Tag Archives: contraception

St. Paul (Laxalt) and the ACA: NV joins anti-choice case

birth control pills Heaven help us. Paul Laxalt, Attorney General of the State of Nevada, has proudly announced he’s filed an amicus brief in the U.S. Supreme Court in Little Sisters of the Poor v. Burwell

“Little Sisters of the Poor is an organization of Roman Catholic women dedicated to serving the poor. The Little Sisters and co-petitioners sued the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in response to the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate. The mandate requires religious nonprofits such as the Little Sisters to provide employees with all available forms of contraception at no cost. Facing hefty fines for non-compliance, a number of these groups have sought U.S. Supreme Court review of their case.

    “Religious organizations serve our communities in countless ways, and their contributions should be supported, not impeded by the government,” said Laxalt. “These organizations should not be fined for living in accordance with their sincerely held religious convictions. This brief encourages the Supreme Court to take the necessary steps toward ensuring that our government and our courts do not force people of faith to violate their religious beliefs.” [Laxalt]

    Here’s what he’s jumping into:

    “On July 14, 2014, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals issued a decision denying the Little Sisters of the Poor and other religiously affiliated nonprofits’ request for a stay. The Court found: “The accommodation relieves Plaintiffs from complying with the Mandate and guarantees they will not have to provide, pay for, or facilitate contraceptive coverage. Plaintiffs do not “trigger” or otherwise cause contraceptive coverage because federal law, not the act of opting out, entitles plan participants and beneficiaries to coverage. Although Plaintiffs allege the administrative tasks required to opt out of the Mandate make them complicit in the overall delivery scheme, opting out instead relieves them from complicity. Furthermore, these de minimis administrative tasks do not substantially burden religious exercise for the purposes of RFRA.” In July 2015, the plaintiffs appealed this case to the Supreme Court.” [KFF.org]

    In short, the Little Sisters have a Church Plan. The Church Plan doesn’t cover contraception. This is accommodated under the exemptions to the Affordable Care Act.  Their plan does not have to “provide, pay for or otherwise facilitate contraceptive coverage.”  What’s the question?  They can opt out of the ACA provisions – but, they argue the mere act of opting out makes them “party to the scheme?”

    This gets even better – because entangled in the case is the question of whether or not the Little Sisters of the Poor (or the Christian Brothers) can prevent their employees from getting insurance covering contraception from a third party. [AU]

    The Kaiser Foundation offers this handy chart on the exemptions from the provisions of the Affordable Care Act:

    Religious Freedom Court Chart

    Thus far the provisions of the ACA have been upheld. Contrary to the anti-contraceptionists, the courts have held that the law doesn’t unduly burden anyone, and they can opt out by requesting an exemption. Period. Of course, that didn’t prevent the Little Sisters from availing themselves of the funding and efforts of the arch-conservative Becket Fund.

    Making this entire case even more incredible is the fact that as of August 2014, the government provided a second accommodation for religious non-profit organizations which as of that date only needed to “write a letter to the government in order to be relieved of any obligation to provide contraceptive coverage.” [AU]  A letter.  One single letter.

    So that an exempt religious organization doesn’t have to write one single, one paragraph letter,  the Attorney General of the state of Nevada signed on to an exceptionally spurious, often downright illogical amicus brief with his fellow Tea Party, Radical Right, Ultra-Right Wing anti-contraception amigos.

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    Filed under Health Care, health insurance, nevada health, Nevada politics, Women's Issues, Womens' Rights

    Heck’s Hobby Lobby Hopes Dashed By SCOTUS

    Joe HeckNevada’s 3rd District Representative, Joe Heck (R), made this remark concerning the Hobby Lobby Decision:

    “Heck said he agreed with the U.S. Supreme Court decision Monday in the Hobby Lobby case. The high court said businesses that are family owned or closely held don’t have to provide health care coverage for birth control because the companies have religious objections.

    Heck said the ruling was narrowly written to accommodate religious beliefs that life begins at conception and he didn’t believe it should be broadly interpreted to apply to companies that aren’t closely held.” [LVRJ]

    Here’s what makes the Congressman’s commentary unreasonable.

    #1.  What is the standard for “religious objections?  Since the Hobby Lobby Decision as crafted by Justice Samuel Alito doesn’t specify a standard by which the merits of a religious objection are to be discerned, we might safely assume that a mere assertion of a religious objection is sufficient.  This is certainly at odds with the most obvious “religious objection” standard in another part of the federal government — the military.

    In order to attain a “1-O” status with the U.S. military, there is a strenuous test for religious convictions.  According to the American Bar Association:

    “Applicants must demonstrate that their beliefs upon which their conscientious objection is based are the primary controlling force in their lives. They must produce evidence in their written application (and during their subsequent hearing before an officer) demonstrating that neither the avoidance of military service nor expediency is the motivating factor in their claim. To this end, DoD Directive 1300.6 lists numerous factors to consider in examining the merits of a servicemember’s application, such as his or her training in the home and church, participation in religious activities, and general demeanor and pattern of conduct.”

