Tag Archives: women

Women fought for abortion rights. Fifty years on, the service is in crisis | Tim Friend

Half a century after abortion was made legal in England, Scotland and Wales, outsourcing of NHS services and a subsequent lack of specialist doctors mean that hundreds of women each year are prevented from having an abortion, sometimes seriously threatening their health, according to leading medics.

“The system is broken. It’s in crisis. Not fit for purpose,” says professor Lesley Regan, the president of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG).

Abortion is the most common medical or surgical procedure in the UK: more than 200,000 women have one each year. It is still illegal in Northern Ireland but this week the government revealed plans to provide free abortion services in England for women from Northern Ireland. Women can have either a medical abortion, which involves taking two pills usually 24 to 48 hours apart to induce a miscarriage, or they can have a surgical abortion. Around 80% occur at under 10 weeks gestation. Only in exceptional cases, if there is a grave risk to the woman’s life or severe foetal abnormality, are abortions legal beyond 24 weeks.

But one major provider of abortion services says women needing late abortions (between 19-24 weeks) are not always able to get them. The British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), along with Marie Stopes International (MSI), is one of the two main providers of abortion services for the NHS. Clare Murphy, BPAS’s director of external affairs, says: “We think there are probably hundreds of women a year prevented from having an abortion, due to long waiting times and the distance to a hospital providing an abortion – or because it is simply not equipped to carry out a termination late in the pregnancy.”

BPAS says that last year 158 women who had been referred for an NHS hospital termination due to complexities, gave up on their decision to have an abortion because they had been confronted with long distances to travel to a hospital that could carry out the procedure, and lengthy waiting times. A further 20 women diagnosed with multiple health problems who wanted an abortion could not be allocated a place in hospital – and had to continue with their pregnancies and give birth, despite the threat to their health.

“Unless this situation is addressed urgently, more and more women will have to continue with pregnancies they don’t want – and which may pose a serious risk to their health,” warns Murphy.

These women’s stories are harrowing and desperate. Because they went on to have a child after being denied an abortion, and are few in number, they are understandably wary of being identified. But there are recurring themes to their predicaments: pregnancy not detected until late on, then made difficult because of high blood pressure, heart conditions, obesity, or unexplained seizures. Some had abusive partners, others had existing children who were unwell. One woman became so ill that the baby was delivered at 26 weeks; another’s condition deteriorated so badly she qualified for a post-24-week abortion.

One of the problems is the growing number of young women seeking an abortion who are obese, diabetic or have hypertension. Increasing obesity among women of all ages makes operations more complex, and the later a termination, the more skilful the surgeon has to be. At 19 weeks there are just four hospitals offering medical terminations across the whole of England and Wales, and three offering surgical procedures. From 21 weeks, only Imperial College Healthcare NHS trust and King’s College Hospital NHS foundation trust, both in London, have one doctor able to undertake late procedures. At 15 weeks’ pregnancy, 18 hospitals across England and Wales can provide a medical abortion, 11 a surgical one.

Lesley Regan, the president of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists


“When my generation goes, there will be very few people who have any experience in the field,” says professor Lesley Regan, the president of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. Photograph: Martin Godwin for the Guardian

The Department of Health (DoH) says there are 524 more obstetricians and gynaecologists now than there were in May 2010, but not all of those will work in abortion care. Regan says the attrition rate is high and some junior doctors are choosing not to specialise in abortion services because of vilification from anti-abortionists, and sometimes even criticism from medical colleagues. But another factor is that opportunities to train within the NHS have disappeared. Although figures are not held centrally on numbers of acute hospitals training in abortion care, as an indication of declining numbers, the RCOG advanced training skills module in abortion – a core part of training – has not been completed yet this year in Kent, Surrey, Sussex, Thames Valley or the West Midlands. Only one has been completed in Wales, Wessex and south west England.

“When my generation goes, there will be very few people who have any experience, ,” says Regan. “Less than a handful” of consultants in England are doing late surgical abortions.”

The way in which commissioning has developed since the 1980s accounts for the lack of training. In 1981, abortion services were split almost evenly between the NHS and the private sector, such as Harley Street clinics. The NHS-funded independent sector – effectively the BPAS and Marie Stopes – played a tiny role. But it has grown steadily, often as a result of commissioners searching for less expensive contracts. Now the BPAS and Marie Stopes have 70 clinics each, accounting for two-thirds of NHS-funded services. The problem is, neither organisation is contracted to train doctors in abortion care, or to terminate pregnancies if there are complications because the patient has multiple health problems, leaving a dwindling number of acute teaching hospitals to train medics and provide more specialist care.

This is leading to regional gaps in provision. In Colchester, Essex, for example, the NHS trust would have done some late-stage abortions, but these services have now been transferred to the independent sector, so women have to travel a long way. A spokesman for north-east Essex clinical commissioning group says it awarded the contract for abortion services to Marie Stopes for greater efficiency.

Dr Sarah Prince, 31, a senior registrar in the east of England, is one of the few junior doctors ready to take on abortion work. “It’s part of women’s health and I’m really passionate about that,” she says. “But I might have trouble completing advance study modules because at least three hospitals in my area have stopped providing abortion care, instead contracting it out. I may have to move to live near a hospital over an hour away to complete my studies. The pity is they were really good services – and the staff were really proud of them.”

Prince says she has not encountered animosity because of her work, but she has seen complacency in the profession, such as having only one consultant in a hospital covering the entire abortion workload. When they are away, crucial decisions can come to a standstill. And she’s aware of colleagues who might claim a conscientious objection to abortion, but actually simply don’t want to be involved in contentious work. “It’s terrible seeing women pushed from pillar to post,” says Prince.

Regan, who set up an abortion taskforce two years ago, says: “I don’t want in any way to cast aspersions on BPAS and MSI, they do a fantastic job. I work very closely with them because we’ve got to find a solution together.” But she believes that commissioners of services have often been involved in “a race to the bottom” to find ever cheaper contracts. And fewer hospital chief executives and clinical directors are prepared to get involved in potentially complex cases, particularly when the tariff generated for the hospital is the same as giving a woman two tablets to miscarry. “It’s something people have rather washed their hands of,” she says.

One solution her taskforce will look at is going into the independent sector and making training part of the commissioning – something that BPAS and MSI say they are prepared to consider. The BPAS says regional centres of excellence could be the way forward. “The independent sector must be on hand to help in any way it can, collaborating with the NHS to improve training and provide support for existing NHS services and the doctors and trainees within them,” says Murphy.

At Birmingham Women’s Hospital, doctors have been developing a centre of excellence for abortion services. But Professor Janesh Gupta, head of obstetrics and gynaecology, is facing considerable hurdles. Funding for trainees is under threat and he says “the DoH is putting up further barriers on grounds of cost”. Gupta warns: “The service in England is almost at the point of self-destruction. The health department needs to know that.” He already carries out late-term abortions, but would like the capability to go to 24 weeks when necessary. He thinks a total of up to five such regional centres – at least two in London, and others in Birmingham and Newcastle – would go a long way to providing a service fit for purpose. “We have to provide for the future,” he says.

Part of the recent pressure on services was because Marie Stopes suspended some of its terminations in August 2016 after safety concerns raised by the Care Quality Commission. They have since been reinstated, but CQC inspections are continuing. Caroline Gazet, Marie Stopes UK deputy medical director, says: “The current shortage of surgeons is a sector-wide issue that we would like to see addressed by including abortion as part of the general training for new obstetricians and gynaecologists, as it has been previously.”

