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‘If you love or are a woman, don’t go to Malta,’ say couple in abortion drama | Reproductive rights

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When Andrea Prudente was sitting in a Maltese hospital waiting for her foetus’s heart to stop beating, she was offered grief counselling. Prudente, an American photographer, began to miscarry her pregnancy at 16 weeks during a holiday with her partner on the Mediterranean island, and had been told there was no hope for it.

But because of the heartbeat – and despite Prudente’s own life-threatening risk of haemorrhage and infection – doctors at the Mater Dei hospital in Msida would not intervene to end her very wanted pregnancy. Malta’s ban on abortion in all circumstances – the only EU country to do so – prevented it.

Prudente sent the grief counsellor away. “It’s like sending in a PTSD counsellor when the battle is still going on,” she says.

It took a widely publicised medical evacuation by air ambulance to the Spanish island of Mallorca to bring Prudente’s two-week ordeal to an end, and for her and her partner, Jay Weeldreyer, to begin to truly grieve for their loss.

Only in Spain were they able to deliver their daughter, hold her and say goodbye. Staff gave the couple a blanket for the body, and a star to hang on a tree alongside those representing all the other births that had taken place at the hospital.

As soon as she arrived at the hospital in Mallorca, Prudente was approached by a sympathetic staff member. “She said, ‘I saw you on the news.’ And she hugged me,” Prudente says.

She was discharged this weekend and is recuperating before the long journey back to Seattle. She says she feels weak but is slowly recovering.

It was only thanks to their travel insurance that the couple was able to get out of Malta at all: the insurer considered Prudente’s risk to be significant enough to send a private jet with a surgeon on board from Belgium to transfer her safely to Mallorca.

“We were extraordinarily privileged to be American citizens who had the ability to purchase that kind of insurance, because absent a third-party insurance company, and absent us being foreigners, there’s no way we were getting off that island,” says Weeldreyer.

He says he is staggered by the lengths they had to go for what could have been a straightforward, if distressing, procedure.

The couple were contacted by anti-abortion activists on social media, who urged them not to intervene to complete the miscarriage and telling them miracles could happen.

“We have a relationship with medicine, not with miracles,” says Weeldreyer.

A happy couple take a selfie at sunset
Jay Weeldreyer and Andrea Prudente in Malta before she began to miscarry. Photograph: Handout

Prof Isabel Stabile, a gynaecologist with Doctors for Choice Malta, has seen two other cases like Prudente’s so far this year. But for those local women, waiting for the heartbeat to stop was the only option.

“Luckily, in those cases, the women were fine physically,” she says, adding however that they were “mentally distraught”.

On Monday, Doctors for Choice submitted a “judicial protest”, a legal petition to Malta’s civil courts signed by 135 doctors demanding a review of the abortion ban. The doctors say the law ties their hands in cases such as Prudente’s, where medical professionals must weigh the care they provide to a patient against the risk of being prosecuted for terminating a pregnancy.

Under Malta’s abortion law, which dates from the 1850s, women who have abortions face up to three years in prison, and doctors who perform them can be imprisoned for up to four years, as well as losing their medical licence.

“The current law does not protect them when they try to protect the lives of women,” says Stabile.

She says many of the signatories would not consider themselves pro-choice, but simply want to put an end to the threat of losing their medical licence for providing care to their pregnant patients. A 2019 study found that more than 60% of doctors in Malta supported legalising abortion in cases of risk to the patient’s life and foetal non-viability.

Anti-abortion groups point to Malta’s low maternal mortality rate as evidence that the abortion ban does not put patients at risk, and say doctors will intervene in cases of risk to life.

But Stabile says maternal mortality is “a very, very low bar to set” for measuring whether medical care is adequate.

Weeldreyer and Prudente say that as they were preparing to leave Malta, a doctor at Mater Dei who also practised in London told them that if Prudente had been in the UK, he would have intervened as soon as he saw her ultrasound results.

Mater Dei hospital has been approached for comment.

In a dark irony, Prudente’s nightmare is likely to become a reality for many women back home in the US. On the day she was evacuated from Malta to Mallorca, the US supreme court removed the right for women in the US to terminate a pregnancy, leading to a swathe of states enacting outright bans on abortion with no exceptions for rape, incest or to save the life of the patient.

