In June, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that human DNA can’t be patented in a ruling against Myriad Genetics, a bio-technology company with patents on the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes and tests for the genes. (Mutations to these genes increase the risk of cancer, particularly breast cancer.) Because Myrid claimed ownership of the genes, it could charge exorbitantly high rates for tests, and limit scientists’ access to the genes. The ruling means tests for BRCA mutations are likely to become more accessible and less expensive, and that researchers will gain better access to the genes for cancer prevention research. A win for all!
After nearly 20,000 people signed a change.org petition, Facebook agreed to revise and clarify policies about images of mastectomies. Previously, the company had often flagged and removed images of mastectomies, which it deemed pornographic. The change will benefit organizations seeking to raise awareness about breast cancer. It also reversed policies that had allowed pages and images condoning rape and violence against women to remain on the site. These images are now removed by Facebook.
Delaware recently passed The Gender Nondiscrimination Act, making it illegal to discriminate against a person on the basis of gender, and defining violence or harassment on the basis of a person’s gender identity as a hate crime. Bills like this help improve the lives of many, including transgender individuals, who experience huge amounts of daily discrimination. While the law does not make transphobia illegal or teach transphobic people how to be accepting and kind, at least it makes progress towards ending institutional transphobia.
Why are conservatives so upset by the word “vagina”? In 2012, the MI House of Representatives banned a legislator for using the word (while denouncing an anti-choice bill)…. Now, some Idaho parents are complaining that a biology teacher used it in a class about human reproduction. (They also complained about his discussing sexually transmitted infections and pregnancy prevention.) The Idaho Dept. of Education is investigating, but does not believe the teacher will be fired. We aren’t sure what term is preferable, since “vagina” is the proper anatomical term for this part of the body.
Catholic school computer teacher Christina Dias was fired by the Archdiocese of Cincinnati when she became pregnant, out of wedlock, using in vitro fertilization. Dias sued, and won on the basis of pregnancy discrimination; she was awarded $171,000 in back pay and damages. The Archdiocese is appealing, possibly on the ground that Dias, a Protestant who taught a secular subject matter, is considered a minister in the Roman Catholic Church — under the “ministerial exception,” the church could legally fire her for not following established Church teachings on IVF. The Archdiocese’s view would let the Church designate any and all employees (regardless of their duties) as “ministers” with weaker employment protections.
In the past year, the Food and Drug Administration has approved two new weight-loss drugs (Belviq and Qsymia), although neither has been shown to result in more than moderate weight loss, and both have serious side-effects including migraines and hallucinations. In fact, the FDA originally rejected both drugs’ approval requests. The FDA will require the drugs’ manufacturers to conduct long-term safety and efficacy trials, but the agency has a bad track record of not holding companies to this requirement. We urge the FDA to stay on top of these drugs and pull them immediately if any problems arise.