Friday, March 2, 2012

Is Rush a rat, is Fluke a flake, or does the truth lie somewhere between the two?

I'm glad The Atlantic's Conor Friersdorf included a video of Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke's intended testimony for women's health. Fluke, moved by the plight of a fellow student who needs birth control to protect against ovarian cysts, reports that an outlay of $3,000 for birth control during law school sans insurance represents a hardship for many students. I for one have to question that; this source says that birth control pills not covered by a prescription cost about $20-$50 per month, which, even at its highest, is probably less than most people spend in vending machines. Still, let's give these young people the benefit of the doubt for a moment and acknowledge that it may be idle to say that if they can afford Georgetown Law, they can afford birth control, when the high tuition and living expenses may be precisely the reason why they can't very well afford birth control, unless it is covered in their health insurance.

Needless to say, Rush Limbaugh's description of Fluke as a "slut" and his demand that she perform in a sex tape to earn money for contraception is vile beyond description. If there is a fit target for his taunts, it isn't Sandra Fluke or her unfortunate friend.

Still, we do have to deal with what another public figure, closer to the Fluke way of thinking, called "an inconvenient truth," and if this were a court case, someone ought to ask future lawyer Sandra if she really believes that her friend with the ovarian cysts represents the typical seeker of other people's money to pay for her contraception.

It will surprise no one that many college students are more sexually active than you or I. A report released several years ago by the University of Minnesota Boynton Health Service said, among other things, that 72% of college-age respondents reported having been sexually active in the year before the study. Young blood runs hot, and we need not be shocked at this nor object to the very practical consideration that most of these encounters probably should not result in a live birth; people of that age are not necessarily ready to be parents.

And the cost of contraception, unassisted by insurance, may not be so affordable on a student's budget, no matter what future earnings they may expect to pull down from a Wall St. law firm. As to denying coverage to people with medical conditions such as ovarian cysts, on the grounds that the product they use for this is also used with regard to purely discretionary behavior, that is monstrously wrongheaded and should not be tolerated in any humane society. It is of a piece with denying terminal patients in hideous pain "too much" pain medication on the grounds of the risk of dependency, which in their case, is absurd.

No, I do not deny that there are practical considerations on Sandra's side, but having said that, I do think she has played the fool.

When a nicely dressed student at Georgetown Law appears in a video, announces to the public that a certain sum for contraception is an undue burden on her and her friends, and cites, as her only example, someone who suffers from a medical condition, what can she possibly expect to be running through the minds of many of her hearers, and not Limbaugh alone?

Their likely thought is something like this: "Lady, what planet are you from? If college students wish to enjoy their sexual freedom, that is their choice, but then to expect the rest of us to put up the money for it? Are you out of your mind? Are you really this clueless and expecting to make a career in the practice of the law? Puh-lease!"

So here is my question: since condoms, which cost from 50 cents to a dollar apiece, run toward the lower end of the cost of birth control pills for a month's supply...

...if a male jock testified that he had a very active "social" life, and if he urged insurance companies to pay for condoms on the grounds that many of his fellow athletes were scholarship students from modest backgrounds with little discretionary income, and after all, the provision of condoms to males promoted public health...

...and if a female commentator replied by saying "Buy your own condoms, super stud, or keep it zipped"...

...would we see the same level of outrage?

© Michael Huggins, 2012. All rights reserved.

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