Democrats call it the “War on Women.” Republicans, “the War on Religion.” Simply: It is contraception coverage. While this has clearly become a partisan issue in the US, it seems no one has responded as vehemently as Rush Limbaugh. The radio host equated birth control coverage with being, “paid to have sex.” Limbaugh hurled insults at one woman in particular, calling her a “slut”and a “prostitute,” as well as describing her as an “immoral- baseless-no purpose-to-her-life-woman.”
The woman in question? Sandra Fluke, a George Town University law student who argued in favour of contraception coverage before members of the House of Representatives. Fluke brought up the cost of birth control without insurance – $3000 over three years as a law student – and further stated that 40% of female Georgetown students suffered financially due to a lack of insurance coverage for birth control. She also cited stories of women whose polycystic ovarian syndrome and endometriosis are treated with birth control. Fluke emphasized birth control as a right that all women are entitled to, regardless of their employers’ religion.
This is what prompted Limbaugh’s right wing rage. Although Limbaugh initially focused on Fluke, saying, “She’s having sex so frequently that she can’t afford the birthcontrol pills that she needs,” he later on attacked all women who use birth control. “Ms. Fluke and the rest of you feminazis, here’s the deal. If we are going to pay for your contraceptives, and thus pay for you to have sex, we want something for it, and I’ll tell you what it is. We want you to post the videos online so we can all watch,” Limbaugh said.
His first comment shows that he doesn’t understand how birth control pills work. You don’t take a pill every time you have sex, you take one every day.
Limbaugh’s second comment reeks of sexist entitlement. He’s saying that if women are entitled to birth control, men are entitled to have sex with them.
No. That’s not how it works. The right to birth control means the right to your own body. It is not a trade where the women get pills and the men get sex. It is an individual asserting her basic right to choose what does, or does not go inside her body.
Limbaugh tries to remove women’s autonomy from the entire conversation and make it about slut shaming and chastity.
Chastity for women that is. He makes no mention of men’s participation in what is traditionally a couple’s act. Instead, Limbaugh drags out the cliché of if women would just keep their legs shut, this wouldn’t be an issue. He degrades women by shaming their right to choose and degrades men by implying that they will have sex with anyone on birth control.
What’s so inherently evil about birth control coverage anyways? Nothing. If birth control is covered individuals can still choose not to take it. No government official would force someone to take birth control against their will. That would be a violation of their rights. Which is what Sandra Fluke spoke out against in the first place.
Sponsors of Limbaugh’s show were not impressed with his misogynistic remarks, with companies such as GEICO and All State Insurance suspending their advertising. The loss of several sponsors pressured Limbaugh to issue an apology, stating, “In this instance, I chose the wrong words in my analogy of the situation. I did not mean a personal attack on Ms. Fluke.”
Of course. Nothing says impersonal like degrading someone’s private reproductive rights.
Limbaugh’s attempt to downplay this as a one-time fluke fools no one. Sandra Fluke held no illusions about the apology, stating on The View, “[It] is an attempt to silence me, to silence the millions of women and the men… who have been speaking out about this issue and conveying that contraception is an important healthcare need that they need to have met in an affordable, accessible way.”
Bigoted attacks and reluctant apologies will not silence this issue. Birth control is here to stay, regardless of whether or not it is covered by insurance. How Rush Limbaugh and his proponents feel won’t change that fact. All they can change is if they accept it.