Friday, June 27, 2008

Dr J on the Radio

Here is a link to my radio interview from earlier today. The subject is same sex marriage in CA and in general.

Now You Tell Us....

The advocates of contraception have finally admitted in public what some of us have known for a while: The Pill doesn't work very well. James Trussell of Princeton is one of the leading experts on failure rates of various forms of contraception. Speaking at a conference in the UK, he said:
One in 12 women taking the Pill get pregnant each year because they miss so many tablets, Prof James Trussell, of Princeton University in America warned. ...

Half of all pregnancies in America are unintended and half of those happen because contraception failed or was not taken properly, the rest were not using any contraception.

He also admitted:
Increasing access to emergency contraception - the “morning after” pill - would also not have a significant effect on rates of unwanted pregnancy and abortions, he will tell the British Pregnancy Advisory Service conference in London today.

What is their proposed solution? Longer acting hormonal contraceptives, like injectables, and IUD's:
Speakers at the conference on the future of abortion will say that women should use longer-lasting methods such as hormonal implants or intrauterine devices (IUDs) that can be “fitted and forgotten”, but later removed if a woman wants a baby.

As it happens, I was just at a conference in which I showed the participants the failure rates of the Pill, broken down by demographic groups. It turns out that poor, cohabiting teenagers have a failure rate of almost 50%: 48.4% to be exact. That means, out of 100 girls with income under twice the poverty line, and who are under the age of 20 and living with their boyfriends, 48 of them will have a pregnancy within 12 months. Usually, people gasp when I show that chart. (Last year I did an article on the subject. The lefty netroots went nuts.) But a little thought will tell you why the failure rates are so high: the women aren't using their contraception correctly. James Trussel confirms this point:
He said studies have shown women miss three times as many pills as they say they do. Computerised pill packs have revealed that where as about half of women say they did not miss any pills, less than a third actually did. And where as between 10 per cent and 14 per cent admitted missing more than three pills in a month, actually between 30 per cent and 50 per cent missed that many.

The age-related failure rates suggest that the younger women are more likely to miss pills than older women. Do we really think we can come up with an educational program that will make poor cohabiting teenagers behave like married, middle-class, middle-aged women? I don't think so.
Evidently, neither does Dr. Trussell, because his solution is the long-acting contraception methods that you can just put in and forget.
But there is one other solution: unmarried women, especially teenagers, could have less sex. The failure rates for single women and married women are pretty similar, about 13% for poor women and 8% for the higher-income women.
If these girls really want to avoid pregnancy, they should kick their boyfriends out of the house. I wonder why no one from the British Pregnancy Advisory Service suggests that....

Hat tip to Ruben Obregon!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

John Howard's challenge

John Howard over at Egg and Sperm has challenged me and several others to respond to his ideas about defining marriage around procreation rights. Before I respond directly to him, let me link interested readers to an article I did on a related subject for Touchstone magazine, back in January 2006. In that article, I argued that
1. NO ONE has a right to a child
2. conception rights reside in the couple, not the individual, and
3. the right to procreate is a natural right for every married couple that flows organically from their marriage.
Allow me to quote myself. On point #1:
Let me be blunt: There is no right to a child, because a child is not an object to which other people have rights. If that were true, then parents would be owners of their children, rather than their stewards or guardians. The well being of the child could be, and would be, sacrificed to the “rights” of the parents. If we are born as objects to which other people have rights, when do we become persons with rights of our own, and why does the woman’s “right” to have a child trump the child’s right to have a father?

On Point #2:
Every individual is sterile. No one can have a baby by himself. Each human infant has two parents, one male and one female. Therefore, any right to have a child should be held by a couple, not by an individual who wishes to be a parent.

On Point #3:
This right of procreation a married couple holds is, quite literally, a natural right. No one has to help the couple produce the child: They can do that all by themselves. In fact, one of the great problems every society has to solve is discouraging reproduction in certain circumstances, precisely because producing babies is all too easy and natural to do.

