Tag Archives: Jessica

Like Tessa Jowell, I have a brain tumour. I hope her death inspires new research | Jessica Morris

Many people are grieving the untimely death of Tessa Jowell. She was an exceptional person. Tony Blair confirmed the impression she gave to those of us who only knew her from afar: “Tessa had passion, determination and simple human decency in greater measure than any person I have ever known.”

For me, her death is personal for another reason. We found ourselves in the same elite club.

Like Tessa Jowell, I was blindsided by a diagnosis of glioblastoma (GBM) in January 2016. I was walking in the hills in upstate New York (we live in the city) when a strange sensation made me stop. I opened my mouth to explain to my friends and found I couldn’t form any words. I slumped into unconsciousness, having a full-blown seizure.

Two days later I had brain surgery, and the terrible diagnosis came two weeks after that. Now, more than two years later, I am determined to do what I can to improve the outcomes for everyone like me living with this brutal disease. Jowell’s death gives me added impetus in the struggle to turn this monstrous disease around.

After I was diagnosed, I asked my neuro-oncologist why glioblastoma is so deadly; why the terrifying statistics suggested that I had a mere 5% chance of surviving five years. He explained to me that the dreaded figure five also relates to another key statistic: the percentage of successful applications for research funding into GBM. This disease is so complex, so aggressive and so rare, that it is hard to attract substantial research funding.

It is especially gratifying that Jowell’s powerful legacy has already begun to be felt in the form of increased government funding. But she would be the first to agree this is not enough. There is another currency to tap: a goldmine of patient-generated data that is massively under-collected and undervalued. At the heart of every GBM drama, as with any life-threatening disease, is a human being enduring symptoms – some good, many bad – resulting from the cancer and the treatments we take. Yet our relationship as patients with our disease is not consistently recorded or analysed. It can feel as if, from the perspective of the medical system, our experience is not worth understanding.

Tessa Jowell dies aged 70 – video obituary

As an example, I’ve been fortunate enough to be treated in New York with ground-breaking treatments that can be hard to come by in the UK, including electrotherapy and immunotherapy. These cost more than $ 30,000 a month, covered by insurance and the drug company’s compassionate use programme. But how the interaction between these therapies is actually affecting me is not recorded. This reflects a long-standing approach in medicine. The “objective” measures of disease progression, as evidenced by things like the size of my tumour, the results of my MRIs, are prized. The “subjective” measures of my experience – how I feel each day, my personal responses in terms of X or Y – are largely ignored.

Patients are active, wanting to share and swap notes. Desperate to know whether a change in diet, or a cocktail of supplements, or exercise, or mindset, can help them stay alive, they are busy on social media. Amid all this noise, doctors have little advice to give – “Should I adopt the ketogenic diet? Take medical marijuana? Fast twice a week?” – because none of these approaches have been, or could be, subject to the kind of clinical trial a new drug treatment undergoes.

But imagine if we could ask people to log how they’re feeling, and what steps they’re taking to manage their disease, every day. Imagine if we could then aggregate all that data and mine it for insights. Couldn’t we find some clues from patients’ unfiltered perspective that would supplement the clinical trials information?

Dr Ethan Basch, of the Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, University of North Carolina, undertook some fascinating research last year. He found that if you ask someone with cancer to log their symptoms, the act of doing so, coupled with your clinician’s ability to adjust therapies in real time, can lead to an actual improvement in disease outcome. People lived longer.

I’ve channelled my own frustration with my diagnosis into creating OurBrainBank, a non-profit organisation designed to move glioblastoma from terminal to treatable, powered by patients. We recently launched our pilot app in the US. People with GBM can log their symptoms daily and their aggregated data will be available to any qualified GBM researcher worldwide, for free, subject to strict screening. People using the app report feeling more on top of their disease through daily monitoring; better able to make use of their meetings with their clinicians; and more hopeful that by sharing their personal data they can play an active role in making progress.

Tessa Jowell died during May, which happens to be brain tumour awareness month. Our colour is grey. It’s strangely apt. Because what we need to crack GBM is to use our grey cells to think creatively and empathetically – patient and doctor alike.

That’s the kind of approach she espoused. She put it the best: “I hope always my politics are the politics of aspiration, ambition, possibility and the future.”