    The revised DoD Directive 1300.6 (pdf) which replaced the 1968 version in 2007, goes on for some twenty pages of specifications regarding the applicants’ qualifications for conscientious objector status.  One of the more common phrases associated with the qualification is that the beliefs must be “firm, fixed, sincere, and deeply held.”

    In the case of a member of the Armed Services who wishes separation or reassignment based on religious scruples there is a process which begins with an extensive interview with a service chaplain, followed by a review by an investigating officer; there will be consultation with the Staff JAG, and then a hearing. Following the informal hearing, the investigating officer will file a report which will be forwarded to the commander.  The report and recommendations flow through the chain of command to the officer designated with the authority to make a final decision on the matter.  The separation from service or reassignment may be granted if it is concluded during the process that the individual’s beliefs are “firm, fixed, sincere, and deeply held.”

    No such test appears to have been applied to the objections of Conestoga or Hobby Lobby.  Hobby Lobby simply asserted that its religious beliefs precluded funding for insurance benefits which included birth control and abortion.

    If there is no test or evaluative process by which my religious objections — to anything — may be reviewed, then what is to prevent me from asserting that my religious beliefs prevent me from considering anyone for employment who is of a faith other than my own?  May I assert my ‘religious conviction’ that those who don’t keep Kosher (or Halal) are impure, unclean or otherwise unemployable. May I cut off from service any  who “partakes of any blood?” (Lev 7:22)

    Who is to determine if my beliefs are “firm, fixed, sincere, and deeply held,” or if they are a simply an expedient way to refuse service to Jews or Muslims?  Or, might my objections (see Leviticus) be such that I can refuse service or employment to Basque Christians, on the grounds that many of them  make and consume blood sausage.

    If this argument sounds frivolous, it is no more so than the case cited by Justice Ginsberg in her dissent — Newman vs. Piggie Park Enterprises.  The proprietors of Piggie Park (restaurant chain) objected to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 partially on the grounds that it “contravened the Will of God.” “Defendant Bessinger further contends that the Act violates his freedom of religion under the First Amendment “since his religious beliefs compel him to oppose any integration of the races whatever.” [USDC -DColumbia]  The Supreme Court ruled against Piggie Park Enterprises in March 1968.

    Herein we have a closely held family business, the patriarch of which had religious objections to integration, who contended that religion trumped the application of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.  If this sounds close to the characteristics of the Hobby Lobby/Conestoga Cases it’s because they share obvious elements — just entirely different conclusions.  In short, without a test or process by which religion can be separated from convenient religiosity the adjudication of religious objections becomes highly subjective.

    #2.  The decision was neither narrow, nor tightly drawn.  For all the palaver in the decision about the “narrow-ness” of the judgment, the reasoning left the door wide open to further litigation concerning the applicability of religious objections to contraception, as evidenced by some 30 cases piling up in the judicial system in the wake of the Hobby Lobby decision.  [DMN]

    Immediately in line after the ‘closely held businesses,’ are the non-profit organizations, such as Wheaton College, Notre Dame University, and others for whom even filling out the form to take advantage of the Administration’s accommodation for them is ‘unconscionable.’ [WaPo]  It should be asked — if the Hobby Lobby decision was such a narrow thing, then why did the Supreme Court almost immediately grant an injuction against the contraception mandate accommodation on behalf of non-profit Wheaton College?  Representative Heck hopes, or at least asserts, that the Hobby Lobby ruling only applies to closely held firms — but in its action on behalf of Wheaton, the line immediately shifted out from under Representative Heck’s assertion and right into the realm of non-profit organizations.

    #3. The decision blurs the understanding of earned benefits.  The objections from those who describe themselves as religious to procuring health insurance plans which cover contraception for their employees appear to contend that they are being forced to subsidize medication of which they do not approve.

    This has several unfortunate threads entangled in it. Contraceptive prescriptions are subject to approval by the FDA, not the Chamber of Commerce.  They are used for many other reasons that simply to avoid pregnancy.  Are we allowing a corporation to determine that even though a female employee has endometriosis, menorrhagia, or polycystic ovarian syndrome the medication prescribed by her physician is not to be covered because of the employer’s objections? [DB]

    The health insurance offered to company employees is part of the total compensation package.  The company may pay for part of the premiums, the employee also contributes.  Does the company’s contribution determine who will control the inclusions in the insurance benefit, or the employee?  In the Hobby Lobby Decision the Supreme Court ruled that the employer’s money speaks louder than the employee’s contribution…even though the insurance may be handled by a third party administrator.

    #4. The ruling broadly asserts the efficacy of one and only one religious perspective on life.  If a person happens to believe that life begins at conception then the judgment of the Court is acceptable. However, there are those who hold that life doesn’t begin until the newborn takes its first independent breath.   There’s nothing narrow about a Supreme Court decision which sanctions the view of one particular religion, thus denigrating the views of others.

