The myth of free birth control

Tuesday, March 6th, 2012 · 19 Comments »

There are two aspects of the Rush Limbaugh/Sandra Fluke thing that offend me. The first one we’ve already talked about at length: misogyny. But the second one also drives me nuts. It’s the lying. The flat-out total misrepresentation of the facts. This is a hallmark of the right wing, and especially of the kind of wingnuttery that Rush Limbaugh has presided over for 20 years.

If you’re a wingnut and your knowledge of Sandra Fluke comes from the right wing noise machine, you undoubtedly think that she was demanding that she and other students be provided with free birth control by the government, or by the Catholic Church, or perhaps by some terrifying chimera of the two. (I’m picturing the body of Darrell Issa with the Pope’s head on top.)

Here’s the real situation: Georgetown students buy their healthcare coverage through the University’s student health insurance plan. It’s just like an employee health insurance plan, but for students. In fact, students at Georgetown, as at many universities, are required to carry this insurance (or prove that they have coverage elsewhere). The premiums run something like $1900 a year. And yet, even though female students are paying for their own health insurance, their birth control prescriptions aren’t included. That’s because Georgetown specifically excludes women’s contraceptive pills from the prescription plan, on account of the fact that the Catholic Church hates women. So female students have to buy health insurance plus pay for their ladyparts prescriptions out of pocket. Even if they have a serious disease that requires the pill as treatment.

Interestingly, the Georgetown employee healthcare plan does include birth control, because the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission would rain hell on their ass otherwise. That’s because of the EEOC ruling from 12 years ago that birth control is normal healthcare and that excluding it from an employee’s prescription plan constitutes sexist discrimination.*

And that’s what this is about: sexist discrimination. The women students at Georgetown are buying insurance to cover their healthcare needs, and yet they’re being discriminated against—denied basic modern medicine that is an integral part of women’s health—simply because they’re women.

Which of course bring us back to the misogyny.

*This is likely to change, now that Obama has created a new “religious liberty” exemption for contraception. For the past 12 years Catholic employers have been covering contraception so as not to be in violation of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits sexist discrimination. Obama’s new policy allows employers to omit contraceptive coverage for women on religious grounds. Insurance companies are supposed to pick up the slack by providing the coverage directly to the women involved, though it’s still unclear how that will work.

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19 Responses to “The myth of free birth control”

  1. Vera says:

    The “discourse” around Limbaugh’s commentary has been absolutely infuriating for exactly this reason. The lying. It helps to know I’m not the only one being driven nuts by this crap.

    Clearly there are a lot of people who need to learn how health insurance works, as well as understand what constitutes an acceptable standard of care for women. Who knew that there’s so much ignorance about these matters?

    I remember covertly distributing a few bundles of the first copies of “Our Bodies Ourselves” (the edition printed entirely on newsprint). I would sneak into the girls’ bathroom at my high school and leave a stack of the books; just enough so they’d all be grabbed by students before the vice principal could remove them.

    That was 40 years ago. We’ve gone so far backward.

  2. Adrienne in CA says:

    You know, I only just now got around to watching Sandra Fluke’s testimony in its entirety.

    No wonder they were afraid to let her speak. No wonder the immediate response was to reframe, with lies, what she actually said. Clearly, she is a dangerous woman. A witch, who must be destroyed.

  3. tinfoil hattie says:

    It really bothers me that sooooo many people are defending Ms. Fluke because “she wasn’t talking about sex!!!!”

    Well, as you said in your post, ” … they’re being discriminated against—denied basic modern medicine that is an integral part of women’s health—simply because they’re women.”

    SEXUAL HEALTH is a health need. WOMEN’S sexual health includes reproductive health, which includes NOT BEING PREGNANT for most of the 40 years in which a vast majority of women could become pregnant.

    So: yes, the Republicans and that ass-stain Limbaugh are LIARS and MISOGYNISTS. And our “progressive” brethren are eliding the need for reliable BIRTH CONTROL 51% of the population.

    Because only SLUTS need birth control, amirite? “Good girls” just talk about ovarian cysts and PCOS and cramps and horrible mood swings and clotty periods.


  4. Nell says:

    Fascinating that Catholic (and other religious) colleges and universities are still exercising in loco parentis while their secular counterparts abandoned this concept 40 years ago.

