Kenyan court case challenges government stance on abortion

Kenyan court case challenges government stance on abortion

After a three-day hearing, Kenya's high court adjourned a case on safe abortion until September 18, with a verdict expected by the end of the year. The case will decide if the government is responsible for the death of a teenager from complications of a botched backstreet abortion, and could increase access to safe abortion for women throughout the nation. The Kenyan ministry of health withdrew guidelines on safe abortion in 2010, and has since banned health workers from receiving training on abortion. FIDA Kenya and the Center for Reproductive Rights are challenging the ministry's decision, saying that it is a violation of women's rights. The government's removal of guidelines and training on safe abortion, they argue, has led to an increase in illegal and often unqualified practitioners taking advantage of desperate women, who face serious risk of complication or even death. The girl at the center of the case, known by her initials JMM, died last month after a botched backstreet...
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New public health policy aims to halt virginity testing in Afghanistan

New public health policy aims to halt virginity testing in Afghanistan

Afghanistan has enacted a new public health policy intended to stop virginity testing in the country, marking a hard-earned victory for human rights campaigners. The invasive procedure to check whether the hymen is intact remains widespread in Afghanistan, despite having been condemned by the World Health Organization, countless human rights groups, and even the Afghan government. Girls and young women who fail the virginity tests can beimprisoned for several months--sometimes, more than a year--and face shame and exclusion even after they are released. Yet after years of advocacy and activism, Marie Stopes Afghanistan and other societal leaders believe that this official public health policy, which will stop the practice from being performed in all clinics and hospitals throughout Afghanistan, presents a major breakthrough. The organization will work to ensure that the new policy is understood and implemented. Farhad Javid, country director for Marie Stopes International in Afghanistan, believes that both government and Taliban regions will respect this new change in public health policy....
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Burundi ban denies expectant teens their right to education

Burundi ban denies expectant teens their right to education

Burundi recently announced a ban that will prevent pregnant girls and expectant fathers from attending formal schooling, sparking immediate backlash from human rights groups and other advocates. In a letter to local educators and authorities, the east African nation's minister of education instructed that pregnant teens and young mothers, as well as the boys that impregnate them, would no longer be permitted to attend public and private schools. The students would, however, be allowed to receive vocational or professional training. Advocates have expressed opposition to the ban, arguing that the policy will disproportionately harm teenage girls as it will be difficult to identify and prove fatherhood. "How does the government prove that Boy A impregnated Boy B?" asked human rights lawyer Naitore Nyamu-Mathenge of gender justice organization Equality Now. "This ban disproportionately affects girls and it is skewed towards an abuse of the girls' rights to education," she said. Nyamu-Mathenge stressed the importance of girls' education, adding that denying girls education could lead to...
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New guidelines for the care of transgender children and adolescents

New guidelines for the care of transgender children and adolescents

The Royal Children's Hospital Gender Service of Melbourne, Australia recently published the first guidelines focusing solely on the care of transgender and gender diverse children and adolescents. "Based on empirical evidence, clinician consensus, and results of non-randomised and observational studies, the guidelines were developed in consultation with multidisciplinary experts, support groups, and transgender children and adolescents, and their families," writes The Lancet. The 36-page document is intended to guide the respectful, gender-affirming care of transgender and gender diverse youth, thereby minimizing the consequences of  the stigma, bullying, and abuse that children and adolescents with gender dysphoria often suffer. It includes information on terminology and respectful language, psychological support, social transition, fertility counseling, hormone therapy, and surgical interventions. The guidelines also outline the roles of various health and legal practitioners in the care of transgender and gender diverse youth.   - Anna Katz, Communications Intern...
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Thailand honored for Cervical Cancer Prevention Program

Thailand honored for Cervical Cancer Prevention Program

For years, Thailand had a high incidence of cervical cancer and had seen little success from their pap smear based screening approach. In 2000, Jhpiego, the government of Thailand, the Provincial Health Office of Roi Et, and the Royal Thai College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists implemented a pilot study using a screen-and-treat approach for cervical cancer prevention. This method allows women to attend a single visit with a health care provider and services can be provided by a nurse, allowing for task-sharing within the health system. Based on results from this study, the WHO adopted the screen-and-treat strategy as part of their comprehensive cervical cancer guidelines. These services are now offered in 32 Thai provinces and the government has recently introduced a HPV vaccination campaign to further efforts in cervical cancer prevention. This week, the Roi Et Provincial Health Office was awarded a United Nations Public Service Award honoring their pioneering efforts in cervical cancer prevention....
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No remaining abortion providers in Guam

