Over the counter birth control?

The junior senator from Colorado is embarking on some rather unusual territory for a Republican – Cory Gardner is leading a new push to allow women to purchase birth control without a prescription.

Interestingly, Gardner’s bill has received support from six of his Republican colleagues as well.  The bill would require drug companies to file an application to sell contraceptives over the counter.  The Senator argues that contraceptives have a proven track record of safety and efficacy and therefore should be able to be purchased over the counter.  Allowing women to purchase birth control over the counter would most benefit women in rural and underserved areas, as they wouldnt need to visit a physician for a prescription, saving both time and money.

In a strange twist, women’s health groups aren’t exactly happy with the push.  Groups like Planned Parenthood not that making the medications may actually drive up prices, since the contraception mandate of the Affordable Care Act means that most insurers will cover prescription birth control but not a medication that is over the counter.  The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists similarly denounced the plan, saying that instead of increasing access to contraception, the bill may do the opposite.

The debate over the bill highlights one of the key problems in health policy – the relationship between access, cost and quality.  In this case, increasing access on one front may lead to increased costs – which in turn may end up decreasing access.  That said, it’s certainly interesting to see conservative politicians taking up a women’s health issue that isn’t focused on restricting access to contraception or abortion services.

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Most Distinctive Cause of Death in Each State

The CDC recently released an interesting map depicting the most “distinctive” cause of death in each state from 2001 through 2010.  These causes of death are not the most common – that would be cancer or heart disease in every state – but rather unusual causes of death that are disproportionately common in each state.

Because these arent the most common cause of death, in some states just a few dozen people are dying of each condition.  For example, the number of deaths range “from 15,000 deaths from HIV in Florida to 679 deaths from tuberculosis in Texas to 22 deaths from syphilis in Louisiana.”

Maps like this one can be helpful in elucidating unique health conditions or social issues in each state.  We all know that as a country we are overweight; pointing out the number one killer (heart disease) on a map on seeks to reinforce what is already known.  The “distinctive cause” of death points to other issues – like people in coal-mining states being disproportionately likely to die from pneumoconiosis (black lung).

For the physicians out there – the authors of the study noted the importance of categorizing causes of death accurately on death certificates. “It would not take many systematic miscodes involving an unusual cause of death for it to appear on this type of map,” they write.

You can also visit this article on Slate about fun with maps that go viral, which clearly shows how manipulating data can give you some interesting results.


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Memorial Day

Ok, so the beach day was actually yesterday… but I’m also not working today so the card works.


On a more serious note – we, as a nation, owe a huge debt of gratitude to the brave men and women who fought for this country and unfortunately never made it back home.  There really are no words to express our thanks to them and our sorrow for their loved ones.


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Ireland goes all in on marriage equality

Congratulations Ireland, and well done by the Irish people for choosing the side of equality!

IrishVictoryFlag YE_1

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Marriage Equality in Ireland

If I knew how to say marriage equality in Gaelic, I would have titled this post differently, but today is already shaping up to be a historic day across the pond in Ireland.

Voters in the Republic of Ireland are heading to the polls today to vote on a landmark referendum – to ask the people of Ireland to change the country’s constitution to allow for same-sex marriage.  If passed, Ireland would become the first country to adopt same-sex marriage through popular vote.

A simple “yes” or “no” vote on the question: “Marriage may be contracted in accordance with law by two persons without distinction as to their sex.”

If more say “yes” than say “no,” the change to the constitution will give gay and lesbian couples the right to civil marriage, but not to be wed in a church.

Not surprisingly, the issue is a polarizing one, as it has been around the world.  Ireland is an interesting dynamic – a majority Catholic nation heavily rooted in tradition voting on what many consider to be a liberal cause.  The “yes” campaign had been polling strongly all along, but support has diminished somewhat as the day of the actual vote has arrived.

The Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny has indicated his strong support for the referendum and has indicated he plans to vote “yes” today.

I can only hope that the people of Ireland will do the right thing today and affirm the equality of their LGBT brothers and sisters by allowing them civil marriages, but the vote highlights a fundamental issue.  Allowing the majority to vote on the rights of a minority group is problematic – an argument that has been made several times in the United States, particularly in Massachusetts, compelling lawmakers and judges to intervene.  No better example exists but with the passage of the now overturned Proposition 8 in California.  Hopefully I’ll be able to update this post later today with good news!


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the fight continues… part 2

It’s almost like Huffington Post read my blog piece titled “the fight continues….” and then decided to write an article about what other LGBT rights still need to be won (assuming the Supreme Court rules for marriage equality).

You can check out the article here, but here’s the short list…

1. Workplace discrimination

2. Lack of gender-neutral restrooms in public places

3. Gay conversion therapy

4. Housing discrimination

5. Acceptance in sports, politics, entertainment, business and more

6. Health risks, and education about how to lower them

7. Restrictions on gay men giving blood

8. Jury selection

9. Transgender military service

10. Youth homelessness

11. Adoption, custody, surrogacy and other parenting issues

12. Discrimination of youth in foster care

13. Violence

14. Placement and treatment of trans people in prisons and immigrant detention centers

15. Discrimination in jails and prisons

16. Suicide

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The couples that are ‘meant to be’ are the ones who go through everything that is meant to tear them apart and come out even stronger than they were before.

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