You don’t have a right to free birth control

One common theme that keeps emerging in the whole birth control/healthcare debate is the idea that those opposed to paying for birth control are somehow attempting to stamp out women’s reproductive rights. This, of course, makes little sense. Birth control, when non-abortive, deals solely with the person’s body, thus the person has complete rule over his or her own body. The government cannot tell the person what to do in that instance, nor is anyone suggesting the government has that power (except for the most extreme right).

At the same time, there’s no justification for free birth control. While one has a right to one’s own body, that doesn’t mean that the taxpayers have to pay for a person to exercise that right. For instance, I have the right to free speech and can therefore publish any book that I want. That doesn’t mean, however, that I can require taxpayers to pay for my publishing of the book. I have the right to own a gun, but that doesn’t mean I can have the government pay for my gun.

The issue of paying for birth control, however, cuts deeper. The way the law is constructed, it would be like working for a Muslim and requiring him to pay for my lunch, which happens to include a ham sandwich (after all, I have the right to lunch, so why not make the government pay for it?). The new solution would be akin to telling the Muslim owner that he doesn’t have to directly pay to it, he just has to give the money to a bunch of my friends and then they have to pay for it – in the end, it’s his money that’s supporting my craving of ham sandwiches.

In a similar fashion, there’s absolutely no reasoning behind offering free birth control. Yes, people have a right to do with their bodies as they please (so long as what they do is non-abortive; no one has the right to take the life of an innocent human person), but it’s non-sequitur to argue that because that right exists, the government must pay for the exercising of that right.

“But what about the common good? Aren’t less unwanted pregnancies better for society?” What about paying for running shoes or exercise equipment or gym memberships? Aren’t people working out better for society as they are less likely to get obese? What about purchasing not only guns for people, but paying for lessons on how to properly use and store them? Our Founding Fathers believed that an armed populace was essential to the common good, so perhaps taxpayers should pay for those.

But let’s not stop there. We all have a right to practice whatever religion we want, but some religious practitioners can’t afford rent on a building. So let’s make the local community pay for the building the practitioners want to meet in. If atheists or those of a different religious view have a problem with it, then they need to learn that they live in a society where sometimes they have to pay for things they don’t like. After all, that’s basically been the argument offered so far on the contraceptive issue; “You don’t like it? Tough.”

If a man or woman wants to go out and have sex with another individual, or hundreds of individuals, then it’s none of my business from a government standpoint. But there’s no reason I should have to pay for that person’s choices. Birth control isn’t life saving nor does it really improve the quality of one’s life (not in any real, substantial fashion). There’s absolutely no justification for why it should be paid for by taxpayers or insurance companies.

We need to remember that while we have the right to do certain things, it is up to us to execute and actualize our rights. We have the right to free speech, but that right only begins to matter when we choose to take action and speak. We have the right to bear arms, but that right only becomes relevant the moment we purchase a firearm. I must actualize the right; it’s not up to the government to pay for me to actualize that right. In the end, saying that the general public shouldn’t pay for birth control isn’t a slam against women’s rights or against personal freedom; it’s simply pointing out that just because we have the right to do something, it doesn’t mean we deserve to be given the means to do so as well.


17 thoughts on “You don’t have a right to free birth control

  1. I just read your article, and do agree with you to some extent that their is no right to free birth control.

    I do disagree with you in that you say that birth control is not life saving. I would argue that it can be. Some women need to take it for medical reasons like extreme cramps or other medical issue. Also for some women it can be life threatening to become pregnant (i’am referring to married women also). So for them birth control is essential to not get pregnant. Also some women do not have insurance or cannot afford birth control for whatever reason. Do you suggest married women practice abstinence?

    So I would argue that offering it for free can actually save some lives or cause less suffering for some. In that sense I don believe it should be free.

    1. In the case where birth control is used as a life saving device or as something other than controlling birth, certainly there are exceptions to be made. However, even in the case of married women (or men) who can’t afford birth control in order to prevent pregnancy, there’s no reason that citizens should have to pay for it.

