Sunday, March 4, 2012

Can We Talk About Sandra Fluke?

Oh I'm going in the weeds today and what I have to say is unlikely to be popular. Just to make sure that we don't get distracted by peripheral issues, let's lay out a few disclaimers/ground rules.

First, this is not about Rush Limbaugh. I'm well aware that he called her a slut and, for the purposes of our discussion today, don't really care. That issue is entirely separate from what I want to cover here today. Please understand, not defending name calling, just saying it is irrelevant to my topic.

Second, this is not about whether or not Catholic institutions should be legally compelled to provide birth control. I have an opinion about said topic but that is not at the heart of my post today.

So what is left to talk about, you ask? I can't understand why so many smart, strong, feminist women are jumping on Ms. Fluke's bandwagon. Why so many people are accepting what she had to say at face value. Why people aren't looking at what she had to say and thinking instead, "Good grief, this woman is either an idiot or willfully misrepresenting the truth." [And yes, I am well aware that using the term idiot can be filed under the category of name calling but I think the evidence here will support my position.] Why women aren't bothered by Ms. Fluke, unintentionally I am sure, inching back strides made by feminists over the last century.

Let's take a look at what she actually said. [If you want, the full transcript is here.]

"Without insurance coverage, contraception, as you know, can cost a woman over $3,000 during law school. For a lot of students who, like me, are on public interest scholarships, that’s practically an entire summer’s salary. 40% of the female students at Georgetown Law reported to us that they struggle financially as a result of this policy."

One told us about how embarrassed and just powerless she felt when she was standing at the pharmacy counter and learned for the first time that contraception was not covered on her insurance and she had to turn and walk away because she couldn’t afford that prescription. Women like her have no choice but to go without contraception. [Bold mine.]

Just last week, a married female student told me that she had to stop using contraception because she and her husband just couldn’t fit it into their budget anymore. Women employed in low-wage jobs without contraceptive coverage face the same choice.

And some might respond that contraception is accessible in lots of other ways. Unfortunately, that’s just not true." [Bold mine.]

So clearly, Sandra Fluke is saying that because the the University does not cover birth control, women have to go without and there are no low cost options available.

Sorry, but that is not true. At all. She has either done no research into birth control availability and cost or is leaving out some important facts.

I won't even make you google to find out how wrong she is. I'll include the links.

Planned Parenthood lists the price of birth control pills as $15-50 per month. (That is $540-$1,800 over the cost of three years of law school, not $3,000.)

If you don't want to go that route, Target offers two different birth control pills at $4 per month. (Which comes out to $264 for three years.)

But wait, you say, what about protection from AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases? Visit our friends at Condom Depot. Just a quick search finds a pack of 250 for $99.99 (free shipping!) That would be about $0.40 each. If you bought 1,250, more than one a day for three years, that would be $499.95. Pair that with the most expensive pills from Planned Parenthood and we are up to about $2,300, still $700 shy of the $3,000 estimate.

Still, $2,300 is no small chunk of change. Let's try to bring that cost down. A click at the District of Columbia Department of Health will detail the plethora of locations that will give you condoms, absolutely free, no questions asked. Too embarrassed to go out and get them? No worries, the DOH will ship them right to you. Free of charge to any DC resident.

To summarize, without leaving your home, you can solve the problem of getting birth control at zero cost to you. If you are one of the unfortunate women who have a medical condition for which birth control pills are the answer, she referenced a friend with polycystic ovarian syndrome (who, incidentally, was covered by Georgetown's medical plan,) you can go to Target and take care of the medication for $48 a year.

Ms. Fluke, you are making women look ignorant.

Women have been fighting for the right to vote, for equal pay, and for equal rights for over a century. The premise of our fight was that we ARE equal to men. We are as smart, as hard working, as innovative and as capable. That we can take care of ourselves. How strong does that, correct, I might add, argument look when you are incapable of taking care of your own reproductive needs and run crying to Congress for help? Especially when your cries of helplessness are so easily debunked by anyone with access to the internet.

If you think there should be a policy change in the coverage this, or any, medication, by all means, advocate for it. But make your argument with the truth. Because when you go before the nation with what really are falsehoods, you make us all look bad.


  1. I am not jumping on her political bandwagon for contraceptive reform (I agree, her numbers make no sense). I read several articles today that took down her arguments about the expense of birth control--many the same you mention above. However, I am on her side as a feminist who does not believe public discourse should be reduced to such despicable lows as Rush would like to have it. I am on her side because the GOP appointed 5 men and 0 women on that first committee hearing. I am on her side because she has spent many years advocating for women who have been victims of domestic violence. I am on her side because religious conservatives want to shut down Planned Parenthood, a place where she should probably be going to get her birth control in the first place. I am on her side because I feel like we are living in a political climate where women's reproductive rights are constantly being chipped away at by right-wing politicians. But the numbers? You are right. She is off, but I don't find that offensive. It's the response to her that I do.

    1. My point is her inaccuracies devalue the debate. If one is coming from the side of what is just, there should be no reason to distort the truth. As women, as people, I want to win the issue on true merits. I believe this was the case when that dumb arse "personhood" bill was sent out to pasture.

      I am also all for civil discourse. I am sure that as I type, the media is gearing up their campaign for us all to boycott HBO since Bill Maher called Sarah Palin a "cunt" and a "twat." And I am sure we will also be called to boycott MSNBC and its advertisers over Ed Schultz calling Laura Ingraham a "slut."

  2. good points. these men need to pipe down.