We hate to say it, but Rush Limbaugh is wrong.
Now, to narrow it down for the angry liberals in our audience, we’ll say that Rush is wrong about birth control. To summarize, on his February 29 broadcast, Rush took issue with a Georgetown University student who testified before a congressional panel that she couldn’t afford her birth control since her school’s insurance wouldn’t cover the costs on religious grounds. He said she was a slut and that we, the taxpayers, were her pimps because if taxpayers were to subsidize her birth control we would be encouraging her to have sex. (No word yet from the nation’s pimps on being compared to those filthy taxpayers.)
Then the Internet exploded with outrage, President Obama called and apologized to her on behalf of mean old Rush, and Rush himself eventually apologized for his choice of words, but not his stance that the government should not be in the business of providing birth control.
Now we’re not here to jump on him for using his national radio show to call a college student dirty names, because that’s just not news. Regular listeners of his show will recognize that his persona is specifically designed to upset and offend liberals because he knows which buttons to push. Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly, Rush gotta piss everyone off.
We’re here to point out the math behind birth control. Government shouldn’t just be subsidizing birth control for women; government should be giving it to women for free. Rush, and other conservatives, should be standing at the admissions office of their local university, handing it out to every woman that passes by.
Let’s start with the basics. Birth control isn’t some single-ladies-abortion-club cover-charge. It’s for controlling births. They’re also not Rolaids. You take an antacid before you eat a spicy meal; you don’t take your birth control pill right before sleeping with someone. So a student who says she can’t afford her monthly birth control prescription isn’t saying she GOES THROUGH THIRTY PILLS A MONTH ONE FOR EACH PARTNER BOY ARE MY THIGHS TIRED. She’s saying that she knows how medication works, and that a prescription taken only when convenient isn’t going to work as prescribed.
A woman can go through 365 pills in a year and have sex one time. Or a dozen times. Or no times! The point is, it’s taken because they want to make sure that no matter the choices they make they will not be at risk for pregnancy.
Over 99% of women have used some form of birth control during their child-bearing years, and current statistics show that 62% of women aged 15-44 actively use birth control (source: Guttmacher Institute,). This means your sister, your Mom, and (hopefully, knowing our demographics here) your girlfriend or wife probably uses birth control.
Why would a woman want to control the births coming out of her body, like a river of fertility ‘cross the land? Maybe because she’s not ready to be a Mom yet. Maybe she won’t ever be ready. Maybe her last name isn’t Duggar. Maybe she wants to finish school so she can have a career of her choice. Maybe—and pay attention here, conservatives, because this is the big one—she can’t afford it.
That’s why our argument isn’t just that government should pay for birth control. Our argument is that by paying for birth control, the government would pay a lot less for entitlement programs that mother and child would use. Birth control isn’t evil; it’s efficient.
A person that says she can’t afford her birth control probably can’t afford much else. Certainly not an unexpected child, which the USDA estimates will cost a family an average of $143,790 over their lifetime. (And as a Father of two boys, I’m here to tell you that that is a damn low estimate).
We can assume that if she is asking the government to pay for her birth control that she would also ask for help to pay for her child. In 2011, the cost to the government for the WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) food program was $7 Billion dollars, which amounted to $46.67 per person/month. Food Stamps, which is available for low income families rather than just young children and new mothers, and is commonly paired with WIC, cost the government $72 Billion dollars, or $133.85 per person/month (source: USDA). (Oregon is slightly below the national average for each, so we’re either growing our own or eating less. Good work either way, poor Oregon Moms!)
Even if our hypothetical mom only uses these two programs (and how likely is that?), she and her surprise baby are costing our government over $4,000 a year. Imagine if, instead of paying $4,000 a year for a woman to care for her unexpected child, we paid only $180 a year with a $15 monthly birth control prescription to avoid the pregnancy entirely? Multiply that by the 460,000 babies born to teen mothers in an average year (source: The American Pregnancy Organization, http://www.americanpregnancy.org/main/statistics.html) to see a cost of $1.8 Billion dollars that we pay for unplanned pregnancies, versus $82.8 million to pay for birth control to prevent those pregnancies. The annual savings to the government would be $1.7 Billion each year.
And that’s the number we get by rounding down!
We know, conservatives, we know: the issue isn’t birth control, the issue is government provided birth control. In a perfect limited-government world we wouldn’t even have WIC or food stamp programs. But just as it’s the job of conservatives to keep liberals from running away with the checkbook, it’s the job of liberals to bring conservatives back to a reality where we don’t let mothers and children starve just because of who they voted for.
What you’re being offered here is a victory in the war against government spending. This is a defeat of big government! And you’re refusing to sign the treaty.
Let’s put this another way: By providing birth control to low income women, we could save the government $1.7 billion dollars. Funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting only costs the federal government about $500 Million a year, and I think we all remember the stink that the right wing made about that last year. So if you let us keep our NPR and PBS, we’ll let you save a billion dollars in entitlement programs.
Besides, at the rate Rush keeps losing his advertisers public radio might be the only place left for him to go.
He would be incredible during pledge week.