Sunday, October 7, 2012

Things that make you say "duh'

"One of the things I will talk about, that no president has talked about before, is I think, the dangers of contraception in this country....Many of the Christian faith have said, well, that's okay, contraception is okay. It's not okay. It's a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be." Rick Santorum, interview with CaffeinatedThoughts.com, October 2011

HOW IS IT that the same people who are against abortion, are against birth control which would prevent the need for abortions, and against the social service programs that care for the mothers, babies and children once they're alive?

Here are three recent pieces that I believe you will find of interest.

This first one will make you say, "DUH!!!"


NATIONAL BRIEFING | HEALTH
Study Finds Free Contraceptives Cut Abortion Rate
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published: October 4, 2012

Free birth control led to greatly lower rates of abortions and births to teenagers, a large study concludes, offering strong evidence for how a bitterly contested Obama administration policy could benefit women’s health. 

The two-year project tracked more than 9,000 women in St. Louis, many of them poor or uninsured, who were given their choice of a range of free contraceptives. These women experienced far fewer unintended pregnancies as a result, reported Dr. Jeffrey Peipert of Washington University in St. Louis in a study published Thursday. There were 6.3 births per 1,000 teenagers in the study, compared with a national rate of 34 births per 1,000 teens in 2010. 

There also were substantially lower rates of abortion, when compared with women in the metro area and nationally: 4.4 to 7.5 abortions per 1,000 women in the study, compared with 13.4 to 17 abortions per 1,000 women in the St. Louis region, Dr. Peipert calculated. The national rate is almost 20 abortions per 1,000 women. Women’s health specialists said the study foreshadows the potential impact of the new health care law, in which millions of women are beginning to get contraceptives without a co-payment.



This one makes me cheer for Judge Jackson.


New York Times 
EDITORIAL
Contraception and Religious Liberty
Published: October 3, 2012

Leaders of the Roman Catholic Church, prominent Republicans and other social conservatives have spent the past year making inflammatory allegations that an Obama administration rule requiring employer health plans to cover birth control without a co-pay tramples on religious freedom. An important federal court decision issued Friday rejected that attack as without foundation.

Judge Carol Jackson of Federal District Court, a George H.W. Bush appointee, dismissed the lawsuit filed against the administration brought by a mining company and its owner, who said that providing contraceptive coverage in the company health plan violated his personal religious views.

Judge Jackson, based in St. Louis, correctly pointed out that the rule exempts churches, mosques and other houses of worship. The mining company — a secular, for-profit employer — clearly does not qualify for that exemption or for the accommodation the administration is fashioning to relieve colleges, hospitals and other organizations with religious affiliations from having to provide contraceptive coverage directly, by putting the burden on insurance companies. Her legal analysis, however, applies broadly, providing a useful framework for assessing claims by varied religious objectors.

The plaintiffs argued that the contraception mandate violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a 1993 law that prohibits the federal government from taking actions that “substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion” unless that action advances a compelling government interest and is the “least restrictive means” of achieving it.

Judge Jackson said she did not have to address whether the act’s strict test should be applied in this case to a company because the contraception coverage requirement does not rise to the level of a “substantial” burden needed to trigger the law.

Any imposition on religion is trivial and remote, she explained. The health care coverage would offend the plaintiffs’ religious beliefs only if an employee “makes an independent decision to use the plan” to obtain contraceptives; and that independent decision is no different from an employee using part of a salary to pay for contraceptives, which clearly would not harm the employer’s right to free exercise of religion.

The 1993 statute “is not a means to force one’s religious practices upon others” and “does not protect against the slight burden on religious exercise that arises when one’s money circuitously flows to support the conduct of other free-exercise-wielding individuals who hold religious beliefs that differ from one’s own,” Judge Jackson wrote.

She also forcefully dismissed the claim that the contraceptive coverage requirement violates the First Amendment’s prohibition against the establishment of religion. Her ruling accurately said the regulation is a “neutral” attempt to expand women’s access to health care and combat gender bias, and applies equally to all denominations. Under legal precedents, the First Amendment does not exempt individuals or entities from complying with neutral laws of general applicability based on a religious objection, however sincere.

