Well I have to admit that conservatives blew it. Attacking the Left in response to the Obama Administration’s birth control mandate has done nothing but muddle the issue.
As with all things Obama, they should have just followed the money:
Forget for a minute the religious question and look at who wins big here: Big Pharma. This mandate is not really about condoms or generic versions of “the pill,” which are available free or cheap in lots of places. This is about brand-name birth control drugs and other devices that some consumers swear off because they are too expensive. The Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate requires health-insurance companies provide contraceptive coverage for all “FDA approved contraceptive methods.” It does not insist on generics. And it does not offer any cost containment.
What’s more, the mandate prevents health-insurance companies from having copays or deductibles for the benefit. This is the perfect set up for Big Pharma. Since the drugs will be paid for by a third party (insurance companies, who will pass the cost on to employers and the rest of us), the consumer won’t worry about the price. Expensive brand names will no doubt see demand rise.
A recent Facebook conversation about the subject of birth control with a friend who is an MD/OB-GYN drove this point home for me a couple of weeks ago. Her biggest satisfaction with the HHS mandate was that it would finally make IUD treatments like Mirena and injectable birth control like Depo-Provera affordable for everyone.
Out of pocket, Mirena costs around $1000 to $1200, which includes the device, a pelvic exam, and the procedure to insert the device. It is effective for up to five years. Out of pocket costs for Depo-Provera are around $250 for the initial office visit and injection, with additional office visits/injections every three months that cost around $125 each. Without insurance, NuvaRing (a soft vaginal ring that is inserted every 4 weeks) and Ortho Evra (a monthly patch) both cost around $960 a year. If you have limited income, long-term birth control is prohibitively expensive.
But many doctors prefer long-term contraceptives over daily oral contraceptives for patients who are long-term sexually active (i.e. married or in a long-term monogamous relationship). In addition, doctors commonly prescribe contraceptives to treat ailments like severe acne, severe menstrual cramps/bleeding, and endometriosis. When they are effective, doctors also prefer long-term contraceptives for the treatment of chronic medical conditions because they eliminate the need for daily compliance.
Here’s where the issue gets complicated.
Feminists and pro-abortion activists have (deliberately, I believe) lumped all contraceptives and their various uses, along with abortifacient drugs and abortion procedures, into euphemistic categories such as “reproductive justice” and “women’s preventive health care.”
Make no mistake – radical feminists and pro-abortion advocates view pregnancy as an unhealthy condition that interferes with women’s lives. To them, pregnancy is a burden, an impediment, or, in President Obama’s words, a punishment. The Judeo-Christian tradition completely rejects this view. Scripture and 2000 years of tradition teach us to regard life as sacred. Procreation is understood to be the natural result of a physical sexual union. Human reproduction is a gift from God, a process by which man voluntarily participates in the miraculous creation of new life made in God’s image.
But voluntary participation means that mankind can also choose to circumvent natural biological processes. We can choose to alter our bodies so that procreation does not occur. We can also choose to end nascent life. To the keepers of Christian traditions, these choices amount to a sin against God. To others, having the ability to make these choices is a fundamental human right that must be guaranteed — and subsidized — by government.
By lumping all of these things together and labeling them “justice” and “health care,” liberals have created a powerful rhetorical weapon. Question any ingredient in the liberal recipe for “justice” and “health care” and suddenly you are accused of wanting to poison the whole pot.
Abortions, abortifacient drugs, and birth control methods that are used by choice — particularly by single women — for the express purpose of abating the natural consequences of sexual activity have nothing at all to do with “justice,” or with “preventive health care.” They are elective procedures and treatments, and should remain the responsibility of the individuals who choose to use them. Government does not have the right to interfere with their use; likewise, it also does not have the right to demand that the public participate in or subsidize them.
The Roman Catholic church has no problem with the use of contraceptives in the treatment of chronic medical conditions, and neither does most anyone else with a lick of common sense. Nor would most people object to the use of artificial birth control as part of responsible family planning for married couples (though this would obviously violate the standards of the Roman Catholic church).
A responsible Administration would have acknowledged these differences and attempted to seek solutions that guaranteed freedom of choice to both sides, while providing assistance to those who are in need of medical treatment or aid in family planning.
Obviously our current Administration feels no such obligation. Thanks to the new HHS birth control mandate, Big Pharma wins, as doctors place millions of women on subsidized long-term birth control. Feminists win, because they have successfully manipulated the government to use its power against the feminist/abortion lobby’s biggest foe – religious institutions, namely the Roman Catholic church. And the government wins, because it can now begin the process of establishing policies that reduce the population, as a method for controlling health care costs.
Cronyism, favored special interests, big government, and a population duped once again into believing that they will get a great benefit for little or nothing. That sounds about right for the Obama White House.
More reading from Jerry Pournelle: “I see no indisputable link between the availability of free contraception to women students in Georgetown and our future prosperity, while I do see a direct and indisputable link between requiring all to pay for that provision and the loss of some part of religious freedom.” (Thanks to commenter J. Lawson)
More from Cathy Ruse at the WSJ: “Yes, birth-control pills can be prescribed to address medical problems, though that’s relatively rare and the Catholic Church has no quarrel with their use in this circumstance. And the university’s insurance covers prescriptions in these cases. Still, Ms. Fluke is not mollified. Why? Because at the end of the day this is not about coverage of a medical condition. Ms. Fluke’s crusade for reproductive justice is simply a demand that a Catholic institution pay for drugs that make it possible for her to have sex without getting pregnant. It’s nothing grander or nobler than that. Georgetown’s refusal to do so does not mean she has to have less sex, only that she has to take financial responsibility for it herself.”