It is no secret that Americans are freaking out about Ebola. According to a Washington Post poll from last week, two-thirds of Americans are suffering from “Fear-bola,” a hyper-contagious “disease” that affects the brain, making sufferers fear a widespread Ebola outbreak in the United States. In response, a number of news sources, like Vox, have worked to convey how minor the risk of outbreak is to everyday Americans. However, the disease has claimed over 4,800 lives and is still a significant and dangerous threat in many countries in West Africa. Estimates of the future impact of Ebola in the region are frightening, and the virus is also compounding other existing global health concerns, like malaria. Furthermore, Ebola not only kills many who are afflicted by the disease, but is also afflicting the economy in many West African countries which pushes these countries further behind economically. Read more…
Turning on the news, it seems like all that anyone is talking about these days is the Ebola virus. From the news, to our offices, to our conversations amongst friends, we’ve been hearing every day about what symptoms to look for, how to safeguard against it, and how far it might spread. One American man has already died in Dallas, and two are in treatment in Atlanta and Bethesda. To be sure, it’s a deadly, scary disease, and our world community should be treating this outbreak with extreme caution.
Amidst the fear of an outbreak in America, we’ve been hearing from some news commentators that we need to introduce a travel ban for West Africa; denying visas to anyone traveling from West Africa. This idea has made its way from media circles to popular sentiment, as now two-thirds of Americans support denying entry to people traveling from the affected countries. Given this popularity, the travel ban has now become an easy way for politicians to score points with voters. Both the Republican and Democratic Senate candidates in the hotly-contested races of North Carolina and New Hampshire now favor a travel ban as a way of preventing contact between West Africa to America. Read more…
Last year, Angelina Jolie made national news after revealing that she had undergone a preventive double mastectomy because she had a BRCA1 gene mutation which dramatically increased her risk of developing breast and ovarian cancers. Last week, Myriad Genetics, Inc., a company well known for its breakthrough research showing the connection between BRCA gene mutations and an increased risk for breast and ovarian cancer, was at the Federal Circuit defending some of its patents related to the BRCA genes. BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes produce proteins which suppress tumors, and consequently people with BRCA mutations are at a greater risk for certain cancers. This case is especially important to Ashkenazi Jews because Jews of Ashkenazi descent are more likely to have harmful BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations than the general public.
Ebola is not the only important health-related news from Texas this week. Thursday, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that all but seven facilities that provide abortion services must close immediately, leaving 900,000 women more than 150 miles from the nearest clinic. The Circuit Court overturned a lower court ruling that sought to strike down the provision requiring all reproductive health care facilities to abide by the building requirements of an ambulatory surgical center (ASC), a category of facilities that provide vastly different services than reproductive health clinics. Now clinics must either stop providing abortion services or undergo significant renovations, the later proving effectively impossible due to cost. The Fifth Circuit’s decision remains final unless advocates appeal to the Supreme Court.
In yesterday’s decision, Judge Jennifer Elrod opined, “In our circuit, we do not balance the wisdom or effectiveness of a law against the burdens the law imposes,” an assertion that blatantly contradicts the established undue burden standard for reviewing abortion rights cases. Even Texas, with its severely restrictive reproductive rights laws, recognizes in some form the importance of the undue burden standard; state law that requires a woman to see a providing physician at least 24 hours before an abortion procedure exempts women who live more than 100 miles from their nearest clinic, acknowledging that traveling that distance twice or making an overnight stay near the clinic imposes an undue burden on a woman’s right to access reproductive health care. It is deeply unsettling, then, to see that Texas does not recognize that the ASC provision imposes an undue burden on 900,000 of its residents, and that the Fifth Circuit Court has upheld that burden.
As Reform Jews, we believe firmly in not only a woman’s right to choose, but also the need to ensure that abortions are safe, legal, affordable and accessible for all women. Our tradition teaches that all life is sacred, but that the life and health of the mother are the principle concerns; a law that leaves open seven clinics in a state with 5.4 million women of reproductive age demonstrates a clear disregard for women’s health and well-being.
In the battle over the efficacy of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, numbers are key for measuring the successes and failures of health care reform. From the number of Americans with insurance to the to the average cost of health care a year, these numbers will be used by both supporters and opponents of recent health care reforms to both praise and criticize the impact of Obamacare. This month the Census Bureau and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released important statistics that both paint a picture of health care enrollment in the United States and serve as a baseline for judging the impact of the Affordable Care Act in the years to come. While the increase in insurance coverage is a positive sign, the racial disparities illustrated by these statistics offer an important reason as to why we must fight to expand coverage and accessibility for all.
Jewish tradition teaches us that our bodies and the preservation of our health is above all the most cherished value. God bestowed onto us the opportunity for life and prosperity and we have to obligation to treat our bodies with the utmost care and respect. We see this value reflected in the current U.S healthcare system.
Today is our last day as legislative assistants at the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. None of us imagined on August 20, 2013 – our very first day – that this year would have gone by so fast. It is has been an incredible honor to serve and represent our vibrant, passionate Movement in Washington, D.C.; one that we will cherish always.
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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is partnering with the faith community to promote Tips from Former Smokers. Tips is a national tobacco education campaign that encourages Americans to quit smoking, by “showing the toll that smoking-related illnesses take on smokers and their loved ones.” The Tips campaign goals include building public awareness of the health damage caused by smoking, encouraging smokers to quit, and encouraging smokers not to smoke around others, in order to avoid the effects of secondhand smoke. You have probably seem some of their memorable ads, which vividly depict some of the consequences of smoking. Take a look at the campaign’s website, which features powerful personal stories and important information about the consequences of tobacco use. Read more…