    In short, the decision combined with the Wheaton injunction allows corporations and non-profit entities to require their employees to either follow the proscriptions of the institutional faith or individually procure health insurance benefits on their own.  This is close to, if not identical with, forcing employees to follow the faith of their employers — and not their own individual consciences. Such an imposition is hardly the prescription for religious liberty.

    As much as Representative Heck may wish to place a happy, non-threatening spin, on the Hobby Lobby decision, he whiffed on this one while the Supreme Court moved home plate.


    See also:  Department of Defense Instruction, 1300.6, May 31, 2007. (pdf) John P. Jurden, Conscientious  Objectors, GPSolo, Jan-Feb 2005.  Newman, Neal, Mungin v. Piggie Park Enterprises, 256 F.Supp. 941 (1966), July 28, 1966. Newman, Neal, Mungin v. Piggie Park Enterprises, 377 F.2d 433 (1967), April 24, 1967.

    Sherman & Zoll, “After Hobby Lobby…”, Dallas Morning News, July 6, 2014. Jonathan Adler, Supreme Court grants Wheaton College an injunction against contraception mandate accommodation,” WaPo, July 3, 2014.  “Joe Heck calls Hobby Lobby Decision Reasonable,” Nevada Democratic Party, and Las Vegas Review Journal, July 1, 2014.


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    Filed under civil liberties, conservatism, family issues, Health Care, Heck, Nevada politics, Politics, religion, women, Women's Issues

    Hobby Lobby and the Corporate Agenda

    HouseWife 2If there’s no ‘war on women’ then the conservatives, at the least, are offering us a variation on the Patriarchs Last Stand narrative.  Women comprise 50.8% of the nation’s population and 49.6% of the Nevada populace.  Going a step further, for all the chatter about the Gender Gap in electoral politics, this is not a recent phenomena.

    Womens Vote Pres ElectionsThe “gap” has existed since the presidential election of 1988, or 26 years.  It’s been three decades since the Republicans achieved unquestionable success with female voters — 1984.  It’s also been three decades of Republican shifts to the right, and to the adoption of an agenda which places the desires of corporations above the needs of the general population.  Women have figured that out.

    Women are more likely to see public assistance programs as helping people in need rather than ‘creating dependency,’ to support policies which are predicated on community rather than ‘individualism,’ and to believe the power of Wall Street should be curtailed than men. [CAWP pdf] In short, there are significant gender differences in political issues, and the GOP agenda is sliding (or lurching?) away from the women’s side of the electoral ledger.

    At this point it ought to be acknowledged that ideological differences hold greater sway than simple gender differences would explain. [Atlantic] There is a tinge of religiosity in the conservative realm — conservatives being more likely to express an intransigent position in terms of Good and Evil, rather more reminiscent of St. Augustine before his conversion from Manicheaism to Christianity? Conservatives being more likely to express opinions which call for the punishment or deterrence of deviation from ‘social norms’ than moderates or liberals.

    The interpretation of the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Hobby Lobby/Conestoga Cases brings the ideological, the gender, and the economic issues together in a complicated weaving of political strategy and strands of ideological/gender political orientation. There is one element of the decision which illustrates the ties that bind the so-called Religious Right and the Corporations:

    “Congress provided protection for people like the Hahns and Greens by employing a familiar legal fiction: It included corporations within RFRA’s definition of “persons.” But it is important to keep in mind that the purpose of this fiction is to provide protection for human beings. A corporation is simply a form of organization used by human beings to achieve desired ends.”  [BlmbrgLaw] (emphasis added)

    The logic is convoluted but clear: A corporation is a person, therefore a corporation has religious protection, AND a corporation is a creation of persons and therefore has protection for its religious beliefs.  This reasoning doesn’t address issues regarding the type of organization created for the purpose of conducting commerce.

    If the businesses were single proprietorships or partnerships would their ‘protection’ be more limited?  Nor did the majority decision address the issue of knowledge v. ignorance — is a birth control method which prevents pregnancy automatically considered a form of abortion?

    A court which has already ruled that Corporations are People (Citizens United) has now bestowed upon that “form of organization” the benefits of religious liberty.  In doing so the Supreme Court of the United States has bundled the demands of a corporation with the provisions of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (1993), and the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

    It’s time to recall that 55% women who responded to polling concerning the circumstances in which the U.S. is a more successful nation said that we are better off when we emphasize community and shared responsibility, and 37% replied that placing the emphasis on self reliance was more successful.  [CAWP pdf] With this in mind, as the Supreme Court continues to rule that corporations are people, and people are individuals, it moves the nation in a direction opposed to the thinking of most women.