Judge Jackson’s powerful ruling is a victory for women and religious freedom. The many other courts hearing similar lawsuits by companies, individuals and groups with religious affiliations should follow her approach.



This last one just makes me furious.

OP-ED COLUMNIST
When States Abuse Women
By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF
Published: March 3, 2012

HERE’S what a woman in Texas now faces if she seeks an abortion.

Under a new law that took effect three weeks ago with the strong backing of Gov. Rick Perry, she first must typically endure an ultrasound probe inserted into her vagina. Then she listens to the audio thumping of the fetal heartbeat and watches the fetus on an ultrasound screen.

She must listen to a doctor explain the body parts and internal organs of the fetus as they’re shown on the monitor. She signs a document saying that she understands all this, and it is placed in her medical files. Finally, she goes home and must wait 24 hours before returning to get the abortion.

“It’s state-sanctioned abuse,” said Dr. Curtis Boyd, a Texas physician who provides abortions. “It borders on a definition of rape. Many states describe rape as putting any object into an orifice against a person’s will. Well, that’s what this is. A woman is coerced to do this, just as I’m coerced.”

“The state of Texas is waging war on women and their families,” Dr. Boyd added. “The new law is demeaning and disrespectful to the women of Texas, and insulting to the doctors and nurses who care for them.”

That law is part of a war over women’s health being fought around the country — and in much of the country, women are losing. State by state, legislatures are creating new obstacles to abortions and are treating women in ways that are patronizing and humiliating.

Twenty states now require abortion providers to conduct ultrasounds first in some situations, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research organization. The new Texas law is the most extreme to take effect so far, but similar laws have been passed in North Carolina and Oklahoma and are on hold pending legal battles.

Alabama, Kentucky, Rhode Island and Mississippi are also considering Texas-style legislation bordering on state-sanctioned rape. And what else do you call it when states mandate invasive probes in women’s bodies?

“If you look up the term rape, that’s what it is: the penetration of the vagina without the woman’s consent,” said Linda Coleman, an Alabama state senator who is fighting the proposal in her state. “As a woman, I am livid and outraged.”

States put in place a record number of new restrictions on abortions last year, Guttmacher says. It counts 92 new curbs in 24 states.

“It was a debacle,” Elizabeth Nash, who manages state issues for Guttmacher, told me. “It’s been awful. Last year was unbelievable. We’ve never seen anything like it.”

Yes, there have been a few victories for women. The notorious Virginia proposal that would have required vaginal ultrasounds before an abortion was modified to require only abdominal ultrasounds.

Yet over all, the pattern has been retrograde: humiliating obstacles to abortions, cuts in family-planning programs, and limits on comprehensive sex education in schools.

If Texas legislators wanted to reduce abortions, the obvious approach would be to reduce unwanted pregnancies. The small proportion of women and girls who aren’t using contraceptives account for half of all abortions in America, according to Guttmacher. Yet Texas has some of the weakest sex-education programs in the nation, and last year it cut spending for family planning by 66 percent.

The new Texas law was passed last year but was held up because of a lawsuit by the Center for Reproductive Rights. In a scathing opinion, Judge Sam Sparks of Federal District Court described the law as “an attempt by the Texas legislature to discourage women from exercising their constitutional rights.” In the end, the courts upheld the law, and it took effect last month.

It requires abortion providers to give women a list of crisis pregnancy centers where, in theory, they can get unbiased counseling and in some cases ultrasounds. In fact, these centers are often set up to ensnare pregnant women and shame them or hound them if they are considering abortions.

“They are traps for women, set up by the state of Texas,” Dr. Boyd said.

The law then requires the physician to go over a politicized list of so-called dangers of abortion, like “the risks of infection and hemorrhage” and “the possibility of increased risk of breast cancer.” Then there is the mandated ultrasound, which in the first trimester normally means a vaginal ultrasound. Doctors sometimes seek vaginal ultrasounds before an abortion, with the patient’s consent, but it’s different when the state forces women to undergo the procedure.

The best formulation on this topic was Bill Clinton’s, that abortion should be “safe, legal and rare.” Achieving that isn’t easy, and there is no silver bullet to reduce unwanted pregnancies. But family planning and comprehensive sex education are a surer path than demeaning  vulnerable women with state-sanctioned abuse and humiliation.
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