Jessica Morris is a strategic communications consultant and the founder and chair of OurBrainBank

Like Tessa Jowell, I have a brain tumour. I hope her death inspires new research | Jessica Morris

Many people are grieving the untimely death of Tessa Jowell. She was an exceptional person. Tony Blair confirmed the impression she gave to those of us who only knew her from afar: “Tessa had passion, determination and simple human decency in greater measure than any person I have ever known.”

For me, her death is personal for another reason. We found ourselves in the same elite club.

Like Tessa Jowell, I was blindsided by a diagnosis of glioblastoma (GBM) in January 2016. I was walking in the hills in upstate New York (we live in the city) when a strange sensation made me stop. I opened my mouth to explain to my friends and found I couldn’t form any words. I slumped into unconsciousness, having a full-blown seizure.

Two days later I had brain surgery, and the terrible diagnosis came two weeks after that. Now, more than two years later, I am determined to do what I can to improve the outcomes for everyone like me living with this brutal disease. Jowell’s death gives me added impetus in the struggle to turn this monstrous disease around.

After I was diagnosed, I asked my neuro-oncologist why glioblastoma is so deadly; why the terrifying statistics suggested that I had a mere 5% chance of surviving five years. He explained to me that the dreaded figure five also relates to another key statistic: the percentage of successful applications for research funding into GBM. This disease is so complex, so aggressive and so rare, that it is hard to attract substantial research funding.

It is especially gratifying that Jowell’s powerful legacy has already begun to be felt in the form of increased government funding. But she would be the first to agree this is not enough. There is another currency to tap: a goldmine of patient-generated data that is massively under-collected and undervalued. At the heart of every GBM drama, as with any life-threatening disease, is a human being enduring symptoms – some good, many bad – resulting from the cancer and the treatments we take. Yet our relationship as patients with our disease is not consistently recorded or analysed. It can feel as if, from the perspective of the medical system, our experience is not worth understanding.

Tessa Jowell dies aged 70 – video obituary

As an example, I’ve been fortunate enough to be treated in New York with ground-breaking treatments that can be hard to come by in the UK, including electrotherapy and immunotherapy. These cost more than $ 30,000 a month, covered by insurance and the drug company’s compassionate use programme. But how the interaction between these therapies is actually affecting me is not recorded. This reflects a long-standing approach in medicine. The “objective” measures of disease progression, as evidenced by things like the size of my tumour, the results of my MRIs, are prized. The “subjective” measures of my experience – how I feel each day, my personal responses in terms of X or Y – are largely ignored.

Patients are active, wanting to share and swap notes. Desperate to know whether a change in diet, or a cocktail of supplements, or exercise, or mindset, can help them stay alive, they are busy on social media. Amid all this noise, doctors have little advice to give – “Should I adopt the ketogenic diet? Take medical marijuana? Fast twice a week?” – because none of these approaches have been, or could be, subject to the kind of clinical trial a new drug treatment undergoes.

But imagine if we could ask people to log how they’re feeling, and what steps they’re taking to manage their disease, every day. Imagine if we could then aggregate all that data and mine it for insights. Couldn’t we find some clues from patients’ unfiltered perspective that would supplement the clinical trials information?

Dr Ethan Basch, of the Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, University of North Carolina, undertook some fascinating research last year. He found that if you ask someone with cancer to log their symptoms, the act of doing so, coupled with your clinician’s ability to adjust therapies in real time, can lead to an actual improvement in disease outcome. People lived longer.

I’ve channelled my own frustration with my diagnosis into creating OurBrainBank, a non-profit organisation designed to move glioblastoma from terminal to treatable, powered by patients. We recently launched our pilot app in the US. People with GBM can log their symptoms daily and their aggregated data will be available to any qualified GBM researcher worldwide, for free, subject to strict screening. People using the app report feeling more on top of their disease through daily monitoring; better able to make use of their meetings with their clinicians; and more hopeful that by sharing their personal data they can play an active role in making progress.

Tessa Jowell died during May, which happens to be brain tumour awareness month. Our colour is grey. It’s strangely apt. Because what we need to crack GBM is to use our grey cells to think creatively and empathetically – patient and doctor alike.

That’s the kind of approach she espoused. She put it the best: “I hope always my politics are the politics of aspiration, ambition, possibility and the future.”

Jessica Morris is a strategic communications consultant and the founder and chair of OurBrainBank

Like Tessa Jowell, I have a brain tumour. I hope her death inspires new research | Jessica Morris

Many people are grieving the untimely death of Tessa Jowell. She was an exceptional person. Tony Blair confirmed the impression she gave to those of us who only knew her from afar: “Tessa had passion, determination and simple human decency in greater measure than any person I have ever known.”

