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Women’s Health

Women’s Health Protection Act Reintroduced in Congress: “Abortion with Dignity and Without Barriers”

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“The Women’s Health Protection Act will take the power to make these deeply personal medical decisions out of the governor’s mansions and state parliaments and get them back where they belong: into the hands of patients and those they trust.”

—Rep. Lois Frankel (D-Fla.)

A rally against abortion bans in Seattle in 2019. (Wikimedia Commons)

On Tuesday June 8th, Congressmen reintroduced the Women’s Health Protection Act (WHPA) – a federal law that Roe v. Wade legally codified and establishes the right to abortion in all 50 states under federal law. The WHPA guarantees a pregnant woman’s right to have access to an abortion and protects the right of abortion providers to provide these services free of medically unnecessary restrictions that affect individual patient choice or the relationship between provider and patient.

“We have to trust that women make important decisions about their own reproductive fate,” said co-sponsor Lois Frankel (D-Fla.). “The Women’s Health Protection Act will take the power to make these deeply personal medical decisions out of the governor’s mansions and state parliaments and get them back where they belong: into the hands of patients and those they trust.”

The US Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) And Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) Presented the Senate draft with a total of 48 original co-sponsors. Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.), Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), Veronica Escobar (D-Texas) and Rep. Frankel presented the bill with a total of 176 original co-sponsors. This is the highest number of original co-sponsors ever put on the bill.

Abortion will always be available to the rich and well-connected people. The Women’s Health Protection Act applies to all others. #WHPA guarantees access to abortion for everyone, regardless of background or zip code. #ActForAbortionAccess https://t.co/wwmH9OEZRh

– Judy Chu (@RepJudyChu) June 8, 2021

“At the moment Roe v. Wade was attacked in the states of that country and millions of women are at risk of losing the freedom to make their own personal health choices, “Baldwin said. “It is high time to face these extreme threats to the constitutionally protected reproductive rights of women. That is why I advocate the Women’s Health Protection Act. Every woman, no matter where she lives, deserves the freedom to make her own personal decisions about her health care, her family and her body. “

The WHPA explicitly protects against some of the most common and burdensome restrictions enacted by lawmakers against abortion, including prevention bans, mandatory medical procedures, medically inaccurate advice, telemedical abortion restrictions, targeted regulation of abortion providers (TRAP laws), and medically unnecessary coercive measures to allow additional drives Clinics. WHPA would also block restrictions similar to those expressly banned by the bill or that work similarly by weeding out abortion care with restrictions that make access difficult.

As a guide to the courts, the law provides several factors to consider when assessing the legality of a restriction, including whether there is a reasonable likelihood of delays in access to medical care or a reduction in the availability of abortion services in the state or region. The bill also requires courts to consider the cumulative effects of abortion restrictions.

“This bill is bold, responsive, and timely legislation that would enshrine a person’s right to freedom of choice, free from government interference, and affirm abortion as a fundamental human right,” said Pressley. “I am grateful to my colleagues and our advocates for their partnership on this bill, and I look forward to continuing to organize, mobilize and legislate until this bill is passed and the ink dries under President Biden’s signature.”

Responding to an onslaught of attacks on abortion rights

Proponents argue that the WHPA is more necessary than ever due to an unprecedented surge in abortion restrictions in 2021. The Guttmacher Institute reports that lawmakers in 47 states have introduced 561 abortion restrictions since January, including 165 bans on abortion (as of June 7, 2021). A staggering 83 of these restrictions have been enacted in 16 states, including 10 bans.

“Since Roe’s ruling against Wade in 1973, an incredible 1,313 restrictions have been imposed by the US states,” said Elizabeth Nash, chief political officer for the Guttmacher Institute on State Affairs. “It’s an astonishing number, and while many of those restrictions have been blocked in court, most of them are in place today.”

Boston Women’s March 2019 (Kai Medina / Wikimedia Commons)

As a result of these restrictions, abortion has become nearly impossible in much of the South and Midwest, although Roe vs Wade is still the law.

