SoluProb™: Outlaw Marijuana

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Presumed Problem

There has been a widespread fear that marijuana can drive people crazy, lead them to other drugs, initiate a life of crime, and possibly cause death. Those who have tried it tend to disagree with these horrific assessments.


Outlaw the use of marijuana, especially if it is used for pleasure.


Marijuana (aka: cannabis, Mary Jane, grass, pot, weed, ganja, dope, herb, joint, pakalolo, tea, homegrown, doobie, and more) is illegal by federal law in the United States and, until recently, in all states of the union. This legal status dates back to the “Reefer Madness” caricature of the 1930s. injectingMarijuana is officially classified as a Schedule 1 drug, along with opium, LSD, morphine, heroin, and others. Cocaine, by contrast, is classified as a less dangerous drug: Schedule 2.

The outlawing of marijuana is now part of a broader “war on drugs,” a term first popularized during the Nixon administration. It is estimated that the current war on drugs in the USA costs some $51 billion a year.

The prohibition on marijuana has begun breaking down, however.  In Colorado (2012), Washington (2012), Oregon (2014), and Alaska (2014), possession of small amounts of marijuana became legal. In 2014, it was also legalized in the District of Columbia, though, as of this writing, some in the U. S. Congress are threatening to overturn that vote by District citizens.

Was the Problem Real?

At the outset, we reviewed some of the reasons given for outlawing marijuana in the first place: the “problem” for which banning grass was a “solution.”  We have now had enough experience with legalized marijuana use to begin evaluating whether there was a problem in the first place.

lighting-upSo far, there has still never been a recorded death due to marijuana: excluding someone getting stoned and falling off a cliff. There is ample evidence of deaths due to alcohol, tobacco, heroin, and other drugs, but none from marijuana.

How about marijuana as a gateway drug? There is no evidence to resolve this matter one way or the other, but some logic might be useful. When and where marijuana is illegal, users are required, by definition, to buy grass from criminals. Many of those criminals also sell other illegal drugs. It is reasonable to imagine that illegal drug-dealers will encourage marijuana purchasers to try something more potent (and with a higher profit margin for the seller).

Now consider the carefully scrutinized LEGAL merchants in, say, Colorado. How likely do you imagine it is that a pot store clerk will say, “I see you have a fondness for Acapulco Gold and Maui Wowie. Can I interest you in some meth, cocaine, or heroin?” And if logic isn’t enough, there has been no evidence of that gateway problem.

There is no solid evidence that marijuana is deadly by itself, nor, logically, would legal grass lead to harder drugs.

Negative Consequences

There is an inevitable comparison between the war on drugs and Prohibition from 1917 to 1933. The Volstead Act and the Eighteenth prohibition-beerAmendment to the U. S. Constitution heralded a violently colorful saga in American history, with Carrie Nation, the Anti-saloon League, and the Women’s Christian Temperance League, on the one hand, and the bootleggers such as Al Capone, on the other hand. In between were millions of ordinary citizens who managed to keep drinking anyway.

The illegal status of alcohol generated a number of negative side-effects. There was violence in law enforcement attempts to shut down “speakeasies,” for example. But there was also violent competition among those violating the law—most dramatically evidenced in the Saint caponeValentine’s Day Massacre. Perhaps the biggest difference between the drive-by shootings of the Prohibition era and the current war on drugs is that the cars of the 1930s had running boards where machine-gunners could stand.

The violence generated by Prohibition came to an end in one day: December 5, 1933. On that day, the 21st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution repealed the 18th Amendment, and alcohol was once again legal. There was no longer a need for bootlegging nor the violent competition among bootleggers.

The most deadly side-effect of marijuana use is legal. In 2013, over many-hands-jail600,000 Americans were arrested for possession of marijuana. It has been estimated that more than 200,000 students have lost their federal financial aid eligibility due to drug convictions.

The total repeal of anti-manijuana laws would have an immediate impact on the imprisonment of young people guilty of lighting up a joint. Moreover, legalizing marijuana would automatically do away with the problems flowing from the illegal pot trade. There might very well be drive-by shootings and other violence associated with other drugs, but the most popular one would have been taken out of the equation.

Again, we see the the “problem” was not real, but the “solution” was disastrous.


© Earl Babbie 2016, all rights reserved  Terms of Service/Privacy

Source, accessed July 14, 2015.


SoluProb™: Don’t Vaccinate Your Kids

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Presumed Problem

It has been asserted that vaccinations, such as flu shots or children’s innoculations are more dangerous than the illnesses they are intended to prevent.


Stop vaccination programs, especially for kids.


It would be impossible to estimate how many human lives have been saved thanks to the imageresearch and experimentation of Edward Jenner and Louis Pasteur in their developing the idea and procedures for immunization against diseases through vaccination. When people contract a disease like smallpox or influenza, their bodies set to work creating anti-bodies to counteract the disease. If they are lucky enough to survive the disease, they are subsequently immune to it. Vaccination involves infecting the patient with a very small dose of the disease, leading the patient’s body to create those anti-bodies that will protect against the real thing should the patient later be exposed to it.

You are probably familiar with this process in two ways. First, children in modern societies are routinely vaccinated against such diseases as diphtheria, typhoid, measles, mumps, and rubella among other potential threats. If you are older, you may have formed the habit of getting an imageannual flu shot and a periodic pneumonia shot. These have become standard fixtures in modern life. (I haven’t had the flu in years.)

There has always been a small degree of resistance to the practice of vaccinations, especially for young children, but that has been a distinctly minority view. Beginning in 2011, however, this resistance gained political currency and some politicians were urging parents to avoid vaccinating their children. In one well-known instance, then-Congresswoman and Republican presidential hopeful Michelle Bachmann reportedly was contacted by a supporter who said her child had developed autism subsequent to being vaccinated. Bachmann concluded from that story that vaccinations may cause autism, and the bandwagon began.

imageTwo years earlier, Governor Rick Perry of Texas, another Republican candidate for President, had ordered that sixth-grade girls be vaccinated against human papilloma virus, or HPV, which can cause cervical cancer. As the primary campaign heated up, Bachmann had an issue that distinguished her from Perry.