Easing demand for later terminations by making earlier abortion more accessible could help: currently two doctors must authorise an abortion and there are growing calls for a relaxation of Britain’s abortion law to allow nurses and midwives to give women the pills that can end an unwanted pregnancy. That would require a free vote in parliament. A survey by the charity Women on Web, published last month, found that among 519 women who had tried to access abortion pills online over a four-month period, running the risk of imprisonment, around 40% said they did so because the barriers they had met trying to obtain an abortion within the NHS – including travel difficulties and a perceived lack of confidentiality – were insurmountable.

Regan would like to bring back experienced clinicians to act as mentors and make training modules more widely available. “This is about changing hearts and minds as opposed to just putting in a workforce that can do the job,” she says. Regan warns: “When you don’t have facilities for safe, high quality abortion care, girls and women die.”

A DoH spokeswoman says: “The late abortions service is high risk and needs to be within the NHS – we are working with the RCOG and NHS England to develop a different approach for this highly specialised area of clinical practice.”

Electroconvulsive therapy mostly used on women and older people, says study

The use of electroconvulsive therapy to treat serious mental health problems is more prevalent in women and older individuals, researchers have found.

The study, which looked at data from a group of NHS trusts in England between 2011 and 2015, found that, on average, two thirds of recipients of ECT were women, and 56% were people aged over 60.

The results chime with findings from the annual dataset release by the Royal College of Psychiatrists, which reveals that for 2016/17, 67% of patients receiving acute courses of ECT were female, as were 74% of those receiving ECT to prevent relapses – so-called “maintenance ECT”.


Antidepressants are associated with side-effects in the elderly, whereas ECT is very safe

The data also found the mean age of patients was 61 for those receiving acute ECT, and 66 for those receiving maintenance ECT.

“This is remarkably consistent over a long period of time and in almost every country where it has been studied,” said John Read, professor of clinical psychology at the University of East London, and co-author of the latest study, published in the journal Psychology and Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice.

Early this year, a Guardian investigation revealed that, while ECT has been in decline since the latter half of the 20th century, the trend now appears to have stalled, with recent figures even suggesting a slight increase in its use.

Used to treat serious mental health problems, including life-threatening and treatment-resistant depression, ECT involves passing an electrical charge through the brain to trigger a seizure. The patient is under general anaesthetic at the time, and the electricity is applied for a matter of seconds.

While some experts say that ECT is an important and powerful tool for treating certain mental health problems, others argue that more research needs to be done to understand how it works, and whether it is truly effective compared with placebos.

Patient stories are also mixed: according to the latest data from the Royal College of Psychiatrists, more than 72% of patients receiving acute ECT were rated as being much improved, or very much improved, at the end of the treatment, while fewer than 2% were deemed worse.

That ECT is more commonly used among women and older individuals was of concern, said Read. “Nobody talks about it, or tries to explain it, or wonders why that might be,” he said, stressing that ECT does not tackle the social issues behind why more women than men appear to have depression.

“[ECT] is part of over-medicalising of human distress,” said Read, adding that some studies have shown that the side-effects of ECT, primarily related to memory loss, are worse for women and older people.

However, Nicol Ferrier, emeritus professor at Newcastle University and chair of the ECT committee at the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said that analyses of multiple studies had not found the cognitive side-effects from ECT were worse among the elderly or women.

The higher rates of ECT use among women and older individuals, added Ferrier, was neither surprising nor a cause for concern.

“Depression is more common in females than males,” he said, noting that the ratios were particularly high for treatment-resistant forms of the condition.

While Ferrier noted it was likely there were many factors behind that trend, he added that ECT appeared to be particularly effective for people with severe depression with life-threatening symptoms, psychosis and certain other diagnoses, and even more so among elderly women in this group. What’s more, he said, rates of ECT had declined among adults more generally, rather than the elderly.

“One of the reasons, we think, is that use of antidepressants is associated with quite a lot of side-effects in the elderly, whereas ECT is actually really very safe and straightforward in the elderly – provided you do it with appropriate standards,” he said.

‘I’ve been followed, attacked, spat on’: women on feeling scared to walk alone

A Stanford University study of smartphone data has showed that in almost every country in the world, women walk disproportionately fewer steps each day than men. Intrigued by the findings, Talia Shadwell spoke to women about their walking habits. In those conversations, one issue arose again and again: personal safety. Women felt they could not walk as much as they would freely choose to because of concerns that they would be harassed or worse by men.

In response to Talia’s piece, women from around the world contacted the Guardian to share their stories: the experiences that led them to think twice about walking alone in the neighbourhoods where they live and work.

‘He grabbed my breast … it infuriates me that it stays with me’

Some 30 years ago I was walking with my dog one morning in woods near my home, within a few hundred yards of a main road. A man came up and asked directions to a nearby village. I began to explain to him when he grabbed one of my breasts, clutching it painfully. My reaction was to shout at him loudly and my dog jumped up at him, at which he fled. I noticed as he fled that he had a large stick with him. All these years later, even with my current dogs, I can’t walk in woods alone. That infuriates me: that the incident stays with me in that way, when it almost certainly doesn’t with my assailant.
Sarah, Essex

‘I’ve been followed, attacked, spat on since school days’

I don’t think most men realise how common street harassment is in this country. I’ve been followed home, attacked, spat on, told to smile by men I don’t know, since school days. It’s pretty wearying feeling like you have to be constantly alert.
Guardian commenter

‘I saw he was staring straight at me’

It was a beautiful July evening and I decided to go for a walk along the river. I was apprehensive about walking alone but it was still light out and I knew the pedestrian paths would be busy with cyclists, joggers and dog walkers. I hadn’t been walking more than five minutes when I saw a teenage boy sitting on a bench ahead of me. Once I got ahead of him, I turned my head slightly so that he was in my peripheral vision, which is a trick I can only assume women all over the world use. I watched him get on his bike and pedal after me. He went to the left, following the path up a small hill, and then riding his bike parallel to me through a few scattered trees. Then I could see he had gotten off his bike and as I came around the other side of a tree I saw he was staring straight at me and had started to masturbate. Disgusted and furious, I turned around. He was already getting on his bike when I pulled out my phone to call 911.

I have always felt anxious while walking alone. I would love to be able to shake this fear that the night is not safe for me. It feels irrational because most of the time everything is fine. The problem is, everything is fine until it’s not.
Lauren, Ontario

‘In Cairo, harassment is a normal occurrence’

I live in Cairo where harassment is a normal occurrence for the majority of women. That has unfortunately kept me from walking in the streets and instead I always have to use my car or a taxi. I like to keep active and healthy; I even got a bicycle in hopes that it would be better than being on foot. But the harassment was actually worse. Trying to remove women from public space has a huge impact on where they stand in society: if they’re literally not visible out on the streets then it’s easier to ignore them in other places like the workplace or in politics. I took part in a protest for women’s rights shortly after the revolution took place in Egypt, and we were yelled at, harassed and kicked off the square by a group of men who didn’t want us to be visible. Unfortunately this type of systematic removal of women from public space still exists today in different forms.
Passant, Cairo

‘Being accosted by a man with a knife scared me off the streets’

I live only 1km from where I work, but being accosted by a man with a knife has scared me off the streets. I drive instead. I love walking, but will only walk with someone else and even then I keep vigilant. But I’m one of the “lucky” ones; many women in my town have no alternative but to walk, at least part of the way, to their place of work, shops, church, classes or gym. It is a horrible thing to live with fear every moment on the street.
Janet, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa

‘I was attacked walking home … the trust is gone’