For me, her death is personal for another reason. We found ourselves in the same elite club.

Like Tessa Jowell, I was blindsided by a diagnosis of glioblastoma (GBM) in January 2016. I was walking in the hills in upstate New York (we live in the city) when a strange sensation made me stop. I opened my mouth to explain to my friends and found I couldn’t form any words. I slumped into unconsciousness, having a full-blown seizure.

Two days later I had brain surgery, and the terrible diagnosis came two weeks after that. Now, more than two years later, I am determined to do what I can to improve the outcomes for everyone like me living with this brutal disease. Jowell’s death gives me added impetus in the struggle to turn this monstrous disease around.

After I was diagnosed, I asked my neuro-oncologist why glioblastoma is so deadly; why the terrifying statistics suggested that I had a mere 5% chance of surviving five years. He explained to me that the dreaded figure five also relates to another key statistic: the percentage of successful applications for research funding into GBM. This disease is so complex, so aggressive and so rare, that it is hard to attract substantial research funding.

It is especially gratifying that Jowell’s powerful legacy has already begun to be felt in the form of increased government funding. But she would be the first to agree this is not enough. There is another currency to tap: a goldmine of patient-generated data that is massively under-collected and undervalued. At the heart of every GBM drama, as with any life-threatening disease, is a human being enduring symptoms – some good, many bad – resulting from the cancer and the treatments we take. Yet our relationship as patients with our disease is not consistently recorded or analysed. It can feel as if, from the perspective of the medical system, our experience is not worth understanding.

Tessa Jowell dies aged 70 – video obituary

As an example, I’ve been fortunate enough to be treated in New York with ground-breaking treatments that can be hard to come by in the UK, including electrotherapy and immunotherapy. These cost more than $ 30,000 a month, covered by insurance and the drug company’s compassionate use programme. But how the interaction between these therapies is actually affecting me is not recorded. This reflects a long-standing approach in medicine. The “objective” measures of disease progression, as evidenced by things like the size of my tumour, the results of my MRIs, are prized. The “subjective” measures of my experience – how I feel each day, my personal responses in terms of X or Y – are largely ignored.

Patients are active, wanting to share and swap notes. Desperate to know whether a change in diet, or a cocktail of supplements, or exercise, or mindset, can help them stay alive, they are busy on social media. Amid all this noise, doctors have little advice to give – “Should I adopt the ketogenic diet? Take medical marijuana? Fast twice a week?” – because none of these approaches have been, or could be, subject to the kind of clinical trial a new drug treatment undergoes.

But imagine if we could ask people to log how they’re feeling, and what steps they’re taking to manage their disease, every day. Imagine if we could then aggregate all that data and mine it for insights. Couldn’t we find some clues from patients’ unfiltered perspective that would supplement the clinical trials information?

Dr Ethan Basch, of the Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, University of North Carolina, undertook some fascinating research last year. He found that if you ask someone with cancer to log their symptoms, the act of doing so, coupled with your clinician’s ability to adjust therapies in real time, can lead to an actual improvement in disease outcome. People lived longer.

I’ve channelled my own frustration with my diagnosis into creating OurBrainBank, a non-profit organisation designed to move glioblastoma from terminal to treatable, powered by patients. We recently launched our pilot app in the US. People with GBM can log their symptoms daily and their aggregated data will be available to any qualified GBM researcher worldwide, for free, subject to strict screening. People using the app report feeling more on top of their disease through daily monitoring; better able to make use of their meetings with their clinicians; and more hopeful that by sharing their personal data they can play an active role in making progress.

Tessa Jowell died during May, which happens to be brain tumour awareness month. Our colour is grey. It’s strangely apt. Because what we need to crack GBM is to use our grey cells to think creatively and empathetically – patient and doctor alike.

That’s the kind of approach she espoused. She put it the best: “I hope always my politics are the politics of aspiration, ambition, possibility and the future.”

Jessica Morris is a strategic communications consultant and the founder and chair of OurBrainBank

Like Tessa Jowell, I have a brain tumour. I hope her death inspires new research | Jessica Morris

Many people are grieving the untimely death of Tessa Jowell. She was an exceptional person. Tony Blair confirmed the impression she gave to those of us who only knew her from afar: “Tessa had passion, determination and simple human decency in greater measure than any person I have ever known.”

