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Grace-Marie Turner: Women Need Dignity More Than Sex Without Consequence July 14, 2015

By Grace-Marie Turner
The New York Times
Room for Debate, July 13, 2015

Providing government-funded contraception, especially through a program keyed to poor teenage girls, is extremely controversial, as evidenced by the Colorado legislature’s refusal to commit taxpayer dollars to continue the privately funded contraceptive program. Issues of ethics and religious liberty must be respected, especially when government funding is involved.

Government funded long-term contraception tells women that taxpayers will pay for them to have sex without fear of pregnancy, and that they need not be responsible for the consequences of their actions.

But sex is not without consequences, even if pregnancy is not one of them. It is important to look at the whole picture, including the emotional impact of the pretense of “safe sex.” Having multiple sexual partners can lead to increased likelihood of sexually transmitted disease, compromising a woman’s health and opportunities for future relationships. Dr. Den Trumbull, the president of the American College of Pediatricians, calls endorsement of long-term birth control “another effort to promote the myth of safe sex while ignoring the dire consequences that early sexual activity can have among the young people involved.”

These girls are still forming their self images. The most important lesson they need to hear is that their lives have value, and that taking care of themselves is key to success in life. Instead, the government would send a message that they cannot be trusted to protect their own sexuality as a means of engendering and earning that self respect.

After passage of the Affordable Care Act, the Obama administration requires virtually all private health plans to provide contraceptive coverage at no cost to patients. That has generated numerous lawsuits because so many Americans have strong religious and moral objections. The Supreme Court said the religious liberty of the owners of Hobby Lobby prevailed in the latest challenge to the mandate. A lawsuit by the Little Sisters of the Poor will be next as they defend their strong religious objection to being forced to provide or facilitate coverage of contraception and choose between caring for the elderly poor and their faith.

Many of the young women described in The Times article have had a difficult start in life, but they need many more opportunities than sex without consequence. They see too few job opportunities, especially in poorer areas of Colorado. Fostering greater economic opportunities and improving public schools is an appropriate role for government. Government would best attend to its legitimate functions rather than intruding further into the areas of morality and religious conviction.

Posted on The New York Times, July 13, 2015