Perhaps sensing that her 15 minutes of fame are dangerously close to expiring, Sandra Fluke has taken to CNN.com to chronicle her own heroism, and gallantly assert that name-calling and attacks will not "silence" or deter her. Let me first stipulate that I think she is entitled to defend herself against some of the offensive and counterproductive smears from certain figures with large media megaphones -- although you'd think a private phone call and outspoken public support from the President of the United States might have sufficed. That being said, to paraphrase the late Sen. Moynihan, Ms. Fluke is not entitled to her own set of facts. Let's review a few excerpts from her column that miss the mark:
These attempts to silence women and the men who support them have clearly failed. I know this because I have received so many messages of support from across the country -- women and men speaking out because they agree that contraception needs to be treated as a basic health care service. Who are these supporters? They are women with polycystic ovarian syndrome, who need contraception to prevent cysts from growing on their ovaries, which if unaddressed can lead to infertility and deadly ovarian cancer. They are sexual assault victims, who need contraception to prevent unwanted pregnancy.
Fluke writes that some women need contraception for non-pregnancy-related needs, such as the prevention of potentially malignant ovarian cysts. It is definitely reasonable to suggest that any employer should strongly consider covering contraception under such circumstances (although some would still contend that the federal government should not swoop in and mandate that they do so). Fluke's own testimony reveals that at least one significant religiously-affiliated institution does, in fact, make such an exemption -- the very school she purported to represent at the hearing:
A friend of mine, for example, has polycystic ovarian syndrome and has to take prescription birth control to stop cysts from growing on her ovaries. Her prescription is technically covered by Georgetown insurance because it’s not intended to prevent pregnancy...
"Technically." Later in her soliloquy, Fluke relayed a story of a young woman who supposedly didn't report a sexual assault because she assumed Georgetown's insurance wouldn't cover her medical needs. Setting aside whether this anecdote is true -- it may strike some people as rather implausible -- it turns out that (again) Georgetown's policies do cover those services. Furthermore, basic, affordable birth control pills are readily available and very affordable at several drug stores in the immediate vicinity of Georgetown's campuses. Back to today's piece. After describing a laundry list of reasons why women can benefit from using birth control, most of which elicit no quarrel from me, Fluke tackles the issue of cost:
Despite the misinformation being spread, the regulation under discussion has absolutely nothing to do with government funding: It is all about the insurance policies provided by private employers and universities that are financed by individual workers, students and their families -- not taxpayers. I am talking about women who, despite paying their own premiums, cannot obtain coverage of contraception on their private insurance, even when their employer or university contributes nothing to that insurance.
Who, exactly, is propagating this alleged taxpayer funding myth? As Fluke mentions earlier in her Op/Ed, the government already funds some limited forms of "free" contraception under Title X and through programs like Medicaid. What is at issue here is the new federal edict requiring virtually every single employer in America to directly pay for plans that must cover birth control with zero co-pay. The mandate makes no exceptions for religious employers such as Catholic hospitals, schools, and other private companies run by people who adhere to church teachings. Fluke obliterates the taxpayer funding strawman, as if that alone vindicates the unprecedented federal intrusion that is the crux of today's controversy. The First Amendment protects individuals' and entities' rights to freely exercise their faith. This right is not absolute, but it is sacred, and the government must identify a very compelling and overwhelming state interest to justify violating it. Also, when HHS coerces private insurance companies to provide more services "for free," those costs don't magically vanish. Costly government mandates result in higher premiums for everyone else. We also know that in the recent past, Ms. Fluke has advocated extraordinarily expensive government "healthcare" mandates, such as the requirement that employer-provided insurance cover gender reassignment surgery. This woman is not your average, run-of-the-mill student. And as for her gripe that her college/employer "contributes nothing" toward the type of insurance she demands, let me repeat: Sandra Fluke, like all of her colleagues, chose to attend and/or work at Georgetown. In her case, it appears she selected Georgetown specifically because of its policies, which she's been obsessed with changing by any means necessary. Fluke concludes:
Restricting access to such a basic health care service, which 99% of sexually experienced American women have used and 62% of American women are using right now, is out of touch with public sentiment.
Whether those statistics are precisely accurate is irrelevant. Nobody is advocating "restricting access" to birth control. Period. Forcing all employers to pay for something -- especially with no opt-out for religious institutions and businesses -- does not constitute access restriction. Think of it this way: The Second Amendment explicitly guarantees Americans' right to bear arms. This right has been affirmed by two recent Supreme Court decisions. Let's say some gun advocates launched a hypothetical campaign to impose a federal mandate forcing all employers pay for their employees' guns, would it be fair to say that opponents of that effort were "restricting access" to firearms? Of course not. This is sophistry. Finally, as I've discussed previously, opposing the Obama administration's unconstitutional conscience-violation requirements is not "out of touch with public sentiment." After two full weeks of "war on women" demagoguery and distortions from the Left, CBS News and the New York Times published the following poll last night:
By an 11-point spread, Americans believe that average employers who happen to be religious should be able to "opt out" of the new federal rule, and by a 21-point margin, Americans believe that religiously-affiliated employers (hospitals, schools, universities, etc) should have an opt-out available. That is very encouraging news, and must be a gut-punch to those who have invested so heavily in this manufactured, liberty-depriving endeavor. I'll leave you with two items. First, an excellent CNN column from Teri Christoph and Suzanne Terrell insisting that Democrats return contributions from serial misogynist Bill Maher. Second, a clip from ABC's This Week, where George Stephanopolous confronts Chuck Schumer about the Limbaugh/Maher double standard. Schumer's response is laughably weak: