1-19-19 Tough times for Amsterdam sex business
Four young men in puffa jackets jostle, slapping their palms against the glass windows, waving at women posing in lacy lingerie. "It's all banter. Even they know about the banter," one tells me, gesturing towards a brothel. "They know about the English. They get enough money out of us." But many of the women who sell their bodies are increasingly struggling to attract paying clients because their shop windows are obscured by selfie-snapping tourists, interested in free photo-ops rather than paid sex. The Dutch capital's first female mayor is trying to find a solution. Femke Halsema is preparing to set out a range of measures to help the sex workers escape the cameras' glare. "It's the biggest free attraction park in the whole of Amsterdam," says Frits Rouvoet. As he guides me though the spider's web of cobbled alleyways, many of the prostitutes throw him a familiar wave. Frits runs a bookshop in the red light district and often invites the women in for coffee, a moment of respite from the abuse and intimidation they are subjected to in the street. "There's nowhere for them to run to," he explains. "If they want to make a living, they have to stand in the window but there are many, many men coming. From England, Scotland, Ireland. Drunk, screaming, trying to make pictures." Young women try to hide their faces, as tourists gawp and brandish their smartphones. For many this is a secret life. Having their photo placed on social media could see them ostracised by their families. Kristina opens her door, shivering as the icy air hits her exposed stomach. She stubs out a cigarette, turns down a video on her phone and leads me down a short corridor to a small, white, concrete room. It's warm and sparse: a mirror, black plastic mattress, antiseptic hygiene gel, alarm and fluffy slippers. "I don't like it (selling my body), but I have to." Kristina has been working in the red light district for a decade. She was persuaded to come by a Hungarian friend who had found her fortune in Amsterdam's seedy sex industry. She charges €100 (£88; $114) for half an hour, €150 for an hour. "I'm saving for my two kids. For their future. They're with my mother in Hungary. My kids don't know what I do." Kristina has no desire to move. She attracts good business here, despite the irritating sightseers. She speaks fluent Dutch and tells me she doesn't have a pimp - she sells her body because "it's easy money". And she feels safe here.
1-18-19 Contraceptive mandate stays in place
Federal courts in California and Pennsylvania this week blocked new rules that would have limited the free access to birth control required by Affordable Care Act. The Trump administration sought to expand the religious-objection exception to the ACA’s directive that insurers cover birth control with no copays. Under the new rules, any company could decline to provide contraception coverage as a matter of conscience or religious belief. New Jersey and Pennsylvania had sued, arguing that the planned changes would place too great a financial burden on the states. Philadelphia Judge Wendy Beetlestone issued a nationwide injunction that keeps them from taking effect. She said the new rules are “inconsistent” with the law.
1-14-19 Judge blocks Trump's new birth control rules in 13 states and Washington
A California judge has blocked new Trump administration regulations on birth control from applying in 13 states and Washington DC. The rules allow employers and insurers to decline to provide birth control if doing so violates their "religious beliefs" or "moral convictions". The rules were to come into effect nationwide from Monday. But the judge granted an injunction stopping it applying in jurisdictions which are challenging the policy. Plaintiffs in 13 states and the nation's capital argued that the new regulation should not come into force while they moved forward with lawsuits against it. While Judge Haywood Gilliam did not make a final decision, he said the rules could mean a "substantial number" of women would lose birth control coverage, a "massive policy shift" which could breach federal law. California attorney general Xavier Becerra said in a statement: "It's 2019, yet the Trump administration is still trying to roll back women's rights. "The law couldn't be clearer - employers have no business interfering in women's healthcare decisions." But the US Department of Justice said in court documents that the new rules defended "a narrow class of sincere religious and moral objectors" and stopped them from conducting practices "that conflict with their beliefs".
