3 Ways to Take Birth Control Out of the Presidential Race

At least for a few minutes, if not longer...

In the heat of a presidential election season, The Washington Post disingenuously asks, "Birth control as election issue. Why?"

The title is disingenuous (methinks) because it's clear that the main reason why we are talking about this is the rightly controversial mandate in President Obama's health care reform plan that virtually all employers, including those for whom contraception is religiously proscribed or not a core business focus, give their employees free-to-them contraceptives.

Well, that and the current leader in the Republican search for a losing presidential nominee rarely seems to miss an opportunity to diss anything that makes getting pregnant tougher. But let's face it, long after the term Santorum exists only under vine-covered ruins of safe-search-off Google queries, we'll still be talking about the beast-with-two-backs in public policy venues. Or at least in JFK-themed memoirs.

But in the hopes of moving past the issue and never having to hear about state-mandated "vaginal probing" at least until tonight's GOP debate (a series that has now tied Gunsmoke and Meet the Press for longevity and coma-induction), I propose three relatively frictionless ways to take birth control out of current political discussion.

1. Scrap the employer mandate, which is just as problematic as the mandate that all god's children need to show proof of health insurance as a condition of drawing a breath. Apart from all the other issues about how to pay for health care, an employer-based system is just a mess (not least of which because most companies can't be expected to know what the hell they're doing in picking and choosing for the needs of all their workers).

If employers want to help their workers pay for health care, they can give them money - preferably taxed or not taxed as normal income to minimize economic inefficiencies - to pick and choose among the myriad of competing health-care options out there (and we all know even more options would come online if workers were en masse picking health insurance like we do car insurance). I think the individual mandate is screwed-up and unconstitutional, but scrapping the employer mandate doesn't even have anything to do with that. So it's something that even reform advocates could get behind.

Think about it: If the goal of Obama's health care reform was to guarantee universal coverage for people (and it won't do that, but never mind), all it has to do is decree that everybody needs to have coverage. Businesses would then be able to either keep offering coverage, give a cashout for at least a big portion of the cost of foregone benefits, or just cut that portion of their expenses. If they chose the latter, their employees would squawk or walk if they didn't get most of what they want. Even in a crap economy.

2. Stop searching for old Rick Santorum quotes. Whether he's talking about Satan's designs on the good ol' US of A or yammering on about the libertinism made possible by Trojan Twizzler-flavored condoms or what have you, Santo has been out of office and on the rubber-chicken (not that kind of rubber!) circuit long enough to provide years worth of oddball quotes.

3. Stop having sex. It's already happening among high schoolers whose frequency rates declined during the Clinton years (can you blame them?), so maybe the children will lead us on this issue, as they do in so many other areas of life (they are, after all and god help us all, the leaders of tomorrow).

A steely-eyed appraisal of each of these options, alas, yields the plain truth that none is likely to happen.

But at the very least, can we acknowledge that forcing all sorts of lifestyle issues into a realm not simply of public discussion but one of legal coercion is a very bad thing? Conservatives and liberals characteristically make an Evel Knievel-style leap from deciding that some activity is good or bad to decreeing with all the force of law that said activity should be banned, subsidized, or mandated.

That's never a good idea, even as that very mind-set pervades local, state, and national politics. If liberals want to keep the Rick Santorums of the world out of their bedrooms, all they need to do is renounce the idea that even people they agree with have the right to sniff around in private quarters. And if conservatives are afraid that Lord Obama is going to force them into sexual-reeducation camps or start wrapping state-sanctioned school lunches in rimming squares made from 50 percent recycled materials or whatever, then they simply need to admit that rendering unto Caesar doesn't give them the right to go all Gladys Kravitz on the neighbors.