Every known society has developed some social institution for defining the appropriate types of reproductive couplings. Whatever the specific rules, formal and informal, all societies limit the appropriate context for both sexual activity and childbearing. As long as a couple meets a society’s criteria, as the natural parents of the child they obtain the rights to exercise the full complement of parental rights it grants.

This universal social institution is, of course, marriage. Nobody grants a married couple the right to make babies; it is inherent in their marriage.

It does not follow that the natural right of a married couple to have babies extends to random couplings of individuals. Nor does the entitlement of married couples to procreate naturally generate a right for anyone to be artificially inseminated. No one, married or otherwise, is entitled to the assistance of others in becoming a parent.

The virtue of recognizing the natural right of a married couple to procreate is that this arrangement best protects the rights of the most vulnerable, namely, the child. What is owed to the child? The child’s most basic entitlement is the right to be born into a home with both a mother and a father who love him and each other. This gives the child at least the possibility of a relationship with both parents.

I believe I have addressed every significant point raised by Howard's post, which he claimed I would never do, since he counts me among the "fraudulent marriage defenders." Let me address the tone issue:
John, I know perfectly well that not everyone agrees with me on every issue. In fact, many, many people disagree with me on virtually every belief and opinion I hold dear. My goal is to make myself and my views as palatable as possible to people whom I know are inclined to disagree with me. I agree that the bioethics issues are serious and deep. They happen not to be my main focus, at this particular time. I am trying to make the best, broadest case I can for marriage as a fundamental gender-based social institution. If we lose on marriage, we will certainly lose on the assisted reproductive technology issue. The opposite is not necessarily the case: that is, if we lose ground on ART, we may still be able to make progress on man-woman marriage.

As a matter of tactics, I don't think starting with reproduction is going to be particularly effective as a launching point for persuasion. The rights of the children to a relationship with both parents is much more appealing. People can understand and relate to it. That formulation of the problem, I believe, carries all the water you need it to carry, both on ART and on marriage.

My policy on the marriage issue is simply this: people can agree with me and vote with me, for any reason they want. I am about building as broad a coalition as possible, not making it impossible for anyone to agree with me on anything unless they agree on everything.
Now you behaver yourself. If you do, I'll post your comments. But no more attacks on people's motives, please.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

South Carolina Parents Involved in Education

I am just leaving a delightful conference for abstinence educators in South Carolina. South Carolina Parents Involved in Education puts on a week-long conference for high school and middle school educators to become better informed about abstinence education. I spoke, as did Dr. Miriam Grossman, author of Unprotected: How Political Correctness Endangers Students.

As luck would have it, when I opened my in-box, I found an e-mail directing my attention to this article by Ryan Anderson on Planned Parenthood's assault on abstinence education. I'll have more to say about the conference, and Ryan's post, later.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

The Empty European Village

My commentary on the demographic decline of Europe has just been posted on Mercator Net. For those of you unfamiliar with Mercator, , it is a pro-family, pro-human-dignity internet magazine, published by a team in Australia and New Zealand. If you look at their comments section, you will see that they have readers from all over the English speaking world.
Pretty cool, actually.

Kern County Clerk Ceases to Peform all Marriages

A county clerk in a rural CA county will stop performing marriages for anyone, straight or gay. She will, of course, continue to offer marriage licenses.
Kern County Clerk Ann Barnett has announced that her office will stop performing all weddings a few days before June 17, the date that same-sex couples can legally apply for marriage licenses.

Barnett's staff processes marriage licenses for hundreds of Kern County residents each year and it will continue to do, for both straight and gay couples, beginning June 17 as required by law, she said in a written statement. But as of June 13, the staff will no longer officiate at civil ceremonies for an extra $30 fee.

Officials cited financial reasons for the decision. But internal memos between a high-ranking official in Barnett's office and a conservative Christian legal defense fund, published in the Bakersfield Californian this week, indicate that Barnett may have acted on principle rather than for financial reasons.

