Thursday, November 22, 2012

The Coming Obamabot Uprising

Nate Silver isn't the only nerd that everyone suddenly likes. Harper Reed, Obama for America Chief Technology Officer, got a big hug too...

"...[T]echnology is not our friend. It only fucks us over. We're just waiting for the robot uprising."  - Harper Reed, as quoted in "Romney campaign got its IT from Best Buy, Staples, and friends" (Ars Technica).
For more information about Reed, see "When the Nerds Go Marching In" (The Atlantic). His smart (Facebook) campaign "found voters in battleground states that their opponents apparently didn’t know existed" (Oreilly). This should worry all of us!

Yes, I have been recently exposed to the Delphi Technique...

IMPORTANT DO NOT click any links in the Comments!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

About that "free stuff"

This Republican narrative about it being hard to beat "Santa" and people voting for Obama because they want "free stuff" is getting old. And it's probably what cost Mitt the election. But I just can't take this "death by ideology" crowd too seriously...


 
 

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Did Obama's re-election REC the country?

Updated: November 17, 2012
 
The electorate has spoken. And it appears to want to move beyond liberalism to secular humanism, empiricism, and pluralism! Is a secular government "guided by Reason, inspired by Compassion, and informed by Experience (Humanist Manifesto III) now possible? Did Obama's re-election REC the country?

My favorite post-election analysis so far: Jennifer Ouellette's piece in Scientific American on the "Math Honey Badger" and Jon Stewart’s bit on “Karl Rove’s Math.” And Ron Rosenbaum on the Bruce-factor. And a conservative, Wick Allison, on the core issue of fairness no less.

This election showed how data-driven analysis and well-run, demographic and/or issue targeted campaigns that add people to the electorate can be game changers to our broken electoral process.
“The Obama campaign found voters in battleground states that their opponents apparently didn’t know existed. The exit polls suggest that finding and turning out the winning coalition of young people, minorities and women was critical — and data-driven campaigning clearly played a role” (Oreilly).

The Atlantic and Slate have good pieces on the conservative “bubble” that made it all so fun to watch! But...try not to be mean while exercising your patriotic duty. And beware the smart campaign with big data on voters...
Be careful what you wish for. Understanding how people will vote in advance, and using marketing techniques to manipulate votes, are both scientific methods, but that's quite different from Madison's goal: focused critical thinking about policy and candidates on the merits. There's no turning back, but face the reality that these sophisticated means of assessing and changing the horserace may undermine Madison's noble ends: to apply scientific reasoning to public policy.
 - Sean Faircloth, Richard Dawkins Foundation
And don't expect this crushing defeat for the GOP to make them, or the country, a bunch of rational empiricists...


Finally, as noted in Slate, this was a good election for science and reason overall. And women, including a bisexual TED Fellow. And gay rights. And Charles Darwin! And pot heads. And it was a disaster for the religious right! The long campaign of politicized Christianity deeply infected by hate was finally marginalized (so expect them to become uglier and nastier). And the “Nones” may finally be a real political force to be reckoned with. We’re good at math and science, and we're on the march! So watch out "Christian conservatives"! The next party will be even more fun! Don't leave now.

For my tarheel readers who want to join the secular movement...


Sunday, September 30, 2012

Happy Blasphemy Rights Day!

Today was Blasphemy Rights Day! Please take a minute to sign the petition to free Alber Saber:



To show your support for free expression, like the Campaign for Free Expression on Facebook. They are making a big announcement tomorrow...
 



Sunday, September 23, 2012

9/11 liberal (n) - a liberal who believes Muslims are nuts

Bill Maher defines "9/11 liberal" as someone who believes Islam is worse than other religions. Chris Matthews asks: So what?



I think Chris Stedmen may be onto something when he warns us that Atheists Ignore Islamophobia at our own Peril. So when Haroon Moghul asks "Are Muslims Nuts?" I wouldn't elect Maher to speak for my liberal or secular views on the question.