It is hard enough to work alongside people on a daily basis without having to wonder about what sorts of health problems, sexual proclivities, and inherited diseases they have. I think about this because I work with people such as Matt Welch, whose life choices, particularly when it comes to rooting for the baseball Angels (what town are they falsely claiming to represent today?), leave me alternating between laughter, sadness, and fear that he's going to shoot up the office. Isn't it enough that two strangers, raised on different coasts by different people, can get along well enough to write a pretty widely praised book that costs just $17.15 (hardcover)/$11.50 (Kindle) at Amazon and has been called "the up-to-date statement on libertarianism," "an inspiring vision," and a better beach read than Ludwig von Mises' Human Action? Must we also be yoked together for all eternity like Holmes and Moriarity falling into Reichenbach Falls because of goddamned stupid health-care policy?

God, I hope not. And I hope that at least for the last 30 seconds or so, you were not thinking about contraception, Barack Obama, Rick Santorum, or the events of this coming fall, when regardless of how you vote, who you root for, and what happens, you will be at least mostly disgusted at the turn of events on Election Day. Just like Angels fans every October but one.

Nick Gillespie is the editor in chief of Reason.tv and Reason.com and the co-author of The Declaration of Independents: How Libertarian Politics Can Fix What's Wrong with America.

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  • Alan Vanneman||

    Why shouldn't birth control be an issue? Libertarians like Jake and Nick seem upset that Obama has (finally) found an issue that has the support of a majority of Americans.* It was bound to happen sometime.

    *An issue besides drone murders, useless wars in Afghanistan, wholesale violations of civil liberties, denial of habeas corpus, etc., I mean.

  • Bill||

    Libertarians don't like to think about vaginas. It makes us feel "funny"

  • ||

    and feeling vaginas makes us think?

  • Old Salt||

    Your not really human if the thought of vaginas doesn't make you feel "funny" in some way!

    Question: Does a clown's vagina feel funny?

  • ||

    Only if there is a rubber nose on the clitoris.

  • Rich||

    "Go ahead, squeeze the wheeze! Many people like to."

  • ||

    [honka-honka]

  • anon||

    Why shouldn't birth control be an issue?

    Because nobody really gives a shit in a way that's not entirely pretentious.

  • Fuck||

    you're an asshole, Vanneman

  • Tim||

    Why? Fuck you that's why.

    That meme never gets old.

  • Mike M.||

    Best of luck to Block Yomomma and his sycophants in distracting people with this bullcrap once gasoline is well over $4 a gallon and the economy is headed back into the crapper.

  • Iran and Syria||

    ** jumping up and down, waving hands **

  • Masturbatin' Pete||

    That's an easy problem to fix. Just mandate that every employer must hand out $100 gas station gift cards to each employee every month. Travel is a right, so if you are opposed to this gas card giveaway, you are imposing your beliefs about travel on others. Best of all, it's totally free! Everybody wins!

  • ||

    People should be free to buy birth control, and it should be over the counter for that matter, like a lot of other drugs that aren't. People should not be forced to buy it, or forced to buy it for others.

    I like meat, but I don't force PETA to buy it for their employees, and I don't force kosher delis to serve bacon or proscuitto.

    This is as dumb as the Mental Health Parity Act that Republicans kept bottled up until the Democrats took Congress. That was truly very popular with Americans, which is why as soon as the vote couldn't be blocked it passed easily and a bunch of Republicans voted for it.

    Didn't make it any less stupid or a violation of rights.

  • Tony||

    Nobody's being forced to purchase, use, or administer birth control.

  • ||

    Nobody's being forced to purchase, use, or administer birth control.

    Well, except for all the employers and insurance companies being forced to pay for it.

  • Tony is Retarded||

    So either purchase insurance that covers birth control or don't purchase any insurance at all.

    Honesty is not one of your strong suits, Team Blue stooge.

  • Anonymous Coward||

    Why shouldn't birth control be an issue?

    Because it is trivial when compared to the candidates' positions on ongoing, undeclared wars, deficit spending, the slow, painful death of the 4th Amendment, taxation, and Presidential power.

  • Anal Vanneman ||

    It's wrong for libertarians to force people to pay for their own birth control...but it's A OK when I force my ideology down your throats!

  • Anal Vanneman ||

    If the majority of Americans support it, it must be good!

