Embattled Birth Control?

Personally, “unrestricted, unlimited sex, anytime, anywhere” sounds pretty damned fun to me.

On August 1st, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced historic new requirements for insurers on services for women that should be covered by new insurance plans at no cost (i.e. – without a copay). To determine what medical care would be covered, the Institute of Medicine was charged with reporting to the DHHS what services and screenings for women are needed to fill gaps in recommended preventative care. In the IOM report, “Clinical Preventative Services for Women, Closing the Gap“, the committee defines preventative services as,

measures—including medications, procedures, devices, tests, education and counseling—shown to improve well-being, and/or decrease the likelihood or delay the onset of a targeted disease or condition.

The services recommended by the IOM include common sense stuff:

  • well-woman visits;
  • screening for gestational diabetes;
  • human papillomavirus (HPV) DNA testing for women 30 years and older;
  • sexually-transmitted infection counseling;
  • human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) screening and counseling;
  • FDA-approved contraception methods and contraceptive counseling;
  • breastfeeding support, supplies, and counseling; and
  • domestic violence screening and counseling.
Well, unless you live under a rock or are completely unconcerned with women’s reproductive issues, the fall out from the release of these new HHS guidelines has been epic. Both for it’s greatness, and for it’s sheer moronic misogyny. As expected, the National Women’s Law Center, Feminist Majority Foundation, National Organization for Women, NARAL, and Planned Parenthood Federation of America (P2) have all come out in support of the new guidelines. Representatives from many organizations are commending the HHS for actually listening to and implementing the recommendations of real medical experts and scientists. Some of the reaction has been beyond epic, such as this Bollywood-inspired song and dance routine made for Planned Parenthood:
Any feminist woman knows the depths of Bill O’Reilly’s misogyny. But he feels he continually needs to remind the world how low his opinion of women. On his awful, bias-as-hell show back in July, O’Reilly spoke to a fake liberal woman and a conservative woman about the HHS’s mandate for insurers to cover birth control. (Any liberal who was asked the question as he stated it would have pointed out that O’Reilly’s description of the regulations was inaccurate.) The conversation was completely biased, as O’Reilly asks “liberal” contributor Leslie Marshall if the government should pay for “everybody’s birth control…in the world”. Even leaving out the fact that O’Reilly misrepresents the DHHS requirements (that private insurers pay for birth control for private policy holders, not the government!), he goes on to insult every female birth control user by saying they are “to blasted out of their minds to use it anyway”. Since O’Reilly doesn’t care to actually engage women in a substantive manner, he obviously doesn’t know that the 56 million women who use highly-effective birth control don’t take it when they are “blasted out of their minds”. In addition, he attacks the “health care deal for the ladies” talking to Lou Dobbs, saying we ‘all’ will have to pay for this. Someone should call him up and explain how, we are all ALREADY paying for it!
Although the regulation includes an exception for religious institutions, the Family Research Council argues that the regulation “undermines the conscience rights of many Americans.” Um, yeah, he must mean the less than 1% who don’t use any contraceptive method whatsoever. (I argue that women working for religious institutions should not be subject to their beliefs if not shared, and should have an alternative option for contraceptive coverage.) A spokesman for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, says “pregnancy is not a disease, and fertility is not a pathological condition to be suppressed by any means technically possible.” Someone should let him know that no one said pregnancy was a disease. But there are,however, many conditions and diseases associated with pregnancy, many of them fatal for the pregnant woman. Oh, but wait, the Catholic church doesn’t care about the pregnant woman. I forgot.
The arguments against prohibiting cost sharing for preventative services only gets more ridiculous. Stephen Colbert can state it much more hilariously than I. And Jon Stewart breaks it down on the Daily Show. The arguments of opponents to this mandate are not rooted in science or medicine. They are solely rooted in religion. The catholics say the rules are “messing with God”. Other conservatives say giving away free birth control will result in rampant promiscuity. And conspiracy theorists argue that free birth control is just the first step in the government’s assertion of complete control over the reproductive lives of the citizenry for population control purposes. Um, communist China anyone?
These arguments become especially irreverent when you consider that of women of reproductive age who do not want to become pregnant, 99% use a contraceptive method other than natural family planning, and two-thirds of us take a highly-effective method (i.e. – sterilization, the pill, IUD, etc.) regardless of our religious beliefs. And these conservative, anti-choice pundits seem to forget about the fact that not all women using contraceptives are unmarried young people, contraceptive use helps breastfeeding women breastfeed longer by helping them space their pregnancies and increases the socio-economic status of women who are consequently able to delay pregnancy, preventing unplanned pregnancy reduces the need for abortion, couples are less likely to separate after a planned pregnancy than an unplanned pregnancy, contraceptives help prevent the spread of sexually-transmitted infections and HIV, and some women are prescribed contraceptives for reasons other than pregnancy prevention (such as endometriosis). I could go on, but I think I made my point.
The DHHS will be taking public comments on the new regulations through the end of September. Personally, “unrestricted, unlimited sex, anytime, anywhere” sounds pretty damned fun to me. (I hope my husband is up to the challenge!) Plus, I am TOTALLY DOWN with becoming a 4-star General in Obama’s Army of Flesh Thirsty Young Sluts! And, seriously, who would compare domestic violence counseling and breastfeeding advice to getting a pedicure? Oh, wait…