    Democratic candidates interested in securing women’s votes would be well advised in the upcoming midterm elections to:

    1. Support the Amendment to declare that corporations are not people. [MTA]  Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) is already on board:

    “It is unacceptable, that the recent Supreme Court decisions have taken power away from the American voter, instead giving it to a select few. Soon, Chairman Leahy and the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on Senator Udall and Bennet’s constitutional amendment. The Senate will vote on this legislation after it is reported out of the Committee. I urge my colleagues to support this constitutional amendment – to rally behind our democracy. I understand what we Senate Democrats are proposing is no small thing – amending our Constitution is not something we take lightly. But the flood of special interest money into our American democracy is one of the greatest threats our system of government has ever faced. Let’s keep our elections from becoming speculative ventures for the wealthy and put a stop to the hostile takeover of our democratic system by a couple of billionaire oil barons. It is time that we revive our constituents’ faith in the electoral system, and let them know that their voices are being heard.”  [Reid]

    The Amendment proposal, (pdf) sponsored by Senators Udall and Bennet, addresses the problems created by Citizens United in regard to campaign finance laws, and may need further broadening to incorporate concerns about the ramifications of declaring that all corporations have all the rights of individual persons.

    2.  Support a Women’s Health Care Access bill.  Advocate for the 90% of women in the U.S. who use some form of birth control.  Advocate for those who use contraceptive medication for the treatment of endometriosis, menorrhagia, persistent ovarian cysts, and polycystic ovarian syndrome.  ** Note to male politicians — if you don’t know what these conditions are, “STFU” about women taking the pill “for fun.”

    3. Remind voters that of the 138 members of the House of Representatives who voted against the Violence Against Women Act reauthorization, not a one was a Democrat. [Roll call 55]  (Happy note: all the members of the Nevada delegation voted in favor of the authorization)

    4. Get opponents on record.  Does the person favor allowing corporations to have the same rights as a real person?  Does the person support a Women’s Health Care Access bill? Does the person favor equal pay for equal work?  Does the person favor a bill to mandate maternity leave?  It’s never too early to start defining one’s opponent as Pro-Family but only if the Family is narrowly defined as the  Pater Familias.

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    SB 192 Nevada Dodged A Bullet

    Rainbow Flag 2In the last session of the Assembled Wisdom several members of the Nevada Republican Party introduced SB 192 which “Enacts the Nevada Preservation of Religious Freedom Act to prohibit governmental entities from substantially burdening the exercise of religion. (BDR 3-477).”   Those twho originally sponsored this bill included: Cegavske, Hutchison, Hammond, Hardy, Denis, Ford, Goicoechea, Gustavson, Jones, Kieckhefer, Kihuen, Parks, Roberson, Segerblom, Settelmeyer, Smith, Woodhouse, Fiore, Duncan, Hardy, Grady, Hambrick, Hickey, Kirkpatrick, Kirner, Oscarson, Stewart, and Woodbury.

    The bill got a vote in the State Senate and passed 14-7 with Atkinson, Ford, Manendo, Parks, Smith, Woodhouse, and Spearman voting in opposition.  The testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on March 13, 2013 was instructive — especially so in view of the comments made by Arizona Governor Jan Brewer as she vetoed the Arizona version.

    Members of the committee asked those testifying in favor of the bill to provide an example of a person in the state of Nevada who had had their religious liberties violated by the current framework of non-discrimination statutes.  As close as the members got to an answer came from a representative from the American Religious Freedom Program of the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

    “You have asked about specific incidents in Nevada to which this bill is a response. I am not aware of any violations of the kind detailed in Exhibit E that have occurred in Nevada. We may not know when rights violations like this occur because those who consult attorneys might be told they have no legal recourse. ”  [Schultz pdf]

    In short, NO. There hadn’t been any actual problems, but ‘gee whiz maybe there might be someone out there who got told by a lawyer that discriminating against people probably wouldn’t fly‘ or sometime in the future somewhere on the horizon, or something….  Not to put too fine a point to it but the EPPC was one of the initial think tanks established for the Culture Warriors, and one especially associated with highlighting what its sponsors saw as a plague of secular humanism (whatever that might be).  They are pleased to continue following this path.

    Not surprisingly, between the mid 1980s and 2001 the group was funded by all the usual suspects — the Castle Rock Foundation, the Scaifes, the Koch Brothers, the Olin Foundation, and the Bradley Foundation.  [SW]  [NVProg] The anti-gay refrain commonly associated with conservative think tanks of the sort supported by the bed rock foundations emerged during the hearing when, unable to provide any concrete examples of anti-religious discrimination in the state a spokesperson for the Church State Council described the proposed legislation as “pro-active” — to prevent alleged instances of religious ‘discrimination’ prior to their occurrence.  [Reinach, pdf]

    One organization could provide examples of how the proposed statute could be a problem for Nevadans, it just wasn’t on the proponent’s side of the argument.   Elisa Cafferata, speaking on behalf of the Nevada Advocates for Planned Parenthood Affiliates, observed:

    “I am not an attorney, and I have learned not to argue about what the law means, especially with a Committee made almost entirely of attorneys. I would just point out that the proponents of this bill could not point out any specific examples of violations in Nevada law that this bill would correct. Unfortunately, I read every day of situations in which people assert their religious rights to deny women access to health care. There are dozens of cases around the Country. We know of cases in Nevada where pharmacists have refused to provide women with birth control. We can give you hundreds of examples.”

