Faulty logic and flawed math in service of Obama’s anti-religious mandate
In their desperation to steer the debate over President Obama’s contraceptive mandate away from the infringement of religious liberty towards the advancement of “women’s health,” this week Democrats trotted out fledgling activist and Georgetown University School of Law co-ed Sandra Fluke. Ms. Fluke testified before the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee on Capitol Hill that 40% of the women at Georgetown Law were experiencing financial hardship paying for contraception, which can cost as much as $1,000 a year, which she claimed amounted to her entire summer salary. This is such a revealing peek into the Democratic mind that one hardly knows where to begin in deconstructing it. So bear with me.
Sandra Fluke’s testimony and inalienable right to the pursuit of pleasure
First there is the principle. Ms. Fluke wants to have sex outside of marriage. That’s a common enough desire. There are negative consequences to sex outside marriage, against which she would like to be protected. Bravo for her foresight. There is expense connected with safeguarding against these negative consequences. Naturally. She would like someone else to pay for the safeguards. And here’s where the logic train comes to a screeching halt. Before we even get to the religious question, before we even address the Catholic Church’s objection to what they perceive as Ms. Fluke’s immorality and their Constitutional right not to be compelled to subsidize behavior that violates their religious convictions, there is the question of one person using the government to compel another person to subsidize her pursuit of pleasure.
Personally, I like fine wine. It gives me pleasure to drink a glass or two of fine wine with dinner. But purchasing fine wine presents me with a financial burden. Following Ms. Fluke’s logic, I should have the government compel the vineyard of my choice to subsidize my purchase of wine. But, you say, hers is a “women’s health” issue. Well, mine is a “men’s health” issue. My family has a long history of heart disease, which killed off several of my male ancestors in their early 60s. If not for angioplasty and a couple of artery-clearing surgeries, my father would have met the same fate. There are studies showing that red wine prevents heart disease. Subsidizing my intake of fine wine is cheaper in the long run than cardiac surgery, so it would actually amount to a savings for overall society, (though not for the burdened winery, but in the words of Joe Biden, “Time to be patriotic, time to jump in!”) Therefore, my intake of red wine, though pleasurable, is really, REALLY all about my health, just as Sandra Fluke’s sexual activity…
Wait, how is Ms. Fluke’s sexual activity related to her health? If anything, it puts her health at risk, right? Isn’t that why she needs all the layers of protection? (More on that later) Don’t women who refrain from sex, say, nuns, have longer life expectancies and lower rates of Alzheimer’s disease? Seems my red wine argument, flawed though it may be, is actually more logical than Ms. Fluke’s argument. You might respond that my daily dose of anti-oxidants, or whatever it is in red wine that allegedly clears the arteries, could be gotten elsewhere for less expense. It doesn’t have to be through Stag’s Leap Cabernet 1997. I would counter that Ms. Fluke’s sexual pleasure could be gotten digitally, or mechanically, with no risk of disease or pregnancy.
Sandra Fluke and the inalienable right to be protected from the risks of voluntary behavior
The fact of the matter is that voluntary sexual activity is a lifestyle choice. Lifestyle choices have always had to be modified to fit one’s economic circumstances. If we decide Ms. Fluke’s sexual lifestyle should be subsidized, then why not subsidize everyone whose lifestyle choices are economically burdensome? I like horseback riding. I cannot afford to buy and maintain a horse. Should the government force someone to buy me a horse? Riding is good exercise, exercise is good for my health, so it’s really going to save society in the long run, right?
Sandra Fluke: frequent, cost-free sex trumps the First Amendment
Now, after one recovers from the staggering audacity of Ms. Fluke’s assertion of entitlement, it gets worse, because then we must confront her denigration of the relative importance of the opposing party’s rights. Let’s grant Ms. Fluke that she has some kind of right to unhindered, cost-and-consequence-free sexual activity. That right must still be weighed against the right of the Catholic Church to maintain its religious principles, and not be compelled by the government to violate them. What does it say about the “Democratic mind” that it weighs consequence-free sexual activity, for which there is no right, Constitutional or otherwise, against the First Right memorialized in the Bill of Rights, and comes down in favor of sex? Logic, jurisprudence, Constitutional theory, political philosophy, tradition and judgment all bow at the altar of sexual gratification. This is a hierarchy of principle which cannot stand: elevating gratification above discipline, prudence and forbearance makes us a nation of impulses, rather than laws, and opens the doors to a demeaning level of exploitation which, back in college they told me, feminism was supposed to cure.