For me, her death is personal for another reason. We found ourselves in the same elite club.

Like Tessa Jowell, I was blindsided by a diagnosis of glioblastoma (GBM) in January 2016. I was walking in the hills in upstate New York (we live in the city) when a strange sensation made me stop. I opened my mouth to explain to my friends and found I couldn’t form any words. I slumped into unconsciousness, having a full-blown seizure.

Two days later I had brain surgery, and the terrible diagnosis came two weeks after that. Now, more than two years later, I am determined to do what I can to improve the outcomes for everyone like me living with this brutal disease. Jowell’s death gives me added impetus in the struggle to turn this monstrous disease around.

After I was diagnosed, I asked my neuro-oncologist why glioblastoma is so deadly; why the terrifying statistics suggested that I had a mere 5% chance of surviving five years. He explained to me that the dreaded figure five also relates to another key statistic: the percentage of successful applications for research funding into GBM. This disease is so complex, so aggressive and so rare, that it is hard to attract substantial research funding.

It is especially gratifying that Jowell’s powerful legacy has already begun to be felt in the form of increased government funding. But she would be the first to agree this is not enough. There is another currency to tap: a goldmine of patient-generated data that is massively under-collected and undervalued. At the heart of every GBM drama, as with any life-threatening disease, is a human being enduring symptoms – some good, many bad – resulting from the cancer and the treatments we take. Yet our relationship as patients with our disease is not consistently recorded or analysed. It can feel as if, from the perspective of the medical system, our experience is not worth understanding.

Tessa Jowell dies aged 70 – video obituary

As an example, I’ve been fortunate enough to be treated in New York with ground-breaking treatments that can be hard to come by in the UK, including electrotherapy and immunotherapy. These cost more than $ 30,000 a month, covered by insurance and the drug company’s compassionate use programme. But how the interaction between these therapies is actually affecting me is not recorded. This reflects a long-standing approach in medicine. The “objective” measures of disease progression, as evidenced by things like the size of my tumour, the results of my MRIs, are prized. The “subjective” measures of my experience – how I feel each day, my personal responses in terms of X or Y – are largely ignored.

Patients are active, wanting to share and swap notes. Desperate to know whether a change in diet, or a cocktail of supplements, or exercise, or mindset, can help them stay alive, they are busy on social media. Amid all this noise, doctors have little advice to give – “Should I adopt the ketogenic diet? Take medical marijuana? Fast twice a week?” – because none of these approaches have been, or could be, subject to the kind of clinical trial a new drug treatment undergoes.

But imagine if we could ask people to log how they’re feeling, and what steps they’re taking to manage their disease, every day. Imagine if we could then aggregate all that data and mine it for insights. Couldn’t we find some clues from patients’ unfiltered perspective that would supplement the clinical trials information?

Dr Ethan Basch, of the Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, University of North Carolina, undertook some fascinating research last year. He found that if you ask someone with cancer to log their symptoms, the act of doing so, coupled with your clinician’s ability to adjust therapies in real time, can lead to an actual improvement in disease outcome. People lived longer.

I’ve channelled my own frustration with my diagnosis into creating OurBrainBank, a non-profit organisation designed to move glioblastoma from terminal to treatable, powered by patients. We recently launched our pilot app in the US. People with GBM can log their symptoms daily and their aggregated data will be available to any qualified GBM researcher worldwide, for free, subject to strict screening. People using the app report feeling more on top of their disease through daily monitoring; better able to make use of their meetings with their clinicians; and more hopeful that by sharing their personal data they can play an active role in making progress.

Tessa Jowell died during May, which happens to be brain tumour awareness month. Our colour is grey. It’s strangely apt. Because what we need to crack GBM is to use our grey cells to think creatively and empathetically – patient and doctor alike.

That’s the kind of approach she espoused. She put it the best: “I hope always my politics are the politics of aspiration, ambition, possibility and the future.”

Jessica Morris is a strategic communications consultant and the founder and chair of OurBrainBank

Should rape victims be able to have abortions? Republicans don’t think so | Jessica Valenti

Just 45 days: if Republicans have their way, that’s how much time a woman in Iowa will have to report being raped if she wants to obtain an abortion.

To put it in perspective, that’s one missed period – assuming a woman’s cycles are regular and that she’s even paying attention, given she was just sexually assaulted a few weeks previous. If a woman who has been raped doesn’t report the attack within that small sliver of time, the state will not allow her end the pregnancy.

