March 6 2012
That Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke's congressional testimony has come to dominate our national conversation about the government's unprecedented insurance mandate shows just how easily the media can become distracted from the truly profound questions that confront our country.
The saga began when Sandra Fluke was prevented from testifying at an initial hearing on religious freedom and the effects of the mandate which would require faith-based employers to pay for health insurance policies that provide free contraception, even if they believe contraception to be morally objectionable.
Unlike the members of the panel (which included a bishop, an archbishop, and a rabbi), Ms. Fluke is neither a theologian nor a clergyperson. She is a third-year law student, who, according to the Washington Post, researched the Jesuit school’s policy of not providing insurance that includes free contraception before enrolling and has spent three years lobbying to change this.
The determination of House Democrats to have Ms. Fluke on the religious freedom panel speaks volumes—they know they must keep the focus on contraception and not allow the discussion to return to the real issue: religious freedom. That said, not allowing Ms. Fluke to testify, however appropriate it was to do so, backfired, becoming the first fluke in a fluke-filled process, allowing Democrats an opportunity to raise the profile of the contraception issue.
Ms. Fluke got her chance to testify at another at another panel, a few days later, sponsored by Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats, at which she said that she and her Georgetown Law School (tuition: $39,000) friends are "going broke" paying for their contraception.
Her supposition that a female law student must spend $3,000 to have protected sex during three years of law school is laughable. A US News & World Report article two years ago cited Planned Parenthood figures that put the cost of the pill at between $15 and $50 a month. I called my pharmacy and asked what birth control pills cost for someone without insurance. They gave me an even cheaper price of around $30 a month, though I realize cost varies widely, depending on what prescription the doctor gives. Condoms for a year run about $150.
As unseemly as it is to have a graduate students at an expensive law school insisting that someone else should be forced to pick up the about $600 a year tab for her contraception, this too misses the broader point. In the United States, we shouldn’t be forced to violate our consciences for any amount of money, or for any reason.
The HHS mandate exemplifies the problems inherent in the government take-over of medicine, which conflicts fundamentally with our constitutional liberties. This provision tramples on the religious liberty guaranteed in the Bill of Rights. Never before in the United States have religious people been ordered to violate their consciences or pay fines if they refuse. Yet this will just be the beginning as ObamaCare sets in motion myriad coercive measures which will deprive citizens of the ability to control their property and their health care decisions.
Democrats know that they cannot have this return to a discussion about religious liberty and the proper limits of government. Yet contraception and the idea of a “war on women” is a political gold-mine (and in fact, the Democrats have raised $1.6 million to fight the GOP “war on women,” even though they know that there is no such war.)
To be clear, no one is arguing against the legality of contraception. Contraception, in fact, has next to nothing to do with this discussion. It is a settled issue. The only reason it has come up, is that there is another settled issue that Democrats seek to avoid.
Society, at least until now, has also decided also that in the United States we don’t impose onerous fines on religious people if they won’t violate their consciences. And this is what the new HHS mandate does. It's ObamaCare, not Rick Santorum or Rush Limbaugh, that fans the flames of a culture war by imposing one-size-fits-all government dictates on a society that has historically been live-and-let-live on such issues.
It is going to be tricky for conservatives not to walk into an ambush. Rush Limbaugh, one of the most astute of men, did. I am sure that he found Ms. Fluke’s demand that the Jesuits, despite their Church’s teaching, provide her with free contraception, as galling as I did. Unfortunately, Limbaugh called Ms. Fluke names that a man should never use about a woman.
To his credit, when Limbaugh issued an apology, however, he did not use the “if I have offended anyone” locution common to the non-apology apology. It was a genuine apology. But unfortunately, by then, the damage was done: Ms. Fluke had become a feminist icon.
It matters little to Democrats that Republicans aren’t remotely interested in contraception as an issue. Republicans do want, however, to preserve the religious liberty that has been the birthright of every American since 1791 and to fight against the unconstitutional expansion of government, which is ObamaCare's fundamental flaw.