But you’d think they’d be proud!

Baltimore has a very sensible ordinance that requires pregnancy counseling centers to plainly state what services they provide.

The ordinance requires that a “limited-service pregnancy center” post an easily readable sign, written in English and Spanish, stating that the center does not provide or make referrals for abortion or birth-control services. A center failing to comply within 10 days of being cited could be fined up to $150 a day.

That’s perfectly reasonable, even if the center is directly opposed to abortion — they could cheerfully put up a sign bragging that they do not abort adorable little babies, and take some pride in their position. But no, that’s not what they want to do. We’ve got a ‘counseling center’ here in Morris, for instance, that provides no real help at all. They’ve got little signs around that say something like, “Pregnant? We can help!” with a phone number, and when some frightened teenaged girl calls, their sole purpose is to make sure she does not get an abortion. Stating their position up front and diminishing confusion is exactly what they don’t want — they want their clients confused and worried, susceptible to the lies they’ll tell them.

So perhaps you will be as unsurprised as I am to learn that the Catholic Diocese of Baltimore is suing the city, claiming oppression because they are asked to be clear in the range of services they will offer.

Thomas J. Schetelich, chairman of the board for the Center for Pregnancy Concerns, said that the ordinance singles out the Catholic Church for its anti-abortion stance. The nonprofit, anti-abortion organization receives donations from religious groups supporting women who plan to take their pregnancies to term and operates three of the four local centers.

“Frankly, we would expect our city government to be supporting our sacrificial efforts rather than trying to hinder,” Schetelich said. “We’re disappointed that our stand for life draws opposition.”

Please note: they are talking about four referral centers. They have hired a battery of lawyers to oppose the posting of four signs that state exactly what they regard as a positive, noble, tenet of their faith, that they do not condone abortions. What’s the gripe? If they think it’s an unfair burden to have to pay for four signs, I suspect that if they asked Planned Parenthood or other such organizations, or even asked the community at large, people would chip in to send them a few hundred dollars or a few thousand dollars, even, to make their own damned signs.

This is simply the Catholic Church suing for the right to keep people in the dark, as they have for so many centuries.

They have no grounds for complaint. As a NARAL director explains,

“This law empowers women by giving them full information up front about what to expect from a limited-service pregnancy center,” said Jennifer Blasdell, the organization’s executive director. “This provision does not ask a facility to provide or counsel for any services they find objectionable, but only asks them to tell the truth about the nature of their services.”

By the way, our local example of anti-abortion ignorance is called the Morris Life Care Pregnancy Center, and it is somehow affiliated with the Morris Evangelical Free Church, our local festering canker of wingnut inanity. They don’t seem to provide any material services at all, other than advice, AKA browbeating and misleading. I am amused to see that they are hosting a father-daughter chastity ball (although they don’t call them that anymore), which is rather creepy.

However, I do commend them on one thing. Right there at the bottom of their web page, they clearly and honestly state this:

“This center does not offer abortion services or abortion referrals. This information is intended for general educational purposes only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional medical advice.”

I can’t complain too much about them, then — I disagree vehemently with their opinions, but as long as they’re not pretending to be offering real medical advice and don’t pretend to offer services that they’re actually going to be telling their clients to avoid, they have every right to express their beliefs.

I hate to say this, but the Baltimore Diocese could learn something about honesty from a loony rural Protestant church that teaches that the world is only 6000 years old.

They’re crazy over there in Wisconsin

It’s true — here in Minnesota, we’re always talking about them dingbats next door in Wisconsin, and they are — we live in a place where all our children are above average, dontchaknow, and the only way that is statistically possible is if some place nearby is all below average. So we love to rag on them. Until they mention Michele Bachmann and then we have to hang our head in shame and slink away.

Anyway, the latest news from our neighbor to the east is that some cheesehead named Scott Southworth is trying to strongarm teachers into not following the sex education guidelines, threatening them with jail time if they say anything about condoms.

Forcing our schools to instruct children on how to utilize contraceptives encourages our children to engage in sexual behavior, whether as a victim or an offender. It is akin to teaching children about alcohol use, then instructing them on how to make mixed alcoholic drinks.

OK, but mixed alcoholic drinks are legal, and lots of people consume them…and so will many of those kids, hopefully once they’re of legal age but not before (although we know many of them will jump the gun — and think of all the awful pina coladas and over-strong rum & cokes they’ll slosh down if not properly trained. Think of the children!) There’s nothing wrong with urging responsible restraint in both alcohol consumption and sexual behavior, while also explaining what they actually, honestly are.

Unless, of course, you’re a conservative kook who thinks the solution to every peril is to keep everyone in a state of maximal ignorance. Case in point: when this bill to teach medically accurate information about contraceptives in sex ed classes was introduced, every single Republican voted in lockstep against it.

This is more like telling kids who are too young to drive about using seatbelts. It’s not telling them to get in an accident, it’s telling them to take precautions in case something happens. And in the case of sex, we know a collision is pretty much inevitable at some point, so we should be offering information and sensible safety in those years when they are at greatest risk.

A hero in the Philippines

The Philippines has a problem with a rising number of AIDS cases every year, and members of the government have been promoting a sensible response: Health Secretary Esperanza Cabral has sponsored a program that distributes free condoms, for instance. You can guess who opposes prophylactics, though.