Iowa’s new anti-choice bill – which bans abortion if there is a fetal heartbeat, something that happens just five or six weeks into pregnancy – has mostly been covered because the unconstitutional legislation, if passed, would be a direct threat to Roe v Wade. (That’s what the bill’s architects had in mind.)

But what has gone largely under the radar is that the bill’s supposed exceptions for rape and incest are so radically restrictive that they would make it near impossible for sexual assault assault victims to end their pregnancies. Which, of course, is the point.

Republicans know that two out of three rape victims do not report their assault to the police. They also know that incest victims – who have 140 days to report being assaulted under the bill – often don’t disclose their abuse even to family doctors because medical professionals are mandated to report the crime to authorities. (Children are often fearful to tell anyone about incest because of the reasonable fear that they’ll be placed in foster care or that their relative will get in trouble.)

Women’s hesitance to report comes with good reason – even today, police departments and health care professionals frequently mishandle cases, victim-blame, and further traumatize victims. But bills like the one in Iowa are not about protecting women or doing what’s best for them; they’re about forcing girls and women to carry pregnancies whether they want to or not.

There’s also something particularly troubling about forcing women to “prove” their abuse before the state allows them to have a medical procedure. When I first read about the bill, it reminded me of a scene from the dystopian Hulu drama, The Handmaid’s Tale, where June’s husband needs to sign a giving her “permission” to get birth control.

We’re already living in a country where women need to prove their worthiness for medical care via a male institution (the government), and multiple states have tried to pass bills that would mandate women get their husband’s permission before obtaining an abortion. Last year, a bill in Arkansas would have even forced women to notify their rapist before ending the pregnancy.

The Iowa bill’s exception rules operate from much the same place that all anti-choice legislation does: that women are not to be trusted. That we lie about rape and that we can’t make decisions about our own bodies without interference from male politicians. It’s an especially interesting position to take in a moment when women across the country are demanding that their stories of sexual abuse be believed and taken seriously.

So let’s watch the Iowa bill – and other state legislation like it – because of the threat it poses to abortion rights across the board. But let’s also take notice of the incremental ways states are trying, and often succeeding, in eroding women’s rights. It’s all horrific, and it all matters.

  • Jessica Valenti is a Guardian US columnist

It’s ironic, but under Trump abstinence-only sex education is back | Jessica Valenti

There is something perfect about the irony of Donald Trump – a man who bragged about the size of his penis during a debate and who is currently being sued by a porn actress – advocating for abstinence-only education. But here we are, in the upside down.

Politico reports that Valerie Huber, a longtime abstinence-only activist turned Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) staffer, will be making decisions about federal family planning funds. Huber, who was suspended from her position at the Ohio Department of Health after a state ethics investigation in 2006, is founder of the National Abstinence Educators Association, which later became Ascend. (The name change was part of a broader move by the abstinence-only movement to seem more credible.)

This comes on the heels of a leaked White House memo and HHS guidelines showing the administration plans to teach teenagers “fertility awareness methods” – otherwise known as the rhythm method – in lieu of birth control. Teens can barely get their homework in on time but somehow we’re expected to believe that they’re going to prevent pregnancy by tracking their periods.

While there is no lack of outrageous acts generated by the Trump administration these days, the idea that abstinence-only education is making a comeback cannot get lost in the muck.

Nearly a decade ago, I wrote a book about abstinence-only education. The lies told by federally funded “educators” to students across the country ranged from inaccurate to astounding.

I spoke to young people who were taught they could be arrested for having premarital sex, and others who were warned birth control pills would make them infertile. Students in Montana were told condoms could give them cancer. A widely used textbook taught that Aids is be transmitted by skin-to-skin contact. Another said that a girl who has had sex is no longer “fresh.”


Young people were given false and dangerous information about their health

These classes didn’t stop at inaccurate health information – they also promoted outdated gender roles, such as telling students that boys are wired for science while girls are “feelings” oriented and claiming that girls don’t like sex as much as boys so they need to be the ones to “put the brakes on” to stop intimacy. (These kinds of lessons were directly mentioned by young rape victims I spoke to while writing my book. They believed if they were assaulted it was because they didn’t do enough to stop it, or that they “tempted” their attacker.)

This was a generation of students failed by their country – young people given false and dangerous information about their health who had to un-learn everything they were taught about sex.

Under the Obama administration, we started to undo some of that damage. Teen pregnancy rates finally went down, contraceptive use was up. We cannot afford to go backwards.

