Sunday, March 4, 2012

Rush, Fluke and Ms-takes

Right now, there’s a lot of guffawing and name-calling over Georgetown Law student Sandra Fluke’s testimony before the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee on Monday.  Among other things, Fluke estimated that “Without insurance coverage, contraception, as you know, can cost a woman over $3,000 during law school.”

Over a three-year period, that’s about $83 a month and change.  A quick browse through the Internet got me a range of prices on generic estrogen-progestogen pills going from $49.52 for a 3-month supply (≈ $16.51/month)[*] to $25.99 for a 1-month supply of Levora or Lutera.[†]  Craig Bannister figured it out at $1 a condom … largely for laughs.  Yet unless the braniacs attending Georgetown Law still don’t know how to go generic, or the Safeway Pharmacy on Wisconsin Avenue is deliberately ripping the rich kids off, there’s still quite a gap between $25.99 and $83.33 a month — Ms. Fluke’s numbers refuse to add up.

But Bannister’s joke calculation that Hoya students are boinking 2.74 times a day is simply another way to express the same point radio loudmouth Rush Limbaugh was trying to get across in his typical talk-first-think-it-through-later style.  “What happened to personal responsibility and accountability?  Where do we draw the line?”

So let’s strip away some of the misconceptions (uh …) about the HHS mandate debate.


First, this is not an issue that affects only women.  “Free contraception” means free condoms as much as it means free pills, so Bannister’s calculation isn’t completely off-base.  While women bear the major burden of pregnancy, men have potential legal, financial and social obligations to meet.  Therefore, it’s as much in the male students’ interest to get their Trojans free as it is for the females to get their Pills free.  Despite feminist attempts to spin the issue into one of “women’s health”, men can’t be excluded from the discussion.

Second, this is not about Catholic institutions imposing their morality on students and faculty.  Rather, it’s the reverse.  Consider this piece of idiocy from Bannister’s combox:

Most insurance plans cover contraceptives.  I consider it as basic as teeth cleaning [well, goody-goody-gumdrops!].  Most adult women are sexually active, which means most adult women either will remain pregnant all the time (risking their health for sure), or need to use contraception.

Forget the sloppy terminology and hysterical exaggeration, and concentrate on the words in bold type.  The decision not to have (more) children is a prudential one, and can be considered a good one in many contexts.  But the decision to have sex is also a matter of prudence; in most situations where it’s not a good idea to have children, it’s not a good idea to have sex.  It’s really rather silly to make financial or social prudence the basis for claiming a right to chemically-enabled sexual imprudence subsidized by other people’s money.  Wishing won’t make contraceptives medically necessary in such scenarios.

I’ve asked this question before, and have yet to receive a sensible answer to it: how does your choice to contracept become my obligation to help you fund it?  The closest thing I get to an answer is, “Sic volumus, sic iubimus:[‡] we have decided that this is a good thing, and therefore you must obey.” 

Except that it isn’t true; the decision to make contraceptives a basic coverage of insurance belongs solely to the Obama Administration, not to Congress or the people of the several States.  Even the law under whose shelter the Obamination foists this hemlock on us was highly controversial, its passage attended by no little amount of skullduggery and deception (“We have to pass it so that you can find out what’s in it away from the fog of the controversy”).[§]  Given how often leftists have appealed to minority rights in the past, even to the point of talking in serious tones about “the tyranny of the majority”, to hear majority rule invoked now smacks of pious hypocrisy.

Third, the issue is not a Catholic “war against women”.  Another example:

As a Catholic, I’m fed up with men of the cloth with no experience in women’s issues skulking about trying to tell women what only women can know. That “Father Knows Best” routine is 16th century Catholicism that isn’t accepted by educated Catholic women. And, therein lies the biggest problem in the Catholic Church: Refusal to accept that women are equally intelligent and in some cases, more intelligent, than men.

As a Catholic and a man, I’m fed up with the feminist notion that women are by their biology privy to some esoteric, mystical knowledge that changes the moral polarity of any issue.  There are plenty of educated Catholic women who have been on the inside of radical feminism and seen this argument for what it is: sexism given an anti-man spin. They don’t want to be lumped in with other women; they don’t want the NOW or Sandra Fluke to speak for them.  Whether you’re a man or a woman, a circumstantial ad hominem is still a logical fallacy.

Fourth, Fluke’s lesbian friend with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) has no bearing on the issue.  Frankly, I’m stunned that Fluke even brought her into the picture.  While a Catholic bioethicist could correct me on this, I believe that use of the estrogen-progestogen pill to treat PCOS might be acceptable in some circumstances under the principle of “double effect”, so long as contraception was not the intended goal.  Certainly it wouldn’t obtain for an actively gay woman!  As Prof. Janet Smith (an educated Catholic woman!) remarks, “… [It] is shameless for Fluke to piggyback on her friend’s legitimate health care needs to coerce others into paying for her elective contraceptives.”

Finally, the issue is not about women’s health care.  If women’s health were the true source of concern, most forms of contraception would be taken off the market as more deleterious to women’s health than pregnancy.  And Sec. Sebelius’ claim that family planning is a “critical health benefit” is a rehash of overpopulation doomsday scenarios that are losing their relevance in the shadow of the oncoming aging crisis, the “graying of America”.

This is ultimately the “personal responsibility and accountability” Limbaugh spoke of that’s part and parcel of any choice — you own the choice, you own the responsibility for its consequences. 

Tina Korbe resents the assumption, buried underneath Fluke’s testimony, that “women are incapable of controlling themselves, of sacrificing temporary pleasure for the sake of long-term success.”  I resent the assumption equally when it’s made of men.  But I also resent the assumption that people are entitled to sex without responsibility or accountability. 

That entitlement is found nowhere in the law or the Constitution.  Which Fluke’s supposed to be studying, instead of getting her freak on.

[‡] Literally, "Thus we want, thus we command."
[§] CAUTION: The YouTube page has some rather offensive language on it.