State Department looks to Ban Term ‘Sexual Health’

State Department looks to Ban Term ‘Sexual Health’

As leaked by Foreign Policy last week, recent State Department memos suggest that American diplomats may soon be unable to use words essential to discussions of reproductive rights. If Secretary of State Mike Pompeo approves the memos' proposal, officials will be banned from saying "sexual and reproductive health" and "comprehensive sexuality education," and would instead use the term "reproduction and the related health services." This follows the State Department's pattern of treatment of gender-related language. Its annual human rights report this year trimmed language focused on family planning, and officials have worked to remove the term "gender" from multiple UN human rights documents. While the policy implications of this change remain unclear, the alteration in language could complicate United Nations discussions regarding reproductive health issues and funding for NGOs that maintain their vocabulary use. The removal of "gender" from State Department usage further excludes transgender individuals from political discussions; the Department of Health and Human Services also recently moved to establish...
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Ovarian Cancer Needs more Attention and Awareness

Ovarian Cancer Needs more Attention and Awareness

Ovarian cancer is the 7th most common cancer in the world. Nearly 300,000 women are predicted to develop ovarian cancer this year and less than half of these women diagnosed are expected to survive after 5 years. However, there is very little awareness of ovarian cancer and its effects. A survey conducted by the World Ovarian Cancer Coalition gathered information from 1,531 women across 44 countries. The women who participated were from high, middle, and low income countries and were asked to answer online questions about their experiences with ovarian cancer. The study points to the fact that over two thirds of women who participated had never even heard of ovarian cancer or knew nothing about it before they were diagnosed. Additionally, less than half of these women attempted to find care or answers for their symptoms within the first month they appeared, and one in every ten women did not seek medical help for 6 months. This data is important...
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One Man, His Wife’s Legacy, and the “Monarch of Dreams”: Cervical Cancer Prevention in Zambia

One Man, His Wife’s Legacy, and the “Monarch of Dreams”: Cervical Cancer Prevention in Zambia

The women of Zambia have the world’s fourth highest rate of cervical cancer; yet, Zambia’s government provides free cervical cancer screening services. This begs the question: why does such a high incidence of cervical cancer persist? The answer is due, in part, to a lack of awareness amongst the female population regarding this disease, particularly in rural areas. Robert Zulu, in upholding the legacy of his late wife whom he lost to cervical cancer, aims to inform and empower Zambia’s women by encouraging regular cervical cancer screenings. These preventative measures are especially important for HIV, which disproportionately affects Zambia’s women, as this disease increases the likelihood of cervical cancer diagnosis by three times. Zulu’s non-profit, Rakellz Dream Initiative, takes an incredibly unique approach to this end of raising awareness, producing plays and movies about cervical cancer. Zulu’s latest film, “Monarch of Dreams,” which is based on his wife’s battle with cancer, premiered on October 31st in Lusaka, Zambia’s capital. The...
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C-Sections: A Global Dichotomy of Overuse and Inaccessibility

C-Sections: A Global Dichotomy of Overuse and Inaccessibility

A new health care study by Lancet has illuminated a frightening trend in the global prevalence of caesarean sections. In wealthy countries, C-sections are often performed in the absence of underlying medical causes, while in developing countries, C-sections are inaccessible even when medically necessary. As of 2015, the C-sections were used for approximately 30% of births in North America, 44% in Latin America and the Caribbean, and only 5% in East Africa, standing in stark opposition to the World Health Organization’s recommendation rate of 10-15%. C-sections invite major risk, including maternal and postpartum infections, in addition to newborn death or extended hospitalization.  However, many women report that they are not informed by doctors of the implications and possible risk involved with this procedure and report being immensely pressured to receive C-sections. In short, the decision is driven not by mothers, but by doctors who allow financial motivations, fear of litigation, and even racial bias to inform their decisions. One potential...
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Immigrant Women Facing Maternal Health Struggles

Immigrant Women Facing Maternal Health Struggles

In a recent CNN piece, obstetrician Dr. Cristina Gamboa reveals her insights on trends in regards to her pregnant immigrant patients at the community health center Salud Para La Gente in Watsonville, California. She has noted that patients who are Mexican Immigrants seem to be suffering from increases in stress during their pregnancy. These increases have led to high blood pressure which can be further characterized as the condition preeclampsia. Stress can be a result of a multitude of factors, but Dr. Gamboa analyzes that America’s current political climate could be a root cause. It is considered a crime for someone to enter and stay in the United States without permission. Approximately 25% of unauthorized immigrants reside in California and 26.9% of the population in Watsonville are non-US citizens. Although there are no scientific studies connecting a woman’s immigration status and maternal health, Dr. Gamboa believes research is needed. There is, however, evidence pointing to a lack of general health...
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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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