100 years after 1st birth control clinic opened, conservatives still hate freedom of choice


Outside the crumbling Brooklyn building where the first U.S. birth control clinic opened 100 years ago, Alexander Sanger reflected on the move that landed his grandmother in jail and fueled a controversy over women’s reproductive rights that has raged ever since.

“This is where it all started,” said the grandson of Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger in his first visit to the Brownsville, Brooklyn, site where she started her clinic in 1916.

“She threw down the gauntlet and said, ‘Preventing women from contraception is inhumane,'” said Sanger…

Some of the reproductive rights battles that Margaret Sanger fought a century ago were remarkably similar to the challenges facing Planned Parenthood today, particularly organized religion’s objection to sex education, her grandson said…

The religious-liberty fight over contraception is back in the U.S. Supreme Court, which will rule by July on whether religious groups deserve a blanket exemption so that they do not have to pay for their employees’ contraceptive coverage as mandated under President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act…

Opponents have waged a decades-long string of attacks on abortion providers, the most recent in November when a gunman killed three people at a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood clinic. Since 1993, there have been 11 murders and 26 attempted murders due to anti-abortion violence…

Planned Parenthood itself is in the crosshairs, with the Republican-led Congress voting as recently as this week to cut all of its federal funding, although Obama, a Democrat, has vowed to veto the measure when it reaches his desk.

A USA Today poll in December found Americans overwhelmingly oppose cutting off federal funds for Planned Parenthood. Some 59 percent of Republicans and 89 percent of Democrats are against the idea…

The controversy was well under way 100 years ago when Sanger and her sister, both trained nurses whose mother died young after giving birth to 11 children, opened the clinic. They fitted women for diaphragms, which were the most effective birth control available at the time but were illegal under the federal Comstock Law against distributing materials that could be used for contraception.

One patient turned out to be an undercover police officer, and nine days after the clinic opened in the low-income Jewish and Italian neighborhood, it was shut down, and Sanger was under arrest

Today about half of the 6.6 million pregnancies annually in the United States are unintended, a higher proportion than in Europe…

“It’s still the poorest of the poor who are having more children than they want, who are having children earlier than other women, who are not getting access to preventive methods when they need them – whether it’s in Brownsville or Rio de Janeiro,” Sanger said. “That same struggle was my grandmother’s struggle, and it is mine.”

The fight remains the same, the enemies of knowledge and progress remain. People who fear education, freedom, individual liberty – diminishing numbers continue to gather inside the mouth of the little intellectual cave they live within and try to hold off their fears with chants and weapons.

The rest of us embrace the dawn.

4 reasons why America’s teen birth rate just reached an all-time low

There are 42 percent fewer teen births now than just seven years ago. In 2007, 4.2 percent teenage girls in the United States gave birth. In 2014, the rate was 2.4 percent.

That decline is unprecedented, and spans all 50 states. And the states where it is dropping the fastest are diverse: Colorado, Arizona, Georgia, and Florida have all had declines above 40 percent…

Experts like Ginny Ehrlich know that the teen birth rate is dropping fast — faster than it has since the federal government began to keep count. They know that this is not about teens terminating more pregnancies; separate data shows the teen abortion rate has steadily declined since the late 1980s.

What they don’t understand is what, exactly, is driving the trend…

That being said, they did have a lot of compelling ideas about what might be happening, trends that don’t explain the entire decline in teen pregnancies but might tell some smaller part of the story. Here’s a handful of them:

Americans are having fewer children in general

As the economy turned south in the late 2000s, demographers noticed the start of a predictable trend: Birth rates began to drop. That change makes perfect sense and has shown up in prior economic downturns: Couples seem to delay having babies when budgets are tight…

Teens are using better contraceptives

One of the biggest recent changes in teens’ sexual behavior is the type of contraceptives they choose. Teenagers have increasingly gravitated toward long-acting, reversible contraceptives such as IUDs and implants. The percentage of women using these types of methods grew from 0.4 percent in 2005 to 7.1 percent in 2013 — a 17-fold increase in less than a decade…

High school students wait longer to have sex

Every two years, the federal government asks America’s teenagers a series of relatively intimate questions about their sex lives. This is the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System, and it shows that high schoolers today have less sex than their parents did when they were teens…

Maybe sex ed is working?

The birth rate for all teenagers is falling. But it’s falling much faster for young teens. Since 2007, births have fallen 47 percent for young teens — and 39 percent for older teens.

To Ehrlich, this suggests there’s something about the environment that young teens are in that is different. She thinks there is something about the high school environment — perhaps better sex education — that is working well for younger women.

