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PARKER: Rush muddies the waters, should apologize to student

WASHINGTON — Who'd have thought that Rush Limbaugh would become the great uniter in this divisive political season?Indeed, he has united decent people of all stripes and persuasions with his vile remarks about a Georgetown Law student.

Perhaps by now you you've heard of Sandra Fluke, who created a smallish tempest when she tried to testify before a congressional committee considering the federal Health and Human Services contraception mandate and was denied a place at the (all-male) table. There really was no reason for her to testify. The subject was religious freedom versus government overreach, not contraception per se, but this detail no longer seems to matter.

Fluke stalked out of the hearing room and has enjoyed the media spotlight ever since. She did finally get to testify at an unofficial hearing convened by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, during which she focused on Republican "censorship," which, fascinating as it sounds, was a sidebar to a non sequitur.

You may be excused for being confused and/or bored by all this talk of contraceptives. Having access to contraception hasn't been controversial except in the Catholic Church for some time and wouldn't be now if not for the new mandate that nearly every employer offer insurance to pay for it.

The only question -- ever -- has been whether the federal government can force religious organizations to pay for something that violates their freedom of conscience. For the record, if I were dictator, I'd put contraceptives in the drinking water on college campuses. But the Catholic Church and other religious entities do not share my view and our laws have always tried to allow generous exceptions to rules that conflict with moral principle.

The question of whether the Obama administration is acting constitutionally has been posed to the courts by religious-liberty scholars (and seven state attorneys general), so we'll have an answer soon enough. In the meantime, the administration has promised to "accommodate" religious groups so that only insurance companies have to pay for women's contraception.

Whether this is an adequate remedy is also debatable. Can the government really force private insurance companies to cover certain medications and/or procedures? What if religious organizations are self-insuring, as is the case with many Catholic organizations? And, isn't this just an accounting sleight of hand, because in the end the religious entity would be paying for the morally offensive product?

These are clearly compelling questions on which Limbaugh might have focused his gargantuan energies. Instead, he attacked Fluke in the vilest terms. Moreover, by addressing her argument that college women need contraception and should be able to get it for free, he essentially lent credence to the opposition narrative that this is all about birth control.

Inadvertently, Rush also helped advance the argument from the left that Republicans are waging a war against women. After referring to Fluke as a "slut" and a "prostitute," he offered the following proposition:

"So Miss Fluke, and the rest of you feminazis, here's the deal. If we are going to pay for your contraceptives ... we want something for it. We want you to post the videos online so we can all watch."

The image suggested is equally degrading to Limbaugh given his obvious familiarity with "watching," and invites unflattering speculation. To wit: It is entirely possible that Limbaugh himself never needed contraception in college, but virtue in the absence of opportunity is hardly a moral triumph.

I am not convinced by Fluke's premise that her need for contraception is anyone else's responsibility. There is perhaps some logic in subsidizing contraception for the poor, which the government already does through Title X, to reduce abortions and prevent the conception of children, who, owing to a parent's inability to care for said progeny, might become wards of the state. This, again, is a sidebar tangential to the key question.

The point is that Limbaugh has so offended with his remarks that he has further muddled the issues. I realize he's "just an entertainer," as his apologists insist, but he is also considered a leading and powerful conservative voice. By his remarks, he has marginalized legitimate arguments and provided a trove of ammunition to those seeking to demonize Republicans who, along with at least some of their Democratic colleagues, are legitimately concerned with religious liberty.

As a bonus, he has given his "feminazis" justification for their claims that conservatives hate women. Limbaugh owes Ms. Fluke an apology -- an event doubtless many would love to watch.

Email nationally syndicated columnist Kathleen Parker at kathleenparker@washpost.com.

Comments

Say_that_again 2 years, 6 months ago

Yeah! Ridiculously funny situation. To start, we have a religious group, Catholics, not wanting to pay for birth control. But what is this cost and why did insurance agree to pay? Answer: Birth control is cheaper than the two alternates, pregnancy and health care for the child or an abortion. If you are opposed to abortion, then you should be for birth control; demonstrating the lack of reason the Bishops exercise. The there is the hypocrisy. Over the years, the Bishops have tried to cover up child abuse by priest, have paid child support for children of their "celibate" priest and taken steps to protect gay priest while campaigning against gay rights. The real problem is the can of worms this opens. Jehovah Witness do not believe in blood transfusions or transplants, so they should have a right to operate organizations and not pay for insurance that covers these items. Most religions could identify some kind of treatment for which they would have moral objections. Then we have Christian Scientists that claim all healing comes from God and, hence, no medical coverage should be purchased.

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kevin 2 years, 6 months ago

since when did people decide that abortion isn't murder? murder is the willful killing of a human being.pack up your bags and go live on the moon. look up the definition of murder? I don't want to pay for other peoples trashy ways. Live in the garbage can if you like, but don't ask me to join in. Let the issue stay private, not public.