But I'm very interested in what Rushdie has to say, and very much looking forward to reading his new book.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Always stand up to cowards

A bad video produced by Christian extremists to blaspheme Islam
Sparks anti-American riots among Muslim extremists with radical Imams

The soft-core porn director doesn't appear to be very pleased with his sudden fame
But some terrorists seized the opportunity to create a lasting Libyan shame

From Sydney to Paris to London, the Muslim outrage spread far and wide
Yet in American, the "peaceful" Muslims condemned the violence and just wanted to hide

Even friendly atheists complained about their thin skin
While their Arab cohorts continued to struggle for the world's attention

Meanwhile the politics of violence and fear seemed to march on
In constant search of a new home

Where freedom (of speech and religion) is dead
And more cowards ("murderers and their accomplices") are bred

So all I can offer is some "modest thoughtfulness" today
And try "to give some human meaning to everyday life" in some way

Always stand up to cowards who incite violence and kill
And to cowards who would take away the freedom to be shrill

Happy (early) Blasphemy Day 2012!
If he who bases his hopes on human nature is a fool, he who gives up in the face of circumstances is a coward.
- Albert Camus, Neither Victims nor Executioners

Saturday, September 15, 2012

The innocence of children

There were violent protests in Sydney yesterday, and...



"If this is the best God can do, I'm not impressed."
 - George Carlin

I agree with Carolyn Porco that this is child abuse. I also agree with Dawkins that just calling a child a "Muslim" (or a "Christian") is a form of child abuse, but that doesn't mean that I want children of religious parents to be taken out of their homes and brought up in "state-run, communal, child farms." It just means I want to provide even more support and encouragement for people leaving their faith. Because there are so many people, like these poor kids, who don't have a choice about getting into it...and too few options to help them get out!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Secularists are atheists, agnostics, deists, pantheists, theists and polytheists

"As to religion, I hold it to be the indispensable duty of government to protect all conscientious protesters thereof, and I know of no other business government has to do therewith." 
 - Thomas Paine, Common Sense

Jacques Berlinerblau believes that the vast majority of atheists are "tolerant, self-critical, and moderate in their outlook (that is, secularish)" and that a "true secular movement...should make the eradication of anti-atheist prejudice integral to its platform." However, he also believes that "religious moderates" are needed for secularism to "forge coalitions and pursue its agenda effectively." Fair enough. But I'm not convinced that "American secularism has lost control of its identity and image" to atheists - or that this "serves only the right" because atheists are viewed more unfavorably than any other group in America (even Muslims).

Anyway, Berlinerblau wrote a book and is pitching it (as Ed Brayton and others have noticed in recent months). The "precise relation of atheism to secularism needs to be teased out and explained to the general public," Berlinerblau argues, so we can "glimpse a credible alternative to the extreme forms of atheism that are coming to dominate secularism today." One example of this extreme form of atheism that he cites is Richard Dawkins: Berlinerblau characterizes Dawkins' position, in The God Delusion, as one that "can’t distinguish between a member of the Taliban beheading a journalist and a Methodist running a soup kitchen in Cincinnati." Seriously? And this guy wants to teach us how to be secular and forge coalitions with religious moderates? Please!

Secularists are atheists...and agnostics, deists, pantheists, theists, and polytheists! The religious moderates and strictly secular groups have been doing what they can, but they need the help of us nontheists. Instead of complaining about atheists, agnostics, humanists, freethinkers and other nontheistic Americans supporting secularism, Berlinerblau should pick a secular group that he can support, or form a new one, and help us forge some coalitions to pursue our secular agenda more effectively. Fear of guilt by association with a despised minority (atheists) is not secularism.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Blasphemy in Charlotte, or not, for DNC?

American Atheists (AA) and Adams Outdoor Advertising have mutually agreed to remove billboards criticizing Christianity and Mormonism in Charlotte, NC. Citing "public reaction" which AA characterized as "vitriol, threats, and hate speech against our staff, volunteers, and Adams Outdoor Advertising," the AA billboards will be taken down before the DNC to protect "innocent people...caught in the middle" (AA).

However, the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) is apparently in the process of putting some billboards of their own in Charlotte. And for those who apparently don't know, there has been an active group of atheists in Charlotte for some time now. They are affiliated with AA as well as the Atheist Alliance and the American Humanist Association. I recently joined the Charlotte group, and I don't think they had anything to do with these AA billboards. Personally I think the FFRF message is more effective. But I do support the AA's blasphemy rights, and I am troubled by this type of intimidation by religious bullies.

I wish AA would take Adams up on their counter-offer, and ask them to put up a simple billboard with the following quote:

"What is freedom of expression? Without the freedom to offend it ceases to exist."
 - Salman Rushdie 
And a footnote in support of AA, in strikethrough!


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Local church pastors as change agents

I want to share a couple things from my Twitter feed today. Because frankly, I don't often get to quote Rick Warren! Yes, that Rick Warren! So here goes:
Case in point? Meet Jerry DeWitt!

