Do not donate to Susan G. Komen for the Cure

As the daughter of a breast cancer survivor, I am pissed off about Susan G. Komen’s decision to pull its grants for breast cancer screening from Planned Parenthood.

Komen claims the move is because their newly adopted guidelines do not allow them to donate money to organizations under investigation by Congress. But let’s cut the crap: this is nothing more than a snivelling political move to appease anti-choicers:

Komen has been under pressure from anti-abortion groups to drop its funding for Planned Parenthood, which received $680,000 from the anti-cancer group in 2011. Most recently, abortion foes forced a Christian publisher to stop printing pink Komen bibles and pressured bookstores to take them off the shelves. Groups have also called on supporters to boycott Komen entirely, and decried the group as a “lie from the pit of Hell.” But Komen says the anti-abortion groups’ activism didn’t play a role in its decision, which it claims is the result of a new internal policy forbidding it from funding for any organization that’s currently under investigation in Congress. (Planned Parenthood is the target of a congressional investigation, but that probe is led by an anti-abortion lawmaker who has sought to end all federal support to the group.)

One thing the AP piece misses, however, is that pressure to end the Planned Parenthood funding may have also come from within Komen itself. Karen Handel was named senior vice president at Komen in April 2011, and is now “leading the organization’s federal and state advocacy efforts.” But before joining Komen, she was a candidate in the Republican gubernatorial primary in Georgia, and was critical of Planned Parenthood. “[S]ince I am pro-life, I do not support the mission of Planned Parenthood,” she wrote in a blog post, and pledged to eliminate all state funds for breast and cervical cancer screening to the group if she were elected governor.

Isn’t it oddly convenient that their new guidelines coincide with these events? Why, it’s almost as if they adopted those guidelines in order to appease anti-choicers, while simultaneously attempting to deflect blame onto Congress!

We can speculate on Komen’s motivations until we’re blue in the face, especially since they won’t even reply to Planned Parenthood’s requests to discuss the decision. But the motivations don’t change the result: Roughly $600,000 a year will no longer be going toward breast health education, clinical breast exams, and mammogram referrals for predominantly poor and minority women. Without these preventative measures, women’s health will suffer.

Some people will argue that this is not true because Komen will simply donate the money to other organizations. If there’s an organization that provides these services with the experience and geographical spread of Planned Parenthood, fill me in. But this means more than funding for some exams, as Amanda Marcotte points out:

The existence of breast-cancer screenings at Planned Parenthood has always been a thorn in the anti-choice side. Most of Planned Parenthood’s services are related to the choice to be sexually active—contraception, STD screening and treatment, cervical cancer screening—making it easy to write off those services as unnecessary if you follow the strict abstinence-only prescription the Christian right has for women. Breast cancer, however, can strike the lifelong virgin, the married woman who only has sex for procreation, and the dirty fornicator (i.e. the vast majority of American women) alike. Because of this, anti-choicers have tried to create a rift between women’s health advocates who focus on breast cancer and those who focus on reproductive health concerns below the waist. Today, they had a victory with Komen’s act of cowardice.

[...]In the end, the grant money is less important than the symbolism of Komen buying into the conservative myth of good-girl health care vs. bad-girl health care. In reality, women’s health care can only work if it’s comprehensive health care.

Even without this latest development, there were enough issues about Komen to give me pause:

Their removal of support from Planned Parenthood is the straw that broke the camel’s back. I will now be looking for other breast cancer foundations to support, and I’ve made a donation to Planned Parenthood’s emergency funding drive. I suggest you do the same, and inform your friends and family about this situation.

Scientific publication title of the day

Desperately Seeking Stable 50-Year-Old Landscapes with Patches and Long, Wide Corridors” in PLoS Biology.

I’m not sure if the authors purposefully came up with a title reminiscent of a personal ad, or if it’s just my overactive imagination. Either way, it makes me giggle. I mean, “long, wide corridors”? What a size queen.

For anyone wondering what the paper is actually about, the authors are looking for particular types of environments in order to investigate if corridors effectively conserve biodiversity. Human urbanization (roads, housing developments, Walmarts) serves as barriers that plants and animals have a hard time crossing. This fragments large populations into a lot of smaller ones that can’t interbreed as much. Small populations are more susceptible to events that reduce genetic diversity, like inbreeding and genetic drift. Decreasing genetic diversity is generally considered Bad, because…well, I’m lazy and Wikipedia does a good job at explaining:

“Genetic diversity serves as a way for populations to adapt to changing environments. With more variation, it is more likely that some individuals in a population will possess variations of alleles that are suited for the environment. Those individuals are more likely to survive to produce offspring bearing that allele. The population will continue for more generations because of the success of these individuals.”

Corridors are often used to attempt to make up for this fragmentation, and the authors want to see if the corridors are actually successful in promoting gene flow between populations. Thus their personal ad that made me giggle.

Deep thought meets poop joke

You know what mythical creatures seems like they would be awesome if they actually existed, but would actually be terrible? Pegasi*. I mean, think how terrible it is when a bird shits on you or right on the windshield of your car. Think of what a terrible mess geese make when they come through shitting on everything. Now extrapolate that to a bunch of fucking horses flying overhead. We wouldn’t be like “Oh, look at what soaring majestic beauty.” We’d be like “Oh fuck nooooooooo” and running for shelter.

That is all.

*Yes, the plural of Pegasus is Pegasi because “Pegasus” is Latin. The Greek version is “Pegasos.” I learned this solely because I wanted my discussion of Pegasus crap attacks to be grammatically correct. Even poop jokes can accidentally teach you something.

Who needs pap smears when you have acupuncture?

