How Common is Gestational Surrogacy?

Kim Kardashian and Kanye West arrive at the 2016 MTV Video Music Awards in New York (The Huffington Post)

FILE PHOTO – Kim Kardashian and Kanye West arrive at the 2016 MTV Video Music Awards in New York, U.S., August 28, 2016. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz/File Photo

Last month, reality TV personality Kim Kardashian West and her husband Kanye West announced the birth of their third child. The couple’s daughter Chicago was carried via a gestational surrogate. She was created from a fertilized egg taken from Kardashian West, and had no genetic tie to the surrogate.

How common is gestational surrogacy?

It’s not that common, but it’s difficult to nail down exact numbers. The Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology (SART) reported 1.5K+ babies born from gestational surrogates in 2011, up from 1.3K+ babies born via the method in 2009. Another source reports 1.4K+ babies born via gestational surrogacy.

It’s difficult to pin down an actual number, because some cases of gestational surrogacy may not reported. It’s also difficult to tell when the sample size is so small.

As the procedure becomes more widely available, we’ll be able to see how common gestational surrogacy really is.

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Tampons and Pads Will Be Free in New York City Schools and Prisons

Tampon (Lydia's Lunchbox)

Tampon (Lydia’s Lunchbox)

Last year, the New York City council voted in favor of providing free tampons and pads to women in public schools, shelters and correctional facilities. The measure passed unanimously, and the program will be the first of its kind.

It’s expected that the city will spend $2.4M for menstrual supplies across the public facilities. Within shelters, an estimated “2 million tampons and 3.5 million pads” will be distributed for the 23K women, costing $540K annually.

Here’s how it would work for public schools:

Dispensers will be installed in the girls’ bathrooms at 800 schools, reaching 300,000 students at an initial cost of $3.7 million and $1.9 million annually thereafter.

The bill was created by New York City Council Member Julissa Ferreras-Copeland. Regarding why the bill was important, Ferreras-Copeland said, “Menstrual hygiene products are as necessary as toilet paper and should be treated as basic bathroom supplies.”

There’s also the fact that menstrual products are a necessary expense for women of childbearing age. This expense, which has been dubbed the “tampon tax” (though it refers to all types of menstrual products), takes a chunk (around $100 per year) out of women’s already diminished paychecks. Lately, there’s been some pushback on this price of being female-bodied: Last year, five women sued the state of New York to abolish the tampon tax.

No word on when the bill will become law, and the program can begin.

#ThrowbackThursday: John Ashcroft Covers the Spirit of Justice Statue’s Nudity, 2002

U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft and Spirit of Justice statue, 2002 (Medieval POC Tumblr)

U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft and Spirit of Justice statue, 2002 (Medieval POC Tumblr)

So this became weirdly relevant again: In 2002, Attorney General John Ashcroft put up drapes (that cost $8,000) on the Spirit of Justice statue housed in the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C. Why? Ostensibly to make a better backdrop for television. What Ashcroft didn’t mention was that his head was generally centered in between Lady Justice’s nude breasts. Better backdrop, my ass.

Just yesterday, Rome’s Capitoline Museum covered up classical nude statues before a press conference with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani occurred. There seems to be some confusion as to who and why this happened: Though the Iranian embassy asked that the statues be covered, neither Italy’s Culture Minister Dario Franceschini nor Prime Minister Matteo Renzi had been aware of the request.

An investigation into the matter is currently underway.

 

El Salvadorian Government Advises Women Not Get Pregnant Due to Zika Virus

Baby with microcephaly (Health Then More)

Baby with microcephaly (Health Then More)

Despite arriving on the viral diseases scene just recently, the Zika virus has already made a large impact. The first cases in the Americas were reported in Brazil last spring, where the virus was linked to birth defects that affected brain development. The most commonly cited birth defect was microcephaly, which results in an abnormally small brain. Earlier this year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) here in the U.S. have advised that pregnant women should not travel to the 14 countries affected by the virus.

Now, the government of El Salvador (one of the affected countries) is going one step further and advising women of childbearing age to refrain from getting pregnant until 2018. The announcement came after 5K+ cases of the virus were detected in women in 2015 and early this year. Of this number, it’s suspected that 96 women had contracted the virus, but so far, none have resulted in microcephaly. I couldn’t find information on how high-risk El Salvador is for the Zika virus, but this measure would lead me to believe that it looks pretty dire.

The government of Colombia has released a similar warning, but is advising women to wait six to eight months. Colombia has the second-highest rate of Zika infections after Brazil.

