Hospitals as Sites of War

The news is grim.

A dozen shells hit the Al Aqsa hospital in the town of Deir el-Balah,Palestinian health official Ashraf al-Kidra said.

He said four people were killed and 60 wounded when the shells landed in the administration building, the intensive care unit and the surgery department.

A doctor at the hospital, Fayez Zidane told Al Aqsa TV station, a broadcaster affiliated with Hamas, that shells hit the third and fourth floor as well as the reception area.

Another source reports similar events.


There has been a noted lack of response by the biomedical and bioethical community, and the purpose of this post is not to offer particular views of the conflict itself, but to nudge us toward a conversation about where we, as bioethicists and as feminists, stand with respect to the above.  Is this now not just a humanitarian, political, and military crisis, but a biomedical one?  Is it the case that once hospitals are a part of the destruction  –  whether intentional or accidental  –  we ought to enter the public arena and draw a line beyond which no conflict ought to go?

It is, of course, not the first time that hospitals have been a part of the “collateral damage” of war, and nobody has clean hands.

But this is not a post about clean hands.  What I am posing is a more practical and immediate question:  what do we do?  What do we say?  How do we address this ongoing nightmare in a way that makes the best use of our scholarship, training, and voices?

Personally, I am not sure.  But I look forward to your responses and ideas.

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“Journalistic Malpractice: The Media Enables the Right-Wing Politicization of Science”

Nice article that hits the nail on the head.

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Responding to Street Harassment

In her response to our poll on influential feminist work in the new millennium, Wendy Rogers brought to my attention the the Everyday Sexism Project, in which readers post accounts of the daily harassment to which they are subjected as a matter of course.

Readers might be interested in this related item, in which a woman has been calling out cat-callers and secretly recording their reactions. She has also initiated a project, Cards Against Harrasment, offering a variety of printable, business-sized cards that women can simply hand out to their harassers. The slogan: “Being harassed by strangers isn’t fun, but now, responding to street harassment can be.” Check it out, and bewilder the next man who verbally accosts you in public!

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Most Important Contributions to Feminism Since 2000?

Readers, I invite you to use the comments section to nominate the book or article that stands stands out to you as the most important development in feminist thought so far this millennium.

Feel free to answer from a personal perspective (whatever has been most transformative for you) or a disciplinary perspective (whatever has had — or ought to be having — the greatest impact on scholarship). No need to limit yourselves to work in bioethics or by academic publishers.

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Posted in Academia | 2 Comments

“Using Laughing Gas to Relieve the Pain of Childbirth”

Nearly 50 percent of women giving birth in Finland and Canada, a full 50 percent in Australia, and 60 percent in the United Kingdom, avail themselves of nitrous for pain relief, and have for generations. But even though it’s cheap and easy to use, only 1 percent of U.S. hospitals were offering it in 2011. As of this writing, there are 19 hospitals and 14 birthing centers in the country offering or in the process of offering nitrous oxide during labor.

Unsurprisingly, much of the reason for this may have to do with money: nitrous oxide is too cheap and easy to administer for the likes of U.S. hospitals. Find the full article at The Atlantic.

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“The Myth of Wealthy Men and Beautiful Women”

This article at The Atlantic is kind of funny

“there’s a lot of these guys who are partnered with women who are better looking than them, which is just because, on average, women are better looking. Men are partnering ‘up’ in attractiveness. And men earn more than women—we’ve got that 70-percent wage gap—so women marry ‘up’ in income. You’ve got to take these things into account before concluding that women are trading beauty for money.”

and it also makes a serious point

Even as its pervasiveness in popular culture is waning, the gendered beauty-status exchange model is harmful in several insidious ways, McClintock said. “It trivializes the importance of women’s careers in a social sense: It’s telling women that what matters is your looks, and your other accomplishments and qualities don’t matter on the partner market.”

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“No Ifs, Ands, or Butts”: What does the objectification of male soccer players show us about difference in men’s and women’s athletics?

Many posts on this blog have dealt with the omnipresent problem of the objectification of women in our society and around the world. Feminists of all stripes agree that this is a problem, though what exactly constitutes “objectification” and what might be a good solution to this problem are subjects for discussion. Similarly, this issue also suggests a follow-up: what happens when men are objectified?

This issue has come up recently with regard to the World Cup soccer stars, who have spent the last four weeks playing some of the best soccer in the world. They have also come under criticism for their unsportsmanlike antics on the pitch, including the “dives” and strategic “injuries” that often stop the game for minutes at a time. Websites like, and others have also found another way to look at these male soccer players: through the lens of sexual objectification.

