Double Dose: Women and the Olympics - the Good, the Bad and the Creepy; Connecting the Dots to a Crisis Pregnancy Center; Shackling Pregnant Inmates in Labor OK in Arkansas; Wait for Male Birth Control Continues; Cars and the Cure for Breast Cancer ...

By Christine Cupaiuolo — August 10, 2008

Back from a cross-country drive and catching up on lots of stories. Let the games begin …

Once Banned, Women Now Centerstage at Games: Writing in The New York Times, Jere Longman describes the debut of Mali’s women’s basketball team — each player received a house and prize money for winning the 2007 African championships and qualifying for Beijing — and the increasing popularity and respect for women athletes overall. Of the 11,427 athletes participating in this year’s Olympics, 4,845 are women.

“Everybody is proud of us, even the guys,” said Maiga-Ba, 30, a forward who played at Old Dominion and is an iconic female sports figure in Mali, a predominantly Muslim country where women are subject to traditional subservience, genital mutilation, inequitable access to education and household violence.

“Things are getting better,” she said. “Before, women in Senegal could have children and keep playing. In Mali, you stopped. Now women keep playing. It’s changing a lot.”

And not only in Africa. Women were not allowed to participate at the 1896 Summer Games in Athens, the first Olympics of the modern era.

They were expected to contribute applause, not athletic skill. Not until 1984 were women permitted to run the Olympic marathon, in reefer-madness fear that they might grow old too soon with such exertion; or worse, they might grow a mustache. Or their uterus would fall out, as if it were a transmission.

Meanwhile, Buzz Bissinger (author of the fabulous “Friday Night Lights”) details the creep factor.

American Pregnancy Association Hides Links to CPCs: After a young woman wrote to Heather Corrina at Scarleteen about visiting a crisis pregnancy center for resources and support, Corrina warned her that CPCs aren’t there to help women so much as they scare women away from abortion as an option.

“I explained how easy it can be to be fooled by CPCs, even when you’re savvy, aware of practices CPCs typically employ — even, I soon learned, when you’re writing an article in protest of them,” Corrina writes at RH Reality Check. “And then I offered Jessica a link to the American Pregnancy Helpline as an option for women looking for support sustaining a pregnancy and as an alternative to a CPC.”

In doing so, adds Corrina, “I proved my own point too well.”

American Pregnancy Helpline, as Corrina discovered, is affiliated with the American Pregnancy Association — and though pro-choice groups have routinely included APA in resource lists (and OBOB once linked to APA in a blog post) neither organization is all that interested in providing information to women about their full array of reproductive options.

In fact, the organizations both trace their origins to a crisis pregnancy center. I found misleading and medically incorrect information on both organization’s sites, including references to “partial-birth abortion” and the suggestion that future fertility or breast cancer has anything at all to do with having had an abortion. I learned that the Helpline is widely linked in CPC and anti-choice directories. And I soon noticed the strange absence of any information on contraception at the site for teens, while links to sites pushing ab-only proliferate.

Read the full story — and big kudos to Corrina.

Appalling News You Might Have Missed: “In a case out of Arkansas called Nelson v. Correctional Medical Services [PDF], 2008 WL 2777423 (8th Cir. 2008), the Eighth Circuit concluded that the shackling of a pregnant inmate laboring to deliver a baby did not constitute an Eighth Amendment violation,” writes Giovanna Shay at Feminist Law Professors.

For more on this issue, Shay links to Amnesty International’s 2006 report, “Abuse of Women in Custody: Sexual Misconduct and Shackling of Pregnant Women,” and this New York Times story by Adam Liptak, also from 2006, which states: “Despite sporadic complaints and occasional lawsuits, the practice of shackling prisoners in labor continues to be relatively common, state legislators and a human rights group said. Only two states, California and Illinois, have laws forbidding the practice.”

The Long Wait for Male Birth Control: According to Time, there’s no end in sight. Adam Goodman writes:

Just a few years ago, the new male contraceptive seemed like an inevitable reality. Major pharmaceutical companies like Wyeth, Schering and Organon were pumping millions into hormonal birth-control development programs for men, and researchers were breathlessly promising imminent production.

But in 2008, there’s still no birth control for men. What happened? In a word: money. With the cost of new-drug development hovering in the hundreds of millions of dollars, the pharmaceutical industry decided there wasn’t enough of a market to make male hormonal contraceptives worthwhile.

Not enough of a market?

Indeed, many men say they are open to trying new forms of birth control. In a 2005 global survey conducted by Schering of 9,000 men ages 18 to 50, 55% expressed an interest in a “new male fertility control,” and roughly 40% of the American respondents who said they would be interested in new male contraceptives further said they would be willing to use an implant or receive regular injections to control their fertility.

