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The End of Roe v. Wade Has Dangerous Consequences for Women’s Health

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When the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, they did not just steal bodily autonomy from women, but also their future health. By overturning Roe, the Supreme Court has now put pressure on physicians prescribing life saving medications to women.

Abortion has now been banned in six states, and that number is likely to rise swiftly to 16 states. Twelve states have passed trigger laws. Some states have not completely banned abortions, however they have implemented gestational age limits on abortions. While other states have not decided whether or not to ban abortions, the courts and lawmakers will be deciding the fate of women. Only 20 states have abortion protections in place.

These new bans have also brought into question the future of birth control. Will states begin restricting or even outlawing birth control? Although Republicans have dismissed concerns about banning birth control, Democrats have been warning that it is a distinct possibility. Indeed, after Missouri’s strict new ban on abortion went into effect, one major hospital system in Kansas briefly stopped providing emergency birth control, even to victims of rape. 

But the potential healthcare ramifications of these laws do not end there. Many drugs cause birth defects in pregnant women, which raises the question: If women cannot legally terminate a pregnancy, can these drugs legally be prescribed to women of child-bearing ages in states with abortion bans?

“I believe that prescribing is going to become much more defensive and conservative,” rheumatologist Mehret Talabi told Medscape. “Some clinicians may choose not to prescribe these medications to patients who have childbearing potential, even if they don’t have much risk for pregnancy.”

Teratogens are medications which can cause birth defects. Many teratogenic medications include treatments for acne, cancer, rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis.

“Doctors are going to understandably be terrified that a patient may become pregnant using a teratogen that they have prescribed,” Talabi said. “While this was a feared outcome before Roe v. Wade was overturned, abortion provided an escape hatch by which women could avoid having to continue a pregnancy and potentially raise a child with congenital anomalies.” “

Other physicians also shared their fears that doctors would now be wary of prescribing many medications, some of those with little data on pregnancy. 

Dr. Megan Clowse, a Duke University rheumatologist who works with women who are or wish to become pregnant, told Medcape: “Women who receive these new or teratogenic medications will likely lose their reproductive autonomy and be forced to choose between having sexual relationships with men, obtaining procedures that make them permanently sterile, or using contraception that may cause intolerable side effects..”

Dr. Clowse noted that many drugs commonly prescribed to patients with rheumatic diseases, including methotrexate, mycophenolate and cyclophosphamide, are linked to birth defects and loss of pregnancy.. 

“I am very concerned that young women with rheumatic disease will now be left with active disease resulting in joint damage and renal failure,” she said.

One of these drugs, methotrexate, is an effective cancer treatment and many rheumatic conditions, but has also been used to cause abortions. “If legislators try to restrict access to methotrexate, we may see increasing disability and even death among people who need this medication but cannot access it,” Dr. Talabi said.

Mayo Clinic gastroenterologist Dr. Sunanda Kane told Medscape she feared that several of the teratogenic medications used in her field to treat viral hepatitis, constipation and inflammatory bowel disease, would now be affected. While she said doctors in her field generally only prescribe medications with high teratogenic potential to women of childbearing age when they use multiple forms of birth control to prevent pregnancy, she noted that doctors may be less likely to prescribe such drugs if abortion is not available as a legal option. 

“The removal of abortion rights puts the lives and quality of life for women with rheumatic disease at risk,” Dr. Clowse added. “For patients with lupus and other systemic rheumatic disease, pregnancy can be medically catastrophic, leading to permanent harm and even death to the woman and her offspring. I am worried that women in these conditions will die without lifesaving pregnancy terminations, due to worries about the legal consequences for their physicians.”

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

Economics

‘Don’t forget them’: millions of Afghans face hunger, economic crisis 

International aid workers share stories of children and families struggling to make ends meet

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“Winter is coming.”

That’s how Ammar Ammar, spokesperson for the International Committee of the Red Cross in Afghanistan, describes the situation in Afghanistan. The current hunger crisis, the result of a collapsing economy and drought, will only get worse if the country doesn’t get help, he says, especially in the colder months when people also have to stay warm.

“It’s not Game of Thrones here, it’s reality.”

Almost a year after the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, the world has become silent about the plight of the country and its people, who are facing one of their worst humanitarian and economic crisis in decades.

After the fall of Kabul, the international community declined to recognize the Taliban regime. Countries paused foreign aid and imposed sanctions. The United States also froze billions in Afghan state assets.