A recent article for reviews and analyzes this trend, which often focuses on individual body parts of the players. For many women, this may sound awfully familiar. Instead of “nice tits” or “great ass” it’s “nice quads” and….well…”great ass.” Buzzfeed’s lists included even “best bulges,” which, as anyone watching the World Cup will know, capitalizes on the fact that soccer players do not, in fact, wear a cup to the World Cup.

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IJFAB Essay Prize: Call for Nominations

IJFAB invites nominations for the IJFAB Essay Prize. The Prize will be awarded annually to recognize excellent scholarship in feminist bioethics by a graduate student or recent PhD. The winning essay will be published in IJFAB, and the author will receive a $500 award—as well as a one-year membership in FAB and a subscription to IJFAB.

The first IJFAB Essay Prize will be awarded in 2016, and the prize-winning essay will be published in IJFAB’s 10th anniversary issue in spring 2017. Eligible nominees are current graduate students or those who received their highest degree no earlier than 2012.

Any faculty member may nominate a student’s essay; however, nominators must be current members of FAB. You can join FAB at The nominator of the winning essay receives a one-year extension of her or his FAB membership.

Nominators should forward to the IJFAB Editorial Office at

  • A letter of nomination indicating why the scholarship is important and should be published in IJFAB
  • The nominee’s CV
  • The nominated essay

All nominations materials must be received by July 1, 2015. For further information, please contact the IJFAB Editorial Office.

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“Playing Hardball Against Women’s Rights: The Holy See At The UN”

Who needs facts or even common human decency if you have power?

The Holy See’s modus operandi has been to impose its conservative social ideology at the UN via relentless pressure—evident ever since it gained semi-official standing there in 1964. Pope Paul VI spelled out his privileged position at the UN the following year: his dual status as head of a church and head of state for the Holy See, he said, left him “independent of every worldly sovereignty” and made him the “bearer of a message for all mankind.” Nearly half a century later, the Roman Catholic church has global influence via the UN that is unique among the world’s religions.

Read the article at Church and State.

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“Should We ‘Fix’ Intersex Children?”

M was born with genitals that were not clearly male or female. Also known as disorders of sex development (DSDs), the best guess by researchers is that intersex conditions affect one in 2,000 children.

The response by doctors is often to carry out largely unregulated and controversial surgeries that aim to make an infant’s genitals and reproductive organs more normal but can often have unintended consequences, according to intersex adults, advocates and some doctors.

A long and gut-wrenching list of damaging side effects—painful scarring, reduced sexual sensitivity, torn genital tissue, removal of natural hormones and possible sterilization—combined with the chance of assigning children a gender they don’t feel comfortable with has left many calling for the surgeries to be heavily restricted.

Find the full article at The Atlantic. Also a find here a post by Ellen Feder on the same case (IJFAB Blog, for the record, way ahead of The Atlantic on this one).

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Gay Teacher Fired for Getting Married

“I was told very specifically I didn’t do anything wrong, that there were no parent complaints, no student complaints, but regardless, I would not be returning,” Dollar says. “I’m still kind of processing that.”

Apparently this is still considered constitutional. Especially bizarre is that they knew he was gay when they hired him. I mean, huh? Find the story at NPR.

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Does a womb make you a woman?

By Katy Fulfer and Angel Petropanagos

At the recent FABWorld Congress in Mexico City, a panel on Ethics of Uterine Transplantation outlined three ethical challenges.

  1. Ariel Lefkowitz and Jacques Balayla, authors of the Montreal Criteria for Ethical Feasibility of Uterine Transplantation, suggested that only genetic females are suitable candidates for uterine transplantation, given the lack of non-human and human research trials on genetic males. However, the authors do not think that transwomen lack genuine desires to experience gestation, but rather, that the research needs to catch up before the surgery can be ethically offered to them. Indeed, uterine transplantation (in conjunction with other ARTs, like fertility preservation and IVF) can be important for helping both trans and cis women to satisfy their reproductive desires/achieve pregnancy.
  1. Timothy Murphy reviewed and rejected philosophical arguments that would discriminate against transwomen as candidates for uterine transplantation. Murphy argued for two significant identity claims: first, uterine transplantation is one way for a transwoman to physically affirm her identity as a woman. Second, uterine transplantation contributes to transwomen’s social gender identities in helping to “close the gap” between transwomen and ciswomen.
  1. Mianna Lotz raised concerns about the biological bias in favour of the gestational relationship (and in many cases genetic ties) that can unduly compel some women to choose uterine transplantation, despite the risks and uncertainties associated with uterine transplantation. (See Angel Petropanagos’ Impact Ethics blog post for a brief review of some of the medical and ethical challenges of uterine transplantation.)

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Posted in LGBT & Intersex issues, Reproductive Technology | 2 Comments