Consonant-Level Links

March 10, 2007

See the above post (soon) for an explanation of the motivation of this roundup’s theme. But for now, suffice is to say that people with 500 hits a day need links more than people with 5,000.

Kristjan Wager delves into John Hawkins’ dishonest column in greater detail than I did; he not only looks at the study in question and shows how the numbers compare with Hawkins’ point, but also proposes a hypothesis explaining the observation.

Jessica Dreadul links to two reproductive rights-themed news pieces, one about Chile’s lowering of the age barrier to parental consent to emergency contraception and another about an attempt to prevent pharmacists from arbitrarily denying women in Georgia EC.

On The Politburo Diktat, there’s a long, engaging thread about the war on Iraq and whether the US is irrevocably doomed and has nothing better to do than cut and run.

Shelley reports a breakthrough in research into curing hearing loss. While her lab is trying to cure deafness by infecting ear cells with benign viruses, another lab has achieved results by directly compensating for a deficient protein.

Bean notes that one group of people in the US who are especially impacted by the nastiness of the prison system are the mentally ill, who are often tortured with solitary confinement.

India’s Missing Girls

March 4, 2007

Echidne has a terrific post about India and China’s sex ratios. In both countries, there is rampant sex-selective abortion and infanticide, leading to sex ratios of 882 and 832 girls to 1,000 boys respectively. Echidne uncharacteristically takes the snarky road here, so let me try and be a more policy-oriented wonk.

1. Abortion restrictions don’t work here. China already forbids doctors to tell women the sex of their babies before birth. On the contrary, freer abortion turns this into a legitimate if decidedly sexist choice rather than murder.

2. Conversely, other governmental restrictions on fertility exacerbate the problem. In India, the sex ratio is largely a product of dowries, which make girls a financial burden on poor families. In China there’s no such thing; the problem stems mostly from the one-child policy, since families prefer having at least one boy to continue the lineage. Nor does the relaxation that families are permitted a second child if the first is female help much, since it still creates potentially a 2-to-1 gender ratio.

3. India’s ban on dowries is only helping a little bit. In the villages, a lot of progressive Indian laws are being routinely flouted. Officially, it’s illegal to discriminate on the basis of caste; in practice, the status of low-caste Indian villagers is about the same as this of black Alabamans in 1927.

4. Urbanization won’t help much. In Delhi there are 827 girls per 1,000 boys, despite having an above average level of income. Urbanization has done a lot to help women and low-caste people, but is entirely skipping the practice of sex-selective abortion, which is only getting worse due to increasingly expensive dowries.

5. Enforcing existing laws will help, but can only go so far. India doesn’t have an especially stable government, and in the long run will have an even less stable one as a consequence of the immense surplus of males. Cracking down on dowries is too politically unpalatable.

6. Baby steps like the one that the government is trying to promote, namely encouraging parents to abandon girls in local hospitals instead of abort or kill them, are the most secure. Unfortunately, they’re also the slowest, and problems of an oversupply of men can become very urgent. All hell broke loose in China in the 19th century in precisely those areas with lopsided sex ratios.

7. Exporting people is theoretically possible, but requires Western countries to forego their racism enough as to admit 2 million people every year – the 1 million missing women plus 1 million men to compensate. At a time when Europe is trying to return to its medieval roots and the United States lets in something like 300,000 legal immigrants per year, it’s not realistic for the Indian government to bank on that. It’s the best the West can do, but it’s probably even more politically difficult than to enforce anti-dowry laws in India in the first place.

Pro-Choice Events

March 1, 2007

If you’re in New York and pro-choice, check out what’s going on in Manhattan in the next few days:

The Pro-Choice Public Education Project has a fundraiser this Sunday. It’s between 4 and 8 at Midway Bar, 25 Avenue B (crossing 2nd Street); the nearest subway stations are 1st Avenue on the L, Delancey Street on the J/M/Z, and 2nd Avenue on the F/V. It costs $20 to get in, and includes food, drinks, and raffle tickets.

Then on Monday the Guttmacher Institute is hosting a panel on the 10th floor of the UN Church Center (777 UN Plaza) from noon till 2:45. The panel’s title is “Abortion Providers’ Attitudes Toward Women,” and features expert speakers who will discuss access to abortion in several countries. The exact composition of the panel is,

Expert Panelists:

  • Akinrinola Bankole, Ph.D., director of international research, Guttmacher Institute, “Women and Abortion Providers in Nigeria and Uganda”
  • Leonel Arguello Irigoyen, M.D., Nicaraguan Society for General Medicine, “Denial of Therapeutic Abortion in Nicaragua—The Perspective of Health-Care Providers”
  • Beverly Winikoff, M.D., M.P.H., president , Gynuity Health Projects, “Giving Women Choices: Access to New Technologies in Abortion”
  • Marianne Mollmann, LL.M., advocacy director, Women’s Rights Division, Human Rights Watch, “The Second Assault: Obstructing Access to Legal Abortion After Rape in Mexico”
  • Laura Villa Torres, Youth Coalition and Ipas Mexico, “Rape, Unwanted Pregnancy and Abortion—Young People’s Perspectives in Mexico”

Moderated by Linda Prine, M.D., associate professor of family medicine, Albert Einstein College of Medicine; Beth Israel Residency in Urban Family Practice; Medical Director, Reproductive Health Access Project; Trainer and Abortion Provider, Planned Parenthood of New York City.

If you’re not pro-choice or not a New Yorker, please consider rectifying the defect.

