Scientists studying AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases report that their research grants face political scrutiny by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) or by members of Congress. The New York Times reports that scientists were advised to avoid certain phrases in their grant applications, such as “sex workers,” “men who sleep with men,” “anal sex,” and “needle exchange.”
Dr. Alfred Sommer, dean of the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University, told the Times that the fear of political scrutiny was creating a “pernicious sense of insecurity” among researchers. “If people feel intimidated and start clouding the language they use, then your mind starts to get cloudy and the science gets cloudy,” Dr. Sommer explained to the Times. One anonymous official called the level of scrutiny under the Bush administration “much worse and more intense” than under any other president, the Times reports.
“The actions of the Bush administration are causing unnecessary fear, disease, and death globally. From pressuring US scientists to ‘sanitize’ their language to pressuring the CDC to weaken their fact sheet on the effectiveness of condoms to pressuring the National Cancer Institute to deny science and falsely imply that abortion is linked to breast cancer, their theocratic impetus denies and obscures the deadly reality of their actions,” said Beth Jordan, MD, medical director of the Feminist Majority Foundation.
Next year, federal spending on safe-sex programs to prevent the spread of HIV will take a back seat to programs focusing on the infected population, according to the Los Angeles Times. This new shift will place a greater emphasis on HIV testing and individualized counseling for HIV-positive people and their partners. The shift in policy has drawn criticism from AIDS advocacy groups. “I think it is shortsighted in some ways,” said Daniel Montoya, director of government affairs for AIDS project Los Angeles, according to the LA Times. “Unless you are doing comprehensive prevention, in terms of looking at people who are at risk and not just look at those who are already infected, we may have another epidemic on our hands 10 years down the road.”
Media Resources: New York Times 4/18/03; LA Times 4/18/03; Feminist Majority Foundation
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. . . .