Commentary Politics

What I Learned Today in Virginia: Orwellian Logic in 2012

Tara Casey

Early this morning, I learned that Governor McDonnell had ordered a SWAT Team to cover a Candlelight Vigil I attended the night before at the Governor’s Mansion. Riot police were hiding in the bushes, while my two small children and I sang, “This Little Light of Mine.”  And that was only the beginning of my lesson.

Early this morning, I learned that Governor McDonnell had ordered a SWAT Team to cover a Candlelight Vigil I attended the night before at the Governor’s Mansion. Riot police were hiding in the bushes, while my two small children and I sang, “This Little Light of Mine.”

In the mid-morning, I learned that compassion and logic do not have to be mutually exclusive, when a Virginia Senate Finance Committee quashed a House bill that would have cut funding to low-income women seeking abortions when a physician had certified a gross abnormality and/or malformation in the fetus they were carrying.

In the afternoon, however, I learned that, as a woman, I do not have the capacity to make an informed decision without my physician performing what is deemed to be an unnecessary medical procedure. 

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I learned that 21 Virginia Senators are better equipped and trained to prescribe medical procedures than treating physicians.  I also learned that 21 Virginia Senators can mandate a medical procedure on a woman even when the medical community deems the procedure medically unnecessary.

I learned that 21 Virginia Senators may have the compassion to exempt victims of the historically under-reported crimes rape or incest from this legislation, but they are without any true logic by requiring these victims to have reported the crime to the police to qualify for the exemption.

I learned that 21 Virginia Senators can mandate a medical procedure on a woman but refuse to require an insurance company to cover the procedure.  I also learned that 21 Virginia Senators can mandate a medical procedure but refuse to pay for the procedure if a woman cannot afford it.

I learned that 21 Virginia Senators can mandate a medical procedure even when the procedure itself does not provide the information sought for “informed consent.”

I learned that the flip phrases “jelly on the belly” and “abortion is a matter of lifestyle convenience,” which I personally heard in the halls of my state legislature, translate to actual votes and platform positions of disengaged legislators.

I learned that the prophetic phrase of Orwellian logic, “Ignorance is Strength,” came true in Virginia – not in 1984, but in 2012.

News Sexual Health

Average Penis Is Less Than Six Inches Long, Study Finds

Martha Kempner

Don't believe the hype. A new study finds the average penis is only 5.6 inches when erect.

A new study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine has found that most men are not endowed like Dirk Diggler from Boogie Nights. In fact, most men have a penis that measures less than six inches long when erect.

The study, led by Indiana University researcher Debby Herbenick, surveyed 1,661 men, each of whom was asked to measure both the length and girth of his penis when erect. Men were also asked to tell the researchers how they attained the erection.

The largest penis in the survey measured in at 10.2 inches, while the smallest was 1.6 inches. Most men fell firmly in between, with the average penis measuring 5.6 inches in length and 4.8 inches in girth. The researchers found that characteristics such as race or sexual orientation were not good predictors of penis size.

However, men who reported attaining their erection through oral sex were on average larger than men who were alone when they became erect. Herbenick told LiveScience, “We don’t know if that means that when men have oral sex that it’s more arousing and they get a bigger erection, or means that men who have bigger penises could be getting more oral sex in the first place.”

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The data was collected as part of an earlier study comparing men’s use of a standard-sized condoms to the use of condoms specifically sized to fit their erect penis. Herbenick explained the results of that study to Rewire, saying, “We found that both standard and fitted condoms were comfortable for most men, and that some men on either end of the size continuum preferred condoms fitted to the size of their erect penis. Currently, ‘fitted’ condoms are no longer on the U.S. market. However, there’s a wider-than-ever range of condoms that are safe, effective, and pleasurable and that are available for men and their partners to choose from.”

News Sexual Health

Teen Birth Rate Hits Lowest Point Since 1946

Martha Kempner

Today, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released the latest teen birth rates which found that fewer babies were born to teen mothers in 2010 than in any year since 1946. 

The positive news just keeps coming. In February we reported on the latest teen pregnancy rates which were the lowest in nearly 40 years and showed a 42 percent decrease from their peak in 1990. Today, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released the latest teen birth rates which found that fewer babies were born to teen mothers in 2010 than in any year since 1946. In 2010 there were 367,752 babies born to teens compared to 409,802 in 2009.

The 2010 birth rates was 34.3 births per 1,000 young women ages 15 to 19 which represents a nine percent drop from just the year before and a 44 percent drop since 1991 when birth rates were at their highest (61.8 per 1,000 young women). The CDC’s report calculated that if that high rate had continued, there would have been about 3.4 million additional births to teenagers between 1992 and 2010.

The teen birth rate dropped across all racial and ethnic groups but still varies widely by race; Hispanics have the highest teenage birth rates at 55.7 births per 1,000 teens in the age group, followed by black teens at 51.5 per 1,000. Asian teens have the lowest teenage birth rate with 10.9 per 1,000.

In addition, teen birth rates fell since 2007 in all states except Montana, North Dakota, and West Virginia.  Still, birth rates vary widely among different groups of states; Mississippi has the highest teen birth rate at 55 per 1,000 girls 15 to 19 years of age, New Mexico’s rate is 53, and Arkansas is 52.5.  New Hampshire has the lowest birth rate at about 16 per 1,000 women with Massachusetts and Vermont following right behind.

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Though this study does not explain why the teen birth rate has dropped so significantly, previous research suggests that a combination of less teen sexual activity, more contraceptive use, and use of more effective contraceptive methods is responsible for this positive trend.

Of course, the United States still has a long way to go if we want to catch up with other industrialized nations which have far lower teen birth rates. Lithuania, for example, has a rate of 16 births per 1,000 young women 15 to 19 and Canada has only 14 births per 1,000.