Every sperm is sacred

Now that death panels are a thing of the distant past, the real threat to liberty in this country is apparently the pill, something that we’ve had for over half a century and that a majority of us thought was a fairly settled debate. Of course, since the right is adamantly opposed to providing life-saving universal access to healthcare we instead get yet another front in the culture wars.

Now the administration has changed course in the right direction on the contraception mandate:

Today, the White House did the right thing for women, public health and human rights.  Despite deep concerns, including my own, based on what transpired in the past under health reform, the White House has decided on a plan to address the birth control mandate that will enable women to get contraceptive coverage directly through their insurance plans without having to buy a rider or a second plan, and without having to negotiate with or through religious entities or administrations that are hostile to primary reproductive health care, including but not limited to contraception.

Under this plan, every insurance company will be obligated to provide contraceptive coverage. Administration officials stated that a woman’s insurance company “will be required to reach out directly and offer her contraceptive care free of charge.  The religious institutions will not have to pay for it.”

This is the right move. A smart, effective way to get past the objections on the right. And it pushes us one tiny step closer to shedding employer coverage altogether.

Even before the changed policy, public opinion was squarely behind the administration:

A solid 56 percent majority of voters support the decision to require health plans to cover prescription birth control with no additional out-of-pocket fees, while only 37 percent are opposed. It’s particularly noteworthy that pivotal independent voters support this benefit by a 55/36 margin; in fact, a majority of voters in every racial, age, and religious category that we track express support. In particular, a 53 percent majority of Catholic voters, who were oversampled as part of this poll, favor the benefit, including fully 62 percent of Catholics who identify themselves as independents.

It will be interesting to see how Republicans respond to this latest move by the president. The reason it’s an issue at all is simple: just as the economy starts to heat up, Republicans panic and pick a fight over something bound to whip up the fervor of the angriest of culture warriors: no death panels this time, no, this time it’s contraception. But actually that’s not quite right either. That’s just a code word for abortion.

Of course, we’re not talking about a mandate to cover abortions, we’re talking about a mandate to cover birth control. Some people on the fringe of this debate equate the two, but a huge majority of Americans disagree. A majority of Catholics disagree, for that matter.

I think of the Affordable Care Act as the wrong law at the right time. Or the right law at the wrong time. I can’t quite decide. Either way, it’s a vast improvement over the status quo, and yet doubles down on one thing that I can’t stand about our healthcare system: employer-provided coverage. The problem with American healthcare isn’t too much government, it’s too many middle-men, and third-party coverage is the most glaring middle man of all.

The exchanges built into the new law are another story, mirroring systems in place in Germany and Switzerland. Germany is the economic powerhouse of Europe, and Switzerland is about as close to a libertarian paradise as anywhere on earth. Our healthcare law should, over time, push us toward something quite similar. Cries of socialism are particularly vapid given the countries in question.

The difference between here and everywhere else in the world is that in America everything revolves around the culture wars.

I don’t think the Republican party actually cares one bit about birth control. They’re just using the issue to obstruct the ACA at every turn. It’s silly, childish, and manipulative. That social conservatives don’t feel entirely burned and jaded by the GOP’s cynical politicization of their issues is telling. Social conservatives made a deal with the devil when they decided to use majority-rules democracy to further their goals, and now the piper must be paid. Diminishing returns on diminishing demographics.

I fully support the right for women (and everyone, for that matter) to have full, unfettered access to healthcare and birth control and preventative medicine. These things will save us money and make the country safer and more prosperous. A woman’s right to have control over her own body is sacrosanct as far as my conception of liberty is concerned. And women who don’t want to use contraception don’t have to. Nobody is forcing them to do anything.

The fact that employer’s provide insurance to their employees is profoundly stupid, an accident of history, a huge part of why we’re in the straits we’re in when it comes to our badly mangled healthcare system. This latest move by the president actually puts a dent in this system – it’s a victory both for women’s rights and crafting a smarter, more efficient, and more fair system of healthcare.

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