Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Contraception Mandate And Eroding Liberty, Part I

Slip sliding away,
Slip sliding away,
You know the nearer your destination,
The more you’re slip sliding away.
—Paul Simon, Slip Sliding Away


Frankly, I had hoped we’d be past the whole contraception mandate issue by now, because I thought we had bigger fish to fry.  Now, I’m not so sure.

Let me be clear up front:  NOBODY is trying to keep you from obtaining and using contraceptives if you so choose.  I don’t advocate that the government institute a legal ban on them—let’s leave aside true pure abortifacients like the so-called “Plan B,” which are a different issue—and as far as I know even the Catholic Church has never sought one, either.  If you want to use a condom or The Pill, fine.  I’m not going to cast any moral judgments on you.  Just don’t make me pay for it, which has been the core of the standard—and correct—First Amendment free exercise of religion argument. 

I fear, however, that the issue and the potential danger here go to something much deeper.  Last Friday, talk radio host Andrew Wilkow was taking a slightly different tack and making an Article II argument:  it’s not just that the mandate violates the First Amendment, it’s also outside the scope of the power given to the President.  And Wilkow’s right.  The President simply has no Constitutional authority to issue an executive edict requiring either Catholic hospitals, or their private insurance companies, to pay for contraception for someone else.

But what scares me here is the logical train Wilkow’s discussion sent me thinking my way down, because if we follow this out the implications are chilling. 

Let’s start by asking the question why we need “free” contraceptives.  The Left will immediately begin shrieking about the need to protect women’s right to “preventative health care.”  Just last week, Press Secretary Jay Carney was out there talking about the “right” to contraception “free of charge.”  House members Thursday were complaining that those objecting to the mandate were diminishing the “interests of women”  “who want and need coverage for basic preventative health care services[.]”

On closer examination, this “preventative health care” mantra doesn’t hold water.  As I’ve pointed out before, the only form of contraception with any legitimate preventative health care link in any normal understanding of the term is condoms, and not only are they cheapless than a buck apiecebut they’re also already widely available for free.  You simply don’t need a federal mandate that they be covered by insurance. 

But what about the health consequences of unwanted pregnancy? 

Well, the simple and incontrovertible fact is that the easiest, safest, cheapest, and most effective way of avoiding the potential negative health effects of pregnancy (or STDs, for that matter), is abstinence.  It’s literally free even without insurance.  It’s accessible to everyone, everywhere, 24/7/365.  And it’s 100% safe, and 100% effective.  If what you’re all about is protecting women’s health, then abstinence should be at the top of your list, and there is simply no need for an insurance mandate to force other people to pay for it.

No, this isn’t about women’s health and pregnancy.  It’s about sex.

How so, Rusty?

The only reason to push contraceptives and ignore abstinence is that what the Left really wants, but can’t say out loud, is to make sure women can have recreational sex without consequences.  Taking them at their word that they’re pushing this issue in the interest of women’s health, because we’ve just seen that this health concern isn’t, and can’t be, about the health aspects of pregnancy, it must be that there are health benefits related to sex itself, and contraception is somehow a necessary tool for facilitating access to those benefits. 

Now, I’m not disagreeing with the idea that sex has health benefits so far as it goes, but the issue isn’t what you do or with whom you do it.  It’s whether you can make me pay for it. 

The underlying premise is that there’s not only a health benefit to sex without consequences, but that it’s such a compelling need that we have to override other people’s First Amendment right to free exercise of religion and their Fourth Amendment right to private property and make them pay for the contraceptives that make it possible.  And we’re going to ignore the Article II limitations on the power of the Chief Executive in order to do it. 

Well, where does that idea lead us?

If one citizen can be compelled to provide another citizen with birth control in order to obtain the health benefits of sex, what that really means is that the one citizen must ensure the other citizen has the things necessary to access the health benefits of sex.  Well, what if even with birth control the sex just isn’t satisfactory enough to generate those health benefits?  If we can compel one citizen to pay for another’s birth control in order to ensure the other’s access to the health benefits of sex, can’t the President order one citizen to pay for another citizen’s pornography (and if so, can’t that pornography take whatever prurient form is necessary to get the job done)?  What about sexual aids—can the President order one citizen to pay for another’s adult toys?  Once the issue is enabling access to the health benefits of sex, there’s no difference between forcing one citizen to provide another’s condom and forcing him to provide any other tool or implement necessary to enable that access. 

But wait.  Let’s keep following the logic train.

If one citizen can be ordered to provide the implements necessary for another citizen to get access to the health benefits of sex, it’s only a slight step further to say that one citizen can be compelled to provide another citizen with the sex itself.  Those of you who like to scream about the government keeping its hands off your ovaries should start worrying about the government’s hands going somewhere else.  And before you complain that I’m just out there flapping in the winds of paranoia, bear in mind that a lot of the people pushing this contraception mandate are the same folks who push for gay marriage, and who think Roman Polanski should be canonized.  So there’s no telling where that might lead. 

Now, do I really think it’s going to get as far as all this?  No, probably not.  But I raise the issue to point out the serious erosion of personal liberty that’s going on here.  To return to our Article II complaint, this administration is so far out of bounds they can’t even see the Constitution from where they are now.  And the more we let them get away with, the less the tethers the Constitution was supposed to place on President’s authority to act as a dictator mean. 

And let me tell you, friends, history teaches us that at some point it takes a whole lot of blood to get liberty back once it’s lost.


  1. How about this for a counter-arguement: free contraception for women; free viagra (or take your pick of some other brand) for men. However, there are only two real arguements and they are entirely separate from the contraception issue: (1) does the government have the authority to order you to provide, use, or act contrary to your religious beliefs, and (2) why should the general public be taxed to provide a product to one favored sub group (fertile women) of the general public, when that product is readily available and affordable to the sub group. If affordability is your issue, then free contraceptives for all regardless of financial status is the wrong program.

    And it just occurred to me that there is a national interest in having more fuel efficient automobiles on the road to promote energy independence and enhanced national security. So in addition to rebates for new electric cars ( a dubious use of the taxpayers' dollar), I am starting a campaign for free tune-ups without a copay for used cars. Just tack it onto the existing insurance policies. After all, it's free.

  2. As a woman I must take issue with one of your (male, catholic) premises: that no contraceptive device other than a condom has any medicinal value. “The pill”, in its many versions, is a chemical, hormone or otherwise, and has multiple effects on a woman’s health. Osteoporosis, ovarian cancer, migraines, pms, and even acne are common conditions where “the pill” has shown effective results for decades. Many women take some form of “the pill” specifically for a medicinal purpose other than to prevent pregnancy. I am not an MD or OB, but my understanding is that multiple drugs could achieve the same remedy without the contraceptive aspect, but taking 7 medications a day rather than one pill isn’t the preferred solution for millions of women. I don’t want to derail the role of government debate here, but the issue isn’t really about promiscuity at all.

  3. Anonymous:

    You are correct about The Pill having other medicinal applications, although I suspect the percentage of women who take it for medical reasons other than birth control is very small. But that isn't the argument being advanced in favor of "free" contraceptives. Furthermore, even accepting the point, that doesn't extend the argument to IUDs, "Plan B," the "Male Pill"--which I read this morning may soon be coming--spermicidal foam, etc. The fact that the pro-contraception advocates insist on extending their argument to ALL contraception makes my point that this isn't about "preventative health care," but about free sex without consequences.