Contraception Conundrum

by Michael J. New

Over at the Washington Monthly, Steve Benen argues that progressives should use the passage of Obamacare to push for federally mandated coverage of contraceptives in health-insurance plans, which he says would be good politics and good policy. In particular, Benen argues that “family-planning programs are wildly popular, and contraceptives are commonly used.” Furthermore, the business community would support contraceptive coverage because some view it as cost effective.

Benen and other progressives should be careful what they wish for, they just might get it. While they might celebrate a liberal administration mandating that insurance plans cover contraceptives, abortifacients, and abortion, a conservative administration could easily prohibit coverage of these services.

More importantly, there is no guarantee that progressives would win a political fight over contraception. It is certainly true that most Americans support the use and availability of contraceptives, but the conscience rights of doctors and nurses enjoy broad public support. Furthermore, it is by no means clear that Americans want their tax dollars subsidizing abortifacients, and most Americans would certainly oppose any mandate that would invalidate the numerous state laws requiring that minors have parental permission before purchasing contraceptives.

Unfortunately, pro-lifers may not get the chance to fight this politically. Ultimately, the decision is in the hands of the federal Health Resources and Services Administration. Indeed, health-care reform removes a number of issues that the right-to-life movement cares about from the democratic process. For this and countless other reasons, the pro-life movement needs continue its efforts to repeal Obamacare

Michael J. New is an assistant professor at the University of Alabama and is a fellow at the Witherspoon Institute.