The Spectacle Blog

On Contraception

By on 3.6.12 | 10:11AM

Erik, whose last name I won't use, listened to my Sunday radio show on Denver's 850 KOA and had a few comments on the topic of contraception (which was brought to the forefront again by Rush Limbaugh's recent controversy and apology.) Erik made several points, each of which I'd like to respond to with more than one sentence.

In the note below, the indented material is Erik's note to me, with my response to each paragraph immediately following. (I have not edited Erik's note for grammar or spelling.)

I listened to your show today, and while I found the discussion interesting, I think your misinformed on the applications of birth control. Hormonal therapy can be used by doctors to assist women with their contraceptive needs, but it is also to treat medical conditions like ovarian cysts. You and your right brethren live under the assumption that women use birth control simply for sexual deviancy. I think that this subtext is abhorrent and it's part of the reason why there has been so much outrage against Rush Limbaugh.

First, thanks for listening.

Next: The vast majority of the use of "birth control" pills is, believe it or not, for birth control, also known as contraception. To the extent that any particular drug is used for multiple medical purposes, each of those purposes can be the subject of different conversations. If a woman is being treated for cysts, that is a different subject entirely than using the same drug for contraception, and you will notice that the debate at hand is about the use of the drug for contraception, not other medically indications. Furthermore, those who are against government requiring insurance to include "free" birth control -- and abortion-inducing pills, and sterilization -- are not against using the same chemical to treat a disease or other medical condition.

I never suggested that birth control is used to allow "sexual deviancy." In fact, I was quite clear that I couldn't care less what people do in their private lives, nor do I think that someone who has multiple sexual partners is somehow immoral or deviant, nor do I care whether someone has sex outside of marriage, though I do think it's at least unethical, and I might use stronger words, to commit adultery. (My view on this is not based on a religious prohibition but simply because it breaks a solemn promise and can destroy a family. Someone who cheats on a spouse without intending to get divorced, and particularly if they have kids, has some serious thinking to do. But it's not my business and not the government's business.)

(Back when I was single, I could only have hoped to run into more of the "sexual deviancy" you described, but I was a little too much of a nerd for that, despite being a partner in one of Chicago's most popular nightclubs.)

I think there are two reasons for the outrage against Rush: First, he shouldn't have used the language that he did...and he knows it and apologized for it. (This despite the fact that when the left uses similar language against conservative figures, nobody in the media bats an eye.) Second, the left is furiously spinning this into a "war against women" when in fact what it is is a war for religious conscience and for limited, rational government.

I listened to your argument against having "pay for birth control," and I kept asking myself why you were making this assertion. In your dialogue you repeatedly stated that you didn't care what others did, but you didn't want to pay for it. I wanted to call your show but was unfortunately driving and wanted to make this simple point.

What could you object to in someone's saying that Americans shouldn't pay for the costs of other people's personal diversions? I would reemphasize the point I made on the air: Insurance, by definition, is a policy to "insure" against possible loss from an unforeseen from an unforeseen future event. It's why car insurance covers accidents but not oil changes. Covering something which a person (1) can decide whether or not to use, (2) can easily foresee using in most cases, and (3) stands essentially zero chance of being a substantial economic hardship should someone have to pay for it is far outside what insurance means.

The blunt amendment is anti-liberty and anti-democratic. If I am an employer and I have a "moral objection" to any form a medical care I can block it. To give an example that may have more potency than birth control let's pretend for a moment that I am a gay man with HIV, and let's just say for a second that my boss has a moral objection to my homosexuality and refuses to treat my HIV. In our world employers have rights but employees, that's employees, also have rights to basic health care. In my opinion, contraception falls under the same umbrella as HIV treatment. I know you disagree with this assertion but as someone who hates government it's really you dictating to women across the country that they cannot have access to birth control because of "your" moral whims.

You speak, like many liberals, as if employers have no rights. Furthermore, you misconstrue the meaning of liberty as it has historically been understood in America. We are a country of "negative rights," meaning that the government is restricted from doing certain things to its people and people are restricted from doing certain things to each other. We are not a country of "positive rights," where people can make claims for things which can only be provided by taxing or otherwise taking from others.

I understand that much of this has changed since FDR, but even most of his unconstitutional welfare state programs are at least contributed to by those who then benefit from them. Yes, they are all Ponzi schemes, and with the current worker-retiree ratio they have turned into "positive rights" programs, which is part of they reason they are both immoral and bankrupting the nation -- as Obamacare is and will if not repealed.