Many years ago, in Darwin, I was attacked walking home from work, from behind, but fortunately I was a very strong girl and, after I got him off balance, he ended up on the ground and kicked in the jaw. That was just over 30 years ago but that altered my life – even today on a quiet street if a man approaches I cross the street until we have passed (sad, as the man is probably the nicest fellow). But the trust is gone. I don’t run or walk alone, I choose water sports for exercise and always have a very large, devoted dog with me.
Guardian commenter

‘I was followed by a man old enough to be my dad’

I was followed when I was about 19 by a man old enough to be my dad. I’d seen him watching everyone go their separate ways after the pubs and nightclub shut. He stalked me for about 10 minutes while I tried and failed to keep sight of a group of strangers up ahead. I’m lucky that all he did was grab me around the waist – when I panicked and started to shout he must have realised I wasn’t as drunk as he had hoped, and ran off. But the thought of what could have happened has stayed with me for years, and I’ve never walked anywhere alone at night since.
Eilidh, Glasgow

‘Every woman I know worries about this’

Every woman I know knows the litany, earnestly passed from mothers to daughters, aunts to nieces, big sisters to little sisters, postgrads to undergrads. How are you getting home? Do you have a plan? Take an extra tenner for a taxi. Who are you leaving with? Can someone walk you home? Let me know when you’re in the door home! Every woman I know sends the texts. “I’m in a black Merc 07 reg” “I’m leaving from O’Neills bar now, should be home by midnight” “Are you home?” “I’m home!”

Every woman I know thinks about this, talks about this, worries about this.

Not many men do. Some men know enough to say: “Will I walk you home?”, although some of them think it’s just one of those quirky cultural holdovers, like holding a door or pouring women’s wine first. A genteel, optional politeness. They don’t feel the terror scraping their bones as they grip their keys and wait for a taxi. We don’t walk home unless we walk together. We don’t walk home unless it’s only a few steps. We don’t walk home without texting our friend before, during, and after, like a prayer to safety. We don’t get to walk home.
Emer Emily, Dublin

‘I have to assess what I look like’

I got a job in downtown Denver. My male co-worker told me there is free parking six blocks away from our building. That blew my mind because the couple of blocks I walk from the $ 11-a-day parking lot to my building is already mentally exhausting for me. I have to assess what I look like today, how loud my heels are, how many men are on the sidewalk between me and my destination. I’ve been cat-called so many times while wearing (sometimes quite ugly) business-casual outfits that I even worry about walking across the street for lunch.
Bre, Denver

‘I still wind my keys around my fingers’

I used to walk the 50 metres from the tube to my flat in London with my keys wrapped around my fingers when I was younger, rushing and looking all around me every 30 seconds. When I got to the flat, I’d slam the door fast in case someone had been behind me and forced their way in. Now that I’ve got kids, I feel even less at ease … I’ll get a cab home rather than face a five-minute walk from the tube or bus stop. When I have to take the dog to the park at the end of our road before bed, I still wind my keys around my fingers and wait just outside under a streetlight, as I’m too terrified to go into it. I don’t remember there ever being a time in my life when I felt totally comfortable walking around alone after dark.
Juliet, London

‘No walks at dusk to see a beautiful sunset’

I am so very careful about where I go after dark. No gas stations, no banks. No walks at dusk to see a beautiful sunset – unless my husband is with me. I’m 60 now, and afraid of being perceived as weak and attackable. It doesn’t matter how innocuous the men seem to think the catcalls and name-calling are. It feels threatening to women, and causes intense anxiety. Everywhere.
Anonymous, South Carolina

‘Once women get past the age of 40, they become invisible to men’

When I was a teenager a man put his arms around me and lifted me off my feet, which was quite alarming (I hit him on the head with my handbag and he dropped me). Now I’m in my 60s, I do walk around the city where I live late at night sometimes and I’m never approached or spoken to and don’t feel unsafe. Once women get past the age of 40 or thereabouts they become invisible to most men!

However, I love walking in the countryside but would never do this alone, which limits the times I can do it.
Jane, Brighton

  • Share your experiences by emailing inequality.project@theguardian.com and follow the Guardian’s Inequality Project on Twitter here

‘I’ve been followed, attacked, spat on’: women on feeling scared to walk alone

A Stanford University study of smartphone data has showed that in almost every country in the world, women walk disproportionately fewer steps each day than men. Intrigued by the findings, Talia Shadwell spoke to women about their walking habits. In those conversations, one issue arose again and again: personal safety. Women felt they could not walk as much as they would freely choose to because of concerns that they would be harassed or worse by men.

In response to Talia’s piece, women from around the world contacted the Guardian to share their stories: the experiences that led them to think twice about walking alone in the neighbourhoods where they live and work.

‘He grabbed my breast … it infuriates me that it stays with me’

Some 30 years ago I was walking with my dog one morning in woods near my home, within a few hundred yards of a main road. A man came up and asked directions to a nearby village. I began to explain to him when he grabbed one of my breasts, clutching it painfully. My reaction was to shout at him loudly and my dog jumped up at him, at which he fled. I noticed as he fled that he had a large stick with him. All these years later, even with my current dogs, I can’t walk in woods alone. That infuriates me: that the incident stays with me in that way, when it almost certainly doesn’t with my assailant.
Sarah, Essex

‘I’ve been followed, attacked, spat on since school days’

I don’t think most men realise how common street harassment is in this country. I’ve been followed home, attacked, spat on, told to smile by men I don’t know, since school days. It’s pretty wearying feeling like you have to be constantly alert.
Guardian commenter

‘I saw he was staring straight at me’

It was a beautiful July evening and I decided to go for a walk along the river. I was apprehensive about walking alone but it was still light out and I knew the pedestrian paths would be busy with cyclists, joggers and dog walkers. I hadn’t been walking more than five minutes when I saw a teenage boy sitting on a bench ahead of me. Once I got ahead of him, I turned my head slightly so that he was in my peripheral vision, which is a trick I can only assume women all over the world use. I watched him get on his bike and pedal after me. He went to the left, following the path up a small hill, and then riding his bike parallel to me through a few scattered trees. Then I could see he had gotten off his bike and as I came around the other side of a tree I saw he was staring straight at me and had started to masturbate. Disgusted and furious, I turned around. He was already getting on his bike when I pulled out my phone to call 911.

I have always felt anxious while walking alone. I would love to be able to shake this fear that the night is not safe for me. It feels irrational because most of the time everything is fine. The problem is, everything is fine until it’s not.
Lauren, Ontario

‘In Cairo, harassment is a normal occurrence’

I live in Cairo where harassment is a normal occurrence for the majority of women. That has unfortunately kept me from walking in the streets and instead I always have to use my car or a taxi. I like to keep active and healthy; I even got a bicycle in hopes that it would be better than being on foot. But the harassment was actually worse. Trying to remove women from public space has a huge impact on where they stand in society: if they’re literally not visible out on the streets then it’s easier to ignore them in other places like the workplace or in politics. I took part in a protest for women’s rights shortly after the revolution took place in Egypt, and we were yelled at, harassed and kicked off the square by a group of men who didn’t want us to be visible. Unfortunately this type of systematic removal of women from public space still exists today in different forms.
Passant, Cairo

‘Being accosted by a man with a knife scared me off the streets’

I live only 1km from where I work, but being accosted by a man with a knife has scared me off the streets. I drive instead. I love walking, but will only walk with someone else and even then I keep vigilant. But I’m one of the “lucky” ones; many women in my town have no alternative but to walk, at least part of the way, to their place of work, shops, church, classes or gym. It is a horrible thing to live with fear every moment on the street.
Janet, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa

‘I was attacked walking home … the trust is gone’

Many years ago, in Darwin, I was attacked walking home from work, from behind, but fortunately I was a very strong girl and, after I got him off balance, he ended up on the ground and kicked in the jaw. That was just over 30 years ago but that altered my life – even today on a quiet street if a man approaches I cross the street until we have passed (sad, as the man is probably the nicest fellow). But the trust is gone. I don’t run or walk alone, I choose water sports for exercise and always have a very large, devoted dog with me.
Guardian commenter

‘I was followed by a man old enough to be my dad’

I was followed when I was about 19 by a man old enough to be my dad. I’d seen him watching everyone go their separate ways after the pubs and nightclub shut. He stalked me for about 10 minutes while I tried and failed to keep sight of a group of strangers up ahead. I’m lucky that all he did was grab me around the waist – when I panicked and started to shout he must have realised I wasn’t as drunk as he had hoped, and ran off. But the thought of what could have happened has stayed with me for years, and I’ve never walked anywhere alone at night since.
Eilidh, Glasgow

‘Every woman I know worries about this’

Every woman I know knows the litany, earnestly passed from mothers to daughters, aunts to nieces, big sisters to little sisters, postgrads to undergrads. How are you getting home? Do you have a plan? Take an extra tenner for a taxi. Who are you leaving with? Can someone walk you home? Let me know when you’re in the door home! Every woman I know sends the texts. “I’m in a black Merc 07 reg” “I’m leaving from O’Neills bar now, should be home by midnight” “Are you home?” “I’m home!”

Every woman I know thinks about this, talks about this, worries about this.

Not many men do. Some men know enough to say: “Will I walk you home?”, although some of them think it’s just one of those quirky cultural holdovers, like holding a door or pouring women’s wine first. A genteel, optional politeness. They don’t feel the terror scraping their bones as they grip their keys and wait for a taxi. We don’t walk home unless we walk together. We don’t walk home unless it’s only a few steps. We don’t walk home without texting our friend before, during, and after, like a prayer to safety. We don’t get to walk home.
Emer Emily, Dublin

‘I have to assess what I look like’

I got a job in downtown Denver. My male co-worker told me there is free parking six blocks away from our building. That blew my mind because the couple of blocks I walk from the $ 11-a-day parking lot to my building is already mentally exhausting for me. I have to assess what I look like today, how loud my heels are, how many men are on the sidewalk between me and my destination. I’ve been cat-called so many times while wearing (sometimes quite ugly) business-casual outfits that I even worry about walking across the street for lunch.
Bre, Denver

‘I still wind my keys around my fingers’

I used to walk the 50 metres from the tube to my flat in London with my keys wrapped around my fingers when I was younger, rushing and looking all around me every 30 seconds. When I got to the flat, I’d slam the door fast in case someone had been behind me and forced their way in. Now that I’ve got kids, I feel even less at ease … I’ll get a cab home rather than face a five-minute walk from the tube or bus stop. When I have to take the dog to the park at the end of our road before bed, I still wind my keys around my fingers and wait just outside under a streetlight, as I’m too terrified to go into it. I don’t remember there ever being a time in my life when I felt totally comfortable walking around alone after dark.
Juliet, London

‘No walks at dusk to see a beautiful sunset’

I am so very careful about where I go after dark. No gas stations, no banks. No walks at dusk to see a beautiful sunset – unless my husband is with me. I’m 60 now, and afraid of being perceived as weak and attackable. It doesn’t matter how innocuous the men seem to think the catcalls and name-calling are. It feels threatening to women, and causes intense anxiety. Everywhere.
Anonymous, South Carolina

‘Once women get past the age of 40, they become invisible to men’

When I was a teenager a man put his arms around me and lifted me off my feet, which was quite alarming (I hit him on the head with my handbag and he dropped me). Now I’m in my 60s, I do walk around the city where I live late at night sometimes and I’m never approached or spoken to and don’t feel unsafe. Once women get past the age of 40 or thereabouts they become invisible to most men!

However, I love walking in the countryside but would never do this alone, which limits the times I can do it.
Jane, Brighton

  • Share your experiences by emailing inequality.project@theguardian.com and follow the Guardian’s Inequality Project on Twitter here

‘I’ve been followed, attacked, spat on’: women on feeling scared to walk alone

A Stanford University study of smartphone data has showed that in almost every country in the world, women walk disproportionately fewer steps each day than men. Intrigued by the findings, Talia Shadwell spoke to women about their walking habits. In those conversations, one issue arose again and again: personal safety. Women felt they could not walk as much as they would freely choose to because of concerns that they would be harassed or worse by men.

In response to Talia’s piece, women from around the world contacted the Guardian to share their stories: the experiences that led them to think twice about walking alone in the neighbourhoods where they live and work.

‘He grabbed my breast … it infuriates me that it stays with me’

Some 30 years ago I was walking with my dog one morning in woods near my home, within a few hundred yards of a main road. A man came up and asked directions to a nearby village. I began to explain to him when he grabbed one of my breasts, clutching it painfully. My reaction was to shout at him loudly and my dog jumped up at him, at which he fled. I noticed as he fled that he had a large stick with him. All these years later, even with my current dogs, I can’t walk in woods alone. That infuriates me: that the incident stays with me in that way, when it almost certainly doesn’t with my assailant.
Sarah, Essex

‘I’ve been followed, attacked, spat on since school days’

I don’t think most men realise how common street harassment is in this country. I’ve been followed home, attacked, spat on, told to smile by men I don’t know, since school days. It’s pretty wearying feeling like you have to be constantly alert.
Guardian commenter

‘I saw he was staring straight at me’

It was a beautiful July evening and I decided to go for a walk along the river. I was apprehensive about walking alone but it was still light out and I knew the pedestrian paths would be busy with cyclists, joggers and dog walkers. I hadn’t been walking more than five minutes when I saw a teenage boy sitting on a bench ahead of me. Once I got ahead of him, I turned my head slightly so that he was in my peripheral vision, which is a trick I can only assume women all over the world use. I watched him get on his bike and pedal after me. He went to the left, following the path up a small hill, and then riding his bike parallel to me through a few scattered trees. Then I could see he had gotten off his bike and as I came around the other side of a tree I saw he was staring straight at me and had started to masturbate. Disgusted and furious, I turned around. He was already getting on his bike when I pulled out my phone to call 911.

