The Obama administration recently announced a requirement for all health insurers to cover the costs of birth control with no co-pays. Unsurprisingly, this elicited a range of enraged responses — the most extreme of which came from Rep. Steve King (R–Iowa) who exclaimed that “preventing babies from being born is not medicine … that’s not constructive to our culture and our civilization. If we let our birth rate get down below replacement rate, we’re a dying civilization.”
The problem with far-flung conclusions like King’s is not only that they are founded on flawed logic and assumptions, but also that they detract attention from the real point: These new provisions are a big step in the right direction for our health care system.
To understand why free birth control is a good thing, it is first necessary to correctly understand what birth control does. It is preventative medicine — but unlike King’s suggestion — it is not intended to prevent new generations from being born. Instead, it prevents unplanned pregnancies, giving women the power to plan their families. It is as much an empowering tool as it is a preventative measure.
In aiding women in planning families, these new provisions will also help prevent women from turning to other more controversial family planning measures, namely abortion. People who don’t want babies often don’t have them, birth control or not. The simple conclusion, then, is that with greater access to birth control, women will have fewer unwanted pregnancies, which will in turn lower abortion rates. Thus, the birth control initiative is only a cheaper and healthier means to a similar end, which is surely a win-win situation, even for members of the pro-life camp.
But these recent provisions are not meaningful only because of the obvious benefits of birth control, but also because they’re paving the path to equality.
Perhaps the most significant consequence of the new provisions is that they will result in more socioeconomic equality in access to this fundamental health care benefit. Currently, buying birth control is expensive. It is not a one-time investment but often a recurring cost that women face. And to some, it’s an expense that they cannot cover, so they choose to forego additional payments, and with them, they forego precaution as well. Poverty should not be a barrier to equal access to essential health care services.
It is also worth noting that arguments about birth control often turn to moral reasoning, often asking: Is birth control a right? If not, how could our government possibly encourage all insurers to cover it? While a debate on the morality of birth control is interesting, it is not relevant here. The fact is that a majority of American women use birth control. So the relevant question is: Should the government be helping women with access to something they need and use?
The unequivocal answer is yes. It is evident that access to birth control is good for women. It is also evident that equality of access across socioeconomic groups to this measure is not only good but also a necessity.
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