Attempts To Defend Rush Miss thePoint
By Jim Heim
Special toThe Pilot
Bob Levy’s March 11 column defending Rush Limbaugh following his vicious attack on Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke was as wildly wide of the mark as was Rush’s original diatribe.
In the torrent of words following the event, much of the context has been lost.
Ms. Fluke was invited to speak to congressional Democrats after Republicans staged a hearing about contraceptive issues featuring only elderly white men. As women have a stake in the issue, it seemed only reasonable to get their perspective.
Although the testimony involved the use of birth control, the witness never said a word about her own sex life, nor whether she ever used birth control. She spoke of heartbreaking cases of women at the school who suffered painful and sometimes life-threatening conditions such as endometriosis, ovarian cysts and other maladies for which physicians prescribe birth
control pills for their hormonal properties.
It turns out that the students, who are required to purchase health care policies through the school using $1,800 a year of their own money, aren’t covered for any condition for which hormonal contraceptives are the appropriate medication.
Note that at no point was Ms. Fluke’s own sex life a topic (and note too that not a dollar of church/school funds are spent for that insurance), yet Rush Limbaugh branded her a “slut” and a “prostitute” and averred that she was having so much sex that she couldn’t afford her pills. Apparently Mr. Limbaugh doesn’t know that it’s a pill a day, no matter how active or not she might be. Rush has never let ignorance stand in the way of a good opinion.
After the predictable uproar, Limbaugh issued an “apology” expressing regret for a poor choice of words. That apology was clearly written by his lawyers and publicists. A “poor choice of words” would have included every word he uttered on the subject, including “and” and “the.” (Hat tip to Mary McCarthy.)
No woman should be subjected to such a withering display of disrespect for simply expressing her opinion on women’s health care and the insurance they pay for. If Mr. Limbaugh ever decides to truly apologize, he should start from that point. And asking her to send sex tapes to pay for her contraceptives was simply inexcusable.
But that’s not unusual for Rush. He bullies women (calling Amy Carter “the most unattractive presidential daughter in the history of the country”), bullies children (calling then-13-year-old Chelsea Clinton the “White House dog”), and has supported child rapists (defending the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda, known famously for ghastly atrocities and kidnaping children for sex slavery). When it comes to apologies, Mr. Limbaugh could have a full-time job.
But in a larger sense, he’s completely mistaken in his view of contraceptive coverage in health insurance policies, as are the Republicans who support his views. Their fight against employer-sponsored birth control is misguided on a number of levels.
First, the money that pays for birth control coverage is not that of the employer, but of the worker. It’s part of his or her paycheck as a result of the peculiar history of health insurance in this country. The boss has no more right to tell an employee what medical conditions will be covered than to prohibit her from buying contraceptives with her own earnings.
Too, the advent of reliable contraception has revolutionized life for women. Before the pill, only 18 percent of women held full-time jobs. Now it’s 63 percent. Our nation’s economy would crater completely if women were not able to participate fully.
And American women are not about to give up control of their fertility without a fight. The cost of contraceptive coverage is vastly less than for the pregnancies that such coverage allows women to prevent. And in the final analysis, it’s her burden to bear or not.
Messrs. Limbaugh and Levy owe Sandra Fluke a sincere apology. No woman should be slandered so thoroughly for expressing honest opinions on matters important to the health care of women. And Republicans need to include women in their debates regarding important issues. We are long past the era when men know best and women must follow their dictates.
Jim Heim is chairman of the Moore County Democratic Party. Contact him at email@example.com.
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