I have always felt anxious while walking alone. I would love to be able to shake this fear that the night is not safe for me. It feels irrational because most of the time everything is fine. The problem is, everything is fine until it’s not.
Lauren, Ontario

‘In Cairo, harassment is a normal occurrence’

I live in Cairo where harassment is a normal occurrence for the majority of women. That has unfortunately kept me from walking in the streets and instead I always have to use my car or a taxi. I like to keep active and healthy; I even got a bicycle in hopes that it would be better than being on foot. But the harassment was actually worse. Trying to remove women from public space has a huge impact on where they stand in society: if they’re literally not visible out on the streets then it’s easier to ignore them in other places like the workplace or in politics. I took part in a protest for women’s rights shortly after the revolution took place in Egypt, and we were yelled at, harassed and kicked off the square by a group of men who didn’t want us to be visible. Unfortunately this type of systematic removal of women from public space still exists today in different forms.
Passant, Cairo

‘Being accosted by a man with a knife scared me off the streets’

I live only 1km from where I work, but being accosted by a man with a knife has scared me off the streets. I drive instead. I love walking, but will only walk with someone else and even then I keep vigilant. But I’m one of the “lucky” ones; many women in my town have no alternative but to walk, at least part of the way, to their place of work, shops, church, classes or gym. It is a horrible thing to live with fear every moment on the street.
Janet, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa

‘I was attacked walking home … the trust is gone’

Many years ago, in Darwin, I was attacked walking home from work, from behind, but fortunately I was a very strong girl and, after I got him off balance, he ended up on the ground and kicked in the jaw. That was just over 30 years ago but that altered my life – even today on a quiet street if a man approaches I cross the street until we have passed (sad, as the man is probably the nicest fellow). But the trust is gone. I don’t run or walk alone, I choose water sports for exercise and always have a very large, devoted dog with me.
Guardian commenter

‘I was followed by a man old enough to be my dad’

I was followed when I was about 19 by a man old enough to be my dad. I’d seen him watching everyone go their separate ways after the pubs and nightclub shut. He stalked me for about 10 minutes while I tried and failed to keep sight of a group of strangers up ahead. I’m lucky that all he did was grab me around the waist – when I panicked and started to shout he must have realised I wasn’t as drunk as he had hoped, and ran off. But the thought of what could have happened has stayed with me for years, and I’ve never walked anywhere alone at night since.
Eilidh, Glasgow

‘Every woman I know worries about this’

Every woman I know knows the litany, earnestly passed from mothers to daughters, aunts to nieces, big sisters to little sisters, postgrads to undergrads. How are you getting home? Do you have a plan? Take an extra tenner for a taxi. Who are you leaving with? Can someone walk you home? Let me know when you’re in the door home! Every woman I know sends the texts. “I’m in a black Merc 07 reg” “I’m leaving from O’Neills bar now, should be home by midnight” “Are you home?” “I’m home!”

Every woman I know thinks about this, talks about this, worries about this.

Not many men do. Some men know enough to say: “Will I walk you home?”, although some of them think it’s just one of those quirky cultural holdovers, like holding a door or pouring women’s wine first. A genteel, optional politeness. They don’t feel the terror scraping their bones as they grip their keys and wait for a taxi. We don’t walk home unless we walk together. We don’t walk home unless it’s only a few steps. We don’t walk home without texting our friend before, during, and after, like a prayer to safety. We don’t get to walk home.
Emer Emily, Dublin

‘I have to assess what I look like’

I got a job in downtown Denver. My male co-worker told me there is free parking six blocks away from our building. That blew my mind because the couple of blocks I walk from the $ 11-a-day parking lot to my building is already mentally exhausting for me. I have to assess what I look like today, how loud my heels are, how many men are on the sidewalk between me and my destination. I’ve been cat-called so many times while wearing (sometimes quite ugly) business-casual outfits that I even worry about walking across the street for lunch.
Bre, Denver

‘I still wind my keys around my fingers’

I used to walk the 50 metres from the tube to my flat in London with my keys wrapped around my fingers when I was younger, rushing and looking all around me every 30 seconds. When I got to the flat, I’d slam the door fast in case someone had been behind me and forced their way in. Now that I’ve got kids, I feel even less at ease … I’ll get a cab home rather than face a five-minute walk from the tube or bus stop. When I have to take the dog to the park at the end of our road before bed, I still wind my keys around my fingers and wait just outside under a streetlight, as I’m too terrified to go into it. I don’t remember there ever being a time in my life when I felt totally comfortable walking around alone after dark.
Juliet, London

‘No walks at dusk to see a beautiful sunset’

I am so very careful about where I go after dark. No gas stations, no banks. No walks at dusk to see a beautiful sunset – unless my husband is with me. I’m 60 now, and afraid of being perceived as weak and attackable. It doesn’t matter how innocuous the men seem to think the catcalls and name-calling are. It feels threatening to women, and causes intense anxiety. Everywhere.
Anonymous, South Carolina

‘Once women get past the age of 40, they become invisible to men’

When I was a teenager a man put his arms around me and lifted me off my feet, which was quite alarming (I hit him on the head with my handbag and he dropped me). Now I’m in my 60s, I do walk around the city where I live late at night sometimes and I’m never approached or spoken to and don’t feel unsafe. Once women get past the age of 40 or thereabouts they become invisible to most men!

However, I love walking in the countryside but would never do this alone, which limits the times I can do it.
Jane, Brighton

  • Share your experiences by emailing inequality.project@theguardian.com and follow the Guardian’s Inequality Project on Twitter here

‘I’ve been followed, attacked, spat on’: women on feeling scared to walk alone

A Stanford University study of smartphone data has showed that in almost every country in the world, women walk disproportionately fewer steps each day than men. Intrigued by the findings, Talia Shadwell spoke to women about their walking habits. In those conversations, one issue arose again and again: personal safety. Women felt they could not walk as much as they would freely choose to because of concerns that they would be harassed or worse by men.

In response to Talia’s piece, women from around the world contacted the Guardian to share their stories: the experiences that led them to think twice about walking alone in the neighbourhoods where they live and work.

‘He grabbed my breast … it infuriates me that it stays with me’

Some 30 years ago I was walking with my dog one morning in woods near my home, within a few hundred yards of a main road. A man came up and asked directions to a nearby village. I began to explain to him when he grabbed one of my breasts, clutching it painfully. My reaction was to shout at him loudly and my dog jumped up at him, at which he fled. I noticed as he fled that he had a large stick with him. All these years later, even with my current dogs, I can’t walk in woods alone. That infuriates me: that the incident stays with me in that way, when it almost certainly doesn’t with my assailant.
Sarah, Essex

‘I’ve been followed, attacked, spat on since school days’

I don’t think most men realise how common street harassment is in this country. I’ve been followed home, attacked, spat on, told to smile by men I don’t know, since school days. It’s pretty wearying feeling like you have to be constantly alert.
Guardian commenter

‘I saw he was staring straight at me’

It was a beautiful July evening and I decided to go for a walk along the river. I was apprehensive about walking alone but it was still light out and I knew the pedestrian paths would be busy with cyclists, joggers and dog walkers. I hadn’t been walking more than five minutes when I saw a teenage boy sitting on a bench ahead of me. Once I got ahead of him, I turned my head slightly so that he was in my peripheral vision, which is a trick I can only assume women all over the world use. I watched him get on his bike and pedal after me. He went to the left, following the path up a small hill, and then riding his bike parallel to me through a few scattered trees. Then I could see he had gotten off his bike and as I came around the other side of a tree I saw he was staring straight at me and had started to masturbate. Disgusted and furious, I turned around. He was already getting on his bike when I pulled out my phone to call 911.