      Some marriages need childcare – shall we pay for that as well for those who choose to have kids? Some marriages need counseling in order to work. Shall we put that on the government’s tab? There’s a ton of things that marriages need in order to work, but people really need to supply those things for themselves. Unless something threatens a life or could cause serious harm, I see no reason for the taxpayers to pay for it, especially when it forces citizens to violate their conscience.

      Furthermore, what do we do about the examples I presented? Owning a weapon and being trained on it has statistically shown to lower crime rates. Shall we therefore pay for guns and the training to go with them? Some cars are rated higher in terms of safety than cheaper cars – shall we pay for the difference? Reading books by philosophers is a good thing and makes for a better society – should the government therefore pay for my Amazon wishlist?

      Just because something is beneficial, it doesn’t mean the populace is obligated to pay for it. Now, unlike some people, I would argue for basic healthcare coverage for those who can’t afford healthcare; no one deserves to die, suffer from a disease, or miss out on days of work because they can’t afford to see a doctor. But when it comes to things like birth control, viagra, or the like, I see absolutely no reason why anyone’s tax dollars should go to that.

  2. Baloney. You do have a right to “free” birth control and contraception because they have to do with healthcare in general. Europeans have the right to “free” healthcare, Americans should too. Actually, your term “free” is a misnomer. Society “collectively decided” to make birth control and contraception widely available. The cost will simply be spread across society–which it should be. The Constitution says government will be responsible for the general welfare of the people. One cannot say that the “health” of the people is not part and parcel of the general welfare. Yes we can vote for “better access to healthcare” for everyone–we did so. Get over it.

    George DeMarse
    The Sage of Wake Forest

    1. George, a few things:

      1) Your argument is a non-sequitur. That we have decided to make healthcare widely available (that is, free for the individual) doesn’t necessitate that all aspects of healthcare should be covered. Shall we pay for liposuction or cosmetic surgery? Of course not, because this doesn’t pertain to the general welfare of the people. Thus, just because we’ve agreed to pay for people’s healthcare (and we haven’t; we’re forcing people to pay for healthcare, regardless of how poor they are, which is a horrible idea) doesn’t mean everything should be covered. As I explained in my post – which you ignore – while we have a right to do what we will with our bodies, so long as it doesn’t harm another human, we don’t have the right to have that paid for.

      2) You ignored one of the main points that I brought up, that just because we have the right to something doesn’t mean we can have it paid for. Thus, do I have a right to healthcare? Absolutely. Does this mean I have the right to have it paid for? Not necessarily. I’ve already shown examples of how that logic simply doesn’t work (e.g. should we pay for people’s weapons, should I pay for people’s churches, etc).

      3) You word your argument in a way to make it seem like we the people decide what rights we do and don’t have. This simply isn’t true. In fact, the day “we the people” decide what rights we do and don’t have is the day we actually don’t have any rights. Rather, the sole purpose of the government is to recognize the rights we already have. When they don’t, it’s an act of tyranny, when they do, it’s them fulfilling their duty.

      4) The “general welfare” clause is a difficult one. For instance, it could successfully be argued due to statistics that a well-armed and well-trained populace is good for the general welfare as it significantly cuts down on crime. Yet, I somehow doubt you or I would be comfortable if the government began paying for people to own weapons and paying for their classes to take them. Likewise, it would be good for everyone to own cars, or even a Prius, as this would contribue to the general welfare. So perhaps the government should pay for such things. The reality is, “general welfare” is often misunderstood and taken too far by liberals, but is equally misunderstood and restricted too much by conservatives (more on that in a bit).

      5) Society didn’t decide to make birth control “widely available” (that is, free). It was our Congress, who hardly represents society (Democrat or Republican) anymore, but rather the interests of the wealthiest of Americans.

