Category Archives: US Happenings

The “Period Brain” Has Officially Been Debunked

August 14, 2017

The jig is up, people! While the “period brain” has had a great run, a recent study shows that there is no real correlation between hormone levels and a decrease in a woman’s memory or cognitive function. The assumption that ladies are somehow less capable of thinking when their cycle comes back around has finally been squashed for good!

“Period brain” has served as a vehicle for harmful stereotypes that women are erratic and unpredictable while menstruating, further leading to the notion that they’re unfit to be leaders or hold influence in their careers.

The study tested a large pool of women and took place over the span of two months, or two menstrual cycles. To track any hormonal changes between women while on and off their cycles, each participant underwent a number of neurophysiological tests to assess each woman’s visual memory, executive functions, and attention spans. The results showed no replicable data that showed a change in cognitive function during the hormonal changes that come along with the menstrual cycle.

Rejoice, ladies – science has spoken! One less harmful stigma and one step closer to the normalization of periods.


The Dangerous Sex Trend You Need To Be Aware Of

May 12, 2017

“Stealthing” is a lesser-known form of sexual assault that has been on the rise and buzzing around the internet. This assault occurs when a partner deliberately removes a condom during sex, without consent, increasing the risk for unplanned pregnancy and the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases. According to a report by the Columbia Journal of Gender and Law, a significant amount of phone calls to a university rape crisis hotline describe this act of “stealthing”.

It is important to know that if you are a victim of stealthing, it is not your fault. It is more common than you think, and it is not okay. So what should you do if you have experienced this?

First, you should see a doctor and ask to be tested for sexually-transmitted diseases. You may also want to consider taking the emergency contraception (aka the morning-after pill), available through PRJKT RUBY, to avoid an unplanned pregnancy.

You may also want to talk to a mental health professional as “stealthing can elicit the same negative impact on the victim’s mental health as rape,” according to Dr. Greg Kushnick, PsyD, a licensed psychologist in NYC. Also, just because there is not a law that directly addresses the issue of “stealthing”, doesn’t mean that it should go unreported.

Take care of yourselves, ladies, and stay vigilant.

PRJKT RUBY Will Continue to Provide Access to Birth Control in Developing Nations Despite Trump’s Gag Rule

January 31, 2017

Last Monday, in one of his first executive actions, President Donald J. Trump reinstated the Mexico City policy, also known as the global gag rule. This policy limits the family planning services that nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) aided by any US government funding can offer their patients.

In 2016, the U.S. appropriated a total of $607.5 million to international family planning and was able to provide 27 million women with access to contraception. Without U.S. assistance for international family planning, developing nations will likely see a large spike in unintended pregnancies, unsafe abortions, and maternal deaths.

Regardless of Trump’s executive order, we at PRJKT RUBY will continue to donate and provide access to contraception for women in the developing world. We’re proud partners with Population Services International (PSI), a nonprofit global health organization who provides access to contraception in the developing world. Since February of 2015, we’ve raised more than $45,000 and provided contraceptive products and/or family planning services to more than 300 women in Latin America.

With support from PRJKT RUBY, Isaura, a woman living the Dominican Republic, is able to follow her dream of becoming a lawyer. “Planning means not having children before I’m ready. It’s preparing myself to give my children the best life in the future,” Isaura said.

We hope that with your support, we can continue to help women like Isaura. We believe investing in women yields long-term social and economic returns for all. If you’d like to donate to Take1Give1, click here.

FDA to Test Donated Blood for Zika Virus

August 31, 2016

According to Reuters, the Food and Drug Administration is calling for all blood banks to test donations for the Zika virus, even if the bank is not in a “Zika area.” By testing the donated blood, the FDA hopes to eliminate the risk of passing the virus through the blood supply. The FDA has fast tracked the approval of a Zika diagnostics test manufactured by Swiss drug maker, Roche, that will be used to test blood at blood banks in the United States and Puerto Rico, where Fortune reported that 1% of donated blood has already tested positive. The emergency authorization of this test by the FDA meant that it had to bypass the “ordinary channels” of approval in the effort to combat Zika.

Peter Marks, director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, reports that there are over 8,000 travel-associated and over 2,000 non-travel associated cases of Zika virus in the United States and territories. Because so many U.S. citizens travel, there is a risk of donors transmitting the virus even if they themselves don’t experience symptoms. Labs have started testing blood in Puerto Rico and will shortly move to the United States. Testing will begin in Florida where Zika is most present and move into parts of Alabama and South Carolina. The FDA made this decision based on the concern that tainted blood could unwittingly be given to a pregnant woman, putting her baby at risk for birth defects. Hopefully the FDA’s plan will eliminate these terrible consequences and keep our blood banks safe.