I have always felt anxious while walking alone. I would love to be able to shake this fear that the night is not safe for me. It feels irrational because most of the time everything is fine. The problem is, everything is fine until it’s not.
Lauren, Ontario

‘In Cairo, harassment is a normal occurrence’

I live in Cairo where harassment is a normal occurrence for the majority of women. That has unfortunately kept me from walking in the streets and instead I always have to use my car or a taxi. I like to keep active and healthy; I even got a bicycle in hopes that it would be better than being on foot. But the harassment was actually worse. Trying to remove women from public space has a huge impact on where they stand in society: if they’re literally not visible out on the streets then it’s easier to ignore them in other places like the workplace or in politics. I took part in a protest for women’s rights shortly after the revolution took place in Egypt, and we were yelled at, harassed and kicked off the square by a group of men who didn’t want us to be visible. Unfortunately this type of systematic removal of women from public space still exists today in different forms.
Passant, Cairo

‘Being accosted by a man with a knife scared me off the streets’

I live only 1km from where I work, but being accosted by a man with a knife has scared me off the streets. I drive instead. I love walking, but will only walk with someone else and even then I keep vigilant. But I’m one of the “lucky” ones; many women in my town have no alternative but to walk, at least part of the way, to their place of work, shops, church, classes or gym. It is a horrible thing to live with fear every moment on the street.
Janet, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa

‘I was attacked walking home … the trust is gone’

Many years ago, in Darwin, I was attacked walking home from work, from behind, but fortunately I was a very strong girl and, after I got him off balance, he ended up on the ground and kicked in the jaw. That was just over 30 years ago but that altered my life – even today on a quiet street if a man approaches I cross the street until we have passed (sad, as the man is probably the nicest fellow). But the trust is gone. I don’t run or walk alone, I choose water sports for exercise and always have a very large, devoted dog with me.
Guardian commenter

‘I was followed by a man old enough to be my dad’

I was followed when I was about 19 by a man old enough to be my dad. I’d seen him watching everyone go their separate ways after the pubs and nightclub shut. He stalked me for about 10 minutes while I tried and failed to keep sight of a group of strangers up ahead. I’m lucky that all he did was grab me around the waist – when I panicked and started to shout he must have realised I wasn’t as drunk as he had hoped, and ran off. But the thought of what could have happened has stayed with me for years, and I’ve never walked anywhere alone at night since.
Eilidh, Glasgow

‘Every woman I know worries about this’

Every woman I know knows the litany, earnestly passed from mothers to daughters, aunts to nieces, big sisters to little sisters, postgrads to undergrads. How are you getting home? Do you have a plan? Take an extra tenner for a taxi. Who are you leaving with? Can someone walk you home? Let me know when you’re in the door home! Every woman I know sends the texts. “I’m in a black Merc 07 reg” “I’m leaving from O’Neills bar now, should be home by midnight” “Are you home?” “I’m home!”

Every woman I know thinks about this, talks about this, worries about this.

Not many men do. Some men know enough to say: “Will I walk you home?”, although some of them think it’s just one of those quirky cultural holdovers, like holding a door or pouring women’s wine first. A genteel, optional politeness. They don’t feel the terror scraping their bones as they grip their keys and wait for a taxi. We don’t walk home unless we walk together. We don’t walk home unless it’s only a few steps. We don’t walk home without texting our friend before, during, and after, like a prayer to safety. We don’t get to walk home.
Emer Emily, Dublin

‘I have to assess what I look like’

I got a job in downtown Denver. My male co-worker told me there is free parking six blocks away from our building. That blew my mind because the couple of blocks I walk from the $ 11-a-day parking lot to my building is already mentally exhausting for me. I have to assess what I look like today, how loud my heels are, how many men are on the sidewalk between me and my destination. I’ve been cat-called so many times while wearing (sometimes quite ugly) business-casual outfits that I even worry about walking across the street for lunch.
Bre, Denver

‘I still wind my keys around my fingers’

I used to walk the 50 metres from the tube to my flat in London with my keys wrapped around my fingers when I was younger, rushing and looking all around me every 30 seconds. When I got to the flat, I’d slam the door fast in case someone had been behind me and forced their way in. Now that I’ve got kids, I feel even less at ease … I’ll get a cab home rather than face a five-minute walk from the tube or bus stop. When I have to take the dog to the park at the end of our road before bed, I still wind my keys around my fingers and wait just outside under a streetlight, as I’m too terrified to go into it. I don’t remember there ever being a time in my life when I felt totally comfortable walking around alone after dark.
Juliet, London

‘No walks at dusk to see a beautiful sunset’

I am so very careful about where I go after dark. No gas stations, no banks. No walks at dusk to see a beautiful sunset – unless my husband is with me. I’m 60 now, and afraid of being perceived as weak and attackable. It doesn’t matter how innocuous the men seem to think the catcalls and name-calling are. It feels threatening to women, and causes intense anxiety. Everywhere.
Anonymous, South Carolina

‘Once women get past the age of 40, they become invisible to men’

When I was a teenager a man put his arms around me and lifted me off my feet, which was quite alarming (I hit him on the head with my handbag and he dropped me). Now I’m in my 60s, I do walk around the city where I live late at night sometimes and I’m never approached or spoken to and don’t feel unsafe. Once women get past the age of 40 or thereabouts they become invisible to most men!

However, I love walking in the countryside but would never do this alone, which limits the times I can do it.
Jane, Brighton

  • Share your experiences by emailing inequality.project@theguardian.com and follow the Guardian’s Inequality Project on Twitter here

‘I’ve been followed, attacked, spat on’: women on feeling scared to walk alone

A Stanford University study of smartphone data has showed that in almost every country in the world, women walk disproportionately fewer steps each day than men. Intrigued by the findings, Talia Shadwell spoke to women about their walking habits. In those conversations, one issue arose again and again: personal safety. Women felt they could not walk as much as they would freely choose to because of concerns that they would be harassed or worse by men.

In response to Talia’s piece, women from around the world contacted the Guardian to share their stories: the experiences that led them to think twice about walking alone in the neighbourhoods where they live and work.

‘He grabbed my breast … it infuriates me that it stays with me’

Some 30 years ago I was walking with my dog one morning in woods near my home, within a few hundred yards of a main road. A man came up and asked directions to a nearby village. I began to explain to him when he grabbed one of my breasts, clutching it painfully. My reaction was to shout at him loudly and my dog jumped up at him, at which he fled. I noticed as he fled that he had a large stick with him. All these years later, even with my current dogs, I can’t walk in woods alone. That infuriates me: that the incident stays with me in that way, when it almost certainly doesn’t with my assailant.
Sarah, Essex

‘I’ve been followed, attacked, spat on since school days’

I don’t think most men realise how common street harassment is in this country. I’ve been followed home, attacked, spat on, told to smile by men I don’t know, since school days. It’s pretty wearying feeling like you have to be constantly alert.
Guardian commenter

‘I saw he was staring straight at me’

It was a beautiful July evening and I decided to go for a walk along the river. I was apprehensive about walking alone but it was still light out and I knew the pedestrian paths would be busy with cyclists, joggers and dog walkers. I hadn’t been walking more than five minutes when I saw a teenage boy sitting on a bench ahead of me. Once I got ahead of him, I turned my head slightly so that he was in my peripheral vision, which is a trick I can only assume women all over the world use. I watched him get on his bike and pedal after me. He went to the left, following the path up a small hill, and then riding his bike parallel to me through a few scattered trees. Then I could see he had gotten off his bike and as I came around the other side of a tree I saw he was staring straight at me and had started to masturbate. Disgusted and furious, I turned around. He was already getting on his bike when I pulled out my phone to call 911.