Sandra Fluke and the burdensome cost of contraceptives…for an army
So far Ms. Fluke’s presentation has just been bizarre, but when we start to crunch the numbers, her testimony becomes grandiose and truly delusional. Ms. Fluke claims that contraceptives can cost a woman more than $3,000 during her law school career. Assuming the women makes it through in the requisite three years, that’s $1,000 a year for birth control. What the Fluke? I went to law school, at a Jesuit Catholic university, and I certainly don’t recall women complaining about the cost of birth control. This was at the tail end of the AIDS crisis in San Francisco, and condoms could be gotten free just about anywhere. I’m told that’s still the case. During my time at law school, I was in a relationship where my girlfriend, briefly, wanted to go on The Pill. It cost about $30 a month and we split the cost. (When later she went off The Pill and we relied on condoms, it was suddenly my sole obligation to pay. I never knew why.) That would have been a total of $360 a year, half of which the woman paid, making it $180. I’m struggling to see how Ms. Fluke gets to $1,000.
Perhaps Ms. Fluke is not in a monogamous relationship, so she must bear the entire cost. Fair enough. Perhaps, even though she’s not in a relationship, she feels she needs to be on The Pill in case she’s raped. Okay, that’s a little hyper-precautious, but fine. That’s $360. What’s up with the other $640? Well, maybe Ms. Fluke is concerned with protecting against disease. She wants to have sex with men whom she doesn’t know well enough to trust, or know their sexual history, or she doesn’t want to wait until they’ve been tested and get the results. Impetuous, but fine. She’s spending $640 a year on condoms.
Well, just how many condoms will that buy? According to Amazon.com, Ms. Fluke could purchase a “Trojan Pleasure Pack 40 Premium Latex Condoms – Ecstasy, Sensations, Ultra Thin, and ENZ Lubricated,” which they call an “Awesome Assortment” for a mere $12.17. At that rate, Ms. Fluke could purchase 2,103 condoms per year. Of course, there would be some shipping charge, so let’s adjust down to 2,000 condoms per year. That’s 5.479 condoms a day, every day for a year on Ms. Fluke’s purported budget. With 40% of the co-eds Ms. Fluke surveyed operating on a similar scale, it’s a wonder the dormitories at Georgetown have not been shaken to the ground.
Truly, I can’t decide what is more audacious, Ms. Fluke’s farcical sense of entitlement, her self-aggrandizing notion that her pleasure trumps someone else’s religious conviction, or the grossly fabricated numbers she’s using to support her pathetic case. She is so ready to be a personal injury attorney, Georgetown should issue a diploma right now.
Liberals have been fighting Catholic universities over condoms for decades
As I mentioned, I went to a Jesuit law school, during the waning years of the AIDS crisis. I lost many friends during that period, including a neighbor whom I visited so many times in hospice that a nurse referred to me as his “significant other.” As a member of the Law School’s AIDS Awareness Committee, I was quite involved in debating the school’s condom policy and did succeed in getting them to liberalize the distribution of information relating to condoms and the spread of AIDS. My goal was always to find a patch of common ground where we could act affirmatively while preserving the rights of the institution to uphold its tradition and religious tenets. This placed me in opposition to the school’s Gay/Lesbian group who wanted to distribute condoms on campus on St. Valentine’s Day. When that idea was quashed by the administrative higher-ups, the ever-resourceful future attorneys of the Gay/Lesbian group decided they could compromise and move their condom distribution off the grounds of the law school to a neutral location…in front of St. Ignatius Church. If nothing else, the Obama mandate teaches that Liberals retain the same notion of compromise.
Liberal logic: If you’re not subsidizing my lifestyle, you’re repressing it
That episode revealed to me that some on the Left will stop at nothing to promote their lifestyle. I had many an argument with Gay activists during the AIDS crisis who were promoting tactics which I thought were meant to preserve the lifestyle, even at the cost of lives. Today, as every alleged triumph of Liberalism is crumbling, from Social Security to Medicare and Medicaid to every other entitlement program robbing the public coffers, sexual liberation is all they have left. From same-sex marriage to abortion on demand to this contraceptive mandate, the Left is desperate to expand upon its entitlement base in areas they think they can sell. The side that used to say, “U.S. out of my uterus,” is now welcoming the federal government into their bedrooms, begging that government to compel institutions to endorse and underwrite the most private choices of other people’s lives. And refusal to endorse or subsidize someone else’s sexual or reproductive activity is being sold as repression. How far we have come from the notion of liberty.
Obama’s stake in Sandra Fluke’s testimony
Where does President Obama stand on all this? You may recall the President has expressed a fondness for audacity, so it should come as no surprise that he called Ms. Fluke to give her a pep talk before her subsequent morning show interview. He reportedly told her that her parents must be very proud. (My father has five daughters; I can only imagine his pride if one of them had made such a testimony.) One might think the President of the United States would be too preoccupied with his upcoming meeting with the Israeli Prime Minister about Iran’s nuclear ambition, or American servicemen getting shot in the heads by the Afghan troops they are training, or the general state of the economy, but no. Advancing government dependency is the sine qua non of Obama’s tenure in office. The government takeover of American lives must be advanced above any other issue. For this to happen, Obamacare, his signature “achievement,” must be preserved. But, this is looking less and less likely as polls show more Americans disapproving of it and favoring repeal. If Sandra Fluke is successful in steering the debate about the Obamacare mandate away from religious liberty to “women’s health,” the President will be very grateful.