No, birth control isn’t an election issue

posted at 8:45 am on February 21, 2012 by Ed Morrissey

The Washington Post headlines a piece by Ann Gerhart with the question, “Birth control as an election issue?  Why?”  It’s the wrong question, but first let’s see how Gerhart sets this up:

Decades ago, near the end of the Age of Aquarius, a Republican congressman from Texas argued passionately that the federal government should pay for birth control for poor women.

“We need to take sensationalism out of this topic so that it can no longer be used by militants who have no real knowledge of the voluntary nature of the program but, rather, are using it as a political stepping stone,” said George H.W. Bush. “If family planning is anything, it is a public health matter.”

Title X, the law he sponsored that still funds family planning for the poor, passed the House by a vote of 298 to 32. It passed the Senate unanimously. A Republican president, Richard Nixon, enthusiastically signed it.

That was 1970.

This is now: The issue of birth control has suddenly become an obsession of the 2012 presidential campaign. To many observers, it seems that the clock has indeed been turned back.

This, however true historically, is a false equivalence to the issue today.  No one disputes the fact that government can spend tax money as Congress authorizes.  No one today is arguing to end Title X or to ban or restrict the use of contraception at the federal or state level.  In fact, the people who raised this issue want to maintain the status quo, not change it.

The real issue today is whether employers — any employers — should be forced by the federal government to supply contraception for free.  Under what authority does the federal government have that power, and for what purpose?  As I wrote earlier this month, this is a cure in search of a disease:

Employers still have to provide coverage — at no cost, not even copays — for contraception and abortifacients such as “ella” and Plan B, as well as IUDs. Here’s a question few are asking: Why? Obama and his administration insist that women need better access to contraception and abortifacients, but few women have problems accessing them. The CDC reported in 2009 that contraception use wasn’t exactly lacking: “Contraceptive use in the United States is virtually universal among women of reproductive age: 99 percent of all women who had ever had intercourse had used at least one contraceptive method in their lifetime.” Of all the reasons for non-use of contraception in cases of unwanted pregnancy, lack of access doesn’t even make the CDC’s list; almost half of women assumed they couldn’t get pregnant (44 percent), didn’t mind getting pregnant (23 percent), didn’t plan to have sex (14 percent), or worried about the side effects of birth control (16 percent). In fact, the word access appears only once in this study of contraceptive use, and only in the context of health insurance, not contraception.

So Title X has succeeded in its original policy goals.  Access to contraception is so irrelevant to unwanted pregnancies that the CDC doesn’t even mention it as an issue in a report specifically about contraception.   There is no reason for employers of any kind to be forced to supply contraception for free to their employees.  There is even less reason to force religious organizations to violate their own doctrines to facilitate access to and supply contraception to their employees.  The employees can get their own contraception, as they do now.

Finally, the federal government should not have the power to force employers to provide contraception or anything else for free.  Today it’s contraception, sterilization, and abortifacients.  What will it be tomorrow?  Abortions?  Sex-change operations?  Housing? Company stores?  Don’t believe for one moment that this arrogance ends at the string of an IUD.  That’s why this is a fight worth having, and why it is incumbent on us to rebuke the media for getting it very, very wrong at every turn.

Update: My libertarian friend Craig Westover has some good advice for conservatives:

Libertarians and conservatives are missing the point: Mandating “free” contraception is less about religious freedom and all about the secular issue of government intervention in the unalienable right to voluntary contract.

A fundamental principle of libertarian/conservative thought is that economic freedom and personal freedom cannot be separated. Economic freedom should not be treated with less scrutiny and reverence than personal freedom because a curtailment of economic freedom must necessarily manifest itself as a curtailment and loss of personal freedom. The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) is a classic case in point. …

The role of government is protecting individual freedom to do the right thing – it is not the role of government to force any one of us to do what the administration du jour believes is the right thing.

I am not surprised the social conservative Santorum and “severely conservative” Romney characterize the mandatory provision of contraceptives as some insidious plot by President Obama to eradicate religion in America. It surprises me that the libertarian Sen. Paul takes that tack and so badly misses the teachable moment.

While curtailment of religious freedom stirs the soul, if for political expediency the contraceptive controversy is compromised away without a discussion of the coupling of economic and personal freedom, libertarians and conservatives will have lost a teachable moment.

It’s good advice — and Senator Santorum should heed it.


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The MSM and Obama, running interference for Obama, has made abortion and birth control an issue. Santorum has done nothing but played into their handto forward the issue but be honest, and has a voting record to prove his position on the issues. It is apparently working with folks like you.

whbates on February 21, 2012 at 10:49 AM

FIFY. And, no, it didn’t work with folks like me. But it will work with the folks in the middle who decide presidential elections.

Syzygy on February 21, 2012 at 12:01 PM

So yeah, the Catholic Church has gone astray to the extent they have led not just their own flock, but all of us, down the hellish road of Social Justice/liberation theology. This is particularly sad coming from the church which helped free Poland from the tyranny of the Soviet Union.

