The Corner

Jindal’s Birth-Control Critics

The same day Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal endorsed letting over-the-counter sales for birth control, Allison Yarrow slammed him for it in the Daily Beast. It was a “silly proposal,” according to the headline.

“But women and advocates say his tacit birth-control pill endorsement isn’t fooling them,” she wrote. “They reject Jindal’s message outright and attest that it raises more questions than it answers.”

Their first objection: “[I]t would have women shell out money for what they are poised to get for free.”

“It’s kind of hilarious,” said activist Christina (sic) Page, who authored How the Pro-Choice Movement Saved America. “The idea here is that, oh, OK, now we have to pay for it again? To me that sounds like thanks but no thanks. We won the election, thanks.”

My responses: A) It’s not “free,” just paid for indirectly, and not entirely by the women taking it. B) Not all women will get birth control through insurance. Women who work for churches—and, depending on which way the courts go, for religious organizations or even employers without a religious mission but with religious objections to providing contraception—won’t be covered by the mandate. True, these exemptions may affect only a small number of women. Advocates of the mandate have, however, already established that marginal changes in access to contraception matter a great deal to them. Otherwise why did they force a fight over whether Notre Dame would have to cover contraception?

C) Is it completely outside the realm of possibility that a Republican will get elected in 2016 and withdraw the birth-control mandate? (Answer: No.) Some “women and advocates”—liberal ones—may think that getting rid of the mandate and letting birth control be sold over-the-counter is a step backward on net, but presumably they would at least think that it’s better than getting rid of the mandate and not making the pill be available over the counter.

Objection two: Letting the Pill be sold over the counter doesn’t make other forms of birth control more accessible. That doesn’t actually sound like a good objection to the proposal so much as an objection to it as a replacement for the mandate—in which case my points B and C above apply.

Objection three: They say that Jindal is wrong to suggest that many women would prefer to bypass doctors.

But visiting the doctor is far from the problem, said Page. “We’re fine treating our medical care like our medical care.” . . . [O]thers partake to regulate hormones or prevent ovarian cancer. Many women experimenting with different types of birth control desire the guidance of their doctors to help them find the one that works.

Again, how is this in any way an objection to Jindal’s proposal? Or a response to anything he has actually said? And who is the “we” for whom Page is taking it upon herself to speak?

Objection four: Jindal’s proposal doesn’t cover minors, and they should be covered. This objection is just baffling, because it’s not as though minors will universally have birth-control coverage under the mandate. And if this were truly considered a flaw in the proposal, the obvious solution would be to drop the restriction on minors—not to trash the proposal altogether.

Not all of the foolishness aimed at Jindal is coming from his left. Yarrow also quoted a statement from the Archdiocese of New Orleans: “We disagree with the governor’s opinion because, as the Catholic Church teaches, contraception is always wrong.”

My responses again: A) The Church does not teach that taking the Pill is always wrong, since there are non-contraceptive reasons a woman might take it. B) The Church does not teach that the immorality of contraception requires governments to make it as inaccessible as possible. It does not, for example, teach that public officials have a moral obligation to try to ban it. The conclusion that oral contraception should require a prescription just doesn’t follow, simply and inexorably, from the proposition that it’s immoral. This was not a well-considered statement, and I would be surprised if the bishops took this line in any more authoritative document.

Maybe there are good objections to Jindal’s proposal. The ones presented by “women and advocates” or the archdiocese don’t withstand scrutiny.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.


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