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Parasitic Worms Can Influence A Woman’s Likelihood Of Becoming Pregnant

Before you say gross, check this out:

Led by Prof. Aaron Blackwell, of the Department of Anthropology at the University of California-Santa Barbara (UCSB), the study found infection with different species of helminths – a class of intestinal parasitic worms – can either positively or negatively impact a woman’s fertility.

Helminth infection is widespread in developing countries; it is transmitted through eggs present in human feces, which contaminate soil in areas with poor sanitation. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimate that around 2 billion people across the globe are infected with soil-transmitted helminths.

The researchers decided to embark on their study after one of the authors Melanie Martin – also of the Department of Anthropology at UCSB – fell pregnant while investigating parasitic worms with her husband in Bolivia.

Martin became pregnant almost immediately after her arrival in the country, which she attributed to helminth infection. This begged the question: do the parasitic worms affect fertility?

To find out, Prof. Blackwell and his team analyzed 9 years of longitudinal data involving 986 women from Tsimane – an indigenous population of lowland Bolivia.

The researchers assessed the number of pregnancies each woman had and the incidence of infection with two of the most common helminths – giant roundworm (Ascaris lumbricoides) and hookworm (Necator americanus or Ancylostoma duodenale) – to determine whether there was a link.

Around 70% of the women had helminth infection, according to the researchers, and women from Tsimane have an average of 9 children in their lifetime.

The team found that women who were infected with roundworm were more likely to become pregnant, while those infected with hookworm had a lower chance of pregnancy.

Roundworm infection reduced the length of intervals between births over the course of reproductive lifetime, the results revealed, while hookworm infection increased birth intervals.

As a result, the researchers estimated hookworm-infected women would have three fewer children than uninfected women during the course of their reproductive lifespan, while roundworm-infected women would have two additional children.

Prof. Blackwell and colleagues say it is likely that roundworm and hookworm infections affect the immune system in a way that either positively or negatively impacts the chances of conception.

Findley v. Lee: Complete Decision In UCSF Embryo Custody Case

Dean from our office cross-examining Dr. Lee. This key portion of the trial was specifically cited by Judge Massullo in her ruling as raising serious doubts about Dr. Lee’s credibility.

For those interested, you can read Judge Anne-Christine Massullo’s entire 82 page ruling here:


Judge In UCSF Embryo Case Questioned Dr. Lee’s Credibility & Motivation For Seeking Embryos

Following withering cross-examination by Dean Masserman, the Judge concluded on page 72-73 of her ruling:

As the fact finder, this Court must make credibility determinations regarding testimony of the parties and other witnesses who testified at trial….After observing both Findley and Lee and carefully reviewing all the evidence at trial, this Court has serious concerns about Lee’s credibility, her failure to seek additional IVF treatments when she knew her marriage had ended, and her motive for seeking the Embryos in this case.

During her testimony, Lee was evasive, contradictory and admitted to providing prior testimony under penalty of perjury that was untrue.

UCSF Ruling: Divorced Couple’s Frozen Embryos Must Be Thawed And Discarded

While we continue to pour through the 80+ page ruling, one important takeaway from the landmark decision just issued by Judge Anne-Christine Massullo in our embryo disposition trial is that an embryo disposition contract is valid and enforceable under California law. This decision should allay any concern clinics and patients have regarding the enforceability of their embryo disposition agreements.

“It is a disturbing consequence of modern biological technology that the fate of nascent human life, which the embryos in this case represent, must be determined in a court by reference to cold legal principles,” Massullo wrote.

Dr. Mimi C. Lee, an anesthesiologist and musician, argued the embryos were her only chance to have a child of her own. Stephen Findley, her former husband, said he did not want to be tied to Lee for the rest of his life with a child and sought to have the fertility clinic agreement upheld. Massullo said the consent agreement was a binding contract.

“IVF clinics and individuals who participate in the IVF process must have some certainty about dispositional choices before embryos are created,” the judge wrote.

