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Argentina approves bill to move closer to increase access to safe and legal abortion

Most of the women who are hospitalized and die from complications from unsafe abortion are poor, Roman Catholics, married, with at least three children, and have at least a high school education. 

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The bill allowing women to terminate pregnancies up to 14 weeks has been approved by Argentina’s lower house of Congress.  Currently, abortion is allowed on grounds of rape, risk to life of the woman and severe malformation of the fetus.

“This is great news. Argentina has approved the bill paving legal reforms to increase access to safe and legal abortion and members of the upper house have also announced their support for the measure. Thanks to the women’s rights groups who have staged large rallies various parts of the country,” said Atty. Clara Rita Padilla, Executive Director of EnGendeRights and spokesperson of the Philippine Safe Abortion Advocacy Network (PINSAN).

“This step is significant in helping save lives of women in Argentina.  In the past, there was a young Argentinian girl who was refused an abortion whose baby died soon after birth and who eventually died too.  Just in May, Ireland paved the way to increase access to abortion in its historic referendum.  The Irish citizens overwhelmingly voted 66.4% to repeal the 8th amendment to its constitution clearly manifesting respect for women’s right to decide and a significant step to save women’s lives and freedom from disability resulting from denial of access to safe and legal abortion,” Atty. Padilla emphasized.

In the Philippines, in August 2016, a 21-year old Filipino woman with dwarfism condition who became pregnant as a result of the rape died a day after her risky childbirth due to complications resulting from her dwarfism condition.  Her mother lamented that her daughter might still be alive had her daughter been able to access safe and legal abortion.

“Because of lack of access to safe and legal abortion in the Philippines, in 2012, there were about three Filipino women who died every day from complications from unsafe abortion.  Many women report being treated inhumanely when they are rushed to the hospitals to get treatment for complications for their self-induced abortions.  And because of the restrictive abortion law and judgment passed on women, it is not only the women who induce abortions who are treated harshly but also women who suffer complications from spontaneous abortions, miscarriages after being beaten by their abusive husbands, and fetal death.  I hope our representatives in Congress and the executive and judicial branches of the Philippine government will realize how these human rights violations are so pervasive in our society and they just simply can’t turn a blind eye on this important issue.  I hope the Philippines will follow this global liberalization on abortion laws and soon decriminalize abortion since presently abortion is only recognized in our country to save the woman’s life and for medical necessity based on a 1961 supreme Court decision,” added Atty. Padilla.

Abortion is common in the Philippines with about 70 women inducing abortion every hour and about 11 women hospitalized every hour from unsafe abortion complications in 2012.  The number of women who have induced abortion in 2018 would be significantly higher since the number of women inducing abortion increases proportionally with the growing Philippine population.

Unsafe abortion is the third leading cause of maternal death and is a leading cause of hospitalizations.

There are various reasons why Filipino women undergo abortion. Filipino women induce abortion due to various reasons such as:

 Economic

  • inability to afford the cost of raising a child or an additional child –75% of the women
  • too soon (having enough children or their pregnancy came too soon after their last birth) – more than half of the women

Age/Too young – 46% were women younger than 25

Health risks –  nearly one-third of the women

Rape – 13% of the women

Pregnancy not supported by Partner/Family – one-third of the women

Most of the women who are hospitalized and die from complications from unsafe abortion are poor, Roman Catholics, married, with at least three children, and have at least a high school education.  Poor women comprise two-thirds of those who induce abortion, using riskier abortion methods, thus disproportionately experiencing severe complications — clearly showing that lack of access to safe abortion is a social justice issue.

The archaic Spanish colonial law on abortion in our 1930 Revised Penal Code has not decreased the number of women who induce abortion rather it has made it dangerous for women who resort to clandestine and unsafe abortion.

“This 2018, the Philippines is supposed to report to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW Committee), the United Nations treaty monitoring body tasked to monitor Philippine compliance with the CEDAW Convention, what steps it has done to legalize abortion since this was one of two priority issues identified by the CEDAW Committee in its 2016 CEDAW Committee Concluding Observations. This is why I’m traveling to Geneva in July to discuss our concerns with the CEDAW Committee,” said Atty. Padilla.

Predominantly Catholic countries have liberalized their laws on abortion including Spain in 2010 with Prime Minister Zapatero at the helm of legalizing abortion on request during the first 14 weeks of the pregnancy and thereafter on specific grounds and countries such as Belgium, France, and Italy allow abortion upon a woman’s request; Poland allows abortion to protect a woman’s life and physical health and in cases of rape, incest, and fetal impairment; Hungary allows abortion up to 12 weeks of gestation;  Portugal allows abortion up to 10 weeks of gestation; Brazil on certain grounds.

Almost all former Spanish colonies, mostly with predominant Catholic populations, have liberalized their laws on abortion such as Argentina, Bahamas, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, Guatemala, Jamaica, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Puerto Rico, Trinidad and Tobago, Uruguay, and Venezuela, allowing abortion on certain grounds leaving the Philippines to contend with its antiquated colonial Spanish law.  Mexico City, a predominantly Catholic city, even provides safe and legal abortion for free.  In 2017, then former head of state of Chile, Michelle Bachelet, strongly campaigned to relax their abortion law. Only six countries are left with a total ban on abortion particularly, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Malta and Dominican Republic.

Other countries with constitutional protection of the life the unborn from conception allow abortion under certain exceptions such as Hungary (up to 12 weeks of gestation), Costa Rica, South Africa, Slovak Republic, Poland (risk to woman’s life and health, rape, fetal impairment), and Kenya.

Health & Wellness

Trans women can safely maintain estrogen treatments during gender affirming surgery

The practice of withholding estrogen prior to gender affirming surgery was not necessary. Most transgender women can now safely remain on their estrogen therapy throughout surgery.

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There was no difference in blood clots when estrogen hormone therapy was maintained during gender affirming surgery.

This is according to a study (titled, “No Venous Thromboembolism Increase Among Transgender Female Patients Remaining on Estrogen for Gender Affirming Surgery”) helmed by John Henry Pang with Aki Kozato from Mount Sinai, and was published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

Historically, the lack of published data contributed to heterogeneity in the practice of whether doctors and surgeons advised transgender women to withhold their estrogen therapy before surgery. The sudden loss of estrogen in the blood was sometimes very uncomfortable with symptoms that amounted to a sudden, severe menopause.

So the researchers tapped 919 transgender patients who underwent gender affirming surgery at Mount Sinai’s Center for Transgender Medicine and Surgery between November 2015 and August 2019. Notably, including 407 cases of transgender women who underwent primary vaginoplasty surgery.

This study found that the practice of withholding estrogen prior to gender affirming surgery was not necessary. Most transgender women can now safely remain on their estrogen therapy throughout surgery.

The bottom line: This study found that most transgender women can  safely maintain their estrogen hormone treatments during gender affirming surgery.

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Health & Wellness

Bisexual men more prone to eating disorders than gay or straight men – study

80% of bisexual men reported that they “felt fat”, and 77% had a strong desire to lose weight, both figures higher than the 79% and 75% for gay men, respectively.

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Bisexual men are more likely to experience eating disorders than either heterosexual or gay men. This is according to a report from the University of California San Francisco, published in the journal Eating and Weight Disorders.

A handful of studies have actually indicated that gay men are at increased risk for disordered eating, including fasting, excessive exercise and preoccupation with weight and body shape. This newer study, however, suggest that bisexual men are even more susceptible to some unhealthy habits.

For this study, the researchers surveyed over 4,500 LGBTQ adults, and a quarter of the bisexual male participants reported having fasted for more than eight hours to influence their weight or appearance. This is higher when compared to 20% for gay men.

The research also found that 80% of bisexual men reported that they “felt fat”, and 77% had a strong desire to lose weight, both figures higher than the 79% and 75% for gay men, respectively.

Now this is worth stressing: According to study co-author Dr. Jason Nagata, not everyone who diets or feels fat has an eating disorder. “It’s a spectrum — from some amount of concern to a tipping point where it becomes a pathological obsession about body weight and appearance,”Nagata was quoted as saying by NBC News.

For Nagata, several factors may be at play here, including “minority stress” (the concept that the heightened anxiety faced by marginalized groups can manifest as poor mental and physical health outcomes).

“LGBTQ people experience stigma and discrimination, and stressors can definitely lead to disordered eating,” Nagata was also quoted as saying. “For bi men, they’re not just facing stigma from the straight community but from the gay community, as well.”

