Creative Destruction

November 7, 2007

And Truth Comes Out

Filed under: Reproductive Rights — Off Colfax @ 2:19 am

Abstinence is out.

Programs that focus exclusively on abstinence have not been shown to affect teenager sexual behavior, although they are eligible for tens of millions of dollars in federal grants, according to a study released by a nonpartisan group that seeks to reduce teen pregnancies.

“At present there does not exist any strong evidence that any abstinence program delays the initiation of sex, hastens the return to abstinence or reduces the number of sexual partners” among teenagers, the study concluded.

The study, conducted by Douglas Kirby, a senior research scientist at ETR Associates, also sought to debunk what the report called “myths propagated by abstinence-only advocates” including: that comprehensive sex education promotes promiscuity, hastens the initiative of sex or increases its frequency, and sends a confusing message to adolescents.

None of these was found to be accurate, Kirby wrote.

And I hear about social conservatives that complain about liberal policies being based on junk science. Yet what I have read from the study [PDF warning, 5.7Mb] is well-researched, with all the scientific method’s Is dotted and Ts crossed.

Read the study and see for yourself.

December 23, 2006

Kansas Court Throws Out Charges Against Late-Term Abortion Provider

Filed under: Reproductive Rights — Ampersand @ 11:05 am

From the LA Times:

Hours after the outgoing attorney general of Kansas charged one of the nation’s few late-term abortion providers with illegally aborting viable fetuses, a judge dismissed the charges, ruling Friday that the attorney general had overstepped his authority. [….] Kline’s last-minute push to charge Tiller before he leaves office was dismissed on the grounds it violated a 19th century statute outlining the attorney general’s duties.

Kline, who is Operation Rescue’s “Man Of The Year” for 2006, was rejected by the voters at least in part because of his fanatical anti-abortion views. He’s not through making trouble; the article reports that he’s already planning to use his next gig, as a county-level district attorney, to harass a Planned Parenthood office.

Here’s the part of the article I found most interesting:


December 5, 2006

Steyn’s Folly

Filed under: Personal Ramblings,Reproductive Rights,War — Tuomas @ 1:35 pm

Why is the pop-pundit Mark Steyn so popular, in addition to his above-average writing and use of often genuinely funny witticisms?

Why is he — of all people — accepted as something of an authority on the conflict between Islam and the West?

Why do American (neo)conservatives worship him so?


December 2, 2006

Abortion is a Human Right – Choice for Men isn’t

Filed under: Feminist Issues,Human Rights,Reproductive Rights — Gled @ 5:30 pm

I’ve been a member of the UK branch of Amnesty International for a while. Although I have issues with its gynocentrism, I generally agree with its aims and methods. The latest edition of its magazine invites members “to take part in the consultation” on ““sexual and reproductive rights“. The motion carried at this year’s AGM (PDF link, see motion A3) made broad reference to reproductive rights for both men and women, including access to contraception. The consultation is narrower, focussing solely on the right of women to abortion. Neither discusses any proposed right which could fall under the rubric of “Choice for Men”. (Edit: It goes without saying that I answered all three of the consultation questions in the affirmative.)

Although I am a long term supporter of both abortion rights for women, and Choice for Men, I think Amnesty has called this one right. Access to birth control including abortion should be regarded as a universal human right. That the right to abortion is void for men does not implicate the right’s universality: every person who gets pregnant should have the right to abort.

In contrast, my position on Choice for Men is one of advocacy of a policy. I do not construe it as a human right. In particular, I have always argued that it should be contingent upon the practical availability of post-coital birth-control to women, including safe medical abortion. Where this is not available to women, both legally and practically, they should not be left holding the baby that they had no more practical choice to produce than did the man. This lack of universality to any purported C4M “right” forcloses its construction as such, and puts it beyond Amnesty’s remit.

November 17, 2006

Boobs Kick Breasts Off Plane; Nation Saved

Filed under: Feminist Issues,Reproductive Rights — Ampersand @ 4:06 pm

Emily Gillette creating a deadly menace in the skies.The boobs at Delta, that is. ((Freedom Air, actually, but Freedom Air was acting as Delta, or Delta was doing business as Freedom Air, or something. I’ve never quite groked all the little airline intertwining.))