All too often I hear critics who assert that skepticism and feminism have nothing to do with each other, and I should stop pretending that skepticism is relevant to women’s issues. And then I run into articles like this one, where an acupuncturist claims only prostitutes get cervical cancer and pap smears aren’t “real preventative measures” but only serve to conjure up unrealistic fears.

Thankfully Richelle of Skeptic North has the full take down, including real facts about HPV and cervical cancer. I love this little bit of snark in particular:

I’ve had an abnormal pap test, and unlike Freak-out McMelodrama, I talked to my doctor about what it meant and why it wasn’t particularly concerning, but worth monitoring. It wasn’t a cancer scare, it was a “huh, that’s weird.” Maybe I’m just used to my body doing strange things, but I really can’t fathom using it as the impetus to quit my job and go to an unaccredited college to get a unrecognized 4 year TCMD (Traditional Chinese Medicine Doctorate) diploma for $40,000. If you’re worried about an abnormal Pap test, or just the potential to exposure to HPV and the risks of cervical cancer, talk to your family physician. And if they tell you that only prostitutes get HPV, find a new physician, and then talk to them.

But Richelle, don’t you know family physicians are just the slaves to big pharma and all medical advances are a ploy to fear monger people into popping pills?! Much better to go poke someone with needles.

My new favorite word

I was sitting on the bus on the way to work this morning, just spacing out and looking around. The person in front of me was reading a book that caught my eye because tons of notes had been scribbled in the margins in different handwriting and colors of ink. I was absentmindedly staring at it just because it looked neat, but then a word someone scrawled larger than the others popped out at me:

Nagnostic.

It was beautiful. I don’t know what they intended it to mean, or if it was really just a vaguely N-shaped scribble that happened to occur in front of “agnostic.” But I instantly knew how I would define the term:

nagnostic (noun) – A person who believes that nothing is known or can be known of the existence or nature of God or of anything beyond material phenomena, and takes that belief to such extremes that they persistently annoy others with assertions that their position is obviously the most philosophically sound and that they too are actually agnostic.

Susie: So I went to this atheist meetup the other day and -
Billy:
How can you be an atheist? Can you prove god doesn’t exist?
Susie: Well, no, but-
Billy: Then you’re really an agnostic!
Susie: That small margin of doubt is effectively insignificant. And you can’t prove a negative…
Billy: There’s still technically doubt! You’re agnostic!
Susie: But that’s impractical. Are you agnostic about unicorns because they’ve never been proved not to exist?
Billy: Yes.
Susie: …You’re such a fucking nagnostic.

As a former nagnostic, I apologize. And plan to use this slang wherever applicable. …Which is unfortunately pretty often.

Indiana Senate committee approves creationist legislation

My dad emailed me this news report with the quote “Another reason to be glad you’re not living in Indiana.” From NWI Times (our local newspaper!):

An Indiana Senate committee on Wednesday endorsed teaching creationism in public schools, despite pleas from scientists and religious leaders to keep religion out of science classrooms.

Senate Bill 89 allows school corporations to authorize “the teaching of various theories concerning the origin of life” and specifically mentions “creation science” as one such theory.

State Sen. Scott Schneider, R-Indianapolis, who voted for the measure, said if there are many theories about life’s origins, students should be taught all of them.

But John Staver, professor of chemistry and science education at Purdue University, said evolution is the only theory of life that relies on empirical evidence from scientific investigations.

“Creation science is not science,” Staver said. “It is unquestionably a statement of a specific religion.”

The Rev. Charles Allen, head of Grace Unlimited, an Indianapolis campus ministry, said students would be served better by teaching religion comparatively, rather than trying to “smuggle it in” to a science course.

The Republican-controlled Senate Education Committee nevertheless voted 8-2 to send the legislation to the full Senate.

What? Indiana is being backwards and ignorant? I am shocked – shocked, I say!

Dear Indiana legislators,

What you are doing is unconstitutional. That is not an opinion of mine – the Supreme court decided this in Edwards v. Aguillard (1987). Your attempt to weasel Christianity into public science classrooms is going to fail. You can either choose to vote it down now, or you can waste years of time and money in a pointless legal battle. Not to mention your continued efforts to destroy science make intelligent young people like me dying to evacuate the state and never come back. You wonder why you have a brain drain? This is it.

Indiana voters – figure out your Senate district here and send your state Senator a reminder about why creationism has no place in a science classroom.

Today’s admission of privilege

I get annoyed every time I have to scroll down a drop down menu to find “United States” because it’s not automatically listed at the top. And every time I have to remind myself how stupid it is to get annoyed.

Feel free to admit little privileged things you do in the comments.

Gee, thanks, God

According to Rick Santorum, we shouldn’t allow abortions even in cases of rape, because those fetuses are gifts from God. Yes, God’s gift to rape victims is pregnancy. Maybe this is just me, but I would kind of prefer God to give me the gift of Not Being Raped In The First Place.

It’s easy to write off Mr. Frothy Mixture as an extremist lunatic, but… Well, he is an extremist lunatic, but he’s not alone. Over 150,000 Americans have voted for him so far in the Republican primaries. Yikes.

Kentucky’s priorities

Governor Steve Beshear (D) of Kentucky has just approved the state’s new budget for 2012-2013: millions of dollars cut from education, while the Creation Museum’s $43 million dollar Ark Park still stands. The $11 million going toward highway development for the amusement park was also untouched.

I can see Beshear’s airtight logic now. If we keep Kentuckians uneducated, they’re more likely to visit that intellectual black hole, thus increasing money spent on tourism! Budget problem solved!

And to think states like Kentucky wonder why they experience a “brain drain.”