Lee, 46, discovered she had breast cancer just before her marriage and decided with Findley to create and store the embryos in 2010 to preserve her fertility. The couple divorced earlier this year, and her age now makes it extremely unlikely she could conceive a child. She testified during a trial in July that she considered the fertility clinic agreement a mere consent form, akin to a medical directive, and thought she could later change her mind.

But Judge Massullo said Lee signed the agreement “voluntarily and intelligently.” Massullo said she considered the embryos neither property nor human life. Instead, she wrote, they represented “the nascent stage of five human lives.”

Her decision generally followed rulings by courts in other states that have decided embryo disputes.

We will have some more thoughts on this ruling shortly but are obviously relieved that Judge Massullo embraced the arguments we made during the trial.

Tentative Decision Issued In UCSF Embryo Disposition Trial: Court Rules That Ex-Wife Cannot Use Embryos

A tentative decision in our trial out of San Francisco has just been issued. The Judge in the case of Findley v. Lee has found in favor of our client, The Center for Reproductive Health at the University of California, San Francisco (“UCSF”), and Stephen Findley, finding in pertinent part:

The Court holds that the Consent & Agreement Lee and Findley signed prior to their divorce controls and the intent of the parties at the time, as evidenced by that document, must be given conclusive effect….Specifically, the Court holds that while Lee might have a right to procreate in other circumstances not before the Court, she does not have a right to procreate with Findley, which is the issue presented.

We will have more on this ruling shortly.

DCFS Reviewing Utah Judge’s Removal of Foster Child From Same-Sex Couple

An update to our story from yesterday regarding the egregious conduct of Seventh District Juvenile Court Judge Scott Johansen:

Utah state child welfare officials are reviewing a juvenile court judge’s ruling to remove a baby from a foster home with a lesbian couple because of his apparent belief that the child is better off with heterosexuals. Seventh District Juvenile Court Judge Scott Johansen issued an order Tuesday that the Division of Child and Family Services remove a 1-year-old child from the home of a legally married same-sex couple within the next seven days, Utah DCFS Director Brent Platt told ABC News today. “I wasn’t in court that day but it’s my understanding that the judge alluded to some research he had that led him to believe that children being raised in a home with same-sex couples don’t fare as well as other children,” Platt said.

Beckie Peirce and April Hoagland have been fostering this baby girl for about three months, Platt said, and were in court for a routine hearing when the judge issued the order. Peirce and Hoagland have not responded to ABC News’ requests for comment on the judge’s order, which Platt says is unavailable in written form. “It had nothing to do with concerns with the foster parents or placement,” Platt said. “There are no concerns as far as the DCFS knows.”

Peirce and Hoagland went through all of the necessary steps to foster a child, including training, background checks and home studies, Platt said, and are legally allowed to foster following the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in June that made same-sex marriage legal nationwide. “There are plenty of people who would be more than willing to take in a 1-year-old baby,” Platt said. “The fact that we placed her with this couple means it’s a good fit.”

An official for the Utah State Courts told ABC News that the Utah Code of Judicial Conduct prevents judges and court staff from talking about pending cases. Following the judge’s decision, the Human Rights Campaign — a civil rights organization working to achieve LGBT equality — expressed shock and disappointment over the ruling.

“Removing a child from a loving home simply because the parents are LGBT is outrageous, shocking, and unjust,” HRC President Chad Griffin said in a statement. “At a time when so many children in foster care need loving homes, it is sickening to think that a child would be taken from caring parents who planned to adopt.”
DCFS attorneys are already involved and are gathering information, Platt said, and the division is hoping to receive the written court order today so they can weigh their options going forward and determine whether this ruling can be appealed or challenged.