California Joins Oregon in Allowing OTC Birth Control Pills

April 22, 2016

California is celebrating another victory for women with better birth control access!

Last week the state enacted a law originally passed in 2013, allowing women to get certain birth control pills after a consultation with a pharmacist.

By removing the previously required trip to the doctor, we can hope to see more women using birth control as a whole. This in turn results in fewer unplanned pregnancies as well as reduced abortion numbers.

All self-administered forms of birth control including the patch, pill, injections and vaginal rings are included in this law.

Like any law dealing with reproductive health, it has been met with anger by pro-life groups. They believe that now teenage girls will more easily have access to contraceptives. If you have trouble following this logic, you are not alone.

We have seen that areas with better access to birth control typically have fewer unplanned pregnancies and therefore fewer abortions. It seems that pro-choice and pro-life advocates could both agree this is a better situation but sadly, it’s not the case.

Unlike Oregon’s recent law allowing OTC birth control pills, in California there is no age restriction. Pharmacists can, however, refuse to fill a prescription if they see fit.

Currently Oregon and California are the only states to allow hormonal birth control methods to be given through a pharmacy consultation but Hawaii, New Mexico and Alaska are expected to soon pass similar laws.

All-Female Car Service Better for Women Than Uber?

April 19, 2016

Uber has now  become a part of our daily vocabulary.  It’s used as both a noun and a verb – “I am taking an Uber, are you Ubering there etc.”

While the car service Uber is known for it’s affordable rates (unless you hit surge pricing…we’ve ALL been there) recently it’s been associated with something far less favorable and downright unacceptable – sexual assault and rape.

In fact, a report by Buzzfeed found that Uber’s customer support system received 6,160 complaints with the words “sexual assault”  in them between December 2012 and August 2015. Uber replied to this claim saying that these numbers were “significantly overstated” and that they have had less than 170 claims during that time period.

The fact that sexual assaults have occurred during an Uber ride is enough to worry us. The idea that we could be assaulted is unacceptable. The exact number doesn’t matter. .

Many of us (both male and female) rely on car services to get us home after making the wise decision not to drive after a night of drinking.

A new company, Chariot for Women, provides an all-female car service in the hopes of creating more safe-ride options for women.

Essentially the service will work similarly to Uber but with an all-female staff and all-female customers (with the exception of moms with boys 13 and under).

In order for riders and drivers to know they have the right person, both will be required to say a password.

It’s unfortunately not just Uber passengers in danger, female Uber drivers have their own reasons to worry for their safety as well. Uber rape and sexual assault is certainly worrisome and now, Chariot hopes to increase safety for all.

The company has not yet launched but was planning on starting in Boston this month. It has postponed starting it’s services until they can get more female drivers.

Time will tell if Chariot takes off and while it’s a great idea, it’s upsetting to realize that women still don’t have the freedom to feel safe taking any form of transportation they choose without fear of rape or sexual assault.





Vasalgel – Birth Control for Men is Here (Almost)!

April 7, 2016

We’ve been anxiously anticipating the day that a male birth control pill is an option. While it’s not exactly in a pill form yet, birth control for men is being revolutionized – Vasalgel is here!

So what is it if it’s NOT a pill?

Basically, the drug is a gel that’s injected into the vas deferens. It works in a similar way to a vasectomy but it’s much easier to reverse!

Before this new invention, men had the option to use a condom and/or rely on his female partner’s use of a hormonal contraception. Now, men can actively reduce their chance of unplanned pregnancy.

How does it work?
After the gel is injected, the sperm are blocked from traveling through the vas deferens for up to one year. There is no long term impact on fertility since sperm can once again move once the tube is flushed out and the gel is passed through.

What are the advantages?
When it comes to male birth control, they have a one up on us – there are fewer unwanted side effects because there is no impact on male hormones. As women, many of us experience a flux in hormone regulation and may experience unwanted side effects as a result.

The responsibility to prevent pregnancy is now more evenly distributed between partners.

Is this the male birth control we keep hearing about?
This year we have heard of many different male birth control solutions – Vasalgel is just one of them. Others have included pills that block sperm temporarily and even utrasound treatment.

When can we see it?
Testing is going well so we can expect to see the product on the market by 2018. It has only been tested on rabbits so far, but the results have been positive so far!




Brookyln Vending Machine Offers Pregnancy Tests and Plan B

March 29, 2016

Cookies, gum, chips, granola bars…well, it seems like the vending machine has everything you could possibly need…except for Plan B!

Wait, what?

Okay, so maybe your mind hasn’t quite begun thinking like this but after you hear what one Brooklyn location is offering, you will start looking at these machines a bit differently.

In addition to the expected items, this vending machine offers Plan B, pregnancy tests and personal lubricants.

So what’s the benefit?