      6) While I am strongly against universal healthcare, I am not against healthcare for those who simply cannot afford it. What this means is that the general welfare clause does not apply to me paying for the healthcare of someone who can pay for it themselves. I, and no one else, should have to pay for someone’s healthcare when that person makes six or seven figures. That’s absurd and only contributes to a broken system. I should, however, need to pay for someone who can’t afford healthcare. Such a person has innate worth as a human being and therefore deserves, at the minimum, preventive healthcare and any type of healthcare that would save his or her life. He shouldn’t have to pay hundreds of dollars just go see a doctor because he’s been sick for a few weeks. He shouldn’t have to simply go into debt from cancer treatments. That’s wrong. Thus, I’m offering what I believe to be a proper perspective on the general welfare clause, one that seeks to help those who cannot help themselves.

      7) As stated in my first point, nothing you said actually makes the case for the government paying for birth control. It doesn’t actually respond to what I wrote. Thus, there’s nothing for me to really “get over.” I would ask that if you’re going to respond, you drop the MSNBC rhetoric and actually deal with the argument as I’ve presented it.

      Sadly, die-hard liberals are the same as die-hard conservatives. One side listens to everything MSNBC says while the other side listens to everything Fox News says. The discussions end up being bullet points that they’ve heard from their favorite talking head and little thinking actually gets done. In short, there’s a refusal on both sides to consider alternative points of view; the world becomes absolutely black and white, “I’m right” and “you’re wrong,” without any consideration otherwise.

      1. Joel–one big point
        You miss the point. I did not specifically refer to “all healthcare,” I specifically mentioned birth control and contraception. Both of which are covered under the AHA. We can decide “collectively” what’s to be included or excluded by democracy, regardless of the Supreme Court. There is nothing “non-sequitur” about it. You simply disagree. That’s ok with me.

        George DeMarse
        The Sage of Wake Forest

  3. I disagree. I don’t want to pay for people’s unwanted children, which is a much bigger cost than free birth control. Also, what “liberals” are carping about is insurance companies refusing to cover birth control, especially if they choose to cover viagra. How much sense does that make? It also doesn’t make sense to limit access to birth control based on Christian beliefs not everyone shares. By that I mean pharmacists or employers or insurance companies refusing to give women birth control based on a belief that it’s wrong. That’s a slippery slope. Some people don’t like homosexuals, will a pharmacist then be free to refuse customers AIDS medication based on that? Whether some people like it or not, for women of childbearing age reproductive health is essential health care for them. The government has a compelling interest in protecting women’s health and offering birth control is part of that. If we had a single payer system the government would pay for it as they would for the healthcare of everyone. As our system is now, insurance companies should cover it. It should not cover viagra and cialis for sick old men who can’t get erections.

    1. I appreciate the comments Ella, but I’d appreciate even more some actual responses to the points I brought up. As it is, you’re simply toting the party line on the issue without actually dealing with what my post calls for. You create a straw-man and then procede to beat him up, which is nice, except that the argument you make doesn’t actually apply to the position I put forth.

      The one thing I would add is that a pharmacist is an individual and therefore has every right to refuse whatever he will to whomever he will. While such a policy may impact his business, as an individual the government cannot force him to violate his conscience.

      1. Your whole point seems to be no one has a right to free birth control. What one has a right to or not is something that a society determines as a whole. Presently, as there is no right to free medical care in America (unfortunately) I suppose you could say no one has as right to free birth control. However, no one to my knowledge has asked that everyone get “free” birth control. Insurance is something we all pay into and we carry co-pays and premiums. Therefore the birth control women receive that is covered by their insurance company, if they are lucky, is hardly free. To my knowledge, no one has asked for free birth control, but they have asked that just as insurance companies cover Viagra and Cialis they cover birth control which for many women a medical necessity.

        I disagree that pharmacists should refuse any sort of treatments that are legal and safe. They only have a right to decide for themselves not for other people. Besides, as birth control is used for issues beyond preventing pregnancy, that individual pharmacist has no idea what that individual woman is using the pills for. Imho, if one doesn’t want to dispense pills according to doctor’s orders, perhaps another line of work is in order.

