From: The Wall Street Journal -Opinion Page March 6, 2012
Limbaugh and Our Phony Contraception Debate
A student demands that a Catholic school give up its religion to pay for her birth-control pills
By CATHY CLEAVER RUSE
Last week Sandra Fluke, a student at Georgetown University Law Center, went to Congress looking for a handout. She wants free birth-control pills, and she wants the federal government to make her Catholic school give them to her.
I'm a graduate of Georgetown Law and former chief counsel of the House Subcommittee on the Constitution. Based on her testimony, I wonder how much Ms. Fluke really knows about the university or the Constitution.
As a law student 20 years ago, I wasn't confronted by crucifixes in the classroom or, in truth, by any religious imagery anywhere. In that respect the law school has a different "feel" than the university. The law school chapel was an unadorned, multipurpose room in the basement used for Mass when it wasn't used for Gilbert and Sullivan Society rehearsals and club meetings. Among the clubs while I was there, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance was particularly vigorous.
I was not Catholic when I attended Georgetown Law, but I certainly knew the university was. So did Ms. Fluke. She told the Washington Post that she chose Georgetown knowing specifically that the school did not cover drugs that run contrary to Catholic teaching in its student health plans. During her law school years she was a president of "Students for Reproductive Justice" and made it her mission to get the school to give up one of the last remnants of its Catholicism. Ms. Fluke is not the "everywoman" portrayed in the media.
Georgetown Law School has flung wide its doors to the secular world. It will tolerate and accommodate all manner of clubs and activities that run contrary to fundamental Catholic beliefs. But it is not inclined to pay for or provide them. And it has the right to do so—to say "this far and no further."
Sandra Fluke, a third-year law student at Georgetown University, testifies during a hearing before the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee on February 23.
When congressional committee counsels plan hearings, they look for two kinds of witnesses: "experts" and "victims." The experts are typically lawyers or law professors who can explain the constitutional authority for the new law and its legal impact, and the victims illustrate why the law is needed.
At the hearing of the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee chaired by Nancy Pelosi, Sandra Fluke testified as a victim. Having to buy your own contraception is a burden, she said. She testified that all around her at Georgetown she could see the faces of students who were suffering because of Georgetown's refusal to abandon its Catholic principles.
Exactly what does the face of a law student who must buy her own birth-control pills look like? Did I see them all around me and just not know it? Do male law students who must buy their own condoms have the same look? Perhaps Ms. Fluke should have brought photos to Congress to illustrate her point.
In her testimony, Ms. Fluke claimed that, "Without insurance coverage, contraception, as you know, can cost a woman over $3,000 during law school." That's $1,000 per year. But an employee at a Target pharmacy near the university told the Weekly Standard last week that one month's worth of generic oral contraceptives is $9 per month. "That's the price without insurance," the employee said. (It's also $9 per month at Wal-Mart.)
What about Rush Limbaugh? I won't defend his use of epithets (for which he's apologized), but I understand his larger point. At issue isn't inhalers for asthmatics or insulin for diabetics. Contraception isn't like other kinds of "health care." Yes, birth-control pills can be prescribed to address medical problems, though that's relatively rare and the Catholic Church has no quarrel with their use in this circumstance. And the university's insurance covers prescriptions in these cases.
Still, Ms. Fluke is not mollified. Why? Because at the end of the day this is not about coverage of a medical condition.
Ms. Fluke's crusade for reproductive justice is simply a demand that a Catholic institution pay for drugs that make it possible for her to have sex without getting pregnant. It's nothing grander or nobler than that. Georgetown's refusal to do so does not mean she has to have less sex, only that she has to take financial responsibility for it herself.
Should Ms. Fluke give up a cup or two of coffee at Starbucks each month to pay for her birth control, or should Georgetown give up its religion? Even a first-year law student should know where the Constitution comes down on that.
Ms. Ruse, senior fellow for legal studies at the Family Research Council, received her J.D. from Georgetown Law in 1989.
A version of this article appeared Mar. 6, 2012, on page A19 in some U.S. editions of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: Limbaugh and Our Phony Contraception Debate.
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