Mike Huckabee has started to join the chorus of anti-contraception voices as well, calling Planned Parenthood “Planned Barrenhood”—basically signing off on the idea that any attempt to control fertility is wrong, no matter how you do it.  While the official argument is that this is still just about abortion, the mask slips more and more all the time, and the public is beginning to be clear about how radical the anti-choice agenda really is. And the thing is that when you drop the bloviating about fetal life and attack contraception head on, it’s much harder to distract people from how viciously misogynistic this agenda really is. 

      Take, for instance, the reaction of the California Catholic Daily to a new Guttmacher report demonstrating no real difference in contraception use between religious and non-religious women, even Catholics.  Ninety-eight percent of Catholic women use contraception, only one percentage point less than the public at large.  Instead of viewing this as evidence that church teachings are sexist, out of date, and have no relationship to women’s actual needs and lives, California Catholic Daily lashed out at women for being disobedient to the dictates of the celibate men who are supposed to know better than women what they need for their lives … Read more

      Public Funding of Family Planning is Essential, Even Under Health Reform

      7:06 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

      Written by Britt Wahlin and Amanda Dennis for RHRealityCheck.org – News, commentary and community for reproductive health and justice.

      This week, as we celebrate the first anniversary of the Affordable Care Act, which promises to bring great benefits to women in this country, new threats to women’s health care have emerged. Last month the House of Representatives voted to eliminate federal funding of Planned Parenthood and cut entirely the Title X program, which supports family planning clinics across the country. Though the Senate has since rejected this proposal, House Republicans have vowed to continue to push for these cuts.

      Many have spoken out about the harm this would have on low-income women, who rely on Planned Parenthoods and other family planning clinics for important preventive care like contraception and cancer screenings. Even in Massachusetts, where 98 percent of residents have health insurance due to groundbreaking state health reform, such cuts would be devastating.

      Massachusetts has a robust network of family planning clinics, Planned Parenthood among them, which offer contraceptive services and counseling, sexually transmitted infection testing and treatment, and cervical and breast cancer screening on a sliding fee scale. In the wake of Massachusetts reform, family planning clinics continue to play a role in providing services to the Commonwealth’s most vulnerable residents.

      In 2008, a year after Massachusetts’ health reform law took effect, Ibis Reproductive Health and the Massachusetts Department of Health Family Planning Program undertook research to explore the impact of reform on low-income women’s access to contraception. We conducted a survey and interviews with family planning providers and also held focus groups with English- and Spanish-speaking low-income women.

      We found that health reform has provided a number of benefits to women and many women expressed relief over finally having insurance.

      But our research also uncovered new barriers. … Read more