1-11-19 Croatian women challenge brutal pregnancy 'care'
Croatia has been experiencing its own #MeToo moment, as women protest at being put through avoidable suffering and abuse during pregnancy and childbirth. Campaigners call it "obstetric violence" and complain it has been going on for decades. ut it was not until one opposition MP spoke out in parliament about her own ordeal that a national debate started on social media - under the hashtag #BreakTheSilence. Ivana Nincevic-Lesandric described the "medieval treatment" she had experienced at the hands of medical staff after a miscarriage. "They tied up my arms and legs and started the procedure of curettage without anaesthesia. That means scraping the cervix, the internal organ, without anaesthesia. Those were the most painful 30 minutes of my life," she told shocked MPs. Health Minister Milan Kujundzic suggested the story was a figment of her imagination: "This is not how it's done in Croatian hospitals. You can give me your medical records if you want and I'll take a look." But many Croatians leapt to her defence, especially women, calling her statement bold and unprecedented. Croatia is a predominantly Catholic country, and many are reticent about talking openly about female reproductive health in what is still a largely patriarchal society. Pressure group Parents in Action (Roda), which for years has tried to highlight the issue, followed up the MP's testimony with a #BreakTheSilence campaign. In one weekend alone they received testimonies from 400 women, says spokeswoman Daniela Drandic. They duly handed them to the health ministry. "We have reports of biopsies being done without anaesthetic, of medically-assisted fertility procedures without anaesthetic, sewing to repair tears after vaginal childbirth, episiotomy being done without anaesthetic," she says. Among the accounts were examples of abuse and women being talked to in a demeaning way during childbirth. "Things like: 'If you could have sex you should now be able to take it,' or 'it was nice before and now the pain comes later' - telling women that they are being sewn to make their husbands happy." One of the 400 women is Jasmina Furlanovic, who still gets tearful when she recalls the humiliation and pain she endured when she had to have her placenta removed a few years ago. "They started the procedure without any explanation. The nurse was restraining me," she said.
1-9-19 This protein may help explain why some women with endometriosis are infertile
Having a reduced amount of HDAC3 renders mice sterile. A missing protein may help explain why some women with endometriosis are infertile. In samples of lining from the uterus, infertile women with the disorder had lower amounts of a protein called histone dacetylase 3, or HDAC3, than fertile women without endometriosis, a study finds. When mice were engineered to have a decreased amount of HDAC3 in the uterus, the animals became sterile, researchers report online January 9 in Science Translational Medicine. The new work brings scientists a step closer to understanding what’s driving infertility in women with endometriosis, says Linda Giudice, a reproductive endocrinologist at the University of California, San Francisco who was not involved in the study. Such research could potentially offer ways to improve these women’s ability to become pregnant, she says. Endometriosis — a disorder in which tissue from the lining of the uterus invades other parts of the body, such as the ovaries, lining of the pelvis and bowels — can cause severe pain and infertility. Researchers don’t know why endometriosis strikes. Women whose menstruation began before age 10, were of low birth weight or were exposed to a synthetic estrogen called diethylstilbestrol, or DES, in the womb are at an increased risk for the disorder. Having family members with the disease also puts one at risk. The disorder is estimated to affect up to 10 percent of women of childbearing age. Among women with infertility, the prevalence of the condition may be as high as 50 percent. Reproductive biologist Jae-Wook Jeong at Michigan State University in Grand Rapids and colleagues wanted to study why fertility may be reduced during endometriosis.
1-9-19 CES 2019: 'Award-winning' sex toy for women withdrawn from show
A sex toy designed for women has been banned from the technology show CES. Lorna DiCarlo said it had been invited to display its robotic Ose vibrator at CES, after winning an innovation award. CES organiser the Consumer Technology Association, which granted the award, said it had included the device by mistake and could withdraw any immoral or obscene entry at any time. Lorna DiCarlo chief executive Lora Haddock said the CES and CTA had a history of gender bias. In a statement to The Next Web, the CTA said: "The product does not fit into any of our existing product categories and should not have been accepted. "We have apologised to the company for our mistake." But, in a statement on the Lora DiCarlo website, Ms Haddock cites several examples of other female-oriented products included in the award category the vibrator was in. "Two robotic vacuum cleaners, one robotic skateboard, four children's toys, one shopping companion robot - looks like all of women's interests are covered, right?" she said. "Ose clearly fits the robotics and drone category - and CTA's own expert judges agree." The product had designed in partnership with a robotics laboratory at Oregon State University and had eight patents pending for "robotics, biomimicry, and engineering feats", Ms Haddock said. "We firmly believe that women, non-binary, gender non-conforming, and LGBTQI folks should be vocally claiming our space in pleasure and tech," she said. Ms Haddock said there was a double-standard at CES when it came to sexual health products targeted at men versus women.