Colorado Family Planning Initiative

As the veracity of Planned Parenthood is being discussed, there is a program and study that was conducted in Colorado over a seven year period that offers meaningful data. The Colorado Family Planning Initiative offered low-income women and teens access to low or no-cost contraception, including IUDs and implants.

The Governor’s office released the results of the program which analyzed data from 2009 – 2013. The key findings are:

  • there was a 40% statewide decline in the teen birth rate
  • there was a 35% statewide decline in the abortion rate

If the goal is to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies and abortions, funding the use of contraception along with family planning efforts and information is the better answer. Cutting funding will only increase these numbers. And, it should be noted there are correlations between poverty and increasing family size and poverty and single mothers. This is more true the younger the mother.

Education is a vital part of the program as well. If people want to teach abstinence as part of a holsitic program, that is fine. But, the teachers and funders need to clearly understand these teens and young adults are just like we were, if not more so. They are tempted and will have sex. It would be so much the better, if they were informed of the consequences and knew what options there were.

A key part of the education must help girls understand that self-esteem need not be tied to sex. These girls need to be able to say no and feel confident in withstanding pressure, especially today with so many ads, shows, and stars (by dress and manner) saying it is OK. And, boys need to know that no means no. It can be uttered up to the time in which sex occurs.

As a parent, I know parents worry about their kids. You hope they will make good choices. Yet, we did not always make them and they will likely follow suit. Also, please understand even kids brought up in the strictest of homes will be tempted to do things when away at school or college. It is only natural.

Three anecdotes might help illustrate the importance of education and planning.

  • My brother-in-law taught eighth grade science in a high poverty rural area. Annually, he had a number of girls in his class get pregnant. To them, it was being like an adult a right of passage. Only when it was too late, did they realize the consequences.
  • A colleague was viewed by teens in her church as being the kind of person who would shoot straight with them. She was asked questions that told her these kids thought they could not get pregnant the first time and if they had sex standing up they could avoid pregnancy. When she mentioned to the minister to have a sex education class, he scoffed at her request.
  • A friend who has run several non-profits and is very devout told me the children of his friends would go off to a religious university nearby. He said these kids would go wild when finally away from their parents and shocked some of his friends by what they got into.

So, Planned Parenthood and organizations that provide holistic family planning need more funding to reduce the number of abortions and unwanted pregnancies. Kids need to get good information and access to tools. It is their lives. And, while I focused on pregnancies, STDs and HIV are very viable threats to manage through contraception and education.

Let me close with this thought. As the former Board Chair of an organization that helps homeless working families, single mothers is the predominant group that is helped. It is also the fastest growing homeless population in America. Key tools to help lessen the propensity of poverty and homelessness in this group are family planning, sex education and low-cost birth control.

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Keep these trends in the back of your mind

It is easy to get distracted with today’s news, where “he said what about that” gets way too much press. Here are few other trends that we should keep in the back of our minds. Some are more pressing than others:

