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Aug/12

11

John Fisher: Biter Bit

Writing in the (British) Catholic Herald, Francis Phillips claims that she “feels a shiver when I see the parallels between our world and that of St John Fisher”.

The context, inevitably, is of officialdom’s supposed attack on religious freedom in the UK. Fisher (1469-1535) is allegedly relevant because this English cardinal was eventually executed for refusing to go along with Henry VIII’s attempt to ensure that England should determine its own laws.

To Phillips, Fisher is a example to be praised, martyred because he would not go against his conscience. Oddly, she doesn’t mention another aspect of this sinister fanatic’s career, his role in the trial and execution of Thomas Hitton, the man often described as England’s first protestant martyr.

Thanks to Wikipedia (in this case, why not), we learn that George Joye (1495-1553) was not so reticent:

“And [Thomas] More amonge his other blasphemies in his Dialoge sayth that none of vs dare abyde by our fayth vnto deeth: but shortlye therafter/ god to proue More/ that he hath euer bene/ euen a false lyare/ gaue strength vnto his servaunte syr Thomas Hitton/ to confesse and that vnto the deeth the fayth of his holie sonne Iesus/ whiche Tomas the bishopes of Caunterburye & Rochester [Fisher]/ after they had dieted and tormented him secretlye murthered at Maydstone most cruellye.

Fisher was no defender of freedom of conscience. What he was defender of his conscience. And, indeed, enforcer of it on others. As for his fate, well, biter bit.

As I noted the other day, Fisher, and another of those responsible for Hitton’s execution, Thomas More, were recently drafted by New York’s Cardinal Dolan into the fight against the Obamacare contraception mandate in the name of religious freedom.

They were not, perhaps, the best of choices.

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Aug/12

5

Kelly, No Hero

Via CBS:

Rep. Mike Kelly, R-Pa., an ardent opponent of the contraception mandate that went into effect Wednesday, is comparing the beginning of the mandate to the attacks on Pearl Harbor and the September 11 terrorist attacks.

“I know in your mind you can think of the times that America was attacked,” Rep. Mike Kelly, R-Pa., said during a news conference.

“One is December 7th, that’s Pearl Harbor Day; the other is September 11th and that’s the day of a terrorist attack. I want you to remember August the first 2012 the attack on our religious freedom. That is the date that will live in infamy along with those other dates.”

Somehow I doubt it.

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Jul/12

7

For Thee But Not For Me (Ctd)

Cardinal Séan O’Malley , one of the leading figures in the US Roman Catholic hierarchy, blogs:

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision this week upheld the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act’s “mandate” requiring adult Americans to purchase health care. The full range of the Court’s decision requires further study. Central to the decision, however, is the fact that the law will significantly expand health care for over thirty million people. The Catholic Bishops have for decades supported the principle of guaranteed access to health care as a basic human right. Our position has been and remains based in the dignity of the person and the right to health care which requires protection in civil law and public policy.

Read on, and you see that the Cardinal’s generosity (with other people’s money) does not stop there:

..The ACA does not adequately address the needs of immigrant communities in our country. Health care as a human right and the need for it among some of the most vulnerable people in our nation is one of the reasons why access to health care should be extended beyond ACA.

But there’s a catch:

While supporting [the] extension of health care, the U.S. Bishops Conference reminded us this week that since the passage of ACA, the Church has encountered significant challenges to its institutional religious freedom. Most notable is the requirement that Catholic health care, social service and educational institutions provide services to their employees which violate Catholic teaching..

Hmmm, O’Malloy’s church favors the introduction of “guaranteed access” to health care (which must, by definition, involve imposing an obligation on the population as a whole to pay for it) while reserving for itself the right to ignore any aspects of the law that “violate Catholic teaching”.

Interesting

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Apr/12

3

A Bitter Pill

Via USA Today:

MILWAUKEE – President Obama has opened the first significant lead of the 2012 campaign in the nation’s dozen top battleground states, a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll finds, boosted by a huge shift of women to his side…In the fifth Swing States survey taken since last fall, Obama leads Republican front-runner Mitt Romney 51%-42% among registered voters just a month after the president had trailed him by two percentage points.

