12 July 2013

Employers should embrace paying for health insurance, because abortions should be rare

Just as I don't understand why a health insurer itself would decide to cover pregnancy and birth costs (some $20,000 per event, and most women who do it once do it at least once more) but not pay for birth control (some $360 per year for pills, less for an IUD per year over its lifetime), I don't understand why an employer would be happy to pay for pregnancy and birth insurance, plus the real risk of high turnover among its female employees, but refuse to pay for birth control insurance.

I'm a small business owner. I've been one for years, and I spent a good part of the 1990s as a successful small business owner who hired employees. When I've had employees, I've paid for their health insurance. And I will in the future, if I ever get into the position where I can hire them again, even if the number of employees is below the Obamacare mandate threshold. Why? Because it's good business. It's cheap -- you have to do some research and some math, but it's not terribly expensive per employee. In the 1990s, I found a trade association that hooked us up to a group that tailored its plan to small businesses (even tiny ones, like mine) that wouldn't have been able to negotiate a good deal on their own. I bet there's a trade or professional association for every darn industry out there, and I bet to a one that they have affiliate health insurance programs. I know my local and state bar associations do. A business owner who doesn't do this research and math in their own industry just isn't doing the best job they can do as a business owner.

To be clear, I don't recall the numbers offhand, because it was over 15 years ago and the paperwork is long gone. And the numbers weren't negligible, and the 1990s was a very easy decade to make money in the industry I was in, and my employees were young, healthy people. But offering health insurance to them was worth every penny we spent on it. Combined with a reasonable sick and vacation day policy, the work environment allowed a sick employee to stay home, see a healthcare practitioner, and get back to work quickly. They didn't lose productivity, coming into work because they felt forced to though they were feeling lousy, getting everyone else in the office sick. And for the love of Christ, I never asked the women about their birth control. (Though I do know that if they were on the pill, they were covered, because they got the same coverage I did, and you know damn well my pills were paid for.) And you know why? Because one, it's none of my goddam business. And two, I didn't want "these fool feemale women" having unintended pregnancies and bringing drama and grief to the office, and needing time off.

And three, because there's that Clintony pro-choice line that abortion should be "safe, legal, and rare." Anti-choicers jump on that, with their favorite gotcha: "Why rare? If abortion is OK, why do you agree that it should be rare? You must actually think it's not OK, or else you wouldn't say it should be rare. Gotcha!" That "gotcha" is a logical fallacy. Do you see it? They beg the question as to Clinton's premise for why abortions should be rare. The reason isn't that pro-choicers think an embryo or fetus has the same right to life as the woman gestating it. The reason is that any abortion, even a very early or straightforward one, takes resources. It takes a woman away from her work or studies for multiple trips to the clinic or hospital (plus a trip to court if the patient is a minor in a state where she needs to get a judicial bypass around the parental notification law). It takes money, both in the cost of the procedure and travel costs to get it, plus lost wages from time off work. And it takes an emotional toll from the stigma, drama, and grief largely inflicted by the religious right.

Abortions should be rare because they cost women time, money, and work and educational opportunities. Abortions should be rare because they cost employers money. Oops, I think that makes me a capitalist! But hey, it's not me who wants abortions to be rare. It's just good business.

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