By JULIA CALAGIOVANNI
March 7, 2012
Rush Limbaugh is wrong, Rush Limbaugh is wrong, Rush Limbaugh is wrong. Rush Limbaugh is wrong—we’re all tired of saying it. He’s wrong not only in his hypocrisy and his misogyny but also his facts. Some simple questions—How does insurance work? How does birth control work? How much does it cost? Why do people take it?—would do wonders here. Rush Limbaugh is wrong—but he doesn’t care. When you can slut-shame a woman gleefully, unabashedly, widely, what use are facts? He’s obviously not interested in logic, or fact, or reality. Luckily, Broad Recognition is.
It was bad enough when Fluke was denied the right to speak about women’s health at an all-male Congressional hearing in February. Then Limbaugh took to the air last week calling her a “slut,” a “prostitute,” and “round-heeled,” and suggesting that she post sex videos online since taxpayers were “paying” for her sexual activity. Then came the half-hearted “apology:” “my choice of words was not the best.”
Indeed. Not only were they misogynistic and crude, they were wrong.
Fluke is not “having so much sex she can’t afford the contraception;” one’s need for contraception (of the kind Fluke is fighting for) does not depend on how much sex one is having. Funnily enough, contraception does not work like another medication Limbaugh is presumably more familiar with: Viagra. Its quantity, and thus its cost, is not dependent on the actual frequency of sex; it’s one Pill per day or IUD for the lifetime of the device.
But another issue lies beyond Limbaugh’s misunderstanding of “how contraception works:” his apparent belief that a woman having “too much sex” does not deserve to have her basic health needs met. While, unfortunately, Fluke’s sex life has been a topic of fascination in the conservative media, feminists can agree that her sexual choices have no bearing on whether or not she (or her friend, on whose behalf she had planned to testify) gets the health services she needs. Limbaugh’s view is clear: a woman having too much sex deserves to be shamed and punished.
The conservative pundit has added another layer of unfounded panic by suggesting that taxpayers would have to pay for the health services in question. Taxpayers would not (not, not, not) be covering these costs. Neither would Georgetown, a Catholic university. Under the Obama administration’s proposal, a religious employer or university will not have to “provide, pay for or refer for” contraception, but the insurer must provide it free of charge.
Rush has done some math. He divided the $3000 Fluke cites as the amount a Georgetown student will spend to have safe sex over the three years she is a student by the cost of a single condom to arrive at the conclusion that an individual would have to have sex five times a day for three years to total that cost. Basic division—good work. Basic knowledge of women’s health needs? Not so much.
Condoms are, of course, a form of contraception, but not the only form. Birth control is not one-size-fits-all; the cheapest form may not be the most suitable. Side effects may be intolerable; a generic may be unavailable; a certain kind of medication may be necessary for a particular medical condition. Because contraceptives are just that—medication. Pharmaceutical substances for biological conditions.
In many cases, like that of the friend whose experience Fluke had planned to share at the hearing, it doesn’t have anything to do with sex at all, but debilitating and potentially deadly conditions like PCOS, endometriosis, or severely heavy periods.
And even when it does have to do with sex, it’s still none of Limbaugh’s business. Comprehensive health care is a necessity—not a privilege, and not one to be denied to someone because someone else has decided that their sexual choices are somehow objectionable. While the debate wears on, the burden is real: 40% of those Fluke surveyed said that the costs they paid out of pocket for reproductive healthcare had been a hardship.
The fallout from Limbaugh’s most recent rants has been swift—many advertisers have pulled their ads from Limbaugh’s show. But plenty of people agree with Limbaugh. Plenty of people would like to see women shamed for daring to say that they have a right to comprehensive healthcare, to live their lives without the fear of unintended pregnancy or preventable illness. Rush Limbaugh is their loudest voice—but here’s to hoping reason will prevail.
Julia Calagiovanni is a freshman in Yale College. She is a staff writer for Broad Recognition.