In the News
December 2016

Most of Global Population Breathing Polluted Air

A new study by the World Health Organization (WHO) analyzed the outdoor air in 3,000 places worldwide, measuring different types of particulate matter. The researchers concluded that 92 percent of people on Earth are breathing substandard air.

They found that in 2012 one in nine deaths was related to air pollution—outdoor air pollution caused the deaths of 3 million people and indoor air pollution caused the deaths of 3.5 million more. Lower and middle income countries accounted for 87 percent of those 6.5 million deaths. The United States had 38,043 air-pollution-related deaths in 2012.

The study did not look at nitrogen oxides or ozone, so these findings are likely conservative.

Arkansas Must Reimburse Planned Parenthood for Medicaid Services

U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker issued a preliminary injunction in September preventing the state of Arkansas from refusing to reimburse Planned Parenthood for services provided to Medicaid patients.

Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson terminated Planned Parenthood’s Medicaid contract last year because of the highly edited fetal tissue sting videos recorded and disseminated by the Center for Medical Progress.

Three Planned Parenthood patients sued and won, and the judge extended the order to all Planned Parenthood Medicaid patients. The state has made an appeal to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals over the ruling regarding the three patients who sued.

Polish Women Carry Out Influential Strike Against Proposed Abortion Ban

Women in Poland shut down a proposed anti-abortion law by staging a massive strike on October 3. “Black Monday” called for women to skip work and school, and refuse to do household or childcare-related duties for one day. Instead, they were asked to dress in black, do acts of public service, and stage protests in their communities. Activists estimate that at least hundreds of thousands, and maybe up to 6 million, Polish women participated. Protests were also held in other European cities as a show of solidarity.

Three days later, after the ruling Law and Justice party (PiS) withdrew its support for the legislation, the lower house of Parliament voted against the measure, 352 to 58.

The proposed law was the result of a citizens’ initiative that collected 450,000 signatures. It would have outlawed abortion with no exceptions. Abortion has already been prohibited in Poland since 1993, except when the woman’s life is threatened, the fetus has severe complications, or the pregnancy is a result of rape or incest—which must be confirmed by a prosecutor.

The new law would have carried a jail sentence of five years for women who had abortions and would also potentially send doctors who provided abortions to jail. Even the Catholic bishops in Poland viewed the law as too punitive—they didn’t support the proposed jail time.

Between 1,000 and 2,000 legal abortions occur each year in Poland. Estimates put the number of illegal abortions between 10,000 and 150,000.

Obama Administration Acts to Protect Planned Parenthood Funding

Through the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Obama Administration proposed a new rule in September that would prohibit states from refusing federal Title X Family Planning Program funding to providers that offer abortion services (even though, under the Hyde Amendment, Title X dollars already cannot be used to provide abortion services). According to the new rule, funds would be awarded based on a provider’s ability to effectively perform services, rather than whether the provider offers abortion services.

Title X subsidizes birth control, cancer screenings, and testing and treatment for STIs for approximately 5 million patients a year—mostly women—91 percent of whom are low income.

The rule, announced on September 7, underwent a 30-day public comment period. The Department of Health and Human Services is now reviewing those comments before making a decision.

Global Wildlife Populations Declining Rapidly

According to the new Living Planet Report, published in October by WWF, global wildlife populations are in steep decline:

  • Between 1970 and 2012, global wildlife populations declined by 58 percent, with the greatest losses in freshwater environments.
  • If current trends continue to 2020, vertebrate populations may decline by 67 percent from 1970.
  • In 2012, the equivalent of 1.6 Earths was needed to provide the natural resources and services humanity consumed in one year.
  • The majority of Earth’s land area is now modified by humans.

The greatest threats, according to the report, are habitat loss and degradation, species overexploitation, pollution, invasive species and disease, and climate change.

Male Birth Control Study Halted Early Due to “Mild to Moderate” Side Effects

There has been much joking online about a study testing male birth control ending early because of side effects that women have endured for fifty years. The two-hormone (progestogen and testosterone) injection for men was designed to suppress the production of new sperm and to be fully reversible.

The researchers gave men a shot every eight weeks, in ten study sites around the world (two sites each in Australia, Germany, and the United Kingdom and one site each in Chile, India, Indonesia, and Italy).

The results, published at the end of October in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, are hopeful in that the contraceptive effects and reversibility of the shot are very good. During the 56 weeks that the study ran, only four of the 266 male participants impregnated their partners, for a 98.43 percent effectiveness rate.

The side effects—acne, injection site pain, increased libido, and mood disorders—were enough to make 20 men discontinue the regimen. They were also enough to end the study early, after two independent safety committees reached different conclusions on the safety of the trial. Most of the reported side effects were classified as mild (91 percent, with 99 percent being either mild or moderate). Curiously, the Indonesian participants reported side effects at a much higher rate than participants in the other sites.

At the end of the study, even after learning that it was ending early, 75 percent of participants said they would use this method of birth control if it became available to them outside the trial.

Postpartum LARCs for Medicaid Patients

Traditionally, women on Medicaid have had to wait until their six-week postpartum visit to get an IUD or implant. This is because of the way Medicaid bundles the cost of all birth-related services—including postpartum contraception—into one reimbursement. But the reimbursement wasn’t nearly enough to cover the actual cost of the device and insertion, so hospitals were refusing to provide it because it cost them money. Now, 17 states have changed their coding procedures (unbundling birth-related costs and contraceptive costs to reflect the actual costs of each) so that Medicaid patients can get long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs) before they leave the hospital after having a baby.

South Carolina was the first state to make the change, in 2012, and between 2013 and 2015, LARC use there increased among women on Medicaid from 10.5 percent to 14.2 percent, saving the state $1.7 million in Medicaid births.

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