You know all those lawsuits now pending around the country charging that the Obama administration’s rule requiring most health insurance plans to offer no-cost contraception is a violation of religious freedom?
Well, a whole bunch of supporters of the rule are chiming in now to say that argument has no legal merit.
The dozen new suits, representing some 43 Catholic dioceses, universities and charities “have made a splash by virtue of their number, but when you take a moment to actually look at them, there’s nothing to see,” Sarah Lipton-Lubet, policy counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, wrote in a blog post. “The rule is constitutional, it violates no federal law, and it’s incredibly important for women.”
Lipton-Lubet is talking about the rules issued in January (and amended in February to address the religious backlash) that require prescription contraception and sterilization services to be available without additional copays as part of most health insurance packages.
While those filing the lawsuits charge that offering the coverage (or even being forced to facilitate it) in violation of their religious belief runs afoul of the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of religion, Lipton-Lubet points out that the Supreme Court has already weighed in on the question.
“The Free Exercise Clause does not require any exemptions from a neutral law of general applicability. As the Supreme Court held two decades ago, in an opinion authored by Justice Antonin Scalia, to do otherwise would be to create a system “in which each conscience is a law unto itself.” Translation? If it applies equally and doesn’t target any faith, it’s not a First Amendment violation.”
(Backers of the church challenges, however, point to a more recent case, a unanimous ruling this past January, where the justices said religious organizations should have broader hiring and firing power than other businesses.)
But even setting the Supreme Court aside, pointed out Ian Milhiser of the Center for American Progress, more than half the states already require contraceptive coverage. And the issue has already been litigated at that level by the Catholic church — and the challengers lost.
In 1999, in California, Milhiser wrote, “five of the court’s six Republican justices held that, even if the law were examined under the strictest level of constitutional scrutiny, California’s contraceptive access law is constitutional.”
And even if the issues hadn’t been litigated before, the current cases are premature, says Nancy Northup of the Center for Reproductive Rights. That’s because the work on the regulations remains ongoing.
“This is the most cynical kind of political theater and nothing more,” she said in a statement. “Rather than working constructively with the Administration and allowing the rulemaking process to reach a resolution, these groups have chosen to grab headlines with a political stunt that will only burden the courts with untimely claims.”
But even though most religious-based organizations will have an additional year – until August 1, 2013 – to come into compliance with the new requirements, some are already taking action.
The 2,800 student Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio, for example, announced earlier this month that it would stop offering health insurance coverage for students this fall rather than comply with the mandate. [Copyright 2012 National Public Radio]
Majorities In Senate And Public Support Birth Control Coverage
by Julie Rovner and Scott Hensley
- March 1, 2012
The Senate has turned back an attempt to kill President Obama’s new rules requiring most health insurance plans to provide contraceptives without additional cost.
The 51-48 vote against an amendment to an unrelated highway bill (Yes, that’s just how the Senate works) was mostly along party lines.
Missouri Republican Roy Blunt, the amendment’s sponsor said its goal was a simple one. “I believe what this does is protect First Amendment rights. The first freedom in the founding documents is freedom of religion,” he said.
The amendment would have allowed employers to opt out of the mandate to cover birth control. It was the latest in a series of collisions between the right to follow one’s conscience and the demands of society.
Senate Democrats, like New Jersey’s Frank Lautenberg, said the amendment’s language was so vague it would allow employers to deny coverage of any benefit to which they had a religious or moral objection.
“Imagine that your boss is going to decide whether or not you’re acting morally,” he said.
The Obama administration weighed in on the language last night, with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius calling it, “a cynical attempt to roll back decades of progress in women’s health.”
After the vote, the Coalition to Protect Women’s Health Care, a consortium of women’s health advocates, said in a statement, “We believe, as do the majority of Americans, that health care decisions should be made between doctors and patients, not employers.”
