Late Night Horrorshow: Zika Is Coming, Ready or Not

I’m probably gonna get dinged for chicken-littling, because hey, no Ebola outbreak happened in America, right? And yet… “White House Ebola response coordinator from 2014 to 2015” Klain’s Washington Post article:

The good news is that both the House and Senate have finally passed bills that would provide some funding to combat the Zika virus. The bad news is that this action comes more than three months after President Obama requested the aid. Moreover, the House bill provides only one-third of the response needed; pays for this limited, ineffective response by diverting money allocated to fight other infectious diseases; and necessitates a conference committee to resolve differences with the Senate bill, meaning we still do not know when any money will finally get through Congress to fund the response…

As befuddling as Congress’ refusal to approve funds for the Zika response is, perhaps even more of a mystery is why such approval is needed in the first place. If nature was threatening us with serious injury and evacuations via fire, flood or hurricane, the president could use his authority under the Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act to provide immediate aid without waiting for Congress to act. The fact that epidemic “natural disasters” are the result of disease and not an earthquake or tornado should not constrain the federal government’s ability to provide a timely, comprehensive response…

Speaking of those damaged babies? Once the Zika virus gets established in “our” mosquitos, microcephaly is going to become yet another standard prenatal test for women in the afflicted areas. Or who’ve visited those areas. Or whose male partners were exposed to Zika, even months before the pregnancy. And by the time microcephaly can be diagnosed, it’s too late for a quiet ‘medical abortion‘ — women will need full surgical services, and most will have been visibly pregnant. It’s not going to be easy for ‘fundamentalist’ anti-choicers to find reasons to blame good married Christian white ladies in the Sunbelt for having been bitten by the wrong mosquito… but I’m sure they’re gonna try their damndest.
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If Not the Best, Then Certainly the Most Pleasurable Response to the November Terrorist Attacks in Paris

The Guardian has reported that when Brussels went into lockdown immediately after the Paris terrorist attacks the Belgian security response was, shall we say, innovative. A number of soldiers and police working out of a station in Ganshoren had an orgy! This gives new meaning to both the concept of a full body search and security theater, if you know what I mean… This seems to be a far superior response than to freak out on cable news 24/7, but your mileage may vary.

Blind Science Trials

It’s pretty weird how that whole theocratic crushing of ideas thing kicks in for Republican Conservative Champions Of Free Speech whenever the subject turns to a woman’s reproductive system.

University of Missouri doctoral student plans to continue research for her dissertation on the effects of the state’s recently imposed 72-hour waiting period for abortions, despite a state legislator’s push to block the research, the student told Al Jazeera in an exclusive interview.

“I stand by my research project,” Lindsay Ruhr said Wednesday. “I feel that my research is objective, and that the whole point of my research is to understand how this policy affects women. Whether this policy is having a harmful or beneficial effect, we don’t know.”

State Sen. Kurt Schaefer, a Republican from Columbia, Missouri, who chairs the Missouri state senate’s interim Committee on the Sanctity of Life, sent a letter in late October to the University of Missouri calling Ruhr’s dissertation “a marketing aid for Planned Parenthood — one that is funded, in part or in whole, by taxpayer dollars,” according to a copy of the letter posted to Schaefer called for the university to hand over documents regarding the project’s approval and said that, because the University of Missouri is a public university, it should not fund research that he said would promote elective abortions. Missouri law prohibits the use of public funds to promote non-life-saving abortions.

“We are still in the process of responding to Sen. Schaefer’s request for documents,” Mary Jenkins, public relations manager for University of Missouri Health, said Wednesday in an email. Schaefer did not respond to Al Jazeera’s multiple interview requests.

Now, let’s break this down here because there’s a national theater chain’s worth of projection going on.  First, let’s pause to contemplate that Missouri’s state senate actually has an interim Committee on the Sanctity of Life.  Is this going to be a permanent thing in the future? Will this committee mobilize in case Springfield is attacked by extra-dimensional beings dedicated to drawing silly mustaches on all life, ruining its sanctity? I’d like to know.

