More free birth control = less abortion

If pro-life people really wanted there to be less abortions, they’d spend more time lobbying for free high-quality birth control and less time in front of abortion clinics.  I.e., put the focus on stopping unplanned pregnancies before they happen.  Yet more research on how amazingly effective free birth control– especially IUD’s– can be:

Providing birth control to women at no cost substantially reduced unplanned pregnancies and cut abortion rates by 62 percent to 78 percent over the national rate, a new study shows. The research, by investigators at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, appears online Oct. 4 in Obstetrics & Gynecology.

Among a range of birth control methods offered in the study, most women chose long-acting methods like intrauterine devices (IUDs) or implants, which have lower failure rates than commonly used birth control pills. In the United States, IUDs and implants have high up-front costs that sometimes aren’t covered by health insurance, making these methods unaffordable for many women…

From 2008 to 2010, annual abortion rates among study participants ranged from 4.4 to 7.5 per 1,000 women. This is a substantial drop (62 percent to 78 percent) over the national rate of 19.6 abortions per 1,000 women in 2008, the latest year for which figures are available.

The lower abortion rates among CHOICE participants also is considerably less than the rates in St. Louis city and county, which ranged from 13.4 to 17 per 1,000 women, for the same years.

Among girls ages 15-19 who had access to free birth control provided in the study, the annual birth rate was 6.3 per 1,000, far below the U.S. rate of 34.3 per 1,000 for girls the same age.

This is just pure win.  That is, unless your moral sense tells you it’s better to preach abstinence despite the evidence that preaching abstinence doesn’t work.  And cost/benefit wise, this is obviously, a huge win.  You know I really would like there to be fewer abortions and this certainly strikes me as about the best way to get there.  I really wish more of the pro-life crowd could get over their aversion to women having sex and join with liberals in funding programs like this.

What Kay Hagan tells us about gay marriage

So, NC’s incredibly risk-averse Democratic Senator Kay Hagan finally came out in favor of gay marriage today.  Plenty of speculation about how this might hurt her for the general election, but I’m pretty convinced otherwise.  As much as for any reason because I don’t think Hagan would do this if she thought it might cost her the election.  The initial report I read came from the N&O included this line:

“I’m not interested in playing political pundit,” Hagan said when asked how she thought her stance would affect her re-election prospects. “I’ve never made a decision based on future elections.”

I think I laughed out loud when I read that.  Hagan is a very calculating politician.  Thus, when a very calculating politician makes this move, it tells us that more likely than not, it’s a winning one.   Somewhat to my dismay, gay marriage has become the sine qua non of liberal politics.  I think Hagan realized that she could not afford to further alienate/antagonize the liberal base on this issue and with politics changing so fast her benefit from pleasing the left would likely outweigh lost 2014 voters, as most of those anti gay marriage voters were never available to her anyway.

You can watch me break it down in highly-edited format for the local news here.

I also wanted to share Seth Masket’s comment about a similar call from Virginia Senator Mark Warner:

Hackish centrist, running for reelection statewide in Virginia, not known for taking a strong stance on anything, has just endorsed same sex marriage because he thinks it will help him keep his job. *That’s* what change looks like.

Photo of the day

From the Telegraph’s photos of the week.  Awesome:

A bolt of lightning flashes in an erupting volcano in Japan in this photo taken by German photographer Martin Rietze at Sakurajima volcano, Japan. Sakurajima had been silent for 100 years when there was a huge eruption in 1914 which swallowed up nearby islands and created an isthmus to the mainland, ending its life as an island.  Sakurajima's rumbled into life again in 1955 and has been erupting almost constantly ever since.