    Jane Heenan, of Gender Justice Nevada, was even more specific:

    “There was an incident at the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) in 2010 in which a transgender person went to change the driver’s license gender marker. The person brought a letter from a doctor, which was a requirement at that time. The DMV staff member decided it was not appropriate for the person to change the gender marker and asked questions such as, “What does God think about your behavior?” and ultimately refused to perform the service. That is one example of many I could provide.”  [Heenan pdf]

    Any questions?  Those holding anti-contraception and anti-gay beliefs would find some solace under the provisions of SB 192 if they foisted those tenets of faith on others.   A compromise amendment [R pdf] to SB 192 came before the Senate Judiciary Committee on April 12, 2013, and assured that “non-discrimination” wouldn’t become “discrimination” the committee added its “do pass” recommendation. [NVLeg pdf]

    State Senators Cegavske and Hutchinson testified (pdf) in the Assembly Judiciary Committee’s May 17th (2013) hearing on SB 192, noting: “The key provision of S.B. 192 (R1) is found in section 8 of the bill. Specifically, section 8 prohibits a governmental entity from substantially burdening a person’s exercise of religion unless the governmental entity demonstrates that burden furthers a compelling governmental interest and is the least restrictive means of furthering that governmental interest.”

    Interesting.  Note that there would have been two tests here. First, the government can’t “substantially burden” a person from (not filling a contraceptive prescription or not letting a person change the gender marker on a driver’s license) and further the burden must be commensurate with a “compelling” governmental interest — whatever that might be — and further the “burden” must be the “least restrictive means.”

    No one contended at any point that religious freedom wasn’t a wonderful thing, however the implications, and actual target of the legislation was summarized quickly by the representative for the Nevada ACLU (pdf): “We are talking about language that says a religious motivation gets the greatest deference that the courts and the government could give, even though it may affect someone else whose rights do not get that same kind of deference.”

    The bill went no further.  Nevada avoided the sort of publicity recently accorded the Arizona legislature over S1062.   However, before we sit back and relax enjoying the pleasant delusion that the Culture Warriors have been shamed into silence — this legislation will not be the end of the matter.

    Women’s Health

    There are those who devoutly hold that women are vessels, “Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered. – 1 Peter 3:7″ — A bit of proof-texting is all that is necessary to bundle up a bit of Scripture to prove a woman’s subjugation to male authority, none of which goes very far towards explaining Paul’s admonition in Galatians 3:28: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”  Texts notwithstanding, the underlying attitudes towards women’s health and the use of prescription contraceptives, aren’t so much scriptural as cultural.  As long as masculinity as defined in some unfortunate quarters by fertility women are at risk of being forced to carry to term pregnancies which can be both physically and emotionally damaging.

    Gender Discrimination

    I am truly sorry for those whose personal bubble is a protective device shielding them from that which they find uncomfortable in others.   Only about 3.8% of the U.S. population identifies as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender. [Abt]  If two men holding hands in the park make a person “uncomfortable,” the real problem is in the eyes of the beholder, not the two fellows having a nice afternoon with a picnic lunch.    If a person is confusing a wedding ceremony with a marriage contract, that’s a matter of personal conflict; one that should not be transformed into the denial of inheritance,  access to social services, or any other legally available rights awarded to married couples.

    What the law cannot protect us from is seeing what we don’t want to acknowledge.   The law can no more prevent us from seeing the men at the picnic table any more than it can prevent us from witnessing children being handed school lunches only to have the meal tossed away for non-payment.  The law can’t prevent us from seeing the deterioration of school playground equipment, nor can it prevent us from observing a transgender person in a shopping mall.   Our level of comfort is subject to our own very individual tastes and concerns.   And, our level of comfort is in no small measure a function of the level of our fears.

    If a person is made more uncomfortable by the sight of a gay or lesbian couple than by the sight of humiliated children, deteriorating playgrounds, struggling retailers, an alcoholic left ignored and untreated in a doorway, or children left to play indoors on a sunny day because there is the prospect of gun fire in the neighborhood — then perhaps there is room for the reconsideration of our priorities? Not to mention the kind of life our faith is supposed to nurture.

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    Filed under Nevada legislature, Nevada politics, Politics

    The Little Woman Has A Job: The Pill and Prosperity

    The PillContraception is an economic issue.  The point seems to be lost on Brian Fischer of the American Family Association:

    “Case in point: taxpayer-funded contraception. The utter disaster I call MussoliniCare may soon make contraception free (which means everybody else pays for it) to women in the U.S. This is a perfectly terrible idea. If couples want to have sex outside marriage, and don’’t want to conceive children while doing it, let them buy their own contraception or get it from some non-taxpayer funded charity foolish enough to support sexual irresponsibility.”