And there are fresh poll data out from the Kaiser Family Foundation that show that’s the case. Overall, 63 percent of Americans support the birth control coverage mandate. But among Republicans that support drops to 42 percent, according to the poll conducted last month. [Copyright 2012 National Public Radio]
Build-A-Bear Workshop #Recalls Colorful Hearts Teddy Bears more at NPR http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2011/12/30/144483467/build-a-bear-workshop-recalls-colorful-hearts-teddy-bears?sc=17&f=1128
by The Associated Press
The Associated Press - December 21, 2011
Wal-Mart has pulled a batch of powdered infant formula from its stores nationwide after a newborn Missouri boy who was given the formula became gravely ill with a suspected bacterial infection and died after being taken off life support, the retailer said Wednesday.
No government recall had been ordered for the 12.5-ounce cans of Enfamil Newborn powder with the lot number ZP1K7G. Manufacturer Mead Johnson Nutrition said its records showed the lot tested negative for the bacterium before it was shipped.
But Wal-Mart spokeswoman Dianna Gee said the company decided to pull the lot “out of an abundance of caution” while health officials investigate Sunday’s death of 10-day-old Avery Cornett. The product could go back on shelves depending on the outcome of the investigation, but customers who bought the cans have the option of returning them for a refund or exchange, Gee said.
Gena Terlizzi, spokeswoman for the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, said Wednesday that samples of the formula given to Avery were sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for testing.
“At this point it has not been determined whether the illness is linked to the formula or an outside source,” Terlizzi said in a statement.
The Lebanon Daily Record reported that Avery was taken to St. John’s Hospital-Lebanon late last week after appearing lethargic and displaying what his family said were signs of a stomach ache. He was later moved to St. John’s Hospital-Springfield, and preliminary tests showed that he had contracted a rare bacterial infection, Cronobacter sakazakii, the newspaper reported. He died Sunday after being removed from life support.
Avery had been fed Enfamil Newborn powder bought at a Wal-Mart store in Lebanon. The store stopped selling the product after learning of his death.
Christopher Perille, a spokesman for Glenview, Ill.-based Mead Johnson Nutrition, said Enfamil Newborn powder is sold at a variety of retailers, but he didn’t have information about whether other companies received units from the lot now being investigated. He also said he didn’t know how many Wal-Mart stores, and in which states, received formula from the batch.
Perille said all of the company’s infant formula products are put through a battery of tests as they are produced, packaged and sealed.
“One of the things every batch of product is tested for is Cronobacter,” Perille said. “We went back and checked on the batch in question, and it had tested negative for Cronobacter.”
Public health investigators seeking the source of Avery’s infection will also look at environmental factors, such as the water used in preparing the powdered formula, and at anything else the baby might have ingested, Perille said.
The Missouri Department of Health is advising parents to follow World Health Organization guidelines for safely preparing powdered infant formula, Terlizzi said.
“This includes washing your hands with soap and water, thoroughly sterilizing all feeding equipment in hot, soapy water and preparing enough formula for only one feeding at a time,” she said. [Copyright 2011 The Associated Press]
Reposted on tumblr. with photo of exemplar ENFAMIL Premium Newborn formula by:
Ditch This Massager, If It Shows Up Under The Christmas Tree
by Scott Hensley
- December 21, 2011
NPR reports on WALMART pulling ENFAMIL NEWBORN, in 12.5 ounce cans, after a death is reportedly suspected in the death of a Missouri boy. The manufacturer, is quoted as claiming the product tested negative for bacterium prior to shipping. An investigation is ongoing following the death of 10 Day Old Newborn. At least WALMART is not taking any chances. Whether a link to the formula and death can be established remains under investigation.
Generic Lipitor Now At Stores Near You
by Scott Hensley
- December 19, 2011
NPR reports on 2nd Death reported in conjunction with use of popular home remedy “Neti-Pot” or similar devices. Apparently, used to squeeze fluids into the nose or sinus areas, they have recently been linked to 2 deaths from rare infections. Essentially, these nasal irrigation devices can be used to flush the sinus passages, but officials are warning to use caution and distilled or filtered water.
