President Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and other policymakers and religious leaders on Thursday spoke at the National Prayer Breakfast about various issues involving faith and politics, the Washington Post reports. During his remarks, Obama discussed the "erosion of civility" in Washington politics, saying, "Those of us in Washington are not serving the people as well as we should." He added, "At times, it seems like we're unable to listen to one another, to have at once a serious and civil debate" (Fletcher, Washington Post, 2/5). Obama also denounced a controversial anti-homosexuality bill currently under consideration in the Ugandan legislature. He said that it is "unconscionable to target gays or lesbians for who they are, " adding that the bill is "odious" ( CNN , 2/4). According to MSNBC's " The Rachel Maddow Show, " Clinton also criticized the bill during her remarks, saying that religion "is used as a club to deny the human rights of girls and women from the Gulf to Africa to Asia, and to discriminate -- even advocating the execution of gays and lesbians" (Maddow, "The Rachel Maddow Show, " MSNBC, 2/4).
Although Dawn Johnsen -- President Obama's nominee to lead the Department of Justice's Office of Legal Counsel -- is "a highly qualified choice, " Senate Republicans "have been raising baseless objections and delaying" the confirmation for more than one year, the New York Times says in an editorial. Republicans "owe Mr. Obama a vote on this nomination, and Democratic leaders have a duty to get it done quickly, " the editorial states. According to the editorial, OLC "provides legal guidance to the president and the federal agencies on constitutional matters and on legal issues of particular complexity." Johnsen served in the office for five years during the Clinton administration, spending some of her tenure as the office's acting chief. However, her criticism of the Bush administration's interrogation and detention policies "rankled Senate Republicans, " the editorial says ( New York Times, 2/4). Some lawmakers also have questioned her past legal work for an abortion-rights group ( Women's Health Policy Report, 1/13).
Researchers at the University of Copenhagen have become the first in the world to synthesize the entire protein that is responsible for life-threatening malaria in pregnant women and their unborn children. The protein known as VAR2CSA enables malaria parasites to accumulate in the placenta and can therefore potentially be used as the main component in a vaccine to trigger antibodies that protect pregnant women against malaria. The research team is now planning to test the efficacy of the protein-based vaccine on humans. The hope is that within 10 years all African girls could be vaccinated against maternal malaria, thereby preventing more than 200, 000 deaths a year. Each year, 25 million pregnant women in sub-Saharan Africa run the risk of contracting malaria. Women who have become infected with malaria parasites during their first pregnancy are at considerable risk of severe anaemia and significant impairment of foetal growth. The malaria parasites accumulate in the placenta, resulting in children being born prematurely and underweight.
A new study from Finland shows that women who have used a hormone-releasing intra-uterine device fared better than those who had undergone a hysterectomy, indicating the potential to reduce the number of these invasive - and often distressing - operations. The randomized study of 239 women aged 35-49 years - who had all suffered from excessive menstrual bleeding - was reported in the leading Nordic and international journal, Acta Obstetricia et Gynecologica Scandinavica. The study showed that, after five years of follow-up, those who had an inserted intra-uterine hormone-releasing device (called Mirena ) did better in the long-run than those who had a hysterectomy. At initial follow-up checks after 6 or 12 months, lower back pain was less frequently complained of in both groups, and those who had a hysterectomy had less abdominal pain. However, when follow-up had been extended to 5 years the group with the intrauterine device had fared better on both accounts and they were the only group to note that lower back pain was significantly reduced.
The Associated Press reports that, according to Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., "The Defense Department will investigate complaints of substandard mental health care for Marines at Camp Lejeune. ... Public questions about the quality of mental health care provided by a private contractor at the base were raised last year by the September firing of Dr. Kernan Manion, a brain trauma specialist who had complained to commanders about poor facilities, inadequate care programs and weak security. ... In e-mails shown to The Associated Press, Manion complained, among other things, that the military was not dealing with PTSD properly and that the hospital lacked security procedures in the event of a Fort Hood-like shooting" (Maurer, 2/4). The Washington Post : "The Department of Defense will begin making the morning-after pill Plan B available at all of its hospitals and health clinics around the world, officials announced Thursday. ... The decision is the latest the Obama administration has made reversing politically sensitive policies involving women's health that were implemented during President George W.
