Saturday, March 3, 2012

Birth Control, Politics, and Entitlements

Yesterday, Sally brought to our attention the story of Ms. Sandra Fluke, late of Georgetown Law and undoubtedly soon to be practicing law alongside Gloria Alred.  There has been much made of this story over the past few days, and I've been trying to digest it in order to comment coherently.  This is my attempt to do so.

First and foremost, Rush Limbaugh's comments were despicable, reprehensible, ungentlemanly, immoderate, and not worthy of the Conservative movement, this blog, or anyone who considers themselves to be engaging in thoughtful political debate.  Period.  Full stop.

Second, while Mr. Limbaugh's attacks on the character of this woman rise were out of bounds, there is plenty of grist for political and ideological debate arising from her testimony.  Had Mr. Limbaugh simply confined his remarks to that--he could potentially have advanced the debate. Instead, an excellent opportunity to expose the vapidity of her views was lost in his ad hominem attack.

Third,  President Obama's phone call to Ms. Fluke was simultaneously an almost required act of chivalry and a grasping act of political opportunism. It was pure genius, it was smarmy, and it resonated.

Fourth, Republicans are going to get their clocks cleaned on this issue--if they haven't already done so--if they fail to frame this issue as derived of 1) freedom of conscience and 2) government over-reach.  The minute it becomes one of 1) women's health or worse,  2) sexual freedom--Republicans have lost.

I have written before here of the increasing dependency relationship between the government and the middle class in this country.  Whereas the middle class could thirty years ago point to the "welfare queen" as the symbol of government largess, it must now point firmly at itself, what with subsidized student loans, child care tax credits, tax credits for having children, tuition tax credits and now--with as advanced by Ms. Fluke--the obligation to provide birth control without cost.  Putting aside the enormous constitutional issues raised in the Catholic Church's view that forcing it to offer insurance plans that cover birth control, sterilization and abortafacients is contrary to their practice of religious freedom--the notion that a woman deserves birth control from her insurance plan WITHOUT ANY CO-PAYMENT strikes me as yet again, another instance of the entitlement society run amok.  If--as the left would have us believe--this is a women's health issue--than why are they not rejecting co-payments for ALL medication?  That's the issue here, folks.  The federal government has dictated that all insurance plans must provide FREE (as in, no co-pay) birth control.  To me--while the constitutional issue with the Catholic Church is an important one, there's another issue at stake here, the one that questions at its face, the power of the federal government to dictate ANYTHING like what it is doing with birth control.  And let us put what seems to be the left's favorite rejoinder aside immediately; since I do not believe that the government has MANDATED co-payless Viagra for males anywhere.

We are sinking into a pit of entitlement.  Ms. Fluke is just the latest troubadour.  

UPDATE:  Apparently, some of our readers are unfamiliar with the Obama Administration's requirement that health insurance plans provide birth control without co-pay.  Read up, folks. 


Anonymous said...

Back on track CW

Anonymous said...

You realize there are many medical reasons for taking the Pill, yes? And if you do, then how is a blanket exemption justifiable in any way? Or does this mean that when I go to the doctor I need to provide information back to my employer that I'm consuming my healthcare services in a way they will find acceptable?

On a separate angle, your discussion above neglects that insurance is about risk pooling. Non-smokers who eat well and stay healthy "subsidize" the obese smokers, not because they're stupid, but because a system where there are judgement calls on the relative morality (or cost) of risk becomes unworkable.

At its base, though, how is this NOT an assault on women's rights? What happened to conservatives extolling the virtues of personal responsibility? Do these same conservatives advocate pregnancy out of wedlock. I know you are well aware of the economic future most single mothers have -- lower incomes, lower educational attainment, etc. Those things get passed down through generations, further expanding the very Entitlement State we claim to be avoiding

And all of this because we're afraid of women having the right to choose when to start a family. Odd, tragic, and sad.

Anonymous said...

