The year 2023 seems to be in a hurry to get rolling, because I’m going full steam over here trying to keep up with everything going on related to faith and sex in the state legislature.
This week we’re talking about an HPV vaccine study, safe haven baby boxes, some news on resources for 9/11-linked cancer, and more on Texas’ birth control ban for minors.
Come slide into my DMs on Twitter and IG. If you’re more of an email type, send me email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Let’s get into the news:
Florida’s only safe haven box received its first infant. Here’s what you need to know about baby boxes
By Becca Andrews
In Ocala, Florida, a newborn was surrendered to a Safe Haven Baby Box at the local fire station last week. The news made local headlines, and the surrender was reported as the first for the box in Ocala, the only one of its kind in Florida. The box was first installed in 2020.
To be sure, in a post-Roe America, the significance of a Safe Haven Baby Box draws renewed focus. The boxes are the creation of Monica Kelsey, founder of Safe Haven Baby Boxes, who says she was abandoned as an infant in a hospital—her mother’s pregnancy was the result of rape. “I was actually whisked into this world by violence,” she told the New Yorker.
The boxes, which cost some $10,000 to install, are climate-controlled. When a baby is surrendered, a silent alarm sounds 60 seconds after the box is closed, “enough time for mom to get away,” Kelsey says. And once the door is closed, it locks, leaving little room for last-minute regret. The boxes are installed so they can be approached from the outside of a building (such as a fire station or hospital), and a window on the interior of the building allows safety or medical personnel to access the child. Protocol states that the baby is to be attended to and medically evaluated within five minutes of the surrender, and then adopted ideally within 30-45 days.
Baby boxes are not a new concept. As author Maria Laurino, whose forthcoming book, The Price of Children, explains, such devices existed in medieval Italy as well. Known as routas, they were installed in foundling homes, and instead of boxes, they were wheels. “With a turn of the wheel, the infant rotated inside the foundling home—and forever outside the mother’s reach,” writes Laurino for The New Republic. “The woman then rang a bell to alert an attendant that her baby had entered the institution. Hundreds of thousands of babies died from malnutrition and disease under this system, yet the Church had decided that a baptized baby, whatever its foundling home fate, was preferable to life with a sinful mother.”
Read the rest of the story at reckon.news.
Women with a 9/11-linked cancer are still waiting for federal benefits
It came as little surprise to Donna Malkentzos when she ended up with asthma and rhinitis — these were common early outcomes for 9/11 first responders like her. At least it was covered by the World Trade Center Health Program (WTCHP), the federal government program that monitors and treats 9/11-related health conditions. Then, in 2013, she was diagnosed with uterine cancer.
Malkentzos assumed she’d get the same medical care from the WTCHP. After all, she knew they treated most cancers. But the program’s administrators delivered bad news — they said her uterine cancer wasn’t related to 9/11 exposure. She had the only form of cancer that the program refuses to cover, a decision which affects thousands of women who were around Ground Zero in the days following the attacks on the World Trade Center.
Finally, this summer, Malkentzos thought she would get that coverage. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which administers the program, agreed this past May to add the cancer to its list of covered conditions linked to 9/11 exposure. But this decision has still not been enacted, and Malkentzos and others with uterine cancer remain in limbo.
“If they didn’t approve prostate cancer right away, I’d think it’s just the government moving slowly. But it only moves slowly for women it seems,” says Malkentzos, who now lives in Cape May, New Jersey.
The CDC changed its mind after a decade of lobbying by health care advocates, researchers, and patients that was covered last year by The Fuller Project. The government’s original reasoning for not including uterine cancer is they didn’t have enough data linking the disease to 9/11 exposure. But health care researchers say this is because the data collection for the program systematically overlooked women, and skewed heavily from the start toward issues that are more likely to affect male first responders.
There were less than 10,000 women in the program’s original cohort of 62,171 first responders and “survivors” — people who lived, worked, or attended school around Ground Zero. Their information formed the basis of its screening process, and as a result there are only 26,125 women like Malkentzos today among WTCHP’s 114,775 members. They make up only 23% of patients even though they comprise roughly half the program’s eligible population of about 423,000 first responders and survivors.
Health care researchers say this bias continues to haunt the program. Aside from the delay in including uterine cancer, female first responders and survivors with other illnesses that usually primarily affect women, like autoimmune diseases, are also left without federal support.
Read the rest of the story at reckon.news.
Texas’ birth control ban for minors divides lawmakers
Reproductive rights and abortion access are front and center for many state governments as they begin their 2023 legislative sessions this week. In Texas, lawmakers are working to counter attempts at restricting access to birth control pills for minors, among other anti-reproductive health policies.
Ana-Maria Ramos, a Dallas Democrat, introduced a bill this month that would allow minors to consent to contraception-related examinations and medical treatment, outside of abortion.
The legislation is designed to challenge a federal court ruling issued last December by U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsymaryk, which barred minors from obtaining contraceptive pills.
In his opinion, Kacsmaryk wrote that a program called Title X, which gives minors the ability to obtain birth control pills at federally funded clinics without parental consent, “violates the constitutional right of parents to direct the upbringing of their children.”
The decision forces teens to get parental permission in order to access treatment.
According to the American Civil Liberties Union, such measures won’t stop adolescents from having sex. Instead, they’ll increase the number of sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies. And fewer adolescents will have access to birth control pills, among other reproductive healthcare.
A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association states that 47 percent of sexually active teenage girls at family planning clinics in Wisconsin would not continue to access reproductive healthcare if required to inform their parental guardians.
Read the rest of the story at reckon.news.
Get your shots, and cervical cancer rates will drop
The American Cancer Society says the HPV vaccine has the potential to “virtually eliminate cervical cancer” in America, according to its latest report on cancer in America. The report showed a 65 percent drop in cervical cancer among women ages 20-24 from 2012 to 2019.
“The large drop in cervical cancer incidence is extremely exciting because this is the first group of women to receive the HPV vaccine, and it probably foreshadows steep reductions in other HPV-associated cancers,” said Rebecca Siegel, senior scientific director, surveillance research at the American Cancer Society, and the lead author of the report.
People under 40 are eligible for the vaccine, so if you still haven’t gotten your shot, there may still be time.
Check out Reckon’s previous reporting on HPV and its connection to abstinence-only sex ed:
- As cervical cancer rates tick up, experts cite links to abstinence-only sex education
- Why HPV is driving up cancer rates in some women – and men too
A Reckon note...
The 50th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade ruling is coming up, and reproductive justice reporter Becca Andrews is here to guide us through the process. Here’s a link to her first newsletter-in-residency at Honey, our newsletter for women and LGBTQ+ folks in the South. Go ahead and subscribe to Honey so you can keep up with the series.