See that photo, to the right? That’s Emily Gillette breastfeeding her child (as you can see, she’s virtually dancing topless!). And that sight is apparently sooo offensive that it can’t be allowed on planes. From the Burlington Free Press:

Gillette said she was seated in the second-to-last row, next to the window, when she began to breast-feed her daughter. Breast-feeding helps babies with the altitude changes through takeoff and landings, Gillette said. She said she was being discreet — her husband was seated between her and the aisle — and no part of her breast was showing.

Gillette said that’s when a flight attendant approached her, trying to hand her a blanket and directing her to cover up. Gillette said she told the attendant she was exercising her legal right to breast-feed, declining the blanket. That’s when Gillette alleges the attendant told her, “You are offending me,” and told her to cover up her daughter’s head with the blanket.

“I declined,” Gillette said in her complaint.

Moments later, a Delta ticket agent approached the Gillettes and said that the flight attendant was having the family removed from the flight.

The airline’s behavior is appalling. To make it even worse, this happened in Vermont, where state law says that mothers have the right to breastfeed in public (Queenbadmama has the text of Vermont’s law).

Lactivists haven’t been taking this lying down – they’ve staged a nurse-in, a turn of events Emily Gillette was apparently surprised but pleased by. has a petition you can sign, “to tell Delta Airlines to get a clue and be supportive of breastfeeding mothers. And tell Congress it’s time to pass the Breastfeeding Promotion Act, which amends the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to protect breastfeeding mothers.”

As you’d expect, the Momblogs have been covering this story. More blogging on this topic: Queen of the Bad Mommies (who I adore based on her blog name alone!), Blogher, Playground Revolution, Blogging Baby, Mama Knows Breast, The Zero Boss, Mother Talkers (which has a great header image, by the way), Strange As Angels (who is pissed off!), and Aurelia Ann (whose post is titled “Throw Momma From The Plane”).

Thanks to Bean for pointing out this story to me!

October 18, 2006

Best. Subheadline. Ever.

Filed under: Content-lite,Humor,Reproductive Rights — Gled @ 1:46 pm

Sometimes the headline tells you all you need to know about a story

Austrian nails testicle to roof

If you had taken this view here, however, you might have missed the subheadline in all its gory…, er, glory:

Favourite thing now tied up with string

Filed under Content-lite, Humor, and Reproductive Rights (because he lost his reproductive left, silly.)

September 17, 2006

Being Pro-Life

Filed under: Personal Ramblings,Reproductive Rights — Robert @ 8:54 pm

Dawn Eden posted a link to a good quote from an article in Christianity Today by Amy Laura Hall about how Christians need to start supporting mothers if we want to consider ourselves truly “pro-life” – all mothers, not just the ones who are coming into motherhood the way we would describe as optimal.

Dawn’s link got me thinking about an experience I had at the hospital about four years ago. My then-very pregnant wife and I were touring the birthing wing at Penrose-St. Francis Hospital, preparatory to the delivery of Stephanie. The nice young lady giving us the tour took us around to the various rooms, showing us the various waiting and delivery rooms, getting us familiar with the hospital procedure, and letting us see how well-equipped their acute care facilities were for babies and moms who had difficulties. It was all very reassuring.

We were in a tour group of sorts, composed of all the women who were expecting to give birth in the next couple of months, along with their husbands and/or boyfriends. Except for one young woman, perhaps eighteen, who was all alone. All. Alone.

She was wearing a t-shirt from some atrociously untalented local band or another. She had piercings in every visible portion of her anatomy. I don’t know if her regalia was specifically Goth, but close enough for middle class bourgeouisie. Her hair was…I don’t even remember what her hair was, but it was a mess, OK? She was every parent’s nightmare child, complete with the swelling belly and ringless finger that informed us all that Steve the Drummer or whichever genetic champion she had chosen as a mate was not in the picture.