This caught my attention as anyone who has had an infant knows that a similar device is used to clear their noses. Please consider reposting.
With Doubts, FDA Panel Votes For #YAZ And Related Contraceptives
by Richard Knox
Why Burn Doctors Hate Instant Soup by Mara Zepeda -
December 5, 2011
Instant cups of soup — the kind that often come in a Styrofoam cup full of noodles — send children to the hospital every day. “I don’t have them in my house,” says Dr. Warren Garner, director of the burn unit at University of Southern California’s County Hospital in Los Angeles. “I would say that we see at least two to three patients a week who’ve been injured by these products.” These soups are dangerous because of the way the cups are designed. The cups are tall, lightweight, and have an unstable base that makes them tip over easily. At Garner’s unit, the most common cases are small children, often toddlers, accidentally tipping the cup over on to themselves. “It pulls down on top of them,” Garner says. “The hot liquid then burns their chest, arms, torso, sometimes their privates, occasionally their legs.” He says there’s no other injury that he sees as regularly that can be so directly attributed to a product’s design, and calls these soups “uniquely troublesome.” Through calls to a dozen burn units at hospitals across the country, we learned that this is a common phenomenon, with children being the most frequent victims. Eight of the 12 hospitals said they see the injury several times a week. One hospital located in Washington D.C. says they regularly see 5-6 patients a week with the injury, especially during the colder months. Noodle soup is strangely perfect for delivering a serious burn. The sticky noodles cling to the skin, which leads to deeper, more severe burns, according to a study published in 2007. The study showed that hospital stays for upper body noodle-soup burns are more than twice as long as scalds from hot liquids alone. Garner says that about one in five children he sees with the burns end up needing surgery, and these patients can face permanent scarring and limited mobility in their joints. But not all noodle soup cups are equally dangerous. To illustrate this point, I visited an Asian grocery store with Dr. David Greenhalgh, Chief of Burns at Shriner’s Hospital for Children in Northern California, and the author of a study entitled “Instant Cup of Soup: Design Flaws Increase Risk of Burns.” He swats at eight brands, and describes how some containers tip more easily than others. “Seems like we get a scald burn and [we’d say], ‘Well, what’s this from? Oh, another cup of noodles soup,’” says Greenhalgh, describing his experience at Shriner’s. “It just came to me. It was like, ‘Wow, it’s a very simple test. Can you knock over one kind of cup more than another?’” That was the study’s question. To test it, the study authors went to they grocery store and bought 11 brands of soup manufactured all over the world and calculated the angle at which the soup tipped over and spilled. Not surprisingly, tall cups with a narrow bottom tip over about three times more easily than short, squat containers with a wide, stable base. (Here’s the study.) Cup Noodles by Nissin is one of the most prone-to-tip brands in Greenhalgh’s study. It is also one of the cheapest and most popular. Nissin invented the product forty years ago, and has sold more than 25 billion worldwide. Cup Noodles spills at 22 degrees. Compare that to the best performer, a brand called Nicecook, which has a shallow, squat container. You need to turn Nicecook almost vertical— 64 degrees— before it tips over. Greenhalgh says this problem might have an elegant and potentially low-cost solution. Imagine a Yoplait yogurt container— skinny on top and wide on the bottom. In other words, just invert the design of the cup. “All you have to do is flip it over,” says Greenhalgh. “It would seem to be a very easy thing to do and think I could get some of my team members to go to one of the companies and say, ‘Here why don’t you try this?’” I reached out to Nissin and manufacturers of some of the other “tippiest” cups in Greenhalgh’s study. Every company declined to comment or failed to get back to me. Greenhalgh calculates that his simple change— inverting the design of the cup— would make Cup Noodles almost three times less likely to tip, comparable to the safest brand in his study. [Copyright 2011 NPR]