Double Dose: The Pill and Its Studies; Genital Pain is Taken Seriously; When the Sex of Your Surgeon Matters; Tracking Global and U.S. Gender-Based Violence

By Christine Cupaiuolo — February 3, 2008

The Pill’s Long-Running Health Saga: “Last week, British researchers published decisively good news about birth control pills: They lower the risk of ovarian cancer — substantially,” writes Amanda Schaffer at Slate. “The new analysis pooled large amounts of data. It was elegantly done. And it’s worth celebrating, partly because health claims about the pill are often much harder to parse.”

New Insights Into Genital Pain: “For decades, women suffering from vulvodynia have been told that nothing seems to be wrong with them — nothing, that is, that the examining physician can discern — or that the condition may be real but that nothing can be done,” writes Jane Brody in The New York Times. According to recent study, vulvodynia (chronic discomfort of the vulva) affects as many as one woman in six, or 13 million American women. Attitudes are now changing, and the article looks at some very real potential causes and treatments.

Rape in the U.S. Military: “[I]n many cases, the military seems more intent on intimidating and harassing the victims than investigating and prosecuting the charges,” writes Lucinda Marshall in this L.A. Times opinion piece.

Consider the statistics cited: 2,947 reports of sexual assaults in the military in 2006, an increase of 24 percent over 2005. According to a March 2007 Pentagon report, more than half of the investigations dating back to 2004 resulted in no action. And when action was taken, only one-third of the cases resulted in courts-martial.

Plus: Also see Marshall’s diligent coverage of gender-based violence, both domestically and globally.

Rape Charges Dropped Over “Fraud”: “Prosecutors say they cannot press rape charges against a pharmacist who allegedly posed as a gynecologist and examined two women because of a half-century old state law that says an assault can’t be considered rape if consent is obtained through fraud or deceit,” reports the AP via the Boston Globe. Denise Lavoie writes:

Justices of the Supreme Judicial Court urged lawmakers to close that loophole in the law in a 2007 case in which they found a man could not be prosecuted for rape for duping his brother’s girlfriend into having sex. The court said state law currently defines rape as sexual intercourse compelled by force and against the will of the victim. Fraud cannot be allowed to replace the force required under the law, the court found.

Iraqi Women Face Greater Danger, Fewer Rights: “Most everyone in Iraq has suffered because of violence, but the lives of women have been, perhaps, affected the most,” reports NPR. “Women’s rights groups report that in the past six months, more than 100 women have been killed in the city of Basra for wearing make-up or what is deemed Western clothing. Those who dare to defend them have also been attacked and, in some cases, killed.”

The Sex of Your Surgeon May Matter: Tara Parker-Pope covers a study by researchers at Columbia University that found the likelihood of whether a woman receives radiation treatment after breast cancer surgery may be influenced by the gender of her surgeon. The study appears in The Journal of the National Cancer Institute (abstract available here). Parker-Pope writes:

About one in four women were not treated with radiation after surgery. Older women, black women, unmarried women and those living outside urban areas were less likely to receive radiation. But after controlling for those factors as well as characteristics of each woman’s cancer, the Columbia researchers spotted other trends.

Women who received radiation were more likely to have a female surgeon. Women who were treated by more experienced surgeons were also more likely to receive radiation treatment, as were women treated by doctors trained in the United States.

Chile Battles Access to Morning-After Pill: “Since assuming office in March 2006, President Bachelet and Health Minister Maria Soledad Barria have instructed public health authorities to work aggressively to ensure the pill’s availability not just at public clinics — where it is distributed for free to women 14 and over — but at all major pharmacies, enabling its availability to women from all social strata,” writes Matt Malinowski at Women’s eNews. But the plan is running into resistance.

The One To Take the Lead: “Although stories about reproductive health and politicization of science have made headlines recently, stories of how these problems are solved are less often told,” begins this essay at RH Reality Check by Susan Wood, who resigned her FDA position in 2005 as the FDA repeatedly delayed approval of over-the-counter emergency contraception. Wood credits Sen. Hillary Clinton for stepping up to the FDA.

“Stigma: The Silent Killer”: BET Networks will air a half-hour news special on Thursday, Feb. 7 at 8 p.m. ET/PT that examines the role that stigmas have played in the spread of HIV/AIDS among people of color in both the United States and the Caribbean. The special coincides with Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day and is part of a public education partnership with the Kaiser Family Foundation, the BET Rap-It-Up Campaign.

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