Listeners React To Push For Vasectomy Restrictions

Tell Me More's website lit up with comments after a discussion with a Georgia lawmaker who suggested regulating vasectomies. Host Michel Martin and editor Ammad Omar dig through the mailbag to talk about that topic, and the debate over the greatest drummer of all time.

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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

And now it's time for BackTalk. That's where we lift the curtain on what's happening in the TELL ME MORE blogosphere. Editor Ammad Omar is here once again.

What do you have for us today, Ammad?

AMMAD OMAR, BYLINE: OK. Michel, we had a different spin on the reproductive rights debate that's been heating up on the campaign trail and in a lot of state legislatures. On Monday, we spoke with a Georgia lawmaker who wanted to change the tone of that public conversation by changing the focus to men.

Georgia state representative Yasmin Neal proposed a rule that would ban most vasectomies. She did that in response to state legislation that would outlaw abortions after 20 weeks unless there was serious risk to the life or health of the mother. Neal said she wanted the proposal to broaden the discussion of the abortion issue.

REPRESENTATIVE YASMIN NEAL: I just hope that people understand what I'm trying to do here with the bill. What I was trying to do is draw a comparison between the ability for a governmental body to be able to invade upon a person's reproductive rights, so vasectomy was just one of many other types of comparisons I could have drawn.

OMAR: And it certainly got a big response from listeners. Many of the comments were supportive, but Seth Doherty(ph) of Largo, Maryland, wasn't impressed with Neal's arguments.

SETH DOHERTY: Upon hearing your teaser about slipping the script on the contraception issue, I thought I was about to hear an argument in defense of fathers' rights in the abortion debate, a long neglected issue. Instead, I heard a story that borders on the absurd. I don't know what Representative Neal is driving at, but unless it is a pure publicity stunt, she has failed spectacularly. Her proposition is not funny, not worthy of serious consideration and not relevant.

MARTIN: Well, thank you, Seth, and thanks to everybody else who wrote in. What else, Ammad?

OMAR: Well, once again, Michel, another one of your essays got the website buzzing this week. The topic was the difficulties and costs of taking care of elderly parents. You talked about an article in The Atlantic by Sandra Tsing Loh and her appearance on NPR's TALK OF THE NATION where she discussed her struggle to care for her elderly father and you explained why this has become a big problem for families and will be as millions of baby boomers get older.

MARTIN: This is, in part, what underlies the churning in Washington and on the campaign trail about Medicare, Medicaid and so-called Obamacare and Romneycare. The idea that you could do everything, quote, unquote, "right," save money, stay out of trouble, educate yourself and your kids, and you can still end up in a precarious and even perhaps degrading condition.

OMAR: Well, Michel, a lot of people appreciated the essay. Jen Gabel(ph) writes, quote, "beautifully said," and other listeners are online debating what they think can be done politically to help out the growing number of people who are going through this same situation.

MARTIN: And, like I said, people over the age of 85 are this country's fastest growing demographic group. Their numbers are projected to double by the year 2035, so as I said, this is an issue that is not going away and we are going to keep an eye on the debate online and see if that brings up some other ideas that we can pursue.

Thanks, Ammad. And I understand that you also have an update for us.

OMAR: Yeah, that's right. We've talked a lot about former Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour's decision to pardon dozens of felons on his way out of office in January. He handed out about 200 pardons and some of them went to rapists and murderers.

Well, the state's attorney general appealed to the Mississippi Supreme Court, but in a six-three decision yesterday, the court ruled that those pardons are valid.

MARTIN: We should point out, also, that the vast majority of those pardons went to people who were already out of prison.

Ammad, anything else?

OMAR: OK. Last one here, Michel. We had a very lively interview yesterday with filmmaker Jay Bulger about the drummer Ginger Baker. The film opens with a not so pleasant encounter between the two.

JAY BULGER: He broke my nose with a cane.

OMAR: But, anyway, that didn't stop Bulger from saying Baker is the greatest drummer of all time, indisputably.

MARTIN: Well, I understand that a lot of people did dispute that, Ammad.

OMAR: Well, one listener gave us a rundown. Neal Goldstein(ph) says, Ginger is most definitely not the greatest drummer in the world. He's OK, but listen to any number of rock drummers who play with some finesse - Mike Shrieve of Santana, Dave Garibaldi in his time with Tower of Power, Billy Cobham, Bernard Purdie, Zigaboo Modeliste of The Meters - and you'll instantly hear the difference.

MARTIN: Well, thank you for that, Neal. I can not judge this, so we will let you at home be the judge. We'll take you out with one of Ginger Baker's patented solos with the band Cream.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MARTIN: And remember, with TELL ME MORE, the conversation never ends. To tell us more, you can call our comment line at 202-842-3522 or visit us online at NPR.org/TellMeMore. Please remember to leave us your name. You can also find us on Twitter. Just look for TELL ME MORE NPR.

Thanks, Ammad.

OMAR: Thank you, Michel.

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