Please join me in something approximating actual discourse.
In regards to a young woman's testimony that her health plan does not cover contraception, Rush Limbaugh said the following: "What does it say about the college co-ed Susan [sic] Fluke who goes before a congressional committee and essentially says that she must be paid to have sex -- what does that make her? It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute," Limbaugh said. "She wants to be paid to have sex. She's having so much sex she can't afford the contraception. She wants you and me and the taxpayers to pay her to have sex."
The day after, he scoffed that if women want prescription coverage for contraception, they owe it to him as a tax payer to broadcast their sex lives on the Internet.
I have become embroiled in this fire storm because I am appalled at the gleefully fact-free nature of Mr. Limbaugh's attack and the resulting mud-slinging from both sides.
Could we establish what the issues are and what the facts are?
Let's start with facts.
Sandra Fluke must pay for Georgetown University's insurance plan which is underwritten by United Health Care. This fact has two aspects: 1) Fluke does not have a choice of health plans, and 2) she is the payer, not Rush Limbaugh and not the public.
Ms. Fluke did not discuss her own sex life. She spoke as a duly chosen figurehead for Georgetown Law Students for Reproductive Justice. No one knows how much sex Ms. Fluke is -- or is not -- having.
Her statement was backed up by surveys of her classmates, 94% of whom think the insurance plan they pay for should cover contraception.
Much of her statement concerned women suffering from polycystic ovary syndrome. Despite the very real pain and consequences of this illness, students were interrogated by UHC and Georgetown officials. In many cases, they were denied care any way.
In reaction to this rather tepid, read statement, Mr. Limbaugh painted a picture of Ms. Fluke as a prostitute and a waster of tax dollars.
Of course Sandra Fluke's statement yanks all of our chains. Contraception is the logical prevention of abortion and abortion is one of the dividing issues in our national social climate.
And of course how each of us feels about the legitimacy of abortion usually influences what social commentators we listen to, what churches we attend, whom we vote for.
But this issue is not abortion. The issue is that females paying into religious institutions' health plan do not receive prescription coverage for contraception.
And Mr. Limbaugh has equated that issue with promiscuity, tainted it with the brush of tax payers' rights and gilded it with salacious voyeurism. Which leads to a second issue: is a woman who needs contraception a whore?
It is those equations and the misinformation that Mr. Mimbaugh promoted to his claimed 20 million listeners a week that I am protesting.
I would politely ask that this discussion be limited to what Ms. Fluke actually said and to consider the calumny that Mr. Limbaugh passed on as truth.
Then, maybe, we will learn how to argue articulately and productively about abortion, contraception, the left, the right, Sean Hannity, Viagra, aspirin, Bill Maher, the Food Stamp President, papal encyclicals and abortion on their own terms.
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