“The timing is nuts,” Prudente says of the ruling overturning Roe v Wade, noting that women in her position will soon have to travel between US states for the care they need. “It’s so regressive.”

She is now preparing to get home and sort through the “emotional wreckage” of a holiday that began as a “babymoon” but became a medical emergency, and then an international incident.

But she wants to use her experience to continue to advocate against abortion bans around the world. “We see ourselves as accidentally in this position to influence – just by being honest and sharing our story.”

In the meantime, Weeldreyer has a warning: “If you know a woman, if you love a woman, if you ever plan on knowing or loving a woman, or if you are a woman – don’t go to Malta.”

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Brazilian woman and fake seer con elderly mother out of $142 million | International

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A woman was arrested on August 10 by Rio de Janeiro police who charged her with conning her mother out of millions. In a strange story of greed abetted by fake psychics, Sabine Boghici and her accomplices stole more than $142 million in money, jewelry and artwork from Boghici’s mother over a two-year period.

Geneviève Boghici, the widow of a major art collector and dealer named Jean Boghici, was walking out of a bank in January 2020 near the famous Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) when she was approached by a supposed psychic prophesying her daughter’s imminent death unless she underwent “spiritual therapy.” They walked together to Boghici’s apartment, where the psychic threw some shells in a mystical ritual that confirmed the tragic prophesy. The 82-year-old victim knew that her daughter suffered from psychological problems, and her affinity for the supernatural swayed her to transfer $980,000 to the swindlers.

Soon after the two-year con began, the elderly woman became suspicious and halted the money transfers when her daughter started to isolate her from friends. Sabine would not allow her mother to use the phone and dismissed all the domestic workers, justifying them as Covid-19 precautions. Yet Sabine and her cronies entered freely to loot her mother’s home of its valuables. Several psychics took items from the home, saying they were “cursed” and needed to be “prayed over.” The increasingly suspicious Geneviève tried to resist, but Sabine began threatening her life. According to the police, she wouldn’t allow her mother to eat and put a knife to her throat.

Police recover 'Sol Poente' by Brazilian painter, Tarsila do Amaral.
Police recover ‘Sol Poente’ by Brazilian painter, Tarsila do Amaral.Policia Civil de Rio de Janeiro (EFE)

The victim told the police that her daughter had some sort of relationship with one of the supposed psychics, Rosa Stanesco Nicolau, who practiced her trade in Rio de Janeiro as “Mãe Valéria de Oxossi” (Mother Valeria), and was a known con artist. Starting in September 2020, under constant threat from her daughter and accomplices, the elderly woman made another 38 bank transfers to the thieves.

Sabine and her cohorts stole 16 paintings and sculptures, and sold them all to art galleries or private buyers. Two of these works – Elevador Social (Social Elevator) by Rubens Gerchman, and Maquete para o menú espelho (A model for my mirror) by Antonio Dias – were bought by Eduardo Costantini, owner of the Museum of Latin American Art of Buenos Aires (Argentina), for his private collection. The São Paulo (Brazil) gallery owner who brokered the deal said he was not suspicious because he had known the family for a long time and the seller was the daughter of the deceased art collector. Constantini released a statement saying that he bought the paintings in good faith and was in direct contact with Genevieve Boghici.

In 2012, a fire in the Boghici’s Copacabana apartment destroyed part of their valuable collection, including Di Cavalcanti’s Samba and Alberto Guignard’s A Floresta (The Forest). Sol Poniente (Setting Sun), painted by Tarsila do Amaral in 1929, is one of the most valuable works in the Boghici collection ($49 million). It survived the 2012 fire but not the rampant greed of their daughter. The stolen painting was found under a bed by police, who arrested Sabine and three other people, including the fake seer. In a final twist to the whole bizarre story, the scamming psychic was apprehended trying to escape through a window.

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India’s HIV patients say shortages leaving hundreds of thousands without drugs | Global development

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Hundreds of thousands of people living with HIV in India are struggling to access treatment because of a shortage of antiretroviral (ARV) drugs, according to campaigners.

Up to 500,000 people have not been able to get hold of free ARVs from government health centres and hospitals over the past five months, they say, as the country experiences stock shortages of key drugs.

