Opinions

Whose Right: Women’s Healthcare in the 21st Century

President Obama championed Women's Rights in his recent reelection campaign. Do his promises hold up to their results?

By Stephen Edwards

In recent months, Americans have seen a resurgence of women’s rights issues. Most of these issues have to do with health care and have been raised by Democrats, most prominently President Barack Obama. During his campaign, the President spent a great deal of time addressing the struggles that face modern women, which include access to birth control, health care discrimination and equal pay for equal work.

These are issues that make for some riveting social justice rhetoric but upon closer examination are seen to be distortions, largely imagined troubles raised for the benefit of a good campaign. Unfortunately, President Obama’s approach to women’s issues falls into that ever-swelling category of policies proposed with the noblest, most benign intentions that fail utterly in practice.

An examination of the terms that make up the current women’s issues is essential, because the Left has succeeded in framing the argument in such a way that theirs is the only answer to the “problem.”

First, what rights of women are at risk in 2012? There has been much talk about contraception for all women. At the Democratic National Convention in September, Sandra Flukes urged Americans to choose a president who would ensure access to birth control for all women.

Do women have a right to birth control? In contemporary debate, this question reads: “Do you think birth control is a good thing?”

Thus, if you oppose the president’s plan to force health insurers to include birth control as part of their policies for women, you hate birth control and live in the dark ages of sexual repression. Responsible Americans should not accept this distortion of terms. Truly, a right is something guaranteed to all people by the government. If birth control becomes a right, the government must supply it to everyone.

Where would the government find money to pay for all this birth control? Taxpayers. So, in effect, a right to birth control translates to every American being forced to subsidize the sex lives of his fellows.

Observers of the debate must understand that the merits of birth control are not in dispute. Contraception is a modern marvel, a scientific achievement that has led to higher quality of life for everyone. What is at issue is who has to pay for it.

The health insurance debate suffers from the same kind of distortion that plagues the birth control argument. Liberals say they are fighting discrimination in health insurance, specifically the practice of charging women more on average than men for policies with equivalent coverage.

Consider this claim: the president and others allege that there is an industry-wide conspiracy of prejudice against women, that insurers band together to cripple women’s independence with the burden of health insurance costs.

Nonsense. Insurers charge women more because they seek far more health care than men, and because of acute biological differences that make the life of a woman a more costly medical proposition.

This issue has become so touchy that politicians are not allowed to address the elephant present at every discrimination debate: women can become pregnant. Pregnancy itself carries significant medical costs, but can cause complications like high blood pressure, certain kinds of diabetes and a variety of infections. These are health risks unique to women. Insurers understand this. They’ve seen these things play out over decades, and have structured their coverage accordingly. It is not discriminatory to acknowledge that men and women receive medical treatment differently.

Even if Democrats succeed in ending what they determine to be discrimination in health insurance, insurance companies will not simply take a loss on the extra care they provide to women. If it becomes illegal to charge a woman more for an equivalent male policy, insurers will just spread the costs of covering women across all their policies. Every policy will become more expensive.

Here we find a redistributive effect similar to what happens when birth control becomes a right. Everyone –and it will be everyone, as not buying health insurance is also illegal –will be forced to take on the costs of women’s health care.

In response to this, liberals often refuse to distinguish between opposition to something, and opposition to the government’s administration of something. Just because one opposes a policy that forces Americans to pay for the health insurance of others does not mean one thinks they deserve to die of untreated illnesses. It means, very simply, that one would like to decide for oneself how to acquire and pay for his or her healthcare.

Contemporary women’s issues should remind the American people that things in politics are not always as they seem. We cannot assume that anyone purporting to be battling discrimination is a hero, nor that any policy named as supporting

The women’s rights movement is just. We must not forget that politicians are trying to maintain power. The justice they offer–the charity they seem to possess–are often crude political devices, and nothing more.

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