Soon, most politicians were being routinely asked where they stood on childhood vaccination. Many tried to evade the question, often taking the libertarian position that parents should decide for imagethemselves. Senator Rand Paul, M.D., went a step further, reporting that in the Swine Flu scare of 2009, more people died of the shot than of the flu. However, he offered no numbers to flesh out that claim.

Was the Problem Real?

There are so many forms of vaccine used with so many different kinds of people in different situations that it would probably be foolhardy to make global generalizations. However, there has been enough research on the 2009 Swine Flu epidemic that we can test the assertion made by Rand Paul.

During the pandemic itself estimates of deaths varied widely, partly due to a varying quality of medical reporting in different countries. Other factors complicated the accounting. Let’s say you are an older person, coping with a chronic cardiovascular problem. As long as you watch your imagebehavior and take your medication, you get by. However, the flu could very well push you over the edge and into cardiac arrest. The cause of death, then would probably be recorded as heart attack, even though the flu was what prompted your demise. For several years following the pandemic, it was commonly reported that the number of deaths was between 151,700 and 579,000—quite a range.

By 2013, an international group of scientists had evaluated and analyzed all the data available from around the world and concluded that as many as 203,000 people died of the swine flu. As large a number of deaths as that represented, Senator Paul asserted even more died of the flu shots.

Worldwide that year, it is estimated that fewer than 1500 people died of the flu shot, however. In short Dr. Paul’s report was off by more than a factor of more than 100 to 1. In case 1500 deaths worldwide still seems like a lot, it is worth noting that 22,000 Americans died that year due to reactions to presecribed drugs.

Clearly, people were better advised to get vaccinated than to avoid it. The problem he and his colleagues sought to “solve” didn’t exist. However, the “solution” had consequences of its own.

Negative Consequences

Many parents became so confused that they chose what they regarded as the conservative path and withheld vaccinating their children. One consequence was a widespread measles epidemic in imageCalifornia. Not only were schoolchildren suffering the preventable disease but vulnerable populations, such as the very elderly and very young were put at risk.

In the midst of this public health regression, another rumor began to spread. It was said that those who were vaccinated could infect those who were not. The medical community’s response was that (1) it was conceivable but would be extremely rare and (2) if it did happen, the unvaccinated party would “catch the vaccine,” not the disease itself. In other words, they would become vaccinated.

© Earl Babbie 2016, all rights reserved  Terms of Service/Privacy


Bahar Gholipour, “2009 Swine-Flu Death Toll 10 Times Higher Than Thought,” LiveScience, November 26, 2013 – – accessed September 24, 2015

The Skeptical Libertarian, “By the Numbers: Did more people die from the swine flu vaccine than from swine flu?” September 16, 2014 — — accessed October 3, 2015

SoluProb™: Banning Sharia Law

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Presumed Problem

Muslims in America may arrange for Qu’ran-based Sharia Law to govern states or other political subdivisions.


Amendments to state constitutions that prohibit the imposition of Sharia Law.


In 2010, Oklahomans worried that the hawks “makin’ lazy circles in the ok-mapsky” might be Islamic terrorists about to establish Sharia Law in the Sooner State.

Probably most Americans have heard at least some mention of Sharia Law, a system of theocratic governance and laws in several predominantly-Muslim countries in the Middle East. Sharia Law is based on the Qu’ran, traditional commentaries on the Qu’ran, and open-korantraditions from Islamic culture over time. There is no single Sharia Law, and variations exist from country to country. Topics covered include religion, family, food, finances, crime and punishment, war and peace among others.

Some of the rules may seem harsh by contemporary Western standards. Pre-marital sex (Zina) may warrant 100 lashes. A thief may have his or her hand cut off. And a Muslim who leaves Islam for some other religion may face execution. Little wonder that the good folks of Oklahoma wanted no part of it. When it was placed on the ballot in 2010, the anti-Sharia-Law Constitutional Amendment was approved by 70% of the voters. The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) both sued to have the measure revoked, and in 2012, the Circuit Court of Appeals did just that, saying it violated the U. S. Constitution.

While the courts struck down the Oklahoma Anti-Sharia-Law libertyAmendment, that did not prevent Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Dakota, and Tennessee from following suit. In their defense it must be said that none of those states has been forced to submit to Sharia Law. Dodged the bullet on that one.

But why did this come about in the first place? The Ban Sharia Law website states the case this way, with a petition to be signed:

This petition is meant to create national awareness of  the “Creeping Sharia” threat to America, and to show all of our federal and state legislators that “We The People”, want the Constitution upheld and our American laws protected!

The “Creeping Sharia” threat is further detailed in three stages.

Islam is a totalitarian political system, usually introduced into western countries through three phases. The first phase introduces Islam as “tolerant” and peaceful, intentionally deceiving westerners, using“taqqiya,” Qur’an- sanctioned deceit.

The second phase uses “lawfare” to destroy a country from within using its own laws. And, by the time the third phase is implemented “no-go zones” and violence . . .

Much of the hysteria over creeping Sharia Law in America can be traced to an astounding National Report account of one example of Sharia Law becoming the law of the land in the USA.

In a surprise weekend vote, the city council of Dearborn, Michigan voted 4-3 to became the first US city to officially implement all aspects of Sharia Law.  The tough new law, slated to go into effect January 1st, addresses secular law including crime, politics and economics as well as personal matters such as sexual intercourse, fasting, prayer, diet and hygiene.

