One of the justifications for the HHS mandates (amended now to require insurance companies to provide contraceptives free of charge) has been purely economic. The idea is that the use of contraceptives saves insurance companies (and by extension the rest of us) money, as it is less expensive to pay for condoms or birth control pills than to pay for a pregnancy and birth.
Of course the calculus to come up with such a conclusion is flawed in myriad ways. But even if we were to assume the veracity of the contention, many questions immediately arise. For instance, why wouldn’t insurance companies voluntarily offer birth control coverage gratis if it would lower their costs? Aren’t these the same profit-maximizing institutions that politicians have been demonizing for years? Aren’t the insurers the professionals, whose business it is to know what ways are available for minimizing exposure? The very fact that up to this point insurance companies have not added free birth control as a preventive care measure is powerful evidence against the economic argument in favor of contraception.
Perhaps one reason the economic argument hasn’t gained more traction is that people instinctively realize that the rationale behind such is out of step with the complexity of moral reasoning. As Lord Acton put it in another context: “Political economy cannot be supreme arbiter in politics. Else you might defend slavery where it is economically sound and reject it where the economic argument applies against it.” In the same way, even if we were to assume the soundness of the economic argument for contraception, such a conclusion shouldn’t be viewed as politically (or morally) definitive.