The biggest change came among women under 50. In mid-February, just under half of those voters supported Obama. Now more than six in 10 do while Romney’s support among them has dropped by 14 points, to 30%. The president leads him 2-1 in this group.

Utterly predictable. Probably disastrous.

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Mar/12

11

On The Economics of the Pill (2)

In an article for Bloomberg News, Virginia Postrel asks why certain types of oral contraceptive require a prescription. Here is an extract:

Requiring a prescription “acts more as a barrier to access rather than providing medically necessary supervision,” argues Daniel Grossman of Ibis Reproductive Health, a research and advocacy group based in Massachusetts, in an article published in September in Expert Review of Obstetrics & Gynecology.

Birth-control pills can have side effects, of course, but so can such over-the-counter drugs as antihistamines, ibuprofen or… Aleve. That’s why even the most common over-the-counter drugs, including aspirin, carry warning labels. Most women aren’t at risk from oral contraceptives, however, just as most patients aren’t at risk from aspirin or Benadryl, and studies suggest that a patient checklist can catch most potential problems.

To further increase safety, over-the-counter sales could start with a progestin-only formulation, sometimes called the “minipill,” rather than the more-common combinations of progestin and estrogen…Progestin-only pills, or POPs, have fewer contraindications. Unlike combination pills, they’re OK for women with hypertension, for instance, or smokers over the age of 35. The main dangers are fairly rare conditions such as breast cancer or current liver disease. “Not only are POP contraindications rare, but women appear to be able to accurately identify them using a simple checklist without the aid of a clinician,” declares an article forthcoming in the journal Contraception.

Aside from safety, the biggest argument for keeping birth- control pills prescription-only is, to put it bluntly, extortion. The current arrangement forces women to go to the doctor at least once a year, usually submitting to a pelvic exam, if they want this extremely reliable form of contraception. That demand may suit doctors’ paternalist instincts and financial interests, but it doesn’t serve patients’ needs. As the 1993 article’s authors noted, the exam requirement “assumes that it would be worse for a woman’s health to miss out on routine care than it would be to miss out on taking oral contraceptives.”

And let’s not forget how these requirements fit in with the even more interfering instincts of the nanny state.

The consequences are predictably malign:

Going to the doctor is costly in time, money and sometimes in dignity. Not surprisingly, the prescription requirement deters use of oral contraceptives. In a 2004 phone survey, 68 percent of American women said they would start the pill or another form of hormonal birth control, such as the patch, if they could buy it in a pharmacy with screening by a pharmacist instead of getting a doctor’s prescription. Two-thirds of blacks and slightly more than half of whites and Latinas surveyed said they chose their current, less-effective method of birth control because it didn’t require a prescription.

If you think that the costs involved in all this are incurred solely by those looking to get obtain oral contraceptives, you are a very trusting soul.

And, as I discuss in a different context over on the Corner (the availability of the emergency anti-allergy EpiPen), unnecessary insistence on prescriptions is not confined to contraceptives.

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Mar/12

10

On the Economics of the Pill

Interesting report here in the New York Times:

The recent controversy over contraception and health insurance has focused on who should pay for the pill. But there is a wealth of economic evidence about the value of the pill – to taxpayers, as my colleague Motoko Rich writes, as well as to women in general.

Indeed, as the economist Betsey Stevenson has noted, a number of studies have shown that by allowing women to delay marriage and childbearing, the pill has also helped them invest in their skills and education, join the work force in greater numbers, move into higher-status and better-paying professions and make more money over all.

One of the most influential and frequently cited studies of the impact the pill has had on women’s lives comes from Claudia Goldin and Lawrence F. Katz. The two Harvard economists argue that the pill gave women “far greater certainty regarding the pregnancy consequences of sex.” That “lowered the costs of engaging in long-term career investments,” freeing women to finish high school or go to college, for instance, rather than settling down.