A bolt of lightning flashes in an erupting volcano in Japan in this photo taken by German photographer Martin Rietze at Sakurajima volcano, Japan. Sakurajima had been silent for 100 years when there was a huge eruption in 1914 which swallowed up nearby islands and created an isthmus to the mainland, ending its life as an island. Sakurajima’s rumbled into life again in 1955 and has been erupting almost constantly ever since.Picture: Martin Rietze/National

Top 10 reasons to oppose gay marriage

As seen on FB. This is really, really good:

The Supreme Court and gay marriage

Honestly, don’t have a whole lot to say on the subject.  Is it wrong of me to be a little bothered on all the red equals signs in my FB feed today.  Supporting gays– hooray?  Conformity– boo?  Just too much a Members Only jacket for my tastes.  Also, I’ve used this caveat before and surely will again, but I know it’s easy for me to say “be patient” but same-sex marriage is so, just a matter of time.   Honestly, the on-line headline for Dana Milbank’s column pretty much says it all, “Equality is Inevitable  the Supreme Court can only slow the march to gay marriage.”  Yep, that’s pretty much the case.  As for what the Court will decide, I really don’t expect any sort of Roe v. Wade moment where the court simply declares there’s a nation-wide right to gay marriage.  I do, however, expect that they will strike down DOMA and that this will just accelerate what is already an amazingly rapid change in public opinion.   I’m not going to hazard a time-line on when two gay people can get married to each other in Alabama or Mississippi, but where once I thought that was surely many decades away, I don’t really think that’s the case anymore.

Meanwhile, Wonkblog put together 9 charts that make the same point.  I like this one because it shows the change across all age groups:


I also think these two related charts a very big part of the story (i.e,. hooray to those who came out when it really wasn’t easy):

Photo of the day

From an In Focus “Animals in the News” series.  Lots and lots of great ones here.  My favorite:

Horses near an abandoned Israeli tank in a field along the border between Syria and Israel, in the Golan Heights, on March 8, 2013.(Jack Guez/AFP/Getty Images)

Funding for duck penises

As you may know, I’ve long been intrigued by the evolutionary wonder that is the duck penis (and the likewise co-evolved duck female reproductive tract).  One of those odd little factoids I like to share is that humans and ducks are among the very rare number of species that have non-consensual sex, i.e., rape.  So, how nice to see Michael Tomasky get on the duck penis train:

Some conservatives got some attention last week by alleging that the federal government is funding research into duck penises, by way of trying to demonstrate that many taxpayer dollars are wasted and that the sequester is therefore great because it might stop us from funding the study of duck penises.

PolitiFact got curious enough to look into it and decided to give it a “mostly true”–an evolutionary ornithologist at Yale named Richard Prum did indeed snare nearly $400,000 from the National Science Foundtion to study duck mating.

But if you read the item, I think you’ll conclude with me that the whole matter is rather fascinating and just self-evidently deserving of human study:

Here, in Prum’s words, is what he studied and learned:
“Most birds don’t have a penis. Ducks do. They still have it from the reptilian ancestor that they shared with mammals,” he said.

The duck’s penis is stored inside the body, and when it becomes erect, the process of insemination is “explosive,” Prum said. The duck’s penis becomes erect within a third of a second, at the same time it enters the female duck’s body. Ejaculation is immediate, and then the penis starts to regress. The length of the duck penis, as mentioned in the tweets, grows to 8 or 9 inches during the summer mating season. In winter, it shrinks to less than an inch.

In duck ponds, Prum said, a lot of forced copulation occurs. Forced copulation is what it sounds like — rape in nature. Even gang rape happens among ducks. And Prum found that while 40 to 50 percent of duck sex happens by forced copulation, only 2 to 4 percent of inseminations result from it (meaning times the female duck ends up with a fertilized egg).

“The question is why does that happen? How does a female prevent fertilization by forced copulation?” he said. “The answer has to do with taking advantage of what males have evolved — this corkscrew shaped penis.”

Prum said the duck penis is a corkscrew whose direction runs counterclockwise. Female ducks, he said, have evolved a complex vagina also shaped like a corkscrew — but a clockwise one.

“This is literally an anti-screw anatomy,” he said.

When females choose their own partners — in other words, solicit copulation — the muscles in the vagina are dilated and expanded. So the anti-screw effect is negated.
“The females are enormously, amazingly successful at preventing fertilization by forced copulation,” he said.

So it turns out that Todd Akin was right, but only about ducks, not actual human women.

Now, it may be debatable whether this is the best use of science funding, but other than the laugh factor of saying “duck penis” this seems just as reasonable and mainstream as plenty of other science funding into animal behavior.  Anyway, mostly I find this a fascinating bit of zoology that more people should know about.

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