Contraception is pretty damn important to a woman’s health


So our healthcare system is all screwed up for innumerable reasons like the fact that we have to get insurance from our employers. We have the whole thing rigged with middle-men and price controls and protectionism. On top of that it’s an unfair system that leaves too many people out in the cold. Maybe part of the problem here is the government getting involved in utterly ridiculous ways over the years – an ad hoc approach that has left a terrible tangle in its wake.

The other problem is that too many people think that we can get healthcare to people without government assistance, which I just don’t think is true. I’m fine with using markets to get the pricing mechanism working again, but I want the state to help people get basic access to care and to make sure nobody is without life-saving coverage and that nobody goes bankrupt.

It seems painfully obvious to me that a fundamental piece of a woman’s basic healthcare needs is her ability to have some modicum of control over her own body. Contraception is extremely important to many women (and their families) and having the ability to have access to contraception is a basic individual right in today’s world.

What about before there even was contraception? Well, women were much worse off in general back then, and the lack of an ability to have control over their own bodies was a big part of it (not long ago it was perfectly legal to rape your wife, for instance.) Women were also worse off before they had a right to vote – even when nobody had a right to vote. Rights are not always eternal. Sometimes they emerge with new systems of government, new notions about our humanity, new technologies. Sometimes people want to take them away.

In this day and age, we’ve basically put together a piecemeal social contract and a part of that contract is to protect individual rights. We’ve also agreed to protect religious freedom. Fortunately for religious freedom, nobody is forcing anybody to actually take contraception.

What’s happening in the current debate is that people are simply saying that the individual right of women is just as important as religious freedom. And as with something like the Civil Rights Act, these freedoms need to be weighed against one another to some degree. With the Civil Rights Act we decided that the right of all races to be treated equally in the public and private sector outweighed the right of white people to discriminate against black people. A similar debate is going on with regards to contraception.

The administration’s compromise in all of this was to tell insurance companies that they had to act in their own best interest and provide money-saving contraception to women. It’s a win for everybody even if the end result means that workers have one less thing that bosses can hold over their heads, and that the individual rights of women come before the rights of religious employers. Not everything can be a clean win. Not everyone is going to be happy. That’s just life.

I feel the same way about the ACA in general. It didn’t fix our problems with healthcare and it may make some of those problems more entrenched, but it does move us toward something a little bit more fair and it may eventually mean that workers won’t have to depend as much on their employers for health benefits. That’s a win in my book. When we can align worker rights and worker autonomy with individual rights I think we’re moving in the right direction.

Ditto that for sexual equality.



Erik Kain

Erik writes about video games at Forbes and politics at Mother Jones. He's the editor of The League though he hasn't written much here lately. He can be found occasionally composing 140 character cultural analysis on Twitter.