A country that had become reliant on external aid was left on its own. In the process, millions of Afghans were abandoned, too.

On a recent lunch break in Kabul, Ammar saw two girls, one about six years old and the other about three. One of them was lying down on the sidewalk, while the other was squatting next to a big nylon bag. They’d been collecting pieces of scrap metal on the streets to make ends meet. 

“You could see that they were exhausted,” Ammar said. “You are going for your break and at the same time you can see two kids on the street, where they have no break at this age. It strikes you.”

And there are thousands of children like them.

“We are doing a massive job,” Ammar says. “But the sad reality is we can’t help everyone at the end of the day.”

A woman in Qala-e-Naw, the capital of the Badghis province recently told the UN-run World Food Programme (WFP) in Kabul how she made ends meet after her husband died five years prior. 

“In the past, she said, she had a fair life, just getting by cleaning and washing for other people. After the economy collapsed, families have no money anymore to pay her and her work dried up,” said WFP spokesperson Philippe Kropf in an email. As a result, she borrows money to buy food, going further into debt.

“She told me she has not been able to buy cooking oil for weeks. She eats bread with tea and sometimes rice,” he said.

Afghanistan abandoned


A young man told Kropf that “his family went to sleep many evenings without anything to eat in the past months.”

“They borrowed food with neighbours, but increasingly the neighbours have nothing to share,” he added, noting the young man had only completed second grade and was trying to find labour jobs to make ends meet. “But these jobs are getting rarer and rarer because of the collapse of the economy, too.”

The man participated in a training program to gain skills such as tailoring or mobile phone repair to earn a livelihood. The program trains 200 men and women over six months, during which participants receive food assistance for their families. 

“After the training, (the young man) hopes to either open his own little shop, sewing clothing for men and children or to find work in a tailor shop and work for a salary,” Kropf said.

Prospects of famine remain

With the country reeling from recent droughts, and facing high inflation, a difficult situation is becoming even worse.

“For the first time, urban residents are suffering from food insecurity at similar rates to rural communities, marking the shifting face of hunger in the country,” Kropf said, noting some people are seeking help from WFP for the first time in their lives.

“The scale of the crisis in Afghanistan is immense, and needs continue to outpace available funding,” he added. The WFP needs nearly US $1 billion by the end of 2022 to help 18 million people – nearly half the population of Afghanistan.

Of that, the group urgently needs US $172 million to secure 150,000 metric tonnes of food to support 2.2 million people in remote parts of Afghanistan, which can get cut off by ice and snow in winter.

“We need these even more urgently because of the long lead-times for food commodities that we need to buy internationally,” Kropf said, including vegetable oil and specialized nutritious foods. “We need to get them into (the) country and then drive them into the mountains.”

The lack of funds in state bank accounts means civil servants aren’t being paid regularly, companies are shutting down and ordinary civilians face restricted access to their own savings.

Prospects of famine remain, said Ammar, noting that the main indicator is farming, which most people depend on to make ends meet. Farmers say climate change is resulting in less food production, resulting in extended periods when people don’t have adequate access to food.

Need for international aid

At the end of June, a 5.9 magnitude earthquake hit southeast Afghanistan, killing      over 1,000 people and causing damage the International Rescue Committee described as “catastrophic.”

“This earthquake is a catastrophe for the people affected, but the response to the wider crisis in Afghanistan remains a catastrophe of choice for the international community,” said David Miliband, the group’s CEO and president in a release at the time.

“While humanitarian aid has averted famine for now, policies of economic isolation, the halting of development funding, and the lack of support for Afghan civil servants are unraveling the two decades of development progress that western leaders vowed to protect.” 

He noted that families across the country face unemployment, leading to lower demand among local businesses which in turn leads to further job losses. He called for the international community to urgently provide funding to the country as well as “the phased and closely monitored unfreezing of assets.”

The question of frozen assets

Advocates for Afghanistan have criticized U.S.’s decision to freeze a portion of the country’s assets and decried a proposal for the U.S. to use some of them to support families affected by 9/11.

Afghanistan’s assets rightfully belong to Afghanistan, said Zubair Iqbal, a scholar at the Middle East Institute in Washington. 

However, while unfreezing the funds would help bring immediate help to alleviate Afghanistan’s crisis, the country will need more support in the long-term, said Iqbal, who previously worked at the International Monetary Fund for more than 30 years.