I have always felt anxious while walking alone. I would love to be able to shake this fear that the night is not safe for me. It feels irrational because most of the time everything is fine. The problem is, everything is fine until it’s not.
Lauren, Ontario

‘In Cairo, harassment is a normal occurrence’

I live in Cairo where harassment is a normal occurrence for the majority of women. That has unfortunately kept me from walking in the streets and instead I always have to use my car or a taxi. I like to keep active and healthy; I even got a bicycle in hopes that it would be better than being on foot. But the harassment was actually worse. Trying to remove women from public space has a huge impact on where they stand in society: if they’re literally not visible out on the streets then it’s easier to ignore them in other places like the workplace or in politics. I took part in a protest for women’s rights shortly after the revolution took place in Egypt, and we were yelled at, harassed and kicked off the square by a group of men who didn’t want us to be visible. Unfortunately this type of systematic removal of women from public space still exists today in different forms.
Passant, Cairo

‘Being accosted by a man with a knife scared me off the streets’

I live only 1km from where I work, but being accosted by a man with a knife has scared me off the streets. I drive instead. I love walking, but will only walk with someone else and even then I keep vigilant. But I’m one of the “lucky” ones; many women in my town have no alternative but to walk, at least part of the way, to their place of work, shops, church, classes or gym. It is a horrible thing to live with fear every moment on the street.
Janet, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa

‘I was attacked walking home … the trust is gone’

Many years ago, in Darwin, I was attacked walking home from work, from behind, but fortunately I was a very strong girl and, after I got him off balance, he ended up on the ground and kicked in the jaw. That was just over 30 years ago but that altered my life – even today on a quiet street if a man approaches I cross the street until we have passed (sad, as the man is probably the nicest fellow). But the trust is gone. I don’t run or walk alone, I choose water sports for exercise and always have a very large, devoted dog with me.
Guardian commenter

‘I was followed by a man old enough to be my dad’

I was followed when I was about 19 by a man old enough to be my dad. I’d seen him watching everyone go their separate ways after the pubs and nightclub shut. He stalked me for about 10 minutes while I tried and failed to keep sight of a group of strangers up ahead. I’m lucky that all he did was grab me around the waist – when I panicked and started to shout he must have realised I wasn’t as drunk as he had hoped, and ran off. But the thought of what could have happened has stayed with me for years, and I’ve never walked anywhere alone at night since.
Eilidh, Glasgow

‘Every woman I know worries about this’

Every woman I know knows the litany, earnestly passed from mothers to daughters, aunts to nieces, big sisters to little sisters, postgrads to undergrads. How are you getting home? Do you have a plan? Take an extra tenner for a taxi. Who are you leaving with? Can someone walk you home? Let me know when you’re in the door home! Every woman I know sends the texts. “I’m in a black Merc 07 reg” “I’m leaving from O’Neills bar now, should be home by midnight” “Are you home?” “I’m home!”

Every woman I know thinks about this, talks about this, worries about this.

Not many men do. Some men know enough to say: “Will I walk you home?”, although some of them think it’s just one of those quirky cultural holdovers, like holding a door or pouring women’s wine first. A genteel, optional politeness. They don’t feel the terror scraping their bones as they grip their keys and wait for a taxi. We don’t walk home unless we walk together. We don’t walk home unless it’s only a few steps. We don’t walk home without texting our friend before, during, and after, like a prayer to safety. We don’t get to walk home.
Emer Emily, Dublin

‘I have to assess what I look like’

I got a job in downtown Denver. My male co-worker told me there is free parking six blocks away from our building. That blew my mind because the couple of blocks I walk from the $ 11-a-day parking lot to my building is already mentally exhausting for me. I have to assess what I look like today, how loud my heels are, how many men are on the sidewalk between me and my destination. I’ve been cat-called so many times while wearing (sometimes quite ugly) business-casual outfits that I even worry about walking across the street for lunch.
Bre, Denver

‘I still wind my keys around my fingers’

I used to walk the 50 metres from the tube to my flat in London with my keys wrapped around my fingers when I was younger, rushing and looking all around me every 30 seconds. When I got to the flat, I’d slam the door fast in case someone had been behind me and forced their way in. Now that I’ve got kids, I feel even less at ease … I’ll get a cab home rather than face a five-minute walk from the tube or bus stop. When I have to take the dog to the park at the end of our road before bed, I still wind my keys around my fingers and wait just outside under a streetlight, as I’m too terrified to go into it. I don’t remember there ever being a time in my life when I felt totally comfortable walking around alone after dark.
Juliet, London

‘No walks at dusk to see a beautiful sunset’

I am so very careful about where I go after dark. No gas stations, no banks. No walks at dusk to see a beautiful sunset – unless my husband is with me. I’m 60 now, and afraid of being perceived as weak and attackable. It doesn’t matter how innocuous the men seem to think the catcalls and name-calling are. It feels threatening to women, and causes intense anxiety. Everywhere.
Anonymous, South Carolina

‘Once women get past the age of 40, they become invisible to men’

When I was a teenager a man put his arms around me and lifted me off my feet, which was quite alarming (I hit him on the head with my handbag and he dropped me). Now I’m in my 60s, I do walk around the city where I live late at night sometimes and I’m never approached or spoken to and don’t feel unsafe. Once women get past the age of 40 or thereabouts they become invisible to most men!

However, I love walking in the countryside but would never do this alone, which limits the times I can do it.
Jane, Brighton

  • Share your experiences by emailing inequality.project@theguardian.com and follow the Guardian’s Inequality Project on Twitter here

Johnson & Johnson vaginal mesh presentation featured lingerie-clad women, court told

A senior Johnson & Johnson executive included inappropriate jokes about pictures of scantily clad women in a presentation on the company’s controversial transvaginal mesh implants, a court has heard.

Piet Hinoul, a vice-president of J&J’s product development arm, Ethicon, was speaking at a transvaginal mesh meeting in France in March 2009, discussing the devices and the response they produced in women’s bodies.

The two companies are facing a class action in Australia, launched by Shine Lawyers, which alleges the implants’ flaws caused lasting and debilitating pain for thousands of women worldwide.

Hinoul’s presentation concluded with two slides showing revealing pictures of women in underwear, who were not mesh patients.

One pictured the crotch area of a woman, and included the caption: “But, less is more! We recommend dry cleaning, this bikini can shrink with wash [sic].”

Another slide featured a model in lingerie, with the caption: “The [transvaginal mesh] group already knew: a mesh gives better support.”

Hinoul was asked about the slides last week in the federal court of Australia, where Ethicon and J&J are facing a class action involving more than 700 women, who say the implants have ruined their lives.

“It was an inappropriate comment. It was a play on words on a ‘better mesh for a better support’,” he said, referring to the picture of the model in lingerie.

“It was an inappropriate joke.”

Asked to explain the dry cleaning caption, Hinoul replied: “We recommend dry cleaning, could lead – I can’t … I don’t know,” he said.

The judge, justice Anna Katzmann, interjected, asking Hinoul: “Just a moment, you presented these slides?”

The barrister Tony Bannon SC, who is representing Australian mesh patients, asked Hinoul: “But is this the way Ethicon or you treated these issues, by putting in images like slides 35 and 36? Is there an explanation of it?”

Hinoul replied: “I agree, it was an inappropriate comment.”

Bannon pressed on: “But not a reflection on any attitude you have to women who suffer problems from these [devices]?”

Hinoul: “No, not at all.”

Bannon then asked whether the court could expect to see any similar remarks during the rest of the hearing.

Hinoul replied: “At times, I have had moments where I have made bad jokes, but they are very few and they certainly don’t represent how I feel about these patients and how we treat them.”

The case, and similar actions in the United States and the UK, have cast light on the way some within the medical profession treat women.

Patients have spoken of presenting to doctors in severe pain, only to have their concerns about the implants dismissed or disbelieved.

Earlier in the class action, a series of emails revealed French gyneacologists joked about telling their patients to try anal intercourse as a solution to the painful sex associated with mesh complications.

“It is no less true that sodomy could be a good alternative!” one doctor wrote.

Another doctor made bizarre jokes about the challenge he faced in raising the matter with patients.

“I said to myself, there you go, for your next prolapse [patient], you talk to her about orgasms. OK! But also about fellatio, sodomy, the clitoris with or without G-spot etc,” he wrote.