As we went around the stations, husbands supporting wives up tricky inclines and boyfriends holding doors for the parade of pregnant women, this girl tagged along, alone. She was paying attention to the tour but I wasn’t – I was pretty much preoccupied with my own internal litany of judgment. Didn’t she know what happened after sex? Was she unaware of the unmarried American male’s sterling track record of supporting his children? Didn’t, for God’s sake, she have any sense? Compare and contrast – look at all these smart women, with the husbands they’ve found for themselves. Look at me, at the good choices I’ve made! Gentle reader, if smug self-righteousness were dollar bills, I would have been eating at a fancy restaurant that night.

We were almost done with the tour when it happened. I do believe in God and I do believe in miracles – ask me about the flying car one of these days – but I am not one of those Christians who pipes up with “and then Jesus told me to just march right over there with a casserole!” He tends to speak to me in the still quiet hours of the night, with feelings, not with words.

Not this time. This time it was like a voice in my head. Was it God? Was it my own guilty conscience? I don’t know. Call it the Voice, because that’s what it was – a Voice, capital V, in my head. And the Voice didn’t seem interested in the bad choices of the t-shirt piercing Goth girl. The Voice had questions for ME.

“Where is she?”

(Abruptly, just like that.)

WTF? What do you mean?

“WHERE is this girl? WHERE is she standing?”

Uh…the hospital. The maternity ward.

“And WHAT is she doing here?”

Taking the tour…so she can see where her baby will be born, I guess.

“Where her WHAT will do WHAT?”

Where she’s going to have her baby! Jeez, Voice.

“So this girl who obviously has NO support and NO help has made the CHOICE to keep her child – to bring it into this world alive, on her own. Is that easy for her?”

What? Oh, Christ, no. That’s got to be a miserably hard prospect. Lost educational opportunties, a guarantee of a low standard of living, years of being tied to a helpless child.

“Could you do it, if you were her?”

Uh…I like to think that I would. Of course, when I was eighteen…good Lord. No, probably I would have caved to whatever idiot plan my peers told me to do. Abortion, most likely.

“Then who are YOU to judge HER? You have both made the same correct choice. For you, there was no cost. For her, the cost is EVERYTHING. And you stand in JUDGMENT? Of her CLOTHES? Of her HAIR? Of her SENSE?”

The Voice didn’t say anything after that. It didn’t need to. I don’t think I’ve ever felt more thoroughly chastened. I cried a little bit, but nobody saw because I was trailing the group at this point while my wife peered at the incubators and the wee little bassinets. I trailed along, Asshole of the Year.

Whatever else that girl had done wrong, she had scored a 100 percent on the Big Exam. She was making the right choice, and doing so in the face of asshole judgments from assholes like me. As Christians, we have to recognize the kind of moral clarity that trumps sensibilities and preferences. As people who welcome life, we have to accept that it isn’t always going to come in prettily-wrapped packages with a wedding ring on the bow and a prepaid Harvard scholarship lining the box. Life is going to be messy and ugly, and babies are going to be conceived by people who ought not to have done it – but having done it, we cannot let our judgment and our righteousness stand in the way of doing the right things.

If you are also pro-life, I encourage you to find yourself in this story. Not only so I won’t feel like such a unique specimen of Jerkus Homosapiensis – so that we can all start putting aside the things that are not crucial and start living up to the promise implicit in our philosophy.

If we want to be pro-life, we have to mean it.

August 8, 2006

Three Comments About Michigan’s “Coercive Abortion Prevention Act”

Filed under: Feminist Issues,Reproductive Rights — Ampersand @ 1:05 pm

Via Noli Irritare Leones, I learn of Michigan’s “Coercive Abortion Prevention Act.” What the CAPA would do is make it a crime to “commit, attempt to commit, or conspire to commit physical harm to the pregnant female” in order to force her to have an abortion; or to commit “repeated or continuing harassment of the pregnant female that would cause her to reasonably feel terrorized, frightened, intimidated, threatened, or harassed” to compel her to seek an abortion. As well as providing criminal and misdemeanor penalties, CAPA also makes it possible for women to sue coercers in civil court.

Three comments on CAPA:

June 5, 2006

Woman Blames Bush For Her Abortion

Filed under: Reproductive Rights — Robert @ 1:42 pm

A DC lawyer, aged 42, blames Bush for her abortion.