The new law could see citizens stoned for adultery or having a limb amputated for theft. Lesser offenses, such as drinking alcohol or abortion, could result in flogging and/or caning. In addition, the law imposes harsh laws with regards to women and allows for child marriage.

Was the Problem Real?

The above National Report story has fueled hysteria across the country. Several political office seekers have used it to support an anti-Muslim agenda. In branding the story False, the Snopes fact-checking service quotes the National Report’s own disclaimer page: “National Report is a news and political satire web publication, which may or may not use real names, often in semi-real or mostly fictitious ways. All news articles contained within National Report are fiction, and presumably fake news. Any resemblance to the truth is purely coincidental.” In other words, the story was intended as a joke, though there was obviously a pool of belief waiting for it.

On the same webpage as the Dearborn story was another in which Bristol clockPalin revealed that her mother never taught her to tell time. “I know it’s something about the big hand and the little hand. That’s as far as we got.” Another story proclaims, “ISIS Leaders Praise Kim Davis – First Female to Win ISIS Courage Award.”

Except in the worlds of satire or anti-Muslim fantasy, there seems to be no imminent threat of Sharia Law being established in the USA. It is estimated that one percent of the U. S. population is Muslim, making a forceful overthrow of the U. S. A. unlikely. The several Anti-Sharia-Law state constitutional amendments are another example of solutions without problems.

Negative Consequences

The primary consequence of these anti-Sharia measures is the stirring up koranof anti-Muslim hysteria among low-information citizens. Americans have long suffered from a takeover mentality. Only the culprits supposedly taking over has varied: Jews, Irish, Italians, Catholics, atheists, African-Americans, Mexicans, and others.

During the 2016 presidential campaigns, Donald Trump had no trouble heating up the pre-existing bigotry toward Muslims: saying he would refuse entry of any Muslims to the United States and even taking actions against those already living in America, including native born citizens. The threat to take actions against American Muslims, quite aside from moral and legal aspects, would need to confront the fact that Americans are never asked to record their religion when registering to vote, get a driver’s license, enroll in school, etc. However, logic was no match for hatred.

Once again, we find citizens and their governments moved to install “solutions” for which there is no problem. But the phony solution causes problems of its own.

© Earl Babbie 2016, all rights reserved  Terms of Service/Privacy

Sources  – accessed November 3, 2015

“City in Michigan First to Fully Implement Sharia Law” — — Accessed November 3, 2015 — accessed November 3, 2015

National Report, “Bristol Palin Slams Obama Over Support of ‘Clock Kid’, Admits She Never Learned How To Tell Time”  —  — accessed November d3, 2015 — accessed November 3, 2015.

Group Punishment

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From time to time, I will present some thoughts on Solutions without Problems (soluprobs) as a general phenomenon. For example, they often take the form of “Group Punishment.”

When I have said elsewhere that a problem doesn’t exist, that is sometimes a slight exaggeration. For example, Voter ID laws are designed to prevent in-person election fraud: pretending to be someone else, someone who is eleigible to vote. All the studies of this problem conclude that it is extremely rare, but it does happen in a few cases.

Similarly, a Michigan legislator proposed forcing foster chlldren to purchase clothes from thrift shops as a way of preventing foster parents from spending the children’s clothing allowance on booze. (I was never clear on the logic of that.) He never offered evidence as to how much clothing allowance was being boozed away or whether the problem really existed at all. But let’s be momentarily cyncial and assume it happens sometimes.

I’m going to go out on a limb and assume there were NO witches in Colonial Salem, but I think it’s fair to say that many of the other examples discussed on this website are solutions to problems that are RARE but may occur sometimes.

I would suggest there are two reasonable responses to problems that almost never happen.

Option One: ignore them. Life isn’t perfect. No matter how hard we try to prevent problems, a few slip through the cracks–and we survive.

Option Two: track down the specific instances of the rare problem and sanction them. If somebody tries to vote using someone else’s name, arrest them, try them, and put them in prison. If you discover foster parents spending the clothing allowance on booze, arrest them, try them, and put them in prison–at the very least, don’t let them be foster parents.

Make sense? Of course. More commonly, however, when we sense that a problem exists, we establish a “solution” that applies to everyone, the few wrongdoers and the great majority of straight arrows. Everyone has to get a Voter ID card, the vast majority of whom are eligible voters who have never cheated at the polls. What’s the likely impact of this group punishment?

Those who were doing nothing wrong are suddenly burdened with sanctions they don’t deserve. All those foster parents who spent the kids’ clothing allowance on, well, clothing for the kids now face limits on how to do their jobs. They probably have to fill out forms and jump through other hoops. Moreover, they will know that those in government assume they are misusing the funds, when they have been doing nothing but good.

How about those few wrong-doers? Do you think there’s any chance they’ll figure out a way to get around the new rules? Maybe they’ll forge receipts, find thrift store employees who’ll look the other way, etc. Officials who are busy applying the rules to all the innocent foster parents will probably miss the few bad apples.

All this can be avoided easily. Before taking action, measure the problem. See if it’s big enough to deserve a one-size-fits-all solution. If it’s not all that big a problem, ignore it or deal with the few cases that do exist. Don’t punish all the people who are playing by the rules.

© Earl Babbie 2016, all rights reserved  Terms of Service/Privacy

SoluProb™: War of 1812

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Presumed Problem

The British were boarding American vessels, taking sailors believed to be British, including some Americans, and forcing them into service in the British navy: a practice known as impressment.


Declare war on the world’s great naval power and make them stop impressing our seamen.


The 2003 invasion of Iraq was not the first time the USA used war as the solution to a non-existent problem. For another example, we’ll look at one of America’s oddest wars, one that is little understood by Americans: the War of 1812.

