The turn the Rush Limbaugh debate has taken is extremely disappointing, as the debate has morphed into something that has absolutely nothing to do with Sandra Fluke’s original testimony. Liberals urge a boycott of his advertisers because he’s sexist, while conservatives rattle off a list of everyone liberal who has ever used a mean word against a right-winger. None of which is to the point.
Sandra Fluke made the argument that a private university health-insurance plan (PRIVATE, not taxpayer-funded) ought to cover birth control pills, and used as her example a friend who needed them to treat ovarian cysts. She stated that it costs about $1,000 a year ($3,000 for three years), which is an undue burden. She didn’t talk about her own sex life.
In some quarters on the right, this argument somehow became Fluke wanting $3,000 worth of free condoms. Others looked into prices for ortho-tricycline, and found that there are big-box stores that sell it for around $10. Reasonably, they’ve asked how that’s a burden.
Here’s how: not every pill works for every woman. I speak to this as one who has purchased many different varieties for my own girlfriend (who gave me permission to discuss her case, because this whole incident has turned here vehemently against the Republican party). In her case, the hormonal balance in basic birth control (which, BTW, in Burbank costs $35 without insurance, $10 with) had side-effects ranging from dramatic moodswings to bursting ovarian cysts, which I am told feel like getting kicked in the crotch, and risk endangering one’s future fertility. We’ve had to try a variety of different pills, including some that cost $85 a month even with insurance. Multiply that by 12 and you’re already over $1000 for the year.
Another argument being made is the hardcore Catholic belief that contraception equals abortion, due to the idea that life begins at conception, as opposed to when the egg embeds in the uterine wall, which is when it’s medically defined as a pregnancy. This has allowed some frame the debate as one over abortion; meanwhile, studies show that 98% of Catholic women in this country have used the pill. Freedom of religion? If you go down that route, next up will be Jehovah’s Witness employers refusing to pay for insurance that allows blood transfusions, Muslim employers refusing to pay for insurance plans that allow female doctors to treat males…you can argue that employers shouldn’t ever pay for health insurance at all, but even if you could magically separate it, we’d have the same argument over what people of faith who happen to run insurance companies can do, with the end result being less coverage. And then, guess what? Everybody goes to the emergency room, where your tax dollars go toward all that stuff you don’t approve of anyhow.
The biggest hypocrites in all this are Limbaugh’s advertisers. This is a man who made a name for himself using the word “feminazi,” which inherently equates those who want equal pay for equal work with history’s most notorious mass murderers. Suddenly they’re shocked that he called someone a slut? Really? Listen, I used to call George W. Bush “President Fucky McFucknuts.” When you talk politics, you get heated. Names are called.
I support a boycott against Limbaugh for different reasons – that he didn’t tell the truth (the idea that “we” would be paying her to have sex), and thought there would be no consequences. Free speech doesn’t give you the right to libel and misrepresent, and I’d like to see all current-events talk-show hosts held to a standard where they pay a penalty for that. Mandatory corrections upfront, like newspapers try to do, perhaps. Obvious parody, like, let’s say Rush’s distasteful “Barack the Magic Negro” song or the entirety of the Phil Hendrie show would be exempt.
Who should set those rules and enforce them? Well, in theory, consumer boycotts ought to do just that. The Fairness Doctrine was meant to deliver that outcome, but it seems too heavy-handed. Hosts won’t do it out of the goodness of their hearts.
Perhaps the only viable solution is to counter the misinformation. This is me doing my part.