The following summarizes selected women's health-related videos. NARAL Pays Tribute to Tiller: At its annual luncheon, NARAL Pro-Choice America presented the family of murdered abortion provider George Tiller with a lifetime achievement award to recognize the doctor's service. The presentation came just days after a Kansas jury convicted Scott Roeder of first-degree murder for shooting Tiller in the doctor's church last May. During the luncheon, NARAL showed a video tribute to honor Tiller's legacy (NARAL Pro-Choice America, 2/2). Rachel Maddow on Roeder Trial: On Tuesday's "The Rachel Maddow Show, " host Maddow recapped the Roeder trial and previewed the sentencing, which is scheduled for March 9. Maddow also highlighted statements from Tiller's family and the Center for Reproductive Rights, which is calling on the Department of Justice to investigate whether Roeder collaborated with other antiabortion activists (Maddow, "The Rachel Maddow Show, " MSNBC, 2/1). Colbert Grills Ford on Abortion Position: Former Rep.
Congress should approve the International Violence Against Women Act not only because it is the "the right thing to do" but because "it's in our own interests, " Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), Rep. Bill Delahunt (D-Mass.), Amnesty International USA Executive Director Larry Cox, and Kerry Kennedy, chair of Amnesty International USA's Executive Directors Leadership Council, write in a Politico opinion piece. The bill will be introduced on Thursday by a bipartisan coalition, including Sens. Kerry, Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) and Reps. Delahunt and Ted Poe (R-Texas). The authors of the opinion piece write that IVAWA "will support innovative programs that challenge public attitudes and cultural practices that perpetuate and condone violence against women and girls, " including training police and judicial authorities on how to counter violence and respect victims' rights, promoting women's economic security, expanding access to education and jobs, and engaging men to alter their behaviors and attitudes.
The following summarizes recent action in Mississippi and Utah on bills regarding abstinence-only sex education curricula. ~ Mississippi: The Mississippi House on Tuesday voted 84-35 to advance a bill ( HB 837 ) that would give school districts the option of offering an "abstinence-plus" curriculum that provides information on contraception, the AP/Jackson Clarion-Ledger reports. Currently the state only allows abstinence-only curricula, with no discussion of contraception. According to the AP/Clarion-Ledger, Mississippi has one of the highest teen birth rates in the U.S. Under the bill, students would still be encouraged to abstain from sexual activity but also would receive information on condoms, birth control pills and other forms of contraception. Parental permission would be required for the classes, and schools would be prohibited from including any discussion of abortion as a way to prevent birth, the AP/Clarion-Ledger reports. State Rep. John Mayo (D) said the legislation is based on work from summer 2009 by a pregnancy prevention task force.
A recent study that found for the first time that an abstinence-only sex education program was effective at delaying sexual activity among teens is "already beginning to shake up" the debate over the best strategies to prevent teen pregnancy and the spread of sexually transmitted infections, the New York Times reports. Advocates and experts are urging policymakers to use caution and consider the study's limitations when moving forward with sex education policy. The study's release comes as the Obama administration replaces federal money for abstinence-only-until-marriage programs with a teen pregnancy prevention initiative that would fund programs proven effective through scientific studies, the Times reports. The new study, which involved 662 black students at middle schools in urban areas, found that about one-third of the students who participated in a weekend abstinence-only class began sexual activity within two years, compared with about 42% of students assigned to comprehensive sex-education classes that cover both safer sex and abstinence.
While Tim and Pam Tebow's story "certainly is moving, ... as a guide to making abortion decisions, it's misleading, " Slate columnist William Saletan writes of Focus on the Family 's planned antiabortion-rights Super Bowl advertisement. The ad is expected to feature Tim, a former University of Florida quarterback, and his mother, Pam, discussing her personal story of contracting amoebic dysentery in the Philippines while pregnant with Tim. According to the Tebows, Pam received heavy drugs and was diagnosed with a rare condition known as placental abruption -- a placenta that has prematurely separated from the uterine wall -- but because of her Christian beliefs ignored doctors' recommendations to have an abortion. Saletan writes, "Doctors are right to worry about continuing pregnancies like hers, " noting that "[p]lacental abruption has killed thousands of women and fetuses." He adds, "No doubt some of these women trusted in God and said no to abortion, as she did. But they didn't end up with Heisman-winning sons.