As Barnett, who holds an elected office, prepared to make her decision public Wednesday, an assistant clerk in her office sent an e-mail to attorneys at the Alliance Defense Fund asking if its lawyers would defend her in court if she "ceases performing all marriage ceremonies."

"We have the news media calling for her response, and we need to issue a news release today, but she really needs to be assured of your legal assistance before she speaks to them, as we fully expect to be sued and our own counsel is not being of help," the e-mail from Assistant Clerk Glenn Spencer said, according to the Californian.

Barnett and Spencer did not return a phone call Friday. An office aide said Barnett would be out of the office until Monday.

But Brian Raum, a senior attorney for the Alliance Defense Fund, confirmed that Barnett's office has sought out his group, calling the e-mails a "routine request for legal advice." If Barnett needs legal protection, his group will provide it, Raum said.

Shannon Price Minter, legal director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, said he didn't have a problem with Barnett's decision as long as she applied it evenly.

"They are providing marriage licenses to everyone and they are not performing weddings for anyone," Minter said. "So there is no discrimination."

In conservative Kern County, however, Barnett's decision unleashed a firestorm of debate, with many blog posters giving her a slap on the back.

"What a blessing it is for an elected official to stand their ground concerning their moral and religious beliefs!!!" someone who gave the name Donnabelhumeur wrote on a blog hosted by the Californian. "Good for you, Ann, you do not disappoint those who know and love you, and more importantly you do not disappoint God!"

Another arena in which rights of religious conscience are coming into conflict with the state support of same sex marriage.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

The Human Cost of Ethanol: High Food Prices

William Tucker's article on the high world price of food is one of the most insightful things I've seen in a long time. He makes the connection between the demand for ethanol and the price of food. Land used to grow corn for gas tanks is not available to grow corn for food.
Writing in the Washington Post in 2006, two former enthusiasts of biofuels, James Jordan and James Powell of Brooklyn's Polytechnic University, noted:

It's difficult to understand how advocates of biofuels can believe they are a real solution to kicking our oil addition. .  .  . [T]he entire U.S. corn crop would supply only 3.7 percent of our auto and truck transport demands. Using the entire 300 million acres of U.S. cropland for corn-based ethanol production would meet about 15 percent of demand. .  .  . And the effects on land and agriculture would be devastating.

the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization has been screaming the same thing for years, to no avail. World food prices have almost doubled since 2005. There have been "tortilla riots" in Mexico and identical disturbances in Morocco, Egypt, Cote d'Ivoire, Guinea, Mauritania, Cameroon, Senegal, Uzbekistan, and Yemen. True, the rising cost of energy and the perennial defects of Third World food markets are partly to blame. But the International Food Policy Research Institute in Washington says biofuel conversion accounts for at least a fourth of this increase. Even in the United States, milk prices have jumped 50 percent because so much corn is being diverted from cows to gas tanks. C. Ford Runge and Benjamin Senauer, two agricultural experts at the University of Minnesota, predict that by 2025 bio-fuels will be responsible for 600 million more chronically hungry people. Jean Ziegler, a U.N. food expert, labeled biofuels a "crime against humanity" and called for a five-year moratorium. The great ethanol boom is a classic case of putting First World luxuries ahead of Third World necessities.

Since I read this article a month or so ago, I've been noticing that other outlets and commentators are catching on to the connection between "green" fuels and world hunger.
Then tonight, I opened my Zenit, Vatican News Service digest, and found this:
KOENIGSTEIN, Germany, JUNE 5, 2008 ( The Catholic seminary in Makurdi in central Nigeria is facing closure this month as a result of the worldwide food crisis, reported Aid to the Church in Need.

Monsignor Kenneth Enang, rector of the seminary, told the aid agency Wednesday that the major seminary, in which some 520 seminarians from 15 dioceses are preparing for the priesthood, has already been forced to ration the food on account of the "astronomical prices."

An additional problem is the price of diesel, which is used to provide electricity. Within just one week, the price of diesel has risen by a third.

