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Listen up ladies: Apparently, if you favor the idea of your employer covering birth control on your health insurance plan, you’re a slut. Or a prostitute. Or a “feminazi.”
At least, that’s what Rush Limbaugh thinks.
The Republican political talk show host of “The Rush Limbaugh Show” went on a three-day rampage last week over testimony given by a Georgetown University law student, Sandra Fluke.
Here’s a little background on the situation . . .
Fluke stepped up to speak in Congress after a committee hearing was held on Feb. 16 over a regulation issued because of the Affordable Care Act statute discussing birth control, where those testifying were all men. The original committee hearing was called because some religious leaders were concerned that the Affordable Care Act was mandating religious employers pay for contraception for their employees – something that directly violates their religious morals.
Just to clarify, the Affordable Care Act that was signed into law on March 23, 2010 by President Barack Obama includes women’s preventative care services including contraceptive measures, but excludes religious employers.
Limbaugh's recent rants sparked controversy around the nation this week. (CU Independent/Robert R. Denton)
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services website, “group health plans sponsored by certain religious employers, and group health insurance coverage in connection with such plans, are exempt from the requirement to cover contraceptive services.”
The website clarifies that those exempt from the policy are religious employers, like churches, who can opt out of providing this coverage to their employees. But, there is a grey area: employers of religious affiliates, like a hospital owned by a religious group, can opt out of this as well, but employees who want contraceptive coverage can still get it through their insurance companies without the employer having to pay a premium for it. All regular employers would still have to provide contraceptive services to employees.
The fact that these men took it upon themselves to testify about how such a measure is stripping them of their religious freedom by forcing them to provide contraception is completely and factually unfounded. The facts couldn’t be clearer on the department’s website.
So are we missing something here?
The men came forward to speak about losing religious freedom when the regulation already states that religious employers are excluded. This is an obvious case of political grandstanding – these men came together to rail Obama’s administration.
Imagining a row of all men testifying in Congress about contraception should be enough to make any woman’s blood pressure rise. It certainly did for Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, who held a forum a few days later to allow women to have the floor, where Fluke planned to speak.
Unfortunately, Rep. Darrell Issa (R – Calif.) wouldn’t allow her. He said the committee had not received the information on her interest in speaking soon enough.
When she finally did speak, in front of an audience of just Democrats, she shared the story of a woman she said was a friend of hers at Georgetown who needed contraception because she had polycystic ovarian syndrome. Without contraception, cysts would grow on her ovaries, causing painful cramps. Here is an excerpt from the transcript of her testimony:
“After months of paying over $100 out of pocket, she just couldn’t afford her medication anymore and had to stop taking it…Without her taking the birth control, a massive cyst the size of a tennis ball had grown on her ovary.”
Fluke said her friend is gay, and therefore her need for contraception wasn’t to prevent pregnancy. It was for a medical need. Many women need contraceptive measures for reasons besides pregnancy prevention. Many need it for issues like acne, painful menstrual cramps, irregularity with their menstrual cycles or even for conditions like endometriosis, where there exists inflammation of the uterine lining. Medical needs other than pregnancy prevention are issues that have to be taken into account when contraception is brought up at a congressional level.
In speaking out for her friend and standing up to those in Congress who thought that women shouldn’t be allowed to vocalize their thoughts on contraception, Fluke was labeled a “slut” by Limbaugh. For three days on his show he barely came up for air between slamming Fluke.
What is most upsetting about the entire situation is the fact that Limbaugh used Fluke as a pawn for his outrageously conservative platform. This has unfortunately become the state of politics we are living with today. The fact that Limbaugh, who is seen as a reliable source for many Republicans in the U.S., can spew speech this hateful message just for the sake of being outrageous is unacceptable. What’s even scarier is that people will listen to him.
Yes, Limbaugh apologized, but Fluke was singled out and became an easy target by Limbaugh, who effectively managed to misdirect the public from the real issue at hand. Religious groups are in fact not being forced to pay for contraception for employees.
Partisan politics have become nothing more than mudslinging and Fluke became a victim of it. Men have a stronger voice in politics and the deplorable result is that women often are criticized for taking a stand and testifying for what they believe in. Unless we make it clear that these attitudes are nothing more than distractions from the real work needed for the country, women like Fluke will likely continue to fall victim to partisan agendas.
Contact CU Independent Managing Editor Sarah Simmons at Sarah.firstname.lastname@example.org.
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