Battle_of_New_Orleans,_Jean_Hyacinthe_de_LaclotteAt the opening of the 19th century, Britain was caught up in a long, expensive war with Napoleon Bonaparte and France. America was theoretically neutral, which offended both parties, but American merchantmen were actively supplying France much of the time. Matters were further complicated by divided loyalties among American citizens. For many, England was still felt as their cultural homeland, despite political independence. Others felt a special loyalty to the land of LaFayette for their support of the American fight for independence decades earlier. Still others saw an opportunity for money to be made.

American-British relations became more strained through the policy of impressment. As the French war dragged on, a number of British seamen had decided to desert the British Navy sign on with American ships for better pay and less danger. At the same time, Britain was feeling the pinch of diminishing Warshipresources–and the lack of able-bodied seamen was part of the problem. The British solution was to begin boarding American commercial ships at sea and capturing any crew members who seemed to be British–including some American citizens. The captured seamen were impressed into service on British ships of the line. American unhappiness with Britain also involved economic issues, but outrage at the impressment of American seamen was a powerful rallying cry.

The British policy of stopping American merchantmen at sea, which laid the grounding for inspecting the crews and seizing any believed to be British, was known as “Orders in Council,” first enacted on January 7, 1807. American official protests to Britain were to no avail, and the British continued stopping American commercial John_Vanderlyn_-_James_Madison_-_Google_Art_Projectvessels at sea and impressing any seamen who looked and sounded British. President James Madison became convinced that more deliberate action was needed, and he lobbied Congress for a declaration of war against the most powerful nation on earth. Congress was reluctant, but Madison’s urging finally paid off with a divided vote in his favor, and he was able to sign a declaration of war on June 18, 1812.

The war that followed was not America’s most gallant. Initially, Britain ignored the declaration of war as something of a farce. America’s navy was hardly a threat to the British fleet. America decided to make the war more real through several invasions of Canada. All failed, despite a relative lack of support from Britain for the locals. Canadians celebrate the War of 1812 as their own War for Independence. Americans were the bad guys in that version of the war.

Once the British had defeated Napoleon’s troops in Europe, they were able to turn their attention to the annoying fuss across the pond. As you may recall, the British invaded Maryland, marched to the nation’s capital in Washington, trashed the city and burned the White House. You may Dolley_Madison_poster,_Orange,_VA_IMG_4298have read about FLOTUS Dolly Madison’s heroism as she stayed in the White House until she was able to rescue important documents and paintings–fleeing the city just ahead of the British firebugs.

So, all things considered, the war wasn’t going really well for the Americans. But I’m sure you know of the one shining exception: thanks in large part to singer Johnny Horton. The Battle of New Orleans, culminating on January 8, 1815, was America’s finest engagement in the war. Overwhelming British forces under the command of the great British general, Edward Pakenham, faced off against General Andrew Jackson and a smaller, less professional, less experienced American force.

newOrleansThe final score sheet for the battle was as lopsided as such things can be. The British lost 2600 men: 700 of them died in battle, 1400 were wounded, and another 500 were taken prisoner. On the other side, 7 Americans died and another 6 were wounded.

Another oddity about the January 8th, 1815, battle had to do with timing. Being fought 167 years before the advent of the internet, 110 years before television, and 43 years before the transatlantic telegraph cable, the Battle of New Orleans was fought two weeks after the Peace Treaty of Ghent ended the war.


Was the Problem Real?

What qualifies the War of 1812 for inclusion in this project? While the practice of impressment had been a “recruitment” policy for the British navy for centuries, American Independence saw treaty procedures for the return of any Americans falsely impressed in the belief that they were British. (The common language and lack of formal birth certificates made some degree of erroneous impressment inevitable.) John Deeben argues that the size of the problem was much less than commonly imagined. Moreover, he offers federal archival evidence that the United States was also impressing seamen into service and, like the British, made mistakes as regards the nationality of their new recruits.

In June, 1812, in response to American complaints, Britain repealed the “Orders in Council” that allowed them to board American ships at sea. Two days later, James Madison signed the declaration of war. Obviously the U. S. did not know about the suspension of the Orders until after war had been declared, but it was known before serious fighting began.

All historians seem to agree that the British stopped the practice of impressment altogether upon the defeat of Napoleon in 1814. Thus, the presumed cause of the war had completely disappeared prior to the invasion of Maryland, the burning of Washington, and the Battle of New Orleans. While impressment, real and imagined, may have been a key problem for which war was the intended solution, it ceased as a problem before the war commenced and was surely not a problem that could be solved by the most dramatic events of the war.

Negative Consequences

Well, let’s see: the British burned the White House and most of Washington. There was expense, destruction, and loss of life throughout the young nation.

While Britain may have learned to take the USA a little more seriously, Canada learned not to. Any visions the Americans had for annexing their northern neighbors were dashed in the War of 1812.

I mentioned earlier that President Madison had some trouble getting Congressional approval for the way, and the division of opinion was largely regional. New England was generally opposed, and the war’s conclusion left some bitter feelings on both sides of the issue. To some degree, the Southern hawks viewed Northern opposition as disloyalty to the nation.

The South suffered in another way. Prior to the war, they were able to maintain a view that their slaves were contented with their status. However, when the British offered freedom to any slaves who would join them, and many slaves deserted their masters and did precisely that. What must have been a disappointment to slaveholders was a preview to a similar disenchantment later on,  in the Civil War.

Compared to other American wars, the negative consequences of the War of 1812 were relatively mild, but we need to remember it was a solution to a problem that didn’t really exist.

© Earl Babbie 2016, all rights reserved  Terms of Service/Privacy


An excellent history of the War of 1812 is Troy Bickham’s The Weight of Vengeance: The United States, the British Empire, and the War of 1812, New York: Oxford University Press, 2012.

Consequences of the War of 1812

SoluProb™: TRAP Laws

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Presumed Problem

Women seeking abortions in abortion clinics face special risks to their health and safety.


Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) Laws seek to remedy the presumed problem by requiring that clinics satisfy major physical-plant specifications and requiring that those physicians providing abortions have admitting privileges at a local hospital.