Father Andrzei Halemba, who heads the Africa desk of Aid to the Church in Need, reports that the worldwide food crisis is becoming an ever greater problem for seminaries throughout the Third World, and is likely to threaten the continued functioning of many other seminaries.

Months earlier, Father Enang had told Aid to the Church in Need of his delight at the many, "good vocations," arriving to his seminary, and the well-qualified staff. He described the seminary as something of a "bridge" between the North and South of Nigeria.

It was a "wonderful experience," he added, to see the way in which these young men from all over the country got on together. One could see in it "how Nigeria ought to look."

At that time there was talk of enlarging the seminary, since the space was no longer sufficient for the many seminarians there.

Now they are threatened with closure by June 20.

Long-run unintended consequences to feel-good environmentalism. Be sure to read Tucker's full article here.

Marriage is Not a Wedge Issue

I introduced my readers to David Benkof a few days ago. I am liking David Benkof more and more all the time.
Despite the paranoia of "marriage-equality" advocates, ballot initiatives to enshrine man-woman marriage in state constitutions are not a political ploy to win elections. They are the only logical response to the constitutional lawsuits funded by the gay and lesbian community that threaten to impose the gay community's definition of marriage on the vast majority of Americans who prefer the traditional definition of marriage.

If the opponents of these ballot measures really do believe they are more about presidential politics than marriage, let me offer a compromise, which I am certain I can convince my fellow supporters of traditional marriage to accept. If the gay-marriage movement will pursue no lawsuits to redefine marriage in 2011 and 2012, defenders of traditional marriage will support no ballot measures protecting man-woman marriage in the 2012 presidential election.

If that compromise is unsatisfactory, then I'd at least appreciate not being accused of ulterior political motives when I and others like me simply react to the gay community's lawsuits that threaten our vision of the key institution in a healthy society.

Maggie Gallagher on The Texas Polygamy Case

I really like Maggie's article today on the Texas Polygamy Case. I too, have been scratching my head over this case. I am totally against polygamy. I consider our modern advocates of polygamy, whoops, I mean, polyandry, to be completely naive. Group marriage will not evolve into some glorified Marin County, hippie love-fest. It will be an exploitive mess with major social spillovers.
Having said that, there is something deeply troubling about the mass round-up of children from their mothers in this case. If polygamy is a crime, arrest the fathers and put them in jail. Don't separate the kids from their mothers.
That's just my take on it. Read Maggie's here.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Marital Status Discrimination

I have written about the case of the lesbian couple who are suing their doctor for sexual orientation discrimination. I had argued that the doctors had a good, non-religious reason for refusing Artificial Reproductive Technology to unmarried women: the need of children for a father. I just got an e-mail from an attorney on my list:

You stated:
"The doctors actually could have a solid, non-religious reason for their reluctance to artificially inseminate an unmarried woman: the doctors might believe that children need a father, and are entitled to have a relationship with their father. We should not criminalize that belief."

As a matter of fact, that is exactly what these doctors' policy was, i.e., not to practice certain forms of artificial reproduction on single women. But the plaintiff in this case alleged it was because she was a lesbian, not because she was single. At the time, discrimination on the basis of marital status was not covered by the statute. Now it is. So now a doctor who does ART has to serve single women on the same basis as married women.

So marital status is now a protected class.

Violence Against Men

My friends in the Fathers Rights movement have been trying to say that men as well as women, suffer from domestic violence. Here is a report that confirms what these men have been trying to say for some time.
In the current study, reported in the June issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, they looked at a sample of 420 men enrolled in the same plan.

The researchers asked study participants about physical abuse and non-physical abuse, such as threats that made them fear for their safety, controlling behavior (for example being told who they could associate with and where they could go), and constant name-calling. "We're really not talking about minor spats and disagreements," Reid explained.

Among men 18 to 54 years old, 14.2 percent said they had experienced intimate partner violence in the past five years, while 6.1 percent reported domestic violence in the previous year.

Rates were lower for men 55 and older, with 5.3 percent reporting violence in the past five years and 2.4 percent having experienced it in the past 12 months.

