Ten Miles Square


March 05, 2012 11:46 AM Why Should You Pay For Someone Else to Have Sex?

By Jonathan Zasloff

At least that’s the way that Bill O’Reilly phrased it the other day. His argument goes: 1) group insurance means that we are all paying for other people’s benefits; 2) this benefit is only accessed if someone gets sick or has some other health condition; 3) that means that some members of the group pay for other members’ benefits at certain time; 4) contraception is only useful because someone is having sex; and thus 5) some group members will pay for other group members’ benefits only because those other members insist on having sex.

Now, there are a whole lot of gaping holes in this theory (most importantly that contraception is only useful in terms of preventing pregnancy), but the basic thrust (so to speak) is clear, and deserves to be answered. So:

1) There is nothing wrong with people having sex. Really. It’s not something that is problematic. If you have religious or moral objections to it, then don’t have sex. For everyone else over the age of 18, it is legal as long as it is consensual. Full stop. End of story. (Or actually, there’s more: consensual adult sex is also a constitutional right.).

Objection: But if you are having sex and are trying not to have children, then it is recreational, right? Why should I pay for your recreation?

2) Answer: well, what of it? What if someone goes skiing, and breaks their leg? Insurance would cover that. That also means to some extent that insurance is paying for their recreational activity. Big deal. If someone hurts themselves sailing, the same thing applies. (And although I have no statistics to show this, I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that skiing and sailing are tilted more toward the high end of the income ladder).

Objection: So then you just think that everyone should subsidize everyone’s else’s activities?

3) Yes! That’s what group insurance is. We recognize that people have lives, where they do a lot of things, and fortunately, we do not do all of those things out of sheer desperation to maintain ourselves. We drive cars, we take airplanes, we operate heavy machinery, we eat food, we engage in all sorts of recreational activities, and — and I realize that this is going to be a shock to Bill O’Reilly (or maybe not) — we have sex. We have insurance to spread the risks of these activities: when someone else gets hurt, I and everyone pays a little, so that later on, if I get hurt, I and everyone else pays a little. It’s better for everyone that way. So to the extent that O’Reilly, or anyone else, really has an objection to this, then their actual position is that if someone gets hurt, or something bad happens to them, then too bad, and the devil take the hindmost. This is known as Social Darwinism.

[Cross-posted at The Reality-Based Community]

Jonathan Zasloff is a professor of law at the University of California, Los Angeles.


  • Richard Grelber on March 05, 2012 1:34 PM:

    No, insurance is to pay for *unexpected* expenses.

    Just about everyone of child-bearing age needs contraception. Why pay $300 / year to the insurance company so it can take out $50 per year in administrative overhead and give you $250 of contraceptives?

    If someone needs an unusually expensive contraceptive due to a specific medical problem, ok, that's different, but is that what people have mostly been talking about?

  • alix on March 05, 2012 2:10 PM:

    Richard, you might want to check your insurance policy and make sure it doesn't pay only for "unexpected" expenses. Or you're going to have quite a shock when you turn 40 and start having the usual cholesterol, bp, and prostate issues.

    Anyway, the point of preventative care (which contraception surely is), is to save money. Birth control is much, much cheaper than covering pregnancy and childbirth, and immensely cheaper than covering the many medical conditions that contraception helps, and the even greater number that pregnancy will induce or complicate.

    And you know, really, if you can get a year's worth of birth control pills for $250, I want to know where your pharmacy is! And you do understand that the doctor's visit (at least once a year) required to get a prescription is (in my town) at least $200 with the lab tests.
    It's expensive to be a woman. too bad you fellas can't do without a woman. :)

  • Steve on March 05, 2012 3:06 PM:

    You forgot that Bill thinks insurance SHOULD cover Viagra, which means he thinks it is okay for GUYS to have something ONLY used for sex be covered.

  • Texas Aggoe on March 05, 2012 6:47 PM:

    I wasn't aware that being on blood pressure pills, cholesterol lowering pills, insulin medications and all the other chronic medications that older people get weren't covered by insurance. Thank you, Mr. Grelber, for informing me of that.

  • Neil Bates on March 05, 2012 8:53 PM:

    Maybe a better point is, why stop there? Why have to pay for anyone to do anything? But once you have a system to pay for "healtcare", then why should *that* particular objection get special preference, that is the real question?

    BTW, *Why the hell am I getting Hebrew letters* in my Captcha?!

  • Ron Mexico on March 06, 2012 10:08 AM:

    Richard--didn't realize men took birth control pills. What am I missing? Now that I think about it...making men pony up for a fraction of the cost of birth control pills via insurance premiums does have an air of equity about it.

    Also, we get insurance not because we don't know *that* something (broken leg, heart attack, etc.) will happen. In fact, we (as a society, or if you like as an insurance company) are absotively posolutely sure that it will happen. What we don't know is *to whom* it will happen. It could happen to me. It could happen to you. We just don't know. So we all pay, and *when* it happens, the poor SOB who drew the shortest straw doesn't also have to have their finances ruined.

  • Richard Grelber on April 20, 2012 1:42 PM:

    Ron Mexico, you are exactly right. When *to whom* isn't known, you need insurance. But only when the cost is big. It's just not economically rational to pay for small costs through an insurer. The overhead is too much.

    Of course using contraception saves money, and the indigent should get it free direct from Uncle Sam for that reason. But for the rest of us, it is in our *own interest* to buy it, not just in the insurer's interest, and it is most economic for us to buy it ourselves without an intermediary like an insurance company shuffling paperwork.

    Now, if someone has a medical condition for which she needs an unusual and more expensive form of contraception as a result, that is a totally different story. That's isn't contraception per se, that's the underlying non-routine medical condition.