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

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