Of all the respondents, 3.2% of bisexual males were clinically diagnosed with eating disorders (compared to 2.9% of gay men). For heterosexual men, it’s only 0.6%.

For the researchers, there is a need to conduct eating disorder research on various sexual identities independently. This is also to raise awareness on this issue (and how it affects different people of various SOGIESCs).

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Health & Wellness

Timing and intensity of oral sex may affect risk of oropharyngeal cancer

Love giving head? Consider this: Having more than 10 prior oral sex partners was associated with a 4.3-times greater likelihood of having HPV-related oropharyngeal cancer.

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Human papillomavirus (HPV) can infect the mouth and throat to cause cancers of the oropharynx.

This is according to a study published in CANCER, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society, which has found that having more than 10 prior oral sex partners was associated with a 4.3-times greater likelihood of having HPV-related oropharyngeal cancer. The study also shows that having oral sex at a younger age and more partners in a shorter time period (oral sex intensity) were associated with higher likelihoods of having HPV-related cancer of the mouth and throat.

Previous studies have shown that performing oral sex is a strong risk factor for HPV-related oropharyngeal cancer. To examine how behavior related to oral sex may affect risk, Virginia Drake, MD, of Johns Hopkins University, and her colleagues asked 163 individuals with and 345 without HPV-related oropharyngeal cancer to complete a behavioral survey.

In addition to timing and intensity of oral sex, individuals who had older sexual partners when they were young, and those with partners who had extramarital sex were more likely to have HPV-related oropharyngeal cancer.

“Our study builds on previous research to demonstrate that it is not only the number of oral sexual partners, but also other factors not previously appreciated that contribute to the risk of exposure to HPV orally and subsequent HPV-related oropharyngeal cancer,” said Dr. Drake. “As the incidence of HPV-related oropharyngeal cancer continues to rise… our study offers a contemporary evaluation of risk factors for this disease. We have uncovered additional nuances of how and why some people may develop this cancer, which may help identify those at greater risk.”

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Health & Wellness

Sexual, gender minority youths more likely to have obesity, binge eating disorder

Findings suggest that weight and eating disorder disparities observed in SGM adolescents/adults may emerge in childhood. As such, “clinicians should consider assessing eating- and health-related behaviors among SGM youths.”

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Sexual and gender minorities (SGM) youths were more likely to have obesity and full-threshold or subthreshold binge eating disorder. This is according to research – “Obesity and Eating Disorder Disparities Among Sexual and Gender Minority Youth” by Natasha A. Schvey, PhD; Arielle T. Pearlman, BA; David A. Klein, MD, MPH; et al -published in JAMA Pediatrics.

SGM are those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual and/or transgender, or whose sexual orientation and/or gender identity/expression do not conform to societal conventions.

For this study, the researchers noted that as it is, “obesity and eating disorders in youth are prevalent, are associated with medical and psychosocial consequences, and may persist into adulthood. Therefore, identifying subgroups of youth vulnerable to one or both conditions is critical.”

For them, one group that may be at risk for obesity and disordered eating is SGM.

In total, 11,852 participants were considered (aged 9-10 years), derived from the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development Study. The mean age was 9.91, and 5,672 (47.9%) of the total number were female. The sample comprised 1.6% (n = 190) probable sexual (n = 151) and/or gender minority (n = 58) youths, of whom 24.7% (n = 47) responded yes and 75.3% (n = 143) responded maybe to the SGM queries.

The researchers found that one in six youths (1,987 [16.8%]) had obesity and 10.2% (n = 1,188) had a full-threshold (86 [0.7%]) and/or subthreshold (1103 [9.4%]) eating disorder.

They also reported that adjusting for covariates, SGM youths were more likely to have obesity (odds ratio, 1.64; 95% CI, 1.09-2.48) and full-threshold or subthreshold binge eating disorder (odds ratio, 3.49; 95% CI, 1.39-8.76).

SGM and non-SGM youths did not differ in the likelihood of full-threshold or subthreshold anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa. The same pattern of results remained when limiting SGM youths to those responding yes to the SGM items, although significance for the likelihood of obesity was attenuated.

For the researchers, the findings suggest that weight and eating disorder disparities observed in SGM adolescents/adults may emerge in childhood. As such, “clinicians should consider assessing eating- and health-related behaviors among SGM youths.”