In all cases, the rallying points for religious morality, conservatives who want women ignorant and obedient, have failed. If “failed” is too strong a word – then try “unproductive”. I don’t care how or why some folks still think they have to limit choices and education for women; but, it hasn’t and won’t work. For anything – whether the topic is birth control, reproductive rights, voting rights, healthcare.

RTFA for more detail, graphic info. Some of it surprising. Gratifyingly so.

Yes, anti-abortion nutballs want to stop contraception, too

A rapid increase in the number of U.S. women turning to intrauterine devices to prevent pregnancy has prompted escalating attacks on the birth control method from groups that oppose abortion.

The next battle will be at the U.S. Supreme Court, which has agreed to consider a new religious challenge to contraceptives coverage under President Obama’s healthcare law. Although the case deals broadly with whether religiously affiliated groups should be exempt from providing birth control coverage to their employees, some parties in the case have focused specifically on IUDs…

Here’s the religious rationale:

“IUDs are a life-ending device,” said Mailee Smith, staff counsel for the Americans United for Life, which filed an amicus brief in support of the challenge before the high court. “The focus of these cases is that requiring any life-ending drug is in violation of the Religious Freedom Act.”

IUD use among U.S. women using contraceptives grew to 10.3 percent in 2012 from 2 percent in 2002, according to the Guttmacher Institute, making them the fastest growing birth-control method. Their popularity has grown as women recognized that newer versions of the device don’t carry the same safety risks as a 1970s-era IUD known as the Dalkon Shield.

Now more than 10 percent of U.S. women using contraceptives use IUDs. Other forms of birth control, such as daily pills, are on the decline…

Planned Parenthood, long a target from religious groups for providing access to abortions, has also become a significant source of the devices, with IUD use by its patients up 57 percent between 2009 and 2013.

Under the Affordable Care Act, the Obama administration created an exemption for houses of worship and some related organizations that object to funding birth control for employees, but now other types of religiously affiliated groups want similar waivers.

The consequences of Obama’s wavering over separation of church and state:

In 2014, the Supreme Court accepted the position of Hobby Lobby, a chain of craft stores owned by religious Christians, ruling that private companies that are closely-controlled could opt out of contraception coverage based on the owners’ beliefs.

Hobby Lobby, among other things, objected to birth control that could prevent “an embryo from implanting in the womb,” including two types of IUDs…

The current high court case consolidates seven lawsuits filed by nonprofit groups with religious affiliations, such as colleges and retirement homes run by nuns. The ruling could be applied to more than 100 similar lawsuits, potentially affecting hundreds of thousands of women, according to lawyers on both sides of the issue. Little Sisters of the Poor, one of the plaintiffs, has for example more than 2,000 employees.

We’re talking about unintended consequences. Obama included a perfectly reasonable opt-out for True Believers. But, the dog-in-the-manger politics of folks like Hobby Lobby extends to keeping employees from having any rights at all. Unless we have an executive branch that fights for separation of church and state, a Supreme Court steered by reactionaries can behave just as consistently backwards as Congress.

Having only two classes of politicians – conservatives and cowards – doesn’t help along progress for ordinary working families.

Obamacare’s birth control coverage saving women beaucoup money

Women are saving a lot of money as a result of a health law requirement that insurance cover most forms of prescription contraceptives with no additional out-of-pocket costs, according to a new study. But the amount of those savings and the speed with which those savings occurred surprised researchers.

The study…found that the average birth control pill user saved $255 in the year after the requirement took effect. The average user of an intrauterine device (IUD) saved $248. Those savings represented a significant percentage of average out-of-pocket costs.

“These are healthy women and this on average is their No. 1 need from the healthcare system,” said Nora Becker, an MD-PhD candidate at the University of Pennsylvania and lead author of the study. “On average, these women were spending about 30% to 44% of their total out of pocket health spending just on birth control.”…

Becker said that while making birth control substantially cheaper may not increase the number of women who use it, the new requirements could well shift the type of birth control they use to longer-acting, more effective methods like the IUD. “If prior to the ACA a woman was facing $10 to $30 a month for the pill but hundreds of dollars upfront for an IUD and now both are free, we might see a different choice,” she said.

Of course, the Republican Party thinks all these women are sluts.

Court rules Notre Dame can’t cut off students’ birth control

A federal appeals court held that the Supreme Court’s decision limiting access to birth control in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby does not permit the University of Notre Dame to shut down their health plans that help the school’s students pay for contraceptive coverage — or, at least, the court held that Notre Dame cannot obtain a court order permitting them to do so right now. This is the latest of Notre Dame’s multiple trips to the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. Though the court held in 2014 that Notre Dame must comply with an extraordinarily modest obligation under federal law, the Supreme Court asked the Seventh Circuit to reconsider the case in light of Hobby Lobby. For now, the Seventh Circuit concluded, Hobby Lobby does not entitle Notre Dame to the relief that it seeks…

What a can of worms the corrupt wing of SCOTUS has opened. The original victory legalizing birth control over the objections of religious ideologues stood stable and strong for decades until this batch of conservative liars joined the court.