The truth is that a majority of Americans want their children taught accurate and comprehensive information about sex that will make them safer – 93%, in fact, want kids taught about abstinence and contraception.

What teenagers learn about sex – or don’t learn – can quite literally impact their health and lives. They cannot afford to be lied to.

  • Jessica Valenti is a Guardian US columnist

Behind the latest IVF furore lies untold human suffering | Jessica Hepburn

The latest furore to hit the fertility industry exposes what a murky, complicated business it is. A number of the UK’s private clinics have been accused of misleading desperate, cash-strapped fertility patients into donating their own eggs for other people’s treatment. Health secretary Jeremy Hunt said the findings were “serious and worrying” and the UK’s regulator of fertility treatment, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), has launched an investigation.

One of the problems with the exposé is that the situation is far from straightforward. Egg sharing is an established and accepted practice in this country. In return for free treatment, a woman donates some of her own eggs harvested during an IVF cycle to another woman who does not have eggs of her own. It is supposed to be a primarily altruistic gesture, although undoubtedly if you can’t afford IVF there is a financial incentive (ie you don’t have to pay). However, the recent allegations suggest that some clinics are not offering just free treatment but money for eggs (which is not allowed), and that some clinics are proactively promoting the practice in order to obtain eggs to sell on at a significant profit.

Added to this is the suggestion that clinics are not counselling patients on what egg donation really means. One clinic was said to describe it as being like “donating blood”. In this country, if a person is conceived by egg or sperm donation through a licensed fertility clinic they are legally allowed to find out their genetic origins when they reach 18 years of age. I’ve not yet heard of a blood cell doing that.

There’s a shortage of egg donors in the UK and growing demand, and this does undoubtedly present clinics with a possible motive for underhand practices. The picture is further complicated by the fact that the situation is very different abroad. In countries such as the US young women are being paid handsomely for donating their eggs, and can do so anonymously. We should pride ourselves on having the gold standard in regulations – most human beings want to know where they come from (just look at the popularity of TV shows such as Who Do You Think You Are and the growing numbers of genealogy junkies scraping their cheeks and sending off their DNA). But in a competitive environment with targets to meet, and with many patients turning to treatment abroad, where donor eggs are more plentiful, the temptation to mislead could be there.

The people I really fear for in all this are the patients. These women are often desperate and vulnerable. They are the hidden faces of the fertility industry because so many of them are afraid to “come out”. I know because for years I was one of them, juggling my job with going through multiple rounds of treatment in secret in my pursuit of motherhood. Infertility and assisted conception still carry a stigma that is felt acutely by those going through it, but little understood or empathised with by those who are not. It affects your relationships with your family, your friends, your partner and at work, and above all it decimates your self-esteem. And why would you feel confident about saying you have the infertility illness (and it is an illness – your reproductive system isn’t working as it should) when we’re so conflicted in this country about whether or not IVF should be provided on our glorious NHS.


Who ever admits how many rounds of IVF they went through and how much it cost?

This is the environment that people who are struggling to conceive exist in. Perhaps it doesn’t affect the cash-rich celebrities sporting their menopausal miracle babies who can only have been achieved through egg donation. But who ever admits this or discloses how many rounds of IVF they went through and how much it cost? Arguably it doesn’t even affect me. Next month I pay off the final loan instalment of my last round of IVF from three years ago; I’m the sort of person who was lucky enough to find a bank that would loan me money, and that was my choice.

What about the people who don’t have the money and whom financial institutions won’t touch? The people who are the victims of the IVF postcode lottery but want to be parents too. Are we saying that if your arm is broken, we’ll fix it, but if your womb is broken, we won’t? Does your wealth determine your right to try to have a baby? Are we encouraging people to donate their eggs out of desperation to obtain treatment they couldn’t otherwise afford? Remember that they are running the risk that another woman might end up with their genetic offspring while they don’t. And why is there still so much suffering in silence around this whole subject? It’s not just the private fertility industry and the NHS that have to answer these questions. We all do.

How often should I wash my hair? You asked Google – here’s the answer | Jessica Hopkins

“Should” is a tricky word. And not one I’m generally a fan of. By definition it’s used to indicate “obligation, duty, or correctness, typically when criticising someone’s actions”. For example: you should wash your hair; it looks awful. But do we have a duty or obligation to wash our hair? And if so, is that for the good of our own health or to appease society’s expectations of personal hygiene and grooming?