Overall, 30.5 percent of men younger than 55 and 26.5 percent of older men said they had been victims of domestic violence at some point in their lives. About half of the violence the men experienced was physical.

Hopefully, someone will start to take these men seriously. Right now, they have Glenn Sacks on talk radio, and that's about it.

Gender Matters Even More

A Spanish Cardinal agrees with us that today's gender ideology is a revolt against our biological nature:
Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela of Madrid said this week that gender ideology and the laws inspired by it, such as those condoning so-called gay marriage, are an expression of “man’s rebellion against his biological limits.”

The cardinal’s comments are included in a new book entitled, “Interviews With Twelve Spanish Bishops,” by Isidro Catela. Sales from the book will be donated to pastoral work in Kenya.

Cardinal Rouco said the law on homosexual marriage “is a modern version of the desire to be like God the Creator and not his creatures, to not accept his law, which reveals the fundamental goods of man and of society and, therefore, guarantees the dignity, freedom and equality of mankind better than any human construct that is outside it,” he added.

The cardinal noted that human laws need not coincide to the letter with the moral law, but they must protect fundamental concepts “without which society cannot subsist.”

Gender differentiation is a part of our nature as embodied creatures. Male and female is who we are. The handful of exceptions of people with ambiguous gender should not be used as leverage to jettison the entire concept of gender from society.

Employee Benefits and CA Same Sex Marriage

If you are wondering what the CA ssm ruling means for employer benefits, you can find out here.
On May 15, 2008, the California Supreme Court issued a landmark decision, In re Marriage Cases, which invalidates the requirement under California law that only a man and a woman can enter into a valid marriage. By a 4–3 vote, the Court ruled that this requirement violates various provisions of the California Constitution and ordered state and local officials to start issuing marriage licenses to couples of the same sex. When the decision takes effect on June 14, 2008, California will join Massachusetts as the only states that recognize same-sex marriages.

This development raises the question of whether an employee benefit plan may, must or cannot recognize same-sex marriages in applying plan provisions that involve a participant's marital status. The answer is not as straightforward as one might think. It requires an analysis of not only how California state law defines marriage, but what the plan says about marriage and in what contexts, and also what the Federal Defense of Marriage Act ("DOMA"), enacted in 1996, has to say about marriage and how that affects plans governed by federal law.

Gender Matters

The Family Policy Council of West Virginia sounds like my latest Mercator article. Here is the West Virginia blog:
New York and Colorado, following California’s action, may not seem connected, but they clearly are in at least one respect: the battle to redefine marriage is essentially one that has as its ultimate outcome the belittling of gender.

In other words, in California, the Supreme Court has effectively said that at least one of the genders does not matter in a marriage. In New York, the decision to open marriage to everything and anything is one that says at least one gender in a marriage is disposable. Colorado, in choosing to adopt a N.O. has said, in matters that ought to be given respectful privacy, gender is not to enter the discussion.

The question that must then be asked of the opponents of marriage must be, “Which one?”

Which gender is not important? Is the female gender in a marriage more important than the male? In matters of public accommodation, is the male gender to be given more privacy and protection over the female? To the children that will be affected by the decisions of judges and governors, will the opponents of marriage kindly identify whether a mother or father is more important?

Ultimately, the redefinition of marriage strikes at every single person, if for no other reason than they must answer that simple question, “Does gender matter?” Those who support marriage do so because they answer that question with a resounding, “YES!”

Here is my Mercator article:
Can we be confident that even same sex marriage is the ultimate goal? I think the honest answer is no. The freight train of same sex marriage will not stop at the station called simple “equality.” The legal equivalence of same sex couples with opposite sex couples means that marriage will no longer be society’s most reliable method of attaching mothers and fathers to their children and to each other. Marriage will become a gender-neutral creation of the state, which actively detaches children from at least one of their parents. Parentage will not flow automatically from the marital union, but will have to be assigned by the state. The final stop on this train is the complete de-gendering of society, along with the continual incursion of the state into civil society.