Cambodia Government Planning On Classifying Surrogacy As Human Trafficking

Another popular destination for reproductive tourism might be closing its doors:

Fleeing strict new laws at home, surrogacy companies are moving their “wombs for rent” services from Thailand to Cambodia, causing some analysts to raise concerns that would-be parents could be swindled by the little-regulated industry.

Surrogacy and assisted reproductive technology are still in a legal gray area, as they are not explicitly protected or outlawed by Cambodian law. But this legal free-for-all may not last long. Government officials yesterday told Khmer Times that they plan to classify surrogacy as a form of human trafficking.

If the government imposes new regulations, they could prevent children born to surrogate mothers from leaving the country, meaning that would-be parents could find themselves unable to bring their newborn home.

Despite the risks, surrogacy is booming in Cambodia. Sixteen surrogacy clinics have opened in the country since the Thai government imposed strict new anti-surrogacy laws early this year. Demand from foreign couples, especially Chinese and Australian ones, is high. With other popular surrogacy destinations like Nepal and India closing their borders, Cambodia has become one of the few nations in the region open to couples seeking to have a child through surrogacy.

Surrogacy clinics, long tolerated by the Thai government, were kicked out after a pair of high-profile scandals last year. The first occurred when an Australian biological father left behind a baby born with Down’s Syndrome, while taking the boy’s healthy twin sister home to Australia.

The “Baby Gammy” case, as it came to be known, prompted further investigation into Thailand’s surrogacy industry, uncovering more sordid details. Investigators found that a Japanese businessman had fathered 16 children through different Thai surrogates, four of whom he took to Cambodia, in what local media described as a possible attempt to begin a child-trafficking ring.

In the wake of the scandals, the Thai government imposed a law banning foreign couples from seeking surrogacy in the country. Employees at companies there that provide surrogacy for profit are now faced with the threat of a 10-year prison sentence.

Many companies in Thailand’s lucrative surrogacy business have simply moved across the border into Cambodia. Last November, the Cambodian government issued a warning saying that surrogacy was illegal, but as of yet there are no formal laws banning it. A source who asked to remain confidential said that at least 20 couples from Australia alone have contracted with surrogacy companies in Cambodia….

Cambodian surrogacy has in fact become so popular that the Australian tourism website, smarttraveller.gov.au, issued a warning about the possible legal pitfalls of surrogacy in the Kingdom. “Australians are advised not to visit Cambodia for the purpose of engaging in commercial surrogacy arrangements,” the site warns.

Meanwhile, the Cambodian government is scrambling to create new laws to stop the fast-growing surrogacy industry before it expands. Touch Channy, spokesman for the Ministry of Social Affairs, said that government ministries will discuss how to manage the growing numbers of surrogacy clinics. “The ministries need to work together to ensure that this case doesn’t happen in Cambodia,” he said.

Though surrogacy sites advertise Cambodia as a safe option, Mr. Everingham argues that it is anything but. “It’s highly precarious based on what we’ve seen occurring in countries that have similar laws,” he said. “Thailand, India, and Nepal have all closed their borders [to people seeking surrogacy]. It’s highly likely that Cambodia will do the same.”

Pastor Thinks Parents Should Drown Themselves Instead Of Letting Their Kids Read ‘Harry Potter’

This homophobic nutball also believes that the movie Frozen could turn children gay:

If you don’t have the time to watch the video, here are the lowlights:

“America, repent that Dumbledore emerged as a homosexual mentor for Harry Potter, that Hiccup’s mentor in ‘How to Train Your Dragon’ emerged as a homosexual himself in order that history might repeat itself one more time,” Swanson said.

The pastor went on to suggest that it would be better “that a millstone be hanged around [the parents’] neck[s] and they be drowned at the bottom of the sea” than allowing their children to be “raised to be stumbled by the Dumbledores and by the mentors of Hiccup.”

Shouldn’t come as a surprise that Republicans Mike Huckabee, Bobby Jindal and Ted Cruz, all running for President, spoke at this Pastor’s religious freedom event.

