Lawsuit Against Patent of Breast Cancer Genes Proceeds
A federal district judge ruled yesterday that a lawsuit challenging patents on genes related to hereditary breast and ovarian cancer can move forward in court. The lawsuit, filed in May by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Public Patent Foundation (PUBPAT) at the Benjamin Cardozo School of Law, is the first to challenge gene patents as a civil rights violation, reports Wired Magazine.
The defendants in the suit are the US Patent and Trademark Office and Myriad Genetics of Salt Lake City, which holds patents for the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, where mutations causing breast and ovarian cancer can occur. The patents allow Myriad to restrict outside research on the genes and monopolize predictive cancer tests, for which the company charges $3000, that check for mutations in an individual's genes, according to Wired. Yesterday's ruling denied the defendants' request for dismissal of the suit.
The ACLU and PUBPAT filed the lawsuit on the grounds that genes cannot be patented because they are "products of nature" and that the patents violate the First Amendment by restricting research, according to an ACLU press release. ACLU staff attorney Sandra Park stated, "The patents on BRCA1 and BRCA2 restrict women's access to genetic testing and interfere with their medical care. We hope that at the conclusion of this lawsuit, the court declares the patents unconstitutional and invalid."
The outcome of the lawsuit could have a far-reaching impact in genetic research because about 20 percent of all human genes are currently patented; including those associated with Alzheimer's disease, muscular dystrophy, and asthma, reports the ACLU.
8/28/2015 Alaska Court Protects Abortion Access for Low-Income Women - The Alaska Superior Court struck down a state law yesterday that would have severely limited abortion access for low-income women in Alaska.
The state's Superior Court also struck down a Department of Health and Social Services regulation that placed narrow specifications on Medicaid coverage for abortions, requiring that Medicaid-funded abortions be determined by a physician to be "medically necessary." Last year, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Planned Parenthood sued on behalf of the Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, claiming that the narrow definition of "medically necessary" arbitrarily established conditions designed to restrict the ability of low-income women to access abortion services.
The law was temporarily blocked last July by an Alaskan state court judge.
Superior Court Judge John Suddock ordered yesterday that the state be blocked from implementing this regulation, ruling that it placed an undue burden on low-income women seeking abortion services in Alaska.
"By providing health care to all poor Alaskans except women who need abortions, the challenged regulation violates the state constitutional guarantee of 'equal rights, opportunities, and protection under the law'," the ruling read.
"We applaud the superior court for striing down these cruel restrictions on women's health and rights that violate the Alaska Constitution," said Chris Charbonneau, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands. . . .
8/26/2015 Saudi Women Prepare to Vote for the First Time - The fight for gender equality is making slow but notable progress in Saudi Arabia, where women will be allowed to vote for the first time in upcoming December elections.
This shift in Saudi law came in 2011, when a royal decree announced that women would be allowed to vote and run in local elections beginning in December of 2015. . . .