Rush Limbaugh must be responsible for countless American hearing losses — such is the off-puting boom of his voice. Meanwhile, Rick Santorum expects the sky to come crashing down any moment now — such is God’s wrath. Yes, I’m a conservative; and yes, I can’t stand these guys. They have every Constitutional right to moan about gays, whores and whatever else keeps them up late at night, but these unsavory male characters distract from what ought to be a clean, clear conservative message on the contraception mandate. For that, I’m angry. The spin on this story has been outrageous, and I, for one, am feeling pretty dizzy.
When the Department for Health and Human Services announced that all insurance plans — even plans sponsored by religious employers — cover employees’ birth-control, conservatives had a Constitutional right to be livid. Countless libertarians, Republicans, Catholics and atheists of all stripes were outraged that the federal government was effectively demanding that church organizations fund contraception-coverage at no further cost to the employee, even in the face of moral objection.
Back then, we were all on the same page. The new insurance rule clearly ran roughshod over the First Amendment’s Free Exercise clause. Coercing religious employers to privately pay for a product that potentially ties moral knots violated the Bill of Rights, plain and simple. Unfortunately, Santorum and Limbaugh were just a little too giddy when it came to the sex specifics. Santorum, who has uncomfortably kept a lid on his social-issues zeal for most of the campaign, was beyond thrilled to rail against reproductive health. Thinking he was on a roll, he let it slip that JFK’s famous speech on Catholicism and free religious practice made him want to “throw up.” Yes, there are are some legitimate inner-Catholic debates surrounding JFK’s speech on religion in the public sphere, but Santorum wasn’t guiding the American people through a nuanced lecture on theological politics. He jumped straight to talking about vomit.
Not to be outdone by Santorum’s poetics, Rush twisted a legitimate conversation into crude misogyny. Regarding Sandra Fluke’s congressional testimony about her access to contraception at Georgetown, a principled conservative might have asked what we’ve come to as a nation when a 30-year-old student at one of America’s more elite and expensive law schools is confessing her sexual escapades to Congress.
A conservative radio host looking for a little verbal flair might have said this whole contraception crusade sounds more like a schoolgirl fessing up the head-nun than a grown woman shaping policy on Capital Hill. A conservative genuinely worried about class inequities might have pointed out that hyper-educated people like Fluke are in a far better position to pay for their pharmacy-tab than many working class or impoverished citizens who work without any heath-care benefits at all. A fiscal conservative might have asked why the brokest nation in the history of the world is quibbling about the price of contraception at private Jesuit universities. Instead, Rush opted to smear her as a “slut,” after asking, “What does it say about the college coed . . . who goes before a congressional committee and essentially says that she must be paid to have sex?”
I found it petty that President Obama entered the fray and telephoned Fluke. After all, conservative students don’t get confidence-boosters from the POTUS when they embarrass themselves in the news. I also found it petty that Rush didn’t apologize faster. No, he didn’t have to say he was sorry. But conservatives, in the spirit of Edmund Burke’s chivalry and a respect for classical order, are supposed to uphold a little thing called virtue.
National calls for civility are obnoxious. The White House starts sounding like the good-manners police, not to mention it sets up the Left for all sorts of hypocrisy when the President’s PAC accepts a million bucks from the seasonally-chauvinist Bill Maher. Civility doesn’t happen because President Obama or Rachel Maddow or your kindergarten teacher tell you to apologize. It happens because most people still believe in morals and human decency.
Realistically, birth control — through the beauty of supply and demand — isn’t all that expensive. Just a few weeks ago, Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Heath and Human Services, was all over cable news to announce that contraception costs just $600 a year and is, therefore, no big deal for insurers. Now, mysteriously, Fluke and her supporters are reporting that prices are over $3,000 and, hence, unmanageably pricey for college students. You can’t have it both ways. It’s time to stop the phony, press-conference theatrics.
As Rome burned, Nero offered bread and circuses. Today, as the economy fails to recuperate and gas prices overwhelm the average family, we’ve been handed this circus of birth control. Based on the coverage, you’d be forgiven for forgetting that there are Duane Reades on every corner in New York City or that America’s suburbs are saturated in CVS pharmacies. Reproductive activists have had a lot of fun accusing Washington’s lapeled old guys of subjugating their female employee. Yet many employers and insurers are women themselves. It’s not all that feminist to demand the other gals fund your contraception. Sadly, Rush and Rick have overlooked virtually all of these talking points.
In short, this insurance story has gone bananas. The mainstream media is having a grand old time. But the Grand Old Party set this thing in motion.
Danielle is a sophomore. You can reach her at email@example.com.