P.S. You should read Ms. Fluke's testimony. She doesn't claim it is her right to free contraception, or contraception without co-pay, or anything else so radical as you ascribe.

Sally said...

To your third point, you may be right, but I think it's to soon to say. He's again wading into something he shouldn't (a la Cambridge cop controversy) and to commend her for speaking up for all women when she in fact does NOT speak for all women may not go over as well as you think. He'd have won more points if he inquired after the well being of someone who'd been personally attacked by someone from his team, as Bill Maher and others do on a regular basis.
And to your fourth point, please give credit where credit is due, and that is to the shameless press in this country that has gleefully trumpeted the whole saga as 'Republicans hate women and want to ban birth control' without ever addressing the real issue of religious liberty.

mommadona said...

SOMEone #1 Doesn't understand how Birth Control works #2 Is not a woman ~ am I correct on both counts?

The Conservative Wahoo said...

Anon--spare me the morality crap, and read what I wrote.

I have both read and watched Ms. Fluke's tesimony.

I'll take your points in order--but first, since you see at least half-informed here, are you not aware that the Obama pronouncement on the provision of birth control to which the Catholic Church is objecting ALSO specified its provision without co-pay? That is the HEART of my objection.

1. You raise the issue of medical reasons for birth control prescription, and I recognize that they exist. I return here to my previous point--that of objecting to requiring that it be provided without co-pay, unlike any other "medicine" prescribed for "medical" issues. This is naked politics, pure and simple. You have a point though, where blanket exemptions (such as those sought by the Catholic Church and others)are concerned, even medicinal prescriptions are not covered. This is unfortunate--but until the Supreme Court determines the extent to which this is a Constitutional issue--which it assuredly will--I have to believe there are other policy choices available to mitigate this situation.

2. Your discussion of risk is interesting, but not germane. To me, this isn't an issue of risk, so much as an issue of government over-reach and cost. That the federal government has the power to demand that employer based healthcare provide birth-control without co-pay hits both.

3. I never cease to be amazed at how well-versed those who disagree with conservatism tend tho think they are in its central tenets. If liberals and Democrats were REALLY concerned with reining in the entitlement state--they would be objecting to Obama's overreach, as it by definition deprives them of tomorrow's entitlement voter. The suggestion that the provision of co-payless birth control will somehow rein in the Entitlement State is ridiculous on its face. Those who currently receive a birth control benefit through their employer will simply now do so without a co-pay. Those with a proclivity to bear children out of wedlock and into a state of dependency are already not taking advantage of the myriad of incredibly low-priced and federally subsidized birth control options available to them. Their irresponsibility will be in no way impacted by this policy--and so the effectiveness and personal responsibility arguments are also bogus.

Anonymous said...

Fluke's commentary did not have to do with the use of the pill as a contraceptive, but with the use of the pill to deal with ovarian cysts. As such, this is not a religious freedom of conscience issue; the woman she is talking about had a legitimate, real medical issue, and got caught up in something that had nothing to do with her immediate needs.

Having said that, the issue here, above and beyond everything, is that Limbaugh called Fluke a "slut" and a "prostitute," who should post a sex tape online for daring to talk about her friend's tragic experience which had, btw, nothing whatever to do with sex. This is simply unacceptable.

You do not call your opponent a whore. It doesn't matter that her "side" may have called someone on your "side" a whore and failed to apologize. It doesn't matter that you have a legitimate argument against her. None of that matters. In a civil society, you don't stoop so low, and you apologize for your words without deflecting or finding excuses.

For what it's worth, Obama's actions were not "smarmy," but appropriate. Limbaugh's refusal to apologize is despicable.

Anonymous said...

My Dear CW,
The issue is not one of entitlement but homogeneity. The Affordable Care Act requires health plans to conform to a common standard. The question is what will that standard be. Since most health plans already cover birth control pills with a small ($10) monthly co-pay, it's a tiny leap to remove it. My conservative friends howl at the idea of something "free" but of course, these are paid for largely by the end-user these days through premiums.
You also neglect the rationale behind the decision, like the annual check-up requirement, birth control pays for itself by avoiding more costly results down the road.
Republicans are certainly on the wrong side of this issue. Soon they'll be called Conservative Yahoos.
Paul O'Cuana

The Conservative Wahoo said...

