Yesterday the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit heard oral argument in one of the cases challenging the lawfulness of the federal requirement that employer-provided health care plans include contraception coverage. As the court was aware the current regulations may yet be revised, as the Administration has promised to find a way to accommodate objections from religious employers more than it has to date –even if it has no idea how to do this.
One way to reduce the political conflict over contraception would be to allow the sale of oral contraceptives over-the-counter. This approach has been endorsed by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and in yesterday’s WSJ by Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, a staunch conservative often mentioned as a possible presidential candidate in 2016.
As an unapologetic pro-life Republican, I also believe that every adult (18 years old and over) who wants contraception should be able to purchase it. But anyone who has a religious objection to contraception should not be forced by government health-care edicts to purchase it for others. And parents who believe, as I do, that their teenage children shouldn’t be involved with sex at all do not deserve ridicule.
Let’s ask the question: Why do women have to go see a doctor before they buy birth control? There are two answers. First, because big government says they should, even though requiring a doctor visit to get a drug that research shows is safe helps drive up health-care costs. Second, because big pharmaceutical companies benefit from it. They know that prices would be driven down if the companies had to compete in the marketplace once their contraceptives were sold over the counter.
So at present we have an odd situation. Thanks to President Obama and the pro-choice lobby, women can buy the morning-after pill over the counter without a prescription, but women cannot buy oral contraceptives over the counter unless they have a prescription. Contraception is a personal matter—the government shouldn’t be in the business of banning it or requiring a woman’s employer to keep tabs on her use of it. If an insurance company or those purchasing insurance want to cover birth control, they should be free to do so. If a consumer wants to buy birth control on her own, she should be free to do so.
Jindal also notes that the cost of contraception to consumers would be lower were it not for provisions in the PPACA that prevent consumers from using health care savings account funds to pay for non-prescription medications.
If a staunchly conservative, pro-life Catholic politician can endorse over-the-counter sale of oral contraception, who besides those drug companies profiting from the status quo will object?
UPDATE: Okay, I’ll answer my own question: There may be some objections from those who are focused on making insurance pay for contraception. What I think many people with that perspective tend to ignore is that the cost of oral contraception is not simply the out-of-pocket cost of the pills themselves, but also the cost of getting a prescription, which for many working poor can be significant (due to the need to take time of work, etc.).