“Inspired by Hobby Lobby, a Father Tries to Deny His Daughters Birth Control Coverage”

With the usual disclaimer that I am not a lawyer, I don’t see how the plaintiff in this case has a leg to stand on:

Missouri Republican state Rep. Paul Joseph Wieland does not want his three daughters to have access to birth control, in their case through the group plan offered by Wieland’s employer, the state of Missouri. The plan does not require women to use birth control, of course, but the mere fact that his daughters might disobey his anti–birth control teachings bothers Wieland. A judge asked why Wieland doesn’t just tell his daughters, “We expect you do abide by our religious tenets.” Wieland’s lawyer, Timothy Belz, replied, “Well, we all have high hopes for our kids, that is true. We all expect and want them to obey us, they don’t always … ” Thus Wieland would like a little help from the government just in case his girls disobey Daddy’s religious beliefs.

But again, what do I know: the case has apparently made it through the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The analogy to Hobby Lobby seems too weak to hold up, but parents do have broad authority to make life-altering decisions for their children without their consent; so perhaps there is still some manner in which it could go through? Comments from more legally informed readers especially welcome. Read more about the case at Slate.

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“The Mask You Live In”

An excerpt from a longer write-up at Bitch Media:

You don’t get more traditionally masculine than Joe Ehrmann. The defensive lineman played in the NFL for eight years, where his job was to relentlessly tackle dudes. So it’s a surprise to hear him empathetically recall his very earliest memory at the beginning of new documentary The Mask You Live In. Ehrmann explains how he viscerally remembers his dad telling him to stop crying—to “be a man.” “That’s one of the most destructive phrases in this culture,” says Ehrmann.

[….]The Mask You Live In, which is currently screening at festivals and upon request, is The Representation Project’s crucial follow-up film [to Miss Representation] dissecting modern masculinity. Like Miss RepresentationThe Mask You Live In has an accompanying text curriculum (including middle-school-friendly infographics) and is geared toward being screened in educational settings—like school health classes or media workshops—rather than wide-release.

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The Women’s World Cup: Victory On and Off the Field

With the Women’s World Cup final over a week behind us, it might seems like the US Women’s victory is old news. I, however, am still basking in the afterglow of the event, which I watched on television, like millions of others. It was my first time watching the Women’s World Cup, despite having watched the Men’s tournament several times in the past. I can’t rightly say why I never watched the Women’s World Cup before—it seems like I was never aware of it, never knew where to see it or when it was on. This year, thanks to a deal with Fox, the Women’s World Cup was more accessible, even if coverage was not ideal (many games were relegated to Fox Sports 1, a non-standard cable channel).

The level of athleticism that the athletes of the World Cup brought to the field was exciting; the games were dynamic and fast-paced; and some of the goals were mouth-droppingly amazing. Do I gush? Good, I feel gushy. It was inspiring to watch these incredible, athletic women show off their talents—and to finally see them get recognition in the media. Viewership of the finale exceeded the viewership of any televised soccer event in the U.S.—22.86 million people were tuned into the game by the end—and that fact alone has brought more attention to the event and the athletes. Since returning to the US, the team has appeared at a rally in LA, they were honored with a ticker tape parade in New York City, and soon each player as well as coach Jill Ellis will feature on their own cover of Sports Illustrated.

The broadcasting of the games and the greater awareness of the event also made it possible to learn more about the team. For example, I had no idea that US goalie Hope Solo is considered by many to be the world’s best goalie (male or female) and forward Abby Wambach holds the world record for number of goals scored in international competition (by a male or female athlete). This World Cup added another factoid to the growing list: Carli Lloyd’s jaw-dropping hat-trick in the finale was the first hat-trick in a World Cup match since Geoff Hurst did it in the men’s final in 1966. And her mid-field goal was no accident, either, I learned. It was the result of hard work and incessant, inspiring practice. It has been inspiring to read these statistics and facts and know: These are women—talented, dedicated, athletic, powerful women.

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Misdirected Anger at Planned Parenthood Video:
Don’t Stigmatize Women Who Donate Fetal Tissue

Guest post by Elizabeth Yuko (Fordham University)

Yesterday, a group that calls itself the “Center for Medical Progress” released a video which shows a Planned Parenthood doctor discussing various aspects of the fetal tissue donation process. Filmed undercover and heavily edited, the video has been touted as proof that Planned Parenthood sells fetal body parts for a profit.