The pill also helped make the marriage market “thicker,” they write. By decoupling sex from marriage, young people were able to put off getting married and spend more time shopping around for a prospective partner.

Those changes have had enormous impacts on the economy, studies show: increasing the number of women in the labor force, raising the number of hours that women work and giving women access to traditionally male and highly lucrative professions in fields like law and medicine.

A study by Martha J. Bailey, Brad Hershbein and Amalia R. Miller helps assign a dollar value to those tectonic shifts. For instance, they show that young women who won access to the pill in the 1960s ended up earning an 8 percent premium on their hourly wages by age 50.

Such trends have helped narrow the earnings gap between men and women. Indeed, the paper suggests that the pill accounted for 30 percent – 30 percent! – of the convergence of men’s and women’s earnings from 1990 to 2000.

Interestingly, the study also found that the pill had the greatest economic benefits for women with average IQ scores. “Almost all of the wage gains accrued to women in the middle of the IQ distribution,” the paper said. For this group, it said, women with early access to the pill “enjoyed greater hourly wages throughout their twenties and the premium grew to a statistically significant 20 percent at ages 30 to 49.” Why? The pill helped “middle ability” women in “planning for and opting into paid work,” the researchers theorized.

The above article focuses on the economic value of the pill to women generally (and, I suppose, through increased earning power, to the taxpayer), but here’s the specific Brookings Institution paper (“Policy Solutions for Preventing Unplanned Pregnancy” by Adam Thomas, Georgetown University) on the direct value to the taxpayer of certain forms of government-subsidized pregnancy prevention programs.

Here are some extracts:

The research also shows that each dollar spent on these policies would produce taxpayer savings of between two and six dollars…Nearly half of all pregnancies in the United States are unintended, and the parents and children involved in these pregnancies tend to be disadvantaged in a number of ways. For example, Figure 1 shows that unintended pregnancies are disproportionately concentrated among women who are unmarried, teenaged, and poor. Some studies have used sophisticated statistical techniques in an attempt to determine the extent to which pregnancy intentions have a causal effect on maternal and child outcomes. These studies generally suggest that unintended pregnancy and childbearing depress levels of educational attainment and labor force participation among mothers and lead to higher crime rates and poorer academic, economic, and health outcomes among children.

In addition, unintended pregnancy has important implications for public sector balance sheets. For instance, Emily Monea and I estimate that taxpayer spending on Medicaid-subsidized medical care related to unintended pregnancy totals more than $12 billion annually. This figure is substantially more than the federal government spends on the Head Start and Early Head Start programs each year. Unintended pregnancies are also much more likely than intended pregnancies to be terminated. Unintended pregnancies account for more than 90 percent of all abortions—and a substantial majority of Americans of all political stripes support the goal of reducing abortions.

Just one paper, of course, and the Brookings Institution comes with its own institutional bias, but intuitively it makes quite a bit of sense, and, as a taxpayer, leaves me less than thrilled by the direction of some of the rhetoric coming from some sections of the GOP. Read it for yourself and see what you think.

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Mar/12

10

Shocking News

Via the Washington Post, but even so this is not, perhaps, the most surprising news:

The fragile gains Republicans had been making among female voters have been erased, a shift that has coincided with what has become a national shouting match over reproductive issues, potentially handing President Obama and the Democrats an enormous advantage this fall.

In the 2010 congressional midterm elections, Republican candidates ran evenly with Democrats among women, a break with long-established trends. That was a major reason the GOP regained control of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Now, female voters appear to be swinging back to Democrats.

A number of polls show that Obama’s approval among women has risen significantly since December, even as it has remained flat among men. The same trend, which began before the controversy in recent weeks, is also showing up further down the ballot.

When a Wall Street Journal-NBC News survey asked in the summer which party should control Congress, 46 percent of women favored Democrats and 42 percent preferred Republican control.

