Last week’s kerfuffle over Rush Limbaugh’s comments about the Georgetown University law school student who opposes the Roman Catholic Church’s position on birth control (got all that?) got me thinking a few slightly subversive thoughts.
The controversy contains enough red herrings for hors d’oeuvres before a winter dinner. The student called out by Limbaugh (whose choice of language succeeded in obscuring Limbaugh’s larger point about whether an organization that believes birth control to be immoral should be forced to supply birth control to anyone) was no early-20s naif who spoke before thinking of the consequences, but a 30-year-old woman who has a long history of advocating for her definition of women’s rights. The stated $3,000 figure also suggests a level of, shall we say, social activity about which novels are written, or a failure to look for the lowest price.
This tempest and the Obama administration’s current war on Catholic conscience are an inadvertent argument against employer-provided health insurance. Those who believe that life begins at conception (the official position of the Roman Catholic Church) should oppose forms of birth control that terminate a pregnancy after conception by, for instance, preventing implantation of the fetus in a woman’s uterine wall. (Which includes such birth control methods as the Pill, intrauterine devices, the Ortho-Evra patch, and Depo-Provera or Lunelle injections.) Why should an employer be forced to provide (which means pay for) coverage for medical procedures or treatments that the employer believes to be immoral?
(If you are honest, you have to admit that any answer besides “the employer shouldn’t have to,” whether the medical procedure or treatment in question is birth control, Viagra, cosmetic surgery, hair-loss treatment or anything else indicates disrespect for morals different from yours. Here’s another example of disrespect for morals different from the writer’s.)
It’s not clear that access to a woman’s preferred form of birth control paid for by someone else counts as a fundamental human right. (Nor the “right” to its precursor, consequence-free sexual activity.) On the other hand, policy decisions do have consequences, including unintended consequences. Answer this multiple choice question: If forced to choose one of these three choices, you would prefer:
- Paying for birth control for those who can’t afford to buy it.
- Paying for abortions for those who can’t afford to pay for their abortion.
- Paying for various welfare programs for single mothers who don’t have access to options 1 and 2.
Viewed strictly fiscally, given the failure rates of various forms of birth control, option 2 probably would cost less than option 1, and either 1 or 2 would certainly cost less — not just fiscally, but in terms of the growth of various social pathologies — than option 3.
(One of the more interesting side points of view in all this is the suggestion advanced by libertarian Virginia Postrel to make the Pill an over-the-counter medication as opposed to available only by prescription. The counterargument is that without medical advice, Pill use is likely to be less effective. The countercounterargument is that, based on comments about Postrel’s proposal, doctors may not be especially thorough telling their patients about what to do and not do on the Pill.)
Do you think what you’ve read so far is heretical? Well, since we’ve gotten abortion into this, here’s more heresy: Neither the Republican Party nor the Democratic Party really want to change current abortion law, because the abortion issue is a useful tool to generate votes and campaign donations. My evidence is that, between 2001 and 2006 (except for part of 2002 when New Hampshire Sen. Jim Jeffords changed sides), a Republican was in the White House and Republicans controlled both houses of Congress. And no serious attempt was made to pass a law or a constitutional amendment that would have invalidated the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. Moreover, from 1977 to 1980, in 1993 and 1994, and in 2008 and 2009, a Democrat was in the White House and Democrats controlled both houses of Congress. And no serious attempt was made to write a law paralleling Roe v. Wade’s provisions to legalize abortion rights as permanently as possible in this republic.
Since Roe v. Wade, opinion polls have consistently shown that a majority of Americans have, well, nuanced positions about abortion rights. (By Roe v. Wade, abortion was already legal in several states, including California, signed into law by Gov. Ronald Reagan.) Polls have shown consistent majority support for first-trimester abortion rights, as well as abortion rights in case of pregnancies caused by rape or incest, or pregnancies that threaten the life or health of the mother. A majority of Americans also have consistently supported parental notification and waiting period requirements, and oppose government funding of abortions.
To suggest that this issue is going to cause lingering damage to the GOP in November requires you to believe that women voters have just one position on birth control (and for that matter abortion rights) and vote that issue before any other. This is a distraction, and a dumb distraction because it distracts from what should be the real issue this fall, Obama’s stunning incompetence on the economy. (For one thing, people with more money have more money to spend, including on birth control.)
The most ridiculous statement I’ve read yet is that the Catholic Church in opposing the ObamaCare contraception mandate believes it’s above the law. It’s not ridiculous because it’s false; it’s ridiculous because only someone with complete ignorance of the Bible would say something like that intending to generate umbrage. Every Christian, Roman Catholic or not, is supposed to answer to God’s law before man’s law. To suggest otherwise makes that whole crucifixion business merely a story, as well as, more recently, religious opposition to Germany’s Nazi Party, communism in the late Soviet Union, the civil rights movement as led by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, and the post-King political activities of the Rev. Jesse Jackson, among others.