I’m sure you’ve heard about Rush Limbaugh’s increasingly provocative comments on birth control. In brief, Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke testified that birth control pills cost a typical woman about $3000 over a three year timescale and that this was quite a burden for students. Some Right Wing idiot calculated how many condoms that would buy (several thousand) and yucked it up about just how much birth control she needed and how much sex she was having. It was an extremely stupid analysis, since birth control pills cost the same whether you have sex every day or not at all. And they are, on occasion, prescribed therapeutically, such as when a woman is undergoing fertility treatments or having some procedure — like chemotherapy — in which getting pregnant would be dangerous.
But then Limbaugh picked that stupidity up and ran with it, saying the girl essentially wanted to be paid to have sex. And when called on it, he doubled down, joking that she should send the taxpayers a sex tape in repayment for their sponsoring of all the sex she was having.
There are several aspects to this and I’d like to turn it over a few times before putting it down and walking away. First, I agree with what Ken at Popehat said last night on Twitter. At this point, Rush Limbaugh is clearly power trolling, saying provocative things to get attention and ratings. I know Rush’s show enough to know when he’s being facetious. This is clearly not meant literally (not that this excuses the gross misogyny of the remarks).
However, that in itself is shameful. As I said on Twitter, there used to be a time when Rush Limbaugh didn’t need to do this shit to be relevant. During the mid-90’s, Rush was at the epicenter of our political world. And the reason was because he was fucking brilliant. He had facts and arguments on his side. He relished the debate. He gloried in skewering the Clintons and their myriad supporters. And he argued persuasively for many of the policies we eventually enacted. The Left always claimed he was “spewing hate” but he wasn’t. He was upbeat, optimistic and grounded in facts and data. And it was clear that the Clintons, at least, knew this. They fed him information during the NAFTA debate. And they started dumping policies and press releases at 3:00 pm on Fridays so they would have three days to spin it before Rush could comment.
Now his show is more bitter and angry, less about ideas than about bombast. And this is just the apotheosis. It’s like watching a fading athlete take steroids to try to regain his former glory. It’s just sad.
But, let’s turn this issue over again. People are outraged about what Rush Limbaugh said and that’s fine. They should be. But where is the comparable outrage to the Left referring to a standard medical procedure as “rape”.
Pro-choice commentators have called the transvaginal form of ultrasound that’s standard early in pregnancy “rape,” “forced vaginal penetration,” and an “unnecessary medical procedure” in response to bills in Virginia and elsewhere that would, practically speaking, require all abortion recipients to undergo an ultrasound by this method.
But I have considerable concerns about what calling these ultrasounds “rape” and “unnecessary” will mean for abortion patients and providers. The reality is that most abortion patients do receive an ultrasound to date their pregnancies. Since most abortions take place in the first trimester of pregnancy, many of these ultrasounds are performed with a transvaginal probe, the most effective method for viewing early-stage pregnancies.
But now that women have heard abortion supporters describe this form of ultrasound as “rape,” will more of them be terrified when they arrive at a clinic and are informed they will have such a procedure? Or might they be scared off altogether? Will abortion clinic staff who perform the ultrasound be seen as “rapists,” as the provider I mentioned earlier worried? This is a possibility not lost on the anti-abortion website LifeNews, which recently ran the headline, “If Ultrasound is Rape, Arrest Planned Parenthood Staffers.”
For the Left to compare the forcible sexual violation of a woman to a standard medical procedure is far more deeply offensive than anything Rush Limbaugh has said. And the thing is that they mean it. This is not a joke or an exaggeration for comic effect. This is a tactic, plain and simple. But it has generated a thousandth of the outrage reserved for some radio guy talking out of his ass.
Really, I am disgusted by this entire debate. I’m disgusted that our government is trying to mandate insurance coverage. It doesn’t matter if it’s birth control or metamucil: the principle is wrong, stupid, expensive and anti-free market. If I ran a business, I’d get insurance that covered birth control. But I don’t want to see that mandated. I don’t want to see any coverage mandated.
I’m further disgusted with the President for choosing this fight. He could have chosen anything to start the coverage mandate fight on. But he chose birth control because he knew what would happen: we would end up in a debate about birth control and not one about economics. Remember when playing political games with women’s health was a bad thing?
And I’m finally disgusted with the Republicans for stepping right into the bear trap. They could have framed this debate the right way: being about economics and not religion. They could be proposing a bill that suspends all federal coverage mandates. But instead they got bogged down in this stupid culture war bullshit. And now we are all paying the price. Not just politically … but economically. Because by fighting over birth control, they have left untouched the basic idea that government can dictate what kind of insurance we can buy.
And so, in the end, the loser in this situation is not Limbaugh, who is gaining attention. It’s not Obama or even the GOP, who are able to rally their bases. It’s us … all of us … everyone who has an economic stake in this country. Because while we’ve been looking the other way, another bit of our freedom has been swiped out from under us.