“The condom business is a multimillion dollar industry that heavily targets the adolescent market at the expense of morality and family life,” said Bishop Nereo Odchimar, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines. He called fidelity and premarital chastity “the only effective way to curb the spread of AIDS.”

The Catholics have informed Cabral that she has “one foot in hell.” How sweet. They are also actively campaigning against any politician who promotes birth control.

I’m so sorry that the Philippines is so deeply afflicted with forces for insanity and irrationality, but at least they’ve got brave people like Esperanza Cabral standing up for what is right.

They don’t really care about the children

About 20 clergy, representing the very best of Christian theology, of course, and various Republicans gathered in Virginia to protest the existence of Planned Parenthood—they want all state funding, about $35,000 a year, stopped. They claim that Planned Parenthood is an evil organization because it provides abortions (which I consider a necessary and brave service, given the violence of anti-choice lunatics) and contraceptives, ignoring the fact that they also provide reproductive health care for women. In a just and rational world, Planned Parenthood would be regarded as a heroic organization, helping to make this a better world.

Not in the minds of these pious zealots, though. Bob Marshall voluntarily exposed the intellectual and moral bankruptcy of the protest with a few choice words.

The number of children who are born subsequent to a first abortion with handicaps has increased dramatically. Why? Because when you abort the first born of any, nature takes its vengeance on the subsequent children.

In the Old Testament, the first born of every being, animal and man, was dedicated to the Lord. There’s a special punishment Christians would suggest.

He’s lying. There is no evidence that abortion imposes long term risk of any kind on women or their subsequent children. He’s confusing what he wishes were true with what is actually true.

I despise his imaginary, wrathful, poisonous, child-torturing god. This is what these kinds of Christians hold as just: that an omnipotent monster would wreak vengeance on children for a mother’s actions, and furthermore, that a handicapped child is a punishment for the parents. That’s simply twisted. A suffering child is loved no less by a sane parent, and our hearts are wrenched by the troubles of even our healthiest children. Think about what this dumb wretch has said to every child who is less than perfect in this world (which includes all of us, of course): we are his god’s instrument of torture for our parents. God is the psychopathic bastard who forces failings on us to make our mothers suffer a little more.

God must really hate Bob Marshall’s mother, then, to inflict such a demented fuckwit on her.

You can write to Bob and let him know what you think of his deity. And Virginians — I don’t care whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat, conservative or liberal, but could you please stop putting evil, narrow-minded little pissants like Bob Marshall in positions of power? Let him be an affliction to his own family, and leave the rest of us alone.

A few additions:

Angie the anti-theist is getting an abortion — good for her for being bold enough to put a human face to the issue.

And here’s a weird twist. For all their protestations about equality, somehow they think blacks are a different species?


WTF? Dumbest poll ever

What kind of idiot decided to put this poll on CNN?

Should information about women who get abortions be posted online?

No 93%
Yes 7%

What kind of information are they thinking of? Home addresses, phone numbers, that sort of thing?

If you read the associated article, you discover that an even bigger idiot in the Oklahoma senate, Todd Lamb, wants women in his state to fill out a 10-page, 37-question questionnaire before allowing them to get an abortion, and that information would be published online.

It’s good to see the poll is going the right way, but jebus…this is another low in the long and sordid history of anti-choice intimidation.

Now I want to get a speculum

This is a side of women I haven’t had a chance to see in such detail before — it’s a series of photos of the cervix, taken every day over the course of a month. It changes, unsurprisingly. It’s a little organ with a different personality every time you look at it.

There are also photos of the cervix before and after sex, which is a physiological phenomenon that also changes the configuration of that whole muscley flexible bit of the anatomy. However, she talks about the upsuck hypothesis — the idea that the activity of the cervix is adapted to physically draw semen into the opening — which is an interesting idea, but actually hasn’t been supported by experiment or observation.

It’s a very cool project!

A completely unsurprising result

A recent survey that correlated the degree of fundamentalism, as measured by positive responses to questions about the absolute, literal truth of the Bible, and teenage birth rates, has discovered something we all suspected all along: fundie kids are getting pregnant despite their stern, restrictive upbringing. There are caveats, of course, and some implied messages here.

However, the results don’t say anything about cause and effect, though study researcher Joseph Strayhorn of Drexel University College of Medicine and University of Pittsburgh offers a speculation of the most probable explanation: “We conjecture that religious communities in the U.S. are more successful in discouraging the use of contraception among their teenagers than they are in discouraging sexual intercourse itself.”

Fancy that. The adolescent sex drive is a power greater than Jesus.

Just in case you’re looking

It turns out that there are a few simple rules to follow when submitting your computer dating form.

Around 42 per cent of messages which included the word “atheist” achieved replies, significantly higher than the average response rate of 32 per cent.

References to “Christian”, “Jewish” and “Muslim” boosted a message’s success rate only marginally, while mentioning “god” in a first approach actually discouraged people from replying.

So just maybe, being godless will increase your fitness in this next generation. Although, given the growing reputation of Christianity, it might just be a matter of distancing yourself from labels that are associated with obsessive kookiness.