Indisputably, the for-profit sale of fetal tissue and organs is unethical and illegal. That, however, is not the situation described in the video.

Federal law, along with Planned Parenthood protocol, requires all fetal materials to be collected only with informed consent from the woman. Ultimately, fetal tissue donation is only one potential outcome for the materials resulting from the termination of a pregnancy – and one that has the potential for wide-reaching benefits resulting from research.

According to a statement released by Planned Parenthood, there is “no financial benefit for tissue donation for either the patient or for Planned Parenthood.  In some instances, actual costs, such as the cost to transport tissue to leading research centers, are reimbursed, which is standard across the medical field.”

If the fetal materials discussed in the video were, in fact, being sold for a profit, the transaction would likely involve far more than the $30-100 the doctor cited.

Moreover, much of the media coverage of this issue further stigmatizes those who have sought abortions for a wide spectrum of reasons – many of which are medical. For women who make the multi-faceted decision to end a pregnancy, the knowledge that the fetal tissue will be used for research and has the potential to help others may be comforting.

The financial transaction described in the video – which, regrettably, features the doctor speaking conspicuously casually about the process – is standard compensation for shipping and processing costs. No one is profiting financially. The women who donate fetal tissue shouldn’t be vilified for their decision.

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“From Jackie and Me: A Plea for Opt-Out Organ Donation”

By Hilde Lindemann (Michigan State University):

Three weeks ago, my dear friend Jackie, a internationally recognized bioethicist in her fifties who lives in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, went to bed with what she thought was a bad case of flu. A few days later she was really ill, and her partner and another dear friend persuaded her to go to an emergency care clinic. After a round of tests, Jackie texted me: “The doctor said, ‘Your liver isn’t very happy.’ I felt like telling him, ‘Meanwhile, my spleen is moderately content but my pancreas would like a 1.3 percent pay raise, so what are you going to do about it?’ Luckily I refrained–they don’t have much of a sense of humor, these consultants.”

She grew steadily worse, and a few days later the doctors said she was in liver failure. None of the tests could explain what had caused it, but by Friday of last week they told her partner that unless she received a liver transplant within three days, she would die.

Read the full piece at The Hastings Center’s Bioethics Forum.

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“Colorado’s Effort Against Teenage Pregnancies Is a Startling Success”

The birthrate among teenagers across the state plunged by 40 percent from 2009 to 2013, while their rate of abortions fell by 42 percent, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. There was a similar decline in births for another group particularly vulnerable to unplanned pregnancies: unmarried women under 25 who have not finished high school.

Overwhelmingly thanks to free IUDs. Read about it at The Times or Huff Post.

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CFP: “Feminist Phenomenology, Medicine, Bioethics, and Health”

 IJFAB Special Issue 11.2: “Feminist Phenomenology, Medicine, Bioethics, and Health”

Guest Editor
Lauren Freeman (University of Louisville)

Although by no means mainstream, phenomenological approaches to bioethics and philosophy of medicine are no longer novel. Such approaches take the lived body – as opposed the body understood as a material, biological object – as a point of departure. Such approaches are also invested in a detailed examination and articulation of a plurality of diverse subjective experiences, as opposed to reifying experience under the rubric of “the subject” or “the patient.” Phenomenological approaches to bioethics and medicine have broached topics such as pain, trauma, illness, death, and bodily alienation – to name just a few – and our understandings of these topics have benefitted from and are deepened by being analyzed using the tools of phenomenology.

There is also a rich history of approaching phenomenology from a feminist perspective. Combining these two approaches and methodologies has furthered our understandings of lived experiences of marginalization, invisibility, nonnormativity, and oppression. Approaching phenomenology from a feminist perspective has also broadened the subject matter of traditional phenomenology to include analyses of sexuality, sexual difference, pregnancy, and birth. Moreover, feminist phenomenological accounts of embodiment have also helped to broaden more traditional philosophical understandings and discussions of what singular bodies are and of how they navigate the world as differently sexed, gendered, racialized, aged, weighted, and abled. Feminist phenomenological accounts and analyses have helped to draw to the fore the complicated ways in which identities intersect and have made the case that if we are really to understand first person embodied accounts of experience, then a traditional phenomenological account of “the subject” simply does not suffice.

The aim of this special issue is to explore and develop the connections between feminist phenomenology, philosophy of medicine, bioethics, and health. The issue will consider on the one hand, how feminist phenomenology can enhance and deepen our understanding of issues within medicine, bioethics, and health, and on the other hand, whether and how feminist approaches to medicine, bioethics, and health can help to advance the phenomenological project.

