Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal is widely expected to be one of the 2016 presidential campaign’s more serious Republican contenders, and this week he fueled the fire with a Wall Street Journal editorial (subscription only; key text available at Hot Air) brainstorming that Republicans can defuse the “War on Women” narrative by embracing the American College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists’ recommendation to make birth control over-the-counter rather than requiring a prescription. This, Jindal hopes, will simultaneously make it more accessible and do away with the pressure pro-life pharmacists face for refusing to provide it:
Let’s ask the question: Why do women have to go see a doctor before they buy birth control? There are two answers. First, because big government says they should, even though requiring a doctor visit to get a drug that research shows is safe helps drive up health-care costs. Second, because big pharmaceutical companies benefit from it. They know that prices would be driven down if the companies had to compete in the marketplace once their contraceptives were sold over the counter.
So at present we have an odd situation. Thanks to President Obama and the pro-choice lobby, women can buy the morning-after pill over the counter without a prescription, but women cannot buy oral contraceptives over the counter unless they have a prescription. Contraception is a personal matter—the government shouldn’t be in the business of banning it or requiring a woman’s employer to keep tabs on her use of it. If an insurance company or those purchasing insurance want to cover birth control, they should be free to do so. If a consumer wants to buy birth control on her own, she should be free to do so.
Unfortunately, Jindal seems not to have baked this proposal quite enough before serving it up. First, he doesn’t reference the distinction between abortive and non-abortive methods of contraception, which, despite pro-aborts’ insistence to the contrary, isn’t a non-issue. Indeed, American Life League vice president Jim Sedlak notes that the ACOG is among those who tried to dismiss that point not by analyzing the science, but by pulling a rhetorical fast one:
ACOG changed the meaning of pregnancy from its historical and medically accurate definition of ‘moment of fertilization’ to ‘time of implantation.’ This is because then, like now, oral contraceptives often did not prevent conception, but instead made the uterine wall hostile to the living human embryo. The definition change was critical in order to make the unscientific claim that a contraceptive prevents pregnancy rather than is an abortifacient that terminates it.
Second, to suggest that “big government” is why drugs like birth control require prescriptions is an oversimplification that threatens to play into the left’s caricatures of limited-government conservatism as knee-jerk anti-government dogma. As Hot Air’s Ed Morrissey notes, it’s not for nothing:
[W]hile I appreciate what Jindal says about the hypocrisy of having morning-after abortive pills available OTC but the Pill on prescription-only access, this same hypocrisy can be offered about the need to restrict access to most medications based on doctor’s notes. The Pill has significant hormonal impact and other side effects, short- and long-term. If that’s acceptable for OTC sales, why not Lipitor? Cialis? Synthroid? Epogen? If we can trust women to handle the Pill responsibly (and we can, even if we have other disagreements about its use in general), why not men and women for most other medications, too?
Human Life International president Fr. Shenan Boquet elaborates:
“Just last month, a 19-year-old girl suffered seven heart attacks after a contraceptive pill caused her to develop hundreds of these blood clots,” he said in a statement e-mailed to LifeSiteNews.com. Governor Jindal “may not have heard that the World Health Organization has designated many types of hormonal contraceptives as Group-1 carcinogens given their link to cancer.”
Yes, the same can be said for many drugs, as the commercials on any given evening can attest. But that means that what Jindal’s proposing isn’t a quick and easy fix that can just be enacted and then forgotten as we move on to other business. Rather, it’s a deeper challenge to the role of government in overall drug regulation, not just birth control. Now, maybe that’s something that needs to happen; that’s a separate conversation. But it’s an issue with enough complexity that raising it will create as many conflicts as it’s intended to resolve, and it could not be given the attention it deserved as merely part of a PR strategy. If Jindal really wants America to rethink government involvement in prescription drugs, he should raise that issue for its own sake and be prepared to discuss it on the relevant policy grounds.
Third, Jindal is completely delusional if he thinks this will soften the blows Republicans take from the choice crowd. As a matter of policy, pro-aborts’ thorough bastardization of the word “access” proves that fewer legal obstacles to purchasing birth control won’t appease them. Only unconditional surrender on unfettered abortion, taxpayer-subsidized birth control, and forced private coverage of both will satisfy them. Sure, pharmacists would no longer have to worry about prescribing contraception, but all that means is that the Abortionquisition would refocus its wrath on those who choose not to stock it.
And as a matter of strategy, no pro-life politician playing in the big leagues should operate under the assumption that his or her professional opponents are acting in good faith. Ever. The spokesmen, executives, leaders, ad-writers, officeholders, bloggers, etc. of the Democrat Party, Planned Parenthood, and NARAL don’t really believe that their female constituents are enduring some widespread crisis that pro-lifers are inexplicably inflicting on them. They don’t sincerely believe we’re sexists. They say it because they’re demagogues who find it politically advantageous to stir up hatred against us, and will continue to do so regardless of what policies we change or what we try to prove about our real motives.
If Bobby Jindal doesn’t take that truth to heart and strategize accordingly, he may find the next presidential election just as bewildering and disappointing as Mitt Romney did.