As many provinces celebrate Family Day, there is a movement afoot, in both Ontario and Manitoba, to follow the example of British Columbia in providing universal coverage for contraception; in that fact, of course, there is no little irony. Just as the holiday points to the indisputable facts of the family—and every citizen’s origin therein—there is a push for the pharmaceutical suppression of the precondition of the family: fertility itself.

Throughout the history of human civilizations, children have always been seen as a blessing and infertility an affliction to be remedied or lamented. Only a depraved age would construe the ability to conceive children as an ailment to be treated. This attitude is troubling enough—but to bring pharmaceutically induced infertility under the euphemistic aegis of “women’s health” is nothing short of degrading.

The dangerous implications of this policy are several—and serious. There is, first of all, an inescapable paradox: how can the healthy state of fertility become a condition which needs to be suspended for the sake of health? To arrest the natural cycles of fertility for the sake of “women’s health” is to pathologize what is a perfectly normal and healthy. Indeed, on this view, women would only be healthy when interventions that interfere with the rhythms of their bodies are available to them.

Creating such a state of definitional confusion would be bad enough. More pernicious than even this, however, is the new relationship that universal contraception creates with the state. If the government is obliged to offer women the means for suspending their fertility, what other obligations might eventually flow from this fact? What other treatments would become the standard of care? Conversely, if fertility is defined as a condition to be treated, what would prevent contraceptives from being, not just an option but a requirement?

The shocking scandal of the euphemistically named Medical Assistance in Dying program—which has so rightly horrified the wider world—should disabuse us of putting such a possibility beyond the pale. Voluntary contraception is the “assisted suicide” of fertility; forced sterilization would simply be the equivalent of “euthanasia,” an involuntary suspension of a condition which the state has deemed superfluous.

Especially in a post-Covid world—one which is still struggling to reestablish the boundaries between medical privacy and public health—any further erosion of the lines between bodies and bureaucracies should be resisted (to say nothing of the further confusion about the definitions of “women” and “health” that this change would bring). The medical establishment in Canada is sorely in need of a renewed respect for life, both at the moment of conception and in its sacred twilight; the medical profession sorely lacks any awareness of its proper limitations. Universal coverage for contraception will only further confuse the obligations of the state and the rights of its citizens—and will further diminish the respect for the vital, natural, and indispensable state of fertility.