In 1973, the U. S. Supreme Court legalized abortion throughout the nation in its landmark Roe v. Wade decision. While that brought about profound changes for women’s reproductive rights, it probably changed very few minds on the topic. Resistance to abortion has persisted and numerous legislative actions have sought to chip away at women’s right to choose an abortion.

One form this resistance has taken is the TRAP laws that raise the bar to corridor-with-gurneypractice so high that few clinics can satisfy the requirements. The Guttmacher Institute provides an overview.

While all abortion regulations apply to abortion clinics, some go so far as to apply to physicians’ offices where abortions are performed or even to sites where only medication abortion is administered. Most requirements apply states’ standards for ambulatory surgical centers to abortion clinics, even though surgical centers tend to provide more invasive and risky procedures and use higher levels of sedation. These standards often include requirements for the physical plant, such as room size and corridor width, beyond what is necessary to ensure patient safety in the event of an emergency. State standards, however, do vary, with the most burdensome standards in place in states such as Michigan, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Texas and Virginia.

Prior to the institution of TRAP laws in Texas, the state’s women had access of 36 abortion providers scattered across the very large state. The website, Fund Texas Women, provides this update:

As of June 9, 2015, the Fifth Circuit has upheld the constitutionality of HB2 except as applied to Whole Woman’s Health McAllen. This leaves 10 clinics. The only cities that have clinics now are Austin, San Antonio, Dallas, Ft. Worth, Houston, and McAllen.

Texas has not been alone in anti-abortion legislation. Bloomberg News offers a visual report on the number of anti-abortion measures in state legislatures over time. They are clearly on the increase.


Was the Problem Real?

There has evidently been a substantial concern for the safety of women getting an abortion. Has that concern and the resulting solutions been justified?

As the Center for Reproductive Rights reports:

Leading medical associations have gone on record opposing TRAP requirements. For example, the American Medical Association (AMA) and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) oppose a Texas law requiring abortion facilities to meet ambulatory surgical facilities requirements and physicians providing abortion services to have admitting privileges at a local hospital. In a court brief, those two leading medical associations argued that the Texas law “does not serve the health of women in Texas but instead jeopardizes women’s health by restricting access to abortion providers.”

While it is often argued that women’s safety requires that abortion clinics and abortion providers have admitting privileges at local hospitals in the ambulanceevent that emergency medical care is needed. Actually, President Reagan and the U. S. Congress solved this problem in its Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA) of 1986, requiring that emergency rooms treat patients in need–even if they aren’t citizens or are unable to pay. It doesn’t matter if their physician has admitting privileges or even if they have a physician.

The argument that TRAP laws have nothing to do with women’s safety and are merely an attempt to prevent them from getting abortions has been given additional support  by the pronouncements of various anti-abortion crusaders.

For example, in 2011, Ohio Right to Life executive director, Mike Gonidakis, said precisely that. NARAL has provided a transcript from the video recording:

We’re going to introduce a law in Ohio that any facility that performs… five abortions or more in a year have to meet the same standards as a hospital… to the point where they’re not going to be able to stay open…We’ve been chipping away and closing and closing and closing, and if we get this legislation we can close a whole heck of a lot more.

Mississippi Governor Bryant heralded the passage of his state’s TRAP laws as “the first step in a movement, I believe, to do what we campaigned on: to say that we’re going to try to end abortion in Mississippi.” The law was later blocked by a federal judge, who pointed out that no case had been made regarding women’s health and safety.

Ironically, abortions can pose a threat to the health and safety of women, as this graph from the Guttmacher Institute dramatically shows.

In 1965, 200 women died of illegal abortions. Following the liberalization of state laws on abortion and, finally, the federal legalization of abortion by Roe v. Wade in 1973, abortion mortality dropped off to virtually nothing. As long as abortion is legal, there is virtually no threat to women’s health and safety, while driving us back to earlier times would very likely start killing women again.

Negative Consequences

I’ve just alluded to a major problem flowing from the unnecessary TRAP laws: to the extent that shutting down legal abortion providers will force some women to seek truly dangerous alternatives. Thus alleged attempts to protect women will endanger them.

For women who try to adapt to the restrictive circumstances they now face, there will be necessary time and financial costs. Single mothers working low-paying jobs, for example, may need to take time off work to drive a hundred or so miles for consultation and then again, later, for treatment.

The clear effect of TRAP laws in Texas and elsewhere is to make it harder for women to obtain safe, legal abortions. A study by the University of Texas at Austin, summarized the logistical difficulty for Texas women this way:

Researchers analyzed surveys from 398 women seeking abortions at ten Texas abortion facilities between May and August 2014. The analysis shows that women whose nearest clinic had closed after HB2, which was the case for 38 percent of study participants, lived farther from open clinics and traveled longer distances to obtain services compared to women whose nearest clinic remained open. After HB2, the average one-way distance to the nearest abortion provider among women whose nearest clinic closed was 70 miles, compared to an average one-way distance to the nearest clinic of 17 miles before HB2 was passed. Some women confronted extreme travel burdens due to clinic closures, with 25 percent of women whose nearest clinic closed living more than 139 miles from the nearest facility and 10 percent living more than 256 miles away.

However, the Texas TRAP laws were not just inconvenient for women but expensive as well.

The study also documented increased out-of-pocket costs, overnight stays, and frustrated demand for medication abortion among women whose nearest clinic closed after HB2. Thirty-two percent of women whose nearest clinic closed reported spending more than $100 in out-of-pocket expenses beyond the cost of the abortion (i.e., lost wages, child care, transportation, or overnight costs) as opposed to 20 percent of women whose nearest clinic did not close. More than three times the number of women whose nearest clinic had closed reported needing to stay overnight (16 percent compared to 5 percent among those whose nearest clinic did not close). Thirty-seven percent of women whose nearest clinic closed did not get the medication abortion they wanted—instead scheduling a surgical procedure—as opposed to 22 percent of women whose nearest clinic did not close. Women themselves noted the burdens to obtaining care, with 36 percent of women whose nearest clinic closed reporting that obtaining an abortion was difficult, in comparison to 18 percent in the nearest-clinic-open group.