“I am sure of one thing: that I would very quickly be treated like some kind of sex maniac (which, perhaps, I am) or a pervert, or an unhealthily curious person.”

J&J’s pelvic mesh and tape implants were used to treat stress urinary incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse, common complications of childbirth.

In many cases, the operations have been successful. But for hundreds in Australia, and many more across the world, the mesh implants have caused life-altering pain.

mesh graphic

The class action alleges J&J failed to conduct rigorous testing of the devices. The risks were downplayed to surgeons and patients, it alleges.

The company is also accused of aggressively marketing to doctors, pitching the devices as a fast and cheap option that would boost their profits.

Johnson & Johnson vaginal mesh presentation featured lingerie-clad women, court told

A senior Johnson & Johnson executive included inappropriate jokes about pictures of scantily clad women in a presentation on the company’s controversial transvaginal mesh implants, a court has heard.

Piet Hinoul, a vice-president of J&J’s product development arm, Ethicon, was speaking at a transvaginal mesh meeting in France in March 2009, discussing the devices and the response they produced in women’s bodies.

The two companies are facing a class action in Australia, launched by Shine Lawyers, which alleges the implants’ flaws caused lasting and debilitating pain for thousands of women worldwide.

Hinoul’s presentation concluded with two slides showing revealing pictures of women in underwear, who were not mesh patients.

One pictured the crotch area of a woman, and included the caption: “But, less is more! We recommend dry cleaning, this bikini can shrink with wash [sic].”

Another slide featured a model in lingerie, with the caption: “The [transvaginal mesh] group already knew: a mesh gives better support.”

Hinoul was asked about the slides last week in the federal court of Australia, where Ethicon and J&J are facing a class action involving more than 700 women, who say the implants have ruined their lives.

“It was an inappropriate comment. It was a play on words on a ‘better mesh for a better support’,” he said, referring to the picture of the model in lingerie.

“It was an inappropriate joke.”

Asked to explain the dry cleaning caption, Hinoul replied: “We recommend dry cleaning, could lead – I can’t … I don’t know,” he said.

The judge, justice Anna Katzmann, interjected, asking Hinoul: “Just a moment, you presented these slides?”

The barrister Tony Bannon SC, who is representing Australian mesh patients, asked Hinoul: “But is this the way Ethicon or you treated these issues, by putting in images like slides 35 and 36? Is there an explanation of it?”

Hinoul replied: “I agree, it was an inappropriate comment.”

Bannon pressed on: “But not a reflection on any attitude you have to women who suffer problems from these [devices]?”

Hinoul: “No, not at all.”

Bannon then asked whether the court could expect to see any similar remarks during the rest of the hearing.

Hinoul replied: “At times, I have had moments where I have made bad jokes, but they are very few and they certainly don’t represent how I feel about these patients and how we treat them.”

The case, and similar actions in the United States and the UK, have cast light on the way some within the medical profession treat women.

Patients have spoken of presenting to doctors in severe pain, only to have their concerns about the implants dismissed or disbelieved.

Earlier in the class action, a series of emails revealed French gyneacologists joked about telling their patients to try anal intercourse as a solution to the painful sex associated with mesh complications.

“It is no less true that sodomy could be a good alternative!” one doctor wrote.

Another doctor made bizarre jokes about the challenge he faced in raising the matter with patients.

“I said to myself, there you go, for your next prolapse [patient], you talk to her about orgasms. OK! But also about fellatio, sodomy, the clitoris with or without G-spot etc,” he wrote.

“I am sure of one thing: that I would very quickly be treated like some kind of sex maniac (which, perhaps, I am) or a pervert, or an unhealthily curious person.”

J&J’s pelvic mesh and tape implants were used to treat stress urinary incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse, common complications of childbirth.

In many cases, the operations have been successful. But for hundreds in Australia, and many more across the world, the mesh implants have caused life-altering pain.

mesh graphic

The class action alleges J&J failed to conduct rigorous testing of the devices. The risks were downplayed to surgeons and patients, it alleges.

The company is also accused of aggressively marketing to doctors, pitching the devices as a fast and cheap option that would boost their profits.

Johnson & Johnson vaginal mesh presentation featured lingerie-clad women, court told

A senior Johnson & Johnson executive included inappropriate jokes about pictures of scantily clad women in a presentation on the company’s controversial transvaginal mesh implants, a court has heard.

Piet Hinoul, a vice-president of J&J’s product development arm, Ethicon, was speaking at a transvaginal mesh meeting in France in March 2009, discussing the devices and the response they produced in women’s bodies.

The two companies are facing a class action in Australia, launched by Shine Lawyers, which alleges the implants’ flaws caused lasting and debilitating pain for thousands of women worldwide.

Hinoul’s presentation concluded with two slides showing revealing pictures of women in underwear, who were not mesh patients.

One pictured the crotch area of a woman, and included the caption: “But, less is more! We recommend dry cleaning, this bikini can shrink with wash [sic].”

Another slide featured a model in lingerie, with the caption: “The [transvaginal mesh] group already knew: a mesh gives better support.”

Hinoul was asked about the slides last week in the federal court of Australia, where Ethicon and J&J are facing a class action involving more than 700 women, who say the implants have ruined their lives.

“It was an inappropriate comment. It was a play on words on a ‘better mesh for a better support’,” he said, referring to the picture of the model in lingerie.

“It was an inappropriate joke.”

Asked to explain the dry cleaning caption, Hinoul replied: “We recommend dry cleaning, could lead – I can’t … I don’t know,” he said.

The judge, justice Anna Katzmann, interjected, asking Hinoul: “Just a moment, you presented these slides?”

The barrister Tony Bannon SC, who is representing Australian mesh patients, asked Hinoul: “But is this the way Ethicon or you treated these issues, by putting in images like slides 35 and 36? Is there an explanation of it?”

Hinoul replied: “I agree, it was an inappropriate comment.”

Bannon pressed on: “But not a reflection on any attitude you have to women who suffer problems from these [devices]?”

Hinoul: “No, not at all.”

Bannon then asked whether the court could expect to see any similar remarks during the rest of the hearing.

Hinoul replied: “At times, I have had moments where I have made bad jokes, but they are very few and they certainly don’t represent how I feel about these patients and how we treat them.”

The case, and similar actions in the United States and the UK, have cast light on the way some within the medical profession treat women.

Patients have spoken of presenting to doctors in severe pain, only to have their concerns about the implants dismissed or disbelieved.

Earlier in the class action, a series of emails revealed French gyneacologists joked about telling their patients to try anal intercourse as a solution to the painful sex associated with mesh complications.

“It is no less true that sodomy could be a good alternative!” one doctor wrote.

Another doctor made bizarre jokes about the challenge he faced in raising the matter with patients.

“I said to myself, there you go, for your next prolapse [patient], you talk to her about orgasms. OK! But also about fellatio, sodomy, the clitoris with or without G-spot etc,” he wrote.

“I am sure of one thing: that I would very quickly be treated like some kind of sex maniac (which, perhaps, I am) or a pervert, or an unhealthily curious person.”

J&J’s pelvic mesh and tape implants were used to treat stress urinary incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse, common complications of childbirth.

In many cases, the operations have been successful. But for hundreds in Australia, and many more across the world, the mesh implants have caused life-altering pain.

mesh graphic

The class action alleges J&J failed to conduct rigorous testing of the devices. The risks were downplayed to surgeons and patients, it alleges.

The company is also accused of aggressively marketing to doctors, pitching the devices as a fast and cheap option that would boost their profits.