A new report from the Guttmacher Institute reveals that rates of adolescent pregnancy, birth and abortion in the United States reached historic lows in 2013.
The decline among teens specifically is striking: the U.S. pregnancy rate among 15–19-year-olds was at its lowest point in at least 80 years and had dropped to just above one-third of a recent peak rate in 1990.
As the lead author of the report Kathryn Kost noted in a news release, “These new estimates affirm that long-term declines in adolescent pregnancies, births and abortions have continued. The available evidence suggests that improved contraceptive use continues to be the primary driver of these declines.” Indeed, the report discusses recent research showing significant increases in the use of contraceptives in young women, including the use of multiple methods and long-acting reversible contraceptive methods.
Read the full report at Guttmacher.
A federal court case that got underway this week will determine whether or not the last remaining abortion clinic in the state of Kentucky will be forced to close. The EMW Women’s Surgical Center has been under threat of closure since March, when state regulators planned to revoke the clinic’s license, stating that the clinic’s agreements with a hospital and ambulance service contained technical deficiencies. At that time, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and attorneys at the Louisville firm Lynch, Cox, Gilman & Goodman P.S.C. filed a federal lawsuit to prevent the closure of the clinic.
The ACLU notes that the law that Kentucky is using to attempt to shut down the clinic is very similar to Texas laws that the Supreme Court recently struck down in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt. As stated in the decision on that case: “Two provisions in a Texas law – requiring physicians who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital and requiring abortion clinics in the state to have facilities comparable to an ambulatory surgical center – place a substantial obstacle in the path of women seeking an abortion, constitute an undue burden on abortion access, and therefore violate the Constitution.”
The administration of Kentucky governor Matt Blevin shut down another EMW clinic in Lexington last year and sued a Planned Parenthood in Louisville, ultimately denying that facility a license to perform abortions. With the EMW Women’s Surgical Center now the state’s only option for women seeking an abortion, Kentucky joins six other states—North Dakota, South Dakota, Missouri, Mississippi, Wyoming and West Virginia—with just one abortion clinic left.
A paper published ahead of print in Sexually Transmitted Diseases finds that commercial blood tests commonly used to diagnose herpes simplex virus (HSV) are frequently not reliable, especially in those with “low positive” results.
Herpes detection in people without symptoms typically involves a blood test to find HSV-specific antibodies that the immune system produces in response to the virus. Results with these tests (known as enzyme-linked immunoassays or EIA) are reported as an index value where the antibody levels are measured. An index value above 1.1 is considered positive, but some experts regard values less than 3.5 as “low positive” and recommend a confirmatory test such as the HSV Western Blot, long considered the gold standard with regards to accuracy and consistency of results.
Researchers from the University of Washington in Seattle and the Westover Heights Clinic in Portland, OR found that patients with low positive HSV-2 results on commercial EIAs frequently tested negative with the more sensitive Western Blot. With HSV-1, the reverse was true: commercial tests often overlooked HSV-1 antibodies later found with the Western Blot. In a press release issued by the University of Washington Health Sciences, study lead author Anna Wald, MD, said “These findings indicate that if you didn’t have signs and symptoms of genital herpes and were diagnosed by an (immunoassay antibody) test alone and had a low positive index value, there’s a 50-50 chance the test was wrong…In that case, you should get a confirmatory test.”
In a series of Tweets posted this morning, President Trump announced that transgender individuals will no longer be allowed to serve in the U.S. military, citing “the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail.”
After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow……
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 26, 2017
….Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military. Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming…..
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 26, 2017
….victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail. Thank you
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 26, 2017
This abrupt announcement reversed a decision made in June 2016 that enabled transgender service members to serve openly. In a statement announcing that policy, then-Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter stated, “Our mission is to defend this country, and we don’t want barriers unrelated to a person’s qualification to serve preventing us from recruiting or retaining the soldier, sailor, airman, or Marine who can best accomplish the mission.”
While the policy was to take effect on July 1, 2017, current Defense Secretary Jim Mattis delayed its implementation for six months to allow for a review of whether transgender service members would affect the “readiness or lethality” of the force.
