Friday, March 9, 2012

Socialized Contraception

Thinking about all this business about contraceptives and health care and the righty-tighties not wanting their tax money going to helping people screw more, an old essay popped into my head-- John Donne's Meditation XVII. It's a famous work, which I'm sure you have all heard of, inasmuch as you have read the following lines:

No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were: any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee. Neither can we call this a begging of misery, or a borrowing of misery, as though we were not miserable enough of ourselves, but must fetch in more from the next house, in taking upon us the misery of our neighbours.

Donne was talking about hearing the death tolls from a church ringing out over the land, while he lay sick with his own serious illness. Certainly he wasn't talking about socialism. But then, aren't we all equally sick with the illnesses and ailments of our society? How we deplore abortion, yet refuse to do anything about it besides try to ban the procedures, or try and guilt women into not doing it, calling them sinners, whores, sluts, hellbound. Clearly contraceptives are the first and best way to prevent abortions. No fertilization, no problem.

We have to accept, of course, that people ARE going to have sex. It's what humans do: we walk upright, speak symbolic languages, make tools, and have a lot of sex. No amount of moral finger wagging is going to stop it. So, with that out of the way, we can move on to other points, like how family planning gives more benefits and a brighter future to the children you do have, children you want and are prepared for (such as you can be prepared for parenthood). There are issues of women's health as well, which I am not qualified or informed enough to speak for; I understand, however, that the Pill has uses beyond contraception, such as preventing ovarain cysts.

In the wider context of what this debate is really about-- that being, are we or are we not willing to use public money towards curing certain social problems-- Donne makes his point quite explicit. We are all connected; what harms one harms all. We aren't begging or borrowing misery from elswehere, because there is no elsewhere; the misery is already ours. And it can be flipped: what helps one helps all. Help a family have only as many children as it wants and can afford (financially, emotionally, etc), and you will reduce welfare costs, crime goes down, the populace sees an uptick in educational levels, and so on. Or health care, for gods sake! Provide universal, public option health care, and you automatically improve your entire country's future, because people aren't floundering in debt to hospitals, people can get preventative or early care for ailments before they explode into major problems requiring surgery, radiation, all the invasive care that costs so much. Prices would probably fall, at that, and over time fewer people would be on disability, instead being productive (tax-paying) workers.

Look, if it seemed like the Invisible Hand were ever going to reach down to help the little guy (who makes up a huge chunk of the country, mind you), I'd be the biggest cheerleader for free market capitalism you ever saw. But I see millions falling through the cracks out of this selfish and false idea of individuals existing somehow apart from the community, who demand they get what's theirs and not be forced to help others. That might have worked as a pioneer, living alone on the harsh and empty prairie, but that shit don't fly no more. We already socialize roads, police, fire departments and education because we can see the obvious social good. But with a little thought, the social good of things like socialized health care, contraception and more is just as apparent.


  1. Well, despite not finding abortion deplorable, or having a lot of sex, and could easily live without sex, I do agree that contraception is extremely important and should be widely available and kept affordable to anyone who wants it. Not sure if it should be free though. But if birth control pills were covered, why not condoms too? And how about vasectomies while we're at it?

    Either way, I really have no objection to it, I mean if you're already paying into insurance, it's not exactly free anyway, but I would venture a guess that anyone who can afford medical insurance, could probably afford birth control. So I guess the question is should poor people be given free or discounted contraception? I would say yes. Because the cost of preventing unwanted pregnancies would be much lower than the cost to society of having unwanted births by people who are neither financially or mentally prepared to have children.

    It is important to point out though that oral contraceptives are not completely safe. I mean you mentioned that they are good for preventing ovarian cysts, but they may also be contributing factors in causing other forms of cancer, and are linked to several other health problems, and negative side effects, even in some cases death.

    Don't know if you were aware of that or not, but the fact is birth control pills are not entirely safe, and that should be taken into consideration.

    I would prefer to see safer forms of oral contraception developed and made more affordable, than to have free but potentially harmful contraception pushed on women unnecessarily. Because if it were tax payer subsidized for all (which means someone is still profiting off of it), it would probably be prescribed by default at an earlier age, even to women who may not be sexually active, but given to them just in case.

  2. I am intentionally not reading Cym's comment before posting this one...

    "Clearly contraceptives are the first and best way to prevent abortions. No fertilization, no problem."

