Representative Steve King (R–IA) lobbed another softball into the American media yesterday, arguing that requiring insurers to cover birth control could lead to the death of civilization. The DHS released a new set of guidelines this week that will eventually require health insurance policies to cover birth control without copays. It’s a great way for working moms to kill the tiny babies that live in their husbands’ sperm, and for coeds to slut it up like Gomorrah. I’m paraphrasing, here, but Rep. King’s comments are little more lucid:
We have people that are single, we have people that are past reproductive age, we have priests that are celibate. All of them, paying insurance premiums that cover contraceptives so that somebody else doesn’t have to pay the full fare of that? And they’ve called it preventative medicine. Preventative medicine. Well if you applied that preventative medicine universally what you end up with is you’ve prevented a generation. Preventing babies from being born is not medicine. That’s not— that’s not constructive to our culture and our civilization. If we let our birth rate get down below replacement rate we’re a dying civilization.
As always when one hears more than two Steve King sentences in a row, several concerns leap to mind.
1) We have people that are joggers, we have people that live upstairs, we have waitresses that never sit down. All of them, paying insurance premiums that cover wheelchairs so that somebody else doesn’t have to pay the full fare of that? I don’t know how this happened, but there is a Republican congressman from Iowa who doesn’t know how insurance works. He has just listed the three kinds of people who are allowed to not have kids.
2) The congressman’s “if you applied that preventative medicine universally” argument makes a weird assumption about medical ethics. Medicine is not like the Golden Rule, and the litmus test for an okay treatment is not that you’d want to give it to everybody. If you fed everyone antibiotics we’d be an unhappy civilization, too. Imagine how strongly King must oppose tooth extractions.
3) Preventing babies from being born is totally medicine, you rube. Trying to catch a fetus with a coat hanger behind Hardee’s is not, and an intellectually honest person shouldn’t be against both abortion and birth control. It’s like being against scraping ice off the windshield and also against parking in the garage: eventually, the only explanation is that you hate the car. Steve King is starting to look like he hates the car. Frankly, if he didn’t need it to get the kids…
See what I did there? I implied that Representative King does not have a companionate marriage, and that sexual relations with his wife are therefore conducted solely for procreation—a claim that approximately half the population would consider an insult. The other half call it a moral imperative. The real argument behind king’s absurd claim that people are only still having kids because of the birth control copay is that we are all obligated to have kids, quick, probably for religious reasons. The Bible says to be fruitful and multiply. It also says to educate your children, but Steve King is not going to do everything the Bible says re: children. He’s primarily interested in getting them here.
Usually when religious people make this argument, the reason is vaguely ensconced in divine authority. The Vatican is against condoms, even in Africa, because that is what they believe God wants. That’s a frustrating type of reasoning, but at least it follows from its own premises. King’s statement is remarkable because it evokes the other, dumber prong of the argument: that we are somehow in danger of running out of people.
Again, we’ve got the copay, so right now people are having children to save the thirty bucks a month. But even if birth control pills became so free and delicious that the American population dropped 75% over the next two generations, we’d still have 75 million people. That’s roughly the population we had at the turn of the 20th century, and somehow our species survived that desperate scrabble for survival. Even from King, the argument that we need all the people we can get just to keep from slipping over the abyss into extinction seems absurd.
There is a different argument at work here, and one suspects that King implies it for the same reason that the Pope wants more Catholic babies in Africa. Like many politicians, Rep. King thinks of this country as a numbers game. For example, the evangelicals have more kids than the secular humanists, probably as many as the Catholics, and in 18 years they will get more votes. They might even get enough to protect this country from Islam, and those people breed like gerbils. The way you protect yourself is you get a bunch of people who think like you do, and then you make some rules. The question is, how many people is Steve King trying to outbreed?