The two bars I popped into had a healthy cache of condoms and lubricant in the bathroom, both of which I was invited liberally to sample. I can’t imagine that too many people turn up at opening time — 4 p.m. — and walk off with a handful of contraceptives having bought no drink, but the barmen didn’t blink, and one of them assured me that the scheme becomes more popular as the sun goes down, and with it the array of happy-hour drinks and patrons’ inhibitions. I asked him if anyone came in just to stock up or whether his inventory was largely used in emergencies. He indicated the latter.
Considering these five locations, the 304 others in Manhattan, and the considerable other — private and charitable — alternatives, condoms seem to be pretty much covered. Congress can rest easy; given the heavy involvement of bars and nightclubs, there are very few hours in the day during which one cannot acquire free contraception in New York City, and organizations such as Planned Parenthood and the Children’s Aid Society ensure that more permanent forms are covered, too. Meanwhile, those who are employed and whose insurance plans do not cover contraceptives can walk into a CVS and pay out of their own pockets.
Such facts, however, do not really matter. As H. L. Mencken acerbically noted, “the whole purpose of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed . . . by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.” To listen to the president and the various women’s groups who have so enjoyed throwing around the absurd “anti-women” hyperbole over the last month, one would think that Americans were still required to ape the cloak-and-dagger subterfuge of a drug deal in order to get their hands on contraception, and that they were paying a hefty premium into the bargain. This could not be further from the truth. In my foray, remember, I looked solely for “free
” contraceptives. But — quelle horreur!
— it is still possible, even normal, to buy
contraceptives in every drugstore in the country. Indeed, so ample and various is the supply that it comes in a startling array of flavors, methods, and combinations. No questions are asked. Nobody is excluded.
Next time someone tells you that, if the federal government does not force all health insurers to cover contraception without raising premiums, the sky is going to fall, why not take him for a walk in a major urban area? You’ll only have to go a couple of blocks.
— Charles C. W. Cooke is an editorial associate at National Review.