Weekly Pulse: Prostate Health is Girly and Other Health Care Paradoxes


This week’s health care news was full of mind-bending paradoxes: Prostate health is girly, abstinence-only education works through failure, “principled” libertarian Rand Paul would protect all-white lunch counters but ban private abortion clinics, and more.

Prostate health is girly

The Prostate Cancer Foundation recently rolled out one of the most bizarre and ill-advised public health advisories in the history of advertising. The takehome message? That there’s something sissy, or god forbid gay, about getting checked for prostate cancer.

The ad features a bunch of retired sports legends in a suburban living room, knitting. They proceed to quiz each other about their prostate exams.



Jessica Valenti of Feministing has the transcript:

Man 1: How did that prostrate exam go today?

Man 2: Very well, thank you for asking. (Looking to Man 3) Hey aren’t you due for one pretty soon?

Man 3: I guess.

Man 4: Whoa there, big guy.

Man 3: I’ll get around to it sooner or later.

Man 1: Sooner or later? 1 in 6 are diagnosed with prostate cancer.

Man 3: Alright! I’ll do it.

Man 4: That’s all we wanted to hear.

Man 5: Dessert is served.

The tagline is “Why can’t men express themselves more like women?” No doubt, the copywriters thought they were complimenting women. But if they want men to be more comfortable talking about their health, they shouldn’t reinforce the myth that broaching the subject is emasculating.

Abstinence-only, until adultery

It’s official: abstinence-only education works by failing. When people fail to practice abstinence and go on to ruin their lives, it just goes to show how great abstinence would be if anyone took it seriously. More federal funding, please.

As TPM reports, former GOP congressman Mark Souder says he’s happy that the abstinence-only video he filmed with his mistress and erstwhile staffer Tracey Jackson is the butt of late night talkshow jokes.

“If some people see this abstinence video, I’m living proof of what we’re saying in it. If they actually listen to the words, maybe it’s worth it,” Souder told an Indiana newspaper, adding, “You’ll go crazy if you don’t have some sense of irony.” Indeed.

Sex ed activist Shelby Knox writes in AlterNet, “If we can thank Mr. Souder for anything this week, it’s putting failed abstinence-only-until-marriage programs in the public crosshairs once again.”

Rand Paul: Fairweather libertarian

Last week, the Republican senate candidate in Kentucky, Rand Paul, made headlines when he argued that Civil Rights unjustly infringed upon the right of private business owners to segregate their establishments by race. Astonishingly, some liberals rushed to defend Paul against charges of racism on the grounds that he was merely expressing “principled” libertarian views. On this view, Paul’s not a racist, it’s just that the country would be a lot more racist if he were in charge. Comforting?

Katha Pollitt of the Nation points out that Paul’s “principles” are very selective. He wouldn’t dream of restricting a Woolworths’ right to hang up a “whites only” sign, but he’s perfectly comfortable using government power to restrict a woman’s right to choose:

In countries where abortion bans are taken seriously, the prospect of performing even the most medically necessary abortion terrifies doctors and hospitals. Law enforcement treats miscarriages as possible crimes. Women and doctors go to prison. How does a police officer showing up at a patient’s hospital bed to question her as a possible murderer, with a mandatory investigation of the premises of the alleged crime—her vagina and uterus—square with libertarianism? Like his support for increased Medicaid payment to physicians, a profession he just happens to follow, the exceptions to Rand’s libertarianism miraculously track his own preferences. Somehow the market, which is supposed to miraculously produce food that doesn’t poison you, cars that don’t explode, oil wells that don’t pollute and mines that don’t collapse, is useless when it comes to forcing women to stay pregnant against their will and making sure doctors make plenty of money.

The only way Paul can keep the libertarian high ground is if he comes right out and says that women are the property of men.

Red tape effective barrier to abortion access

Jodi Jacobson of RH Reality Check reports on a new study by the Guttmacher Institute on why so many young obstetrician-gynecologists who are trained and willing to provide abortions don’t end up offering those services. The findings are based on interviews with 30 OB-GYNs who completed their residencies between 5 and 10 years ago. All received abortion training; 18 said they intended to provide elective abortions, but only 3 were actually doing so.

The doctors said that they were unable to offer the service because of formal and informal restrictions imposed by group practices, employers and hospitals. This small, qualitative study points to an unexpected conclusion: When it comes to abortion access, red tape can be a bigger barrier than the threat of violence, at least among doctors who have already decided to provide abortions.

Kagan Hearings Set for Late June

In other news, confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Elana Kagan are scheduled to begin on June 28. No doubt abortion issues will remain in the spotlight in the weeks ahead. Hopefully, pundits will remember that Supreme Court Justices wear robes to work and stop obsessing about Kagan’s wardrobe.

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