Health Highlights: May 30, 2018

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

Supreme Court Upholds Arkansas Abortion Pill Restrictions

The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday sanctioned Arkansas’ enforcement of restrictions on how so-called abortion pills can be used in that state, as a legal challenge to the restrictions continues.

Critics say the court’s move keeps women from accessing this medical option, the Associated Press reported.

There was no comment from the high court as they rejected an appeal from a local Planned Parenthood affiliate in Arkansas that had requested a review of an appeals court ruling and reinstatement of a lower court order blocking the restrictions from taking effect.

The Arkansas law states that any doctor who provides women with abortion pills must have a contract with another doctor who has admitting privileges at a hospital and who would consent to handle complications linked to use of the pill. Planned Parenthood said that no such arrangements currently exist in Arkansas.

A similar law was in place in Texas, but the Supreme Court struck down that law in 2016, the AP said.

For now, Arkansas is free to enforce the new restrictions.

“Protecting the health and well-being of women and the unborn will always be a priority. We are a pro-life state and always will be as long as I am attorney general,” Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, a Republican, said in a statement.

Planned Parenthood said Tuesday it will notify patients that it can no longer supply them with pills to end pregnancies, due to the Supreme Court ruling.

“This dangerous law also immediately ends access to safe, legal abortion at all but one health center in the state,” Dawn Laguens, vice president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement. “If that’s not an undue burden, what is? This law cannot and must not stand. We will not stop fighting for every person’s right to access safe, legal abortion.”


WHO ‘Cautiously Optimistic’ on Curbing Congo Ebola Outbreak

The United Nations’ World Health Organization on Tuesday said it was “cautiously optimistic” that efforts to slow the spread of Ebola in a Congolese city were working.

There are still cases occurring in more remote areas, however, the WHO said, with a total of 35 confirmed cases, 12 of which have been fatal.

So far, more than 400 people have received an experimental Ebola vaccine that’s never before been used in an emerging outbreak, the Associated Press reported.

WHO emergencies chief Peter Salama said rollout of the vaccine has gone “quite smoothly” and the agency had focused its efforts on stopping Ebola in the city of Mbandaka, home to more than a million people.

“We can’t conclude we have safeguarded the city of Mbandaka, but so far there hasn’t been an explosive increase in cases … We have reason to be cautiously optimistic,” Salama told the AP.

The next step, he said, is to focus on the more remote areas of Iboko and Bikoro, where most of the Ebola cases have been reported. Five new, unlicensed Ebola drugs will also be deployed to help those infected, Salama said, pending Congo’s approval.