    We could make the obvious point that the Affordable Care Act simply requires that private health insurance plans offer contraceptive prescription coverage, or that most sexual intimacy happens between married couples.  But let’s not let facts get in the way of a good rant, and the Right’s obliviousness to the point that contraception is an economic issue.

    “A much higher proportion of married than of never-married women use a contraceptive method (77% vs. 42%). This is largely because married women are more likely to be sexually active. But even among those at risk of unintended pregnancy, contraceptive use is higher among currently married women than among never-married women (93% vs. 83%).” [GuttmacherInst]

    Now, why would this be the case?  The answer is economic:

    “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.” [NYT]

    True?  Look at the graph from the Department of Labor on the educational attainment of women in the U.S. work force since 1970:

    Women Work Force Educational AttainmentIn the 1970’s the percentage of women in the work force with a college education was about 11.2%, a figure which increased to 36.4% by 2010.   Further, we are not speaking of a small number of women, we’re speaking about nearly 60% of the women in this country participating in the labor market.

    “In 2009, 59.2 percent of women were in the labor force: of 122 million women in the United States, 72 million were classified as either employed or unemployed. The percentage of women in the labor force has been relatively stable over the past several years.” [BLS]

    However if we step back and look at the trends since the 1970’s there’s a picture of increasing participation of women in the labor force which should inform the value of women in the U.S. economy.

    Women in Work Force 1970 to 2009We can, and should, engage in discussions about the construction of the work-place and the development of “family friendly” corporate institutions, or the effect of inflationary pressures on American families, [WW.org] (PBR.org] But, the fact remains that only about 7% of our nation’s households are “single income traditional.”   In short, there are more married women in the workforce, they are better educated, and they are a significant source of the economic growth in this country in the past 30 years.   The MGI report for the Wall Street Journal (pdf) highlighted the importance of increasing the female side of the economic ledger:

    “To sustain the historic rate of GDP growth of approximately 3% and maintain the United States’ leadership in the global economy, MGI reports that the nation will need a combination of some workforce expansion and a burst of productivity—driven by innovation and operational improvements. Women are critical to both forms of growth…”

    It doesn’t take too much imagination or logic to conclude that calls for limiting women’s access to contraception — which allows family planning, enabling women to “engage in long term career investments” — is economically counter-productive.   Nor does it require much effort to acknowledge the conclusions that increased earning power is associated with access to contraceptive prescriptions.

    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. [NYT]

    That’s what those “long term career investments” will get you.   It will also continue to propel us toward more income equality between genders.   The NBER Working Paper (pdf 2012) on the subject yielded this conclusion:

    “Using state-by-birth-cohort variation in legal access, we show that younger access to the Pill conferred an 8-percent hourly wage premium by age fifty. Our estimates imply that the Pill can account for 10 percent of the convergence of the gender gap in the 1980s and 30 percent in the 1990s.”

    In short, those calling for a return to the Cro-Magnon Era of Masculine Economics  — if indeed those ancestors weren’t matriarchal — are demanding that for the sake of an outmoded social model of male domination we scrap the female contributions to economic growth, dismiss the female contributions to family income, do without the female investment in economic productivity, and impose a specific social ideology upon our entire economic system.

    What would indeed be “irresponsible” is to continue to make it difficult for dual income families to succeed in the very real economy we have now.  We could be considering the passage of the Paycheck Fairness Act, or proposing more child care services such as those available in Germany.  We could be addressing the need for maternity leave and other family-friendly legislation.    In the corporate sphere we could be conversing about the “pernicious mindsets” that prevents women from rising in the ranks, or the revisions of outmoded institutional thinking which equates more time on the job to more productivity for the company.

    As long as the public discourse concerning the issues faced by women and their families in the workforce is driven by sensationalistic, misogynistic, and ideological narratives, we will continue to have trouble addressing the real economic issues which have real impacts on our real country, real states, and real families.

    References and Resources: “Invest in Women, Invest In America,” Majority Staff of the Joint Economic Committee, U.S. Senate, December 2010 (pdf).  “Unlocking the full potential of women in the U.S. economy,” McKinsey Group International (Wall Street Journal), 2011, (pdf).   Annie Lowrey, “The Economic Impact of the Pill,” New York Times, March 6, 2012.  “Subsidized Contraception, Fertility, and Sexual Behavior,” National Bureau of Economic Research, Kearney & Levine, April 2007.  The Editor’s Desk, “Women in the Workforce: 1970-2010,” Department of Labor.  “Educational Attainment of Women in the Labor Force,” The Editor’s Desk, Department of Labor.   “The Importance of Sex,” The Economist, April 12, 2006.  “The Opt In Revolution? Contraception and the Gender Gap in Wages,” National Bureau of Economic Research, Working Paper,  March 2012. (pdf)

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    Filed under Economy, women, Women's Issues, Womens' Rights

    Ghost Busters Fighting Phantoms

    Ghost  There was a “fight for the soul of the Nevada Republican Party” this week.  We might be tempted to call it fisticuffs between the Realists and the Ghost Busters.  The Ghost Busters won. Or, “There’s (sic) a lot of us in the grassroots who don’t care. We care about the principles of the party.” [LVSun] Are those the “principles” in the 2012 Nevada GOP Platform?

