Debate Forum Right, 9/6/11

There’s no such thing as free birth control

by Mark Luedtke

Mark Luedtke

When I accepted this assignment, I replied, “I’m against free birth control.” Even though I know darn good and well there’s no such thing as a free lunch, I still fell into that twisted habit of thinking of a government service as free. That shows the extent to which government has corrupted our very thought processes. Government has no money of its own. All the money it has, it seizes from taxpayers under threat of violence. If you don’t believe me, ask Wesley Snipes. So to answer this question, we should first rephrase it in an honest fashion: Should Americans be forced at the point of a gun to pay for the birth control of others?

I hope every American would say no. Imagine if a group of thugs busted in your door, stuck guns in your face and demanded your money so they could buy birth control for their sisters and girlfriends. You would know you were the victim of an armed robbery and, after the thieves left, you would call the police to report it. You would want the thieves caught and your money returned. You would never wonder if providing “free” birth control to those women was good policy. But when the government proposes the same criminal activities as the mafia or a street gang, we check our brains at the door and discuss the policy aspects instead of the morality of stealing people’s money.

The reason this is suddenly a hot issue is that a new report from the Institute of Medicine (IOM), which deals exclusively with women’s health and reproduction issues, claims that taxpayer-funded birth control would reduce teen pregnancy. The institute operates under the National Academy of Sciences. The study was commissioned by the Health and Human Services Department to guide implementation of Obamacare. Gee, I wonder if the outcome of a study commissioned by the Health and Human Services Department under a leftist president regarding his signature legislation and farmed out to a government bureaucracy that deals exclusively with women’s health and reproduction issues might have been predetermined.

This pseudo-scientific study shows that a predetermined conclusion can be reached by any study if the political activists posing as scientists ignore enough information. I remember when liberals paid lip service about addressing root causes of social issues. Not this time. This study didn’t examine any of the root causes of teen pregnancy or HIV/AIDS, which it also examined. This is an important reminder of the extent to which government has corrupted science. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius gave away the farm. According to CNN, “She called the IOM report ‘historic’ and said its recommendations were ‘based on science and existing literature.’” How can you tell when a politician is lying? Right. You can bet Sebelius paid these political activists plenty of our money to produce this sham report.

What the report glaringly ignored was the economic incentives government creates that promote teen pregnancy and AIDS in the first place. For example, it failed to mention how the war on drugs causes many people to use dirty needles to shoot up heroin and methamphetamine, spreading HIV. This problem would be virtually wiped out by ending the disastrous war on drugs.

But even though the report failed to address the root economic incentives created by government that greatly exacerbate the problems the new policy is supposed to address, the CNN article hinted at them, “The direct medical cost of unintended pregnancy in the United States was estimated to be nearly $5 billion in 2002.” In other words, government has transferred the cost from unintended pregnancies from those who get pregnant to the taxpayers. The government is subsidizing teen pregnancy. One of the fundamental laws of economics is that if government subsidizes something, we get more of it. The same is true for AIDS.

The way to dramatically reduce teen pregnancy is to stop subsidizing it. Leave all the costs to the teens and their families so individuals will take responsibility for their actions. CNN further reports on the risky behavior encouraged by subsidies, “And women who have unintended pregnancies are more likely to have little or no prenatal care, and engage in risky behaviors such as smoking, drinking or experience domestic violence.” The same is true for AIDS.

This debate was prompted by the Obamacare’s supposed focus on preventive medicine, but if the government really wanted the American people to take advantage of preventive medicine to reduce health care costs, it would stop subsidizing health care. If people paid their own medical bills, they would adopt preventive measures to keep their costs down. They would become healthier. Health care costs would plummet.

Both reason and compassion dictate we stop encouraging self-destructive behavior with subsidies. But helping people is not our rulers’ real goal. Their real goal is to loot more money from the American people, and subsidizing harmful behavior enables more looting.

If people want to reach into their own pockets to provide contraceptives to others at no marginal cost, more power to them. But don’t use the government to steal from everybody else.

Mark Luedtke is an electrical engineer with a degree from the University of Cincinnati and currently works for a Dayton attorney. He can be reached at  MarkLuedtke@DaytonCityPaper.com

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