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Say_that_again 2 years, 6 months ago

Now for comments about confessed drug addict. Why would any reasonable person care what Rush says? He may have a handful of loyal listeners that think his statements were entertaining but even these would recognize the words as just outrageous ramblings from someone that has no arguments to support the extreme viewpoints he expressed. He definitely does not have the same moral code as the Catholics, having been married 4 times, never producing children. Rush is just a distraction from the extremest Republicans that are controlling the house and slowing progress in the Senate. Things like the Republicans holding hearings on birth control and excluding females and gynecologists from the witness list while including several celibate priests. Shine a light on our politicians and ignore these out of touch pundits like Sean, Rush, Bill and Neal. Most of the pundits are only echoing talking points which they are spoon fed from the RNC and ultra conservative think tanks.

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news2me 2 years, 6 months ago

Fluke pretty much confessed she was a sex addict and wants us to pay for her habit.

You need to stop listening to so much conservative talk radio.

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news2me 2 years, 6 months ago

Rush Limbaugh owes his popularity to the left. A liberal can go on and on about Rush's every word and talking points because they make up the largest part of his audience.

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kevin 2 years, 6 months ago

this is because the normal people have chosen to stay quiet about everything instead of becoming active against issues that are against their principals. Rush has every right to say his opinion, just like all those here.This all shows me how divided this country has gotten since everyone doesn't focus on what is morally right but what they want to be morally right.

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kevin 2 years, 6 months ago

No one has to ever apologize for using their rights to free speech Ms Parker. Trash is trash no matter how you want to disguise it. The girls' parents should not have respect for a child with that kind of morality and attitude. So you are agreeing that she can lay down all she wants in college as long as we all pay for her birth control pills. What world do you liberals live in? None of you have any morals whatsoever. Let this issue die in piece. Let the people who want conception do their own thing with their own money. You liberals have no right to force everyone else to pay for sinful and sarcastic ways.

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ACC12_SEC13Booster 2 years, 6 months ago

But that's the thing, contraception is used for way more than just preventing pregnancies alone as contraception is often used by many women to address hormonal and medical issues so that they can stay fertile and remain able to conceive and give birth to children.

Yes, in many cases contraception is often used to actually help women remain able to conceive children, often within the morally-acceptable confines of a long-term relationship and/or a marriage.

Now I don't know what Ms. Fluke's personal motives are in her advocacy for the Feds to mandate that religious entities cover contraception, but out of the brief parts of her testimony that I have been privy to, I didn't hear her testify anything about using contraception for pregnancy prevention, but rather the case that I heard her specifically cite was that of a woman who was a friend of hers who is now no longer able to conceive children because of the removal of her ovaries that had to be removed due to the severe growth of cysts within her reproductive organs, cysts that are commonly treated and easily controlled with specific contraception pills that can be kind of pricey, even with insurance coverage (not necessarily the generic kind that can be found at a Wal-Mart as their are multiple types of contraception pills, not just one "universal" kind as is the common misperception amongst those completely unfamiliar with contraception).

I speak of this of this because I personally know women who either have used contraception for to address sometimes painful medical or hormonal issues (for example, contraception is also commonly prescribed to help women who may have particularly severe menstrual cycles, severe and painfully cramping, heavy bleeding, etc) or to address other non-sexual medical issues which might otherwise might prevent them from remaining able to conceive children within the confines of a committed relationship.

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ACC12_SEC13Booster 2 years, 6 months ago

Sure, there are many people who do use contraception for preventing pregnancy outside of the confines of committed relationships and one can reasonably make the argument that they should be responsible for picking up the cost of paying for contraception that is used to engage in morally-objectable behavior. One can also say that the Feds (the Obama Administration in particular) could have gone about addressing this issue in a much better way instead of intentionally picking a political fight utilizing it as a wedge issue to attempt to defame and smear social and religious conservatives with in an election year.

Now I'm not exactly certain if the insurance plans of religious institutions cover male reproductive pills, but any insurance plan that pays for male reproductive medicines, i.e. Viagra and Cialis, should probably pay for female reproductive medicines (which include contraceptives), especially those that treat medical issues unrelated to birth control and pregnancy prevention. One could even go so far as to say that the insurance plans of objecting religious institutions would not have to cover contraception for the purpose of preventing pregnancies, but only for the purpose of treating female medical issues unrelated to preventing pregnancy as most contraception can only be obtained with a prescription from a doctor as far as I'm aware, but that likely opens up a whole nother can of worms if men are able to have their insurance pay for ED/reproductive drugs (Viagra, Cialis, etc) with no questions asked while women could only get them for reasons other than birth control. But, oh well, I guess that's why them call them the "Culture Wars".

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Oliver 2 years, 6 months ago

Ms Fluke's request that we subsidize her contraceptives is clearly a lifestyle choice. If we're going to subsidize her lifestyle choices, then I would like to see my lifestyle choices subsidized as well. Here is a list of the things that my lifestyle choice will require, and you will be expected to pay for them: gym membership, fresh organic fruits, vegetables and meats as well as a chef for my paleo diet, weekly visits for a massage and monthly visits to a spa. I'll probably also need a live-in babysitter/nanny to watch my kids while I go about living these lifestyle choices. Thanks in advance for supporting me and my choices!