Second, let’s have a discussion of just how much Christian Taliban fascism garbage that’s packed into this story here. Republicans have long stated that waiting periods, required counseling, forced ultrasounds, etc. before abortions are to be allowed are good for women and change societal behavior in a way that positively affects people, in particular how women act (and please put aside the notion that Republicans think women are broken, stupid creatures that constantly need vaginal guidance, that is.)

Somebody finally decided to take that theory, which is a testable theory, and decided to research and test that theory scientifically as part of a doctoral research project at a university, so far so good.  But instead of even waiting for the findings, Sen. Schaefer is effectively saying that research cannot even be done on this subject because it might support the notion that women may be harmed by all these restrictions.

Then you have to make the jump that research that might show women are harmed by abortion restrictions are automatically promotion of  abortion itself, and that doing the research at a public university is automatically promotion of abortion. Finally you have to make a massive, rocket-assisted leap in microgravity conditions to reach the notion that a state legislative body has the power to effectively censor a university doctoral thesis that hasn’t even been completed yet.

I mean, we’re all aware that religious fanatics will go to extraordinary lengths to control a woman’s body here, but this is super bonus hyper bonkers mode even for these guys.

But nobody should be surprised.

What Everybody’s Wearing This Season

I’ll bet every one of the fuckers at that godawful shitshow of a debate tonight think this graph is an index of decline. Still, a simple fact remains: despite Hobby Lobby, despite the war on Planned Parenthood, despite years of noise, bullshit and outrage from a bunch of bible banging old men, almost all women on insurance can finally get a safe and effective medical device without paying out of pocket.

When I see graphs like this, it makes me stop and think about the amount of simple human misery Obamacare has reduced or eliminated in just a couple of years.

Pro-Life, Probably

Meanwhile, it wouldn’t be summer in Kansas without prairie thunderstorms, sipping lemonade on the porch, getting ready for the State Fair in Lawrence, and abortion clinic violence.

A Kansas abortion clinic was evacuated Monday after a man brought in explosives and knives, CBS News reports.

The man, who wasn’t named in news reports, was taken into custody at South Wind Women’s Center after the staff called police. The clinic is the same one that murdered abortion doctor Dr. George Tiller worked in and has been the target of protests and violence by anti-abortion activists in the past.

Local KWCH reports the device was “active and set to go off.” The bomb was wrapped in a box sealed with tape. It was detonated off-site by the bomb squad.

Police said they are investigating the man’s intentions.

“He was very forthcoming about it, he wasn’t trying to hide it,” Witchita police Capt. Doug Nolte told KSN. “He was here to do some business with the clinic.”

The clinic is one of three that provides abortions in Kansas.

Perhaps Gov. Brownback might want to reconsider playing up opponents of his ridiculous abortion law as demons and murderers before a building full of people gets blown up by a domestic suicide bomber.

Just saying.

Jindal Goes For Broke(n)

You may recall that one of the first reactions by the GOP over this Planned Parenthood video nonsense was Louisiana GOP Gov. Bobby Jindal trying to revive his moribund 2016 presidential run by immediately calling for an investigation into the organization’s clinics in the state.

Well, seeing as how he only until tomorrow to get his terrible numbers high enough to get into the FOX debate in Cleveland this week, he’s now no longer waiting for the results of the investigation.

Today, the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals informed Planned Parenthood it is exercising its right to terminate Planned Parenthood’s Medicaid provider agreement. In recent weeks, multiple videos have surfaced showing Planned Parenthood Federation of America senior personnel and other employees describing how they actively engage in illegal partial birth abortion procedures and conduct these abortions in a manner that leaves body parts intact so that they can later be sold on the open market. Since these videos have surfaced, Governor Jindal has directed DHH to investigate Planned Parenthood’s activities in Louisiana and also sent a letter to both the Louisiana Inspector General and the F.B.I. asking them to assist in the investigation.

