I’m often accused, and see other conservatives accused, of not seeing things clearly. It’s a common refrain in many circles, one generally intermixed with references to Fox News and Rush Limbaugh.
So imagine my surprise when I hear, from the side that sees everything with perfect clarity, the argument that came up in a Congressional hearing last week.
Sandra Fluke, a Georgetown law student, made the case that the federal government must force all insurers and employers, regardless of their religious or moral objections, to pay for contraception for their employees–or, in this case, college students. They must do this because paying for one’s own contraception causes one to suffer “financially, emotionally, and medically.” She even described the sad case of how “embarrassed and powerless” one woman felt upon learning that her contraception would not be free. 
Let’s get this straight. The argument here appears to be, “Because I want birth control and paying for it sucks, the government ought to force someone else to buy it for me.” That’s about it. Look closely, we want be sure we’re seeing this clearly.
Birth control is not a basic right, like life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Nor is it a women’s health issue. It’s something that, according to recent polls, most people choose to use at some point. But it’s still a choice, and it’s not a choice that everyone makes, and it’s certainly not something that anyone needs in the sense that we need food and shelter. It’s fairly absurd for Fluke to put contraception-on-demand on the same level as antibiotics or insulin, referring to birth control as a “critical health care need.” But this clear thinker makes an even more dubious logical leap: her claim is that their struggle is “for the access to the health care we need.”
Catch that? She’s attempting to make this about access. She’s making the argument that if we don’t force someone else to buy her birth control, we’re saying she’s not allowed access to birth control.
But this is ridiculous on its face. Everyone has access to birth control. Nobody, despite claims in the media, wants to restrict that access. But that doesn’t mean that colleges should have to buy it for their students–especially where the contraception is against the religious beliefs of that college!
This isn’t about access. Nobody’s banning birth control, or telling you what you can or cannot use. Political leaders are making those claims, and those people are lying to you.
If that’s not clear, think about it this way. I’m seeing lots of excitement online about a company that’s making cupcake ATMs–automated cupcake dispensers open 24 hours. The cupcakes aren’t free, you have to put money in the machine. But by Sandra Fluke’s logic, by failing to provide the cupcakes for free, this company is attempting to ban cupcakes. Charging at this machine is nothing less than restricting my right to cupcakes, and causing financial and emotional suffering.
By the way, let’s look at exactly how much of a financial burden she’s claiming this is. Fluke claims that “without insurance coverage, contraception, as you know, can cost a woman over $3,000 during law school.” Now THAT is a lot of–cough–contraception. Many have pointed out that, assuming you’re spending a reasonable average of $1 a condom at CVS, this means you’re having sex almost 3 times a day, every day, for three years. No wonder people say law school is exhausting.
So that cost is a difficult case to present. Besides, I’ve spent the last few months being told everywhere I turn that women can get checkups, screenings, and contraception for free or reduced cost at Planned Parenthood. Indeed, the argument has been that they hardly do any abortions, THIS stuff is really their main purpose. I also seem to remember that when I went to college, they went out of their way to distribute free condoms and let students know where more free condoms were always available. Not to mention the fact that, upon the slightest amount of research, it turns out that the Target near Georgetown’s campus offers various generic birth-control pills for $9 a month, without insurance.  So, if we’re going to look at this clearly, her facts are more than a bit off.
She also argues that having to pay for the pill causes you to suffer “emotionally.” Really? Is she simply referring to the woman that was upset when she found out it wasn’t free? I don’t think that counts as a woman’s health issue. I suffered emotionally when I found out that I couldn’t afford to buy a BMW. That’s not an argument that Congress should write a law forcing my employer to buy me one.
So, if we’re really thinking clearly so far: 1. this isn’t about access; 2. the “financial and emotional burden” fail basic reality checks, and 3. they fail to lead to the logical conclusion that the government ought to mandate that someone else must buy college students contraception.
Finally, she argues that paying for your own contraception causes you to suffer “medically.” This one takes a little more thought, and appears to have some merit, considering the stories she tells. But by her own testimony, her coverage includes hormonal birth control if it’s for medical reasons other than contraception. She tells a couple of anecdotal stories she’s heard about women that have valid conditions and the insurance refuses to pay despite the doctor’s diagnosis. That’s a problem. You can bet that if my doctor told me I needed covered antibiotics for a covered condition, but the insurance company refused to pay, there would shortly be lawyers involved. You’d think law students would be able to work that out.
In the meantime, I’d be buying the medication at Target for $9 a month. I’ll be very interested if anyone can ever validate the “friend who lost an ovary” story (to say nothing of the absurdity of the “friend who decided not to report a rape because Georgetown doesn’t buy us condoms” story).
But the kicker here is that Fluke isn’t arguing to enforce medically necessary treatment. I might get behind that. But no, her argument doesn’t have anything to do with medical treatment, and these stories are nothing more than a litany of red herring. She’s arguing that the government should make her school buy her contraception, just because she wants it and doesn’t want to pay for it. I think, despite the claims of the left, the conservative opposition to this kind of thing is pretty clear-headed and fact-based.
But the unfounded accusations continue. Senate Democrats tweet about the “GOP #Contraception ban.” Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) claims on the Senate floor that “if this amendment passes, it would ban contraception coverage for any woman in America whose boss has a personal objection to it.” The head of the National Organization for Women even claims that the opponents of this mandate are “demanding that the government step in and use the force and power and police power of the state to prevent women from taking birth control.”    That’s some clear thinking. These people are simply lying, and it’s sad that so many people are fooled by these lies. I hope one day we can all try to see things a little more clearly.
But maybe it’s not so bad. Maybe at least I’ll get some free cupcakes.