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FordGalaxy 2 years, 6 months ago

The administration "accomodated" the religious institutions by "forcing" the insurance companies to pay for contrceptives. But, if a member of a religious institution has insruance through the company "forced" to pay for the contraceptives, and that person pays a premium for thier insurance, aren't they, in essence, paying for contraceptives?

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news2me 2 years, 6 months ago

Well my wife (R) doesn't like feminazi's either. Is it a fluke that this young woman can afford to go to Georgetown law but can't afford to pay for her own self admitted heavy usage of birth control? This liberal poster girl does not have alot of common sense. Bets are she is loving the publicity, too.

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FactChecker 2 years, 6 months ago

I am amazed at the lack of research: 1. Sandra Fluke was testifying to other uses of birth control pills, see ACC12_SEC13Booster comments above for more details on her testimony. 2. The cost of covering pregnancy is greater than covering birth control. 3. Over 90% of Catholic women that are sexually active have used birth control. 4. If a Catholic organization pays someone a salary, the church has no right to restrict any legal expenditure of that salary, including birth control. Insurance is just a part of the salary so they should not be allowed to restrict coverage. 5. If you allow Catholic organizations to limit coverage to items for which they have no moral objections, then you must extend the same moral conscience considerations to organizations of other religions. 6. Bishop William Murphy, head of the Diocese of Rockville Centre, New York, and chair of the U. S. Bishops' Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, gave the essence of the church's position in a letter to members of Congress, dated July 17, an excerpt of which was cited in an editorial in the National Catholic Reporter, "The right to health care" (9/18/09): "... The bishops' conference believes health care reform should be truly universal and it should be genuinely affordable". And he made no mention of limiting coverage of birth control. (more on Catholic support of national health care at http://ncronline.org/blogs/essays-theology/what-church-teaches-health-care-reform)

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A_Gwinnetian 2 years, 6 months ago

Please do not misrepresent the beliefs the Holy Catholic Church...the US Bishops do not and will never espouse artificial contraception as being part of universal "health care". I refer you to the ENCYCLICAL LETTER HUMANAE VITAE OF THE SUPREME PONTIFF PAUL VI HIS VENERABLE BROTHERS THE PATRIARCHS,ARCHBISHOPS, BISHOPS AND OTHER LOCAL IN PEACE AND COMMUNION WITH THE APOSTOLIC SEE, TO THE CLERGY AND FAITHFUL OF THE WHOLE CATHOLIC WORLD, AND TO ALL MEN OF GOOD WILL, ON THE REGULATION OF BIRTH for what the Church actually teaches regarding contraception.

"Lawful Therapeutic Means

  1. On the other hand, the Church does not consider at all illicit the use of those therapeutic means necessary to cure bodily diseases, even if a foreseeable impediment to procreation should result there from—provided such impediment is not directly intended for any motive whatsoever. (19)"

That being said, it is clear that the Church disagrees with having to provide contraceptive coverage not therapeutic coverage. Using artificial methods of contraception is a lifestyle choice at odds with everything the Church teaches regarding human sexuality. Agree with it, don't agree with it...but please do not misrepresent it.

/a woman with chidren // a serious practicing Catholic

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notblind 2 years, 6 months ago

Ms. Fluke is an activist. She also thinks gender change should be covered by insurance. She is a typical liberal plant.

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FordGalaxy 2 years, 6 months ago

FactChecker - I was under the impression that Ms. Fluke was NOT at a hearing, but rather at a gathering called by Nancy Pelosi. As it was a gathering, and not a hearing, Ms. Fluke was NOT under oath, therefore, she was not testifying about anything. (To dig back further, she was not denied testimony at a hearing about the availability of contraceptives, because the hearing was about Religious freedom in the face of government mandate, or something to that effect.

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FactChecker 2 years, 6 months ago

It was not my intent to get into an argument as to the exact meaning of words and narrowing the meaning the words does not alleviate the facts derived from the session. If you wish to be pick at nuances, then the hearing called by the Republicans was not about religious freedom but about the Health Care bill and a futile attempt to attack it through the hypocrisy of a few men that seemed to lack any understanding that people should be free to discuss their health issues with the doctors without religious extremest being allowed to dictate treatment choices.

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Kent 2 years, 6 months ago

This whole episode with Ms. Fluke, who is a left wing organizer chosen by Ms. Pelosi, is to help gather votes for Mr. Obama by paying for women's contraceptives. Heck everything should be free according to these activists. Ms. Fluke also was known to advocate free sexual change operations. If I remember correctly Ms. Fluke tells us that some students spend $1000 or more annually on contraceptives. I made a quick internet search on condom costs and about 4000 condoms can be purchased for $1000. Over a year that comes to about 11 condoms a day. If Ms. Fluke or her college girlfriends are spending that much on condoms it would seem to me someone has a sexual dysfunction problem. I think a diagnoses of nymphomania may be in order. Where were all these girls when I went to college? Sigh---------

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