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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

Women’s Lives And Health: Mere Abstractions In The Leaked Dobbs Abortion Opinion

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The shock over the leak of Justice Samuel Alito’s draft opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization has left many asking how the Supreme Court could so easily overturn a near 50 year precedent protecting women’s legal right to abortion.

Of course, anyone following the direction of the court in recent years is not entirely surprised by the draft opinion. The court has increasingly prioritized religious rights over other rights and public health, including in cases focused on LGBTQ+ rights, women’s health, and COVID-19 restrictions. The strength of the textualist and originalist approach employed by Alito in the draft opinion (and apparently sanctioned by the conservative majority of the Court), believed a dark future for women’s rights and health.

Indeed, the opinion paints the realities of women’s lives in 2022 through rose-colored glasses—when it mentions them at all. To reach its apparent goal of overturning the two major abortion precedents, Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, this new Supreme Court treats women’s lives and health as mere abstractions

Women’s Lives In 2022 Through Rose-Colored Glasses

Alito spends much of the opinion arguing that the word, “abortion” is not in the Constitution and that it is not “deeply rooted in the nation’s history.” But Alito’s textualist and originalist approach to abortion not only obscures the legal and social context of women’s lives in the past, it entirely decontextualizes their lives today.

Indeed, he makes almost no attempt to balance the interests of women–their health, mental health, economic security, and caretaking obligations–with the interests of the state in restricting or banning abortion. He devotes less than two pages of the 67 page draft opinion to the effect of banning abortion on women’s lives. In a few sentences, he dismisses the Roe and Casey courts’ consideration of women’s autonomy and equal opportunity and quickly concludes that in 2022, women are empowered enough that if they experience an unwanted pregnancy, they needn’t worry.

His claims are these: Women are no longer ostracized as single mothers, there are legal protections against pregnancy discrimination in the workplace, they have access to health insurance while pregnant, and they are eligible for parental leave “in many cases.” The reality of women’s lives in 2022 is vastly different than the one Alito depicts.

Alito’s cheery scenario completely erases the facts about pregnancy and motherhood in the US The US has the highest rate of maternal mortality among wealthy countries, double the rate of its closest peers. The rate for Black women is three times that of white women. It is far from certain that all women have access to insurance during pregnancy. Low-income women and women of color are most likely to be uninsured during pregnancy.

The US is also the only developed country and only one of 6 in the world that does not guarantee paid maternity leave. Childcare is prohibitively expensive for many families. The opinion is devoid of any social, racial and economic context.

The status of women’s reproductive health in the US and the gross racial and socioeconomic health disparities among women receive no attention at all. Alito’s only mention of race is to suggest, in a footnote, that the practice of abortion derives from the eugenics movement which sought to sterilize women of color as a means to reduce the population of Black people, a claim made by his colleague, Justice Clarence Thomas in his concurring opinion in Box v. Planned Parenthood.

The claim has been widely rebutted by historians and utterly confused autonomous decision-making by women with state sanctioned forced sterilization. What is more, this line of reasoning overlooks persistently high rates of Black maternal morbidity and mortality, a public health and human rights crisis that has been largely ignored by policymakers for decades.

Research shows that access to safe abortion reduces maternal mortality. A 2019 study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine shows that states with the most restrictive abortion laws and policies have significantly higher maternal mortality. Other studies of the link between abortion access and maternal mortality have demonstrated a similar association. Because a majority of Black women live in the South and Southern states are most likely to further restrict or ban abortion if the Court overturns Roe and Casey, the Court’s decision is likely to exacerbate the Black maternal health crisis.

”To Participate Equally In The Economic And Social Life Of The Nation”

Alito excoriates the 1973 Roe court for its “fact-finding,” including its citation of the amicus briefs submitted by the American Medical Association and the American Public Health Association about the harms of illegal abortion on women’s health and well-being. To Alito, it is not the role of the court to engage in this kind of “fact-finding” because interpretation of the Constitution should not involve consideration of the effect of law on real people. Entertaining the complexities of women’s lives would make legal analysis and reasoning much too messy for the Court.