        Lastly, the religious right has become so powerful that it doesn’t matter whether the intent of the more sensible Christians with regards to BC. In rural areas with one clinic that doesn’t give accurate information or despise contraceptives or has a pharmacist who won’t dispense the morning after pill because of these theological beliefs that have been codified, the end result is that women’s access is being restricted. So to say that only the religious right wants to restrict women’s rights seems pretty disingenuous to me and quite irrelevant.

      2. Thank you for the reply.

        The inherent problem with your belief is that you state “society determines our rights.” This simply is not true. While the government can choose to recognize or to not recognize certain rights, these rights exist independent of society’s beliefs. If you disagree with this statement, then you must be against any attempts to change the system and likewise must withhold all condemnation of foreign societies, no matter how disgusting their practices might be. Thus, we look to Nazi Germany and see that society dictated that a select group of people not only had no rights, but could be used as slave labor and, when necessary, terminated. The only thing we can say concerning this is that the German society was justified in their actions because humans have no rights regardless of society. Such a statement strikes us as untrue because it contradicts any world we would desire to live in; that is, the statement is false because it does not correspond to reality.

        Your second and third paragraphs contradict your statement in the first. If society determines our rights and the local society determines that one’s personal beliefs are more important than birth control, what foundation do you use to condemn such beliefs? By committing yourself to a type of social relativism, you’ve lost any ground to actually challenge or change the system, unless you intend to be irrational.

  4. Society determines the rights that we are entitled to under the law. Are you saying that this is incorrect? No one had the right to get an abortion or be read their Miranda rights until society deemed it so by law. So this is absolutely true. Perhaps not the complete story. I think you’re getting at the existence of natural rights or inalienable rights as the founders called them. I think there’s an argument for such rights. For instance I believe each human being; each person has a right to bodily integrity, to be free of harm and to exercise their free will. These rights do exist independent of societal beliefs, to be sure. However, society still determines and interprets how they will codify and recognize these rights and to what extent. Reasonable people also disagree on what these rights are either by way of humanistic reasoning or some moral or theological codes. So as to your belief that no one has a right to free birth control is just that, your belief. My belief is that it wouldn’t be a bad idea, given the incredible life costs to society for unwanted children. Not to mention, if BC is widely available the rates of abortion will go down. I’d think that Christian people would be happy about that. Unfortunately they seem to back legislators intent on curtailing the rights of women to bodily integrity and exercise of free will based on a theology that not all of these women share. I would like you to speak to that and why Christians in a secular country without a state religion feel they have a right to foist their beliefs on the rest of us?

    1. I stand by what I said – all society can do is recognize rights that are innate. Society cannot “give” us rights.

      Regardless, you cannot pull out the postmodern card mid-discussion and expect to gain traction with me. Saying, “Well that’s your belief” is an empty statement; of course it’s my belief. It’s also my belief that the earth rotates around the Sun, that the galaxy came into existence billions of years ago, and that we are composed of atoms. My belief, however, is backed up by reasonable evidence or simply by good reasoning. So yes, it is my belief that one does not possess the inherent right to free birth control (as birth control is an invented thing), but I have good reasoning behind this.

      You ask me to speak to my beliefs, but I already have; read the initial post. No one is “foisting” any beliefs on you; we’re simply stating that you don’t have the right to have taxpayers pay for your birth control. If anything, your belief that birth control is a good thing is being foisted upon the believers. That was the entire point of the article. I have no reason to explain myself again when you’ve yet to actually respond to what I’ve stated.

      1. My beliefs are also backed by good reasoning and I stand by what I said as well. We do have innate rights and our sense of what those are lead us to codify those into laws, i.e., recognize those rights. I don’t think it’s an empty statement to say that it’s your belief. Some of us believe that health care is a public good that should be “free” to all under a single payer system our taxes foot the bill for. That we have an inherent right to good health. Just because you think your reasoning is sound doesn’t follow that I need to agree with it or that it is indeed right or sound. Let’s just agree to disagree on that score.