Buy Danish on February 21, 2012 at 12:01 PM

Also quite disconcerting that Pope John Paul II was Polish and spoke out quite vocally against liberation theology — even while cardinals embraced certain elements of it.

gryphon202 on February 21, 2012 at 12:04 PM

gryphon202 on February 21, 2012 at 11:54 AM

Your link references Sister Carol Keehan, of the Catholic Health Association, voicing her support of Obamacare. Neither Sister Keehan nor the CHA speaks for the Catholic Church in America, only the USCCB does, and they never supported Obamacare. My point is that many people in the HA threads on the Obama contraception/abortifacient mandate these past few weeks have tried making the case that the Catholic Church supported Obamacare and should just lie in the bed they made. And that attitude is based upon a distortion of the truth.

Trafalgar on February 21, 2012 at 12:08 PM

Buy Danish on February 21, 2012 at 12:01 PM

We can have a discussion about the Church’s position on social issues, not all of which I agree with by any means, but I cannot stand by while people propogate the myth that the USCCB “supported” Obamacare. They didn’t.

Trafalgar on February 21, 2012 at 12:11 PM

Your link references Sister Carol Keehan, of the Catholic Health Association, voicing her support of Obamacare. Neither Sister Keehan nor the CHA speaks for the Catholic Church in America, only the USCCB does, and they never supported Obamacare. My point is that many people in the HA threads on the Obama contraception/abortifacient mandate these past few weeks have tried making the case that the Catholic Church supported Obamacare and should just lie in the bed they made. And that attitude is based upon a distortion of the truth.

Trafalgar on February 21, 2012 at 12:08 PM

Your assertion that the USCCB opposed Obamacare is a distortion of the truth, that being that the USCCB was clearly in favor of some sort of government intervention. Besides which, if the USCCB speaks for the Catholic church in America, how come there are so many avowed nuns and ordained priests who ignore it?

gryphon202 on February 21, 2012 at 12:12 PM

Your assertion that the USCCB opposed Obamacare is a distortion of the truth, that being that the USCCB was clearly in favor of some sort of government intervention. Besides which, if the USCCB speaks for the Catholic church in America, how come there are so many avowed nuns and ordained priests who ignore it?

gryphon202 on February 21, 2012 at 12:12 PM

Please be assured that I want a conversation with you, not a fight. I have to ask you once again though to give me something, anything where the USCCB supported Obamacare. I admit that the Catholic Church has a position on social issues, including health care reform, and I’ve stated that I don’t agree with them on a lot of social issues (I don’t go to Church for political action), but the issue here is specifically Obamacare.

As for priests and the religious being in opposition to the Church, trust me, under Pope Benedict those individuals are being replaced and a much more conservative Catholic Church is emerging.

Trafalgar on February 21, 2012 at 12:20 PM

Please be assured that I want a conversation with you, not a fight. I have to ask you once again though to give me something, anything where the USCCB supported Obamacare. I admit that the Catholic Church has a position on social issues, including health care reform, and I’ve stated that I don’t agree with them on a lot of social issues (I don’t go to Church for political action), but the issue here is specifically Obamacare.

I just did! They didn’t oppose Obamacare, they opposed abortion funding IN Obamacare! Philosophically, the church (since the USCCB speaks for them as you so eloquently pointed out) wants MORE intervention by government in health care, not LESS! I am not opposed to Obamacare strictly because of abortion (though I am pro-life), I am opposed to Obamacare because it is an unconstitutional power grab.

Find one one piece of proof that the USCCB opposes Obamacare on the basis of violating human rights of free asociation and ownership of property. You can’t, because they don’t exist.

As for priests and the religious being in opposition to the Church, trust me, under Pope Benedict those individuals are being replaced and a much more conservative Catholic Church is emerging.

Trafalgar on February 21, 2012 at 12:20 PM

Good luck with that in America. All that’s going to get you is a shortage of Catholic clergy, which is starting to creep up on us as it is.

gryphon202 on February 21, 2012 at 12:26 PM

To get back on topic, Ed wants you to think birth control isn’t an election issue. Probably because he’s endorsed a candidate who brags about funding Planned Parenthood.

Dante on February 21, 2012 at 12:35 PM

Also quite disconcerting that Pope John Paul II was Polish and spoke out quite vocally against liberation theology — even while cardinals embraced certain elements of it.
gryphon202 on February 21, 2012 at 12:04 PM

Yep.

We can have a discussion about the Church’s position on social issues, not all of which I agree with by any means, but I cannot stand by while people propogate the myth that the USCCB “supported” Obamacare. They didn’t.
Trafalgar on February 21, 2012 at 12:11 PM

As a non-Catholic, I can’t claim to know all the minutiae of who supported what, but Cardinal George is an advocate of “social justice” and, to cite one example I distinctly recall, he allowed the despicable Michael Pfleger to stay on at St. Sabina’s Church for waaaay too long. Therefore it’s not unreasonable for me to believe his opposition to ObamaCare was not as broad as you contend.