Next: An employer could not "block HIV treatment." An employee who was concerned about such coverage would check whether that was covered before taking a job. Once covered, unless there was some fraud on the employee's part, the insurance coverage is what it is. Since it's possible to get HIV from activities other than homosexual sex, your hypothetical of an employer trying to block HIV coverage is extremely unlikely. Still, even if it were real, it is something an employee could learn about before taking the job. By the way, Ms. Sandra Fluke KNEW that Georgetown's health insurance program did not cover contraceptives but enrolled anyway. If you don't like a club's rules, go join a different club; don't make the government try to force the club to play by rules you prefer.

It should be obvious that contraception and HIV treatments are not at all similar, when it comes to how insurance can treat them. Putting aside the question of pre-existing conditions, let's say someone gets health insurance coverage believing that he is healthy. And let's say he then contracts HIV...it doesn't matter how. That is something which was unforeseen, perhaps unforeseeable, and poses a real risk of extreme financial hardship. Contraceptive use could hardly be different.

But I want to address perhaps your (and liberals') biggest and most dangerous intellectual error: You say that there is a right to "basic health care." What sort of right is that, exactly? Do you actually mean "a right to have someone else pay for my basic health care"? If so, where does that right come from, and where does your right to take my money to pay for it come from?

Let me make this clear: Everyone has a right to try to access whatever health care is provided in a free market system without requiring someone else to pay for it. And everyone has a right to get whatever health care is guaranteed under the provisions of a health insurance policy which he or she is covered by, as long as the insured also lived by the provisions of the contract. Nobody has a right to health care paid for by others (other than through private insurance contracts.) In fact, nobody has a right to be offered health insurance, much less to have it funded by others. Instead, people should consider themselves fortunate to live in a society where companies have found a way to create health insurance that is financially sensible for both the insurer and the insured to participate in. Or at least it used to be financially sensible before government mandates and manipulations have -- just as they have with education costs -- caused premiums to skyrocket while quality does not improve proportionately.

The other totally erroneous leftist talking point you are making is that I am trying to keep women from having access to contraception because of my moral whims. First of all, in the sense that most people use the word morality, it has nothing to do with this discussion. (I do think that using the power of government to make others subsidize my life is immoral but I doubt that's what you meant.) I am, after all, not religious and not Christian. Secondly, and more importantly, please tell me how, prior to insurance policies covering the extremely inexpensive birth control pill, women were blocked from "access." Any woman, whether with insurance coverage or not, can go to a Target pharmacy and get a 28-day supply of the most common type of birth control pill for $9. The idea that women don't have access to contraception if someone else doesn't pay for it is an outrageous lie. By the way, presumably there are two people involved in the act that requires contraception. The idea that two people together can't afford this stuff is utterly ridiculous.

Obama is mandating that all females must get birth control he is merely saying that each female in the country should have access to birth control if they want it. This reaches a more fundamental issue about healthcare and I think you can alter your argument so its pro women and pro liberty.

Again, this is an outright lie. You can probably name a thousand products which people have access to without those things being paid for by others, whether oatmeal or windshield wipers or condoms or movie theater tickets. Contraception is no different except that feminists have claimed it to be so.

Being against having taxpayers or those with moral objections being forced to subsidize anything for anyone is not anti-woman. Furthermore it is your view, not mine, that is anti-liberty since your view can only be satisfied by what Bastiat called "legalized plunder."

Put it this way: If someone mugged me but gave the money he stole to charity, is that then not a crime? No, Erik, your do-gooder urges make you no less a thief in spirit than that mugger.

And where does it end? What about people who say they need very expensive custom-made shoes (or shoe inserts) to help their feet feel better? What about people who need mouthwash every day for bad breath? What about people who have ugly teeth and want expensive veneers or other dental treatment to help their self-seteem? Should others be required by government pay for all these things? And can you imagine how much more expensive your health insurance will be if it has to cover those things? (Well, you can imagine to some degree by looking at the incredible insurance premium inflation we've suffered in recent years because of government mandates and government prevention of competition.)

And don't think for a second that anything which an insurance company provides for "free" is actually free.

By the way, I don't object to an insurance company offering contraception in a policy if they want to. Indeed, such a decision could make financial sense for them given the cost of maternity, especially high-risk pregnancies, etc. What I object to is government requiring private citizens, companies, and institutions to purchase health insurance policies with any specific provisions. All terms of insurance should be left to negotiation between the insurer and the insured, or in our current system, between the insurer and the employer of the insured.

Instead of sounding like an old curmudgeon, I aint gonna pay for no birth control why don't you take a more libertarian stance and say that the individual should be able to choose their own healthcare plan i.e. allow employers to give their employees a stipend to pay for their own health insurance. An individual could choose their own plan and do what ever they would like. This is the position I think the right should take, but clearly your more obsessed with forcing women to cater to your moral whims rather than giving them the freedom to choose how they wish to behave.

