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Ten Years in Women’s and Reproductive Health, a Bloggy Look Back

January 2, 2010

What with the new year and decade and all, it seems appropriate to engage in a bit of reflection. First, the blog itself. This year will mark the 5th anniversary of Women’s Health News – I first posted on May 19, 2005, although that was at the blogspot location. While this little blog is not among what most people would name as the top medical or top feminist blogs, I don’t worry too much about traffic, or increasing traffic, so long as at least a a few people are finding it useful and I’m not too overworked to deal with it. So, I expect to continue on for a bit longer. Will it make it to the decade mark? Who knows. I do sometimes find the lack of comments discouraging, but it is what it is. If there is anything you’d like to see covered more often, or less often, or more in depth, please let me know and I can try to do that – as a medical librarian, I have access to a lot of resources most “regular” people don’t which I can tap into for information.

For me personally, ten years ago I was still a semester away from finishing my undergrad degree. I did not yet know I would become a librarian, but was working in – you guessed it – a library. I didn’t have a job yet, and wasn’t sure what I was going to do next. I had already met the now-spouse. Both of my grandmothers were still alive. I was having symptoms of thyroid problems that were going unrecognized, and had already been told by at least one practitioner that I was just too stressed out (which might have been true, but wasn’t exactly the problem). The following years would be very frustrating regarding my thyroid problems and further encourage my interest in health and patient advocacy issues. I had just recently taken the “menstrual health and politics” exco course which was my first exposure to Our Bodies, Ourselves and really my first inspiration to learn much more about some of the issues discussed here. I also had just started or was close to starting to use a Keeper and have been a reusable menstrual product devotee ever since.

Now, some highlights from the decade in women’s health (heavily biased to the past 5 years and with past related posts on the topics)…

Ten years ago, emergency contraception had just recently been approved by the FDA, and you were more likely to need to go to a doctor who was willing to prescribe or give something out of a sample closet, and were probably more likely to get regular oral contraceptive pills and instructions on how to take the right number at the right time than you were to get a prepackaged EC pill(s). None of this OTC at the pharmacy business, which was a long fought battle; a review of the FDA’s history on the approval reveals political funny business, and the Director of the agency’s Office of Women’s Health resigned over the process and delays.

The Women’s Health Initiative study on estrogen+progestin hormone replacement therapy was halted because the overall risks (including cardiovascular risks, which it had been thought the drugs might protect against) were determined to outweigh the benefits, marking a huge change in hormone replacement therapy for menopausal women.

The global gag rule – preventing U.S. funds from going to overseas agencies which talked about abortion (even if they didn’t actually perform them) was in place for most of the decade, reinstated by Bush II in 2001 and rescinded by Obama in 2009. Here, this manifested in lots of discussion about a federally-funded database that started restricting access to abortion-related citations.

The decade was pretty blissfully free of murders of abortion providers, after a run of them in the 1990s, until Dr. Tiller’s murder this past year.

The “partial birth abortion ban” of 2003 was passed, and then upheld by the Supreme Court in 2007. It was always more to do with politics than with medicine or procedural knowledge.

The first HPV vaccine was approved. I thought some of the fear-mongering around the vaccine was completely overblown. Predictably, the approval turned into a social issue debate in which people argued that an HPV vaccine would turn little angels into sluts, that HPV didn’t infect “good” girls. I thought requirements for the vaccine for school-age girls weren’t necessarily so bad if there were generous opt-out provisions and it meant that the vaccine would be covered for folks who couldn’t otherwise afford it. However, Merck’s lobbying efforts behind some of those decisions to make it mandatory were unseemly, especially when the mandates didn’t come with clear information about those efforts a (more on Merck’s marketing). I absolutely opposed forcing it on immigrants with no opt-out procedures; thankfully the CDC reversed that requirement.

In September 2000, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a medical abortion drug, Mifeprex, to be marketed in the United States as an alternative to surgical abortion. Here, we talked about the drug when a couple of deaths provided an opening to anti-choice folks to try to get it pulled:

There was all manner of drama about the “conscience” rule (too many posts to list individually).

Our Bodies Ourselves started a blog
. And then invited me to contribute (I’m still honored).

Meanwhile, the c-section rate continued to climb, and any number of other issues of import were raised which I haven’t covered in this post. What would you add to a list of important developments of the decade?

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. January 2, 2010 7:14 pm

    Congrats, Rachel!

  2. January 2, 2010 10:57 pm

    Just a quick comment to let you know that I’m one of the (I assume many) lurkers who visits but never comments. Women’s Health News is one of my daily stops when I sit down with my laptop every evening. I’ll try to keep in mind the encouragement garnered from comments and add my 2 cents once in a while. Thanks for all the great information!

  3. January 3, 2010 6:24 pm

    Great post.
    You encapsulated the last 10 years in repro women’s health very well.
    Good read.

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