Buy Danish on February 21, 2012 at 12:40 PM

A lot of people who thought you ought to have some kind of health insurance, did not mean that everyone needs a Mega Plan to cover everything.

Show us what else is required in the Mega Plan. I want to know about IVF and hormone therapy and sex change operations, and all expenses paid for my surrogate mother, because she has to have Mega insurance too, and adoption expenses, because it is unfair that some people don’t have reproductive equality.

The Catholic Church needs to ask before they are offered any more deals, what other lifestyle choices are going to be called essential federally mandated health insurance. No one is answering me, maybe they can get an answer.

The Secretary Shall, act in secret and do whatever the hell she wants to do. (Page 1845 section 8 requirement d.)

Fleuries on February 21, 2012 at 12:42 PM

******************************
?? What about privacy ??

where is the ACLU when you need them?
*******************************

What about the wife of senator, congressman or staffer who examines the claims statement of husband away in DC and discovers all those condom claims in the insurance statement? Or the super strength brands typically used by Barney and friends?

What about when the database of the insurance company or that O-believe-in-god-and-government-it-is-safe-government files is hacked for this information?


What is it the business of the government to know that you use 3 condoms a day? Or you are a looser than does not use any at all?

Or can deduct from the type you use that you are gay?

Everyone is focussed on the mandate issue or the religious issue but it seems that everyone is distracted with what the left hand is doing and not looking at the right hand.

huntingmoose on February 21, 2012 at 1:18 PM

(1) “The idea is that the state doesn’t have rights to limit individuals’ wants and passions. I disagree with that. I think we absolutely have rights because there are consequences to letting people live out whatever wants or passions they desire.”

-Rick Santorum

(2) Santorum Quote:

“This idea that people should be left alone, be able to do whatever they want to do,” Santorum complained to NPR in 2006, “that we shouldn’t get involved in the bedroom, we shouldn’t get involved in cultural issues … that is not how traditional conservatives view the world.”

bluegill on February 21, 2012 at 8:55 AM

This is assuming your quotes are accurate, including the ones I did not copy here.

I don’t share his “sex is for procreation only and therefore all birth control is horrible and should not be available,” view point (though I do agree with him that sex is for marriage only), but I don’t see what’s particularly terrible or indefensible about either two quotes above.

Some people have a proclivity or a passion to want to murder numerous other people (ie, serial killers), some have a desire to molest kids, or others want to stomp kittens to death for fun, or as a “turn on” (ie, crush videos), and find all those things dangerous and/or unethical, disturbing, reprehensible and disgusting, so I don’t have a problem with laws being made against those things.

Some people want to shop lift, mug people, or hold up banks and stores. For everyone’s safety, those things (those desires/passions) do need to be held in check.

As for #2, if social conservatives walk away, the militant secularists and liberals win by default, and their views and their sort of “morals” influence our society, there is no counter balance to keep perverted liberal values from running rampant.

The liberals are already pushing their views (which are generally in direct opposition, if not out right hostile, to Judeo-Christian beliefs) into the public sphere, everything from forcing public school kids to learn that homosexuality is dandy, to wanting to curtail any and all public expression of religious faith, to an over abundance of “tolerance” (and multi-culturalism) to the point where they put blind folds on in regards to extremist Islam and all the dangers it poses.

TigerPaw on February 21, 2012 at 1:25 PM

*************************************************************
** How rich will this make the harassment lawyers?
*************************************************************

Imagine a company supplying condoms to it’s employees, especially those away from home.

do you smell a lawsuit? Ergo, no sane company would do that.

and here is Obama mandating they do exactly that, make themselves vulnerable to sexual harassment suits because that moronic employee made advances on a female worker using this company equipment?

huntingmoose on February 21, 2012 at 1:26 PM

But remember, this site and its parent site, Michelle Malkin, call themselves a conservative site and have endorsed Rick Santorum.

They want you to ignore all of their non-conservative views, positions, endorsements, and just believe them to be conservative. The emperor wears no clothes.

Dante on February 21, 2012 at 9:48 AM

I’m not quite the political junkie that other people are, but based on what I do know, none of the GOP guys are 100% conservative on every single issue. No single GOP politicians is going to make all conservatives happy. You’re always going be able to find something on each and every candidate to nit pick over and object to.

I don’t agree with all of Santorum’s views, but I’ve read troubling stuff about Romney and Gingrich, and the others as well. All of them have had “RINO” like positions at one time or another, or have had other issues that some conservatives troubling.

TigerPaw on February 21, 2012 at 1:31 PM

Has anyone checked with George Stenaphlopolis to see what the next big election issue will be?

slickwillie2001 on February 21, 2012 at 1:42 PM

I’m not quite the political junkie that other people are, but based on what I do know, none of the GOP guys are 100% conservative on every single issue.

TigerPaw on February 21, 2012 at 1:31 PM

Ron Paul is. Importantly, he’s a Constitutionalist, and his voting record does not contain a single vote that goes against the Constitution.

Dante on February 21, 2012 at 2:01 PM

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