Double Dose: Discussing Health Care Reform; Study: HIV Infects Women Through Healthy Tissue; Facebook Censors Breastfeeding Photos; "Unofficial" Feminists ...

By Christine Cupaiuolo — December 20, 2008

What to Discuss When You’re Discussing Health Care: If you’ve signed up to join or lead a health care discussion in your community — as requested by President-elect Barack Obama and Obama’s secretary-designate for Health and Human Services, former Sen. Tom Daschle — you might want to read Judith Graham’s “community discussions” blog series. Graham, a health writer for the Chicago Tribune, poses questions to ask and consequences that should be considered as part of any conversation.

And if you haven’t yet signed up, consider taking part; don’t leave health care reform up to the insurance and drug companies.

Plus: As part of the national discussion, The Big Push for Midwives is hosting a meeting today in Missouri on maternity care in the heartland. From the press release:

The conversation will explore the national maternity care crisis, which sits atop the two crumbling pillars of affordability and birth outcomes. The recent “D” and “F” grades that Kansas and Missouri received respectively from the March of Dimes for pre-term birth rates will be examined. Further, the need for our community, our state, our nation, to immediately shift its ingrained belief “that more medical intervention, regardless of cost, is better — even when the evidence doesn’t support such a claim” will be explored, specifically as it relates to mother and child health.

New Perspective on How HIV Infects Women: A new study by U.S. researchers has found that HIV appears to attack normal, healthy genital tissue in women. Previously researchers thought HIV transmission was more likely through breaks in the skin, such as a vaginal tear or herpes sore.

“Normal skin is vulnerable,” Thomas Hope, of Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, told Reuters.

Hope said the study suggests the virus takes aim at places in the skin that had recently shed skin cells, in much the same way that skin on the body flakes off.

The finding casts doubt on the prior theory of the virus requiring a break in the skin or gaining access through a single layer of skin cells that line the cervical canal.

And it might explain why some prevention efforts have failed. Hope said one clinical trial in Africa in which women used a diaphragm to block the cervix had no effect at reducing transmission of the virus. Nor have studies of drugs designed to prevent lesions in genital herpes proven effective.

Breastfeeding Photos Censored; MILC Fights Back: Via Motherlode, we learn that MILC, the Mothers International Lactation Campaign, is asking Facebook members on Dec. 27 to change their profile picture, just for one day, to an image of a nursing mom, to protest the way Facebook has arbitrarily removed photos of women breastfeeding from member albums and profiles. The event description reads:

This could be a picture of you or someone you know nursing a child, it could be a painting or image of a sculpture of a breastfeeding woman, it could also be a photo or image of any nursing mammal … We ask that you include the status line of “Hey Facebook, breastfeeding is not obscene!”

Residency Law Struck Down in CA: “A San Francisco judge struck down a state law Tuesday that requires low-income women to live in California for six months before qualifying for state-funded care during pregnancy and immediately after childbirth,” reports the San Francisco Chronicle.

“Time is of the essence in obtaining access to prenatal care, especially in the first trimester,” said Lynn Kersey, executive director of Maternal and Child Health Access, a nonprofit organization that filed a lawsuit against the state in April. “Study after study shows that early access to prenatal care is important for the well-being of the mother and the child. To deny working women health care simply because they are new to the state endangers the health of both the mother and the child.”

The ACLU of Northern California, one of the groups that represented MCH Access, has more.

Journal Articles on Promoting Preconception Health: The November/December issue of the journal Women’s Health Issues includes a free supplement — Policy and Financing Issues for Preconception and Interconception Health — meaning all articles are available online without a subscription. Topics include welfare reform, Medicaid funding and the role of community health centers.

For example, an article by experts at the Kaiser Family Foundation reviews Medicaid’s eligibility policy and benefits of relevance to women of reproductive age and discusses challenges facing the program.

V-Day is Coming Soon: Chicago Women’s Health Center is holding an open call for all self-identified women to join the cast of The Vagina Monologues in Chicago. The open call takes place at 1p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 4. No experience needed. Email sexual DOT empowerment AT for more info.

Pharmacy Owners’ Case Against Morning-After Pill Moves Forth: “Two pharmacists who object to filling prescriptions for emergency contraception, commonly known as the morning-after pill, will get their day in court after the Illinois Supreme Court on Thursday overturned an appellate decision dismissing their case,” reports the Chicago Tribune.

The pharmacists are challenging a 2005 executive order issued by now-troubled Gov. Rod Blagojevich requiring all Illinois pharmacists to dispense contraceptives, including the morning-after pill. The executive order later became an administrative regulation.

Pro-choice groups aren’t getting too upset about the 5-2 ruling (view the decision [pdf]).: “The court avoided the merits of the [pharmacists’] claim. All they did was say, procedurally, the case has to go back to the trial court for further consideration,” said Lorie Chaiten, director of the reproductive rights project at the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois.

Dear Obama: Here’s Why You are Wrong on Warren: Leah McElrath Renna breaks it down:

The Presidential Inauguration is – by definition – a symbolic event. That’s its entire purpose. What it is NOT is a policy roundtable. No one disputes your right to seek a variety of viewpoints about policy concerns.

The point is that – with an entire world of spiritual leaders chomping at the bit to participate in this Inauguration – there is simply no valid reason that you could not have chosen someone to perform the Invocation who actually recognizes lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people as whole and perfect children of God exactly how they are.

Plus: Wanna send donuts to Pastor Warren? Other ideas?

Enough with the Unofficial Feminism: I love Kate Winslet, which is why it pains me all the more to see her answer the tired gotcha question, “Are you a feminist?” with the tired mushy response:

“I think I probably am, aren’t I?” Her assistant hurriedly adds, “In a loose, unofficial kind of way,” but Winslet continues to ponder. “I think I probably am. I mean, not in a bra-burning way. But I think I am a feminist, yeah.”

Winslet does think Betty Friedan was “a feisty chick.”

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