If you are recovering from religion in the Charlotte, NC area, come join us for a meeting: The Skeptical Poets Society formed a local "Metrolina" chapter in June. Our next meeting is this Sunday, Aug 26, at the Maiden Recreation Center. And if you are an active and former clergy who does not hold supernatural beliefs, The Clergy Project is here to help you!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Goodbye old friend

I'll never see you again, but it was wonderful to spend time with you recently...and to have you in my life for over half a century! I will remember your kindness, and how you loved to fry bacon! Goodbye old friend. You are gone, but not forgotten.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Happy Woody Guthrie Centennial

As I went walking, I saw a sign there,
And on the sign there, It said "no trespassing."
But on the other side, it didn't say nothing!
That side was made for you and me.
In the squares of the city, In the shadow of a steeple;
By the relief office, I'd seen my people.
As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking,
Is this land made for you and me?




See here for more information on the centennial and a schedule of events.
And here's a good piece in the Atlantic on why Woody endures.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Comic Sans to Cerns

Yes, the science is somewhat mixed. And there certainly is alot of abuse and overuse out there that we should be aware of. But when speaking in Wingdings (or about concepts that unfortunately might as well be Wingdings to most people), Comic Sans seems like the perfect choice of a font! That's why I support the petition to rename Comic Sans to Comic Cerns! Will you join us?

Friday, July 6, 2012

Real Must See TV

“The good thing about science is it’s true whether or not you believe in it.”
 - Neil deGrasse Tyson
"Translation is another name for the human condition"
  - David Bellos

I'm looking forward to the new Cosmos series, hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson. Video can be a powerful tool for educating people about the important issues that we face, but how can we get more people to watch stuff like this?

Or stuff like this?


Instead of crap like this and this and this?

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Feynman: On the religious significance of a Higgs-like “God Particle” that behaves according to the Standard Model

“It’s very nice to be right sometimes.”
 - Peter Higgs

With all this breaking July 4th news about the discovery of the "God Particle" at the Large Hadron Collider near Geneva, Switzerland, and some hand-wringing* about the new boson behaving like the Standard Model Higgs, this clip from Richard Feynman seemed very appropriate for this Independence Day:

Happy Independence Day

Happy Independence Day.
Is universal health care finally on the way?
Medicare for All in USA?
What would Andy say?

Meanwhile, a Higgs-like entity has appeared.
The God Particle that some scientists and theologians feared?
Or some new physics that will be weird?
Where will we be steered?

How about forward today?
For a better life and more knowledge we may.
Have more liberty and happiness as they say.

And learn about the Higgs-like boson in Comic Sans*, eh?

* July 7 update: I support the petition to rename Comic Sans to Comic Cerns. Join us?

Monday, July 2, 2012

“God particle” is a backfired joke! Say “Higgs boson” (or "Goddamned Particle")

Physics World has audio of a recent interview with Peter Higgs online. Higgs is apparently en route for CERN to attend the big announcement about the search for the elusive Higgs boson that bears his name. Nature is reporting today that CERN will likely announce that “LHC data confirm the discovery but not identify of a Higgs-like entity” (between 4.5 and 5 sigma results from both ATLAS and CMS experiments).

So I expect to hear a lot of people talking about “The God Particle” for a few days. But as Peter Higgs explains, that nickname for the Higgs boson is a backfired joke!
I was really rather annoyed about that book…I mean it was one of Lederman’s little jokes, and I think it’s rather backfired…He wanted to make the title of his book “That Goddamned Particle” because it was so hard to discover it, and his editor didn’t like it. So he said alright “The God Particle” and his editor accepted it. But a lot of people I think don’t find that funny. And I think when it’s taken too seriously by people who don’t really understand the context of the joke, it does cease to be funny. You know, I’ve seen comments from theologians about it that really shouldn’t happen.
- Peter Higgs
Of course, now that we definitely, maybe know that the Higgs boson exists, “That Goddamned Particle” doesn’t really make any sense anymore* (Or maybe it does? Let’s wait and see what CERN reports). But God particle doesn’t either!** Discoveries are named after the person who theorizes or discovers them, not someone else in the field who writes a book about them - or their editor or publisher! So can we all call it the Higgs boson now?
* If you don't have a pet GUT that is excluded by the data, or you ignore that it took $$$ billions to find the Goddamned thing! :)

** Unless you believe that because the Higgs gives other particles their mass, or may even be responsible for cosmic inflation itself, that it somehow has something to do with human conceptions of God - in which case you are now talking philosophy (of religion) or psychology but not physics (which is what this story is really about).

