Policy & Practice


Informed Consent Requirements

The Florida Supreme Court recently upheld as constitutional the state's requirement that physicians provide certain information to women before an abortion. But the court decision also held that while informed consent could be required, physicians do not have to provide “identical standardized” information to all patients. Instead, physicians can customize the informed consent information based on a patient's specific situation. The decision was praised by the Center for Reproductive Rights for limiting the scope of the law. “The Supreme Court has recognized what we have argued all along: Abortion providers should not be singled out and subjected to different requirements than any other medical providers,” Marshall Osofsky, the lead counsel in the case against the state of Florida said in a statement. “Any doctor must be able to use his or her own medical judgment to tailor the information provided to a patient in order to give the patient the best care.”

Breast Cancer Survival

Women who are socially isolated are more likely to die from breast cancer, according to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology. Researchers found that women without close relatives or friends had a 66% higher risk of dying from any cause and a twofold risk of dying from breast cancer. “This study suggests that friends and family members provide critical support in ways that actually help women survive their breast cancer,” lead investigator Candyce Kroenke, Ph.D., of the University of California, San Francisco and Berkeley, said in a statement. “They may be in better shape to talk to clinicians about treatment information, they may give patients rides to the pharmacy or to see their doctors, they may help ensure adequate nutrition, or they remind women to take their medications appropriately.” Dr. Kroenke advised physicians to ask patients with breast cancer about their social support network. The researchers analyzed data on more than 2,800 women from the Nurses' Health Study who were diagnosed with breast cancer. The study was funded by the National Cancer Institute, the National Institutes of Health, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Pregnancy Prevention

A group of House Republicans recently asked the Government Accountability Office to review the curricula of 24 federally funded teen pregnancy prevention programs for accuracy and age-appropriate content. “We are requesting an investigation into the content and accuracy of federally funded contraception education programs to assess whether the government is funding dangerous and unhealthy programs that promote sexual activity among our youth,” Rep. Donald A. Mazullo (R-Ill.) wrote in a letter to the GAO. The lawmakers specifically requested that GAO provide an analysis of federal spending for teen pregnancy and HIV/AIDS prevention programs, provide a list of the curricula and written materials used in each program, assess how the Department of Health and Human Services has reviewed the content for federally funded programs, and assess whether evaluations of the programs have been conducted by impartial researchers free of conflicts of interest.

AIDS Drug Assistance

Waiting lists and cost-containment measures continue to be a fact of life at the state and territorial AIDS Drug Assistance Programs (ADAPs) that serve as the primary drug safety net for individuals with HIV/AIDS, according to the National ADAP Monitoring Project annual report. As of February 2006, ADAPs in nine states had waiting lists totaling 791 individuals. The national ADAP budget was $1.3 billion in fiscal year 2005 and is spent almost entirely on direct client services for the more than 134,000 individuals enrolled across the country. The number of people on the waiting lists varies over time, but waiting lists have been in place in some states for several months, or even years. Bimonthly surveys conducted between July 2002 and February 2006 show that 12 ADAPs had waiting lists in 10 or more of the survey periods. The annual report is prepared by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors.

Mifepristone Review

Members of the House Pro-Life Caucus have urged the Food and Drug Administration to withdraw the abortifacient mifepristone from the market, pointing to reports of deaths of women who have taken the drug. The FDA is currently investigating those reports. Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett (R-Md.) introduced legislation last year (H.R. 1079) that would withdraw mifepristone from the market and begin a review into whether it was properly approved.

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