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Contraception debate shows how far our government has drifted

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Has there ever been a bigger example of an over-reaching federal government than the recent dispute in Washington over contraceptives?
In February, the Obama administration unveiled a mandate for employers and insurance companies to cover the cost of contraceptives for women. The mandate is part of Obamacare, the sweeping overhaul, or as many people call it, the government takeover of health care.
If you’re scratching your head and wondering what business the federal government has dictating that contraceptives be covered under private insurance policies, you’re not alone. When Obamacare was being debated by Congress in 2010, the bill’s supporters portrayed it as a way to ensure that people of modest means have health-care insurance. One would have been hard-pressed to find any talk of contraception.
Yet, here we are.
With gas prices soaring, the unemployment rate stubbornly high, a federal debt that threatens our nation’s future well-being and a host of other problems caused by the federal government’s unwillingness to realize its limits, the White House has decided that it is government’s role to provide people with free birth control.
Thirteen million Americans remain unemployed? Government debt extends far into the futures of our children and grandchildren? Don’t worry. These problems are nothing that free contraceptives won’t fix.
Here’s one of the most depressing aspects of this new policy: When some members of Congress pushed to have details of the health-care bill disclosed before Congress voted on it, Nancy Pelosi, who at the time was the U.S. Speaker of the House, actually said, “We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it.”
The bill passed, and it would be two years before Americans found out that it would contain a mandate for contraceptives to be covered by private insurance companies.
I can’t help but be reminded of President Barack Obama’s February 2009 stimulus bill. The debate over the stimulus bill was a contentious one. Supporters said it was intended to create jobs and they spoke often and loudly about shovel-ready jobs like road and bridge-construction projects. But shortly after the measure passed, I began posting a monthly report showing how federal stimulus dollars in South Carolina were being spent.
A year before, my office had established the state’s first spending transparency website, and I’d wanted to use the same approach to show South Carolinians where this stimulus money was going.
In working to put this spending information online, what I found – and what much of America now knows – is that the stimulus had little to do with the stated goal of creating jobs through infrastructure projects. Only a small percentage went to building roads and bridges.
The majority was directed by Washington to government entitlements.  A lot of the money went to expanding the government workforce. And there were too many accounts to list in this column of bizarre projects funded by stimulus dollars – such as government-subsidized ant farms.
Some conservatives in Washington had rightly sought for employers who oppose providing birth control insurance on moral or religious grounds to be exempted from the mandate. Unfortunately, on March 1 a Senate bill to that effect was defeated.
Liberals in Washington argue that failure to provide free contraception to women equals depriving them of the right to contraception. Nonsense.
Americans will always have the right to contraception. The only real question is whether the United States government should mandate that someone else pay for it.
From our nation’s outset, our early leaders put forth a vision of limited government, one which, as Thomas Jefferson put it, “governs least.”  They warned of the danger of a government that tries to do too much.
Government-mandated birth control? That’s probably not what they had in mind.
Perhaps, now more than ever, Washington could use a dose of our founders’ wisdom.

Editor’s note: Tony Boswell’s tagline was omitted from his guest column, “Please don’t believe in everything GOP says,” in Wednesday’s edition. He is an Indian Land resident.