February 9 2012

Butting Heads over Birth Control

Hadley Heath

How many times during the past few days have I heard that the majority of Catholics are ok with birth control?  Too many to count.

In case you live under a rock, the Obama Administration recently ruled that employers (except for churches) have to provide insurance for a variety of controversial treatments including contraceptives, abortifacients, and sterilization.  Many Catholic hospitals, schools, and organizations have understandably taken issue with this.  The official position of the Catholic Church on birth control is that it's morally wrong.

But how quickly some liberals have pointed out that 98 percent of Catholic women have used contraception at some point in life!

Listen, I'll leave it to the Catholics to sort out the difference of opinion between the Church and many of its members, but I want to make one point: It is irrelevant how many people oppose birth control.  Remember the cute Ben Franklin quote about the wolves and the lamb?

Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for dinner.  Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote.

Cute, but seriously true.  It doesn't matter if your view is unpopular; you still have the right to practice your religion.  It's disappointing that tolerance-preaching liberals, who pretend to care for the marginalized minorities in our country, won't stand up for a minority they don't like: believers who oppose birth control.

In fact, so many of the points made during this debate have been absolutely irrelevant.  

The bottom line is this: In a free market, this would never be an issue.  The free market has various solutions to this problem.  Various employers and various women could all choose the options that are right for them among various insurance plans.  The government "solution" is problematic because it is one-size-fits-all, and forces somebody to choose between obeying the law and obeying their conscience.

First of all, women are free to seek employment wherever they want.  If health benefits are a priority to you, seek an employer who offers them.  If not, check out the individual health insurance market.  Or not.  Do what you want!  

(If this sounds harsh and you are thinking, "I can't work wherever I want; I've got limited means and skills and can't find another job," then I urge you to become an even greater advocate of economic freedom and a stronger, more robust jobs market.)

Secondly, no one is seeking to reduce access to contraceptives.  It's worth noting that the employers who today oppose this birth-control-mandate aren't currently offering this kind of coverage to their workers.  So no one's going to lose anything.  Furthermore, "access" is an abused word.  "Access" doesn't mean "making someone else pay for something for you."  Birth control pills cost about $15-$50 per month, and any woman can get them with a prescription, even if she doesn't have health insurance.  I'd say access is already pretty good.

In a free market health care system, no employer would be required to provide benefits.  Neither would an employer be forbidden to provide certain benefits.  People could associate freely and seek health insurance from any company (even, gasp, outside of their state borders).

Importantly, the marketplace is one of the only places where diverse people (who disagree about everything else) can be productive together.  I can buy ceramics made by Muslims in Turkey even though we don't share a religion or a nationality.  I can buy a ticket to a sports event from a team I want to see lose.  I can buy a movie ticket for a film starring actors who are politically opposite my views.  Or I can chose to do none of those things if I don't feel right about it.

Government solutions force us to make compromises.  This sounds nice in the context of teamwork.  But it's simply not necessary for someone to compromise on his or her sacred religious beliefs when there are other - many other and better - ways for us all to work together without government interference.

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