First, a quick look at how we got here.
In August last year, Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius announced that the Obama administration would enact new guidelines for women’s health to take effect on August 1, 2012. The guidelines are authorized by the Affordable Care Act (i.e., Health Care Law or as some have called it, “ObamaCare”) and are an example of the many vague holes in the law which give the Secretary of HHS the authority to issue new regulations. The specific mandate was that all new health insurance plans would have to provide free contraceptives without a deductible or co-pay.
The real firestorm came on January 20, when Mr. Obama announced that churches would be exempted from the requirement, but that faith-based non-profit organizations (e.g., Catholic Hospitals) would be required to provide employer insurance plans including free contraceptives. Today we stand with an odd compromise where religious charities don’t have to pay for contraceptives—but the contraceptives must be offered to anyone who asks—at no charge to the religious organization. This compromise leaves insurers not charging separately for the contraceptives (preventing a direct charge to religious organizations) but having to pay for them—the cost being charged back to consumers in general.
This is the sort of chicanery that accompanies government intrusion into private affairs.
For the record, Freedom Forge Press is not against contraceptives, women, women’s health, religion, government, or insurance companies. We do stand against the government pretending that it has the authority to create new rights.
Right: Choosing to buy and use (or choosing not to buy and use) birth control (and in a larger sense, health care in general)
Not a right: Free contraceptives (and in a larger sense, health care in general)
Let’s pause on the term “free” for a moment. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but Cupid doesn’t go around shooting free birth control from his quiver. Someone or some company has to pay to research, produce, package, and transport them to a store. So when a government bureaucrat, Department Secretary, Congressman, or President says that birth control has to be offered “free” with no deductible or co-pay, insurers will either try to capture a birth control fairy, or raise their prices across the board to cover the prices they will have to pay for contraceptives without being able to charge co-pays or deductibles.
The media storm has blown the issue askew, presenting it as a question of women’s rights. Anyone siding with the Catholic Church is viewed as standing against women’s reproductive health. The truth is, this isn’t the issue at all. The issue that should be debated is not whether insurance providers must offer birth control free of charge, but whether the government has any right to make this mandate in the first place.
If you stand as part of the camp that cheers this sort of government intrusion into the private sector, consider this: the same government that has the power to grant the right to “free” contraceptives also has the power to revoke this right should public opinion change and even deny individuals the ability to have contraceptives.