Indeed, Alito asserts that the Roe court’s consideration of two factors—“the relative weights of the respective interests involved” and the “demands of the profound problems of the present day”—represented legislating, not judicial interpretation. So, should no medical, public health or social science evidence about the effect of access to abortion on women’s health and well-being ever be considered by a court?

Similarly, Alito rejects, as completely unworkable, the Casey court’s “undue burden” standard, which it defined as policies that placed a “substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion before the fetus attains viability.” But it is clear from the Dobbs opinion that he cannot fathom any burden so great that it would reduce the state’s power to restrict or ban abortion. He derides the Roe and Casey courts for balancing women’s liberty interest in controlling their reproductive lives with the interest in “potential life.”

Abortion, he argues, is different from other interests the Court has deemed to be liberty interests because many people believe it constitutes taking the life of an “unborn human being”; the Court, therefore, should not weigh in. Following this line of thinking, one would have to conclude that women have no interest so substantial that it would outweigh state power to restrict or prohibit access to abortion.

He also wholeheartedly rejects the notion of reliance put forth by the Casey court when it asserted that “the ability of women to participate equally in the economic and social life of the nation has been facilitated by their ability to control their reproductive lives.” Rather than entertain such a reliance interest, Alito asserts that it “is hard for anyone—and in particular, for a court—to assess, namely, the effect of the abortion right on society and in particular on the lives of women.”

So, if courts shouldn’t be addressing complexities, who should? Women, Alito asserts, have great political power; if they want to have legal abortion, they should simply elect pro-choice candidates. He points to Mississippi (the state that is testing the constitutionality of pre-viability abortions) as an example of women’s enormous political power, citing the fact that in the 2020 election women cast more ballots than did men.

Obscured by this rosy picture of American democracy are some uncomfortable realities. Mississippi is one of six states in the US that does not allow no excuse in-person or mail-in voting. Women make up just 14% of the Mississippi state legislature, while they are 52% of the population.

Now, place those disparities in relief against the realities of Mississippi women’s reproductive health and experiences of motherhood. They are atrocious: In 2019, nearly a quarter of all births in Mississippi are to parents who live in maternal health care deserts; nearly half of Medicaid covered mothers reported no postpartum visit. Children fare no better. Mississippi has the country’s highest infant mortality rate and the highest poverty rate in the nation, with 28 percent of children living in poverty.

The Future Of Women’s Health And Equality

Alito’s opinion reveals not just the Court’s readiness to overturn nearly 50 years of the constitutional protection for legal abortion. It gives the Court permission to distance itself from any of the consequences its decisions have for the lives of real people, especially the most disenfranchised and marginalized.

At oral argument, Justice Brett Kavanaugh suggested that the Court must use “scrupulous neutrality” in the abortion debate to avoid having to “pick sides.” In essence, this court wishes to wash its hands of the issue and let the chips fall where they may. At the end of the opinion, Alito matter-of-factly states, “we do not pretend to know how our political system or society will respond to today’s decision overruling Roe and Casey. And even if we could foresee what will happen, we would have no authority to let that knowledge influence our decision. We can only do our job, which is to interpret the law…”

In other words, what this decision will mean for women’s health, safety, autonomy, and equal opportunity and for the well-being of their children is of no consequence to this court.

Alito’s texualist and originalist approach to constitutional interpretation presumes that there is one correct interpretation and that courts should play no role in considering the practical implications of their decisions.

But courts, including the Supreme Court, consider the practical and social impact of their decisions all the time. As constitutional scholar Melissa Murray has pointed out, in overruling the legal doctrine of “separate but equal,” the Court in Brown v. Board of Education considered a broad range of social science evidence regarding the effects of racial segregation on educational opportunity and on Black children’s psychological health. The draft opinion’s refusal to consider the practical effects of their decision on women underscores the conservative capture of the court and further deepens the loss of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Ginsburg, mostly in dissent, consistently reminded the court’s majority of the realities of women’s daily lives and health, often citing medical and public health evidence. To Ginsburg, abstraction and exclusion of women’s lives in the name of neutrality has long been used to obscure injustice. She saw that the Court’s chipping away at Roe by sanctioning state restrictions on abortion was most harmful to low-income women.