The National Center for Transgender Equality estimates that over 134,000 American veterans are transgender, and over 15,000 transgender people are currently serving in military. Executive Director Mara Keisling offered the following statement today on Trump’s announcement:
“This is worse than don’t ask don’t tell, this is don’t serve, don’t serve. This is an appalling attack on our service members; it is about bigotry rather than military readiness, reason or science. It is indefensible and cannot stand. The President wants to discard thousands of trained and skilled troops who are already serving honorably and done nothing but be honest about who they are. To turn away qualified recruits simply because of who they are is a shameful way to show our country’s gratitude to the people who serve our country.”
Sarah Kate Ellis, President and CEO of GLAAD, offered this statement on the ban:
“President Trump today issued a direct attack on transgender Americans, and his administration will stop at nothing to implement its anti-LGBTQ ideology within our government – even if it means denying some of our bravest Americans the right to serve and protect our nation. Today further exposed President Trump’s overall goal to erase LGBTQ Americans from this nation. Trump has never been a friend to LGBTQ Americans, and this action couldn’t make that any more clear.”
[UPDATED 7/27/17] In a letter to senior military leaders, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford wrote that there will be no immediate change to the current military policy on transgender individuals: “There will be no modifications to the current policy until the President’s direction has been received by the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary has issued implementation guidance.” He added that “we will continue to treat all of our personnel with respect.”
[UPDATED 8/25/17] On August 25, President Trump issued a directive to the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of Homeland Security preventing transgender individuals from joining the military, making official the ban he initially announced via Twitter. The directive gives Defense Secretary Jim Mattis the authority to determine whether active-duty service members can continue to serve, giving Mattis six months to develop a plan to implement the policy . Commenting on the directive, Senator John McCain, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, stated “it would be a step in the wrong direction to force currently serving transgender individuals to leave the military solely on the basis of their gender identity rather than medical and readiness standards that should always be at the heart of Department of Defense personnel policy.” Lambda Legal, a national organization committed to achieving full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and everyone living with HIV, announced plans to bring a lawsuit against the Trump administration over the new policy.
Rates of condom use remained largely unchanged in recent years according to a report released today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on data from the National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG), with higher usage reported among those ages 15-19.
Using in-person interviews with males and females in the U.S. ages 15-44, the NSFG collects data on topics such as relationships, pregnancy, contraception use, and reproductive health. Key findings from the most recent study include:
- During 2011-2015, nearly 24% of men and 34% of women reported using a condom with their most recent experience of sexual intercourse.
- Over the last four weeks, 18% of men and 24% of women reported using condoms “100% of the time” with intercourse. 7% of the women in this group said the condom “broke or completely fell off.”
- The majority of condom users – 60% of men and 56% of women – used condoms as their sole method of contraception.
Dennis Fortenberry, MD, MS, a member of ASHA’s board of directors and professor of pediatrics at the Indiana University School of Medicine, said “Although condoms will never solve all of the STI and pregnancy prevention needs of a diverse population, they remain an accessible and low-cost technology necessary for comprehensive public health prevention approaches.”
Fortenberry notes the overall proportion of condom use is stable in recent years, with no large changes across the U.S. population. He says condom use is “quite high among younger sexually active populations where STI and pregnancy are important and access to other means of prevention may be limited.” The NSFG report confirms condom use is higher among young people: among those ages 15-19, 36% of women and 53% of men said they used condoms each time they had sex over the past year, compared to 11% of men and 9% of women ages 35-44.
Responding to issues with slippage and breakage, Fortenberry says we can do more to teach people how to use condoms correctly: “The relatively high frequency of condom use problems suggests the need for continued public health education and training, since other research suggests that problems are less frequent among more experienced users.”
More than half of all homicides of women in the U.S. are related to intimate partner violence, according to new data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). IPV-related deaths included those involving homicides where the victim was an intimate partner—such as a current or former spouse or girlfriend—of the suspect, as well as other deaths associated with IPV, including victims who were family, friends, first responders, or bystanders.