“For decades, extremist lawmakers have worked tirelessly to turn back the clock and restrict the health and reproductive rights of women,” Escobar said. “In Texas, Republicans recently passed one of the most draconian laws in the country to ban abortion after six weeks – before most women even know they are pregnant, with no exceptions for victims of rape or incest. We urgently need to pass the Women’s Health Protection Act to give women access to safe and legal abortions everywhere. “

Lawyers also refer to the May 17 ruling by the US Supreme Court to hear a direct challenge by Roe v Wade in the Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization case, which included a 15-week abortion ban in Mississippi. In this case, the court has said it will rule on whether all abortion bans are unconstitutional.

“This is part of a conscious strategy by anti-abortion extremists to use state laws and courts to slowly abolish access to abortion, with nearly 500 restrictive laws in place in the states since 2011,” Chu said. “That is why we need the Women’s Health Protection Act to ensure that, regardless of where you live, where you come from or your zip code, you have the same rights to decide about your own body as everyone else.”

If the court overturned Roe, states could ban abortion altogether, which many would do. This is the first case of an abortion ban the court has put since Roe.

“As the Supreme Court is considering and encouraging a direct attack on Roe and extremist lawmakers viciously attacking the reproductive rights of women in state houses across the country, women’s health protection law has never been so urgent and necessary,” said Blumenthal. “These demagogic and draconian laws hurt women and families when they make personal and difficult medical decisions. This topic is about more than just healthcare, it is about human rights – all of our rights. “

Majority of voters support abortion rights

Proponents point out that a large majority of American voters are in favor of the right to abortion. A recent Hart Research poll by the Center for Reproductive Rights shows that 61 percent of US voters support the WHPA. Strong majorities of both Democrats and Independents and nearly 40 percent of Republicans support a new federal law like WHPA that would protect abortion rights and access across the country. Voters also strongly support the constitutional right to abortion, with nearly seven out of ten voters showing their support for upholding Roe v. Wade express, including 91 percent of Democrats, 71 percent of Independents and 43 percent of Republicans.

“This poll sends a clear message to Congress: the majority of voters want abortions to be protected under federal law,” said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights. “We can not wait anymore. Even now with the protection of the Constitution in place, state lawmakers have made access to abortion impossible in the South and Midwest. This bill – WHPA – would protect against hundreds of government restrictions and bans that have put abortion out of reach. This is a question of equal access everywhere. “

Black voters are particularly supportive of the WHPA, with 79 percent of black voters, 67 percent of Hispanic voters, and 67 percent of Asian-American and Pacific Islander voters (AAPI) backing the law. Additionally, 77 percent of Hispanic women and 75 percent of AAPI women support the law.

Young people also strongly support the creation of a national law in support of abortion law, with 66 percent of voters under 30 – including the majority by gender, race and ethnicity – supporting the passage of the WHPA and even more support among younger blacks (78 percent ) and Hispanic voters (70 percent).

“Access to abortion is a matter of racial and economic justice,” said Danielle Hurd-Wilson, associate director of operations and programs at URGE: Unite for Reproductive and Gender Equity. “The legacy of reproductive health restrictions has perpetuated white supremacy and racism against blacks. Abortion restrictions harm members of communities who have faced obstacles to health care in the past – especially people of color, queer and transgender people, and those who work to make ends meet. “

“The Women’s Health Protection Act would help break the tangled web of restrictions that anti-abortion politicians have put in place to shame and stigmatize our choices and deny us timely health care,” said Hurd-Wilson. “The future I want to see is one in which anyone can have an abortion with dignity and without barriers.”

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Women’s Health

Israeli CEO seeks quantum of solace for women’s diseases – Sponsored Content

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Severe stomach pain. Nausea. Fatigue. Infertility. These are just some of the symptoms that millions of women with endometriosis suffer – an incurable disease caused when tissue that lines the uterus grows elsewhere in the abdomen.

Shahar Keinan, the Israeli CEO of Polaris Quantum Biotech, is working with another female CEO in the field to use superfast quantum computers to find a cure for endometriosis that doctors estimate affects around 10% of women worldwide.

“This will help bring drugs to market quickly, especially in areas that have long been neglected,” says Keinan of her company’s new partnership with Californian Auransa Inc., which is using artificial intelligence to find new treatments . “This really solves an unmet need.”