In a 2019 interview with the BBC, she warned that women and their allies should care about abortion rights the way they did in 1973, lest those rights be completely eroded. With the leak of Alito’s draft opinion and the likelihood that the Court will overturn Roe and Casey in June, it is well past time for the majority of Americans who support legalized abortion to take her admonition seriously.

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Women’s Health

Address mental health issues among adolescents and young women

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Mother calming frustrated daughter [File]

Mental health has an impact on many aspects of our daily lives, more so for adolescents and young women. Globally, about 20 percent of adolescents and young people experience mental health problems.

In Kenya, one out of four people who seek healthcare has a mental health condition. As Kenya cut the chase to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals 2030 agenda, truth is, it cannot be fully achieved unless mental health is addressed.

One of the major hindrances to the development of quality mental health services is that we are among the 28 percent of WHO member countries that do not have a separate budget for mental health.

The state of mind in which an adolescent and young person makes an informed choice determines the success of a particular intervention in sexual and reproductive health. Adolescents and young women who have no power to make a choice over their reproductive life, including rape, negotiating for safe sex, intimate partner violence and coercive control could face other consequences apart from mental health.

If pregnancies were not unwanted, fact is, abortions would not take place. There are myths surrounding the mental health of women who procure safe and legal abortion. For instance, anti-abortion researchers have persisted in trying to prove abortion’s harmful mental health effects; that if a woman procures an abortion, it threatens her fertility; that they become suicidal or risk breast cancer. None of this is true.

Instead, about 20-40 per cent of women in developing countries experience mental health issues such as depression during pregnancy or after childbirth. Induced abortion is not associated with an increase in breast cancer risk or fertility. Safe and legal abortion of an unwanted pregnancy does not pose a psychological hazard. Psychological research shows that women who had an abortion following an unintended pregnancy are not at any higher risk of subsequent mental health problems than are women whose unintended pregnancy is carried to term. Further, adolescents and young women who are denied abortions are more likely to experience higher levels of anxiety, lower life satisfaction and lower self-esteem compared with those who are able to obtain abortions.

Adolescent girls and young women are at an increased risk of mental health and psycho-social issues as a result of societal and gendered norms. For instance, in many communities, conversations around sex and abortion are taboo, therefore, adolescents and young women have no access to accurate information or parental support prior to sexual debut that would help to prevent unintended pregnancies and process the internalized shame after an abortion.

Hence, the circumstance of secrecy and stigma may pose barriers to disclosing an unintended pregnancy, or experimentation with abortion, to a parent. This barrier extends to the healthcare workers when it comes to follow-up to check how adolescent girls and young women are coping psychologically after an abortion.

Adolescent girls and young women’s SRHR have been largely overlooked in mental health research globally. There is a need for attention to issues such as sexual violence and trafficking, female genital mutilation, girl-child marriage and access to safe abortion.

To ensure that mental health remains a key determinant of overall health and wellbeing, the government should take measures to implement the Kenya Mental Health Policy 2015-2030 in order to achieve optimal health status and capacity of each individual.

Mental Health Adolescents

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Women’s Health

Editorial: Roe v. Wade could soon be history. What will you do in this moment? – Decaturish

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By State Sen. Elena Parent

A political earthquake struck the United States on Monday, May 2, 2022. Politico published a leaked draft Supreme Court opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization that showed 5 conservative Supreme Court justices had voted to explicitly overturn Roe v. Calf.

For half a century, since Roe in 1973 (reaffirmed in 1992’s Planned Parenthood v. Casey), women across the country have had a constitutional right to end a pregnancy pre-viability. That will end if this draft opinion becomes official, devastating women’s reproductive rights in many states across the country, including Georgia. While not completely unexpected, the draft opinion is extreme in both its rhetoric and judicial philosophy. The impact will be seismic, and more than half of US women could lose their right to abortion or see it severely restricted.