Update (July 11): I'm still seeing new stories with incomplete or misleading information ("an easier way of explaining how the subatomic universe works and got started"?) about why the Higgs boson is called the "God Particle" by some people. Quoting from the book that started it (p. 22, emphasis added):
"Why God Particle? Two reasons. One, the publisher wouldn't let us call it the Goddamn Particle, though that might be a more appropriate title, given its villainous nature and the expense it is causing. And two, there is a connection, of sorts, to another book, a much older one..." [Cites Genesis 11:1-9 - a reference to the Tower of Babel - and Einstein's quote that we will "know the mind of God" (i.e. "bring all of physics into a much simpler, more comprehensible form" (as suggested in the Motherboard article)].
So they agreed to call it "God Particle" only in the sense that it "has been put there to test and confuse us" (p. 24) like different human languages in the Tower of Babel story. But "God Particle" wasn't their first choice for a book title, and this "more comprehensible physics" justification seems like a post hoc explanation of the unfortunate title that resulted from a compromise with their publisher.

And I still have not seen a complete and accurate explanation of the etymology of "God Particle" anywhere in the media coverage of this story. See my follow-up post on the religious significance of science in general, or lack of in the case of the Higgs boson.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Jerry DeWitt announces MetrolinaRfR

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Nate Phelps: Leaving Hate Behind

A public service message for gay-genocide supporters in my community from the estranged son of "God Hates Fags" pastor Fred Phelps of the infamous Westboro Baptist Church:

Nate is on the board of directors of Recovering from Religion, a “nonprofit organization dedicated to providing multi-dimensional support and encouragement to individuals leaving their religious affiliations.” For those in North Carolina who would like to connect to a local group, there is a Raleigh area chapter.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Most people are not usually irredeemably stupid

Or if they are, they can become self-aware of their own ignorance by learning something about what they are ignorant of. On this point, Chris Lee has an interesting piece in Arstechnica about the Dunning-Kruger effect that ends with some advice that I have found helpful in dealing with my own ignorance (or lack of a certain skill) from time to time:

It is also important to confront people with their own failings. "There is also some thought that perhaps we should give people experience with their overconfidence," Dunning noted. "That is, get them to make an overconfident display, and then expose it for what it is, so that people are more on guard for such an issue. For example, in some areas, people learning to drive are exposed to horrible driving conditions, but not taught how to handle them. Instead, they are given enough frightening experience that they would never think to drive in icy or snowy conditions. I would not consider this a negative approach to education. As Anatole France said, a proper education isn’t what you know, it’s being able to separate what you know from what you don’t."

Standing up against a gay-genocide pastor for Memorial Day

The candle flame gutters. Its little pool of light trembles. Darkness gathers. The demons begin to stir.
- Carl Sagan
On Memorial Day, Americans honor the men and women who died while serving in the Armed Forces. As Lincoln noted in his Gettysburg Address, “the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain.”

As the son of a World War II veteran, the task before me this Memorial Day weekend was therefore clear. An independent Baptist preacher from my home town (Maiden, NC) recently suggested genocide as a solution to the “homosexual problem” -- perhaps in jest, but he has yet to unambiguously repent for using these words. In response, over 1,000 people gathered on the lawn of the Catawba County Justice Center in Newton, North Carolina on Sunday. The protest was organized to provide a message of love and tolerance in response to these hateful words. Some say it was the largest protest in the history of Catawba Country.

A Georgia preacher and counter-protestor told the Hickory Daily Record that "the preachers that hate these people are at home." I suspect Martin Niemöller would agree on this point. But there were no restless dreams and no one walked alone in Newton on Sunday.


Saturday, May 26, 2012

Why I keep harping on Pastor Charles Worley's words

Because I was raised as a "good Protestant" in...Maiden, NC. Because silence is consent. Because I don't want to have to visit my LGBT friends in an ICU. Or the gay teacher from my days at Maiden High School.

So I will keep harping and protesting against what he said, until he repents. However, based on my past experience with the Worley family, I fear this will not happen.

If Baptists can put queers in electric fences,
can Muslims put sluts in burkas?