Researchers from CDC analyzed homicide data from the National Violent Death Reporting System (NVDRS) of 10,018 women aged 18 years or older in 18 states during 2003–2014. Among the key findings:
- Over half of female homicides (55.3%) for which circumstances were known were related to IPV.
- Young, racial/ethnic minority women are disproportionately affected: About one third of victims (29.4%) were aged 18–29 years, and non-Hispanic black and American Indian/Alaska Native women had the highest rates of homicide.
- Arguments and jealousy were common factors involved in IPV-related homicides.
- One in 10 victims of IPV-related homicide reportedly experienced violence in the month before their deaths.
- Approximately 15% of victims of reproductive age (18–44 years) were pregnant or postpartum.
The researchers discuss strategies that could help prevent IPV-related homicides, including risk assessments by first responders to IPV-related incidents that can help identify women at greater risk to connect them to local services, state legislation to limiting access to firearms for persons under a domestic violence restraining order, and bystander programs, such as Green Dot, that teaches effective intervention skills and violence prevention. They also note that the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends screening women of childbearing age for IPV and referring women who screen positive for intervention services.
The National Domestic Violence Hotline is available 24/7 to talk confidentially with anyone in the United States who is experiencing domestic violence, seeking resources or information, or questioning unhealthy aspects of their relationship. The toll free, 24/7 hotline is available at 1-800-799-7233. Live chat is also available every day from 7 am to 2 am Central time.
Earlier this month, 81 organizations that currently receive funding from Teen Pregnancy Prevention (TPP) were notified by the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) this funding would end June 30, 2018. The notice came as a surprise, as these programs were awarded five-year grants in 2015—totaling $213.6 million—with an original end date of June 30, 2020.
As reported in Reveal, from the Center for Investigative Reporting, several grantees were told by officials at the DHHS Office of Adolescent Health that the decision to eliminate funding came from the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health. It’s current head is recent Trump appointee Valerie Huber, who comes to the position from the National Abstinence Education Association (recently renamed Ascend) that has rebranded abstinence as “sexual risk avoidance” and promotes this as poverty reduction. As Martha Kempner writes at Rewire, “Teen parents are, in fact, more likely to live in poverty than their peers who have children at a later age. But suggesting that avoiding all sex until marriage will prevent you from being poor later in life is an extreme message not based in research.”
These preemptive funding cuts, which Reveal notes were done outside the traditional federal budget process, leave the future of these evidence-based program in question. Learn more at Reveal.
A majority of Americans (68 percent) support the Affordable Care Act (ACA) requirement that employers to cover the full cost of prescription birth control as part of their health insurance plans, according to a June 2017 poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation. This support extends across political party lines, with 81 percent of democrats, 54 percent of republicans and 68 percent independents supporting this benefit.
The poll also showed that a majority oppose to exemptions to this requirement on the basis of religious or moral grounds. While a 2014 Supreme Court decision established that “closely held” for-profit corporations could be exempt from the birth control requirement if their owners had religious objections, the Trump administration has suggested expanding this exemption to include a broader group of employers who object to birth control for either religious or moral reasons. Yet more American oppose exemptions for religious (53 percent) or moral (55 percent) reasons that support them.
More detailed data on the survey, visit the Kaiser Family Foundation
Antibiotic resistance has made gonorrhea infections much harder to treat, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned in a July press release, citing new research with data from 77 countries. “The bacteria that cause gonorrhoea are particularly smart. Every time we use a new class of antibiotics to treat the infection, the bacteria evolve to resist them,” said Dr. Teodora Wi, Medical Officer, Human Reproduction, at WHO. Right now, there is only one remaining group of antibiotics that can effectively treat gonorrhea, and resistance to these has been reported in many countries. As the WHO release makes clear, there is an urgent need for new drugs to be developed.
In the United States, gonorrhea is the second most commonly reported sexually transmitted infection, with about 820,000 new infections each year. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 246,000 of these are resistant to at least one antibiotic. CDC calls drug-resistant gonorrhea an “urgent threat” and is continuing to monitor antibiotic resistant infections and look for solutions. But prevention is also key—using condoms consistently and correctly can help prevent infection with gonorrhea and other STIs.