When Social Constructs Incorrectly Assume Scientific Validity: The Myth of Virginity and Incidence of “Virginity Testing”

When Social Constructs Incorrectly Assume Scientific Validity: The Myth of Virginity and Incidence of “Virginity Testing”

This past Wednesday, the United Nations called for the end of a practice known as “virginity testing,” declaring such tests a violation of human rights. While these tests possess zero scientific merit or clinical foundation, they are still performed in nearly 20 countries, including but not limited to India, Brazil, Afghanistan, South Africa, Iran, Iraq, Sri Lanka, Turkey, Northern Ireland, and Jordan. Virginity testing entails a physical examination of the hymen, usually by an insertion of fingers, to determine whether a woman has had sex. However, such measures are incapable of determining whether a woman has had intercourse or not, and reinforce the anatomically incorrect term “intact hymen.” Furthermore, as delineated in the UN’s statement, this test, "further reinforces socio-cultural norms that perpetuate women’s inequality, including stereotyped views of female morality and sexuality, and serves to exercise control over women and girls." In short, "virginity testing" robs women of the right to protection from discrimination, and of the right to...
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Sharp Rise in C-Section Births Around the Globe

Sharp Rise in C-Section Births Around the Globe

A study recently published in The Lancet journal reveals that from 2000 to 2015 there has been approximately a double in the number of cesarean section (C-section) births in the world. C-section births occur when a surgery is performed to open a woman’s lower abdomen and remove the baby. These procedures can either be planned in advance or they can happen suddenly if problems occur during birthing. There are risks to C-section births for the woman, such as infection and postpartum heavy bleeding, and the baby, such as trouble breathing and injury. Additionally, C-sections create a more complicated labor recovery for the mother and pose a threat to future labor complications. The figures from the study state that in 2000 C-sections accounted for 12.1% of all births and in 2015 they accounted for 21.1% of all births. There is evidence published by the World Health Organization stating that there is "no justification for any region to have a caesarean section...
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The Girl Child’s Present Colors Her Future: The International Day of the Girl Child

The Girl Child’s Present Colors Her Future: The International Day of the Girl Child

October 11th, 2018 marked the sixth annual International Day of the Girl Child, a celebration which works to establish investment in girls as essential to a sustainable and thriving community.  This holiday occurred at a crucial intersection within both a domestic and global narrative. From the election of Brett Kavanaugh to the growing momentum of #MeToo and #WhyIDidn’tReport, sexual violence and other gender disparities have been thrust into the center of public dialogue, igniting the fires of social change. However, to dismantle the culture and practices which systematically devalue women in their present, we must first protect the girl child, as her condition, positive or negative, will ultimately inform her future. This year’s theme of the international day was “With Her: A Skilled GirlForce,” which drew attention to the 25% of unemployed youth, disproportionately consisting of girls. This disadvantaged demographic of girls in the workforce is especially vulnerable to both monetary and sexual exploitation. The very derivation of gender equality...
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California Governor Vetoes Abortion Bill

California Governor Vetoes Abortion Bill

Governor Jerry Brown recently vetoed a bill that would have required all health centers at University of California and California State University schools to offer prescription abortion pills. Introduced in February 2017, Senate Bill 320 would have made California the first state to require access to medication abortion at public universities. Medication abortion was approved by the FDA in 2000, and currently accounts for one-third of abortions in the United States. A combination of two drugs, mifepristone and misoprostol, allows the patient to undergo the procedure in their own home. In spite of years of research deeming the procedure safe, thirty-four states heavily regulate medication abortion by requiring licensed physicians, rather than midwives or nurse practitioners, to administer the drugs. In spite of living in a state with otherwise progressive abortion legislation, women at public universities in California often have restricted access to abortion options. More than 500 women at California's public universities seek the abortion pill at off-site healthcare providers every...
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The Alarming Incidence of Unsafe Abortion Worldwide

The Alarming Incidence of Unsafe Abortion Worldwide

Approximately 56 million abortions are performed globally each year, with half of these procedures falling upon some continuum of danger that they pose. 97% of these unsafe abortions are performed in low-income countries within Africa, Asia, and Latin America, illustrating the enormous reproductive health disparity borne by geographic location. Abortions are classified by the World Health Organization as “safe”, “less safe”, and “least safe.” Many abortions conducted in developing countries are qualified as “least safe,” characterized by the insertion of foreign objects such as sticks and broken glass bottles, or the ingestion of harmful cleaning products. Ultimately, 6.9 million women each year are treated for complications attributed to unsafe abortions, and 23,000 women die from such complications. Yet, safe abortion procedures such as manual evacuation and abortion-inducing drugs are not financially out of reach even for low-resource countries. Thus, the solution to this horrific lapse in reproductive health lies in political discourse. While some countries, such as Ethiopia and Nepal,...
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Contemporary Birth Control Pills Reduce Risk of Ovarian Cancer