No remaining abortion providers in Guam

The Guam Women's Clinic is no longer performing abortions, seemingly leaving the small island without any abortion providers. Though the clinic is still operational, Dr. Jeffrey Gabel, unlike his retired predecessor Dr. William Freeman, does not perform abortions. Jamie Ward of The Guam Daily Post contacted several clinics searching for an abortion provider to no avail, and one of her contacts within the Guam women's health community confirmed that there is nobody on the island that women can be referred to for an abortion. Abortion access in Guam could be further restricted by a proposed bill that would permit abortions only up to 20 weeks, unless the life of the pregnant person was at risk. Guam's current law allows for abortions up to 26 weeks if the fetus has a serious physical or mental defect or if the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest. Abortions are allowed throughout at pregnancy if the pregnant person's life or health is seriously...
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Refugees in Rwandan camp appeal for help with pregnancy prevention

Refugees in Rwandan camp appeal for help with pregnancy prevention

Refugees in Rwanda's Nyabiheke Refugee Camp have asked the government and other leaders to help reduce teen pregnancies in the camp. The camp, which has hosted Congolese refugees since 2005, is now home to nearly 17,000 refugees. Overcrowding is a key concern, and refugee representative Justin Byiringiro cites teen pregnancy as a driving force of the problem. "The overpopulation in the camp favors early [teen] pregnancies. Some students graduate from secondary schools but a very limited number are advancing to universities while others are dropping out of schools," he explained. While Byiringiro believes that vocational training programs will help prevent teen pregnancy, government officials are advocating for investment in family planning programs. Jeanne d’Arc De Bonheur, the Minister for Disaster Management and Refugee Affairs, believes "reproductive health and family planning will surely be a durable solution to the issue." Organizations like the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) are supporting family planning in Rwandan refugee camps, but significant unmet need remains.   - Anna Katz, Communications...
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Walgreens pharmacist denies woman medication to end unviable pregnancy

Walgreens pharmacist denies woman medication to end unviable pregnancy

Arizona resident and first grade teacher Nicole Arteaga took to Facebook after a Walgreens pharmacist refused to fill her prescription for misoprostol, a medication that can be used to end a failed pregnancy. Nine weeks into her pregnancy, Arteaga learned that there was no fetal heartbeat--her pregnancy would end in miscarriage. Rather than undergo a surgical procedure to remove the fetal tissue from her uterus, Arteaga opted to take misoprostol, which can end a pregnancy up to 10 weeks in what is known as a medical abortion. Her doctor wrote a prescription, but when Arteaga went to pick the medication up, the pharmacist refused to give her the misoprostol, citing his ethical beliefs. "I stood at the mercy of this pharmacist explaining my situation in front of my 7-year-old, and five customers standing behind only to be denied because of his ethical beliefs," Arteaga wrote in her post, which has since been shared over 60,000 times. "I left Walgreens in tears, ashamed...
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Experimental HIV vaccine could move to human trials next year

Experimental HIV vaccine could move to human trials next year

An HIV vaccine could be closer than we think. A study published in Nature Medicine earlier this month highlights significant progress in efforts by scientists at the National Institutes of Health to develop an HIV vaccine. By targeting a vulnerable part of the virus, scientists were able to elicit antibodies that neutralized almost one-third of HIV strains in mice. The vaccine produced a similar neutralizing response in guinea pigs and rhesus monkeys, suggesting that their approach is promising. The researchers will continue to optimize the vaccine in the coming months, and anticipate beginning a preliminary human trial of the new vaccine regimen in late 2019.   - Anna Katz, Communications Intern...
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Planned Parenthood lawsuit challenges abstinence-only sex education program

Planned Parenthood lawsuit challenges abstinence-only sex education program

Planned Parenthood affiliates filed suit last week against the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), challenging the administration's efforts to impose an abstinence-only until marriage (AOUM) curriculum on 1.2 million young people via the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program (TPP program). The suit comes shortly after the administration announced its plans to drastically remake the TPP program with an emphasis on AOUM programming, which has been repeatedly proven ineffective and misleading.  Established by the Obama administration in 2010, the TPP program was intended to reduce teen pregnancy by funding the evidence-based initiatives of individual communities and schools. The program, in combination with other pregnancy prevention initiatives, was effective--birth rates among teens aged 15 to 19 dropped by half from 2007 to 2017. The current administration's move to mandate AOUM curriculum, rebranded as "sexual risk avoidance," threatens to reverse this progress. If successful, Planned Parenthood's lawsuit will ensure that the TPP program continues to be guided by evidence-based principles and that recipients...
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