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Friday, February 17, 2012

The argument over contraception

Mesquite Nevada Online News Source Mesquite Citizen Journal:

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President Barack Obama did not overstepped the First Amendment when he originally proposed that religiously-affiliated organizations pay for contraceptive services.

There is no legal argument available under the contraceptive proposal since the two essential elements of the First Amendment are not in play. Specifically, the proposal does not interfere with 1) the right to establish a religion, nor does it 2) impede the free exercise of religion.

The current proposal requires religious institutions to cover contraception as part of any health care plan offered to their employees. However, they could also offer an opt-out clause if the offering violates their religious sensibilities. In those cases, an insurance company would cover the individual's choice of contraception, at no cost to the individual or the organization.

Further, insurers would likely see cost savings since contraception is far cheaper than the consequences of unprotected sex.

"If a woman's employer is a charity or a hospital that has a religious objection to providing contraceptive services as part of their health plan, the insurance company — not the hospital, not the charity — will be required to reach out and offer the woman contraceptive care free of charge," Obama said.

The real issue here is not an individual religious one, since a large proportion of Catholics and others already use contraceptives. The issue is the right of a woman to choose their health care independent of working environments, or due to a lack of funds.

The contraception issue is a continuation of women's continuing efforts to achieve equal, but sometimes different, rights with men. Specifically, this issue highlights the importance of separate health care provisions which are not necessarily covered by the Equal Protection Clause of the constitution.

Unlike race, real differences between the sexes (relating to pregnancy, nursing, life expectancy, etc) do justify different treatment under the law.

To some degree, The Equal Rights Amendment, first proposed in 1923, was proposed to affirm that women and men have equal rights under the law which the Equal Protection Clause has failed to accomplish.

It's important to remember that equal, in the case of women, means their right to make their own health care decisions, taking into account their own unique needs and circumstances.

Some members of Congress have attempted to block the contraceptive proclamation by inventing “right of conscious legislation," whatever that means. The government is not in the business of protecting rights of conscience for individuals or organizations (religious or otherwise).

Indeed, as some have said, the only conscience that matters is that which ensures a woman's option to have affordable contraception in an environment dominated by religious zealots.

In the final analysis, the contraceptive proposal reinforces the drive of the Obama administration to correct the inefficiencies, inequities, and high costs currently existing in the health care environment.

The only constitutional question here is the right of women to be free from the cruel and unusual punishment inflicted upon them by people preaching their own brand of righteousness.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Researchers find partial smoking ban makes economic sense: Nevada Today: University of Nevada, Reno

Researchers find partial smoking ban makes economic sense: Nevada Today: University of Nevada, Reno:

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Shifting the burden of smoking

Shifting the Burden of Smoking
Posting Date: 02/06/2012

Michael McGreer

The Mesquite Mayor and the City Council have been asked to pass an ordinance banning smoking in the casinos, bars and smoke shops. Smoking is already banned in all other public buildings.

Those opposing such an ordinance offer a series of arguments from a violation of a person's right to smoke, to the potential loss of business in local casinos and bars. Under scrutiny, these arguments fall apart.

Certainly people can smoke in the privacy of their own home or outdoors. But there is no constitutional right to smoke. In simple terms, one does not have the right to endanger another's health with first, second, or third hand tobacco smoke.

Further advances in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which took effect in 1992 under George W. Bush, protects both employees and customers, with smoke-related diseases, from discrimination in businesses with fifteen or more employees (Title I). In the very near future this will become a significant factor in ending smoking in bars and casinos.

Smoking-related disease is expensive but businesses that allow smoking shift the cost burden to the public in a practice called “Cost-Shifting.”
Cost-shifting exists when smoke-filled establishments shift the actual health costs of smoking related diseases to the public, who are required to pay more for health insurance, Medicare, and Medicaid, than would be otherwise expected.

According to the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, the cost of caring for people with health problems caused by cigarette smoking, counting all sources of medical payments, was about $96 billion per year.

Dr. Robert M. Shepard, MD, during his recent visit to Mesquite, pointed to studies showing that smoking related heart diseases could be reduced by an average of 20 percent in communities that pass smoke-free ordinances.

Dr. Shepard said it best, “It's such a simple problem to correct. Pass an ordinance and ban smoking."