Monsanto to Sell Off Hormone Unit: Monsanto Co. is going to divest its Prosilac bovine growth hormone business. Also known as recombinant bovine somatotropin, or rBST, Prosilac boosts an average cow’s milk production by 10 pounds per day. It has been linked to various health effects — in humans and cows.

“The company failed in an attempt last year to stop dairy processors such as Dean Foods Co. from labeling milk as free of Posilac,” reports Bloomberg News.

But spokeswoman Danielle Jany insists that wasn’t a factor. “We are focusing on our core seeds and traits business,” she said.

According to Scientific American, “At one point, more than 22 percent of U.S. cows were on the hormone. As of 2007, only 17 percent still were, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In recent years, major companies including Kraft Foods, Starbucks and Wal-Mart have announced decisions to sell only milk products from untreated cows.”

“Monsanto has recognized that consumers have made a choice to avoid milk made with genetically engineered growth hormones,” said Andrew Kimbrell, co-founder and executive director of the Center for Food Safety in a statement. “They have clearly judged the time right to get out of the failing artificial growth hormone business.”

Pesticide Drift: Rebecca Claren has an article in The Orion about the effect air poisoned by pesticides is having on poor communities in California’s Central Valley.

Todos los días, every day, [Teresa] Aviña says, she smells pesticides. She blames them for her headaches and dizziness, her nausea, for the cancer and miscarriages that have afflicted her neighbors. Like all of Huron’s seven thousand residents, he lives near el campo, the fields of tomatoes, cotton, lettuce, and melons that ring this cramped town in the heart of California’s San Joaquin Valley, the country’s most productive agricultural area. In 2006 Huron’s Fresno County, one of the valley’s eight counties, produced $4.85 billion worth of vegetables, fruit, and cotton. To foster such incredible fertility, growers sprayed nearly 32 million pounds of pesticides using planes, tractors, and irrigation pipe — enough to fill nearly six Olympic swimming pools.

Note to Auto Manufacturers – Cars Are a Cause, not a Cure: That’s the message Feminist Peace Network put out last week after viewing “a BMW ad that invites you to fight breast cancer by test-driving the Beemer of ‘your dreams’ (seriously, isn’t this just what every gal dreams of ??) in return for which BMW will donate  –wait for it – $1 to – wait for it again – Susan G. Komen for the Cure. The car shown in the ad is even an odd, call it dark Pepto color.”

Breast Cancer Action explains the link between auto emissions and breast cancer.

Women Not Fully Informed of Breast Cancer Treatment Options: “Nearly half of women treated for breast cancer did not know that their odds of being alive after five years are roughly the same whether they undergo mastectomy or breast conserving surgery. Minority women were even less likely to be aware of this important factor of their treatment decision, according to a study from the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center,” reads this release from University of Michigan. The study appears in the August issue of Health Services Research.

“Minority women were also less likely to know about relative survival rates even when researchers considered factors such as the surgeon’s experience, the type of hospital, and whether patients reported talking to their surgeon about treatment options.”

“These factors traditionally associated with quality care were not associated with informed decision-making or with our knowledge measures. Surgeon volume or treatment setting did not affect whether women had good knowledge of their treatment options after they had been through the process, nor did it really mediate the racial and ethnic differences we found,” says study author Sarah Hawley, Ph.D., a research investigator at the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Violence Linked to Rapid Rise of AIDS in Women: “Worldwide the rate of HIV infection is rising faster among women than men, and the link between AIDS rates and violence against women is becoming even clearer, said health advocates and officials gathered here this week for the XVII International AIDS Conference,” reports Theresa Braine from the global AIDS conference in Mexico City.

“The U.N. General Assembly is set to vote in September on the creation of a unified women’s agency to streamline its fragmented approach to women’s issues and programs. Many activists say the new agency would strengthen the world body’s response to issues affecting women, including violence and AIDS.”

Plus: The New York Times reports on the discussion at the conference concerning the reversal of laws that criminalize and stigmatize groups at risk for HIV.

“Criminalization is a poor tool for regulating H.I.V. infection and transmission,” Edwin Cameron, a justice of the Supreme Court of Appeals in South Africa, said in a plenary session.

Citing cases in Texas, Zimbabwe, Sierra Leone, Bermuda and Switzerland to illustrate the “folly of criminalization,” the judge said, “There is no public health rationale for invoking criminal law sanctions against those who unintentionally transmit H.I.V. or expose others to it.” […]

Justice Cameron described a law in Sierra Leone that requires a woman to take reasonable measures and precautions to prevent transmitting H.I.V. to her fetus. But testing for the virus and treatment for an infected mother are not widely available, health officials have said. At least a dozen African countries have adopted similar laws, many poorly drafted, said the judge, who called them poor substitutes for measures that protected those at risk.

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