The War on Women: Just a Fluke?

Melanie Sturm Investor and Conservative Commentator
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Comedian Steve Martin once quipped, “I believe that sex is one of the most beautiful, natural, wholesome things that money can buy.” Sadly, combatants in the “War on Women” seem to agree with Martin, except they want others to pay for their sex — at least the contraception.

Last week, Georgetown law student and contraception activist Sandra Fluke led the battle cry at a presidential campaign rally in Denver. She argued that without the controversial government mandate requiring employers to provide free contraceptive services, women would lose control over their healthcare choices. In post-rally interviews videotaped by Caleb Bonham of RevealingPolitics.com, Fluke’s warriors insisted government stay out of their bedrooms, but were flummoxed when asked why government should pay for what goes on in their bedrooms.

Fluke should recall what most women already know. Contraceptive services are as cheap ($9 per month at Target) and ubiquitous as routine oil changes are for cars. Nevertheless, Medicaid and most insurance companies already cover contraception, and for the uninsured, Planned Parenthood and the government spend an additional $700 million annually.

If women-warriors are battling to control their own healthcare decisions, why aren’t they concerned that unelected and unaccountable governmental bureaucrats — not their doctors — are empowered by the Affordable Care Act to determine which health services are (or aren’t) medically necessary, cost-effective and insurable? The Affordable Care Act gives the health and human services secretary (currently Kathleen Sebelius) sole discretion to determine standards for both government and private health insurance coverage.

As a women’s health advocate, Fluke likes Sebelius’ acceptance of the government’s U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommendation to provide free contraceptive services. But why isn’t she rallying to block acceptance of changes the task force made recently to mammogram guidelines — from annually after 40 (as endorsed by the American Cancer Society) to biennially after 50? Will Fluke’s compassion compel her to protest task force guidelines that no longer recommend PSA prostate cancer screening for healthy men?

Being insured doesn’t necessarily guarantee quality and timely care, as The New York Times reported recently. The Association of American Medical Colleges anticipates a 90,000-doctor shortage this decade, a crisis exacerbated by the Affordable Care Act. Where is Fluke’s outrage at the two-tier system expected to emerge as doctors increasingly allocate their limited time away from the insured whose plans pay less?

Thomas Jefferson warned, “All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.” As a woman of conscience and opponent of government interference in her bedroom, it’s vexing that Fluke would tolerate the Affordable Care Act’s imposition of government between Americans and their faith, in violation of constitutionally protected religious liberties. After a German judge banned circumcision of newborn Jewish and Muslim boys in June, what’s to prevent an American ban, if not the First Amendment?

Faith-based social service agencies have been a bedrock of American civil society since our founding, serving the vulnerable as they serve God. Requiring them to pay for contraceptive, sterilization and abortion-inducing services unjustly forces them to choose between moral beliefs and government dictates, while undermining their good works. As religious institutions prepare to drop insurance coverage for employees and students to avert the dilemma posed by the Affordable Care Act mandate, does Fluke care?

Americans care, favoring the Affordable Care Act’s repeal by an average of 55 to 39 percent in 100 consecutive Rasmussen Reports polls conducted since its March 2010 passage. Because only three percent of Americans dislike their current insurance plans, we fear being among the 20 million the Congressional Budget Office estimates will be dumped by employers into government plans, contrary to pledges that we could keep our plans and doctors if we like them. Additionally, 81 percent of voters expect the Affordable Care Act will cost more than projected (consistent with the Budget Office’s recent $1.2 trillion cost over-run estimate), with majorities anticipating increasing insurance premiums and federal deficits.

The primary reason Americans oppose the Affordable Care Act, according to pollster Scott Rasmussen, is it runs contrary to deeply held American values. Preferring free-market solutions and competition, Rasmussen writes, “Americans want to be empowered as health care consumers … not rely on mandates and trusting the government.” Three-quarters of Americans want the right to choose between expensive insurance plans with greater coverage or low deductibles, and low-cost plans with less coverage or higher deductibles. “If the plan they select costs less than the company plan,” he continues, “most believe the worker should get to keep the change.”

As Fluke and her army storm a hill with no enemy, their friendly fire risks harming the cause they purport to serve, and the national interest. Real women’s liberation and healthcare security depend on free-market choices and competition — not on getting others to pay for your birth control.

Melanie Sturm has 15 years of private equity investment experience, previous to which she specialized in project finance at International Finance Corporation and mergers & acquisitions at Morgan Stanley and Drexel Burnham Lambert. She has an MBA from INSEAD and undergraduate degrees in international relations and economics from Tufts University.