Contemporary Birth Control Pills Reduce Risk of Ovarian Cancer

Ovarian cancer causes thousands of deaths every year- more than any cancer of the female reproductive system. In 2012, 238,719 women worldwide were diagnosed with ovarian cancer and 151,917 died from the cancer. A new study led by Lisa Iversen, a research fellow with the Institute of Applied Health Sciences at the University of Aberdeen in the United Kingdom, hypothesizes that modern day birth control pills that contain both estrogen and progestogen may lessen the risk of ovarian cancer in women. A similar study was performed decades ago that applied to older contraceptives, although there was no evidence for a similar relationship and effects regarding modern day birth control. Iversen’s study included 2 million women aged 15-49 and found the women who had never used hormonal contraception had the highest risk of ovarian cancer compared to those women who had at some point used birth control. Researchers estimated that hormonal birth control prevented around 21% of women in the study...
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Reproductive Health Waits for No One: The Women Forgotten During Times of National Crises, and How the UN is Helping

Reproductive Health Waits for No One: The Women Forgotten During Times of National Crises, and How the UN is Helping

This past year, the sexual and reproductive health agency of the UN, known as the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), has devoted particular attention to providing accessible family planning and preventing maternal deaths and gender-based violence on a global scale. The UNFPA will now be opening an office in Geneva to further strengthen its global humanitarianism protocol during times of natural disaster and armed conflict, as many reproductive health issues are exacerbated amidst these crises (see link regarding gender disaster data). A hallmark of the UNFPA response to such adverse events are “female dignity kits,” devised to address the multitude of barriers to care faced by women in developing countries which are not immediately apparent to the homogeneous body of male humanitarian responders. These dignity kits include sanitary napkins, soap, underwear, and other toiletries. The new Geneva office will coordinate the efficient delivery of these kits and streamline all facets of the UNFPA’s humanitarian operations. For more information regarding the relationship...
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Oregon Ballot Measure 106 would ban public reproductive healthcare coverage

Oregon Ballot Measure 106 would ban public reproductive healthcare coverage

A state with a long history of supporting abortion rights, Oregon will have a constitutional amendment to limit state funding for abortions on the ballot this November. After narrowly gaining enough signatures to head to the ballot in late July, Measure 106 has inspired intense activism on both sides of the issue. Oregon is one of seventeen states that uses its own funds to provide abortions; the federal government prohibits the use of Medicaid funding. If Measure 106 passes, the state would only be able to fund abortion in cases necessary for the safety of the mother — as in ectopic pregnancies — or in situations of incest or rape. Although the Oregon Health Plan paid $2 million for abortions for 3,600 women in the last year, the official cost analysis of Measure 106 states that passage of the initiative could cost the state an additional $10 million each year. An estimated 271,833 women of reproductive age are covered by the Oregon...
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New Research About Relationship Between Breastfeeding and Lower Obesity Risk for Babies

New Research About Relationship Between Breastfeeding and Lower Obesity Risk for Babies

A recent Canadian study points to a new benefit of breastfeeding in opposed to breast milk in a bottle or formula. Breastfeeding is linked to a smaller risk for obesity of babies as they have lower BMIs and gain weight more slowly. Having a high BMI early on in life can be linked to being overweight down the road; therefore, it is important to maintain a healthy BMI beginning as an infant. The CDC’s latest report stated that 1 in every 5 children in the United States are obese and this new research could truly impact efforts to changing this statistic. Some other benefits to breastfeeding include reduced risks of asthma, ear and respiratory infection, and type 2 diabetes. The World Health Organization promotes women to exclusively breastfeed until the child is 6 months of age. However, in the United States women may struggle to the time commitment of breastfeeding. Dr Alison Volpe Holmes notes, "the United States is a...
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The Birth of Feminist Foreign Policy: Advancing Women’s Issues in a World Increasingly Hostile Towards Reproductive Rights

The Birth of Feminist Foreign Policy: Advancing Women’s Issues in a World Increasingly Hostile Towards Reproductive Rights

September 21st and 22nd will mark the first-ever meeting of female foreign ministers, and hopefully, a leap forward in terms of feminist foreign policy. Feminist foreign policy, a term coined by Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Walstrom, is defined as “standing against the systematic and global subordination of women” as a means to facilitate foreign development and security. Canada, in accordance with its pledge to bring women’s issues to the forefront of its political narrative, will host this summit, which includes representatives from Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, Africa, Asia, and Australia. There has been substantial resistance to such a gathering, as popular culture often assigns a stigma to any initiative bearing the “feminist” label. However, this backlash, in addition to the frightening devolution of global reproductive rights under the Trump administration begs the need for consensus and concrete action regarding feminist foreign policy and urges on this ambitious group of women.   For more information regarding this summit, please...
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