A new study has found a strong correlation between free access to contraception and lower rates of unintended pregnancy and abortion:

The study, published online in Obstetrics & Gynecology, was carried out in the St. Louis area from 2007 to 2011 and included participants ages 14 to 45 who said they wanted to avoid pregnancy for at least a year.

From the Associated Press article:

When price wasn’t an issue, women flocked to the most effective contraceptives — the implanted options, which typically cost hundreds of dollars up-front to insert. These women experienced far fewer unintended pregnancies as a result, reported Dr. Jeffrey Peipert of Washington University in St. Louis in a study published Thursday.

The effect on teen pregnancy was striking: There were 6.3 births per 1,000 teenagers in the study. Compare that to a national rate of 34 births per 1,000 teens in 2010.

There also were substantially lower rates of abortion, when compared with women in the metro area and nationally: 4.4 to 7.5 abortions per 1,000 women in the study, compared with 13.4 to 17 abortions per 1,000 women overall in the St. Louis region, Peipert calculated. That’s lower than the national rate, too, which is almost 20 abortions per 1,000 women.

In other news, water is wet.

Still, many Americans oppose subsidizing contraception for women who can’t afford it.  They don’t want their “hard-earned tax dollars” used to reduce the risk of someone else’s recreational sex.  Condoms aren’t that expensive, after all.  If people can’t afford birth control, maybe they should just abstain.  Even if they’re married.

And here, ideology clashes with pragmatism.  Opponents of subsidized contraception typically believe that those who need it don’t “deserve” it.  That’s a value judgment.  The reality is, people are not going to stop having sex, no matter how much politicians and religious leaders bellow about “personal responsibility” and morals.  It really doesn’t matter whether or not poorer women “deserve” free access to contraceptives; they need it, and the benefits extend well beyond them and their families.

A reduction in the rate of unintended pregnancy also reduces other costs to society.  There are fewer underweight, uninsured babies needing expensive medical care in the beginning and possibly care for developmental disabilities down the road.  Fewer children in poverty means less money spent on welfare and food stamps.  Foster care systems are less stretched.  Ultimately, society at large enjoys a lower crime rate (yes, I went there).

Women who delay childbearing until they are ready attain a higher level of education and have greater social mobility opportunities.  Their earning power increases, as does their ability to pay taxes.

Costs are saved and benefits are realized.  Some are tangible, some intangible.  It should be clear that subsidizing contraception is something that will pay for itself in both the short and long run.  That doesn’t matter to many Americans, though, who would rather spend money on a pound of cure rather than an ounce of prevention, just to satisfy their own stubborn ideology.

The controversy over contraception is a good example of Americans judging others as less worthy, with wealth or earning power being the primary yardstick of a person’s value.  Pragmatically, though, society has to make some investments in the “less deserving” to render them more “deserving.”


Many Romney supporters think others oppose him just because he’s “rich.”  Then they argue that he built his wealth legally, ran a successful business, and paid all the taxes required by law (and then some).  That’s not the point.  The point is that he thinks he’s automatically better than the majority of Americans, who control very little wealth indeed.

Romney is a classist.  In a classical sense.  He has more in common with post-Renaissance European aristocrats and Roman patricians than he does with his fellow Americans.  He is their better, their social and moral superior, and basically a more valuable human being.

The infamous “47%” comment he made at a private fundraiser illustrates this well.  He clearly implies that anyone who doesn’t pay income taxes (which are distinct from payroll taxes) is an irresponsible freeloader dependent on the government.  Thus, “[his] job is not to worry about those people”.  The ignorance behind these cavalier remarks is nothing short of astounding.  The 47% includes many elderly people, students, and parents raising the next generation of Americans.  Many fine citizens fall into this category.  However, because of the country’s widening income inequality, they lack the wealth to make more of a contribution to government than has already been taken out of their paychecks.  And, needless to say, plenty of the 47% are Romney supporters (including many poor whites on welfare).  His arrogance risks alienating his own base.

Romney has revealed his haughty ignorance and scorn for everyday people in other ways.  He is “not concerned about the very poor”, as he just assumes their needs are being fully met.  People without health insurance can just go to the emergency room when they have a health issue, regardless of the inefficiency of this solution and its costs to communities.  With a dismissive attitude, he said, “Planned Parenthood, we’re going to get rid of that”, without seeming to consider the impact that defunding that organization would have on public health.  With a smirk and a joke, he declared that he would cut the subsidy to PBS, a miniscule fraction of the federal government that arguably offers a high return-on-investment.  He believes that $200,000-$250,000 a year qualifies as “middle income”, and he honestly does not understand why people raise eyebrows at his Swiss bank account.

The “out-of-touch” accusation is overused in politics, but here it really applies.  Romney simply does not comprehend the average American’s challenges and life experiences, much less those of the disadvantaged and marginalized.  Nor does he want to understand; he is satisfied with his perspective on society, one that privileges him immensely.

