Contraception Debate Misses a Basic Question

Article by Darian Worden.


There’s been plenty of argument over proposed federal regulations requiring employers to offer health plans covering contraception for women. But few people bring up the basic question: Why is it considered normal for your boss to determine your healthcare options in the first place?

Relying on employers for healthcare means the company has more leverage over the worker. If you’re out of work then you might be out of luck when it comes to your health. And if the boss decides what kind of healthcare the employee can get — at issue in the current discussion of religiously-affiliated institutions and contraception — this can mean an extension of the boss’s control outside of work hours.

How did we get to where it’s typical to rely on employers for healthcare?

As Roderick Long describes in his article “Medical Insurance that Worked — Until Government ‘Fixed’ It,” it was once common for workers to join a friendly society or fraternal society. These were essentially mutual aid organizations where monthly fees created a pool of resources that participants could draw on in time of need. They often negotiated contracts with doctors to serve members for a reasonable expense paid by the organization. Regulation and government programs prevented these organizations from continuing to serve the public.

Certainly, there are more advanced and expensive medical techniques today than in the fraternal societies’ heyday of the 19th and early 20th centuries. But without government interference, consensual organizations could certainly have grown and adapted to the needs of a wealthier, more sophisticated membership.

New technology could make such organizations more dynamic and responsive, with improved ability to network and access and evaluate information. Not only could consensual organizations offer more security for the worker who today has an employer health plan, they could also make healthcare more accessible for the worker who does not, reducing incentives to take an otherwise less desirable job for the benefits.

Today, however, the tax structure incentivizes employer health coverage while an economy oriented toward business elites and political privilege raises barriers to alternatives.

Healthcare, taken out of the people’s hands, then becomes a political issue. Politicians aren’t good at addressing problems of economic stratification and stagnation — they’re typically part of the elite that is struggling to stay on top. What they are good at is making stands in culture war issues, and this is where they want to get attention, regardless of how many backs they stand on behind the podium. When federal funding can be given out or taken away based on which demagogue holds power, personal health becomes a campaign issue.

A free society would allow more personal autonomy and choice. Taking power away from politicians involves determining how to rely less on the boss economy and invest more in personal autonomy. The surest way to keep bosses from determining your access to healthcare is to get rid of the need for bosses altogether.

When you rely on bosses for healthcare your body becomes a campaign issue.

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4 replies »

  1. This nails it. Birthcontrol including abortion have been around for atleast 5,000 years, Moses, Jesus, Confucius and Buddha never addressed the topic no religious teacher with the exception of Mahamed ever brought it up and whether or not the Koran condemns feticide or just inficide is debatable. It has never been a religious or moral issue until the past century. I think that this is because these pratices were the exclusive domain of the woman, the witch and the midwife, that these practices were carried out safely, humanely and discretely for all of history and it is only an issue now because these practices have been taken from women and given to professionals, primarily motivated by profit. It’s become an industry. If the prochoice people were really concerned about empowering women, they would work to educate women and restore legitimacy to the women who have traditionally held exclusive authority on this whole sphere of life.

  2. Rodney is talking nonsense, as well as doing the usual American trick of trying to bring abortion into everything (because it isn’t mentioned anywhere in the text above).

    Neither deliberate foetus killing nor infanticide was acceptable in historical Europe.
    (Exposure is not infanticide because it doesn’t involve an actual killing by an aggressor. Like letting the terminally ill die is different from outright euthanasia.)

    And before the existence of ova was discovered in dogs, no one knew when life and sensation’, as Aristotle put it, began in the womb. Aristotle determined there was no separate life in the womb before 40 days had passed after which it was killing and therefore unconditionally immoral.

    And remember that this was a time not only before modern knowledge of embryology but also before pregnancy tests. All people could tell was that their menses were blocked, which can be a sign of pregnancy but is more often than not a false alarm and can of course be a sign of illness.

    All we know from court records that people believed life began only after the menses were blocked, and that whatever was expelled was never recognised as an embryo, let alone as a child, but as the coagulated menstrual blood causing the blockage (and don’t forget, there usually wasn’t an embryo, any solid lumps usually weren’t embryonic tissue). Therefore to immediately unblock the menses wasn’t seen as killing. Where life was recognised as present it was always seen as immoral for a woman to kill her own child.

    When people say our pagan and Christian ancestors had a favourable attitude to the *purposeful* killing of the unborn, that is lies.

  3. @Skahi

    Soranus wrote his Gynecology in the second century, it contains extensive knowledge of the fetus and has instructions on abortion. The De viribus herbarum was written in the eleventh century and provides a list of pagan herbal abortion recipes. Aristotle claimed that the soul entered the fetus at 40 days, and this 40 day point correlates with specific embyonic changes that would imply that he had a great understanding of the full stages of development of the fetus. Aristotle also advocated forced abortions for old haggered crones trying to have babies past the age of 40. you should read a book, learn some history. Atleast read the story of Tam Lin, it’s a kids book, probably a good place for you to start.

  4. “you should read a book, learn some history.Atleast read the story of Tam Lin, it’s a kids book, probably a good place for you to start.”

    Wow I can tell Keith comes from the left, his blog has online pseudo-intellectuals talking down to people.

    Nothing you’ve actually said actually contradicts what I’ve said, therefore your comment is all a red herring. You made a statement that pre-modern people approved of abortion, and you’re wrong. (In itself the fact that ancient and medieval people knew how to induce a miscarriage, obviously tells us nothing in itself about how they saw the action morally.)

    Chapter 12 of Private morality in Greece and Rome: some historical aspects by W. den Boer contains information on Classical attitudes. This is a good book, it wasn’t written by some ‘womens history’ professor. And Aristotle was not referring to the soul in a mystical sense, but to the point he believed (without knowledge of modern biology) that a separate life actually began.

    The story of Tam Lin does not suggest societal approval of abortion, and in fact the mention of abortion is meaningless unless the threat of killing the child can be used to summon the father from the otherworld. If you thought about what you were reading in an attempt to *understand* it, you would figure this out for yourself.

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