…Justice Sonia Sotomayor…nearly accused her conservative colleagues of lying in Hobby Lobby when they permitted another religious school, Wheaton College, to temporarily opt out of the fill-out-the-form option as well. “Those who are bound by our decisions usually believe they can take us at our word,” Sotomayor wrote. “Not so today.”

Notre Dame, however, seeks relief that is even more arcane than the issue in Wheaton College. Wheaton College concerns whether the law grants religious objectors such a sweeping right to refuse to follow the law that they can even refuse to fill out a form that the government provides in order to exempt religious objectors from having to follow the law. Notre Dame, by contrast, has already filled out the form, a fact that led the Seventh Circuit to express “puzzlement about what exactly the university wanted us to enjoin.”…

Notre Dame, in other words, wants the right to force private companies to stop conducting business with its students, presumably by telling those companies that it will refuse to continue to do business with them itself unless those companies agree to stop helping Notre Dame students pay for contraception. Notre Dame is quite literally seeking to impose its religious beliefs on other parties who do not share them…

As the Wheaton College order suggests, a majority of the Supreme Court is open to the argument that permitting a religious objector to fill out a form that exempts them from the law can still be an impermissible burden on that objector’s faith. If the justices go this far, it is unclear that it will even be possible to prevent organizations like Notre Dame from cutting off their workers’ and students’ access to contraceptive health plans.

Dragging us back to the time when religious ideology was allowed to supersede the civil law of the land. Absurd, criminal, about as backwards a decision as one might expect from the minds of those who would not have supported our revolutionary separation from state religion in the first place.

Republicans continue to trip over the Gender Gap — and more

GOP women

When it comes to the Republican Party’s path to a Senate majority, so much of the focus has been on the red states. But the difference between the GOP pursuing a lasting majority and one that is temporary — or even elusive — is how it performs in purple and blue states like Colorado and Michigan. And our brand-new NBC/Marist polls of Colorado and Michigan show Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) leading Cory Gardner (R) by seven points among registered voters…in Colorado’s key Senate race. They find Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) ahead of GOP challenger Bob Beauprez by six points… They have Rep. Gary Peters (D-MI) up over Republican Terri Lynn Land by six…in Michigan’s Senate contest. And they show Gov. Rick Snyder (R) leading Democratic challenger Mark Schauer by two points… So why are Udall, Peters, and Snyder all ahead in their contests?

Here’s an explanation: mind the gaps — the gender gap, the Latino gap, and the independent gap. In Colorado, Udall is up by 12 points among female voters…as Democratic groups like Senate Majority PAC are up with TV ads…on abortion and contraception. Indeed, 70% of Colorado voters in the NBC/Marist poll said they were less likely to vote for a candidate who supports restrictions on the use of contraception. And in Michigan, Peters is ahead by 13 points with women…

But the gender gap isn’t the only notable gap in our new polls — also look at the Latino gap. Our NBC/Marist poll shows that Latinos make up 16% of registered voters in Colorado, and Udall is winning them by 31 points…

And then there’s the independent gap. In Colorado, both Udall (by 50%-34%) and Hickenlooper (by 52%-35%) have the advantage with independent voters. By contrast, in Michigan, Gov. Snyder holds a 14-point edge among independents — which explains his narrow lead in this Democratic-leaning state. Remember: It’s often easier to win independent voters as a Republican governor or gubernatorial candidate in a blue state, rather than as a GOP Senate candidate…And Snyder won his 2010 GOP primary and then general election due to independent voters…

Kind of a catch-all article. Hardly any poll analysis is as tidy as Pew or fivethirtyeight.com. Still, the groupings examined in this portion of the NBC/Marist poll would have it appear that under-represented portions of the American population are pissed-off enough to vote in their own interest.

Subsidized birth control = 40% decrease in Colorado teen pregnancy

A Colorado programme that offers free birth control to teenagers has dramatically reduced the rate of teenage pregnancy. But the nature of the scheme’s funding – a large anonymous donation – leaves it unclear whether it could work on a broader scale…

That opening paragraph is a non sequitur. The source of funding isn’t relevant at all. What was done with the contribution is about a qualitative effect on the lives of young women.

In 2008, an anonymous donor made a $23 million five-year commitment to provide long-term contraception such as intrauterine devices or implants for teenagers who needed them, for free or at very low cost.

The state’s health department rolled out the programme, called the Colorado Family Planning Initiative, through clinics that were already offering family planning services…

When Greta Klinger, the director of the programme, got the first results back about how the initiative was working, she and others were stunned.