According to the Medicaid provider contract between DHH and Planned Parenthood, along with relevant Louisiana law, either party can choose to cancel the contract at will after providing written notice. Governor Jindal and DHH decided to give the required 30-day notice to terminate the Planned Parenthood Medicaid provider contract because Planned Parenthood does not represent the values of the State of Louisiana in regards to respecting human life. Pending the ongoing investigation, DHH reserves the right to amend the cancellation notice and terminate the provider agreement immediately should cause be determined.

As near as I can tell, the figures I can find have about 30% of the state on Medicaid.  You figure half are women (if not more) and with 4.65 million people in the state, that’s roughly 700,000 women on Medicaid for Louisiana.

That’s a lot of women who are no longer able to go to a Planned Parenthood clinic for basic services, because of a questionable video.

But what does Jindal care?  He’s got a debate to get into and one hell of a last-ditch move to get him a few more percentage points, right?

OTC Birth control beneficiaries

UPDATE 1 Thanks to commenter MJ_Oregon who actually read the relevant portion of the law:

First, birth control medications will NOT become OTC in Oregon and all insurance coverage still applies. Drum didn’t bother to check the legislation for what it actually says. HB 2879 allows PHARMACISTS to prescribe birth control medications to women over 18 after they fill out a health questionnaire and are counseled by the pharmacist. There are other safeguards built into the language of the bill as well. AND Section 2 of the legislation contains this language: “(3) All state and federal laws governing insurance coverage of contraceptive drugs, devices, products and services shall apply to hormonal contraceptive patches and self administered oral hormonal contraceptives prescribed by a pharmacist under this section.”

Okay, this is just a massive expansion of the allowed prescriber universe without touching the prescribed vs. non-prescribed categorization of hormonal birth control.  This is a net win for women with current insurance, and women who want birth control but can’t easily get to a prescribing doctor.  Very different story.

My bad for not reading the source documentation.


Kevin Drum is commenting on a recent decision by Oregon to allow hormonal birth control to be sold over the counter:

I know there’s some disagreement about this among progressives these days, since prescription birth control is covered by Obamacare and OTC birth control isn’t. But I assume Oregonians who want a prescription can still get one, and allowing contraceptives to be sold OTC as well is the right thing to do. That decision should be made solely on safety grounds, not on grounds of political convenience. This is the same argument we make against things like forced ultrasounds for abortion patients, and it’s the right one

For people who are lucky enough to have access to decent insurance, this is a muddled win.  For women without access to decent insurance, this is a significant improvement to the status quo.

It definately lowers the barriers to accessing birth control for some more women which is a win as they won’t have to see their ObGyn or PCP to get a prescription.  However, if the drugs are being sold over the counter, most insurance companies won’t pay for over the counter medication of any sort.  Further more, women can’t use their tax advantaged health savings dollars to spend on over the counter medication of any sort.  Reimbursement for OTC medications only occur when their is a prescription.  OTC medications will be more costly than zero cost-sharing birth control for women with health insurance.  Once we start factoring in a prescription is needed for reimbursement, the cost barrier that reimbursement knocks down is replaced by accessing a provider to write the scrip.

The real winners of this policy would be women without health insurance, so that increasingly means immigrant women. Increased access to birth control for this group is a win.

The political downside is that putting hormonal birth control OTC gives anti-choice, anti-contraceptive politicians another angle of attack against including contraception as a core, Essential Health Benefit in any and all insurance policies as it is available over the counter.  Senator Gardner (R-Co) used making birth control OTC as a dodge against all of his anti-contraception policy views in the last election.  Getting a policy victory at the cost of a political club is the downside of the deal.  But it is a policy victory that benefits marginal members of the community while not harming others.

The other part of the policy change that stretches a birth control prescription from once per quarter to one per year is a pure policy win on cost, effectiveness, barrier lowering and efficiency grounds.