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out--
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out--
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out--
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me--and there was no one left to speak for me.
 - Statement by Martin Niemöller (1892–1984)

Monday, May 7, 2012

The same old arguments for Amendment One

Permalink: http://j.mp/Arguments4One

Most of the arguments that I have heard for North Carolina’s Amendment One from grass-root supporters generally appear to ultimately fall into one of the following two categories, albeit with less inflammatory language:

1. Archie: “I never said a guy who wears glasses is a queer. A guy who wears glasses is a four-eyes. A guy who is a fag is a queer.”

2. Dick (on how this ‘All in the Family’ episode glorified homosexuality): “Homosexuality destroyed [Greece]. Sure, Aristotle was a homo, we all know that. So was Socrates….The last six Roman emperors were fags…And let's look at the strong socities. The Russians. Goddamn it, they root them out, they don't let them around at all. You know what I mean? I don't know what they do with them…You see, homosexuality, dope, immorality in general. These are the enemies of strong societies. That’s why the Communists and left-wingers are pushing the stuff: they’re trying to destroy us.”

But we already knew the bigots and “left wing” conspiracy theorists were voting for Amendment One didn’t we?

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Vote Against Amendment One on May 8

Change your Facebook profile pic to show support.




Discuss the issue with your friends and relatives. Share this bundle of 25+ local NC editorials against the amendment.

Take someone with you to the polls and vote AGAINST the amendment on May 8!

  • Don’t write discrimination into our constitution!
  • Don’t create a jobs program for lawyers!

First they came for the communists, and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Jew.
Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me.
- Martin Niemöller

For easy reference, you can refer friends to this post with the following friendly URL:

http://j.mp/NoOneNC

First they came for the gays and lesbians…

Early Voting/Same Day Registration
8am - 5pm Friday May 4
8am - 1pm Saturday
May 5
j.mp/VoteEarlyNC


Thumbs upMake this image (sample North Carolina ballot, May 8) your profile pic. Just right-click, Save picture as and then upload it to your Facebook account. Tag some like-minded friends and relatives in the photo!

ballot-question_thumb2


Thumbs upShare a link to a good editorial from a local newspaper, or share this bundle of editorials against the amendment.

Thumbs downVote AGAINST the amendment on May 8!

Don’t write discrimination into our State constitution!

Don’t create a jobs program for lawyers!

First they came for the communists, and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Jew.
Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me.
- Martin Niemöller

Monday, April 23, 2012

Religious homophobia on display in North Carolina

North Carolina’s May 8 primary includes a referendum on a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a women as the “only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this State.”

Yard signs are finally starting to pop up. Caught these about 15 miles north of downtown Charlotte this afternoon.

WP_000962

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Sensational NDE rubbish in Salon

Salon offers this as ”new science” on…wait for it: NDEs. With “shocking results for the nature of consciousness and reality itself. Yes, it’s the same old "crackpot" religious screed against "materialistic scientists" and same old anecdotal evidence for NDEs. Given what is at stake, is it too much to expect Salon’s editors to Google the author and tone down the sensational headline?

If human consciousness can really leave the body and operate without a brain then everything we know in neuroscience has to be questioned. If people could really gain paranormal knowledge then much of physics needs to be rewritten. This is what is at stake. Add to that the fact that most people in the population believe in some kind of life after death, and many desperately want it to be true…

- Sue Blackmore, “Back From the grave”

UPDATE: PZ Myers responds in Salon.

Monday, April 16, 2012

If atheists talked like Christians

The Friendly Atheist started a Twitter hashtag meme/contest: #IfAtheistsTalkedLikeChristians. Here’s my contribution: If atheists talked like Christians, then this quote (or something similar) would be as familiar to you as the Lord’s Prayer: 

That Man is the product of causes which had no prevision of the end they were achieving; that his origin, his growth, his hopes and fears, his loves and his beliefs, are but the outcome of accidental collocations of atoms; that no fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought and feeling, can preserve an individual life beyond the grave; that all the labours of the ages, all the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system, and that the whole temple of Man's achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the debris of a universe in ruins--all these things, if not quite beyond dispute, are yet so nearly certain, that no philosophy which rejects them can hope to stand. Only within the scaffolding of these truths, only on the firm foundation of unyielding despair, can the soul's habitation henceforth be safely built.

- Lord Bertrand Russell, "A Free Man's Worship"

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Earl Eugene Scruggs (January 6, 1924 - March 28, 2012)

Banjo player Steve Martin wrote a fitting eulogy in The New Yorker. I will miss Earl’s unmistakable banjo and gentle sense of humor…

Featured on the TV show "The Beverly Hillbillies".

