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Saturday, 3 March 2012

Why Rush Limbaugh and the GOP Aren't Just Misogynistic about Contraceptives, But Also Blatantly Lying

By: Liberate Zealot

Content warning: Rush Limbaugh (misogynistic language)

So by now I'm sure everyone's heard about the US House of Representative's original panel on health insurance covering contraceptives.

It did lead to this striking picture after all.  
Where a bunch of men from different religious organizations testified about women's health and how unnecessary health insurance covering contraceptives was.  As horrid as it is, it serves as a reminder about how sexist this country still is, and proves that the GOP doesn't value women (or our experiences).  It certainly brought the overt misogyny of the GOP to the national stage.

And this has been further proven by the comments Rush Limbaugh made about Sandra Fluke (the woman who was excluded from testifying at this previously mentioned panel and finally got a chance when Nancy Pelosi held a second panel this past week. 

On Wednesday he said:
"who goes before a congressional committee and essentially says that she must be paid to have sex? What does that make her? It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute. She wants to be paid to have sex. She's having so much sex, she can't afford the contraception; she wants you and me – the taxpayers – to pay her. What does that make us? We're the pimps! The johns!"
He followed up on Thursday by offering to buy "all the women at Georgetown University as much aspirin to put between their knees as possible."  And proposed this lovely and sexist deal "So, Ms. Fluke and the rest of you feminazis, here's the deal. If we are going to pay for your contraceptives, and thus pay for you to have sex, we want something for it, and I'll tell you what it is. We want you to post the videos online so we can all watch."

By Friday several advertisers had pulled out from Limbaugh's show.  On Saturday he "apologized" for his comments about Sandra Fluke. 

However, this is really just the tip of the iceberg for how problematic the GOP's relation to contraceptives really is.  When the misogyny's as overt as these last two examples it's easy to call it out for what it is, and get wide societal support.   The bigger, and more dangerous, issue is the frame that the GOP and Limbaugh are creating around the whole debate of contraceptives.   The way they are misrepresenting facts, or blatantly lying, so as to undo laws about contraceptives that have existed for over a decade.  There really is a concentrated effort to not only halt, but push back, women's reproductive rights in the US. 

To fully understand how great these lies are, a bit of information on US health insurance and the history of it covering contraceptives is in order.  

In the US health insurance (also known as health care coverage or health benefits) can be gained in a variety of ways.  Companies with a certain amount of employees (used to be more than 15, but "Obama-care" now makes smaller companies also provide insurance) need to provide insurance for all employees who work 35 hours or more a week.  According to the US Census, 60% of people with health insurance get it through their employers.  9% buy it directly from private or non-profit health insurance companies. Various government agencies (like Medicare) provide insurance for about 28% of the population.  Approximately 50 million people in the US are without health insurance. 

When businesses provide health insurance their workers pay a certain monthly amount into the insurance (or Health Savings Plan), the employer pays the rest.  Healthy and younger individuals generally pay more into the insurance then they actually use, whereas people with illness, serious injuries, or general old age get their extra medical expenses covered by the insurance.  Different plans are available for companies and individuals to buy (Family, High Deductable, Out of Network coverage).  Most comprehensive private health insurance programs (so ones provided by employers or privately bought) cover the cost of routine, preventive, and emergency health care procedures, and also most prescription drugs.  

Historically, hormonal contraceptives like birth control pills have not been covered by health insurance.  In 1994 California became the first state to mandate insurance providers include birth control if they covered over prescriptions.  In 1997 the federal government followed suit, with bi-partisan (meaning Democratic and Republican) support.  Viagra gained coverage in March of 1998.  Which considering birth control became available in the 1960s and Viagra didn't become available until 1998, the sexist bias in regards to women having sex compared to men having sex becomes quite evident. 

But other then that bias there was nothing of note (outside of the Catholic Church).  Hormonal contraceptives became covered without controversy and with the support of both political parties.  More laws were passed in 1998 and on the state level in 1990 and 2000 to make sure contraceptives were fairly covered.  In 2000 the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled that failure to cover contraceptive care in health insurance was unlawful sex discrimination.  Many states  required Catholic institutions like hospitals and universities to comply with these rulings.  To get out of this some tried to self insure rather then buying insurance from another company (which brings them under federal government and the EEOC 2000 ruling, but this requires employees to legally challenge the Catholic hospitals and universities). 

Fast forward more than a decade and the landscape around a woman's right to contraceptives have changed dramatically.   

President Obama's Affordable Health Care Act required new health insurance plans to cover  preventative health care (Full List of Preventative Services Covered) without cost sharing (also known as co-pays which range anywhere from approximately $10-$50).  This includes hormonal birth control.  There were also some changes about who has to cover their employees (small companies were included) and regulation around Catholic hospitals and universities were tightened (but not changed since they were supposed to be covering birth control pills anyway). These two small changes are what the current controversy is all about.

Now the GOP and Catholic Church are trying to frame this around freedom of religion, right to conscience, and trying like hell to pretend that health insurance (and Catholic institutions) covering birth control is some new thing.  And by and large people are letting them do this, and spew loads of lies about hormonal birth control in the means time. 

Rush Limbaugh framed hormonal birth control as similar to condoms, where women use it based on the amount of of sex they're having.  To be clear, this is not true, you use the same amount of birth control pills if you have sex once per month, or 100 times, with one person or with 20, it doesn't matter.  So, sorry Rush, but that was some intense science fail.  I'd expect someone who had been married four times and never reproduced to have a better understand of birth control (but I guess that's a woman's job).   Also, it's not the tax payer who would be covering private health insurance's full coverage of hormonal birth control, but thanks for continuing those lies about health insurance that the GOP is so fond of. 

Also hormonal birth control can be used to treat a variety of other medical conditions like: acneovarian cystsPCOS, and endometriosis.  (At least 1 in 5 women in the US have an incurable medical condition, the consequences of which can only be mitigated by hormonal birth control). 

Now about that freedom of religion concept. (Personally I think if religious organizations expect tax exemptions and government funding they better follow federal law).  But basically the current laws say that Catholic universities, hospitals, and charities have to follow federal guidelines about employee health insurance.  They have to provide fully covered birth control.  The idea is that even though Catholics are morally opposed to birth control they often employ non-Catholics who have the right to standard health care.  Though since 98% of Catholic women use birth control (and a Catholic invented the pill) there's a big divide between what Catholics believe and that the Church preaches.  Some Catholic leaders, like Bishop Robert Lynch, are so concerned with being good followers of Christ, that they've threatened to stop all health care insurance coverage for all of their employees.  (Refusing to provide services/care is a pretty standard move with Catholic organizations.)  This current law is really just a continuation of what has been in place since 2000.  The only difference is employees won't have to sue to make sure that they get their right to birth control. 

Then there's all the overt misogyny of the slut-shaming/women's purpose rhetoric. From the Republican presidential candidates and pundits like Bill O'Reilly.  As friends and allies are saying, the GOP has finally stopped pretending it isn't anti-woman.  And everyone and the media is finally paying attention.  It's a sad day when overt misogyny can be considered a good thing.  But I can't help but wonder where all this outrage was last year.  The GOP's anti-woman stance seemed to obvious in 2011, why did everyone and the media wait until 2012 to call them out on it?  I'm glad for the increased attention, by the defeat of the Blunt Amendment (though not how close the vote was), for the growing allies.  But I'm still enraged. 


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