IJFAB Blog: The Greatest Hits

The blog editor is on vacation this week, so what better time that to regale you with the most popular posts (as assessed by total number of visits) since our launch in April, 2013? Check out any that you missed the first time around!

No More Ashely Treatments by Eva Feder Kittay (April 17, 2013)

Aiming at Body Size: How Medicalizing Obesity Changes the Very Notion of What it is to be Healthy by Alison Reiheld (June 25, 2013)

Involuntary Treatment of the Mentally Ill by Norah Martin (June 13, 2013)

Embryo Sex Selection Shouldn’t Be Illegal by Stephen Wilkinson and Eve Garrard (August 21, 2013)

From Mansplaining to #NotAllMen: Contending with the Violent Repercussions of Everyday Misogyny by Ula Klein (June 2, 2104)

Reproductive Tourism in India: Is Surrogacy Ethical? by Ruth Macklin (October 10, 2013)

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Controlling Pregnant Women–Again

The controllers of pregnant women are at it again. In this case, however, it is not clear whether the controllers are seeking to protect the fetus, the woman, or both. They may even be seeking to protect the hospital against potential liability. The case is taking place in Florida, where doctors have ordered the woman to undergo a cesarean section against her will. According to a press release issued by the National Advocates for Pregnant Women (NAPW), the hospital has threatened to force a pregnant patient to have cesarean surgery against her will and to report her to child welfare authorities. The woman, who is 39 weeks pregnant, had three previous cesarean sections and based on those experiences, she chose to have a trial of labor for a normal vaginal delivery before agreeing to a c-section if it becomes necessary. The Chief Financial Officer of Bayfront Health Port Charlotte sent a letter to the woman, Jennifer Goodall, with the threat of reporting her to the Department of Children and Family Services, seek a court order to perform surgery, and to perform cesarean surgery on her “with or without [her] consent” if she came to the hospital.

There are risks to repeated cesarean sections, as well as risks to women who have a vaginal birth after having had cesarean sections (known as VBAC). According to guidance issued in 2010 by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), “Attempting a vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC) is a safe and appropriate choice for most women who have had a prior cesarean delivery, including for some women who have had two previous cesareans.” It is interesting to note the history of VBAC. ACOG reports that before 1970, VBAC was rarely performed, but the practice increased steadily reaching 28% of women who had had previous c-sections by 1996. After that the practice steadily declined, reaching 8.5% only a decade later. The apparent reasons for the decline are restrictions placed by hospitals and insurers on a trial of labor following previous cesarean sections. This shows that it is not only physicians that try to control pregnant women, but also hospitals and insurance companies.

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Sex, Women and the Orgasm Gap

In an effort to be slightly less heteronormative than usual, Cosmopolitan magazine has been running the occasional queer-friendly article. Following last December’s “14 Things You Should Never Say to a Gay Man” and the more recent “8 Things Not to Say to a Transgender Person” is the slightly more-titillatingly-titled “28 Mind-Blowing Lesbian Sex Positions.”

As is pretty much standard with Cosmo sex articles, there are images to go along with the various sex positions, and the captions are detailed and flirty. The blurb for the article reads, “Cosmopolitan.com now has sex positions for the lesbians, bisexuals, pansexuals, queers—all the lady-loving ladies in the crowd! You’ll never see sex the same way again.”

The comments on the article website range from “thanks for looking past the hetero horizon” to “obviously written by a straight woman.” Still, in an era where female sexuality and pleasures are often considered secondary to male ones, it’s heartening, perhaps, to see Cosmo, that bastion of heteronormative lipstick femininity and please-your-man discourse, offering lesbian sex tips.

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“Replacing Myths with Facts: Sex-Selective Abortion Laws in the United States”

Legislators and major news outlets have stated that the United States is one of the few countries that does not prohibit abortion for sex selection purposes. However, the eight states in the United States that currently ban sex-selective abortion are among a small minority of places in the world where it is banned. Only four other countries explicitly prohibit sex-selective abortion: China, Kosovo, Nepal and Vietnam (see discussion of Myth #3 below). Instead, many countries that are concerned about sex selection prohibit the use of technology to sex select prior to implantation of the embryo in the uterus.

Read the full report here from The International Human Rights Clinic at the University of Chicago Law School. Six myths corrected with six facts.

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“New Anti-Abortion Legislation Requires Doctors To Scale 18-Foot Wall Surrounding Clinic”

From “America’s Finest New Source,” The Onion:

Authorization for the clinic walls reportedly sailed through the state legislature and was quickly signed by Gov. Bryant, despite failed amendments from a small group of Democrats that would have reduced the wall’s height and allowed doctors to use assistive devices such as ladders or grappling hooks. According to sources, only the planting of thick, thorny shrubbery along the base of both sides of the wall was removed from the final version of the legislation.

Recall the non-satirical political discourse surrounding the Mexican border, and this piece suddenly seems rather less funny.

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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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“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 BuzzFeed.com, Jezebel.com and others have also found another way to look at these male soccer players: through the lens of sexual objectification.

A recent article for Slate.com 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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