While growing up, I vaguely remember instructions to brush my teeth and have a wash but the parental guidance on hair washing specifically escapes recollection. My earliest memory of washing my own hair as a child is my older sister’s mirth that not only did I bypass shampoo and go straight for conditioner, I hadn’t rinsed it out either. Some 25 years of hair-care trial-and-error later and I’ve more or less got it nailed.

My hair is dark, curly and very thick, so can easily withstand a good four or five days before it needs washing. And, to be perfectly honest, it’s not unknown to push this to a full week, providing I’ve been giving it a thorough soaking and comb-through each day. Does that seem gross?

Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. Excessively thick, curly hair can benefit no end from a little natural oil – in fact I’d go as far as to say that natural sebum is the world’s greatest serum – but for someone with thin, straight, blond hair, five days without washing generates an entirely different result.

So how do you determine what’s best for you? Just answer these simple questions. Is your hair long or short? Straight or curly? Thick or thin? Do you exercise (sweat) a lot? Swim? What’s your ethnicity? Do you live or work in a heavily polluted area? Do you use a lot of products? Do you heat style? Colour? Throw in the three sweeping hair “types” of oily, normal or dry and suddenly I feel an instructional matrix coming on. What the hell is normal hair, anyway?

Any one of these, or combination, will provide a different answer, ranging from every day to every other day, to every three days, to once or twice a week to the more obvious “as often as it needs it”. Most hair professionals tend to generalise at twice a week (fine hair excepted) but I know that isn’t applicable to me, at least, so why would you trust that? (As an aside, and just to be clear: whether you usually wash your hair every day or twice a week, using dry shampoo does not count. That’s like spritzing Febreze on your favourite T-shirt and saying you’ve washed it. You haven’t.)

The global shampoo industry will be worth an estimated $ 25bn-plus by 2019, in part thanks to the increase in dry shampoo sales and the increasing demand for natural and organic products. But is shampoo just another thing we’re programmed to buy because we think we need it? Every week my sister and I dutifully went to the supermarket with our dad, maintaining the illusion that we were helping with the weekly shop when in fact we were roaming the beauty aisle (with inexplicable free rein), searching for the new releases in shampoo and conditioner that we had just seen on TV. This was less because we had a keen interest in maintaining scalp health, more because we felt compelled to try the new products that promised us dreamy curls in a catchy way: “Don’t be so mean to your hair! Get hot!” (Yes, hands up if you’re a child of 80s commercialism.)

Given that shampoos can now only advertise how they will affect how hair looks, and not what is actually going on inside each follicle, then how can we trust that we do actually need to use it at all? To be Jen for a moment: “Here comes the science bit, concentrate.” If you usually wash your hair every day and then skip one it’s likely that your hair will become greasy pretty quickly. This is because while shampoo is taking away any dirt build up, it can also be drying out your natural reserves of sebum: the scalp thinks it’s in a drought so overcompensates, you get greasy hair and need to wash it again. Continue ad infinitum. (As another aside: be gentle when you wash, and only do the roots. Excessive scrubbing activates the oil-producing sebaceous glands, thus becoming a self-defeating action.)

When the hair and scalp are healthy, as much sebum as is needed is produced naturally. In theory, once you’ve weaned yourself free, you shouldn’t need to use shampoo at all, just a daily “wash” with water.

Given that I’m halfway to No Poo with my five-day average, I am incredibly tempted to give it a whirl properly. As for you (assuming you aren’t ready to ditch the suds): does it smell bad? Does your scalp itch? Is it stuck together? Does it look dull? Do you want to? Then probably, you already know the answer.

The war on abortion is just beginning | Jessica Valenti

If you’ve ever wondered what the oft-used and much maligned word “patriarchy” looks like, you need look no further than a picture of Donald Trump, surrounded by white men, reinstating the global gag rule. The policy, which bans funding any international organization that dares to even talk about abortion, has contributed to thousands of women’s deaths across the globe.

The executive order was just the beginning. In the short time Trump has been president, his administration has set a disastrous course for women’s health and rights. On Tuesday, days after historic marches that put millions of women on the street globally, Republican congressmen introduced the first ever federal ‘heartbeat bill’ – a policy that would ban abortions after six weeks, well before most women even know they’re pregnant.

