February
24th 2009
Why do conservatives oppose publicly funded contraception?

Posted under: Gender, the body, women's history

It works.  And it’s important, if you believe that 1) a healthy sex life is a basic human right, 2) that women are good for more than just producing babies, and 3) that they might have other worthy things to do between the ages of 15 and 45.

Big “ifs” for some, I realize.

23 Comments »

23 Responses to “Why do conservatives oppose publicly funded contraception?”

  1. Scott on 24 Feb 2009 at 10:02 am #

    What conservatives denied “that women are good for more than just producing babies”? I don’t think that women sit around just producing babies – with or without a publicly funded program. So, how is that evidence for anything?

    You believe an issue is important, and you have evidence that your system works. Does that mean that we should force everyone pay for it?

  2. Susie from Philly on 24 Feb 2009 at 10:07 am #

    Because if women used contraceptives, they might enjoy sex without calling down God’s wrath, silly!

  3. Bing McGhandi on 24 Feb 2009 at 10:32 am #

    Women also keep babies alive with precious breast milk. I thought I would remind you of that. I mean, once you make them you need someone to take care of them.

    Snicker.

    If it’s a worthwhile public health program, Scott, sure. Everyone benefits.

    HJ

  4. Historiann on 24 Feb 2009 at 10:45 am #

    Yes, Scott, we should force everyone to pay for it, because as the Guttmacher report I linked to points out, these programs work only when they’re available to everyone regardless of income.

    Are you in favor of MORE abortions? MORE unplanned pregnancies?

    The U.S. government now socializes the risk inherent in investment banking and running a car company, just to name a few pillars of our so-called capitalist system. Why shouldn’t it pay to make contraception available to those who choose to use it?

  5. Scott on 24 Feb 2009 at 11:30 am #

    “Are you in favor of MORE abortions?” No.
    “MORE unplanned pregnancies?” No.

    But bad things happen, and I believe the best solution is rarely to take money away from people and put the government in charge. I think that when we do this, it chips away at individual freedom.

    “The U.S. government now socializes the risk inherent in investment banking and running a car company, just to name a few pillars of our so-called capitalist system. Why shouldn’t it pay to make contraception available to those who choose to use it?” I agree that is the direction of things lately. I disagree that it is a good idea.

    Are you if favor of less money available for food and shelter? Are you in favor of people taking away your money because they have decided that their program is more beneficial? Do you like it when others decide for you?

  6. Historiann on 24 Feb 2009 at 11:47 am #

    Scott, we don’t currently live in a Libertarian utopian state. We live in a democratic republic that already taxes us before we get what’s left in our checks.

    I will gladly pay my share of offering contraception and reproductive health care through medicaid to women who otherwise not be able to afford it, just as I gladly pay my taxes to see that the roads are paved, and that public schools are open, to ensure clean air and water, to help protect my spinach from e-coli and my peanut butter from samonella, and so that FEMA will be there for me and my neighbors when the next tornado/hurricane/flood/fire strikes. There are some things that are more efficient and cost less when everyone chips in so that everyone can benefit, and that includes health care.

    This is called by those of us who enjoy it “civilization.” It makes more sense to me to pay the price for civilization (taxes) than to pave my own roads, homeschool my own children, and try to create my own mini-medieval walled fortress around my home. You’re welcome to become an island unto yourself and opt out of taxation–but only if you pay the real price and stay off of public roads, public lands, public schools, and don’t consume water, air, or food unless you clean it or grow it yourself. Short of that, friend, and you’re stuck with civilization as we know it, and civilization has a price.

  7. Scott on 24 Feb 2009 at 1:31 pm #

    “You’re welcome to become an island unto yourself and opt out of taxation”
    To be clear: I don’t think that all taxes are bad. Some government services are good. I rather like that the court system exists. Police, too. I just draw the line in a different spot.

    Being against a government-run contraceptive program isn’t an anti-civilization position!

    You make remarks about me trying “to create my own mini-medieval walled fortress around my home”. But that isn’t where I am coming from.

    I didn’t make a blanket condemnation of government services. You are taking what I said and projecting an extreme (an untrue) version.

    Look, I’ll do it to you. See if it allows for intelligent debate.

    - “There are some things that are more efficient and cost less when everyone chips in so that everyone can benefit, and that includes health care.” OMG, you want everyone to give their entire paycheck to the government, because you think that will create a socialist paradise where everyone’s needs are taken care of by the collective! -

    That doesn’t actually accomplish anything useful. Just like your libertarian utopia story.

  8. Erica on 24 Feb 2009 at 2:24 pm #

    Publicly funded contraception is far less expensive than publicly funded education, recreation, health care, and feeding of a child; and if somebody’s eligible for all the latter, they were eligible for the former. It’s pretty straightforward math. Declaring that we want to “force people” to pay is silly, because everybody pays for the more expensive programs anyway — why not pay for a less expensive program which will, long-term, reduce the burden on the more expensive programS?

