Can We All Admit That Birth Control is A) Not That Expensive B) Over-Regulated and C) a Flashpoint for Public Policy?


As liberal critics seek "to silence Rush" Limbaugh (in the words of the Drudge Report) because of the radio jock's bizarre and unseemly rant about contraceptive activist Sandra Fluke, it's probably time to take a few deep breaths and do a quick reality check reagarding President Obama's health care plan.

For starters, the conservative outfit CNS is reporting that Target stores in the DC area advertise birth-control pills for $9 a month.

On Tuesday, Fluke spoke at an event at the U.S. Capitol in celebration of women's history month. After the event, asked Fluke: "Were you aware of the Target store that's 3 miles from Georgetown Law that sells a month's supply of birth control pills for $9 a month without insurance coverage?  Were you aware of that?"

Fluke said: "So, I'm not familiar with specific department store policies. I know that some generic forms of contraception are less expensive than others and that that has been widely reported. But what has not been widely reported is that many women cannot use those forms of contraception."

It's true that some women will have conditions that drive up the price of birth control (though there's always condoms), but come on already. The plain fact is that, as a rule, you can get birth control very cheaply. And even getting a prescription for pills shouldn't cost very much. Every city and town (and certainly virtually all universities) offers free or near-free clinics for exams.

Which leads to the second point: Health-care reform was supposed to bend the cost-curve down, right? Wasn't that the whole point? That if we rejiggered how and what health care was delivered, things would get cheaper, just as they have in virtually every other aspect of our commercial lives? Citing a great column by former Reason editor Virginia Postrel a few weeks back, I asked why the hell do you need a prescription for birth control in the first place? Here's Postrel:

Making the pill available over the counter could reduce the amount of outrage and invective available for entertaining radio audiences, spurring political fundraising and otherwise amusing the American public. But the medical risks are quite low….

Birth-control pills can have side effects, of course, but so can such over-the-counter drugs as antihistamines, ibuprofen or the Aleve that once turned me into a scary, hive-covered monster. That's why even the most common over-the-counter drugs, including aspirin, carry warning labels. Most women aren't at risk from oral contraceptives, however, just as most patients aren't at risk from aspirin or Benadryl, and studies suggest that a patient checklist can catch most potential problems….

And to the extent that checklists can't, certainly we can come up with procedures to deal with those rare cases. Because as this whole contraceptive mandate thing drags on, it's inarguable that public policy and human reproduction should be kept as far away from each other as possible. If we're going to insist on publicly funding health care, we would be better served by covering as little as possible not simply from a financial point of view but from a pluralistic point of view. If everybody is paying for everybody else's health care, then everybody has some say in everybody's lifestyle. Why should I be on the hook for a skier's idiotic (to me!) decision to risk breaking life and limb? Should elective surgeries be covered? And if so, who decides what's elective and what isn't? And on and on.

Obamacare isn't even fully operational yet and it's causing more trouble than a bull in a china shop. And that's not even factoring the likeliehood that the first decade of the program may cost twice as much as initially advertised.

Here's the great Remy, making the case for the cough drop mandate: