Mona Charen
Leaving aside the blatant assault on religious liberty that the Obama administration's contraceptive mandate represents (a number of commentators have ably elucidated the assault on free exercise), the edict ought to offend all sensible Americans for its sheer economic and moral fatuousness.

In this case, "moral" refers to moral hazard, i.e., unintentionally encouraging bad behavior. But first, consider the economic argument the administration has advanced for forcing insurance companies to offer free contraceptives and abortifacients to all women.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius explained that forcing insurance companies to supply a product for free would actually save the corporations money:

"... This is a no-cost benefit, that the National Business Council on Health, that our actuaries, a variety of people in group plans say having contraception as part of a group insurance plan actually lowers the overall cost, doesn't increase it, because, on balance, preventive services around family planning, avoiding what may be unhealthy pregnancies, avoiding the health consequences of that actually is a cost reducer."

Perhaps Sebelius should become a business consultant. Obviously, the insurance industry was missing a chance to save itself money! But wait, maybe most of the women who will use birth control are already using it and paying for it either out of pocket (a month's worth of condoms is about $15, and generic pills can be had for $9 a month) or through a co-pay. Assuming that this group consists of the vast majority of potential contraceptive users, the insurance company will certainly lose money by providing for free what had previously been paid for.

As for those women who don't now use birth control but will if contraceptives are provided for free, we can guess that their potential "savings" in the form of avoided pregnancies will be very small. Some percentage of these women will have unintended pregnancies anyway, because the reason they didn't use contraceptives was not that they couldn't afford them, but that they were irresponsible.

According to the Alan Guttmacher Institute, only 12 percent of women cited cost or availability as the reason for not using contraception. And even that figure is suspect. Considering 1) the price of condoms; 2) that Americans spend $110 billion on fast food every year; and 3) that no one who winds up unintentionally pregnant wants to admit that she was careless or stupid, the 12 percent figure deserves skepticism.

Mona Charen

Mona Charen is a syndicated columnist, political analyst and author of Do-Gooders: How Liberals Hurt Those They Claim to Help .
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