This is also a truly ironic negative consequence of many of the TRAP laws. Much of the anti-imageabortion anger has been focused specifically on one provider: Planned Parenthood. Discussions of this matter have revealed that abortions constitute three percent of PP’s services. Primarily they offer cancer screening and other medcal exams and treatments. As their name suggests, much of their work is in relation to family planning, offering a variety of contraceptive methods.

As Planned Parenthood clinics are closed by TRAP laws, women are denied contraceptive support. The lack of contraception results in more unplanned and unwanted pregnancies. This means more women are in the market for abortions. The Guttmacher Institute has estimated that publicly-funded family planning in the U. S. annually prevents nearly two million wanted pregnancies that would have resulted in 810,000 abortions.  Thus, closing family planning clinics will likely increase the number of abortions.

If one were to argue honestly that the real problem being addressed was women’s ability to obtain abortions as guaranteed by the Supreme Court, TRAP laws would be a logical though unlawful solution. However, the pretense that the problem involves risks to women’s safety in abortion clinics is plainly false.

© Earl Babbie 2016, all rights reserved  Terms of Service/Privacy


“State Policies in Brief, as of March 4, 2016: Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers”  – accessed March 19, 2016

Videoclip: Saturday Morning Public Forum Featuring Guest Speaker Mike Gonidakis, Executive Director of Ohio Right to Life on Pending Ohio Legislation Including the Heartbeat Bill.” March 12, 2011 at (last visited Nov. 6, 2015, also on file with NARAL Pro-Choice America).

Rich Phillips, “Judge lets Mississippi’s only abortion clinic stay open — for now,” CNN, 11 July 2012, accessed 26 July 2012, <
The graph of declining abortion mortality is taken from
Clare Coleman, “Five Myths about Planned Parenthood,” Washington Post, April 15, 2011 –
Estimates of abortions prevented by family planning is found in
FiveThirtyEight map of TRAP Law states is found at
A report of  the University of Texas study of the impact of abortion clinic closing can be found at

SoluProb™: Restrict Transgender Use of Bathrooms

 Let me know what you think 


Presumed Problem

Transgender people will use public restrooms inconsistent with their biological sex, making others uncomfortable or fearful. Specifically, biologically-male trans women may molest little girls.


Laws, such as North Carolina’s HB2, requiring people to use public restrooms consistent with the sex originally recorded on their birth certificates.


While this issue is in flux, anything I write now may be out of date by the time you read it. However, this is such a perfect example of a soluprob that I can’t let it go by unheralded.

I’ll admit it: things were simpler when I was growing up. Every school I attended had a “Boys Room” and a “Girls Room,” and nobody had any confusion over which to use, even though boys, girls, men, and women all used the same bathroom at home. Similarly, boys liked girls, and girls liked boys, except when the girls had cooties or the boys were doodoo heads. In recent decades, many of these old certainties have dissolved. It’s not so much that people have changed, but that we’ve begun acknowledging  and even accepting variations that were there all along.

Other posts on this website deal with homosexuality and same-sex marriage, but the issue of transgender individuals is different. When Igirl-tree was young, some girls were labeled “tomboys,” meaning they engaged in the rough and tumble behavior more associated with boys. While parents might sometimes be concerned, it was generally felt that such girls would eventually “grown out of it,” that they were just “going through a phase.” That was often true.

Today we realize matters are more complex than earlier assumed. Some
boys feel in their bones that they should have been girls. They share the female-machineinterests and desires more associated with girls, even though they are likely to suffer ridicule or worse if they play with dolls and wear dresses and make-up. And there are individuals born biologically female, who are certain they were meant to be male. And they are clear it is not a phase they are going through. It lasts well into adulthood.

In 2015, this issue was brought front and center when former athlete Bruce Jenner announced to the world that he/she was now Caitlyn. She was not gay, saying she still was sexually attracted to women rather than men, but she just felt more natural dressing and acting like a woman. Some transgender individuals carry their gender modification to the extent of surgery that converts them from one biological sex to another. These are transsexuals, but not all transgender individuals go that far.

As American society has grown generally more tolerant of human diversity in recent decades, the possibility of living a transgendered life without fuss has increased. It has become more feasible to operate in society with no one being the wiser. There is probably an analogy to be drawn to light-skinned African-Americans “passing” as white earlier in our history.

None of this means that everyone is comfortable with people choosing to change genders. The existing discomfort has focussed primarily on the use of gym facilities and public restrooms. We’ll examine the latter in this post. I think it’s fair to say that the issue is specifically one of concern over trans women using Women’s Rooms. Some women say the thought makes them uncomfortable or even fearful, and some men express concern that their daughters may be molested.

As I am writing this, the most notorious representation of this “problem”nc-capitol and its “solution” is North Carolina’s HB2 (Session Law 2016-3):


The meat of the law specifies:

Public Agencies shall require every multiple occupancy bathroom or changing facility to be designated for and only used by persons based on their biological sex.

The law also specifies that no one may bring suit against the law on the basis of discrimination, nor are municipalities permitted to institute non-discriminatory laws permitting transgender use of public toilets. At the same time the law reminds us that the State of North Carolina is wholly opposed to discrimination on the basis of biological sex.

The law was subsequently declared in violation of federal civil rights legislation, but the drama is not over. Before leaving the Republican presidential primary, Senator Ted Cruz expressed his whole-hearted opposition to transgender bathroom privileges, while Donald Trump initially seemed sympathetic to transgenders’ full bladders, but he quickly changed positions when attacked from the Right.

