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Judge Okays Teen's Abortion; Implant Experts Paid

Saturday, May 7, 2005

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Cheers

A 13-year-old pregnant teen in Florida is free to have an abortion after the state intervened to prevent her from doing so, reports The Tampa Tribune on Tuesday.

The girl, referred to as L.G., was in foster care when she became pregnant. When she sought an abortion, the state objected. The Florida Department of Children and Families relied on a state law that forbids the agency to consent to "sterilization, abortion or termination of life support" on behalf of its clients.

Judge Ronald Alvarez of Palm Beach County Circuit Court deemed the girl mentally competent to make her decision and had the right to have an abortion under the state's Constitution in spite of the state's objection.


More Things to Cheer this Week:

-- Australian scientists developed a vaccine for cervical cancer, which kills 274,000 women world-wide every year, reports The Courier-Mail on Friday. Human papillomavirus is the main cause for cervical cancer and 70 percent of sexually active women carry the virus. Pharmaceutical giant Merck will market the vaccine, which should be available next year.

-- Scottish legislators have approved a bill that is expected to prevent female asylum seekers from being returned to their home nation if they would face female genital mutilation, reports The Herald on Wednesday. Female genital mutilation is already illegal in Scotland, but the new bill expands protection against the procedure to non-United Kingdom nationals, including asylum seekers, students and women granted humanitarian protection.

-- New research at Harvard Medical School shows that almost one-third of women who smoke and exhibit signs of problem drinking were abused by an intimate partner within the past 12 months and about half are abused at some point in their life, reports Cambridge Health Alliance in a press release this week. "Our study hopes to raise physician awareness of how common domestic violence is . . . many clinicians do not regularly ask their patients about it," said Dr. Megan Gerber, a practicing physician at Cambridge Health alliance and Instructor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School.

-- The National Academy of Sciences elected 19 women, the highest number to date, among its 72 new members to advise the government on science and technology issues, reports The New York Times on Wednesday. Women rarely made up more than 10 percent of new members, then rose to 24 percent (17 of 72) in 2003 and 2004. "There are more women who are scientists now than was the case in the past," said Dr. John I. Brauman, a chemistry professor at Stanford University who oversees the academy's election process. Scientists typically are in their 50s when they are elected and the influx of women into science over the past decades is only now being felt, he said.

-- Iraq's parliament approved six women among 32 cabinet ministers, making the portion of female top decision-ranking bureaucrats 16 percent, reports The Christian Science Monitor on Tuesday. The country's parliament boasts 89 women, occupying one-third of the seats.

-- Episiotomy, a small cut to the vaginal canal to facilitate birth and prevent random tearing, is not such a good idea after all, reports a landmark study in the Journal of the American Medical Association on Wednesday. A fresh look at data from 26 research studies show that episiotomies had no effect on incontinence, pelvic floor strength or sexual function, as has been believed, and in fact make women's post-birth experience more painful and uncomfortable for a longer period of time.

-- The House of Representatives on Wednesday voted by an overwhelming margin in favor of legislation to reauthorize $1.3 billion in federal funding for vocational education programs, which many women rely on to get the skills they need to get out of low-wage jobs. The vote came as a rebuke to the administration, which had proposed in its fiscal 2006 budget resolution to cut funding for the programs. The Senate passed its own version of the bill in March; it now awaits action in conference committee.



Jeers

The only two "expert witnesses" advising Health Canada, the country's federal health department, on whether to allow silicone, gel-filled breast implants back on the market are paid consultants to implant makers Inamed and Mentor Corp., reports the Montreal Gazette on Thursday.

Currently implants are not available on the Canadian market and doctors must apply to the department to use implants on a case-by-case basis.

Michael Brook, chemistry professor at McMaster University, Hamilton, Ont., and Harold Brandon, mechanical engineering professor at Washington University in St. Louis, met with the companies in secret in March, and three weeks later gave testimony to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as paid consultants to Inamed.

The FDA rejected Inamed's implants but approved Mentor's with restrictions.


More Things to Jeer this Week

-- Emergency room staff at 42 percent of non-Catholic hospitals and 55 percent of Catholic hospitals fail to provide emergency contraception to patients, including rape and incest victims, according to a national study that will appear in Annals of Emergency Medicine and announced in a press release on Wednesday. "The findings from this study illustrate the barriers that women face when trying to access emergency contraception from hospital emergency departments," said Teresa Harrison, the study author, of Ibis Reproductive Health in Cambridge, Mass.

Recent studies by the Population Council's International Committee for Contraception Research indicate that emergency contraception prevents ovulation, not implantation of a fertilized egg, which is often erroneously believed. Recent findings also indicate that emergency contraception does not interfere with implantation of an egg fertilized prior to taking the medication.

-- After a much anticipated outcome on women's suffrage in Kuwait, women still don't get to vote, reports the Independent on Monday. In Kuwait's parliament, 29 members voted yes, two members voted no and 29 abstained. Thirty-three votes are required to pass a bill. Sheikh Sabah, Kuwait's monarch, who has been pushing for women's suffrage, said another vote on this bill was possible, but for now it is postponed indefinitely.

-- Women often bear the brunt of a breakup after cohabitating with a partner, on average losing one third of their household income, while men lose about 10 percent, reports a study published in the Journal of Marriage and Family. African American and Hispanic women particularly suffer from these breakups, with nearly half living below poverty levels after a breakup.

-- Allison Stevens and Molly M. Ginty contributed to this report.

Rasha Elass, an intern at Women's eNews and a freelance writer based in New York City, attends Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. Allison Stevens is Women's eNews' Washington bureau chief. Molly Ginty is a freelance writer based in New York.