Was Limbaugh’s comment an isolated event?
Shock jockey and pundit Rush Limbaugh recently referred to Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke as a slut after she spoke to Congress about contraception, specifically a legal mandate for all employers to cover it in their healthcare plans.
Rush Limbaugh has apologized for the language he used, and that’s great. Calling people who use birth control- people with circumstances as varied as ovarian cysts, acne, and a desire to have physical relationships without risk of conception- all sluts is completely inappropriate. Freedom of speech is one of the things that makes America great. Many forget, however, that this amendment does not provide reprieve from social repercussions for behavior found inappropriate by your community. Limbaugh has every right to call Sandra Fluke a slut. You have every right to put pressure on him to apologize if you believe he has crossed a line.
Besides, if you’re anti-abortion (while Limbaugh generally skirts this issue, he receives an immense amount of support from groups that are explicitly pro-life), you should probably be pro-birth control. Unless you believe eggs and sperm are morally equivalent to infants before conception (in which case any time someone experiences ovulation and doesn’t become impregnated or ejaculates outside of a vaginal canal, they are functionally killing a child), birth control prevents events regarded by pro-life advocates as tragic.
Some conservatives might say that these same pregnancies could be avoided if people with uteruses simply abstained from vaginal intercourse. That is, of course, true. But despite countless abstinence-only education programs and pro-life groups, approximately 100,000 fetuses are still terminated daily. Changes in the rate have been relatively minute and more related to shifts in the economy than any social factors. If the religious institutions in question support the deliberate foundation of families and preventing abortion, they should already be supporting students who are interested in avoiding unwanted pregnancies. The conservative right as a whole does not have prevention of unwanted pregnancy or support for at-risk parents as a priority, despite both of those being entirely practical ways to prevent abortion that would find little opposition. Instead, they focus on policing sexuality. Republicans advocate hands-off government and laissez faire economics, but many are more than happy to impose intimately personal choices, such as abstinence until marriage, upon their fellow American citizens.
Limbaugh’s comment is part of a much larger pattern among conservative thinkers. To degrade a woman for suggesting that birth control should be available to her regardless of her school’s religious affiliation is not constructive; it merely inflames those on both sides of the debate. Mainstream Republican pundits like Rush Limbaugh focus on appealing to emotions rather than on developing solutions and fostering discussions between those with disparate views.