The Debt Ceiling Impasse is Shameful

“your party forces sweeping cuts in education – undermining the security of our future generations”

I usually get most incensed only when the government insists on inserting their legislation into my uterus or pays general disregard to female equality. But the debt ceiling failures plaguing our Congress of late have me so upset, I felt the need to share with Senator Pat Toomey my disappointment in his and his party’s job performance of session.

Dear Senator Toomey,

I have had enough. I am sick and tired of the whining over the failure of the so-called “Cut, Cap and Balance” bill. Frankly, we don’t NEED to pass a new constitutional amendment in order for Congress to do the work ALREADY assigned to it by the Constitution and pass a responsible budget each year. You frequenting every news outlet in the country to complain about opposition to a bill that is unnecessary and, frankly, detrimental to our nation’s security accomplishes nothing.

The fact is republicans refuse to negotiate with democrats to pass a debt ceiling agreement that provides for the national security of our nation. While your party forces sweeping cuts in education – undermining the security of our future generations – you refuse to close tax loopholes for hedge fund managers or eliminate tax-payer funded subsidies for billion dollar oil companies. This is ludicrous!

Take note, Senator! While you traipse about the airwaves broadcasting your tough, ideological talk, the rest of us are waiting for you to really do something good for America. I am waiting on you and your party to start getting serious about protecting our financial security and create realistic solutions for America.

Drop the partisanship and GET REAL!



Wimbledon reeks

I love tennis.  Women’s tennis, men’s tennis, singles, doubles, love it! The Australian Open each year is a beacon of hope that winter is finally ending and the summer or sport is soon to follow.  But recently, my ears have been assaulted repeatedly by unwanted noise during women’s tennis matches.  And I am NOT talking about any noise made by the players!  I am talking about the incessant complaining and criticism by the female announcers during women’s matches with regard to players’ grunting.

You see, often, when a person makes a powerful, full-effort athletic move, an exclamation of exertion may be heard.  This is true of basketball, volleyball, tennis and virtually any other sport a person happens to enjoy.  This is a phenomenon unrestricted by gender boundaries: men do it, women do it, even kids do it.  The sporting battle cry is an elemental part of sport.  And I must admit, when I dive for a well-placed hit during a volleyball game, I am unashamed of my own exclamations (especially when I get a positive result).  But for some [obvious] reason, women in particular are being ridiculed and denigrated for doing what comes naturally for sportsmen everywhere.

Watching Wimbledon this year, I had to endure female tennis announcers making derogatory comments about the female tennis players on court.  Statements such as female grunting is damaging the sport, women should tone it down, the women’s grunting is distracting, and other myriad critical comments nearly managed to make me turn the channel.  Every women’s match, I find myself more and more offended by this unending tirade of misogyny.  I am personally unbothered by the gentlemen’s or the ladies’ grunting.  It’s a natural phenomenon, as I explained earlier.  But listening to Mary Carillo, Chris Evert and Pam Shriver constantly criticize female players seriously bursts my bubble!

Yes, women grunt during rallies, but so do men.  Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic played for the men’s championship today.  Their match was a continuous exchange of grunts.  Novak even emits what I describe as a double crescendo grunt that peaks just before and just after his strike.  And Rafa’s grunt is just as audible.  But not once did I hear the male announcers lob criticism on them for their liberties.  Oh, and don’t let me get started on some of yesterday’s players like Andre Agassi!  Yet, let a woman like Maria Sharapova or Venus Williams utter the same athletic sounds, and Shriver and friends are all over the television saying they are bad for tennis.

And now there is talk of a ‘ban’ on grunting?  How much more ridiculous can we get?  Can you imagine what would happen if a ban were raised on grunting during tennis matches?  My theoretical scenario begins thus:

During the 2011 off season, the ATP and WTA approved a ban on grunting. With the enforcement of this ban, players can be docked points, removed from a match, fined, and even disqualified for ‘cheating’.  Despite strident opposition by players male and female alike, the WTA has announced that the ban will become effective with the start of the first major tournament of the season, the Australian Open. The chief complaint among players in opposition to this ban is the fear that the ban will prevent players from exercising their full potential on court, for fear of consequences imposed for uttering sounds that are involuntary.  And top women players fear that the ban will disproportionately affect their professional prospects, and have threatened to file civil legal action against enforcement of the ban.

 Spectators and lovers of tennis have expressed similar fear that tennis may lose its competitive edge, post-match penalties will interfere with the sport’s integrity, or that stoppage time for penalties may hamper match progress. 