Mr. O'Cuana--

Just a "tiny leap" you say. Just $10 a person. No problem. Just one more expansion of government control, and all it costs is $10 a person.

And, since it seems my liberal friends all seem to want to make this an economic argument--what then keeps you from advocating forced sterilization--at government expense, of course? Clearly, one quick operation and society would be free forever from its financial burden, right? I realize, this is the "reductio ad absurdem" approach, but the notion that "birth control pays for itself" is equally as absurd, as there are endless government subsidized methods of obtaining birth control an nominal cost. The issue isn't "availability"--it is "responsibility". And you can't legislate that.

Anonymous said...

I have severe anxiety that is only alleviated by drinking, but I do not want to break the law or put others in jeopardy by drinking and driving and possibly causing injury or death to them or me with resulting high medical bills. To reduce the possible adverse financial effects on the people of my community due injuries caused by my drunk driving and to avoid increased costs to the medical insurance companies who must pay the bills. I believe that the government should pay my cab fare back and forth to the bars every night. (Foolish, yes, but no less ridiculous than paying for someone’s contraceptives. What ever happened to personal responsibility and where does it all end?) No Consequences!

Anonymous said...

I have severe anxiety that is only alleviated by drinking, but I do not want to break the law or put others in jeopardy by drinking and driving and possibly causing injury or death to them or me with resulting high medical bills. To reduce the possible adverse financial effects on the people of my community due injuries caused by my drunk driving and to avoid increased costs to the medical insurance companies who must pay the bills. I believe that the government should pay my cab fare back and forth to the bars every night. (Foolish, yes, but no less ridiculous than paying for someone’s contraceptives. What ever happened to personal responsibility and where does it all end?) No Consequences!

"The Hammer" said...

Here's a radical idea. If you choose to go to a school or accept a job and the benefit package doesn't suit your particular life style, go elsewhere.

"The Hammer" said...

A Statement from Rush
March 03, 2012
For over 20 years, I have illustrated the absurd with absurdity, three hours a day, five days a week. In this instance, I chose the wrong words in my analogy of the situation. I did not mean a personal attack on Ms. Fluke.

I think it is absolutely absurd that during these very serious political times, we are discussing personal sexual recreational activities before members of Congress. I personally do not agree that American citizens should pay for these social activities. What happened to personal responsibility and accountability? Where do we draw the line? If this is accepted as the norm, what will follow? Will we be debating if taxpayers should pay for new sneakers for all students that are interested in running to keep fit?In my monologue, I posited that it is not our business whatsoever to know what is going on in anyone's bedroom nor do I think it is a topic that should reach a Presidential level.

My choice of words was not the best, and in the attempt to be humorous, I created a national stir. I sincerely apologize to Ms. Fluke for the insulting word choices.

Happy now? By the way, reportedly Bill Maher, John Stewart and half the Democrats in Washington considered apologizing for injudicious and ill-advised remarks they have made in the past but decided against it. It seems the press and their political allies could give a shit.

Anonymous said...

The government can make it as free as they want. Hell, they can throw in a $500 Michael Kors handbag with each new prescription. In my experiences as a provider of health services to women, free meds of any kind doesn't mean that people will take them, regardless of the use.

Anonymous said...

Using the phrase "Rush Limbaugh's comments" implicitly says that he was engaged in discussion.

Calling someone a whore to a national audience of many millions is an attempt to injure. Against a national public figure, you could argue it would be an equal fight, if a dirty one. Against a private citizen with no money and no power, it's pure intimidation.

"Despicable" is an inadequate word for using defamation to punish free speech. Try "un-American" instead.

My contempt for the Clinton administration came from their own use of tactics like Limbaugh's. It was inexcusable then, inexcusable now.

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