  • Drug companies make money by inventing a recurring need and marketing a drug you need to take the rest of your life. Mind you, there are plenty of good reasons to invent new drugs to help, but there are a series of runaway trains being advertised daily. One trend I noticed is the “add-on” drug. What I mean by this is you may be taking a recurring drug for a condition that works just fine. But, the company or even another company comes up with a supplemental drug that makes that drug a little better. Or, in the case of opioids causing constipation, there is a drug to help you with that. Suggestion: Speak with your doctor and do some research.
  • Your data will never be fully protected and safe online. We should do everything in our power to limit what is out there, but hackers are way too sophisticated and diligent. I applaud the security folks greatly, as they are tasked with a hard job. And, as I mentioned in an earlier blog, some apps like Facebook make money selling access to your information. Unless they change that model, your data will be exposed. Suggestion: Know what data you have out there and decide if you want to limit any of it. Do not use wi-fi in public places to do sensitive financial transactions (banking, credit cards, etc.). A security person said using a hotel’s wi-fi is like picking up a croissant off the floor and eating it. Change your passwords every so often, but make sure you can remember them.
  • Bottled water is a threat to our environment and your wallet. There are floating islands of plastic in the ocean as big as some states. If you must buy water, then recycle. Then there is that cost thing. Much cheaper is buying a filtered water pitcher and keeping it filled in the refrigerator. Some major named water sellers simple use purified tap water with additives. So, why not cut out the middle man. Suggestion: Check out how much you spend on bottled water or even soft drinks each month. Filtered refrigerated water (either from your door or pitcher) will save you money and the environment. Plus, if you reduce the number of soft drinks by drinking water, it will do the above, plus improve your health.
  • An authoritarian type leader tends to use a lot of false bravado. It is my view that the amount of bravado is highly correlated with the amount of lying. Think Trump, al Assad, Putin, Kim, Duterte, Maduro, etc. Suggestion:  Take everything said by these people with a grain of salt. I assume their comments are untrue and work back from there. Plus, do your homework and don’t be made out to be a fool. As Mark Twain said, “It is easier to fool someone than to convince them he has been fooled.”
  • Speaking of correlation, larger family sizes are highly correlated with a propensity toward poverty (this one is not just my impression). I read again this morning the solution to poverty is smaller family sizes, yet the source also denies the need for family planning funding. Another variation is there are too many single parent families. Again, family planning helps, but also marriage counseling with 1/2 of marriages ending in divorce. Suggestion: We need to avoid stating obvious problems as if that statement will solve them. We must do something about the problems. Data reveals states that have robust family planning funding have fewer unwanted pregnancies, fewer healthcare costs, fewer STDs and less poverty.

What are some trends you are seeing? Please offer a suggestion as well.

The exact opposite of what is needed

Since tribal fervor gets in the way of good information sharing and debate, we end up with laws, bills and executive orders/ comments which are the exact opposite of what is needed. This troubles me greatly, as if you took the time to look at data and explained what the change would do, people would not be supportive of the change.

Here are a few working examples:

– Treating Muslim Americans poorly, blocking travel from Muslim countries, and criticizing the London Mayor who is an exemplar of successful Muslims in the western world make us less safer. Ostracizing Muslims feeds into the recruiting messaging for Islamic extremist groups; welcoming Muslims and involving them in conversations and diligence is making us safer.

– Defunding Planned Parenthood will increase the abortion rates, health care cost and poverty. Poverty is highly correlated with larger family size. Family planning reduces the number of unwanted pregnancies. Plus, women’s health for low income families improve which saves money.

– Cutting back on renewable energy investment and tax breaks will be dilutive to job increases and rural economies. Many of the solar and wind energy jobs are occurring in rural settings where they are needed. The market for solar and wind energy continues to rapidly grow as the prices fall. Investment in these areas is accretive to growth.

– Regulation is not the enemy. Inefficient and ineffective regulation are. Dodd Frank needs improvement, but we need to be mindful of the changes. The ACA needs improvement, not repeal. Very few industry leaders advocate for regulation – it does not mean they don’t need them, especially when greed exists. We need to govern our regulation either paring, repealing or improving where needed. Here is an example – when Erskine Bowles was asked to head the Small Business Administration he reduced the application for assistance from 42 pages to two.

– Pulling back from global leadership will make the world less safer. America helps provide guardrails to global crises. The more we abdicate responsibility, the less safe it becomes for America and the rest of the world. We must be engaged and collaborative.

I have many other examples. What do you think? What are your examples?

 

Poverty is highly correlated with large families

We have a global poverty problem, but what may surprise some, the US has not escaped the problem. Our middle class has been squeezed, but unfortunately, gravity has caused too many of them to fall beneath or just above the poverty line.

There are many reasons for the decline, but it has been occurring over the last 45 years, so all politicians own this issue. Technology advances, globalization, stagnant wages, downsizing of union populations, costly healthcare, etc. are all contributing factors.

Yet, it should be noted that large family size and one parent families are highly correlated with increased poverty. These two factors should not be a revelation, but too many folks look past these causes to others. This a key reason for the importance of family planning to help families manage their family size and health.