The solution is to grant foreign aid to Afghanistan in a sustainable way to allow recovery, while managing its spending through an independent entity, he said.

Concerns around a proposal in the U.S. to use some of the Afghan assets to support families affected by 9/11 prompted a group of Afghan women to write an open letter to U.S. President Joe Biden in February.

“Taking funds from the Afghan people is the unkindest and most inappropriate response for a country that is going through the worst humanitarian crisis in its history,” the letter reads. “It is the squeezing of a wounded hand.”

Freezing the assets from the Taliban was the right decision, said one of the signatories in an interview, but they belong to the Afghan people and must be released to address the humanitarian crisis. 

“My expectation from the international community is to put serious attention on Afghanistan,” said Roshan Mashal, former deputy director of Afghan Women’s Network, who left Afghanistan after the takeover and is now a fellow at the University of Texas at Arlington. 

She called for coordination on how countries engage with the Taliban and to support the country’s people, as millions of Afghans face hunger and economic crisis.

“Don’t forget them,” she said.


All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Health

Learning From The Lancet’s New Study on Alcohol Consumption

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A new study in The Lancet, one of the world’s oldest and most prestigious medical journals, calls for “stronger interventions, particularly those tailored towards younger individuals…to reduce the substantial global health loss attributable to alcohol.” This study sought to elucidate the effects of alcohol consumption in varying populations. Its data comes from the Global Burden of Disease investigation, which began in 1990 and has used information from 204 countries and territories to “understand the changing health challenges around the world.” Regarding research on alcohol consumption, the authors wrote, “No study to date has examined the variation in the theoretical minimum risk of alcohol consumption by geography, age, sex, and time, conditioned on background rates of disease.” In other words, the new study is groundbreaking in its thorough and holistic analysis of the health impacts associated with drinking alcohol. 

Ultimately, the researchers’ data was intriguing. They found that for individuals between 15-39 years old, consuming alcohol only confers risks, i.e. there are no health benefits associated with drinking alcohol. Furthermore, the authors write, “The recommended level of alcohol consumption in existing low consumption recommendations is too high for younger populations.” In other words, following existing guidelines is not enough to protect people between 15-39 from the health risks associated with alcohol consumption. Interestingly, the study found that consuming small amounts of alcohol, such as one or two 3.4-ounce glasses of red wine, can yield some health benefits for individuals over 40. These include reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, and diabetes. 

In their discussion, the researchers emphasized, “These findings highlight the need for tailored guidelines that discourage alcohol consumption among young people, as well as alcohol control policies and interventions that are targeted especially towards young males.” The scientists pointed out young males because they are the group that currently struggles the most with alcohol overconsumption. Overall, the authors in the study clearly caution against drinking alcohol if one is below 39. Even for older individuals, limiting alcohol consumption is essential to avoid health risks. 

Interestingly, The Lancet study corroborates many religions’ guidance regarding alcohol consumption. Chapter 5:91 of the Holy Quran, for example, says, “O ye who believe! wine and the game of chance… are only an abomination of Satan’s handiwork. So shun each one of them that you may prosper.” Similarly, Proverbs 20:1 advises, “Wine is a mocker, strong drink is a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise.” For people that associate with a particular religion, it is heartening to see scientific research confirm one’s religious texts and commandments; it often affirms and strengthens one’s faith. For anyone, regardless of whether or not they practice any religion, seeing scientific research support religious teachings is an important reminder that religion and science are not at odds. In the media and popular culture, we often see religion portrayed as diametrically opposed to science. This is far from the truth, however, and it is critical to not let such prejudices cloud our view of others.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Health

Abortion Laws in Kenya ensure Women’s Right to Privacy

Abortion Laws in Kenya.

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          Kenya’s upcoming elections and the US Supreme Court’s overturning of the Roe v Wade legislation bring the debate on abortion to the forefront. As right-wingers launch online campaigns to block acces to healthcare for women, AnalsytNews spoke to Dr. Anne-Beatrice Kiharaabout abortion laws in Kenya, her country.

More than a decade ago, Kenya set out on a course to provide constitutional reproductive rights to women. By replacing the colonial constitution with a new democratic text, it secured the rights of privacy and abortion for women in the constitutional framework. Although the country is still a long way from translating the articles into a legal language of implication, they are helping to save the lives of women.