As I write these words, North Carolina and the Federal government are suing and counter-suing each other, respectively, and students are being advised to take pepper spray, looking for a problem to solve. It’s clear that this post will be revised more than once in the future, just as it’s clear that HB2 was a soluprob: A “Solution” without a “Problem.”

Was the Problem Real?

Specification of the presumed problem has pretty much lingered as a matter of “you know.” In comments online, some women have said they would feel uncomfortable if a “man” came into a Women’s Room while they were using it, but it’s difficult to pin the discomfort down further than that.

I am told that all public restrooms for women consist of enclosed stalls. Thus it seems unlikely that a trans woman using a young-manWomen’s Room would result in the display or viewing of opposite-sex genitalia. Apparently there’s something about just knowing that a biological man just entered the facility, but it seems unlikely that you would know. No woman is likely to call the police if her public facility is visited by the person to the right of this paragraph.

girl-with-cigarOn the other hand, I could understand that reaction if this guy came breezing in. As you undoubtedly figured out, the person above is a trans woman, while the one to the left is a trans man. More to the point, I imagine that those women who say they would feel uncomfortable if a trans woman entered their Women’s Restroom, have already had that happen, more than once, but they didn’t know it. Hence, they weren’t uncomfortable after all.

Going a step beyond mere discomfort, as I’ve mentioned, there are some women, who are genuinely fearful. There’s no denying the very real problem of men abusing women, sexually and otherwise. However, I can find no record of a trans woman molesting women or girls in a public restroom.

A recent web poster points out that more Republican ministers have been arrested for sexual offenses in public restrooms. Without denying that the fears some women have are real for them, those fears are apparently groundless, like the fear of zombies or vampires. This is  clearly a “solution” without a “problem.” In fact, it could be argued that transgender use of public restrooms was not even seen as a problem until laws like HB2 drew attention to the matter and made it a political issue.

Negative Consequences

While a law discriminating against any particular group of people has negative consequences for members of that group, substantial public damage has been done to the Great State of North Carolina and its economy. Seeing the law as blatantly anti-LGBT, numerous individuals and organizations have retaliated against the state.

Bruce Springsteen, Mumford & Sons, Ringo Starr, and other performers cancelled concerts scheduled in North Carolina. Others, like Jimmy Buffett and Greg Allman said they would keep scheduled concert dates, but they were very vocal in condemning the law. Cyndi Lauper said she would perform as scheduled but would donate all profits to efforts to repeal the law.

Prior to the law’s passage PayPal was planning to build a $3.6 million dollar operations center in Charlotte. Those planned were cancelled in protest of the law. Deutsche Bank had planned an expansion that would have provide 250 new jobs to the state. Plan cancelled.

The Center for Social Responsibility reported that nearly 1,700 companies were withdrawing from North Carolina in protest to the law.

On May 4, 2016, the U. S. Justice Department ruled HB2 in violation of the U. S. Civil Rights Act and Title IX. That circumstance would result in North Carolina losing all federal grants, totaling billions of dollars. As noted above, this issue is still in flux.

The issue may ultimately be resolved as suggested by comedian and social critic, Bill Maher: “If you look like a woman, use the women’s room, if you look like a man, use the men’s room. If you’re a bearded dude in a dress, just hold it until you get home.” When you think about it, Maher’s prescription is simply for a continuation of past practices.


© Earl Babbie 2016, all rights reserved  Terms of Service/Privacy



Hector Cruz, “Bill Maher slams self-loathing white liberals on Real Time” –


You Can Help End SoluProbs™

Let me know what you think 


Want to help make the fight against SoluProbs a reality? As this website  is being launched in late-April, 2016, it should be regarded as a Beta version of what it will become, and your help is needed for it to evolve. (I’m asking for your ideas, not your money.)

Welcome aboard. Here are ways to help. 

First, listed at the bottom of this page are some SoluProbs I am considering for future posts. Your observations, knowledge, and comments about any are encouraged and welcomed. Your input can make a difference helping to shape our articles and spread the word.

Second, I am especially interested in identifying SoluProbs that have escaped my attention. I know they are out there. I encourage you to suggest new SoluProbs with a Comment at the bottom of this page, or make a more structured suggestion, using the Join the SoluProbs Team section provided in the right column of this page.  Join our growing team and help spread the word. Your participation in this growing community makes a difference, and is welcomed.

Third, if you want to try your hand at drafting a SoluProbs article, or just provide the details to the degree you are aware of them, the outline to the right provides the format that helps pull it all together. Using the outline, remember the key elements of a SoluProb are:

  • A presumed problem, such as voter impersonation in polling places that, in truth, is not a real problem.
  • A solution to the presumed problem, such as Voter ID laws.
  • Empirical evidence that the “problem” does/did not exist, such as the several studies indicating voter impersonation in polling places almost never happens. Empirical evidence matters, a pillar of our principled approach to raising awareness.
  • A background narrative, that provides context, history, and  discussion of the presumed problem that led up to the “solution,” how, when, and where the “solution was implemented, and anything else that fleshes out the story to help readers make sense of it.  And finally…
  • Negative consequences of the “solution.” This is the meat that matters, why it is important for all of us to raise our cultural awareness that ultimately affects public policy decisions that can help or harm society. Identifying the true, often horrifying consequences to individuals and society is necessary to reach inside of people, have them care, and take action that brings forward more enlightened, constructive, and healing social policy.

Any Comments you make will be automatically posted. I will review your more extensive submissions and, as appropriate, post exactly what you submitted or ask if you are interested in co-authoring a more extensive treatment.

Subscription: If you would like to stay in touch with this discussion, please use the subscription form to sign up for periodic notices.

Working together, I am confident we can shame this lunacy into remission, help our society Stop Shooting at Ghosts, and bring about more enlightened, constructive public policy.   