Abortion is Good

February 24, 2007

Jill has a tremendous post about how abortion is in fact a moral good. Once you think it through, it’s fairly easy. Abortion is a beneficial medical procedure that removes something that is often a health risk; childbirth is as a rule more dangerous than safe abortion. As Jill notes,

Some on the Pandagon thread argue that procedures like heart surgery are morally neutral. I don’t think so. Having access to that surgery in the first place is a moral good. Deciding to take the course of action that is best for you is a moral good. That’s true whether the issue is terminating a pregnancy or fighting cancer.

The act of heart surgery is of course morally neutral. A person’s choice to have a heart surgery, or for that matter an abortion, isn’t a moral question because it doesn’t impact any other person. As Jill says, the good comes from the fact that this option is available. And conversely, the moral evil in abortion legislation comes from people who pass laws that cause the maternal mortality rates to skyrocket.

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So what is exactly McCain’s position on abortion?

February 22, 2007

Hat-tip to Gordo: McCain’s position on abortion turns out to be less consistent than I thought it was. In 1999, he said about abortion,

[Link] But certainly in the short term, or even the long term, I would not support repeal of Roe vs. Wade, which would then force X number of women in America to (undergo) illegal and dangerous operations.

When called on the liberalness of his position, he issued a clarification that said he believed repealing Roe vs. Wade was an important goal.

McCain’s total flip-flop on abortion brings the number of serious Presidential contenders who can be trusted about anything down to zero.

McCain Tries to Become Older Version of Brownback

February 19, 2007

ABCNews profiles McCain’s religious conservative credentials. Ordinarily I’d call it pandering, but McCain has a long history of being in bed with the religious fundamentalists; in 2000 he promised Gary Bauer pro-life judges, while Bush contented himself with general nonsense about constructionist judges in the mold of Scalia. Still, his style is that of long-term pandering rather than flip-flopping.

The Arizona lawmaker is scheduled to speak Sunday night to about 1,500 middle and high school students about abstaining from premarital sex. Abstinence and abortion loom large as issues in this first-in-the-South primary state in the heart of the Bible Belt.

“Senator McCain has a long legislative record of supporting abstinence-based initiatives in his record in the U.S. Senate,” said Trey Walker, McCain’s South Carolina campaign director. “He thinks that abstinence is healthier and should be promoted in our society for young people.”

McCain obviously has a lot to teach those students about abstinence. As he keeps emphasizing in the canned speech, young people should shut up and listen to their elders. And indeed, McCain’s generation did those things right. In McCain’s teenage years, that is the 1950s, whenever a teenager got pregnant, she either aborted and died due to unsafe conditions, or gave birth and forced the father into marriage. Nobody worried about teen pregnancy then because it was so ubiquitous that acknowledging teens had sex would be too embarrassing. Almost every other American girl had given birth by the time she was 20, and including abortions would likely make it a clear majority. Apparently, walking ten miles to school in five feet of snow uphill both ways makes boys exceptionally horny.

McCain’s antics include supporting the local crisis pregnancy center. I have no data on the particular CPC he’s supporting, but in general they are hornets’ nests of misinformation, intimidation, and outright lies. Furthermore, he’s come out publicly in support of overturning Roe vs. Wade.

On the other hand, the last linked story says,

McCain’s campaign also announced early Sunday that he had been endorsed by former Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating, who had been considering his own bid for the White House, and former Texas Sen. Phil Gramm, who failed in his bid for the Republican nomination in 1996.

Keating told the crowd that McCain is the “only candidate who is a true-blue, Ronald Reagan conservative.”

Leaving aside the appropriateness of calling a Republican “true-blue,” Ronald Reagan wasn’t that good to religious conservatives. He took their money for sure and used their politics as an excuse to cut US foreign aid, but his four Supreme Court nominations include two pro-choicers (O’Connor and Kennedy) and two pro-lifers (Scalia and Bork). Bush has a more conservative track record, with two pro-lifers to one wildcard; but, of course, Reagan was insanely popular, whereas Bush is a lame duck with an approval rate that gets leaders in less stable countries assassinated.

Carnival of the Godless #60 is Up

February 18, 2007

Manifold Fates is still down, so Brent posted the 60th edition of COTG on UTI, including my own post about freedom from religion, which I don’t remember submitting to the carnival.

In related news, accidental blogger Ruchira Paul writes about the Texas legislator who said the theory of evolution was a Kabbalistic conspiracy and therefore unconstitutional to teach in public schools. She concludes, “Texas Governor Rick Perry recently issued an executive order to make vaccination of pre-teen girls with Gardasil mandatory in order to protect them from the Human Papilloma Virus.  Alas, no vaccine, mandatory or optional, exists to protect the children from the willful ignorance of their elders.”

Ann’s Weekly Feminist Reader has two stories about fundamentalist outrage. First, in Israel, certain ultra-Orthodox Jews are working hard to dispel the notion that Islam is uniquely abusive toward women. In Haredi areas, such as the entire city of Bnei Brak, buses are de facto gender segregated, with women sitting in the back. Now a woman who was harassed for not going to the back of the bus is launching a class action lawsuit aiming to break the gender-segregated buses.

And second, the Catholic Church is ranting about Portugal’s referendum. The national conference of bishops whined, “The favorable result for the ‘yes’ is a sign of accentuated cultural mutation by the Portuguese people.” I’m glad the bishops are coming to understand they’re behind the times. The Catholic Church has only itself to blame; it doomed itself to irrelevance when it elected Ratzinger Pope.