That same day, the House passed a bill that would make the dangerous and discriminatory Hyde Amendment – which prevents federal funds from covering abortion, even in cases of fetal abnormalities and maternal health issues – permanent. The bill, which targets poor women, would also impact abortion coverage for women with private insurance. Congressional republicans have even introduced a federal ‘personhood’ bill that would define life as beginning at conception.

While the bills will not likely get far, the new administration is sending a clear message – they’re keeping Trump’s promise to punish women who have abortions, and rolling back hard-won rights. These are far-reaching and radical policies that quite literally kill women. There is no overstating just how harmful they are.

So you’ll excuse me for laughing off recent suggestions that feminists embrace “pro-life” women in the name of inclusivity. You don’t get to feel bad about being banned from the treehouse when you’re in the middle of setting the trunk on fire.

And let’s be clear: these political positions are not about reducing the number of abortions. The global gag rule, for example, has been shown to increase abortion – especially illegal and unsafe abortions. The same is true for state level abortion bans; hundreds of thousands of women in Texas have tried to induce their own abortions. Anti-choice policies don’t prevent women ending their pregnancies, they just ensure that women do it dangerously.

If anti-abortion legislators or so-called pro-life feminists were interested in decreasing the number of abortions they’d be enthusiastically supporting comprehensive sex education, affordable birth control, and access to over-the-counter emergency contraception. They’d be introducing legislation to mandate paid parental leave and subsidized child care.

But they’re not. And they won’t. So let’s not fool ourselves – these next four years are about fighting for what’s right, not searching for the nonexistent distraction of common ground.

Conservative, and mostly male, legislators will continue to push extreme policies; not necessarily with the hope that they’ll pass, but with the understanding that less radical laws might then seem “reasonable.” Diane Horvath-Cosper from Physicians for Reproductive Health told the Guardian this week, “So when a congressman introduces a 20-week bill, it looks moderate by comparison.”

But there is nothing moderate or reasonable about forced pregnancy, not at any point. There is no common ground with an administration that would put the rights of a fertilized egg above those of a living person. So keep those pink hats handy – we’re going to need them.

Will Trump cause progressives to forget about women’s rights? | Jessica Valenti

If you were concerned that forced funerals for fetuses and zygotes wasn’t quite horrific enough, rejoice! In the last week, Ohio has passed a law banning abortions after 20 weeks and Oklahoma wants to mandate that businesses post anti-abortion signs in women’s public restrooms.

In the wake of Trump’s win, reproductive rights opponents have not wasted a moment in their plan to roll back access to abortion and birth control. And, as has been the case for some time, these harmful policies are being presented as wins for women.

When Governor John Kasich of Ohio passed the 20-week ban, for example, he also vetoed a six-week ban – the hope being that the move would be seen as moderate in comparison. But 20 weeks is around the time that women find out about fetal abnormalities – a leading reason for later abortions. And while the Oklahoma plan is being touted by pro-life groups as a way to offer women “alternatives”, what it’s really doing is shaming women and requiring that businesses spend money on ideological propaganda. (Also, so much for the Republicans caring about women’s privacy in bathrooms!)

The research is clear: women suffer when you deny them access to birth control and abortion. In fact, despite anti-choice rhetoric to the contrary, the only kind of negative mental health impact that abortion has on women occurs when someone seeks out the procedure and is denied.

The challenge we have in front of us, though, is not just the danger of Trump’s administration or the emboldening of Republicans. In a time when bad news for progress is around every corner – as Slate writer Jamelle Bouie put it, “what disaster to write about today?” – we have to make that sure that women’s rights don’t get lost in the shuffle.

It wasn’t so long ago that gender and race were considered ancillary or distracting topics in progressive politics – a notion still being bandied about as people blame “identity politics” and “political correctness” for Trump’s win. If history is any indication, it won’t be long before we start hearing murmurings from so-called progressives that women should sacrifice working on issues that affect them in service of “the greater good”.

It’s vital that we not forget or lose the momentum feminism has had over the last decade, especially on reproductive rights. The stakes are just too high. Hundreds of thousands of American women have already sought out illegal abortions, in part because of state-level restrictions. And as the Affordable Care Act comes under fire, it could leave millions without coverage for contraception.

These are not small things, these are not side issues or special interests. Women’s ability to control their bodies and plan their family size is a human rights issue. And while we have a tremendous amount of work to do on so many fronts, Americans cannot afford to treat feminism and women’s progress as something that can be pushed aside for a time and picked up later. Let’s not allow our the fact that we’re overwhelmed to get the better of us – not now, and not for the next four years.