The opinion, written by Justice Samuel Alito, rests on an originalist judicial philosophy: rights that are not explicitly mentioned in the Constitution nor deeply rooted in the country’s history and tradition are not worthy of constitutional protection. Taken at face value, this can logically be extrapolated to mean that no right based on the right to privacy given over the past 60-plus years is a right after all, and all should be returned to legislatures to decide. gay marriage? Interracial marriage? Right to use contraception? All in question.

For women’s health specifically, the decision could have ramifications for access to birth control, the morning-after pill, and medication abortions. The Georgia Senate passed a bill with restrictions on medication abortions this past session, which did not pass the House. I expect that this bill, and others more restrictive, will see a renewed push when we reconvene. Some states, like Louisiana and Tennessee, have already begun to criminalize abortion, which could put women who have had miscarriages, already facing stress and heartbreak, in jeopardy of being falsely charged. Women’s rights to control their bodies, their families, their careers, and their lives are at risk. This means that women’s equality is at risk. According to the Brennan Center, one of the leading indicators of the health of a democracy is the status of rights for women. I do not overstate the risk of this decision could have on not just women, but our entire democracy.

If this opinion is adopted, the impact on Georgia would be profound. Even though a majority of Georgians support the right to choose, the Republican-controlled General Assembly passed HB 481, also known as the ‘heartbeat bill’, in 2019. This banned all abortions after fetal cardiac activity is first detected, at approximately six weeks of pregnancy—prior to when many women know they are pregnant. This law was blocked by the courts, but a Supreme Court decision undermining federal protection for abortion would pave the way for its implementation. Republican candidates in Georgia have already promised to pass an outright ban on abortion, without exceptions. A majority male Legislature, Governor, and Supreme Court making these hypocritical decisions for women is infuriating.

Ironically, Georgia otherwise does a poor job elevating women and children. Georgia is number 1 in maternal mortality and ranked 38th on an index of child well-being by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, which looks at 16 categories from poverty to access to education. Implementation of HB 481 means that women will have to remain pregnant, but upon birth, the state will not be as concerned about the outcomes of this woman or her child.

But HB 481 is even more radical than that. It grants personhood to an unborn fetus, giving it rights equal to the woman carrying it. The “logic” here is to set the foundation for a complete and total ban on abortion. This opens a legal and ethical minefield that was not vetted during the consideration of the legislation and could lead to all kinds of restrictions on the lives and freedoms of pregnant women. The law requires that the father provide support for prenatal care, but there is no safe way to test for paternity that early in a pregnancy. What if women engage in risky behaviors? What actions could be taken and by whom? Could women be surveyed for their pregnancy? How will this effect fertility treatments like IVF? Will this limit a couple’s ability to fertilize more eggs than they wish to carry? Much of this will be decided when the lawsuits begin. The father of the fetus, and friends and family members of the pregnant woman, will also be under a microscope should something go wrong with a pregnancy.

If this decision is confirmed, what can we do? First and foremost, we must exercise our power and vote. 68% of Georgians oppose overturning Roe v. Wade according to a recent AJC poll. This upcoming midterm will be critical for women and all Georgians. We must elect pro-choice candidates like Senator Raphael Warnock. Stacey Abrams as Governor and Jen Jordan as Attorney General will have a significant influence on how these laws are implemented. We have the chance to flip legislative seats all over the state. We can advocate for pro-choice policies. This may be as simple as writing an email to State and Federal lawmakers, or as complex as organizing to wield the immense political and economic power held by pro-choice Americans. We can donate to organizations that are advocating and litigating these issues like Planned Parenthood or to organizations supporting access for poor women and women of color, who will be disproportionately impacted by this decision.

When the public so disproportionately favors abortion rights, the cause is not hopeless. Yes, abortion opponents have stacked the courts and gerrymandered the districts. But if the people rise up, these rights can be restored. What do you want to do at this moment?

State Senator Elena Parent was elected to the State Senate in 2014. She represents District 42, which includes portions of central and north DeKalb County

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