Over the weekend, one of Blisstree’s readers commented on Facebook that our coverage of celebrities and Rush Limbaugh‘s birth control comments don’t meet the criteria for a wellness site. And apparently she’s not the only one who thinks health publishers should shy away from coverage of the contraceptive coverage controversy—while national news was chronicling every step of the story as a political story, it didn’t figure prominently in “health” news at all. Whether you’re a man or woman; left, right or in between: If you read health news, you should be mad if they ignored this story.
The issue has gotten convoluted and complicated, with plenty of mis-information and inflammatory statements amping up confusion on the issue, but in a nutshell, here’s what’s happened:
Last month, the GOP held a congressional hearing on whether federal mandates for contraceptive coverage in health care are an infrigement of religious liberty. Sandra Fluke, a Georgetown law student, was submitted as a witness by Democratic members, but her testimony was denied.
The February 16 hearing was criticized on several accounts, especially the lack of female witnesses. So on February 23, House democratic members held a separate committee, where Fluke was allowed to testify.
Fluke argued against making religious exceptions to the contraceptive mandate, pointing out that over the course of a three-year law program birth control would cost an estimated $3,000 out of pocket, and women’s free health clinics can’t meet the need for low income students whose insurance won’t help cover the costs. She also pointed to the example of a friend who suffers polycystic ovary syndrome and lost her ovary because she was refused treatment (which involves hormonal birth control) under Georgetown’s policy.
On February 29, Rush Limbaugh discussed the committee, and commented on Fluke’s testimony, calling her a slut and prostitute, with the argument that a contraceptive mandate would raise everyone’s health insurance premiums, costing us all money and thereby forcing all Americans to pay for her ability to have sex without getting pregnant.
Limbaugh echoed this sentiment three days in a row on his radio show, even after President Obama and the White House administration spoke out against Limbaugh’s comments. He continued verbal attacks on Fluke under harsh criticism, until he finally apologized over the weekend for the personal nature of his accusations.
As Rachel Maddow has more eloquently pointed out, Limbaugh’s job is to stir up controversy and offend people—I completely empathize with anyone who’d like to avoid hearing about the man entirely, and yes, there’s a small part of me that dies as I sit here admitting that his game has worked, and we should all be talking about him.
But this story involves issues that concern all of us above and beyond Limbaugh: Women’s sexual health and reproductive rights.