I already answered this. Anything which is done voluntarily in a non-government-coerced transaction is OK with me. But if a Catholic institution will not voluntarily do anything that would directly or indirectly purchase or subsidize a particular thing, such as contraception, that right of free exercise of religion is one of the most important rights that Americans have. Indeed it was perhaps the single most important right to those who fled to these shores from across Europe several centuries ago.

The healthcare reform bill was a noble attempt to fix our system but I think it creates too much bureaucracy. My answer to solving the whole care problem would be to have government take over all catastrophic care and have private insurance cover preventative and extra medical coverage. The second part of my plan would be purely electable, and individuals could receive tax subsidies if they signed up for plans. I think you should take a look at the blunt amendment and see what it really does. It's so tyrannical that it's almost fascist and it really makes me sick to my stomach that someone who professes to be "pro liberty" would decide that it's a worthy piece of legislation to support.

The healthcare reform bill was anything but noble. It was a reprehensible power grab implemented by the most unethical government in modern American history, and perhaps in all American history. There is a reason that the majority of Americans still want this travesty repealed. When you say government is trying "to fix our system," you remind me of a medieval doctor who, having attached a few dozen leeches to a patient but not seeing improvement then calls for a hundred more leeches to suck the patient's blood. You can't cure a cancer by injecting more cancer cells; government (especially federal government) meddling in the health insurance system is a cancer in that system. The cure is FREEDOM.

Obamacare, if not ripped out by the roots, will destroy the private health insurance system -- which is exactly what the left wants. Your intellectual gymnastics, trying to think of a way that government can "fix our system" by implementing its own plans, rather than by just allowing and encouraging competition, without creating "too much bureaucracy" is extremely naive.

Why should government be involved in "catastrophic care", especially the federal government? Where does the constitution give the federal government the power to even have a thought about health insurance, much less to effectively nationalize the industry and turn insurers into the only utilities hated more than our usual utilities? Heath care is no government's business but to the extent that there must be government meddling, it should be at the state level so each state can learn from the mistakes of others -- and so that Americans can move to states which are not bankrupting their citizens through socialism.

How about saying government should handle all really bad car crashes but let regular auto insurance handle the crashes which aren't too bad? The whole idea is ridiculous, and can only end badly, as every government program does, both in terms of quality and cost.

I have read the Blunt Amendment, and it's pretty straight-forward. If you read it and you really think it's tyrannical, then you should read 1984. Actually, you don't need to because your mind is already in that world. The only way the Blunt Amendment is tyrannical is if you also think black is white, and war is peace. The tyranny -- the only tyranny in this whole discussion -- is the tyranny of the federal government imposing the current government's will on the citizens of the United States. It is truly stunning that you believe it is government tyranny to allow an organization to live by its moral precepts. How you can hold that thought in your head without an aneurysm is remarkable. Do you not see the similarities between your view and those of any of the world's most horrific dictators?

I would also point out that the leftists who are so happy with Obamacare now won't be happy the next time that conservatives (of which I am not one) have control of the White House and both houses of Congress. They will then use this extreme social engineering power to implement policies you (and perhaps I) would really hate, but you will have no moral high ground to stand on since you've already shown your willingness to use government to implement social policy. I have made this argument to conservatives when they had control, but of course libertarians are routinely ignored when people think they know what's best for our private lives.

I'm sorry, Erik, but your view represents a disturbing but all too common complete abandonment of the fundamental principles of this nation, of what rights really are, and of the nature of government. This debate isn't really about contraception. It is about religious freedom and limited government, neither of which you understand. It might give you some consolation to know that you are not alone in your ignorance of American principles. But for me it just represents what a long and difficult path it will be to return our nation, even if only slightly, back toward the path of constitutionally limited government which our Founders wisely created.

Don't forget, Erik, the most important political document in human history, the Declaration of Independence, says that we all have the right to pursue happiness, not to be guaranteed happiness by redistributing the property of others. Furthermore, it makes clear -- whether you believe in God or not -- that rights come from our all being "created equal", and therefore that rights do not come from government. Every "right" you have claimed to believe in can only come from government, and therefore it cannot, in any truly American sense, be a right at all.

I hope you will consider these words seriously, and perhaps change your view, though I think it's a longshot. For your edification, I would be happy to mail you (or anyone else who promises to read it) a copy of Bastiat's seminal "The Law"; it is one of the most important (but barely known) expositions on (against) expansive government ever written. You can read it in one evening, and if your mind is open to persuasion, it will leave you as a new person, politically speaking.

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