Who’s Guarding Our Reproductive Rights In Hospital Mergers?

Officials at St. Mary’s Hospital and Waterbury Hospital began negotiations in 2011 to merge and join a Texas-owned company. But the state Permanent Commission on the Status of Women—with MergerWatch, a hospital watchdog group—successfully argued against the merger by making the case that since the new hospital would honor Catholic religious directives, a significant portion of patients would be left vulnerable—because God help you if you are a woman and need emergency reproductive services at a Roman Catholic hospital. Medical professionals at Catholic-owned or -sponsored hospitals operate under directives—known officially as the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services. These directives come from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and take 43 pages (plus footnotes) to describe what constitutes appropriate Catholic health care.

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Lawsuit Filed To Gain Records Of Military Academies’ Admissions

Claiming the shortage of women in military academies puts female students at greater risk of sexual assaults and harassment, several groups sued the U.S. Department of Defense Tuesday seeking access to the schools’ admission policies and enrollment numbers. The Service Women’s Action Network, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and ACLU of Connecticut sued the department for violating the Freedom of Information Act. The groups say they sought enrollment data and information about recruiting and admission practices from the department in November and the information has been withheld. The groups want to see enrollment records from the U.S. Air Force Academy, U.S. Naval Academy and U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Officials at the Department of Defense did not respond to requests for comment.

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Report: VA Grants Few Disability Claims For Sexual Trauma

Veterans’ advocacy groups Thursday accused the Veterans Administration of discriminating against military sexual assault victims seeking benefits for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, saying they receive “significantly’’ more denials than veterans with other types of PTSD claims.

The national figures show “a particularly hostile environment” at the VA for victims of military sexual assault, said Anu Bhagwati, Service Women’s Action Network (SWAN) executive director, during a teleconference news briefing, calling the experience of seeking VA benefits “unnecessarily grueling, humiliating and exhausting.”

The report found that women filed two-thirds of PTSD claims based on sexual assault, that it’s the most prevalent reason for female veterans’ PTSD claims, and as a result, women are “disparately impacted” by lower approval rates. The American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Connecticut, the Yale Law School Veterans Legal Services Clinic, and SWAN released a report they wrote based on figures they obtained from the VA after settlements in two lawsuits. The data mainly cover the years 2008 through 2012. During those years, the approval rate for women with sexual assault-based claims ranged from 33.7 percent to a high of 59.2 percent. But, the approval rate for women for PTSD benefits from other issues ranged from 46.7 percent to 72.8 percent.

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High Court Strikes Down Patents On Breast And Ovarian Cancer Genes

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision today to invalidate a Utah company’s long-held patents on genetic testing for breast and ovarian cancer is expected to result in the test being more accessible to women, at a lower cost, experts say. The court’s 9-0 decision comes four years after the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of 20 named plaintiffs, including Ellen Matloff, director, Cancer Genetic Counseling at the Yale Cancer Center, filed a lawsuit charging that the patents held by Myriad Genetics of Utah on the DNA of two genes, known as BRCA1 and BRCA2, is unconstitutional and should be ruled invalid. The lawsuit also challenged Myriad’s right to set prices on their exclusive testing that critics said “locked out” some women from affording the life-saving test, which costs about $3,450. “I am thrilled with the decision.  I think it’s been inhumane for one company to make the call on how much these important tests will cost,’’ said Marya DiPerna, of Naugatuck, whose own BRACAnalysis genetic test was negative a year ago.  The patent “made it unavailable to those whose insurance won’t pay for it and who cannot personally otherwise afford it,’’ added DiPerna, who applauded the decision. “I was lucky that my husband’s insurance covered the cost because my sister, a deployed Marine’s wife, had breast cancer.  She had to fight for her test while she was sick and at first, she was denied,’’ added DiPerna.  Her sister could not afford to pay for the test while she was in treatment and raising her children alone as a military mom.

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