    I know because I was there and witnessed it disappear almost overnight. When I entered college as a freshman, we had curfews, house mothers, and required permission to leave campus. We signed in at dinner and if we were absent we were questioned. By the start of sophomore year, all of this was gone – all of it. I felt kind of sorry for the house mothers who had their butts booted out of the residences they’d known for years with very little warning.

    But it was the late ’60′s, we embraced our liberation, and we never looked back. Who knew that, in 2012, the smackdown of the backlash would be so extreme?

  5. Violet Socks says:

    Who knew that there’s so much ignorance about these matters?

    I swear to God. The pill’s been around for 50 years and millions of women take it; I thought people knew how it worked. Yet a whole lot of people seem to think it’s a spermicide. One pill for every sperm, as Colbert said (or Jon Stewart, can’t remember which one).

    Never underestimate human stupidity. (Though I do think a lot of the wingnut pundits know exactly how the pill works and are just pretending otherwise.)

  6. Vera says:

    Tinfoil Hattie: Yes! That pisses me off, too. Oh, there is so MUCH about this incident that needs to be picked apart, deconstructed, examined, and properly mocked.

  7. Catherine D. says:

    No, no, Ratzi the Nazi and Issa the car thief don’t make a chimera – they’re an evil hydra!

    (Better to Photoshop than sink into depression, right?!)

  8. Aeryl says:

    The obfuscation about this is really been pissing me off, as you pointed out Violet, these pundits are acting like the amount of contraceptive pills women takes go up the more they have sex.

    And fucking Patricia Heaton, a woman who damn well knows how the fucking pill works, jumps on the Limbaugh wagon, slut shaming Fluke, as if the frequency of her sex life has anything to do with a fixed cost like birth control pills.

  9. tinfoilhattie says:

    as if the frequency of her sex life has anything to do with a fixed cost like birth control pills.

    More to the point, as though the frequency of any woman’s sex life should ever be discussed, much less used as a stick with which to define her morality.

  10. Aeryl says:

    Very true, but Heaton’s comments were very focused on how much sex she could/should be having, advice to skip using hygiene products to cut BC costs, and whether her parents who pay for her BC should have a say in who she sleeps with.

    Disgusting stuff.

  11. Val says:

    What offends me is that she and other women have been denied the right to speak to a Congressional committee (Congress people are our employees, not our masters; they answer to us, not the other way around). I think that she and that piece of shit Limbaugh are red herrings. What’s really scary is that Congress has set a precedent in silencing women, in prohibiting citizens from speaking in front of Congress. That turd Limbaugh is just a turd; he doesn’t legislate. Congress does, and it’s turning into the Taliban, and we are letting them distract us with turds like Limbaugh. When will it be enough? What will it take to get all women to act?

  12. Val says:

    And Patricia Heaton hates women so much she could be a man. Just give her a dick and let’s stop the charade.

  13. tinfoil hattie says:

    @Aeryl, it’s not just Heaton. It’s men, women, liberals, commenters, etc. who are okay with Fluke testifying about hormonal birth control being needed for other reasons than for preventing women from becoming pregnant.

    And yes, Val – you are absolutely right. It is indeed chilling. Taliban.

  14. Susan says:

    Heaton is one holier-than-thou wench. She’s on her second marriage and has, in the course of two marriages, been sexually active for about twenty-five reproductive years but she has only four sons, each born just two years apart. Human biology does not usually work quite that conveniently. Chances are, Heaton is very familiar with one or more type of birth control all of which violate her Catholic beliefs.

  15. Kati says:

    Thought you’d all appreciate this gem from Reddit tonight:

  16. Sameol says:

    Does anyone live in Arizona? Is this law that would prevent women from suing their doctors for malpractice if they deliberately withhold information that might cause someone to terminate a pregnancy going to pass?

  17. Kati says:

    @Sameol, I live in Phoenix and for some reason hadn’t heard of that bill so I looked it up. Oh, it makes me so MAD!! How DARE they?!?

    What next… withholding a cancer diagnosis in case you might commit suicide?

  18. Sameol says:

    So many people are up in arms about that couple in Oregon winning their malpractice suit against the doctor who failed to properly screen their baby for DS, I’m sure proposals like that will be sweeping the country very soon. I’d really like to know how anyone thinks parents will be able to properly care for severely disabled children when they can’t sue for malpractice.

  19. Daniel Wall says:

    This is an excellent piece, and very helpful.