In an opinion published by National Geographic, Melinda Gates shared her view on the importance of providing women with contraceptives, and information about her her global partnership, Family Planning 2020, which has pledged to get 120 million women access to contraceptives by the year 2020. Gates’s plan is a truly selfless, philanthropic endeavor which serves no purpose other than to provide needy women with access to contraceptives to improve their lives. This is what plans about access to contraceptives should look like. Private individuals advocating for a cause they believe in, not taxation and government programs.
The positive benefits of contraceptives are, at this point, hard to argue against. “When women are able to plan their pregnancies around their goals for themselves and their families, they are also better able to finish their education, earn an income, and fully participate in their communities” (Gates). Yes, it is undoubted that the elimination of unwanted pregnancies is by and large a positive thing for the woman involved, and society as a whole as well.
The biggest issue among Libertarian and Conservative circles with contraceptive access isn’t that we shouldn’t allow contraceptives to be used (though you might find some on the religious far right who think that), it’s an issue as to who is supposed to pay for it. The Famous Burwell v. Hobby Lobby case brought this issue to the forefront when Hobby Lobby, owned by Evangelical Christians, stopped providing contraceptives to employees, as mandated by the Affordable Care Act, due to claims that this violated the company’s religious freedoms under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Hobby Lobby won, and the landmark case decided that corporations closely held by owners with religious values were not subject to a variety of regulations which would violate those religious values.
Hobby Lobby did not seek to remove their employees right to use contraception, the company owners simply wanted to uphold their own religious conviction which is in opposition to the use of contraception.
The prevailing school of thought from liberal circles these days claims that all women should be provided with contraceptive care. Even the UN has gone so far as to say that contraception access should be a human right. What these individuals fail to see, or maybe see and choose to ignore, is twofold. The first;
Access to contraceptive care can be accomplished without the government being involved
Pointing back to the beginning of this piece, individuals like Melinda Gates are offering contraceptive care to millions of women through private, philanthropic endeavors. The idea that this is a problem that can only be solved by government has no basis in reality. Were the state to tax people and then allocate that money to contraceptive care programs like Planned Parenthood, it would accomplish the exact same result as private individuals donating to Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood, which receives roughly $500 million of its $1.3 billion annual revenue from the federal government every year, could be privately funded by the individuals who want the programs quite easily.
It is estimated that roughly 3 million women attended women’s march worldwide, 500,000 alone in the D.C. area. I personally know women who drove into D.C. to attend the event, spending money on gas, lodging, food, and taking time off of work in order to go participate in a demonstration where participants undoubtedly support government expenditures for planned parenthood. If all 3 million of those women donated $166 to planned parenthood, there would be no need for federal funding. Instead of spending money on a demonstration to tell the government how to spend money, it would have been much more effective to actually donate to the cause directly.
Personally, I am a fan of planned parenthood. It isn’t much, but over the last two years I have donated a little over $100 to the organization. I wonder how many of the women who participated in the women’s march, who have disposable income they want to use on things that interest them, have actually donated a dime of their own money to the causes they they want other people to pay for? Which brings me to my second point;
Forcing people to pay for other people’s lifestyle choices is not moral
Although this is conjecture, let’s assume that the majority of the women who attended the women’s march do not donate to planned parenthood on a regular basis. Why don’t they? The answer is obvious; it’s their money. They don’t want to take money out of their paycheck to pay for planned parenthood because they have vacations they are saving for, or a new phone they have their eye on, or new clothes that they are looking to purchase.
Some will try to argue against this, claiming that not all women who participated in the march have the $166 that would be required from each of them to fund planned parenthood, and that claim does have a rational basis. If you are living paycheck to paycheck and can barely afford to live, I am completely understanding of the fact that you don’t have money to donate to any cause at all. I have to ask, though, how many of those women who attended the march bought an expensive dress last year they didn’t need? How much money did they spend at Starbucks? How much did they spend on non-essentials like entertainment? I would venture that the vast majority of those 3 million women, if they went back through their yearly budget, could easily find $166 that they allocated to frivolous purchases.
Now, am I saying that these women are wrong for spending money on non-essentials? Of course not. What I am saying is this; It is hypocritical, and furthermore immoral, to take someone’s income via taxation and apply it to a cause these women can’t be bothered to donate to.
The government is not required to make planned parenthood work, money is. That’s all the government does anyways, they give money to planned parenthood. Instead of lobbying for the government to increase the program’s funding, increase it yourself with a yearly donation. The time, energy, and money spent on petitioning state funds could be used directly in support of these programs.
I like Planned Parenthood, but what about the people who don’t? Do we really have to force individuals who have deeply held religious convictions about contraception to pay for them? Could we not accomplish the same goal through private donation from individuals who morally agree with contraception, instead of forcing the state to violate other individuals rights to religious freedom? The answer of course is that this program could be privately funded by the people who support it, but they do not wish to give up their own money to do it. If they don’t want to give up their money for it, why should they force us to?