Not to mention, it would be utterly ridiculous!

I believe that this angst for females making any kind of noise emanates from a cultural misogyny so deeply ingrained in all of us that even women don’t realize they are indoctrinated with it.  In the nineties, when Monica Seles first made a name for herself, she too was ridiculed by announcers, and nicknamed “Moan-ica.”  One would think that 20 years after Monica Seles took Gabriela Sabatini to school, women in sport would be shown a bit more respect.  Who decided how women should act?  Who decided grunting wasn’t appropriate behavior for women?  When did announcers decide how the players should play?  Hmmmm, excuse me, but I think that should be the players’ decision.  The fifties image of the graceful feminine lady tennis player should be the furthest thing from people’s minds as they watch tennis today.  Well behaved women rarely make history.  The announcers and spectators need to get over it.  If you don’t like the grunting, turn down the sound.  Otherwise, shut the hell up already!

Some people make noise when playing sports.

And while I’m at it, commentary surrounding women’s tennis too often descends into the announcers’ perception of the female players’ body and beauty issues rather than discussions about skill or off-season interests.  Not once during Nadal’s and Djokovic’s match today did I hear the announcers discuss the players’ weight, clothing, or physical appeal.  During Wimbledon I have personally witnessed announcers’ discussion of how frequently a player is photographed and an announcer’s issues with another player’s weight (as if it were any of her business).  Seriously, if I wanted to hear about that kind of crap, I’d turn on TMZ.  Geez.

I love tennis, but it’s obvious that, just off court, equality is still a long way off.

Nuclear Disinformation vs. Public Education

My concern amidst all of the positive memories of 2011 ComFest was that participants in the event heard “environmental activists” on Bozo stage promulgate nuclear misinformation.

As a nuclear engineer, I consider it my unique duty to inform the public and communicate openly about the benefits and risks of nuclear power.  Each year, I anxiously anticipate The Columbus Community Festival because it gives me the opportunity to visit home to see and hear the sights and sounds of the town that raised me from a babe.  This year was especially memorable to me, as I was fortunate enough to reunite with many of my friends old and new (some I had not seen since my high school graduation).
My concern amidst all of the positive memories of 2011 ComFest was that participants in the event heard “environmental activists” on Bozo stage promulgate nuclear misinformation. This concerned me because I know one of the core principles of ComFest is working “for the collective good of all people.” I cannot justify how presenting false information as fact works for collective good.  These activists stated, “two plants in Nebraska are underwater”; regulators and corporations collude to “fatten their pockets”; and “without nuclear power… we would have all renewables like wind and solar” (as well as other claims). 
These statements are sensationalized anti-nuclear rhetoric!
To address some of the specifics, the following is some factual information that refutes the messages that were prominently presented as fact at ComFest: Nebraska Public Power District’s Cooper Nuclear Station and OmahaPublic Power District’s Fort Calhoun Station are not “underwater”.  Fort Calhoun has experienced flooding on their property; but, the reactor remains dry inside its watertight containment building.  This is due, in part, to recognition of deficiencies in Fort Calhoun’s flood response plan by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) resident inspector, and the subsequent implementation of improvements overseen by the NRC (reference letter LIC-10-0098 in ADAMS).  When the vessel head problems occurred at First Energy Nuclear Operating Company’s Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station, the NRC fined the owners $5.5 million and kept the reactor shut down for years.  The NRC routinely inspects emergency readiness plans; and mandates owners design and operate their plants in accordance with strict safety standards.
The fact is nuclear power was developed for the collective good.  Nuclear power contributes to U.S. energy independence, and provides reliable, good-paying jobs across many trades and education levels. In 2010, nuclear power accounted for almost 20 percent of electricity generation and more than 68 percent of emission free electricity production in the United States.  The same year, electricity generation from nuclear avoided 1.6 million tons of Sulfur dioxide and 707 million tons of CO2 emissions.  Both Sulfur dioxide and CO2 are greenhouse gases and are detrimental to public health.
On the notion that nuclear can be replaced with renewable energy: with an average wind turbine of 1.5 megawatts – 830 wind turbines would be needed to replace the capacity of Perry Nuclear Power Plant (1,245 megawatts). I challenge these “activists” to explain, where in Ohio would we put 830 wind turbines?  Or in the case of small, residential wind turbines, what middle-class family can contribute roughly $40,000 in capital costs?
For me, ComFest used to symbolize friends and community.  This weekend left me wondering, when did ComFest come to symbolize deceptive activism?  I inquire of the ComFest organizers, whether they are aware that misinformation was spread and if they took any or plan to take any action to ensure that this kind of misleading information is not being spread at ComFest. If they are not planning an action, I respectfully request that they do. ComFest’s organizers, when addressing political issues affecting our community, should strive to present the facts and the opportunity to represent both sides of those issues.  Because isn’t promoting an informed public the best thing, in the end, for all of us?
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