The state must hold that mothers and fathers are completely interchangeable. Biological parents married to each other become officially equivalent to one parent plus their lover. The state will be indifferent as to whether children have any connection with their biological parents.

The experiences of other countries with same sex marriage illustrate that this is no mere expansion of an existing institution. In Spain, the words “mother” and “father” were removed from birth certificates in favor of “Progenitor A” and “Progenitor B”. Courts in Canada have assigned parental rights to three adults. Similar experiences from Massachusetts and the UK leave no doubt that the state will have to continually intervene to prop up same sex marriage, and the gender-oblivious society that comes along with it. Sexual orientation will be viewed as immutable, with sex itself as a mere social construct.

I'm glad to see that I am not the only person who believes that gender itself is at stake in the debate over same sex marriage.

Same Sex "Marriage" and the Persecution of Civil Society

My article is up on National Catholic Register.
I refer to two different books in that article. One is Nation of Bastards, an important and thoughtful book by Canadian professor, Douglas Farrow.
The underlying pattern is unmistakable. Legalizing same-sex “marriage” has brought in its wake state regulation of other parts of society. The problem is sometimes presented as an issue of religious freedom, and so, in part, it is. But the issue runs deeper than religious freedom.

McGill University professor Douglas Farrow argues in his book, Nation of Bastards that redefining marriage allows the government to colonize all of civil society.

If same-sex couples can marry each other, they should be allowed to adopt. Anyone who says otherwise is acting against the policy of the state. If same-sex couples can have civil unions, then denying them the use of any facility they want for their ceremony amounts to unlawful discrimination. When the state says that same sex couples are equivalent to opposite-sex couples, school curriculum will inevitably have to support this claim.

I also quote Seana Sugrue's essay in The Meaning of Marriage.
Because marriage is an organic part of civil society, it is robust enough to sustain itself, with minimal assistance from the state.

By contrast, same-sex “marriage” is completely a creation of the state.

Same-sex couples cannot have children. Someone must give them a child or at least half the genetic material to create a child. The state must detach the parental rights of the opposite-sex parent and then attach those rights to the second parent of the same-sex couple.

The state must create parentage for the same-sex couple. For the opposite-sex couple, the state merely recognizes parentage.

In her essay in The Meaning of Marriage, Seana Sugrue argues that the state must coddle and protect same-sex “marriage” in ways that opposite-sex marriage does not require.

Precisely because same-sex unions are not the same as opposite-sex marriage, the state must intervene to make people believe (or at least make them act as if they believe) that the two types of unions are equivalent.

Read my whole essay here.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Is Sex Necessary for Reproduction?

That is the rhetorical question raised by this article in the San Francisco Chronicle. Of course, the answer in the Brave New World is no:
Dr. Mark Hughes likes to startle audiences by declaring that sex may become outdated as a means of human reproduction. His field will replace it with technology, he submits.

"It is going to be, 'Sex is just for fun,' " Hughes will tell a crowd. "In vitro fertilization is going to be for making your children."

The ever-so-sunny discussion is all about helping couples have the children they want, and avoiding genetic defects. Of course, what the good doctor doesn't mention is that the separation of sex from reproduction represents a retreat from the most basic and powerful of human relationships, the conjugal relationship. Infertility treatments are often used by people who are not themselves infertile, but who are simply not in any relationship at all, or who are in relationships which are intrinsically sterile, that is, people who are too old to reproduce with their own genetic material, or same sex couples.
the number of births from assisted reproduction in the United States doubled between 1996 and 2005 to more than 52,000. Those infants made up 1 percent of the babies born in the United States in 2005, according to the unit that compiles the data for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The numbers for more recent years aren't yet available. Neither the CDC nor industry groups have been tracking the reasons parents chose in vitro fertilization, so it's hard to say whether its use is growing for reasons other than infertility.

They don't really want to look too closely at who is using this technology and why. It might spoil the pretty, antiseptic picture they are painting.