Jonah Goldberg

These features are defensible from a liberal or statist point of view, but not if you actually believe that women have a special and unique right to make "health care decisions" for themselves wholly unfettered by the government.

Which raises one irony to all this. By any objective measure, liberals are far more eager to use the government to make health care decisions for women, because liberals want to make health care decisions for all Americans -- slightly more than half of whom are female. It's Michelle Obama and Michael Bloomberg -- not Michele Bachmann and Mitch McConnell -- who want to tell women what they should eat and drink and how much they should exercise.

Conservatives want to leave it to women to make their own choices: about what to eat, whether to smoke, how fast they can drive, whether they can own a gun, etc. Many conservatives would also like to see women live long enough for the chance to make those decisions, rather than be snuffed out in utero.

Of course, this argument will be wholly unpersuasive to the folks shouting the loudest about "women's health decisions." Which raises an even greater irony. The basic conservative or pro-life view is that abortion is different than other health care decisions because there's a harmed party other than the mother. This fact, not sexism or traditionalism or theology, is what trumps the general conservative preference for individual freedom. You don't have an unfettered right to harm someone else.

But once you get beyond abortion, conservative public policies treat women like autonomous human beings capable of making their own choices -- about health care or anything else. It's the abortion-rights extremists who boil down the vast range of issues and choices raised by the term "women's health" to a single issue: sexual reproduction, as if women were nothing more than breeders. And yet conservatives are the ones who're called sexists.


Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
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