If you have any questions, just ask. If you want to share your thoughts or throw yourself into a SoluProbs article, go for it. Welcome aboard and thank you for taking action. Tell your friends. 

So I invite your participation and partnership. For now, here are some of the SoluProbs I am considering and/or working on.


North_Vietnamese_P-4_under_fire_from_USS_Maddox_(2_August_1964)Presumed Problem: Vietnam attacked the American Navy at Tonkin Bay

SoluProb: Vietnam Escalation by USA


usa-mexico-mapPresumed Problem:  Mexicans and others are pouring over our Southern border

SoluProb: The Trump Wall

posterPresumed Problem: If women enjoy sex, they will be promiscuous

SoluProb: Female Genital Mutilation

keep-syrians-outPresumed Problem: Terrorists will enter the USA pretending to be refugees

SoluProb: Block Syrian Refugees

used-clothesPresumed Problem: Foster Parents use clothing allowances for drugs

SoluProb: Make Foster Kids use thrift shops

boypeeringPresumed Problem: The Federal government is dictating what students should learn

SoluProb: Dump Common Core


Again, your thoughts and further participation with these soluprobs and any that I have not yet identified, are welcomed. Together, we can help our society and its public policy makers stop chasing ghosts and ease the enormous human suffering these misguided “solutions” cause.   

© Earl Babbie 2016, all rights reserved  Terms of Service/Privacy

SoluProb™: Outlaw IUDs

Let me know what you think 


Presumed Problem

Some fear that an Intra-uterine Devise (IUD) is an abortifacient, that it induces abortions.


Those opposed to abortion have argued that IUDs should be outlawed.


imageLike many states–perhaps all–Colorado had a serious problem with unintended teen pregnancies. But unlike other states, Colorado had found a powerful solution.

Going into the 2014 elections, Colorado had made remarkable progress in lowering teen pregnancies: down 40% between 2009 and 2013. Caitlin Schmidt (2014) explained how they accomplished this feat:

Colorado’s Family Planning Initiative provided funding for 68 family clinics across the state to offer around 30,000 intrauterine devices and implants to young women at low or no cost. An IUD is a small T-shaped device that is inserted into the uterus by a doctor. They’re either wrapped in copper or contain hormones, which kill sperm Mirena_IntraUterine_Systemand make the uterine lining too thin for egg implantation. Because IUDs stay in place for five to 10 years, they’re easier to comply with than taking daily birth control pills.

An anonymous donor funded the $23 million initiative, which also provided training, outreach and technical assistance to clinics statewide.

The reduction in teen pregnancies, of course, also meant a reduction in abortions. It seemed like a win-win situation. However, as the donor-funding was due to run out, Colorado politicians began debating whether the state should appropriate money to continue the remarkably successful program.

This is an appropriate time to mention a class of problems/solutions that do not qualify as soluprobs. There are any number of cases where the problem is real but the solution is a imagefailure.Consider abstinence-only “sex education” programs in the nation’s schools. Despite the millions still being spent on programs that simply urge teens not to have sex, there is no peer-reviewed research indicating such programs have any positive effect. However, the problem of teen pregnancy was and is a real one, and the Colorado program of education and IUDs was a huge success.

Opposition to continuing the program did not seem primarily financial. Some anti-abortion groups objected to the use of IUDs in the program, linking the devices to abortion. As the debate heated up, the (unsuccessful) GOP candidate for governor, Bob Beauprez, famously said, IUDs imagewere abortifacients, which raised the image of women as “walking abortion factories.” Since he and his supporters were dead set against abortion, it was clear that IUDs had to go. Ultimately, the anti-abortion faction was successful in blocking public funding for the program, though private funds were found to continue it. IUDs, per se, were not outlawed.

Kaiser Health News explained the last minute salvation of the program this way:

The rescue of the highly-touted program comes after Republican lawmakers earlier this year killed a bill that would have provided $5 million in public funding for IUDs and other long-acting reversible contraceptives for low-income teens and young women. Colorado health officials estimate that the IUDs and other devices have saved at least $79 million in Medicaid costs for unintended births, but some opponents claimed that IUDs are abortifacients and refused to approve funding in the Republican-controlled Senate.

imageThis was the same logic used by Hobby Lobby in their refusal to let employees receive IUDs and some other contraceptives under the Affordable Care Act. Being complicit in their employees using IUDs allegedly violated their corporate religious values. The U. S. Supreme Court majority agreed with that reasoning.

Was the Problem Real?

Thus the most effective contraceptive short of sterilization, first used in the 1900s and popularized from the 1950s on in the United States, is now under widespread attack. The medical community has been quick to respond, pointing out that IUDs prevent fertilization and implantation, so there is nothing to abort. In sum, the IUD is no more an abortion procedure Tension-headachethan masturbation, a priest’s vow of celibacy, or “Not tonight, dear. I have a headache.”

For the time being, the proposed “solution” to the imagined problem represented by IUDs has been averted in Colorado, but there is no telling what will happen when the private donations run out.

Negative Consequences

Since IUDs were not actually outlawed in this instance, the major, potential damage was avoided. Young women in Colorado are still allowed to avoid unintended pregnancies and the unprepared motherhood, end of school, or abortions that are common consequences of unsafe sex.

However, the campaign of misinformation about IUDs may well cause some young women to avoid this most effective contraceptive method. And an upsurge of anti-IUD actions somewhere down the road, based on the same misinformation, is always a haunting possibility. And if private funding eventually runs out, this award-winning program, which has prevented a great many abortions, may fall by the wayside.

© Earl Babbie 2016, all rights reserved  Terms of Service/Privacy


SIECUS, “Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Programs” — — accessed October 3, 2015

Katie Kerwin McCrimmon, “Medicaid Drives Historic Coverage Gains In Colorado,” Kaiser Health News Colorado September 1, 2015 — — accessed October 3, 2015