  • Bill||

    Matt, you may have a few good years there with the Angels now that they stole my teams star player.

    BTW, I did not know you guys had written a book. Really? What's it called?

  • Muad Dib||

    Not likely. Pujols' numbers are already on the decline (he is still a great ball player, but it won't be enough).

  • SFC B||

    They're in the AL West, which will soon have my Astros. The Rangers and Angels should be able to feast on the A's, Mariners, and Astros while splitting their series with each other. I forsee the AL West mimicing the East and basically have two powerhouse teams and three alsorans. Once you're in the post season any team has more than a puncher's chance.

  • anon||

    4: Mind your own fucking business?

  • ||

    Why not allow tax deductions for all necessary medical expenses? Those who oppose contraception and/or abortion need only refrain from claimng such deductions. Too simple for Washington, I suppose.

  • Translating Nick||

    This is issue is making Republicans look bad so lets quit talking about it.

  • Deadbeat Electorate||

    FREE SHIT! FREE SHIT! FREE SHIT! FREE SHIT!

  • The Administration||

    Oh, very well. Mandated laxatives, too.

  • Benjamin||

    That's a shitty idea.

  • ||

    Yes, cause Nick is a total Team Red shill.

    Idiot.

  • The Derider||

    He may not be personally, but the Koch brothers are, and they provide a substantial part of Reason's budget.

  • anon||

    a better beach read than Ludwig von Mises' Human Action?

    Perhaps an easier read, but definitely not a more comprehensive read.

  • ||

    Go look up the definition of "beach read".

  • ||

    "the current leader in the Republican search for a losing presidential nominee"

    so true

  • J_L_B||

    Obama has some solace in that his reelection chances are looking favorable, but that's the best he can hope for.

    There's no chance of the Democrats having a majority in either house of Congress in 2012, so he'll most likely spend his entire second term vetoing legislation.

  • Chuck Itall||

    he'll most likely spend his entire second term vetoing legislation.

    Strangely, that's what Ron Paul would do, too.

  • J_L_B||

    I give Ron Paul more credit as a politician. He might be able to enact a certain amount of favorable legislation while still extensively using his hair-trigger veto.

  • ||

    I give Ron Paul zero "credit as a politician."

    Go ahead, name just one bill of his of note that he was able to get passed in the House. Ok, I'll lower the bar for ya' - name one bill of his that furthered his agenda that was ever brought to a floor vote.

    I'll wait.

  • Rev. Blue Moon ||

    $5-a-gallon gas is going to sink this President. The nation is going to be completely consumed with energy policy over the summer, and Keystone and Solyndra and all the rest are going to be unearthed as brand-new weapons, and "Drill Baby Drill" is going to be the rallying cry for whoever seizes the GOP candidacy.

  • ChrisO||

    Santorum only supports drilling for procreation.

  • ||

    The Democratic nomination in 2008 had as many debates as the current Republican cycle, and the nomination was decided later than the current Republican one.

    Of course, like the current Republican nomination, it also found a terrible candidate, but a winning one in their case.

  • anon||

    Are you kidding me? They found the -perfect- democrat candidate.

  • np||

    at least until tonight's GOP debate
    Huh, I didn't know there was another one. I assumed they were all over.

    I propose three relatively frictionless ways to take birth control out of current[to end all] political discussion.
    1. Scrap the employer mandates

    - fixed

  • ecian||

    Is that the Heartland Institute on the podium behind Welch and Gillespie? You've lost all credibility, oil korporashun shills!!

  • Sparky||

    Judging by the look on Matt's face in that bottom picture, I'm not sure we want to know where The Jacket's finger was a moment before.

  • End Child Unemployment||

    I was just trying to explain 1) to people the other day, after Sheldon Richman's article on positive rights. Pretty much no one made it past "well yeah positive rights create problems but can't you see CONTRACEPTION IS BASIC HEALTH CARE?".

    While I love The Jacket's writing style, I fear there is no convincing people who don't already agree.