The two companies will also work together to find treatments and cures for ovarian and breast cancer and polycystic ovarian syndrome.

“I believe that we will be able to combine our individual expertise in biology and chemistry to develop high quality solutions for these very difficult to control or neglected diseases that affect women’s health,” says Pek Lum, Auransa’s CEO.

Solutions to these diseases are just a fraction of what Polarisqb, a North Carolina-based quantum computing startup, is researching in the fast-growing field of computational chemistry, where scientists use computer models instead of laboratory equipment to identify new compounds that stop or prevent can disease.

The technology, which is dramatically accelerating drug development, holds great promise in areas that are still under-researched – such as women’s health – and rare diseases, where drug companies often have poor return on investment.

Polarisqb is currently conducting an investment round. Private investors can find out more about OurCrowd and participate.

Traditional laboratory-based drug development methods are now becoming more expensive. Each new drug costs about $ 1 billion on average, a price that includes the many failed trials and studies, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association. The costs are passed on to the patients.

The quantum computing used by Polarisqb calculates up to 10,000 times faster than conventional computers, helps to make more drugs available faster and at lower prices, and to reduce the average time to market for a drug from 10 to seven years, says Keinan.

To test the concept, Polarisqb’s scientists built on previous Novartis laboratory research on dengue fever, which it took about four years to identify molecules that could stop the disease that causes nausea, rash and limb pain, and in patients can be fatal about 25% of the cases. Although there is a vaccine for certain age groups, it can only be given to people who have had the virus in the past. The virus infects up to 400 million people worldwide every year.

“We were able to use our platform and identify the same molecules from a library of billions in less than a minute. We also use the system to identify new molecules in order to overcome the problems with the old ones, ”said Keinan. The company will now commercialize these molecules to pharmaceutical companies.

The same work can be done with conventional computers, but “it’s a long and complicated operation,” says Keinan, and it would not save much compared to laboratory research. “We were looking for something faster and more efficient to be able to scale.”

Quantum computers allow the system to do super-fast calculations to figure out which molecules are best to use and quickly eliminate those that don’t work.

The platform works by scanning computer models of billions of different molecules. It identifies the molecules that could treat a particular disease by attacking and stopping the activity of a particular protein that changes the course of the disease. In cancer, certain molecules could stop the cancer cells’ DNA from replicating. In viruses, certain molecules could stop the replication of the RNA.

“Finding these molecules will stop the disease,” says Keinan, adding that these molecules then become prescriptions or blueprints for drugs.

“We’re just trying to find the perfect molecule or key that fits exactly into the protein’s keyhole,” she says.

Polarisqb used a digital annealer, a quantum-inspired technology developed by Fujitsu that is able to perform parallel optimization calculations in real time with a speed, precision and size that is unmatched by classical computing. The collaboration with Fujitsu expands the number of molecules sought from 10 million to trillions of molecules and thus increases the probability of finding new, useful drug candidates.

“The new solution from Polarisqb and Fujitsu shortens the time frame for drug discovery and lead optimization from up to 48 months to just eight months,” says Alex Brown, Drug Discovery Consultant at Fujitsu.

Traditionally, scientists have done this in laboratories and conducted experiments to exclude molecules or find effective ones. But this process of trial and error is lengthy and costly, and one of the reasons why the average drug takes about a decade to develop.

“Either you do it slowly and very expensive,” says Keinan. “Or you find a new technology; and we do. “

You can find more information about investing in Polaris Quantum Biotech HERE.

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Women’s Health

Why a former Ro exec set out to start her own digital health startup

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Rachel Blank left Ro last year to start Allara. The startup focuses on helping women cope with PCOS and other complex diseases. Image credit: Allara

After serving two years as Director of Strategy for Digital Health Unicorn Ro, Rachel Blank set out last year to start a new company based on her own health experiences.

In September, she founded Allara Health with the aim of helping women treat polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), a condition that affects an estimated one in ten women. It’s a common cause of infertility, but it affects much more than that – a large percentage of people with PCOS are also insulin resistant, and the condition is also linked to anxiety and depression.

In most cases, it takes years to diagnose and little is known about what actually causes the disease.