        What I asked you was why do some Christian people back legislators intent on curtailing the rights of women to bodily integrity and exercise of free will based on a theology that not all of these women share?

        I also asked

        Why do Christians in a secular country without a state religion feel they have a right to foist their beliefs on the rest of us?

        And then you got all pissed off at me without answering either of those questions. This are the real questions that matter because all that crap about no woman has an inherent right to birth control, is baloney and you know it. By that reasoning, no one has a right to have us pay for their diabetes medicine, or cancer meds or anything else that is medically necessary. Remember, birth control is more than birth control. It’s a medical necessity for many women.
        Stop trying to crouch birth control in these murky philosophical bs argument about what the government should pay for. It’s about what insurance companies should cover. Why is there a fight over covering birth control and not Viagra and Cialis?

        I know why, I’m curious to hear your take since you’re so logical and reasoned.

      2. You can’t refer to “philosophical BS” and also say you have good reason for your belief. All good reasoning comes from philosophy, thus if you have a good reason then you’re relying on philosophy. Without it, you’re relying on feelings, which isn’t good reasoning.

        Secondly, you can’t just say you have good reason, not shore up your position (which I attacked in the article), and then ask me to shore up mine (which has already been shored up and defended, hence the emptiness of your questions).

        I have no need to answer those questions because they frame the debate in the wrong way; you’re begging the question. I already provided a defense for my belief, the onus is on you to show how my defense was wrong beyond, “Well, that’s like, your opinion, man.”

        Finally, re-read what I wrote rather than skimming it. I never said women don’t have the right to birth control. I said they don’t have the right to free birth control (just as men don’t have the right to viagra…I mean really, did you even read the article?).


        Birth control, when non-abortive, deals solely with the person’s body, thus the person has complete rule over his or her own body. The government cannot tell the person what to do in that instance, nor is anyone suggesting the government has that power (except for the most extreme right).

        At the same time, there’s no justification for free birth control. While one has a right to one’s own body, that doesn’t mean that the taxpayers have to pay for a person to exercise that right.

        And you can shift it to insurance companies all you want – if people are required to give money to the insurance companies and the companies are in turn required to pay for the birth control, it’s still the same thing. Every single objection you keep bringing up was already addressed in what I wrote, yet you bring it up as if I haven’t talked about it (even the issue of “lower abortion rates” is covered), so why answer your loaded questions when it appears you haven’t even taken the time to actually read what I wrote?

  5. I read what you wrote. Why don’t you answer my questions? It frames the debate in the wrong way? Your debate doesn’t make any sense! First of all, there is no such thing as free birth control. What does that even mean? At no point and time has birth control ever been free to anyone. In addition, no one has asked to have birth control handed to them off the street without paying into a plan or paying a copay through insurance. So your whole argument is ridiculous. You are the one who is framing the “debate” in the wrong way. Your argument is completely nonsensical. Fact: Birth control is medically necessary. Fact: the government has nothing to do with it – as in taxpayers paying the government to give out birth control. Unfortunately we do not have a single payer system. Fact: those of us with medical insurance pay into insurance plans that cover all types of pharmaceutical options that are medically necessary. Diabetes medicine, AIDS medicine, etc. If you pay into the plan you have a “right” to these medicines, and as you are paying into an insurance plan it is hardly free.

    1. At this point you’re simply attacking a straw man. Likewise, you’re using recycled arguments from TV pundits that simply don’t apply to what I wrote (since I presented a case that hasn’t been on TV yet).

      In short, you have yet to reply to my objections in the article as well as my objections in my replies.

      1. You’re the one pulling arguments that make no sense whatsoever out of your butt. Your premise doesn’t make any sense.

  6. That’s the best you can come up with? An “I know you are but what am I” retort? What a sad commentary on the vapid was in modern “thinking.” I guess I can rest my case.

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