  • Masturbatin' Pete||

    CONTRACEPTION IS BASIC HEALTH CARE?<?I>

    So are Band-Aids, toothpaste, sunscreen, Tylenol, and tampons. I wonder if these positive-rights enthusiasts want health insurance companies to be forced to provide those free of charge, too.

  • Lube||

    What am I, chopped liver?

  • Konfounded Kristen||

    Is Gladys Kravitz Gillespie in drag?

  • ||

    Is Gladys Lenny's mother?

  • Spiny Norman||

    "Gillespie and Welch" was my favorite crime drama back in the '70s. IIRC, it was on right after "Tim Cavanaugh: Gentleman Lifeguard."

  • ||

    Meh. Tim Cavanaugh Nights was a better show. Too bad he insisted on singing a musical number every episode.

  • ||

    I personally liked Sullum vs. Sullum, but then again, that was a movie, not a TV show. My favorite TV show was Lucy in Charge.

  • ||

    It was good, but I thought the premise of the Lucy vehicle That Girl, No Not That One, That One Over There was television dynamite. Too bad they gave it such a lousy timeslot. It only lasted like 6 episodes, I think.

  • ||

    Don't forget she got her start on Gillespe and The Man.

  • ||

    That was Pre-Jacket. I thought all of that was ret-conned out.

  • Spiny Norman||

    Variety shows were still big back then. Personally, I didn't mind the songs, but the show was definitely better in the first season, when Virginia Postrel was still producing.

  • ||

    Captain Ron Bailey's World of Science was vastly underrated as a kids' educational show, too. He did things with the medium that that hack Bill Nye never dreamed of.

  • ||

    What did you think of The B Team starring Peter Suder-Man and Nick Sibilla?

  • ||

    As often as his arch-nemesis The McArdler guest-starred, you'd have thought they'd develop some chemistry. But no, it never happened.

  • Rich||

    It was better with Virginia Postrel.

  • ||

    Remember her spinoff show? It got canceled after half a season.

  • Rich||

    Thrown in the drink, as it were.

  • ||

    She's still working in the Big Apple, though.

  • Zeb||

    How about make it over-the-counter. You want it, you buy it. Seems simple enough. Saves money too.
    If people were serious about cutting costs, making a lot of things that require a prescription over-the-counter seems like a good place to find some savings.

  • Rich||

    That's a might big "If", Zeb.

  • End Child Unemployment||

    Unfortunately it's well known that consumers are too dumb to make decisions for themselves. Considering taking the wrong combinations of prescriptions can have serious health effects, and the fact that even today 95% of consumers are incapable of reinstalling Windows, I have to admit I can't completely condemn the system of requiring prescriptions for certain medications. Ordinarily I'm all for letting people shoot themselves in the leg if they want so this is a tad odd.

  • Old Salt||

    Reeducation Camps for everyone!

  • Jerryskids||

    Would that be "FREE" Reeducation camps for everyone or "MANDATED" Reeducation camps for everyone? You know, "free" like "free" public schools Or "mandated" like.......nevermind.

  • ||

    So my thoughts are that the Obama administration put this topic out there with the full knowledge that the GOP dogs would chase the tennis ball and keep their eye off the prize. We need people on our side who have a clue how to run a campaign! The candidates seem like newbies compared to the slice and dice Dems.

  • ||

    start wrapping state-sanctioned school lunches in rimming squares made from 50 percent recycled materials or whatever

    [slowly backs away]

  • ChrisO||

    Continuing the search for embarrassing Rick Santorum quotes seems like a good idea as long as there is the remotest chance he could get elected.

  • ||

    Rangers are going to make the Angels choke on that Pujols contract this year.

  • EBL||

    Nick, you make so much sense some times it actually hurts--but in a good way (like a slap that wake you up).

  • submandave||

    While Nick make impecible sense, this article provides the perfect example of Libertarian rationalization completely absent practical consideration. Birth Control will continue to be a part of this campaign as long as the liberal media perceive it as a "not-like-us-normal-folks" club with which to hit Republicans, regardless of the truth of their claims.

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