Thursday, January 19th, 2012
The total number of worldwide abortions decreased between 1995 and 2008 to a rate of about 28 per 1,000 women, a new study has found, but nearly half of worldwide abortions in 2008 were deemed to be “unsafe.” The study, which was published in The Lancet, defined “unsafe” any abortion performed by an untrained person in an environment that does not meet minimal medical standards.
“These latest figures are deeply disturbing,” noted Dr. Richard Horton, Editor of The Lancet, “The progress made in the 1990s is now in reverse. Promoting and implementing policies to reduce the number of abortions is now an urgent priority for all countries and for global health agencies, such as WHO. Condemning, stigmatizing, and criminalizing abortion are cruel and failed strategies. It’s time for a public health approach that emphasizes reducing harm – and that means more liberal abortion laws, ” Horton continued.
The study also found about 78% of all abortions took place in the developing world in 1995. That number increased to 86% by 2008, even though the number of women of childbearing age in those countries rose more slowly.
And even though the abortion rate has declined over the years, the study found there were 2.2 million more abortions in 2008 (43.8 million) compared with 2003 (41.6 million).
Study authors believe the changes in abortion rates between 1995 and 2008 coincide with a lack of modern contraceptive methods available to women worldwide. They also noted family planning services don’t seem to be keeping up with the increasing demand by people across the globe who want to have smaller families and therefore better control of the timing of births.
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Wednesday, October 26th, 2011
State constitutional amendments that would declare fertilized human eggs to be legally considered “people” are on ballots in a half dozen states, including Mississippi, Ohio, and Florida. The amendments, if passed, would effectively label abortion and some forms of birth control as murder.
The New York Times reports:
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The amendment in Mississippi would ban virtually all abortions, including those resulting from rape or incest. It would bar some birth control methods, including IUDs and “morning-after pills” that prevent fertilized eggs from implanting in the uterus. It would also outlaw the destruction of embryos created in laboratories.
The drive for personhood amendments has split the anti-abortion forces nationally. Some groups call it an inspired moral leap, while traditional leaders of the fight, including National Right to Life and the Roman Catholic bishops, have refused to promote it, charging that the tactic is reckless and could backfire, leading to a Supreme Court defeat that would undermine progress in carving away at Roe v. Wade.
The approach, granting legal rights to embryos, is fundamentally different from the abortion restrictions that have been adopted in dozens of states. These try to narrow or hamper access to abortions by, for example, sharply restricting the procedures at as early as 20 weeks, requiring women to view ultrasounds of the fetus, curbing insurance coverage and imposing expensive regulations on clinics.
The Mississippi amendment aims to sidestep existing legal battles, simply stating that “the term ‘person’ or ‘persons’ shall include every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning or the functional equivalent thereof.”
Friday, August 12th, 2011
The one-in-eight American couples who face fertility problems are, if they pursue reproductive technologies like artificial insemination or in-vitro fertilization, inevitably confronted with the possibility of “selective reduction,” where they will need to abort one or more fetuses in order to make a pregnancy viable. For some, the decision is hypothetical and never needed. For others, it is medically mandated.
But for yet others, it is a choice, and like any reproductive choice, it is complex, deeply personal, and ethically controversial. The New York Times has published an in-depth, thought-provoking piece about the rising number of women who are choosing to reduce twin pregnancies to singletons:
For all its successes, reproductive medicine has produced a paradox: in creating life where none seemed possible, doctors often generate more fetuses than they intend. In the mid-1980s, they devised an escape hatch to deal with these megapregnancies, terminating all but two or three fetuses to lower the risks to women and the babies they took home. But what began as an intervention for extreme medical circumstances has quietly become an option for women carrying twins. With that, pregnancy reduction shifted from a medical decision to an ethical dilemma. As science allows us to intervene more than ever at the beginning and the end of life, it outruns our ability to reach a new moral equilibrium. We still have to work out just how far we’re willing to go to construct the lives we want.
What is it about terminating half a twin pregnancy that seems more controversial than reducing triplets to twins or aborting a single fetus? After all, the math’s the same either way: one fewer fetus. Perhaps it’s because twin reduction (unlike abortion) involves selecting one fetus over another, when either one is equally wanted. Perhaps it’s our culture’s idealized notion of twins as lifelong soul mates, two halves of one whole. Or perhaps it’s because the desire for more choices conflicts with our discomfort about meddling with ever more aspects of reproduction.
Firm numbers on twin reductions are not available, but the number is reportedly rising:
No agency tracks how many reductions occur in the United States, but those who offer the procedure report that demand for reduction to a singleton, while still fairly rare, is rising. Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York, one of the largest providers of the procedure, reported that by 1997, 15 percent of reductions were to a singleton. Last year, by comparison, 61 of the center’s 101 reductions were to a singleton, and 38 of those pregnancies started as twins.
Click here to read the whole Times piece.
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Wednesday, August 10th, 2011
A study published online in the Journal of the American Medical Association has shown that a simple blood test–using maternal blood, not fetal blood drawn through an amniocentesis or other invasive procedure–can determine with 95 percent accuracy the gender of a fetus at 7 weeks of gestation. Other methods, the most common being ultrasound, are not considered reliable until around the 20 week mark.
The blood tests are performed at home by the pregnant woman, who simply pricks her finger and collects a drop of blood. She then sends the sample to a lab where it is analyzed for the chromosomal markers that determine whether the woman is carrying a boy or a girl.
The tests have been available online at sites like this for years, but this new study is the first to confirm the tests’ accuracy rate and examine their potential for prenatal care–both positive and negative. On one hand, the tests can allow parents to screen for gender-linked genetic diseases. On the other hand, the test could be used to take what The New York Times calls “the more ethically controversial step of selecting the sex of their children.”
Giving some women pause is the fact that the tests are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration because they are not used for medical purposes, The New York Times reported. Also, the tests are expensive, costing upwards of $250 for lab fees and other processing.
(image via: http://www.topnews.in)
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