But in a survey released Monday, compiling data since the beginning of the year, that figure had widened considerably to a 15-point advantage for the Democrats, according to polling by the team of Democratic pollster Peter Hart and Republican Bill McInturff. Fifty-one percent favored Democratic control; only 36 percent wanted to see the Republicans in charge…

Both sides have tried to shape the narrative in this battle for and about women. But many Republicans are beginning to wish they had never waded into what has become a heated conversation over contraception, who should have it and what it says about people who use it.

GOP pollster Kellyanne Conway, an adviser to presidential candidate Newt Gingrich’s campaign, said Republicans need to return to pocketbook and fiscal issues. “We know what works,” she said, “and we need to get back to it.”

Quite.

And even those who saw the “contraception” controversy as being over religious freedom rather than contraception should have realized the political dangers of the territory into which they were sailing, and navigated it with distinctly more skill than they have shown.

Terri Schiavo, part deux? We’ll have to see, but there can be no doubt that, under these circumstances, choosing Santorum, a character with strongly-held views on the , uh, perversity of contraception (“a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be”), as the GOP’s nominee would both drown out any argument over religious freedom and be an extraordinary act of electoral self-destruction.

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Feb/12

17

Helping Obama

The polling data relied upon for this Washington Post article is from a Democratic polling firm, but the results should come as no great surprise:

The firm’s poll finds that one of the most important factors powering Obama’s gains against likely GOP nominee Mitt Romney has been the President’s improving numbers among unmarried women, a key pillar of the present and future Democratic coalition.

Among this group, Obama now leads Romney by 65-30 — and there’s been a net 18-point swing towards the President among them:…After unmarried women dropped off for Dems in 2010 and were slow to return to the Dem fold in 2011, Obama is now approaching the 70 percent he won among them in 2008.

Unmarried women will be important to Obama’s success at rebuilding his 2008 coalition in time for reelection, something that already seems to be underway, as Ronald Brownstein has demonstrated. The crack Post polling team tells me that the key to understanding this constituency is that it’s complex and diverse; it includes young women who have never married, divorced women, and widows, and it cuts across class, racial, income, and geographic lines.

Various factors — the improving economy; the drawn-out Republican nomination process; the GOP’s sinking approval ratings — already seem to be driving unmarried women back towards Obama. And the pitched battle over birth control could continue to galvanize and unite this group behind him, particularly if Romney is forced to embrace the conservative position. The Greenberg poll also tested the two sides’ position on this issue, and found that 61 percent of unmarried women side with the Democratic one.

Concludes the memo: “We may yet look back on this debate and wonder whether this was a Terri Schiavo moment.”

The chances that this will indeed be the case will increase substantially if Santorum is the nominee. To use a hackneyed term, elections are all about the “narrative” and the narrative says that Santorum wants to ban contraception. He can deny that all he wants (and that’s just what he’s doing), but he’s said enough in the past to ensure that there are a lot of people who will never believe him. That will tell at the polls should Santorum become the nominee.

And not in a good way.

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Feb/12

16

Science

How to lose a presidential election 101…
Via The Hill

The top donor behind a pro-Rick Santorum super-PAC said Thursday that contraception doesn’t have to be costly because women used to use aspirin for birth control.

“This contraceptive thing, my gosh it’s so inexpensive. You know back in my days, they used Bayer aspirin for contraception,” Foster Friess, the major donor behind the pro-Santorum Red White and Blue Fund super-PAC said on MSNBC. “The gals put it between their knees, and it wasn’t that costly.”

Friess was referencing an old saying that women who held their knees closely together would have to remain abstinent.

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Feb/12

16

Helping Obama to Victory

If ever the GOP were to score points in the contraception wars it ought to have been at the beginning of the controversy, when it was easiest to frame the discussion in terms of religious freedom.

Well, it hasn’t been happening.

Gallup:

PRINCETON, NJ — Catholics’ views of President Obama were little changed during a week in which the administration battled publicly with Catholic leaders over whether church-affiliated employers should have to pay for contraception as part of their employees’ health plans. An average of 46% of Catholics approved of the job Obama was doing as president last week, compared with 49% the prior week, a change within the margin of sampling error.