Blank found this out from personal experience. She was diagnosed with PCOS 10 years ago after dealing with unexplained health problems for years.

“That was not only a surprise, but especially for me because I grew up the daughter of a gynecologist,” she said in a Zoom interview. “Even when I was diagnosed, I didn’t feel like I ever made a good path in the healthcare system. I never knew where to go, which doctors to see, what to do. I found doctors very dismissive or said things like, ‘If you’re not trying to get pregnant, I don’t really know what to do for you.’ “

The pandemic spurred her to think more about her health and she started doing her own research. She found large communities of women on the internet trying to put together the same questions she was faced with.

“That was that big aha moment for me,” she said. “I can bring in not only my personal experience, but also my professional experience in the field of digital health and, to be honest, build something better.”

Blank is no stranger to women’s health. While at Ro, she ran one of the company’s direct-to-consumer brands, Rory, which offered prescription and wellness treatments for menopausal women. Before that, she worked as an investor for General Catalyst.

At Allara, her goal is to focus more on improving access to specialized treatments, an area that is often overlooked by other women’s health startups that are more focused on primary care or fertility.

“Where I saw this massive void was the specialty care,” she said. “What to do if you not only need contraception but are also not ready for IVF? There is really nowhere you can go in traditional healthcare or digital healthcare right now. “

The New York startup offers virtual visits to gynecologists and endocrinologists as well as nutritional advice and coaching. You also have the option of ordering diagnostics such as a blood test or medication if necessary. Allara currently charges a $ 125 monthly subscription model for all of its services, although going forward, Blank said the company plans to offer it as an employee benefit and offer more point solutions.

Allara currently operates in six states but hopes to be in all 50 states by the end of the year. The company has started visiting patients in the past few months. Around 35,000 women have either signed up for the service or expressed their interest.

In the longer term, Blank hopes to expand to other, often overlooked diseases such as endometriosis and uterine fibroids.

“This motivates me and motivates my entire team to understand the massive impact we have not only on a woman’s everyday life and her daily feelings, but also on her health outcomes,” she said, “.

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Women’s Health

County needs a trauma-informed facility for female inmates

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On Tuesday, June 15, the Travis County Commissioners Court will vote on whether or not to approve a $ 4.3 million design services contract for the proposed Travis County Trauma Informed Women’s Facility Project. The design of the project is influenced by the tremendous efforts of an advisory committee that issued recommendations based on months of work with interviews with female inmates and research into best practices.

The purpose of this project is not to increase detention capacity; Rather, it is about replacing outdated and inefficient facilities and building a holistic facility that houses female inmates in one building, with access to on-site gender-specific medical services, trauma-informed care and counseling, psychosocial support system, vocational training and other programs.

This project is the first of many outlined in Travis County’s current prison facilities master plan, which suggests that at least seven buildings in the prison complex are in disrepair and have been in use for longer than originally intended. I do not support the replacement of all of these buildings. I support the proposed women’s facility that addresses the needs of women from a trauma-informed perspective. If women were placed in a facility with only women and their medical needs attended to, the facility would be safer for women and the officials who protect them.

In addition, a facility that enables the continuous supply of mental health and vocational training services can begin to address the core issues related to the social determinants of health critical to the inmate’s rehabilitation and ensure successful re-entry into the to ease society after they have served their time.

Many prisoners have a background of poverty. The simple fact is that for people living near the poverty line, the prison is the primary place for mental health and medical care. I am not happy about this, but as a Travis County Commissioner, it is my duty to provide for the primary needs of the people who are in our care. I will not fail to improve the existing services without a specific program to replace these much-needed services.

The best of intentions without the appropriate resources can withhold necessary treatment options from members of the community. Lawyers who oppose the Women’s Facility Project fail to recognize the complexities of the issues or the fact that neither the state nor the local government has invested in the necessary resources to provide mental health services outside of prison. Travis County needs more access to drug beds and services for commonly diagnosed mental health problems.

I support parallel efforts to increase these services and provide more distraction, and I am ready to work with anyone who can help solve these complex problems; However, I cannot support pursuing this work at the expense of providing trauma-informed services to incarcerated women who, for various reasons, remain in our prison and under our care.

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