As far as we have progressed as a society, there are still those inevitable shameful glances given by many, especially when teenagers enter a pharmacy in search of proper family planning methods. Like it or not, it still exists.

When we eliminate the shame and fear of judgement from these purchases, it stands to reason that they should be used more often, right?

Not only is Plan B available conveniently in the vending machine but it’s also available for $4 less than you can find it at Walgreens, selling for $35.

While this is only one location, the idea is one that, with luck, will soon catch on. For teens (and adults for that matter) purchasing a pregnancy test can be extremely anxiety inducing. Imagine just putting in your change and getting a test right there on the spot?

While there has naturally been some opposition, women and women’s advocates see this as a step in the right direction. Having even greater access to family planning items is a victory no matter how you look at it.

Interestingly enough, this vending machine became stocked more for entertainment value. The owner, Peter Rose, has said that he was looking at the aisles of CVS one day and saw these types of items and thought it would be interesting to put them in a vending machine since it was something that normally doesn’t belong there.

While his reasons for putting the items for sale in the vending machine weren’t political, the issue at hand very much is based in politics. It may be a quirky Brooklyn vending machine currently but the idea that this convenient family planning clinic idea could spread is exciting!


Supreme Court Still Undecided About Birth Control Mandate

March 24, 2016

Yesterday, the scene outside of the Supreme Court was a diverse one. As seen in this Washington Post photo, nuns as well as healthcare provider,s rallied outside as the Court heard objections to mandating birth control coverage.

In case you missed it, those who are opposed to birth control for religious reasons (i.e. houses of worship, churches, mosques and synagogues) are exempt from having to provide birth control to their employees.

The issue that has caused an uprising as of late is that non-profit religious organizations are not exempt from this.

While these organizations personally do not need to fund birth control coverage , their health insurance does. Essentially all it takes is signing a one-page letter that states their opposition and then the government works with the insurance carrier and supplies the employees with free birth control should they opt to use it.

Many people believed this would end the objections but it has further fueled the flames.

Several of these organizations feel that signing this paper actually violates their religious rights and believe the government should allow them to opt out from this.

While it may seem hard to understand, these non-profit organizations aren’t providing the funding for birth control directly, they are providing it indirectly through their insurance provider.

One group that firmly hopes all employers, including religious groups, will be forced to cover birth control in their insurance plans is composed of pediatricians.

A recent Washington Post article discuses their take on this charged issue and it takes a different turn than you might think.

The president of the American Academy of Pediatrics has recently spoken out regarding his concerns for what this decision could mean for our nation’s youth.

In this recent article he speaks of a potential connection between objection to vaccinations and objection to birth control. He believes this could be a slippery slope for religious groups (or others) who oppose vaccination to no longer cover that as well.

Yesterday, during Zubik v. Burwell the Supreme Court justices heard arguments regarding the governments current policy of having organizations sign the one page letter. This recent case is very reminiscent of the Burwell v. Hobby Lobby case.

Groups protesting this included the East Texas Baptist University and Denver’s Little Sisters of the Poor who still feel they are playing a roll in the “sin.”

With the recent death of one Supreme Court justice, many are worried that the decision will be stuck at a 4-4 split but only time will tell.

FDA Warning Issued for Birth Control Device

March 8, 2016

The permanent birth control device Essure has garnered the attention of the FDA as it has now become linked with some serious complications.

In fact, recently the FDA has called on the manufacturer (Bayer) to look into the risks .

The permanent birth control device is a tiny coil that is inserted into the fallopian  tubes. This in turn creates scar tissue that works to block the sperm from reaching eggs.

While the device has been on the market for 14 years, the FDA is now speaking out about some reoccurring complaints. The most common complications are “persistent pain, perforation of the uterus or fallopian tubes from device migration, abnormal bleeding and allergy or hypersensitivity reactions.”

As a result,  the device will now be labeled  with a “black box” warning as well as a new patient checklist. This will ensure that doctors take the time to review the necessary information prior to implanting the device.

The FDA also hopes that this warning will prompt doctors to use the resources they are given to research possible complications and explain these to patients. A full consult is recommended between patient and physician.

The black box warning was prompted after more than 5,000 women filed reports with the FDA between November 2002 and May 2015. The complaints ranged from reports of unintended pregnancies, miscarriages, stillbirths and severe pain and bleeding following implantation.

Many women are feeling let down by the FDA since they believe they should have been protected sooner.

In light of recent complaints, Bayer has blamed unintended pregnancies on patient error. You are likely wondering, “how can a doctor implanted device have any patient error?” but according to Bayer, these women have been lax in the recommended follow-up visits within three months of implantation to make sure that the device was working or that they have been lax about using a back-up method of  birth control for those 3 months.

Hopefully, with this information in mind, women can now make a more well-informed decision regarding their sexual health.