Obama Has Picked the Wrong Fight



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ABSTRACTRealClearPolitics - Obama Has Picked the Wrong Fight Home Election 2012 Polls Video Twitter Issues Links Markets World Science Religion Tech History Books Energy Sports Latest Polls Obama Job Approval 2012 GOP Nomination Obama vs. Republican Field Congress Job Approval Generic Ballot Direction of Country Health Care A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z Newspapers Magazines Columnists & Blogs Digital Media Battle for Senate Senate No Toss Ups Battle for House 2010 Governors Races Govs No Toss Ups News & Election Videos Email Print Comments Share February 9, 2012 Obama Has Picked the Wrong Fight By Cathy Young The firestorm over the Obama Administration requiring religiously affiliated institutions to provide employees with health benefits that cover birth control rages on, as Catholic leaders mobilize the faithful and pundits warn that this may cost Obama the Catholic vote. The battle has been framed as one of religious freedom versus reproductive rights. But it also illustrates two troubling phenomena unrelated to religion: intrusive micromanagement of insurance options under the new federal health care law, and the redefinition of contraception as a public good rather than a personal choice. The stated purpose of health care reform was to address the problem of uninsured patients who either face bankruptcy due to exorbitant bills, or rely on the free emergency care hospitals must provide. But the Affordable Health Care Act does far more than require Americans to be insured for catastrophic illness and other major medical expenses. To be approved under the ACA, an insurance policy must include extensive coverage for routine care. In a sense, medical insurance is meant to mitigate life's unfair and arbitrary tragedies: some people are plagued by chronic illness or struck by a devastating health crisis, and need costly care to prevent death or disability. Fertility, however, is a normal part of life and a healthy function of the human body. Contraception is arguably an essential personal need for many, especially women; to call it an essential medical need is a stretch, except where pregnancy would pose a grave health risk. It is also not, for the vast majority, a financial burden. Defending the administration's decision to mandate birth control coverage with no copay or deductibles, Planned Parenthood official Kim Custer writes that without this benefit, "millions of women would pay $15 to $50 a month, making it a vital, but often cost-prohibitive expense for many women." Really? For low-income women, yes; but the poor can already get free contraceptives at any Planned Parenthood clinic. (Of course, plenty of women -- at least those who are married or in steady relationships -- also share birth control costs with their partners.) As proof that the measure is needed, an article on the Center for American Progress website cites a 2009 survey by the Alan Guttmacher Institute. Eight percent of reproductive-age, sexually active women said they sometimes did not use birth control to save money; 18 percent of those taking the Pill reported "inconsistent use" for the same reason. (The last figure appears to be somewhat inflated: the definition of "inconsistent use" included "buying fewer pill packs at one time" -- which would not diminish the Pill's effectiveness.) But several caveats are in order. First of all, an accurate summary of the study would have specified "women with household income under $75,000 a year," to whom the survey pool was limited -- excluding nearly a third of Ameri.......