The GOP Lost the Birth Control Debate a Decade Ago
The GOP Lost the Birth Control Debate a Decade Ago
The Hinlicky Rule directs us to fully understand the argument of an opponent before criticizing it.
“You shall not criticize the position of another…until you can state that position with such accuracy, completeness and sympathy, that the opponent himself declares, ‘Yes, I could not have said it better myself!‘ Then, and only then, may you criticize. For then you are engaging a real alternative and advancing a real argument. Otherwise you shed only heat, not light.”
I expect no such formalities from either partisan Republicans or Democrats. The Republicans and Democrats talk past each other, and both are happy to do so to fire up “the base.” Readers of these pages are likely to understand the talking points coming from both parties and to laugh at them for different reasons.
The Republican talking point goes like this: “People of faith should not be forced to pay for birth control if it is inconsistent with their religious views.” That’s where the GOP says it’s coming from. That argument’s commonsense for lots of Americans, especially those with Republican leanings.
Many who simply hate Obama also pretend that it’s commonsense for them, whether or not they have any moral objection to the idea. Experience has shown that the day one of the “anybody-but-Obama” candidates begins to sound exactly like Obama, lots of folks on the right will suddenly start to like those same ideas that they once opposed so fervently.
And commonsense for a Democrat is: “If affordable healthcare is a right, and everyone agrees that modern healthcare should include access to the most modern forms of contraception, then it would follow that affordable access to birth control is a right.”
Rights v. Privileges
Of course, the Democrats confuse the idea of a right and a privilege. The problem with the Democratic argument is that affordable healthcare is not a right. Rights do not take from others. To have healthcare, one must have a doctor. To have contraception, someone must make it. You have no right to anyone else’s time. You might have a government funded privilege to someone else’s time. One may call this mere semantics, but that distinction of the words privilege and right are seldom acknowledged in Democratic circles. And it’s selectively applied in Republican circles.
I see that the Democrats are entirely off base on this, but three of the four Republicans candidates have no credibility while criticizing the Democrats on this issue. While the Democrats get the definitions of privilege and right wrong, the Republicans are opportunists only pretending to be on the side of smaller government. Neither behavior appeals to me, but at least the Democrats are consistent and straightforward on this topic.
You see - the Republicans lost this argument a decade ago when under fiscal “conservative” leaders like Rick Satorum (while in office) and Newt Gingrich (while out of office) the Republican Party passed Medicare Part D. Officially called “The Medicare Modernization Act of 2003,” it passed Congress overwhelmingly with the GOP in control of both houses and the White House (all three houses). George W. Bush led the charge. “Conservative” think tanks praised it. Ron Paul opposed it of course. It has cost $203 billion through 2010, and is projected by the CBO to cost an additional $391 billion by 2015. Part D was a handout to seniors, meant to bring electoral gain, and a handout for the pharmaceutical industry. It brought financial reward for select congressmen and staffers alike in a way that is almost impossible to refer to as anything but corruption. Furthermore, under the Republican lead, it was the biggest expansion of Medicare since Lyndon Johnson’s 1965 program began. Bottom line: Many Republicans were out there conveying the message that access to ‘free’ medicine was a right in America.
Protect Your Neighbor and You Protect Yourself
Should a person of conscience have to pay for another person’s birth control against his or her will? Absolutely not. No one should have to pay for another person’s anything against his or her will. However, as Martin Niemoller pointed out in so many post-WWII speeches over decades – you protect your own liberty when you protect the liberty of others. Once your own liberty is directly at risk, it’s probably too late to stand up and expect that you’ll have many allies rushing to your defense. As the anti-free-birth-control-on-religious-grounds-in-most-situations-for-recognized-religious-institutions-with-sufficient-lobbying-support-in-Washington-DC folks will soon recognize, when you stand by idly and wait until your own rights are directly threatened, you end up being left with a pretty feeble and easily toppled argument.
Instead of taking a stand on such a significant issue, those mealy-mouthed Republicans led the charge supporting Medicare Part D, excitedly expanding Lyndon Johnson’s program.
No one should be surprised that several years later a Democratic candidate, appealing to the progressive base of his party would come along and say that affordable healthcare is a right.
The Democrats publicly confuse the idea of a right and a privilege. The Republicans do as well. They both insist that their latest bright ideas are “rights.” I could have sworn that Newt told us last week that Americans have the right to go to the moon affordably. Bill O’Reilly confuses the idea of a right and a privilege when he talks about low cost gasoline and criticizes the President for not restraining the oil companies.
Opening the Door for the Next Losing Debate
Just as the Republicans gave birth to our current socialized birth control controversy, Bill O’Reilly when he talks about the need for presidential intervention to ensure low cost gasoline opens the door for the president to socialize the oil companies. And why not? President Obama “saved” the U.S. Economy; he “saved” American automotive manufactures; he “saved” the American patient. He did these things with lots of bipartisan support. O’Reilly, Gingrich, Santorum, and the others are not opposed to any of that; they are just opposed to their buddies not being in power when that happens.
Many of the Republicans are so unprincipled when they openly claim to oppose a concept that they favored just a few years prior. Universal access to pharmaceuticals for seniors is just a step away from universal birth control for all women and not far from universal healthcare for all Americans. Correspondingly, they have a low estimation of the average Republican voter to so brashly pretend like this never happened. The Republicans gave birth to this debate on free contraceptives a decade ago. The Republican voters, in supporting those politicians, empowered that.
Hatred for Obama is the only thing that will ostensibly keep Republicans from being seen as having had lost the birth control debate. But it must be remembered by anyone with a memory, anyone who would look critically at this situation, that the Republicans lost this debate a decade ago and have been losing it for years longer as they increasingly made themselves the second statist party.
Allan Stevo is author of How to Win America for Ron Paul and the Cause of Freedom in 2012, a book on how Ron Paul supporters can secure the GOP nomination and with certainty deliver a presidential win for Ron Paul in 2012.