    “We strongly support a balanced Federal budget amendment without raising taxes that also reduces and eliminates the national debt. If a balanced budget is not approved by October 1 of any given year, federal legislators, the President, cabinet members, czars or their staff should not be paid until a balanced budget is passed, with no retroactive pay.”

    Here’s the problem — Great Ghost Number One is that national debt.   The federal debt level is problematic when bond yields are forced upwards such that this impedes economic growth.  So far that hasn’t happened, it’s a specter.  Somehow, in this fantasy land the debt as it stands can be magically reduced by not raising any more revenue, and “balancing the budget.”  Good luck with that formula.  If we must revert to the horrifically inappropriate Family Budget analogy — when has any family argued it could reduce it’s level of indebtedness if only the breadwinners would agree to bring in lower paychecks?

    However, if the Ghost Busters have retained control of the Nevada GOP we can expect more of this unrealistic, and ultimately unhelpful, rhetoric from them.

    And, there’s more, Great Ghost Number Two: “We expect our elected representatives and the courts will interpret the Constitution using original intent and context.”  That  Originalism is both unworkable and ultimately unrealistic isn’t a concern for Ghost Busters, nor do the Ghost Busters seem to have any problems with the logical inconsistencies associated with the Originalists thinking.  [More from Commonweal]

    Now the Religionists weigh in with Great Ghost Number Three:

    “We believe the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States was intended to prevent a state sponsored religion rather than a separation of God from government. Religious freedom is the first of our constitutionally protected rights. Attempts to force religious institutions to violate their conscience are contrary to the Constitution.”

    There should be no separation of morality and government.  What the Founders (if we are going to be Originalists) were disturbed by was the factionalism created in the English Civil War(s) in the 17th century during which the Royalists, the Reformers, and the Independents tore that nation apart, each fragment demanding the Church of England conform to its version of True Worship.  There was also the not so small matter of how to get Puritan (Reformer) John Adams to agree with High Church delegates from Virginia, Dutch Reformed delegates from Delaware, Catholic representatives from Maryland, Presbyterians and Quakers from Pennsylvania, and the variety of views present in Rhode Island.

    However, as the last sentence indicates, this isn’t about religion — it’s about contraception and abortion.   It’s about whether or not, in the state of Nevada, an employer can refuse to offer a health insurance plan that covers contraception prescriptions.   It’s about whether or not a pharmacist can refuse to fill a birth control prescription, duly authorized by a licensed physician, for a customer.  No matter what the medical symptoms are presented which indicate that the prescription might be necessary.

    The Ghost Busters have glommed onto the Specter of a God-Less America.  There is no God-Less America, there really can’t be when only 4% of Americans describe themselves as either atheist or agnostic.  78.4% of Americans self identify as Christian, but the problem for the anti-choice Ghost Busters is that this fragments into evangelical, main line, historically Black churches, Catholic (of at least 3 varieties) and others almost immediately.  Jewish, Buddhist, and Muslim Americans constitute another 4.7% of the population.

    If the “government” institutes anti-contraception or anti-abortion policies, does this not validate only one version of True Worship? Our present system simply sidesteps the issues that bedeviled our ancestors — don’t want to fight about religion? Then just take the topic off the table.

    The Ghost Busters are also struggling in combat with the gun grabbers, wherein we find Great Ghost Number Four?

    “We strongly affirm the Second Amendment that guarantees the individual’s right to keep and bear arms, without infringement.

    We support reciprocity laws with all states to carry concealed weapons across state lines.”

    Without any infringement? I, for one, am not enamored of the idea that my neighbor should be acquiring shoulder fired missile launchers.   I don’t see any particular reason, other than bringing down annoying aircraft, why a person would need a .50 sniper rifle.  I do believe that we have an epidemic of gun violence in this country, and I’d prefer not to see the re-enactment of another IHOP tragedy in this state.   However, the Ghost Busters see it differently — they see any common sense regulations, even extending background checks, as inordinate “infringement” on their liberties.   The horror of this Specter is evident in this segment of the GOP platform of 2012:

    “We support the understanding that the limits on the authority of the Federal Government are determined by the United States Constitution and not by its own discretion. As such, we support the striking from the Constitution of the State of Nevada Article 1, Section 2, which grants the Federal Government authorities to employ armed force against the people of the State of Nevada in compelling obedience to its sole discretion.”

