While I was relieved to see fellow columnist Katie Earle didn’t frame her opposition to the proposal that insurance companies cover contraception in religious terms, her other justifications made little more sense. “What’s next,” she asked, “free condoms? Gym memberships?”
Well, yes; I should hope so. Free condoms would be an incredible cost-saving measure for both health-insurance companies and the government. They would reduce the number of new AIDs cases and other, non-fatal but still-pricey sexually transmitted infections, as well as the incidence of unplanned or unwanted pregnancies, which are far more expensive than any hundreds of condoms. We give them out for free in foreign countries and on college campuses for a reason.
It’s not as though the government is actually suggesting that citizens receive free birth control, anyway — merely that contraceptives should be one of the many medications and treatments included with health insurance plans. Many of these policies already provide their beneficiaries with “free” or reduced-price Viagra. Why are we so offended that our premiums might help cover the pill, but totally fine with paying for four-hour erections?
Some insurance companies, in fact, already provide deductions for things like gym memberships and healthy eating, which actually makes financial sense: physical activity reduces heart disease — the leading killer in the United States by far — and obesity, which leads to a whole host of expensive conditions. This brings me to Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign, which for some reason has attracted the ire and derision of the Right. Can they really believe that a message encouraging exercise and healthier eating is somehow another assault on American values?
Instead of focusing on the many real challenges for our country both at home and abroad, Conservatives seem intent to spend the election attacking Georgetown law students and the First Lady. In the 2010 elections, support from the majority of women propelled the Republican Party to control of the House of Representatives; in 2012 they appear determined to throw this support out the window.
The real issue at stake is whether we want a society that focuses on preventing problems or relies on Band-Aid solutions. Do we tackle obesity with healthy eating and exercise or with insulin pumps, pacemakers and power scooters? Do we treat addiction with support and education, or with prison cells? Do we treat the problems of sexual promiscuity with condoms and birth control pills or do we pretend that marriage and abstinence are the only solutions, and deride those who stray from the puritanical ideal as “sluts?”
It’s a uniquely disgusting double standard where men like Limbaugh disparage young women for having sex but then suggest that they post it online for the viewing pleasure of the general public. Apparently sex is bad but pornography is okay with Limbaugh.
We must focus on the causes of our problems rather than simply treating the effects. Despite what conservatives might have you believe with all their phony posturing about deficits, it’s cheaper to buy a truckload of contraceptives than to pay for even a single child abandoned by a parent who can’t provide proper care. The only reason there’s any dispute is that in the former case, insurance companies currently pay the price while in the latter case the cost is borne by the taxpayers.