Judge Removes Foster Child From LGBT Home Claiming Heterosexual Parents Are Better

This is just heinous and this judge ought to be impeached:

A Utah judge has ordered a baby to be removed from the foster home of her potential adoptive parents because the couple caring for her is gay, the New Civil Rights Movement reports.

April Hoagland and Beckie Peirce were shocked when Judge Scott Johansen ruled the little girl could not stay with them because he had seem some research indicating children with LGBT parents don’t do as well as those with heterosexual parents.

Hoagland called it “heartbreaking.”

“We’ve been told to care for this child like a mother would and I am her mother,” she told KUTV. “That’s who she knows, and she’s just going to be taken away in seven days… It’s just not fair, and it’s not right and it just hurts me really badly, because I haven’t done anything wrong.”

Though Johansen chalked the decision up to his own research, Peirce said she doesn’t buy it.

“I believe it’s a religious belief,” she told the station.

The couple already has two children, aged 12 and 14 and wanted to adopt the baby. The child’s biological mother also wants the baby to stay with the couple and has appealed the judge’s ruling.

The women, who are legally married and state-approved foster parents, said the judge refused to produce the evidence he cited, when asked.

In fact, research does not support the judge’s claim.

According to the Washington Post, studies show children with same-sex parents actually fare better in some ways than those with heterosexual parents. In other measures, children of same-sex couples are no different than their peers.

“It’s often suggested that children with same-sex parents have poorer outcomes because they’re missing a parent of a particular sex. But research my colleagues and I published in the journal BMC Public Health shows this isn’t the case,” lead researcher Simon Crouch wrote.

He suggested the higher degree of well being in children of same sex couples in physical and social health because these couples share responsibilities more equally than heterosexual couples.

“It is liberating for parents to take on roles that suit their skills rather than defaulting to gender stereotypes, where mum is the primary care giver and dad the primary breadwinner,” he wrote.

With India’s Reproductive Tourism Industry Closed, Patients Now Taking Great Risk By Considering Cambodia

Medical staff at work in a promotional video for a Cambodian fertility clinic

The fallout from India’s decision to shut down their reproductive tourism industry will likely include desperate patients turning towards Cambodia. But they do so at their own peril:

A booming surrogacy industry chased out of Thailand and Nepal has turned to Cambodia, where many Australians are ignoring warnings from their own government not to seek surrogacy services.

Up to 20 Australian couples have entered into surrogacy arrangements shrouded in secrecy in Cambodia, and many more have been considering the move, according to sources in Phnom Penh and Australia.

The Australian government’s travel advisory smartraveller.gov.au warns the act of commercial surrogacy, or commissioning commercial surrogacy, is illegal in Cambodia, with penalties including imprisonment and fines.

But at least 14 surrogacy clinics and agencies offering services to foreigners have opened in Phnom Penh since Thailand shut down its multimillion-dollar surrogacy industry after the Baby Gammy scandal last year.

Surrogacy groups fear that foreign biological parents and their babies born to surrogate mothers will become entangled in Cambodia’s murky and corrupt legal system, where there are no laws dealing directly with surrogacy and Cambodian authorities could treat surrogacy under draconian human trafficking laws.

They also warn that foreign parents engaging with surrogates in the country without legal protection are putting the surrogates, themselves and any babies they pay for at risk.

Many of the surrogates recruited to carry babies to be born in Cambodia are Thai women bypassing laws that criminalise commercial surrogacy in Thailand, raising the possibility of legal problems blocking parents taking their babies home from Phnom Penh after births.

More than 20 Australian couples were until last night among at least 50 families trapped in Kathmandu, unable to take their surrogate babies home after a Nepalese court outlawed commercial surrogacy in that country.


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Welcome to The Spin Doctor

Blogging about the legal, social and political issues of the day with an emphasis on reproductive rights and bioethics.

Recent Posts

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By Andrew Vorzimer
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October 2, 2015
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