    Are these people really fearful of the Specter of an Invasion? Really?

    Now we get into the Ghost of Government Interference With Free Enterprise, or Great Ghost Number Five:

    “We support the immediate defunding and repeal of the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Public Law 111-148). […] We support restoring full funding to Medicare.”

    I hope this isn’t the first time the point has been made, but it was the ACA that guaranteed the solvency of the Medicare program until 2029.

    The Ghost Busters go further:

    “We support eliminating the Department of Energy (DOE), Department of Education (ED), Department of the Interior, (DOI), Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other bureaucracies that have consistently demonstrated wasteful spending and operational inefficiencies. We believe these functions, where needed, should be relegated to the States as defined by the Tenth Amendment.”

    Let’s risk summarizing this bit of Ghost Busting by saying that they are opposed to regulating nuclear energy (the origin of the DoE), opposed to student loan programs, opposed to Housing development financing, and opposed to Clean Air and Water.  Return the regulation of nuclear energy to state and local governments?  Should something go wrong — think Three Mile Island and Fukushima — is the state going to be paying for the clean up?  The Tenth Amendment is a lovely thing, until it comes time to pay for the aftermath of a nuclear power plant leak, rising student loan interest rates that decimate middle class opportunities for college educations, and a toxic spill into the Great Lakes.

    Assuming here that those who drafted and approved the 2012 platform for the Nevada Republicans will retain control of the party hereafter, then we’re looking at yet another collection of Ghost Busters charging into the fray seeing the Great Ghosts of the 21st Century — cooperation, toleration, and assimilation — before them. Little wonder the Establishment Types aren’t enamored of their utility.

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    Filed under Economy, Nevada politics, Politics

    Quick Picks: Bishops To Square One on Contraception

    Bishops to Square One:  The US Conference of Catholic Bishops is pleased to announce their “Fortnight to Freedom,” June 21 to July 4, described by the Catholic News Agency, as follows:

    “The initiative was created in response to several moves by the Obama administration that are threatening the Church’s religious freedom. The most well-known action is the Health and Human Services mandate that requires employers to cover birth control and other services that Catholics and other believers find morally objectionable.”

    Now, what was that old line the Bishops used to find so objectionable, could it have been “They want to hang their religions around other people’s necks?”

    Tax dollars are going out the back door to private schools.  This may not be what the Alliance for School Choice had in mind:

    “While the scholarship programs have helped many children whose parents would have to scrimp or work several jobs to send them to private schools, the money has also been used to attract star football players, expand the payrolls of the nonprofit scholarship groups and spread the theology of creationism, interviews and documents show. Even some private school parents and administrators have questioned whether the programs are a charade.”  [NYT]

    How many didn’t believe the programs were a charade in the first place?

    Solyndra and Lobbyists in Romney’s Bundle?  If an article included  “Solyndra, lobbyists, fundraising, and Romney” would you click over and read it? Would it surprise anyone that Romney has not released the names of any of his bundlers?  We could guess we’d find the list in the stack with his tax returns?

    The Not Debt Crisis?  Next time some one tells you that the national debt is Crushing the Nation!!!  Ask why then have Treasuries remained low after a $35 Billion 2 yr. sale. “The securities drew a yield of 0.300 percent…”  [Bloomberg]

    Meanwhile back with the “Job Craters” — JPMorganChase is being sued by employees whose retirement funds were hit by the bank’s Big At Least $3B Blunder. “The defendants were accused of violating their duties to 401(k) and other retirement plan participants by including company stock as an investment option, hiding the stock’s risk, and failing to move participants to safer choices.” [Reuters]   And about their former risk manager… there were red flags. [Reuters]

    Infrastructure Anyone: The Chinese say yes.  Reuters reports:

    The pace of investment in the likes of roads, bridges and real estate is running at its weakest in nearly a decade, April data showed, suggesting the world’s second-biggest economy is heading for a sixth straight quarter of slowing growth.

    To provide some support the government had asked for project proposals by the end of June, even for those initially earmarked for the end of the year, said the China Securities Journal, one of the country’s top financial papers.

    Citing government sources, the article said Beijing did not rule out bringing forward next year’s projects, if it thought more investments would be needed to stimulate the economy.

    Meanwhile, the American Energy and Infrastructure Act  stalled in the U.S. House of Representatives. [ASCE] There is a House-Senate Committee moving on the topic in fits and starts. [VTD]

    Flowing Foreclosure money?  Want to see what your state has done with settlement funds from the Big Five Banks?  Pro Publica has the information in a convenient chart.

    Yucca Mountain is Still Dead.  [Las Vegas Sun]

    Nevada unemployment rate drops below 12% for the first time in 3 years.  [NNBureau]

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    Filed under Economy, education, energy, energy policy, financial regulation, GOP fundraising, Infrastructure, national debt, Nevada economy, Politics, Romney, women, Women's Issues, Womens' Rights, Yucca Mountain