In terms of each country’s birth rates (counted as births per 1K people), El Salvador has 16.79. It just edges past Colombia with a birth rate of 16.73. By contrast, Brazil has a birth rate of 14.72. It’ll be interesting to see how El Salvador and Colombia’s birth rates are affected this year by their respective government’s measures.

The Zika virus is transmitted via mosquito, and is characterized by joint pain, fever, rash and red eyes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All of the Oscar Acting Nominees Are White. WTF?

 

Oscars 2016 Best Actress Nominees (Reuters)

Oscars 2016 Best Actress nominees (Reuters)

Last week, the Oscar nominations were announced. Selected by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), the winners will be revealed Feb. 28. But this year continued a disturbing trend that began last year: Not one of the nominees in any of the acting categories (Best Actress, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Supporting Actor) were people of color (POC).

I use the word “disturbing” as it seems the Academy is determined to ignore stories and narratives that don’t fit within their very narrow worldview. It’s becoming increasingly clear that non-white stories are not only valuable (as we knew already), but make bank, both in terms of box office and in social influence. (See this past year’s examples of TV smash “Empire,” and movies “Straight Outta Compton” and “Dope.”) The Academy needs to wake up and see that rewarding diverse stories can only help their bottom line.

In terms of the numbers, here are some of the most recent POC nominees (counted if they didn’t win) and winners:

Best Actress:

Winner: Halle Berry (“Monster’s Ball,” 2001)

Nominee: Quvenzhane Wallis (“Beasts of the Southern Wild,” 2012)

Best Actor:

Winner: Forest Whitaker (“The Last King of Scotland,” 2006)

Nominee: Chiwetel Ejiofor (“12 Years a Slave,” 2013)

Best Supporting Actress:

Winner: Lupita Nyong’o (“12 Years a Slave,” 2013)

Nominee: Taraji P. Henson (“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” 2008)

Best Supporting Actor:

Winner: Djimon Hounsou (“Blood Diamond,” 2006)

Nominee: Barkhad Abdi (“Captain Phillips,” 2013)

 

Michelle Bachelet Proposes Lifting Chile’s Total Abortion Ban

Chilean President Michele Bachelet (Slate)

Chilean President Michele Bachelet (Slate)

Late last month, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet proposed lifting her country’s total abortion ban.

Chile is one of seven Latin American countries to completely ban abortion. Bachelet’s bill allows for the measure in case of rape, or if the mother and/or baby are at risk of dying during the pregnancy. The procedure would be allowed up until the 12th week (3rd month) of pregnancy, or until the 18th week for girls younger than 14 years of age. Girls ages 14 to 17 would need their parents’ permission for the procedure.

Abortion has been outlawed in Chile since 1989, imposed under former dictator Augusto Pinochet during his rule. Anyone breaking this law faces up to five years in jail. (Before the ban, abortions were allowed in extenuating circumstances.) Twelve bills decriminalizing the procedure have been proposed since 1991, but none (so far) have passed through the country’s Congress.

The measure would cut down the number of women taking chances on risky, “back-street” abortions detrimental to their health. A “Reuters” estimate puts the number of illegal abortions between 15K and 160K. (Since the numbers would have to be self-reported in this case, it’s difficult to get an accurate count.)

According to an interview in Spanish newspaper “El Pais,” Bachelet was originally planning on proposing the bill in late 2014.

Bachelet faces opposition from anti-abortion activists, and from UDI, the opposing political party. Culturally, the country is also very socially conservative, owing to a large Catholic stronghold. But despite this, recent public polls found that 70% of Chileans support the bill.

This isn’t the first time Bachelet has worked to reform family planning: In her first term as president (2006-2010), she made the morning-after pill free in government hospitals available to women ages 14 and older, with parental consent unneeded.

This is one time where I think having a politician make laws about women’s bodies could work: In addition to being a woman, Bachelet is also a registered pediatrician. #FemaleLeadersKnowBest

How Much Are Penis Pumps Costing Medicare?

Vacuum erection system/penis pump (Ali Express)

Vacuum erection system/penis pump (Ali Express)

Here’s something you may not know: Medicare covers the costs of penis pumps.

Contrary to a depiction in the 1997 movie “Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery,” penis pumps aren’t only used for cosmetic purpose. The devices, known in the medical industry as vacuum erection systems (VES), help treat erectile dysfunction.

A 2014 report looked at data from 2006 to 2011, and found that yearly claims for VES devices grew to $38M+ in 2011. This was nearly double the amount from 2006, where claims hit $20M+. Over five years, Medicare received over 474K claims for VES devices.

Pricing is also inflated: Consumers on Medicare are paying nearly twice as much than those paying the retail value.

As the population ages, it’s safe to speculate that more people will rely on the devices, and the spending could continue to climb even higher.