In all my coverage of health care reform in months prior, I never came across anyone raising the possibility of free birth control nationwide. But considering you can’t count on people being smart enough to eat the upfront cost of contraceptives, in order to avoid the far higher long-term costs of unplanned pregnancy, I’d say it’s a good idea. But even that isn’t good enough for a few members of the religious lobby.
The position of John Haas of the National Catholic Bioethics Center is that pregnancy is a “healthy condition” not to be prevented with drugs. I agree with him only to the extent that I would never mess up my hormones with birth control pills. But the inherent physical health of a condition doesn’t necessarily make it desirable or wise to have. It may boil down to little more than a “lifestyle choice,” in his words, but that choice involves the human body as much as any other and thus deserves at least a little consideration from the health perspective.
Then there’s the morning-after pill. A school of thought exists on the Religious Right that this is an abortifacient and must therefore be opposed on moral grounds. However, assuming pregnancy begins when a blastocyst is implanted in the uterine wall, which usually takes one to two weeks, this view is scientifically inaccurate. You can call a fertilized ovum “life” all you want, but that doesn’t make it medically true. (I do support requiring a fact sheet on the potential physical risks. It does have side effects, however mild.)
The Family Research Council would like to see a “conscience exemption” for birth control in any insurance mandate. I can understand that for abortion, as the argument for “life” status is more compelling. But there needs to be a line. An unwillingly pregnant woman should not become an unwilling (and, often, bad) mother because of one pharmacist’s sanctimony. How would that reflect a child’s best interests?
Thank goodness for the Contraceptive CHOICE Project in St. Louis. They’ve given out free birth control to 10,000 women already, not just pills and barriers, but the good stuff: intrauterine devices and reversible implants. These are longer-lasting but costlier, which is often the reason lower-income women don’t get them. If this took hold in other major cities, there may be no need for insurance providers, private or otherwise, to get involved.
I’d love to hear what “family” advocates have to say about this. If even it is unsatisfactory, I will conclude they care more about hypothetical feti than actual children.