Her story begins:

The conservative politics of the Bush administration forced me to have an abortion I didn't want. Well, not literally, but let me explain…One Thursday evening this past March, we managed to snag some rare couple time and, in a sudden rush of passion, I failed to insert my diaphragm.

Yeah. That's Bush's fault.

Bottom line of her narrative, she didn't use birth control, she got pregnant, her doctor doesn't prescribe Plan B, she couldn't be bothered to find a doctor who would prescribe it to her ("I needed to meet my kids' school bus and, as I was pretty much out of options — short of soliciting random Virginia doctors out of the phone book — I figured I'd take my chances and hope for the best."), and that's apparently Bush's fault too. Because the horrors of soliciting doctors from the phone book is the real tragedy here. So she ended up having a surgical abortion.

Apparently, one of the concerns is that ready availability of Plan B could lead teenage girls to have premarital sex. Yet this concern — valid or not — wound up penalizing an over-the-hill married woman for having sex with her husband.

No, Ms. L. You weren't "penalized" for having sex with your husband. You got pregnant because you couldn't be bothered with birth control, and decided to take a chance. And then you weren't able to prevent implantation with Plan B, because you couldn't be bothered to make phone calls, and so you decided to continue taking a chance. And your husband apparently couldn't be bothered to remember "you know, we need to use contraception if we want to have sex", and apparently couldn't be bothered to help you find a doctor. This is your joint risk-taking behavior and its obvious consequences, not George Bush's evil conservatism.

Apparently Bush is a risk factor for middle-aged irresponsibility and whining.

Update: She had an online chat today, and the continued responsibility shifting is quite impressive. 

May 22, 2006

Regarding the US’s High Infant Mortality Rate

Shortly before Mother’s Day, Save the Children released its annual report on the state of motherhood and infant mortality worldwide. As usual, the US does worse than almost every other industrialized nation when it comes to infant mortality (pdf file – see page 38).

The philosopher John Rawls suggested, as a thought experiment, imagining a “veil of ignorance.” The idea is, we sit around planning how to organize society from behind the veil; and none of us planners know what position in society we will hold, what race, what gender, how wealthy our parents will be, etc.. If the people planning society knew they might be born any race, any class, what society would they plan?

I don’t think they’d plan one in which infant mortality by race looked like this (source – pdf file):

US Infant Mortality, among whites, blacks, Asians, Latinos, and American Indians

As you can see, if you’re a newborn American infant, it kinda sucks to be an American Indian, Hawaiian, Puerto Rican, and the suckitude is simply enormous if you’re Black.

* * *

Unfortunately, the racial aspect of infant mortality in the US is usually ignored in the mainstream media. Instead, the focus is on how bad the US does, compared to other countries. The QuandO blog, like many right-wingers, responds that it’s not that the US does any worse at caring for newborns. Instead, it’s that other countries give up on low-weight and otherwise unhealthy newborns more easily, counting them as “stillborns.” In contrast, doctors in the US work hard to save those infants – but since not all of them live, the result of the superior care here in the US is that our infant mortality rate appears higher.

In an op-ed piece, critics of the Save The Children statistics suggest that we should forestall trying to correct the US’s poor results:

If we want to lower our infant mortality rate so it compares better with that of other countries, maybe we should align our rules with theirs to better determine the actual extent of the alleged “problem.”

(Does calling the problem “alleged” and putting the word “problem” in scare quotes create a sort of double negative problem?)

My first question is, how does this critique account for the enormous racial gap in infant mortality within the USA? (It seems unlikely that in the US, doctors try harder to save babies of color while categorizing similar white babies as stillborn.)

My second question is, how much truth is there to QuandO’s critique? Some truth, but not enough to justify calling the US’s infant mortality rate, compared to other wealthy countries, an “alleged problem.” The OECD Factbook explains:

Some of the international variation in infant and neonatal mortality rates may be due to variations among countries in registering practices of premature infants (whether they are reported as live births or fetal deaths). In several countries, such as in the United States, Canada and the Nordic countries, very premature babies with relatively low odds of survival are registered as live births, which increases mortality rates compared with other countries that do not register them as live births.

Yet Canada and the Nordic countries all have better infant mortality rates than the US. So the difference in reporting practices doesn’t account for all of the US’s dismal performance in this area.

