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Posts from the ‘Reproductive technology’ Category

The Burdens of Conscience: Thoughts on Burwell v. Hobby Lobby

By Ronit Y. Stahl

In the late 1960s, two men refused to fulfill their military service obligations. One was a humanist and the other a Catholic, and both viewed Vietnam as an unjust war. However, they admitted they did not view all wars as unconscionable. This presented a problem because the Selective Service required men to certify that they objected to all war, in any form. They took to the courts in an attempt to make selective conscientious objection—that is, objection to specific wars—valid grounds for classification as conscientious objectors.

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If the IUD is an Abortifacient, then so is Chemotherapy and Lunch Meat

By Lara Freidenfelds

When I criticized Hobby Lobby for its attempts to evade the Obamacare contraceptive mandate, a friend of mine thoughtfully replied, “Lara, I don't think the Hobby Lobby case has anything to do with the daily birth control pill -- it is only dealing with not wanting to cover drugs and medical devices that actually "end" a pregnancy after an egg has been fertilized.” She wasn’t so ready to vilify Hobby Lobby for standing on its anti-abortion principles, a position which a substantial minority of Americans support. Like my friend, I am willing to grant that Hobby Lobby may earnestly be trying to avoid funding what it perceives to be “abortions.” But what this discussion shows is that Hobby Lobby, and many people on both sides of the abortion debates, have been misled about how pregnancy works. And this has profound implications for how we think about contraceptives such as the IUD and the morning-after pill.

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Is Contraception “Health Care”? The Hobby Lobby Case

by Lara Freidenfelds

As we wait for the Supreme Court to render a decision on the Hobby Lobby contraception coverage case, I have been pondering the historical relationship between contraception and health care. Is it obvious that contraception should be considered part of “health care?” And would it be possible to decide that it isn’t, but still make it affordable and available? This case seems, to me, to rest largely on whether we think contraception counts as health care. The justices are wary of an outcome that would allow employers to decline to pay for blood transfusions or routine vaccinations, even if an employer might genuinely have religious reservations about those procedures. Those are clearly health care. Contraception, though, seems different. It is prescribed for healthy people, and it does not cure or prevent disease (at least not directly).

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Let’s Talk About Gene Therapy

By Elizabeth Reis

It is exciting to read about promising new gene therapies that might make living with various disabilities easier or even render them extinct. Researchers at University of Massachusetts Medical School are working on a way to “turn off” the extra chromosome found in people with Down syndrome. If the gene therapy works as they hope, turning off the chromosome would mitigate some of the effects of Down’s. So far this possibility has only been glimmered in a laboratory dish, but ultimately the goal would be to turn off the extra chromosome prenatally, so that the brain would form without developmental and intellectual encumbrances.

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I am a Real Mother

Sandra Trudgen Dawson
A few weeks ago I heard an interview between Terri Gross and Jennifer Gilmore on NPR discussing Gilmore’s new novel, The Mothers.[1] The novel is based on Gilmore’s experience as she and her husband navigated an open, domestic adoption. After a series of incredibly cruel and emotionally abusive relationships with potential birth parents, Gilmore and her husband eventually adopted a son earlier this year. The interview was grueling. At one point, the interviewer asked Gilmore if she would recommend “open adoption” to anyone listening. While Gilmore answered yes, it was not the unequivocal “yes” that I would give.

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Just Add Water . . . and Sperm

By Tina M. Kibbe
As an historian of science and medicine, I am always interested in both the histories of and the latest innovations in genetic and reproductive technologies. It is unbelievable how far we've come in such a relatively short period of time. These technologies are usually met with a mixture of awe and fascination or resistance and fear—it seems as if sometimes we are witnessing a glimpse into the future, yet it is actually happening in the here and now. I recently came across an article that actually made me stop and say, “Wow, really?” It’s about research into a new reproductive technology, but before I get to it, I want to do a brief background of revolutionary reproductive and genetic technologies that have sparked some intense ethical and moral debates. Specifically, three groundbreaking developments which have women/gender at their very core. Three developments that, as they were occurring, perhaps seemed like they were only futuristic, fantastic things that could never really happen . . . until they did.

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The Myth of the Vajazzled Orgasm

By Thomas A. Foster
As you may well be aware, there is a spa in New York City that sells vajazzling. The flash and style of adding sparkling, jewel-like plastic to denim can also be accomplished for the vagina. Is our current, historically unprecedented, public focus on the vagina finally succeeding in creating a female cultural counterpoint to the penis? Are we nearing total equality of the sexes? The popular emphasis on the vagina is certainly on the rise. The explosive popularity of the Vagina Monologues, now regularly performed on college campuses, made many more comfortable with the V word. Social critic Naomi Wolf has recently argued for the existence of the “mind-vagina”connection. Commercials coyly refer to the letter V for various feminine products and sitcoms and singers laud their own embrace of the vajayjay as a way of indicating equal sexual footing with men. "Designer" vaginas are also part of this new emphasis. Cosmetogynecology is one of the fastest growing types of cosmetic surgery.

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What Does Responsibility Have to Do with Reproduction?

By Adam Turner
Genetic counseling, as the previous two posts in this series suggest, has a lot to offer for navigating the tricky decisions things like prenatal testing and preimplantation genetic diagnosis raise. Well, in this post I'd like to make things a little more complicated. Enter the sheer messiness of history. I still believe genetic counseling is the best approach we have right now for helping prospective parents with hard choices, but it has a complicated -- and not so distant -- past that continues to shape counselors' ways of interacting with clients.

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HPV and the Importance of Planned Parenthood

By Tina M. Kibbe
While doing research for a new project, I was doing some reading about sexually transmitted infections and came across a couple of interesting articles about the HPV vaccine and Planned Parenthood. The article on the HPV vaccine deals with the concern over the vaccination increasing the sexual activity of young women. And the article on Planned Parenthood surrounds the controversy over whether or not the organization would remain part of the state-run Women’s Health Program in Texas. My interest in these articles stems from my research in the gendered aspects of healthcare, particularly in relation to sexual transmitted infections. Also, I am originally from Texas and I think it is inane to restrict access to affordable healthcare resources.

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Now It’s Everybody’s Fault

By Adam Turner Welcome to the second in a series of posts discussing genetics, prenatal testing, and genetic counseling. In this post we'll be thinking about blame and birth atypicality. Earlier this month the New York Times and other news media reported on the findings of a recent study published in the journal Nature. In some cases, the study suggested, the increased genetic mutations found in older men's sperm could make it more likely their offspring might develop autism or schizophrenia.

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