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Reason Rally slideshow

Just got home from DC. Great rally! Will try to find time to blog about it later. For now, here are some of my pics! Some others have posted pics on the web too. The best speaker in my view: Nate Phelps (video), son of Fred Phelps of Westboro Baptist Church infamy.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

The argument for ending religious discrimination against women taking birth control

The “festival of point missing” continues, with a call by celebrity lawyer Gloria Allred to prosecute Rush Limbaugh on defamation charges based on an obscure Florida law against “falsely and maliciously imputing to [a woman] a want of chastity.” Now the broader “fight against media misogyny” has a legal case. I wonder what George Carlin would say about all this?

But I digress. In this post I want to quickly summarize the basic arguments behind Obama’s insurer mandate to provide birth control and provide some primary sources on the issue since they have received so little attention in the news, pundit-sphere, or my social media feeds.

Notwithstanding the misguided economic arguments of Rabiddoggs, the Obama compromise requires insurers to cover contraception if a religious organization chooses not to. The mandate is believed to be cost neutral and seeks to:

  • Eliminate religious discrimination against women in their medical care delivery and coverage.
  • Promote women’s health and optimal birth outcomes through insurance coverage of contraceptives.

Eliminating religious discrimination against women

Insurers who offer other preventative care or prescription drug coverage but refuse to offer birth control (because of the employer’s religious objections or other reasons) have “circumscribed the treatment options available to women, but not to men,” thus violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (EEOC, 2000).

The Obama compromise requires insurers to directly offer contraceptive coverage free of charge if a religious employer objects to providing the coverage. By doing this, he seeks to end the discrimination against women without infringing on the religious freedom of employers who do not want to provide coverage for birth control due to religious objections.

Promoting women and children’s health

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, “at least 26 states have laws requiring insurers that cover prescription drugs also provide coverage for any Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved contraceptive.” However, “twenty-one states offer exemptions from contraceptive coverage, usually for religious reasons.”

The National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine recently recommended to the Obama Administration that women’s preventive services include a ”fuller range of contraceptive education, counseling, methods, and services so that women can better avoid unwanted pregnancies and space their pregnancies to promote optimal birth outcomes.”

Conclusion

The Obama mandate is believed to be cost neutral (unwanted pregnancies and cervical cancers are surely more costly than birth control pills?). It doesn’t make birth control readily available over the counter, but it would end religious discrimination against women in contraceptive care and coverage and promote women and children’s health without (apparently) infringing on anyone’s pocket book or religious freedoms. This seems like a reasonable approach to close “critical gaps in preventive services for women” and “further ensure women's health and well-being.”

Primary Sources

“Clinical Preventive Services for Women: Closing the Gaps.” Institute of Medicine. National Academy of Sciences. 19 Jul. 2011. Web. 10 Mar. 2012. <http://www.iom.edu/Reports/2011/Clinical-Preventive-Services-for-Women-Closing-the-Gaps.aspx>

“Decision on Coverage of Contraception.” The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. 14 Dec. 2000. Web. 10 Mar. 2012. <http://www.eeoc.gov/policy/docs/decision-contraception.html>

“FACT SHEET: Women’s Preventive Services and Religious Institutions.” Office of the Press Secretary. The White House. 10 Feb. 2012. Web. 10 Mar. 2012. <http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2012/02/10/fact-sheet-women-s-preventive-services-and-religious-institutions>

“Insurance Coverage for Contraception Laws.” National Conference of State Legislatures. Feb. 2012. Web. 10 Mar. 2012. <http://www.ncsl.org/issues-research/health/insurance-coverage-for-contraception-state-laws.aspx>

“Women Who Obtain Birth Control Over the Counter in Mexico More Likely to Continue Use, New Research Shows.” The University of Texas at Austin. 23 Feb. 2011. Web. 10 Mar. 2012. <http://www.utexas.edu/news/2011/02/23/contraceptives_mexico/>

Dailard, Cynthia. “Contraceptive Coverage: A 10-Year Retrospective.” The Guttmacher Report on Public Policy. June 2004, Volume 7, Number 2. Guttmacher Institute. Jun. 2004. Web. 10 Mar. 2012. <http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/tgr/07/2/gr070206.html>

Finley, Ben. “Cloudy Contraception Costs.” FactCheck.org. Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania. 24 Feb. 2012. Web. 10 Mar. 2012. <http://www.factcheck.org/2012/02/cloudy-contraception-costs/>