If it’s true that the U.S. does just about as well as other wealthy countries in infant mortality, and we only do worse because other countries move count as stillborn cases that we count as an infant death, then that should show up in higher stillbirth rates for those countries than for the U.S.. This is something we can check; a World Health Organization report issued earlier this year (pdf link) gathered statistics for stillbirths. So lets look at the WHO stillbirth numbers next to the infant and newborn mortality statistics from the Save The Children report:

Infant mortality, newborn mortality, and stillbirth rate per 1,000 live births in seven wealthy countries

The graph includes the five countries Save The Children credited with the lowest newborn mortality rates, plus Canada and the USA. Including stillbirths does make the US look better, and is consistent with the claim that other countries may be count some infant deaths (by US standards) as stillbirths.

However, most of these countries are doing as well or better than the US in all categories, including stillbirths. That’s incompatible with the claim that the US’s infant mortality problem is a statistical illusion caused by different standards for categorizing stillbirths.

To make this clearer, look at a graph combining infant mortality and stillbirth rates. (Newborn mortality is not included because the newborn and infant mortality categories overlap).

Combined Infant Mortality & Stillborn Rates Per 1,000 Live Births In Seven Wealthy Countries

Even when stillbirth deaths are included, the US is still doing significantly worse than countries credited with low infant morality rates. It is therefore impossible that the US’s poor standing is caused entirely by the exclusion of stillborn children from infant mortality statistics (although this exclusion may be a contributing factor). The US’s terrible track record, compared to other wealthy countries, is not an “alleged problem”; it is an atrocity, and one that shouldn’t be swept under the rug rather than addressed.

May 17, 2006

Sauce for the Handicapped, Sauce for the Unborn?

Filed under: Disability Issues,Feminist Issues,Reproductive Rights — Robert @ 7:52 pm

Piny of Feministe has a post up concerning the brutal murder of a New Zealand man. Keith McCormick, a disabled athlete, was relaxing at home when his able-bodied roommate Eric Smail came home drunk and apparently decided to murder him. Smail stabbed McCormick six times and then slit his throat, ending his life. The judge in the case showed Smail leniency, sentencing him to just seven to twelve years, basically because (broadly paraphrasing the logic of the decision) disabled people's lives are worth less, and caring for them is stressful.

The case itself is interesting and awful, but that's not what I'm posting about.

Here's Piny:

Because I–and Eric Neal Smail–can walk, our lives are by definition full and worthwhile. Because Keith McCormick used a wheelchair, his life was…less so. While the judge did not go so far as to say that his life was worthless, or make it out to be a contradiction in terms, he did argue that Keith McCormick had less to take away. That prejudice extended, I believe, even to Smail’s sentencing: those years spent in prison would be years taken off of a full life, and it’s unfair to expect Smail to trade them for years taken off of an inferior life.


This decision poses an enormous threat to people who need caregivers. It defines reliance on caregivers as an imposition on those who provide care–so much so that disabled people may expect violent reprisal for all that “stress.” All of that is invisible, because lives in which caregivers are mundane are invisible.

Doesn't this seem to resonate with the question of abortion? Fetuses are lives – they just aren't as important as other (adult) lives. Pro-choicers such as Ampersand will say that adult humans have cerebral cortexes, and can think – and that thus, our lives are full and worthwhile, while fetuses' aren't. Pro-choice feminists will say that fetuses require care temporarily – are parasitic on women's bodies – and this care is an imposition on their caregivers. It all seems very familiar.

The logic that the judge used in ameliorating the consequences of Smail's killing is orthogonal to the logic used by pro-choice advocates. The jump from "it's OK to kill a fetus" to "it's OK to kill a cripple" does not appear to be overwhelmingly large in magnitude. It seems like a fairly tricky endeavour to try to justify one as being obviously acceptable while the other remains a monstrous crime – particularly if you choose to defend abortion but condemn the killing of the disabled. After all, Keith McCormick was never going to get better – was never going to become a full human being in the Singerian ethical sense. But a fetus fairly quickly becomes an independent being with a full life ahead of him or her.

(BTW, Adam – we need an Abortion category, and probabily a Disability Issues category too.)

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