By Rika Christensen | 13 July 2015
An op-ed in The New York Times today discusses why government funding for long-term birth control, particularly for poor, teenaged girls, is a monumentally bad idea. The author of the piece, Grace-Marie Turner, is the president of the Galen Institute, which focuses heavily on free-market solutions to healthcare. She feels very strongly that government-funded contraception should not happen here.
Why is that? Simply put, because it sends the wrong message. Turner said:
Government funded long-term contraception tells women that taxpayers will pay for them to have sex without fear of pregnancy, and that they need not be responsible for the consequences of their actions.
Telling young women, especially those who are poorer, “So sorry you’re pregnant. Here, have an aspirin to keep between your knees, know your self-worth, get a freaking job, and this won’t happen again,” works so well, does it not? Maybe if we can just tweak that message a little more, our teen pregnancy rate will plummet to nonexistence, along with the abortion rate. The truth is, our teen pregnancy rate is much higher than that of other developed countries, in part because we keep trying hide sex from children and teens as though it’s something dirty and shameful.
We don’t mandate comprehensive, medically accurate sex-ed, we keep looking for ways to make access to contraception harder and we keep working to overrule Roe v. Wade and outlaw abortions. And then we wonder why our teen pregnancy rates and abortion rates are so high, compared to other developed nations. Ideas like Turner’s are why.
This, sadly, sounds a little like Rush Limbaugh, back when he sharply rebuked Sandra Fluke for advocating for coverage of birth control at school. He said, more or less, that she was having so much sex she couldn’t afford the birth control and wanted the taxpayers to foot the bill so she could keep having sex. Turner seems to think the same thing.
Government-funded contraception for low-income women and teens has dramatically reduced the teen pregnancy rate in Colorado, along with the abortion rate. Countries that have similar programs, plus comprehensive, medically accurate sex-ed, also have much lower teen pregnancy and abortion rates. However, we don’t want to even talk about any of this here, because we still labor under the misbegotten delusion that somehow, if we can just shelter kids enough, they won’t know about sex at all until they’re about to be married.
Turner brings up a point that sex, even sex that’s safe from pregnancy, has consequences. She tries to throw a bone to the people who will criticize her by saying that pregnancy doesn’t have to be the be-all and end-all consequence of having sex. So she goes to list all the other consequences, which young women won’t have to face if the government just won’t tell them that taxpayers will pay for them to have sex.
We’re not done yet, either, despite all of that. Turner then goes on to wonder about the poor, persecuted religious who are watching their freedom get stripped away by a government intent on forcing them to be complicit in someone’s private healthcare decisions. What about them? Why is nobody fighting for them?
The issue with that is whether religious employers have a right to force employees to abide by their religious beliefs. One can make the argument that it’s okay for an organization that’s religious under the law to expect that of their employees; after all, why would you go work for a religious organization if you didn’t share both their beliefs and their mission? However, the Supreme Court decided that even for-profit companies, like Hobby Lobby, have the right to enforce their beliefs over the personal, private interests of their employees, like whether a woman wants prescription birth control.
So, in addition to sending the wrong message to young women about the consequences of sex and their self-worth, we must remember that government-funded contraception, despite all its benefits to society, is a violation of religious freedom. Or so it seems in Turner’s world. Attitudes like this are why we keep sliding backwards when it comes to healthcare and freedom in the world. The powers that be want to regulate the wrong things and free up the wrong things.
Why contraception is good for women and good for society
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