ARVs that are available in privately run pharmacies and shops can be prohibitively expensive. Some people have been given alternative drugs, but others have stopped taking any medication.

“Does the government even realise that at least 500,000, or one-third of the patients, are affected by this? Some adults are being given 11 doses of paediatric medicine to compensate,” said Loon Gangte, president of the Delhi Network of Positive People (DNP+), an NGO that works to improve the treatment and facilities for people living with HIV and Aids. “We only demand an uninterrupted monthly supply. This treatment is our right.”

According to Gangte, who has been protesting with about 30 others outside India’s National Aids Control Organisation (Naco) in Delhi for 22 days, at least 12 other states, including Assam, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Punjab, are facing ARV shortages. He said several state governments have asked patients to change their longstanding drug regimes.

“The [Covid-19] pandemic had already broken our backs. Now this shortage is pushing us further into penury,” Gangte said.

Kedar Nath, a 30-year-old street vendor taking part in the protest, said he has not taken his ARVs on several occasions over the past two months. He cannot afford the £50 a month it would cost to buy the drugs on the open market.

“I have been taking these drugs for the last 13 years. They have helped me continue with my life despite the virus in my body. But the recent shortage has turned my life upside down since I can neither find the strength to work, nor have any savings to live off,” he said.

According to government figures, 2.35 million people in India are HIV-positive. About 1.5 million people are on antiretroviral therapy, far lower than the World Health Organization’s “90-90-90 target” – under which 90% of people with HIV are diagnosed, 90% are on ARV treatment, and 90% are no longer infectious.

India says it aims to end the HIV epidemic by 2030. In 2019, an estimated 58,900 Aids-related deaths were reported in the country.

The government has refuted Gangte’s claims of a shortage. The Indian health ministry said it had “reviewed the entire situation and held a series of meetings with the protesters. ARV drugs are being provided for [a] duration of less than one month, but at no point in time has there been any shortage of drugs for any of the PLHIV [patients living with HIV]. There is adequate stock nationally for 95% PLHIV.”

Naco did not wish to comment. However, in a letter seen by the Guardian that was dated 30 May, Naco asked all state Aids prevention and control societies, which oversee HIV testing and treatment in each state, to switch to other regimes “to tide through the crisis situation as an interim arrangement”.

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J&J Stops Global Sales of Scandalous Talc-Based Powder After 130 Years

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Once one of its top products for families, J&J’s talc-based powder has been haunted by claims of causing cancer in recent years even as the company consistently denied what it has called rumors and “misinformation”.

Johnson & Johnson has announced it will be ceasing the sales of its talc-based powder, two years after stopping them in the US and Canada, after keeping it in its product line for 130 years. The company will be replacing the product with a cornstarch-based powder.

“As part of a worldwide portfolio assessment, we have made the commercial decision to transition to an all cornstarch-based baby powder portfolio,” the company’s statement said.

The J&J talc-based powder has been at the epicenter of several lawsuits claiming it caused ovarian cancer due to the presence of a known cancer-causing material – asbestos. However, the company has repeatedly denied these allegations, despite losing $3.5 billion in these lawsuits.

As the firm announced the retirement of the talc-based powder, it once again repeated its long-held position on the controversial product’s safety.

“Our position on the safety of our cosmetic talc remains unchanged. We stand firmly behind the decades of independent scientific analysis by medical experts around the world that confirms talc-based Johnson’s baby powder is safe, does not contain asbestos, and does not cause cancer,” the statement said.

Apart from losing a number of lawsuits, J&J faced tough questions following a 2018 Reuters investigation, which claimed the company knew about the asbestos contamination since at least 1971 but failed to act on it. As the veins of asbestos are often found in talc deposits, the extracted talc used to make the powder can be contaminated with the cancer-causing mineral.

A view of the Supreme Court in Washington, U.S. January 19, 2021 - Sputnik International, 1920, 01.06.2021

Pay Up: Supreme Court Rejects J&J’s Request to Appeal $2 Bln Verdict in Talc Cancer Case
Despite continuing to maintain its innocence, J&J stopped selling talc-based powder in the US and Canada in 2020, citing the harm done to the sales by the “misinformation” about its safety. However, the company continued to distribute it around the world alongside the cornstarch-based alternative, which will now completely substitute it.



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