E.J. Dionne Jr. was on target in pointing out the astonishing inconsistency of “right-to-life” conservatives in opposing insurance coverage for maternity care, required by the Affordable Care Act [“Ire over maternity care,” op-ed, Nov. 11]. To frame this issue, as many conservatives do, as the individual’s right not to pay for care that they will never need misses a fundamental point: Every person was once a fetus inside his or her mother’s womb, and every adult was once a child. Each of us has been a consumer of obstetric and pediatric services at some point in our lives. The basic facts of human reproduction ensure that this will not change.

Health-care systems and insurance plans are designed to promote the public good. They are as critical to the nation’s welfare as military defense, fire and police protection and reliable public utilities. Because maternal and child health-care services are used by everyone, we have an obligation to “pay it forward” for future generations. The survival of our nation depends upon it.

L. Lewis Wall, St. Louis

The writer is a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Washington University in St. Louis.

E.J. Dionne Jr.’s heart seems to be in the right place in his charge of conservative hypocrisy on the Affordable Care Act. As a pro-life conservative striving for the “consistent ethic” he described, I would take his argument in a slightly different direction.

Let’s not subject maternity care to the complexities of the Affordable Care Act. Routine prenatal, labor and delivery care would make an ideal test-case for a universal single-payer system. No taxpayer would be unfairly burdened; Mr. Dionne rightly pointed out that both men and women play essential roles in creating pregnancies. So make maternity care an American entitlement. If it succeeds, patients and doctors might be less resistant to further health-care reform. Unlike the sweeping overhaul being attempted, a trial of single-payer maternity coverage could be a reasonable baby step.

James V. Rives, Alexandria