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“The Mistreatment of Women during Childbirth in Health Facilities Globally: A Mixed-Methods Systematic Review”

This systematic review illustrates how, in many settings worldwide, women’s childbirth experiences in health facilities are marred by instances of mistreatment, including physical and verbal abuse, a lack of supportive care, neglect, discrimination, and denial of autonomy. Our findings indicate that while these various forms of mistreatment can occur at the level of the interaction between the woman and provider, a complex range of systemic failures at the levels of the health facility and health system contribute to its occurrence, including poor supervisory structures, insufficient staffing, inadequate supply chains, poor physical conditions, and policies, facility cultures, and power dynamics that systematically disempower women.

Find the entire article at PLOS Medicine. (Thanks to Wendy Rogers for the pointer.)

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Useful Rape Analogies, Cartoon Form

From Everyday Feminism via Upworthy (which includes a few other links I have not checked out), “How 7 things that have nothing to do with rape perfectly illustrate the concept of consent.” A sample:

Sad as it is to say, some of these might actually be useful in the classroom at even the college level.

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Susan Sherwin Appointed to the Order of Canada

Susan Sherwin (Dalhousie University) has been granted this honour for her work in feminist bioethics, “notably through her writings on discrimination in health care.” For those unfamiliar with this distinction:

Established in 1967 by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, the Order of Canada is the cornerstone of the Canadian Honours System, and recognizes outstanding achievement, dedication to the community and service to the nation. The Order recognizes people in all sectors of Canadian society. Their contributions are varied, yet they have all enriched the lives of others and made a difference to this country.

Find here a five-minute interview with CTV News Atlantic, in which Sherwin describes the work for which she is being thus honoured. You can also find a freely available copy of her essay from IJFAB 1.1, “Whither Bioethics?: How Feminism Can Help Reorient Bioethics,” together with the rest of our inaugural issue here on Project Muse.

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The Myths We Tell Ourselves: Justice Clarence Thomas’ dissent in Obergefell v. Hodges

In invalidating same-sex marriage bans nationwide in Obergefell v. Hodges, the Supreme Court held that the Fourteenth Amendment protected marriage as a fundamental liberty, regardless of the sex of the spouses.  Specifically, it noted that

The Fourteenth Amendment requires a State to license a marriage between two people of the same sex and to recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when their marriage was lawfully licensed and performed out-of-State….

….The history of marriage is one of both continuity and change. Changes, such as the decline of arranged marriages and the abandonment of the law of coverture, have worked deep transformations in the structure of marriage, affecting aspects of marriage once viewed as essential. These new insights have strengthened, not weakened, the institution. Changed understandings of marriage are characteristic of a Nation where new dimensions of freedom become apparent to new generations.

To this, Justice Clarence Thomas offered a dissent (in which he was joined by Justice Antonin Scalia), taking on the definition of liberty:

Since well before 1787, liberty has been understood as freedom from government action, not entitlement to government benefits….[and the petitioners] have in no way been deprived [of liberty]. They have been able to travel freely around the country, making their homes where they please. Far from being incarcerated or physically restrained, petitioners have been left alone to order their lives as they see fit.

This in itself is troubling enough.  And rather typical of the right-leaning, libertarian-esque, social conservatives who tend to give the most ungrounded and facile readings of “liberty”  —  unless the flavor of said liberty is taxation or other kinds of property control.

But then things take an interesting, and, I would suggest, more worrying turn:  Not only have the petitioners not been deprived of their liberty, Justice Thomas argues, but their human dignity itself is also not subject to governmental influence or control (and, indeed, “has long been understood in this country to be innate”).  Here are Thomas’ thoughts:

The corollary of that principle is that human dignity cannot be taken away by the government. Slaves did not lose their dignity (any more than they lost their humanity) because the government allowed them to be enslaved. Those held in internment camps did not lose their dignity because the government confined them. And those denied governmental benefits certainly do not lose their dignity because the government denies them those benefits. The government cannot bestow dignity, and it cannot take it away.

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John Oliver on Transgender Rights

He’s rejected the claim to being the conscience of America (because, really, who would accept that burden?); nevertheless, I’d say that he’s doing quite a passable job in this capacity and–perhaps most impressively–all the while remaining completely hilarious and all-around entertaining.

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