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Health & Wellness

Sexual dysfunction hits some women harder than others as they age

Factors other than use of hormone therapy, such as higher importance of sex, positive attitudes toward sex, satisfaction with one’s partner, and fewer genitourinary symptoms associated with menopause appear to be protective and are linked to better sexual function across the menopause transition.

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Sexual dysfunction often accompanies the menopause transition. Yet, not all women experience it the same. A study identified the determinants that affect a woman’s risk of sexual dysfunction and sought to determine the effectiveness of hormone therapy in decreasing that risk and modifying sexual behavior.

The study – “Sexual behaviors and function during menopausal transition–does menopausal hormone therapy play a role?” – was published in Menopause, the journal of The North American Menopause Society (NAMS).

Although hot flashes easily rank as the most common symptom of menopause, the transition is often accompanied by other issues, including changes that affect a woman’s libido, sexual satisfaction, and overall sexual behavior. Because hormone therapy is the most-effective treatment option to help women manage menopause symptoms, it was the focus of a new study designed to determine why some women experience greater sexual dysfunction than others.

The study involving more than 200 women aged 45 to 55 years found that women with secondary and higher education and a greater number of lifetime sexual partners were less likely to experience sexual dysfunction. In contrast, women with more anxious behaviors during sexual activity and those with more severe menopause symptoms were more at risk for sexual dysfunction.

Hormone therapy was not found to mitigate the risk for sexual dysfunction, nor did it play a major role in determining sexual behaviors. However, women using hormone therapy typically had higher body esteem during sexual activities; better sexual function in all domains, except for desire/interest; better quality of relationships; and fewer sexual complaints (other than arousal problems) than those women who do not. Of importance to helping maintain a woman’s sexual function were positive sexual experiences, attitudes about sex, body image, and relationship intimacy.

“These results are consistent with the findings of prior studies and emphasize that factors other than use of hormone therapy, such as higher importance of sex, positive attitudes toward sex, satisfaction with one’s partner, and fewer genitourinary symptoms associated with menopause appear to be protective and are linked to better sexual function across the menopause transition,” says Dr. Stephanie Faubion, NAMS medical director.

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Health & Wellness

LGB adults less likely to take cholesterol-lowering meds

Lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) adults who could benefit from cholesterol-lowering medicine to prevent heart disease are less likely than non-LGB adults to take them.

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Lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) adults who could benefit from cholesterol-lowering medicine to prevent heart disease are less likely than non-LGB adults to take them.

This is according to new research – “Statin Use for Atherosclerotic Cardiovascular Disease Prevention Among Sexual Minority Adults” – written by Yi Guo, Christopher W. Wheldon, Hui Shao, Carl J. Pepine, Eileen M. Handberg, Elizabeth A. Shenkman, and Jiang Bian, and which appeared in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

As it is, sexual minorities – including LGB individuals – are at increased risk for cardiovascular disease. This can be attributed to elevated rates of health risk factors, including smoking and having obesity.

For this study, the researchers conducted a cross‐sectional online survey about statin use in adults ≥40 years of age between September and December 2019 using Facebook advertising. In total, 1,531 people responded to targeted Facebook ads.

The researchers calculated the prevalence of statin use by age, sexual orientation, and statin benefit populations. They used multivariable logistic regression to examine whether statin use differed by sexual orientation, adjusting for covariates.

Analysis showed that less than 21% of LGB adults were taking statins, compared to 44% of their non-LGB peers.

“We observed a significantly lower rate of statin use in the LGB versus non‐LGB respondents (20.8% versus 43.8%; P<0.001) in the primary prevention population,” the researchers reported.

In a news release, study author Yi Guo – an assistant professor of health outcomes and biomedical informatics at the University of Florida College of Medicine in Gainesville – said that “there could be many reasons for the difference we observed… LGB individuals may not go to the doctor as often, which leads to lower chances of being recommended statins for cardiovascular disease prevention.”

But looking at the use of statins among people who already had cardiovascular disease, there was no disparity between LGB and non-LGB adults.

For Guo, members of the LGB population may be less aware of the protective effect of statins.

For the researchers, the “results emphasize the urgent need for tailored, evidence‐based cardiovascular disease prevention programs that aim to promote statin use, and thus healthy aging, in the LGB population.”

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