  9. Satsuma on 24 Feb 2009 at 2:29 pm #

    I think the bottom line of this argument is that a lot of men resist programs that only benefit women. Women, of course, have paid for male programs for eons — think G.I. bill that mostly benefited men after WWII. Whereas women who worked in dangerous war time factories got no such G.I. bill. If you look at the risk women assumed working in war time factories, the number of munitions factories that blew up, the number of injuries etc., you’d find that the risk was not compensated, nor was the similar patriotism rewarded when women were involved.

    I believe many types of health insurance already pays for Viagra, for example, but birth control is seen as a luxury. Remember McCain’s awkward answer to that question during the campaign?

    We have to take a careful look at all government programs. Who do they really benefit and why? If you took a hard look at the programs, I’d bet funding for exclusive male activities or male majority activities would far outrank in total dollars the amount of money that funds women only programs. I think most conservative men aren’t aware of this bias, because it’s hard to get these statistics.

    Liberal men are clueless in many other ways, I’m not just picking on conservatives here.

    Personally, if you have a brain in your head and a good accountant, you won’t be paying much in taxes anyway. Only 30% of Americans actually pay Federal income tax to begin with. 70% of Americans pay nothing or next to nothing– so clearly we have these debates, because the 30% who pay resent the others who don’t.

    Didn’t mean to get into too technical a discussion about taxes, but I do note the outrage men express over women only programs, and “male” programs (the default male) are simply labeled as “human” programs. This masks who gets what and why.

  10. Lilian Nattel on 24 Feb 2009 at 2:44 pm #

    Lack of contraception is what led to all the abandoned children in the Romanian orphanages in the 80′s. “Four months, three weeks, two days” is an excellent movie.

  11. John S. on 24 Feb 2009 at 3:28 pm #

    Scott, it seems to me that your most recent post gives away the game. You say that you believe that the government has some role, by keeping the courts open, police on the streets, etc. And you think that we should force everyone to pay for those things, as the price for living in a civilized society. But I think that once you accept that position, then we’re the realm of arguing *which* things government should do (i.e., which things we should force everyone to pay for).

    Once you get into that area, the discussion become a matter of priorities: how much for roads, how much for contraception? Thus, I think the concession you make to Historiann in your first post–that she has evidence that a system she supports works–is a big one. If government has a role to play in at least some instances, wouldn’t we want it to fund programs that work well?

    Here is where I think Satsuma’s point is right on target: the empirical question goes a long way towards deciding ideological problems (though not all the way). We need to examine who benefits from programs and who doesn’t before we talk about whether or not we “force everyone to pay” for particular government programs. But then, I am a historian and an empiricist more than a political philosopher.

  12. Historiann on 24 Feb 2009 at 4:40 pm #

    First, I should apologize to Scott–I was a bit snarky and over-the-top with my last response. I picked a fight with Scott about libertarianism, which he didn’t ask for. John S., Erica, and Satsuma all make points I agree with, and in a more polite and reasoned fashion.

    I guess I’m left asking my original question again: Why do conservatives oppose the public funding of contraception, especially when (as the Guttmacher report I linked to shows) it saves the public money. So, Scott, your concern about whether or not the public should fund contraception suggests that perhaps your concerns have to do with the morality of government-funded contraception, since qualms about the fiscal soundness of such programs are unfounded.

  13. Satsuma on 24 Feb 2009 at 5:31 pm #

    Historiann and all interested readers– The issue with public funding for contraception and why the right is against it, does indeed have a lot to do with morality.

    Right Wing Christians believe that having sex outside of marriage is wrong, and also they believe giving away free birth control will only encourage more bad behavior. They believe marriage itself will be undermined if young people don’t have to wait until marrage to have sex in the first place.

    These are some of their arguments. I’m only reporting what I actually heard with my own two ears on various right wing talk radio Christian stations–notably James Dobson and Frank Pastori. (KKLA in Los Angeles).

    They believe that moral arguments are just as strong if not stronger than purely economic arguments. Undermining families, having children out of wedlock (as a result of failed birth control), and saying it’s ok to have sex outside marriage they believe is what is ruining America.

    So if you look solely for an explanation as to why conservatives don’t want to “save money” this might address this seeming contradiction.

  14. Historiann on 24 Feb 2009 at 5:46 pm #

    Satsuma–thanks for your comments on this. I agree that it’s mostly about the morality questions, and perhaps more broadly about the leveling of power between the sexes that women’s control of their reproduction implies, although there are a number of libertarians and fiscal conservatives (like perhaps Scott, but I don’t want to speak for him) who oppose programs like this on the grounds that social welfare programs compete against their ideal of small government, 18th century style.

