Matt Carberry (kingpin248) wrote,
Matt Carberry

The Fluke–Limbaugh kerfluffle

I guess I should start by addressing those readers who live under rocks, or who read this site and don't consult major news outlets: Rush Limbaugh made some incredibly stupid and derogatory comments!

First of all, even though nobody has asked, I'd like to say some things based on certain details of Sandra Fluke's CV reported by the Daily Caller. I do not presently know Ms. Fluke, nor do I recall making her acquaintance during the time we both spent in Ithaca. Cornell is a big place; each incoming freshman class numbers more than three thousand. She chilled with her friends on Ho Plaza, and I chilled with mine at the top of Section A.

Limbaugh made so many mistakes that it is quite literally a comedy of errors. He couldn't even get Fluke's first name right. He doesn't understand how female contraception works, and that there isn't any correlation between the number of pills taken and the amount of sex had. He said that the HHS rule under debate would force taxpayers to subsidize contraception, when in fact it concerns private insurance plans being forced to provide it. And finally, he gave a half-hearted apology. I think Michael Medved might be on to something in saying that Rush's apology is really on behalf of the right - and in a sense, to the right for the damage he's done. I would not begrudge Senator Al Franken if he walked to the well of the Senate floor and held up a copy of his second book, uttered the words "I told you so" - and then "dropped the mike" and walked out of the chamber.

On Tuesday, I watched Fluke's recent appearance on The View. I was most impressed by how articulately she presented her argument. She gave a pitch-perfect answer when asked if Rush should be fired. She is rightly a source of pride for Cornell, for Georgetown, and for her family.

Having said all that, I end up disagreeing with her on the merits. I'll start with this column from Reason Senior Editor (and fellow Cornellian) Jacob Sullum. I posted an earlier version of this on Facebook on Saturday, and a lengthy comment thread ensued. Several things came out of that.

It seems that there is a slice of the population who believe that the mere suggestion of abstinence is out of bounds. In fact, I see an emergence of an analogue to the infamous Corollary to Godwin's Law. For one, I'm generally disposed against outright dismissal of everything someone is putting across because of visceral disagreement with one point in their argument. That said, I can understand frustration with the position that women should abstain, without an equivalent admonition to those carrying Y chromosomes. What I wonder is...what if such a suggestion were made, not on moral or religious grounds, but for practical reasons? Last Saturday, I recalled an example that illustrates why men need to take great care in what they engage in, and with whom they do so. This one is pretty outrageous (and graphically detailed), but it serves as a reminder: gentlemen, you are strictly liable for anything that happens with that white stuff that comes out of you.

Most of the arguments against Fluke's position have already been stated by writers far more talented than myself, so I'll just give you some links. Sullum's column linked above showed the logical implications of Fluke's argument in other areas of life. It also reminds us that the employer-provision model of health care is an anachronistic relic of World War II, but the PPACA cemented it rather than truly reforming it. Ira Stoll takes on the non-pregnancy health arguments, and asks another prescient question: if providing contraception free to the user reduces health care costs, why aren't the insurance companies doing it already? In the Saturday Facebook comment thread, somebody went with a car analogy. On Tuesday, Bart Hinkle of the Richmond Times-Dispatch took care of that one pretty well. And well before Fluke ever entered the picture, Cato Institute health policy scholar Michael Cannon reminded us that the Constitution explicitly dictates how the "balance" between religion and preventive care must be struck. In light of this and other statements by Secretary Sebelius, Cannon subsequently went on to state outright that she is unfit to continue in the Cabinet. (I think that's not so much relevant, since she isn't going voluntarily, and there are not sufficient votes in the Congress to remove her.) And finally, Roger Pilon reminds us of the larger consequences for our heritage of liberty.

I'll end by coming back to Fluke. On Twitter, she makes extensive use of the hashtag "#WeWillNotBeSilenced". I would remind her not to conflate "criticism" and "disagreement" with "censorship." I do wonder if that's something she picked up on the East Hill, along with a certain concept of justice and passion for advocacy. The outcome of this birth control battle is still very much in doubt; it'll come into much clearer focus toward the end of June, and the November election may bear on it. More likely than not, Fluke and those of her mindset will prevail. But whatever the outcome, I would hope that those on both sides adopt another strand of Big Red spirit - and be humble in victory, and resolute but gracious in defeat.

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