Today, I saw a report that noted the US has more teen pregnancies than other western nations. A data point was cited (without a source) that 30% of teens in the 9th grade have sexual relationships increasing to 60% in the 12th grade. The report supported the practice of more holistic sex education in schools, an experiment being promoted in West Virginia, where 1 out of eight births are to teen mother.

The training speaks to more than abstinence and contraception. It speaks to   how to say no and not give in to pressure. It discusses sexual assault and STDs. It speaks to relationships and the role sex plays when folks are ready.

Family planning and sex education are key tools in fighting poverty. There is a causal relationship between family planning and fewer abortions, which should give  those against family planning some consolation, Rather than condemn or not fund these efforts, we should look at the data and support them.

Two obstacles promise to continue

Two prominent Republican politicians in Congress promise to continue their hardheadedness should Hillary Clinton win the White House. Senator and former Presidential candidate Ted Cruz has begun percolating the idea that the Senate should not vote on any new Supreme Court justices. Not to be outdone, Utah Representative and Chair of the House Oversight Committee Jason Chaffetz has noted he will hold committee meetings with the purpose to throw dirt at Clinton and find something that will stick.

I don’t know about you, but I think Americans are tired of these kinds of antics. I have noted before that the media has been sloppy on their reporting of why people don’t like Washington lumping all of the reasons together. The majority of Americans want them to work together and get things done. There is a smaller percentage, primarily on the GOP side, that only want it done their way and compromise and collaboration are viewed as curse words.

The big problem here is the latter group is the predominant reason why the anger exists in the first place. Cruz has been a leader of the obstinate Tea Party and extreme right GOP members in the Senate. He single-handedly almost caused the US to default on its debt payments. Try that with VISA and see how far it gets you. And, then he advertises as a candidate that he wants to become President to solve all our problems. Senator Cruz, you are the problem, and if you want to solve it, then please resign.

As for Chaffetz, I have not been too impressed with his efforts. When Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards testified in front of his committee, Chaffetz put up a chart showing their ineffectiveness, saying it came from the Planned Parenthood website. After a whisper from behind her, Richards pointed out that chart was inaccurate and actually came from an anti-Planned Parenthood group website. She proceeded to tell him where it was wrong. It was one of the most effective put downs I have witnessed and showed that Chaffetz had not done his homework.

So, now Chaffetz wants to belabor anti-Clinton committee hearings. This comes on the heels of eight Benghazi hearings which former Secretaries of State Colin Powell and Condaleeza Rice described as witch hunts. Yes, Clinton had some fault, but so did many others and the final report agreed with a nonpartisan report done three months after Benghazi. And, not to be outdone, Cruz does not want to vote on Supreme Court justices at all, violating the mandate under the Constitution. It was bad enough the GOP Senate leaders punted on nominee Merrick Garland, but now this ineffective leader wants to stonewall some more. I guess we should let it whittle done to zero justices.

Excuse my language, but when is this bullshit going to end? It might be helpful to the American people if our Congressional leaders tried something unique like governing. It has gotten so bad, our own military defines Congressional inaction as one of the gravest threats to our national security. Senator Cruz and Congressman Chaffetz, my strong advice to you is to worry less about keeping your job and just do your damn job.

 

Questions and more questions

I have written before that we do not ask enough or the right questions of our leaders and candidates. Why, what, how, when, where, how long and how much? If we would just ask the why questions more, we would be far better off.

Here are a few to ask:

Why have we not made changes to gun governance since the significant majority of Americans want certain measures?

What do you plan to do about our $19 Trillion plus debt problem, especially with the interest burden becoming such a big part of our $4 Trillion annual budget?

Why are we not doing even more to combat climate change (or in the case of some, why are you blocking climate change actions)?

Why are we not funding Planned Parenthood even more, when they help reduce unwanted pregnancies through education and birth control thus reducing abortions and healthcare costs based on actual data?

What do you plan to do about retraining people for jobs that have been reduced due to technology, declining markets, offshoring, outsourcing, etc.? 

Why do some people feel they are more American than others based on race, religion, ethnicity, sexual preference, etc.?

Why must you be against something because your opponent is for it?

When did collaboration become a dirty word?

What data do you have to support your contention or plan or better yet, when did using actual data become a negative?

When did we start tolerating bigotry in our national leaders, especially since this has been a reason to not vote for racist candidates in the past?

There are many more to be asked, but we could start with these few.

Three Senate Votes Tell You a Great Deal

Last Thursday, the US Senate took three votes that tell you a great deal about where people stand on issues. One of these votes combined two issues into one that the majority of Americans do not want and will be vetoed. The other two address a major concern that would helpful and are long overdue, but they did not pass.

The first one that passed is a bill that combines defunding significant parts of the Affordable Care Act and Planned Parenthood. The former when mentioned by its nickname, Obamacare, drums up political ire from our Republican friends. They fail to tell their constituents it is working pretty well, but could use some targeted improvements. They also hide from the fact Obamacare is based largely off a Republican idea that was advocated by Tea Party leadership until Obamacare was passed and Mitt Romney ran for office.

Adding to the seemingly recurring vote to repeal Obamacare, which Americans said they do not want per a Kaiser Family Foundation survey – they want it improved – is defunding Planned Parenthood. The latter has been the target of a smear campaigns and an unedited video that misled viewers. The Congressional Committee that questioned the CEO looked small and, at times, incompetent when they erroneously cited data that was unverified off another entity’s website and not Planned Parenthood’s. It should be noted that at least two presidential candidates have cited this faulty evidence as fact in debates.

Planned Parenthood does a huge amount of good for women’s health, especially those who cannot afford a doctor. They perform mammograms, pap smears, and provide education on self exam and wellness. And, even though they perform abortions with no federal funding, their group actually reduces the number of abortions through family planning. But, something needs to be said to those who only want to use the rhythm method of birth control and abstinence – those measures do not take into account that people are going to have sex and they fail to achieve the objective of effective birth control. And, neither speak to educating young people about sex, esteem issues and STDs. It should be noted that there is a high correlation between increased family size and poverty.

This combined vote is merely a political stunt as it will be vetoed, a fate known before the vote was taken. The other two votes that did not pass can be viewed together. One was to extend background checks on all gun purchases. The other was for suspected terrorists or people under scrutiny and suggested the use of the No Fly Zone list to deny purchases of weapons in America. It is far easier to get guns here than anywhere, so once the terrorists (many of whom are citizens) decide to purchase weapons, they can easily do that.

Americans have wanted the background check expansion by a large majority per several surveys. The Elon University survey from 2014 noted over 70% of Republicans want background checks on all weapon transactions with the all voter sentiment around 90%. The second vote is both sad and comical. Here is where the rubber meets the road. The GOP has been very adamant over the concerns of the American people over terrorists harming Americans on our own soil. Yet, when a definitive measure that actually would help with a very difficult task of monitoring or denying purchases, the unholy alliance with the NRA rears its ugly heads.

To me, as an independent voter who is frustrated by our failure to act, this vote shows clearly that the money the NRA spends on their campaigns is more important than trying to combat terrorists on our own soil. I was watching the news after the vote and a terrorism expert said governing gun sales to would be terrorists is a critical step. We failed to take this step last Thursday. The NRA would not let us. It should be noted that legislators who want to restrict 1st amendment rights on freedom of religion to millions of Muslim Americans and further restrict entry to Syrian refugees, say it is very important to protect the 2nd amendment rights to No Fly Zone people under scrutiny. This is a shameful hypocrisy in my mind.

Words are cheap. Actions speak volumes. We had three votes – all three that go against what Americans want. One of which was a waste of time as it will be vetoed. In the next few weeks, when Congress complains of time to pass the budget, please remind them that they should not waste it. They should also focus on doing something that might help America. Not dealing with our gun death (see the link below) and terrorist concerns do not suffice.

http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/guns-killed-more-americans-in-the-past-50-years-than-every-us-war-ever/ar-AAfZ3Bt?li=BBnb4R7&ocid=DELLDHP