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.”


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. <>

“Decision on Coverage of Contraception.” The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. 14 Dec. 2000. Web. 10 Mar. 2012. <>

“FACT SHEET: Women’s Preventive Services and Religious Institutions.” Office of the Press Secretary. The White House. 10 Feb. 2012. Web. 10 Mar. 2012. <>

“Insurance Coverage for Contraception Laws.” National Conference of State Legislatures. Feb. 2012. Web. 10 Mar. 2012. <>

“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. <>

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. <>

Finley, Ben. “Cloudy Contraception Costs.” Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania. 24 Feb. 2012. Web. 10 Mar. 2012. <>



Saturday, March 3, 2012

Keep your religious exemptions to my medical coverage to yourself

The American Academy of Pediatrics has some experience in this area. Maybe we should ask them?

In some jurisdictions, exemptions to child abuse and neglect laws restrict government action to protect children or seek legal redress when the alleged abuse or neglect has occurred in the name of religion. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) believes that all children deserve effective medical treatment that is likely to prevent substantial harm or suffering or death. In addition, the AAP advocates that all legal interventions apply equally whenever children are endangered or harmed, without exemptions based on parental religious beliefs. To these ends, the AAP calls for the repeal of religious exemption laws and supports additional efforts to educate the public about the medical needs of children.

* I’m not a woman, but the point remains. So let’s be careful not to marginalize legitimate arguments about employer imposed religious exemptions to medical coverage that deviate from the medical standard of care. Your religious freedom ends where my medical coverage begins!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Miley Cyrus tweets Lawrence Krauss, Christian response: STFU Whore!

Yesterday, Miley Cyrus tweeted this:

The Christian response, from some of her followers on Twitter: STFU!


Source video for Cyrus’ tweet:

Thursday, March 1, 2012

GOP adopts flying pig mascot and vagina monologue…REALLY!?! What a RUSH!

Updating this post with additional thoughts, links, and my favorite tweets as the story continues to unfold. Tweet your suggestions to @SkepticalPoet.

The GOP is ditching the elephant for the flying pig this election cycle. I know. It’s not about birth control, or who pays for it (as the festival of point-missing shows). But it’s not about “religious freedom” either. It’s about exemptions to medical coverage for women employees based on an employer’s religious objections to the medical care. Which by extension also makes it about dangerous ideas that kill women and subject them to unnecessary medical procedures. But you lost me with exemptions to coverage for women based on an employer’s religion. How would you like special exemptions in your medical coverage because your employer’s shaman doesn’t agree with your doctor?

Rush Limbaugh’s slut slur and sex video solicitation was a nice touch though (Maher must be to blame)! In his honor, let me introduce the new GOP mascot, who best embodies the GOP chances of winning anything in 2012 if they stick with the vagina monologue! But I say go for it guys! You never know. It’s now or never right? Smile


"One of the main reasons for introducing this bill was to see if we could find common ground for pro-life and pro-choice. It seems to me the common ground would be in the area of contraception."
Olympia Snowe, on her Equity in Prescription Insurance and Contraceptive Coverage Act (introduced in May 1997)

The pill is one of most effective non permanent method of birth control. Pills are nearly 100% (99.6%) effective in preventing pregnancy if they are taken correctly. However they do not prevent sexually transmitted diseases.

Periods will be regular, lighter and shorter with less cramping.

  • Improvement of acne problems is common.
  • The pill helps prevent cancer of the ovaries and uterus.
  • Less chance of cysts on the ovaries and benign breast disease.

- Public service announcement from the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics

Oh, and for you US "libertarians" out there: My employer is not paying for my medical care! They are letting me take advantage of a group rate on medical insurance that they arranged with the company that is providing my medical insurance. This insurance is a benefit (like pay) of my employment, so…like my pay, it belongs to me. Further, no one is asking my employer to pay for birth control pills! Women are asking employers not to exempt birth control from their medical insurance coverage. Because birth control is cheaper than unwanted pregnancies and ovarian or uterine cancers! Why is this so hard for somewhat educated white men to understand?

As of March 7, two new advertisers have joined Rush’s sinking ship: 46 have jumped for now. And Kristen Powers, Bill Maher, and Michele Bachmann (and some other, umm…true believers) all now agree: Rush is getting a bum rap!