    No, clearly the first and best way to prevent abortion, is to not have sex. I am a little frustrated recently because as usual it always falls to the woman...she got pregnant, she is having/not having an unwanted child, she needs/can not afford birth control (which may be good for her...or not). Where are the men who might say among themselves, don't have sex without protection, don't have sex casually, don't have sex outside a committed relationship...where are the men taking vocal, personal responsibility? A woman should never have to ask "Do you have a condom?" or carry her own. A guy without a condom handy is like a loaded gun. Don't mess with it. Where is male restraint and responsibility? If women are wanton, men are irresponsible.

    Now I am reading Cym, and yes, condoms should be covered (maybe could be under those plans that cover things like non-prescription health needs like Depends). Vasectomies should be ENCOURAGED! Viagra is covered!

    The idea of providing free contraception to indigent and poor people does carry some bias issues...a little like eugenics. Personally, I think there should be some way to just turn off everyone's fertility art puberty (mandatory, but reversible, vasectomies sound good to me, but you'd still need condoms for STD prevention) until needed or desired, and I am not at all opposed to Mao's one-child policy (except insofar as it was put in place in a culture that had a preference for male babies). I am an only child, and I believe that the only form of contraception my parents used was condoms. (In fact, my mother said, when I was getting my first pill prescription, said, "But the man can always wear something." I thought, "A raincoat?")

    And yes, we as a species like sex and have a lot of it, but I think just "moving on" from there is irresponsible. People like to eat too, but if we put the same kind of "moral" efforts into sexuality as we are beginning to with health-based nutrition, maybe things would be better. Celibacy is sort of like veganism...maybe you SHOULDN'T have so much sex. (Taoists maintain is saps your energy, anyway.)

    1. Viagra is covered? Wow, had no idea. Seems a bit strange, like I would have considered that more of a luxury medication, than a necessity. Doctor I'll take a prescription for beer, please, you know to help to stimulate that blood flow to my brain; even though I could live without the blood stimulating power of beer, why should I?

      I mean, if Viagra is covered, then for sure birth control pills should be covered too, if that's the case. Don't know what that Rush Limbaugh scumbag is complaining about then, about women being paid to have sex (if female birth control is covered), when apparently the same could be said about men taking insurance covered Viagra, which would probably include himself, since he's more than likely on it too.

      And yeah, I agree totally with your last paragraph, just because you have a natural urge to do something, doesn't mean it is always a good idea to do it. Just because you can, doesn't mean you should; just because you want something, doesn't mean you need it. I find self-restraint preferable, and value moderation over excess.

  3. I don't disagree with either of you, not fundamentally. I said contraception, not birth control pills (though I did later single those out); condoms and other forms should be covered. And though I don't really know about the health risks of the pill, I'm skeptical of all modern medicines, so I would always assume there are some drawbacks. It can't be great for a woman's body to think she's pregnant all the time. I also thought of eugenics when I read what Cym said about the lower classes, but as long as there's no coercion, and definitely nothing permanent, I say go for it.

    As for the responsibility, see my next post.

  4. Brandon and Baroness: My suggestion to provide free or discounted contraception to poor people was not intended to be an advocation of eugenics. Just to help sexually active people who do not want children get contraception they cannot afford, similar to food stamps. It doesn't make sense to give away free birth control to people who make a lot of money, who can easily buy it themselves.

    For the record there is nothing wrong with being poor, I'm poor, at least in terms of money. The fundamental problem is lack of education. Personally, I'm of the mind that if I couldn't afford birth control, and did not want to have a baby, I would abstain. It's not that hard to do really, unless you're a sex addict. But for weaker minded people, which has nothing to do with poverty and everything to do with lack of willpower and education, their going to have sex regardless. And if they cannot afford birth control, then they should be given assistance, so that they always have it. Otherwise, the cost of having unwanted children far exceeds the cost of birth control.

    Brandon, I only focused on the pill because that is the only form of birth control you mentioned in the body of your post, and really wanted to mention some of the negatives associated with that. But yes, by calling this post "Socialized Contraception" I see that you were referring to all forms of contraception. I wasn't disagreeing, just adding to the conversation.

  5. I know you weren't promoting eugenics, but you know that is sure to come up in the wider debate; someone's gonna accuse someone of it.