    I especially like the point you made earlier about resistance to funding programs that are perceived to benefit only or mostly women. I think this too may be a big part of it, although I would argue that anything that permits women to take care of their reproductive health better by definition benefits their partners and their children, male and female alike.

  15. John S. on 24 Feb 2009 at 6:12 pm #

    I think it is also important to consider (though I disagree with the position) that conservatives attempting to restrict abortion rights and access to contraception are trying to “help” women, in their own way. Think about all the hand-wringing over the “hook up culture” that American youths live in, or Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy’s recent decision worrying about the psychological trauma that women who have had abortions experience. (Yes, I know that regulations on contraception and abortion are not the same, but I hope you will grant the point.)

    In each case, you have individuals deciding that women need protection from engaging in behavior that will damage them emotionally, and taking steps to protect women from those choices. If contraception is available, well, then young women might be more inclined to have more sexual partners, which will they will later regret; thus “we” (society and/or the government) need to discourage that.

    There is a paternalist aspect to this, of course, but I would also say a morally maternalist one as well. There are both men and women in my family who think that neither men nor women capable of making their own choices regarding sexuality , so someone else (a man living in Italy wearing a mitre, perhaps?) should make these decisions for them. The idea of “benefit” is culturally constructed. Many cultural conservatives opposed to particular reproductive rights really do thin they are helping the people they are trying to restrict.

  16. Rad Readr on 24 Feb 2009 at 9:19 pm #

    Historiann, you are right not to equate Scott’s point with Libertarian positions — but can you keep the attacks on Libertarians coming!!!

  17. Historiann on 24 Feb 2009 at 9:31 pm #

    Ha-ha, Rad! Sure: Libertarianism would be a great philosophy if we lived in a world where all children are above average and no one ever got sick or was disabled for any part of their lives. And, let’s legalize pot! No wonder it appeals mostly to younger, wealthier people–keeping all your own money sounds great when you’ve got more than enough, and you’re not facing a ruinious financial sinkhole (natural disaster, old age, a disabled child, a catastrophic illness.)

    I had my flirtation with Libertarianism, back in the fat Clinton years when the Feds had a budget surplus, and we were all on our way to Dow 36,000, and the internet was (somehow?) going to make us all super-rich. Ahhh–good times, weren’t they? The thing I like about Libertarians is that they’re optomistic and they embrace new technologies without fear. But, they seem willfully to accept any evidence from real life (global climate change, for example) that might harsh their buzz.

    Ok, now back to the subject at hand. (I actually still agree with the pot legalization bit.)

  18. bruce nahin on 25 Feb 2009 at 11:30 am #

    This pro life conservative believes that women who can not afford contraception(pill, iud etc but not abortion) should receive it as part of Medicaid-No I do not think “”women are good only for reproduction ” as my previously blogs here and other sites so clearly establish- I am a feminist(male version) just pro life

  19. Historiann on 25 Feb 2009 at 11:54 am #

    Bruce–thanks for your comment. I think there is plenty of room in the tent for pro-life feminism! Many of my pro-choice friends disagree, but I’ve taught at two Catholic universities now, and learned that there are a lot of young Catholic women who would identify themselves as feminist were it not for their sense that being a feminist must necessarily mean being completely pro-choice.

    I disagree with pro-life feminism, but I don’t think it’s fair to call it antifeminist.

  20. Satsuma on 25 Feb 2009 at 6:15 pm #

    I think women should spend as much time as possible debating the issues both liberal and conservative within a woman powerful political context. Not all women are comfortable with abortion as an option, but they powerfully are FOR women’s other equality issues. I call abortion the black hole of women’s energy, and feel rather distant from the whole fracus.

    I do tend to agree with some conservatives that enabling women to become more sexually available to men is a mistake. While men seem to be consumers of sex, and not very damaged by all their affairs, and prostitutes on the side (gay and straight)-McGreevy and Spitzer, hey don’t forget Edwards too (Kennedy just gets women drunk and drowns them) I look to the women I know who didn’t fair all that well by the time they got to their 50s. We have to look at birth control as power for women, not a male centric excuse to pressure more young women to have sex when they really don’t want it. Get rid of those stupid high school proms!! But I digress.

  21. bruce nahin on 26 Feb 2009 at 12:13 am #

    Historiann, as always a pleasure to discuss isssue with you- This abortion discussion is as yu suggest and Satsuma too, that need not be a defining issue in discussing feminist issues. We saw what that did in the Palin situation ad we shouldnt repeat it. New Agenda is open to both views ( big tent)understanding the(abortion) issue as you raised above creates divisiveness when the movt needs unity of purpose

  22. Creative Joy » Blog Archive » Pro-Choice Evangelicals, and Religious Scientists. on 26 Feb 2009 at 1:31 am #

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