The long struggle for the right to abortion in Kenya yielded results when in 2010, PAK, a victim of sexual assault and her clinical health provider, Muhammad Saleem, were released from charges in 2020 by the High Court in the Kenyan city of Malindi. They were detained officials under the accusation of performing an illegal abortion for PAK, who was a minor. 

 Their release orders by the court came in at sixty-five pages long. The case also mentions the US’s Roe v. Wade case as a foundation for, “protecting access to abortion effectuates vital constitutional values, including dignity, autonomy, equality, and bodily integrity,” thus providing women with the freedom of decision. 

The ruling in the PAK and Salim Muhammad case established abortion as a legal right for women experiencing pregnancy complications and has been hailed as a victory for women’s rights to privacy in the country. 

While the Roe v. Wade case ruling has been overruled, Kenya still holds its position as one of the few countries that legalises abortions under certain conditions.

According to the President of African Federation of Obstetricians and Gynecologist, Anne-Beatrice Kihara, although the laws in Kenya do not provide, “abortion on demand,” they do take into consideration the “life and health of the mother”. She tells AnalystNews: “The foetal viability in Kenya is after 20 weeks of conception.” Thus, safe abortion services can be provided in the 2nd trimester at gestation when the foe is not viable,” she adds.

Article 26(4) of the constitution of Kenya says, abortion is permitted if in the opinion of a medical expert, “there is a need for emergency treatment”.

Similarly, if the pregnancy complications are putting the “life or health of the mother in danger,” the mother can undergo a procedure with the assistance of a certified care provider. 

Kenya also provides post-abortion treatment for women under Article 43 (2). 

These articles were further translated into laws by the Kenyan High Court in 2019 to provide the right to life to the victims of sexual assault. With 41% of Kenyan women experiencing sexual violence, the high court in the FIDA- Kenya case gave the victims of assault the Right to Abortion.

            While the pressure from the anti-abortion sections forces women to seek fast yet unsafe abortion services through untrained and underqualified abortion providers, the laws in the country ensure the cooperation of trained medical professionals for abortion. 

But the lack of safe abortion options could lead mothers to opt for unsafe choices. The consequences could be dire, Dr Kihara explains. There are  short-term effects on a mother’s health such as “haemorrhage, sepsis, fistula formation, etc. ”A mother who has had an unsafe abortion may also develop “chronic pelvic inflammatory disease, infertility, and mental illness.”

            As elections are fast approaching in Kenya, the issue of abortion is once again making headlines. The recent Roe v Wade ruling, anorganised online campaigns against the Reproductive Health Care Bill and Surrogacy Bill by the right-wing are shaping up to become a growing threat to women’s right to abortion in the country.

            As Dr. Kihara sees it, the overturning of the Roe v. Wade decision could create issues for health care providers in Kenya for they might face “stigma, discrimination, and criminalization for supporting the provision of information and services”.

            Dr. Kihara argued that the issue should not only be dealt with at a medical level but at a social level with special attention paid to the “education, counselling of the girls with health promotion and prevention strategies; access to family planning and contraception program sand their integration with other health requirements for girls or women of reproductive age.”

Dr. Kihara recommended that there is a need to “reduce the politicising of sexual and reproductive health services. Instead we need to provide a development lens on what would be the outcome of investing in comprehensive, quality and safe health health services to the individuals, the health system and society at large. She suggested there is also a need for the “engagement of boys/men taking responsibility for fatherhood and as agents for change.”

Dr. Kihara urged legislators to ponder over the “serious ramifications related to access, affordability, acceptability, quality and safety of services rendered” after the overturning of Roe v Wade.

 Like many from the developing countries, Dr Kihara also fears that the new ruling in Roe v Wade case can show serious impact on the ongoing related projects in the countries like Kenya. According to her various health programs that are being financed by the US, including social protection service, safe motherhood can face serious reifications.

   While the US navigates its way through the confusions and controversies involved in the matter, abortion policies in Kenya can help them find a common ground that can ensure the safety and health of the mother and child. 


All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Daily Brief

Deadly Marburg Virus Spreads in Ghana

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  • The Marburg virus, a highly infectious disease currently spreading in Ghana, has killed two people and has more than 90 quarantined. The virus causes diarrhea, fever, nausea, vomiting, and death in many cases.
  • The World Health Organization has said that resources would be sent to Ghana to combat the outbreak, while warning that “without immediate and decisive action, Marburg can easily get out of hand.”
  • The virus has been linked to the Ebola virus, which spread through West Africa until 2016 after killing more than 11,000 people. The Marburg virus was initially spread to humans through fruit bats.
  • The virus has been detected in many other African countries over the past fifty years, killing hundreds of people with no vaccine or antiviral treatment yet approved.
  • Hopefully the world will come together to put an end to this virus in a timely fashion, and not let poorer countries suffer.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Crime

UN debate human rights in Afghanistan, concern for women especially

Human rights in Afghanistan and more specifically those of women are being discussed at the UN after Taliban takeover of the country.

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Since the recapture and overthrow of the Afghan government on August 15th 2021, the Taliban have slowly reverted to strict rulings for women in Afghanistan, raising issues of human rights in Afghanistan. Despite the several reassurances and claims that women’s rights would be protected under the new Taliban regime, the UN (Human Rights Council) believe it is now time to find solutions after many violations on women’s human rights have occurred. 

Various points were discussed during the debate but the general consensus amongst all the countries who participated, was that women in Afghanistan are facing human rights violations on a systemic level. The Taliban have triggered the removal of women from many occupations as well as dismantling previous structures to help girls receive adequate education. 

Many speakers expressed their concerns that the Taliban are slowly removing women from all public spheres of life, which would set up entirely male-dominated social hierarchies. These hierarchies are created from young ages, as girls are not allowed to participate in further education . If this is able to continue for the foreseeable future, although it may look grim for Afghanistan now, it may get worse. The lack of education for all girls may prove to be a bad decision for nature of the Taliban’s rule within the next decade. It was also mentioned that without the equality and participation of women in Afghanistan, the social and economic development of the country can only go so far. 

The UN were also able to debate what they may be able to provide Afghanistan after the removal of US troops from the nation. One solution suggested was more general rather than specific for women but emphasised the importance of continuing humanitarian aid as the country is also facing a poverty crisis. Some in the council blamed this poverty on the previous US occupations in Afghanistan, whilst also requesting that the US restore the damages and assets to the country. 

It was discussed that if these resources are provided by the UN in order to aid the Afghan people, it would still not be sufficient enough to allow the country to prosper because the involvement of women is fundamental both socially and economically. 

Although it may seem like little, council members believed that this debate was a spark in the quest of restoring the human rights of women in Afghanistan. Fawzia Koofi (First Woman Vice President of the Afghan Parliament) stated that the situation for women had previously become “unique and dire” and there are fears amongst society that this may occur again and without debates like this, then our fears may become true. 

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Health

Child Rape Victim Denied Abortion

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A ten-year-old girl who was subjected to rape and discovered that she was pregnant was denied an abortion in her home state of Ohio. In keeping with Ohio’s trigger law – which came into effect as  the Supreme struck down the landmark 50-year old-Roe v Wade decision – the child was not viable for an abortion. This was because she was three days over the six weeks after which the procedure is lawfully banned due to the detection of foetal cardiac activity in the womb. The child rape victim was forced to travel to another state, Indiana, to have the procedure carried out. This was possible because lawmakers of the state of Indian have yet to decide on the legality of abortion, something which they are expected to do later this month.

Medical professionals have shed doubt on the six-week-policy time frame for legal abortions.

The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the legal framework which first federalised the right of abortion, and hand back the power of its legality to individual states, has sparked outrage and division across the country. At least ten states which have now criminalised abortion do not make exceptions for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest.

Medical professionals, as well as women’s rights groups, religious communities, and prominent politicians have spoken out against the court’s decision, while others have backed the move. Access to abortion care is now determined by whether a state is a Republican or Democratic majority.

The U.S Vice President Kamala Harris called out the decision as “outrageous” and that it showed that “the statement has been made that the government has a right to come in your home and tell you as a woman.. what you should do with your body.”

However, in contrast to Harris, South Dakota governor Kristi Noem refused to directly answer reporters when quizzed on the issue of the child rape victim in Ohio, and instead claimed that prosecution of the man responsible for the rape of the ten-year-old should be the topic of concern. Eventually the Republican governor conceded and said she was not in favour of changing the current trigger law enforced by Roe v Wade’s demise to allow exceptions for such cases as rape, saying “I don’t believe a tragic situation should be perpetuated by another tragedy” and that “there’s more that we’ve got to do to make sure that we really are living a life that says every life is precious.”

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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