Stephen Baskerville is associate professor of government at Patrick Henry College and author of Taken Into Custody: The War Against Fathers, Marriage, and the Family (Cumberland House, 2007). He is working on a book on sexual politics. Read full bio.
Christian concern about nationalized medicine has rightly centered on the moral issue of abortion. But proponents’ obsession with including abortion as a matter of “health” should alert us to larger political pressures behind the plan: It is being driven by family breakdown and a resulting sexual radicalism.
Obama succeeded where Hillary and Bill Clinton failed. What changed in 16 years? As with other radical changes, one explanation may lie in the continuing dissolution of the family and, specifically, the increase in middle class, single-parent homes. Unmarried women and single mothers (the main abortion constituency) are more affluent and better-educated than two decades ago. They are also more politicized and comprise Obama’s most committed and vocal supporters, having voted for him by 70%.
As with many measures designed to weaken the family, no general public clamor preceded the move to nationalize medicine, apart from a few vocal constituencies. One of the biggest was single women. “American voters in general may shy away from ‘radical’ steps such as importing a Canadian-style (health care) system,” the liberal polling firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner reported some years ago. “Unmarried women, however, embrace such a powerful step.”
Feminists have pushed relentlessly for nationalized health care. “We find unmarried women leading the charge for fundamental change in health care,” reported GQR in 2007. As their numbers increased, particularly in the educated middle class (where unwed childbearing is now growing fastest), they became a powerful and militant pressure group. Before the last election, GQR wrote:
If progressives want to build on their gains of 2006, they will have few greater priorities in 2008 than engaging these women on health care. … If candidates can connect with this group on issues they care about, like health care, then more unmarried women will turn out to vote, a result that could tip the scales in progressives’ favor in 2008.
This is precisely what happened, and the current law is the payback.
Sadly, many unmarried women live -- willingly or not -- to some degree in dependency on the state. And for single, middle-class women whose incomes disqualify them for Medicaid, health care is the most expensive cost. “Unmarried women cannot rely on receiving coverage through a husband’s plan,” writes the Center for American Progress (CAP). “Furthermore, married women who have health insurance through their husbands are vulnerable to losing their coverage if the marriage ends.” Isn’t this just another politically acceptable way of saying that government health insurance makes it easier to get a divorce? (Obviously, not all unmarried women fall into this category, and I refer not to the many responsible, hard-working single women in society. But as a general demographic these trends are well-documented.)
Government health care, like other welfare provisions, becomes one more subsidy on single-parent homes, encouraging the creation of more. The spread of single-mother homes into the middle class, likewise, leads to demands for open-ended expansion of welfare entitlements. CAP has long advocated “expansion of Medicaid” to middle-class single women to pay for the same sexual liberation that ultimately drives the demand for abortion: “The Medicaid program… would increase eligibility to anyone with an income up to 133 percent of the federal poverty line, regardless of whether they have children.” This expansion of welfare benefits to middle class, single women has now come to pass.
Statistics now reveal that welfare has been a powerful force behind the break-up of the family in low-income families. Now, in the middle class, we see the breakdown coming largely through divorce and the “liberated” lifestyles to which much of it can be attributed. Yet our growing allegiance to an ever-increasing culture of divorce now demands ever-expanding “services,” such as government medicine.
So, public medicine, like all welfare, facilitates family dissolution. And the breakdown of the family in turn creates a constituency pushing for more welfare, fostering a vicious circle of government growth and social decay. It just so happens that all of this also builds electoral support for the party that enacts it.
One way to break the vicious circle is by returning to more sensible laws regulating marriage (not just same-sex marriage) and especially its dissolution. As we rediscover how marriage creates prosperity, healthy children, and solid citizens, we find one more reason for the state to zealously protect it. If people do not wish to marry, of course, no one can or should force them to do so. But until we get a grip on the forces speeding the destruction of the family, especially through divorce on demand, we will continue to see progressive impoverishment and expanding government power.
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