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By now, you are no doubt familiar with the tearful tale of Sandra Fluke, the Georgetown University Law School student who gained national attention and iconic feminist status last week for publicly protesting the fact that her school’s heath insurance policy does not cover her contraception. Firmly grasping the mantle of victimhood, Fluke lamented that “forty percent” of female students at Georgetown Law “struggl[ed] financially as a result of this policy.”
Fluke’s complaint earned her deserved mockery, most prominently from radio host Rush Limbaugh, who riffed that she was essentially asking to be paid for having sex, behavior that he likened to a “slut” and a “prostitute.” That in turn triggered howls of exaggerated outrage from feminists and the left, most prominently President Obama, who personally called Fluke to offer his support and to say that her parents should be proud of her.
It’s worth noting that Limbaugh’s comments were intended to be humorous, even if they came off more crass than comical. One needn’t credit the left’s labored claim that he was slandering an innocent private citizen – Fluke had willingly inserted herself into the public square to support the Obama administration’s new rule requiring employers to offer health plans that include birth control coverage – but it’s only fair to acknowledge, as Limbaugh himself did with a subsequent apology, that the remarks were out of line.
Yet it’s equally fair to point out that Fluke is hardly the model public-spirited citizen that President Obama suggests, nor is she the feminist hero that some on the left have anointed her. In many ways, indeed, Sandra Fluke exemplifies much of what is wrong with the modern feminist movement.
Start with her complaint that contraception is driving female law students into dire financial straits. “Without insurance coverage, contraception, as you know, can cost a woman over $3,000 during law school,” Fluke has said. Even discounting the obvious point that there are surely cheaper ways to obtain birth control – including but not limited to limiting one’s sexual activity – it’s hard to sympathize with this grievance. In another instance, she has sorrowfully recounted how one woman she knew felt “powerless” at a pharmacy counter when informed that contraceptives weren’t covered by the school’s health care plan. No doubt that was an unpleasant moment, but it trivializes female empowerment to an absurd degree to suggest that the woman’s experience is worthy of either public attention or private subsidy.
It’s true, of course, that law school imposes steep financial burdens on students, but primary among these is the exorbitant cost of attendance — $46,000 a year in tuition alone at Georgetown Law. Compounded over three years, that is a significant financial hardship. But of course it was Fluke herself who made the choice to attend such an expensive and elite school law school, rather than, say, accepting a scholarship from a less prestigious institution. Considering that she did make that choice, it takes a special kind of chutzpah for her to now demand that someone else has to pay for her contraceptive needs. Yet it is all too typical of a widespread entitlement mentality that demands financial protection – a bailout, as it were – from the costs of voluntarily made decisions. Special pleading for contraception coverage is not only a singularly poor example of public spiritedness and an affront to responsible citizenship, but it is selfish in the extreme.
The entitlement mentality is evident on another level, as well. For the left, contraception itself is a special female entitlement, and entitlements come without price tags. Notwithstanding the left’s claim that this debate is about women’s “health” and “reproductive freedom,” the real objective is free contraception for all women, at public expense, which is what ObamaCare has essentially achieved.
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