California Will Now Offer Picking Up a Year’s Worth of Birth Control Pills in One Prescription

Birth control pills (Salon)

Birth control pills (Salon)

Once again, California blazes the way for the rest of the nation. Last week, Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill into law that states that women will be able to pick up a year’s supply of birth control pills at one time. Before this law passed, pharmacists were only able to dispense birth control in three-month supplies. (And I know I’ve had trouble with even that.)

Worried about if your insurance will cover it? No need: the new law also requires that the new year-at-once be covered in healthcare plans.

The new law goes into Jan. 1, 2017.

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Birth Control Is Now Available Over The Counter in Oregon

Birth control pills (Salon)

Birth control pills (Salon)

Good news for those who may not have insurance, or don’t want to visit the doctor: Birth control is (slowly) becoming available over-the-counter at your nearest pharmacy. That’s right, soon (depending on where you live) you won’t need a prescription.

Right now, the service is only available in Oregon, and it kicked into effect Jan. 1st of this year. Here’s how it works: A woman can walk into her local pharmacy, and fill out a questionnaire about her health. If all systems go, she can get birth control. If the pharmacist refuses to supply her on the grounds of religious reasons, the pharmacist is required to provide suggestions as to where the customer can find birth control.

This all applies if the woman is over 18 years old. If she’s under 18, she’ll still need a doctor’s prescription, though this standard will be relaxed at some point in the future.

It’s also pretty significant that a woman signed this into law: Oregon’s governor Kate Brown signed the bill into law last July.

But Oregon might not be the only state with this law in place for long: California is working out its own law, which is set to go into effect in March. And Colorado and Washington have introduced similar laws within their own respective states. Let’s hope the other 46 states soon see the light and follow suit.

 

American Ballet Theatre Promotes Filipina-American Stella Abrera to Principal Dancer

Stella Abrera (Ballet UK)

Stella Abrera (Ballet UK)

By now, I’m sure you’ve heard that New York City’s American Ballet Theatre (ABT) recently promoted dancer Misty Copeland to principal, making her the first Black principal in the company’s 75-year history. But that wasn’t the only important promotion that was made.

Stella Abrera became the first Filipina-American to ascend to the rank of principal. (Two promotions, two history-makers this round for the ABT, if you’re keeping track.) She was born in the Philippines and moved to the U.S. when she was four years old. Beginning in Pasadena, Abrera also studied ballet in San Diego and Sydney, Australia. She joined ABT in 1996, and became a soloist in 2001. Abrera’s various roles have included the titular role in “Cinderella,” Emilia in “Othello,” and Clara and The Snow Queen in different versions of “The Nutcracker.”

Ballet is an art form notorious for having little diversity. I hope Abrera’s promotion (and Copeland’s) opens the door for more non-white dancers.

 

Diversity Amongst Principal Dancers in Top Ballet Companies: By The Numbers

San Francisco Ballet's Yuan Yuan Tan and Davit Karapetyan in George Balanchine's 'Scotch Symphony,' 2012 (Odette's Ordeal)

San Francisco Ballet’s Yuan Yuan Tan and Davit Karapetyan in George Balanchine’s ‘Scotch Symphony,’ 2012 (Odette’s Ordeal)

It’s a well-known fact that classical ballet companies aren’t known for their diversity. With the news that American Ballet Theatre (ABT) dancer Misty Copeland has been promoted to principal, I was curious to see just how (non-) diverse the major ballet companies are.

First, I identified the top classical ballet companies in the U.S.: ABT, New York City Ballet (NYCB), San Francisco Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet, and Houston Ballet. (I didn’t look at Chicago’s Joffrey Ballet because the company doesn’t use traditional levels, as far as I could tell.)

Next, I looked at each company’s roster, looking for diversity. I decided to narrow my search to solely the principal dancers to save time. I then made a spreadsheet of my findings:

Principal Dancer Diversity at Top Ballet Companies Excel Spreadsheet

Principal Dancer Diversity at Top Ballet Companies Excel Spreadsheet

The first glaring thing is none of the companies have any Black principals at this time. (Copeland will change that when she begins her new position in August.) Every company listed has at least one principal of Asian descent, and San Francisco has two.

Here’s how the various companies break down.

American Ballet Theatre (ABT):

ABT has 15 principal dancers. Four Latino/Latina dancers make up 25%+ of the company’s diversity.

Houston Ballet:

Houston Ballet has the smallest group of principals with just eight dancers. The one Asian dancer and one Latina dancer combine to make up 25% of the diversity.

New York City Ballet (NYCB):

NYCB has the highest number of principal dancers at 24. Latino/Latina dancers comprise 12%+. Though not noted above, NYCB also features one dancer of South Asian descent.