“The demographer whom I worked with on the analysis of the data kept coming into my office and saying, ‘Look at this, I’ve never seen this before.'” Klingler says…”It’s really incredible. From the public health perspective, it’s pretty rare to have a programme that produces such dramatic results.”

The US birth rate for teenagers is decreasing across the country, but Colorado has seen a quicker drop – between 2008-12, it jumped from 29th-lowest teen birth rate in the nation to the 19th lowest.

Not everyone is happy. There is fierce opposition to the idea of offering birth control to teenagers from groups like Colorado Right to Life…

I’ll not waste space in this post on spooky arguments leftover from centuries of ignorance. Suffice it to say the arguments from opponents range from fear and hatred of evolution and science to instructions from an invisible old white guy in the sky.

Continue reading

43 Republican Senators vote against access to birth control

Welcome to 1965. That was when the Supreme Court ruling in Griswold vs Connecticut legalized the sale and public access to contraceptive devices. The pharmacist at the Orange pharmacy just 5 blocks from my apartment in New Haven was arrested for publicly displaying and selling condoms.

Today’s conservative-dominated Supreme Court probably would have upheld the law and his arrest. Today’s Republicans demonstrate once again their War on Women is more important than separation of Church and State, more important than women having the individual liberty to make choices about reproduction. Welcome to 1865.

Estelle Griswold

Today, Senate Republicans filibustered a bill that would have walked back the recent Supreme Court hearing in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby and made sure that contraception was treated no differently from other medications in company insurance policies. The bill, promoted by Washington senator Patty Murray and Colorado senator Mark Udall and called the Protect Women’s Health From Corporate Interference Act, would have ensured that for-profit companies that provide health insurance to employees could not deny coverage of specific medications, including birth control. It exempted houses of worship and religiously affiliated nonprofits.

Nonetheless, the bill failed. Only three Republicans crossed party lines to vote for it: Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Susan Collins of Maine, and Mark Kirk of Illinois.

The bill’s defeat isn’t a surprise, but it is indicative of how extreme positions from the long-standing wars over abortion have crept into territory the American public more or less agrees on. Overwhelming majorities of Americans think birth control is morally acceptable, and two-thirds support mandated contraception coverage in health insurance plans. A majority thinks for-profit companies should have to cover contraception even if the company owners have religious objections.

But a bill solidifying those values while maintaining rights for religious groups was just shot down…

Numerous studies show that affordable, accessible contraception significantly lowers abortion rates. When women around the world are able to plan their families, they live longer, their children are healthier, they have fewer abortions, their families make more money and even their local and national economies improve. And family planning doesn’t just reduce abortion rates — it reduces infant mortality rates too.

So why do Republicans want to make it harder and more expensive to get? Because this isn’t about abortion at all. It’s about female sexuality and a conservative hostility toward it. Contraception doesn’t just have social, medical, and economic benefits; it allows women to have sex for pleasure. There are a lot of folks who find that threatening and unpleasant…

…The point of insurance is to help offset health care costs. If employers didn’t have to cover vaccinations or the setting of broken bones or brain surgery, people would still have the legal ability to get to those things, but many people wouldn’t be able to, because the cost would make them inaccessible. The same is true for birth control.

Americans understand that. It’s too bad conservatives in the Senate don’t.

‘Nuff said. Conservative creeps want to turn this country back into the sort of theocratic, bigoted, old-white-male-dominated nation exemplified by today’s Republican Party.

The War on Women is central to that ideology.

Philippine top court defies Catholic Church – Backs birth control

The Supreme Court in the Philippines has approved a birth control law, in a defeat for the Catholic Church…The law requires government health centres to distribute free condoms and contraceptive pills.

The court had deferred implementation after the law’s passage in December 2012 after church groups questioned its constitutionality.

Supporters of the law cheered as the court found that most of the provisions were constitutional.

The government of President Benigno Aquino defied years of church pressure by passing the bill…It says the law will help the poor, who often cannot afford birth control, and combat the country’s high rates of maternal mortality.

The provisions will make virtually all forms of contraception freely available at public health clinics…Sex education will also be compulsory in schools and public health workers will be required to receive family planning training…There will also be medical care for women who have had illegal abortions.

The Philippines is about 80% Catholic, and with a population approaching 100 million, has one of the highest birth rates in Asia.

The church fought fiercely against the bill, denouncing it as evil and a threat to life. It denounced politicians who supported it, including President Aquino.

While most of the world’s candyass media keeps the focus of their attention on the nice guy with the big ring in Rome – throughout the rest of the world, especially developing nations, the Catholic Church continues with the iron fist in the velvet glove. Fully committed to the suppression of women and reproductive freedom, the church is satisfied with tying society to the ignorance of 14th Century minds.