I’m not really sure why this man wants to be President.  While the President is considered a leader most of the time, s/he is also supposed to be the ultimate public servant.  Romney is reckless as a leader and ill-suited to championing the public good.  His notable “flip-flopping” on many key issues demonstrates that he has no ideological core, no really thought-out positions on much of anything.

He doesn’t seem to care because he really doesn’t care.

Between this and his ego, one can surmise he wants to be President because he wants the status, and the power.  He wants to be on top, as always.

Scientists have successfully used a new DNA amplification technique to sequence the genome of a Denisovan, a member of an ancient subspecies of human.  The DNA, taken from a young girl’s finger bone, has yielded a profile so high in quality that it rivals what could be obtained from a living human.  As a result, researchers can tell us a great deal about the Denisovans, even more than they can tell us about the Neanderthals.

Anthropological curiosity aside, I was struck by the photo that accompanied the Wired article (and similar articles on the topic).  It shows the Denisovan finger bone in its relative place on what’s presumably a model of a Denisovan hand.  The image was provided by the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, which conducted the research.

Here is the curious thing:  the DNA tells us that the Denisovan girl had brown skin.  Plus, of all the humans alive today, only a small group of Pacific Islanders seem to possess any Denisovan DNA.  So… why is the hand in the image white?

I’ve seen the (probably sarcastic) speculation that white skin was chosen to make the finger bone stand out better in this representation.  Perhaps this hand was not meant to be Denisovan at all, instead just a prop to show the location of the finger bone.  Or, just maybe, the image’s creators fell into a subconscious trap that tells us more about them that it does about their subject.

Recently, I’ve been following some very good discussions about subliminal racism and unconscious white privilege.  A self-published novella entitled Save the Pearls: Revealing Eden by Victoria Foyt ignited an internet sh!t-storm this summer, and that turned into a sh!t-blizzard last month, when the once-venerable fantasy magazine Weird Tales announced it would print the first chapter*.  I have read that first chapter, and I’ve read much about what follows.  While the author insists her intentions in writing the book were anti-racist, the clumsy prose stumbles over numerous derogatory black stereotypes, and there’s plenty to offend other people of color (PoC) as well.  The “reverse racism” experienced by the blonde-haired, blue-eyed protagonist is overt and exaggerated by the author’s heavy hand. Foyt herself is white, and it is clear she has never experienced racism or understands the insidious subtlety of it.

Most white people, including Ms. Foyt, don’t appreciate the degree of privilege they possess.  It’s transparent to them.  They are rarely conscious of the color of their skin or how others may react to them because of it.  It’s not part of their identity.  If asked to describe himself to someone who can’t see or hear him, a white man might not even mention his skin color.  White is the default, in life as in literature.

Of course, PoC living in white-dominated societies are always conscious of their race.  Whites tend to make immediate assumptions about them based on a litany of stereotypes (negative and otherwise) without even recognizing this.  In life, and in literature, PoC are different, they are something “other.”

Which brings me back to the Denisovan girl.  Were all the scientists who worked on this project white?  Were the modelers?  Is this hand white because the researchers, on a subconscious level, can identify more strongly with a white subject?  Or do they think their audience, largely white Westerners, simply expect to see white skin?  After all, brown skin is “different,” and it could draw attention away from the centerpiece, the finger bone.

I’m really not trying to make any accusations here.  I just think the questions themselves are interesting.  When “white” is the default, the given, and the normal, it drives our assumptions and can lead us to error, or at least distraction.  We are prejudiced, whether we are racist or not.

* After an outcry, Weird Tales quickly reversed this decision.

The California legislature recently voted to limit the practice of gay-straight conversion therapy in that state. From the Wall Street Journal article:

California’s state legislature on Thursday passed the nation’s first law banning professional psychological therapy aimed at turning gay and lesbian youth straight… The legislation, which will next go to Gov. Jerry Brown for review, prevents licensed psychologists and therapists from seeking to change the sexual orientation of children under 18.

This drills down to the very core of the debate over gay rights in the United States.  This is what it’s really all about.  This is where rubber meets road, and sh!t meets fan.

Religious conservatives don’t want their kids to be gay.

If they find out — or even suspect — they have a gay child, they will do just about anything to “repair” him or her, or convince themselves that the child is not actually gay at all.  In the end, they may simply write off the child as a failure and remove the “abomination” from their midst.

Continue reading ‘Gay-Straight Conversion Therapy Ban’

Enter the Dao


I am Dao Bayliss.  I am a person.

I have started this blog to empty my head of the observations, opinions, and questions swirling inside it like an EF-5 tornado of sticky notes.  By writing, I hope to organize them into a coherence I simply cannot achieve verbally.  More than anything, writing should help me think more about what I think, and why I think it.  I hope others may find this blog thought-provoking, too.

I plan to write about sociopolitical topics, mostly, as I endeavor to better understand the complex interplay of ethics, psychology, economics, religion, science, and human creativity and adaptability.  I may also talk about animals occasionally.

But I do not intend to speak very much of myself.  It is both through one’s own life experiences and detachment from those experiences that one may find wisdom.

Enter the Dao.