Pacific Northwest Ballet:

This company has the worst diversity score. No Black or Latino/Latina dancers, and only one Asian dancer, in a group of 12 principals.

San Francisco Ballet:

With six dancers among 20 principals, San Francisco Ballet’s Latino/Latina contingent make up 30% of that company’s diversity, the largest of the studied cohort. Though not noted above, the company also features one dancer of South Asian descent.

Smart Vibrators Will Data-Mine Your Pleasure

SmartBod vibrator prototype evolution (Angel.co)

SmartBod vibrator prototype evolution (Angel.co)

Happy Friday! We’ve talked about smart sex toys before, and also how Big Data is taking over sex. We’re ushering in a new era of sexual data and metrics, on a more minute level than ever before.

Enter the SmartBod, a vibrator that tracks its users’ data and aggregates it via a related app. While tracking arousal (and climax) patterns, the user will then be able to establish a baseline of usual trends. The app will also suggest ideas mined from the collected data. Call it sex-alytics, if you will.

UC Berkeley entrepreneurs Liz Klinger and James Wang aim to help women spark conversations regarding pleasure, since it can be an uncomfortable topic for most people. The user “would learn how their orgasm changes depending on how and when they use the vibrator.” It can also help women determine if they’re “normal” or not, in terms of their orgasms and arousal. So you can compete with others, or with yourself or both.

This counts as the second “smart” vibrator I’m aware of, next to the upcoming Una. As a both a sex geek and a data nerd, I can’t wait to use these and report my results. All in the name of science, of course!

 

 

Dr. Carl Djerassi, Father of The Pill, Has Died

Dr. Carl Djerassi (Rutgers News)

Dr. Carl Djerassi (Rutgers News)

Modern contraception pioneer Dr. Carl Djerassi died last Friday in San Francisco. He was 91 years old, and had suffered from complications of liver and bone cancer.

Often called the father of The Pill, Djerassi found an essential component of the now-common family planning product. In 1951, while working as a researcher at Syntex in Mexico City, he and two others successfully synthesized norethindrone, a progestin that later provided the base of the modern birth control pill. Djerassi and his team received a patent for their discovery.

Initially, the scientists thought that norethindrone would help fertility, but they soon realized that it served another purpose. The team knew that progesterone inhibited ovulation during pregnancy. They modified the progestin’s basic structure and added ethisterone, a compound thought to be devoid of medical value. (Warning: science-speak ahead.)

Djerassi’s team found that they could change the structure of progesterone to increase its potency eightfold. This progesterone analogue was strong enough to work when injected, but lost its potency when administered orally…Djerassi’s group made the same chemical modification in ethisterone that they had earlier made in progesterone.

(Interesting side note: At the time, Djerassi wasn’t researching anything to do with conception when he and his team made his famous discovery. He was actually looking for a compound that could be used to treat cancer. Happy accident, as they say.)

After five years of clinical trials, the birth control pill began reached the mass market, and cracked 1960s sexual norms wide open. (And we’re still feeling the effects of it today.)

This wasn’t his only big discovery: Djerassi also patented the first antihistamine, the drug that prevents allergy symptoms.

During his lifetime, Djerassi received 34 honorary doctorates. He was also the recipient of the National Medal of Science for chemistry in 1973, and the National Medal of Technology and Innovation in 1991. The two awards are the U.S.’s highest science and technology honors, respectively.

In addition to his scientific accomplishments, Djerassi also wrote plays (some performed off-Broadway) and science-fiction, founded a company to control insect growth, and started an artists’ colony in his property in California.

Dr. Djerassi’s contributions to family planning were, and continue to be, a boon to women the world over, and his work will continue to hold great value for the coming generations.

Thank you, Dr. Djerassi. Thank you.

 

 

How Many States Cover Transgender Medical Care?

Estradiol estrogen pill (Open Minded Health)

Estradiol estrogen pill (Open Minded Health)

As the transgender community continues to gain visibility in mainstream culture, the issues they face will become more common. Receiving proper medical care is one such issue that will continue to gain prominence.

Last week, Oregon became the latest state to cover transgender care under Medicaid. According to NPR, services include hormone therapy (for example, giving a transwoman estrogen pills), puberty suppression and gender reassignment surgery. Other states with health coverage that cover transgender care include California, Colorado, Connecticut, New York and Vermont. (New York made the decision to cover gender reassignment surgery just last month.)

Only 14% of the United States covers transgender medical care by state. Let’s hope the population’s new visibility helps other states make the right decision to include medical care for transpeople.