Although Catholic Church leaders’ opposition to the requirement dates back to last fall, when the policy was being laid out, the controversy erupted and made headlines in the last 10 days, after the Obama administration announced that religious-based employers would ultimately have to comply. The Obama administration’s rules would have forced organizations affiliated with the church — such as Catholic hospitals, service organizations, and universities — to pay for employee healthcare services that go against their belief that Catholics should not use contraception.

It is possible that practicing Catholics are more likely than nonpracticing Catholics to hew to the church’s teachings on birth control. But both groups — those who attend church every week or nearly every week and those who attend less often — had identical 46% approval ratings of Obama last week. Though both more frequent and less frequent churchgoing Catholics’ approval ratings of Obama were down from the prior week, neither change was statistically meaningful.

CBS:

Amid continued controversy surrounding an Obama administration policy mandating that women working at religiously-affiliated institutions be provided with free access to contraceptive health care, a new CBS News/New York Times poll shows that most Americans – including Catholics – appear to support the rule.

According to a survey, conducted between Feb. 8-13, 61 percent of Americans support federally-mandated contraception coverage for religiously-affiliated employers; 31 percent oppose such coverage.

The number is similar among self-professed Catholics surveyed: 61 percent said they support the requirement, while 32 percent oppose it.

Majorities of both men and women said they are in favor of the mandate, though support among women is especially pronounced, with 66 percent supporting and 26 percent opposing it. Among men, 55 percent of men are in favor; 38 percent object.
The survey’s margin of error is plus or minus three percentage points.

And it’s only going to get worse, as the perception that the GOP is somehow anti-contraception sinks ever deeper in public consciousness (helped along , of course, by the pronouncements of Santorum on this topic), and the argument over the First Amendment gets lost in the noise. And that, have no doubt about it, is going to cost the GOP a lot of votes.

This whole thing is looking more and more like a Terri Schiavo moment.

And here’s a reminder from ABC (Mar 21 2005) of how that played out with the public:

Americans broadly and strongly disapprove of federal intervention in the Terri Schiavo case, with sizable majorities saying Congress is overstepping its bounds for political gain.

Sampling, data collection and tabulation for this poll were done by TNS.

The public, by 63 percent-28 percent, supports the removal of Schiavo’s feeding tube, and by a 25-point margin opposes a law mandating federal review of her case. Congress passed such legislation and President Bush signed it early today.

That legislative action is distinctly unpopular: Not only do 60 percent oppose it, more — 70 percent — call it inappropriate for Congress to get involved in this way. And by a lopsided 67 percent-19 percent, most think the elected officials trying to keep Schiavo alive are doing so more for political advantage than out of concern for her or for the principles involved.

This ABC News poll also finds that the Schiavo case has prompted an enormous level of personal discussion: Half of Americans say that as a direct result of hearing about this case, they’ve spoken with friends or family members about what they’d want done if they were in a similar condition. Nearly eight in 10 would not want to be kept alive.

In addition to the majority, the intensity of public sentiment is also on the side of Schiavo’s husband, who has fought successfully in the Florida courts to remove her feeding tube. And intensity runs especially strongly against congressional involvement.

Included among the 63 percent who support removing the feeding tube are 42 percent who “strongly” support it — twice as many as strongly oppose it. And among the 70 percent who call congressional intervention inappropriate are 58 percent who hold that view strongly — an especially high level of strong opinion.

And who was one of the politicians most involved with the attempt to ‘federalize’ the Schiavo tragedy?

Why, none other than Santorum, crushed a year later in a senatorial contest in which his role in the Schiavo case is thought to have played no small part in his humiliating defeat. The idea that this rigidly dogmatic ideologue is in any way electable is ludicrous. There is also every danger for the Republicans that his candidacy would be so polarizing that it would trigger a surge in voters interested only in voting against Santorum, and while they were at it, his parties’ candidates for the Senate and House, something that would present additional dangers for the GOP.

Obama must be laughing.

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