Yet Another Visit From Morbo

March 6, 2012 - 5:48 pm
Irradiated by LabRat
Comments Off on Yet Another Visit From Morbo

So I was more or less hoping that my local universe would move on from the subject after experiencing a deep realization of shame, but it never works like that, and thus one of the hottest topics on the right and even among the primary candidates is contraception! And specifically, Rush Limbaugh’s little incident regarding a feminist activist who testified about contraception!

Now, Sandra Fluke is in fact a feminist activist, and there is plenty to pick at in her testimony, like whether her friend with PCOS was denied oral hormone treatment because of some sort of religious objection to having anything that can be used as contraception available through insurance plans, or because insurance companies are often jerks about providing treatment they view as expensive. There’s also the issue that for those of us who pay for our contraception out of pocket and have a pretty good bead on how much the kind of contraception she’s talking about actually costs per year, her estimate was way high. There’s also a larger debate in there about Obamacare again and the issues of mandating that citizens buy particular services and then mandating what those services must offer.

Is that the conversation being had on the right?

Fucking of course not.

The conversation we’re having appears to have the following major points:

a) How much sex Sandra Fluke has is a critically important public issue we need to bravely discuss. If she’s a slut that’s something we need to TALK ABOUT RIGHT NOW because she has to TAKE RESPONSIBILITY for having sex. In this case responsibility for sex involves not using contraception, but being publicly shamed for having any.

b) Rush Limbaugh and anybody else should be able to be as big assholes as they like without experiencing any kind of social or market consequences, because otherwise it’s CENSORSHIP.

c) Men on the left have said equally nasty things about female conservatives, therefore men on the right should be allowed to too because otherwise NO FAIR.

d) Nothing Rush says is of consequence because he’s an entertainer, simultaneously with


Ken over at Popehat has already covered several of these points ably, so I’ll mostly leave them alone. (Especially the part about what a massive whiny tool it makes you look like to complain that an activist was that easily able to provoke you into making a major fool of yourself in the eyes of anyone not already mainlining your Kool-aid, or to complain that you aren’t allowed to be just as much of an ass as you’d like without being disapproved of.)

What I wish to talk about instead is the part that’s really making my head explode, which is that apparently Rush Limbaugh and hundreds of conservative men considered relevant enough to be given a megaphone for their soapbox have no clue whatsoever how birth control or sex or health insurance work.

I’m about to get a little personal here. It might even be titillating. Call me an exhibitionist if you will, but the primary subject at hand here is oral contraception, or if you will, oral hormone therapy. These are them, my True Slut Adventures.

I was first prescribed “birth control pills” when I was fifteen because my menstrual cycle was both very irregular and very painful, to the point where I was literally incapacitated for days or even more than a week once my period decided to show up, for however long it felt like staying. The local reason for this is that I was just unlucky; the meta-reason for this is that being a first-world girl, I’d had better and richer nutrition than women’s bodies usually had evolving, and did not pair off by the age of 17 as I would have if I’d been born a hunter-gatherer. The way a woman’s cycles are normally tamed into regularity “in the wild”, as it were, is pregnancy, and neither my parents nor I saw that as a particularly attractive option. My parents didn’t have a problem with the idea of CONTRACEPTION BEING GIVEN TO A TEENAGE GIRL either, since they figured they were hormone pills and not mind control. They were right, too, as I remained a virgin until I was well past 18*.

Then I got to college and somewhere in the second year of it my TRUE SLUT ADVENTURES began and I had sex. With a guy I was faithful to that lived in another state. I think I went through maybe two boxes of condoms’ worth of actual sex per year as a result. Then I really turned into a HYPERSLUT, amount of sexwise, when I graduated and moved in with him and eventually married him. He posts on this blog sometimes, you can say hi to him.

Cost of “contraception” over years of abstinence while being treated for a mild but problematic reproductive health issue, being involved with someone long-distance, and marriage: exactly the same per year. Incidentally also almost exactly the same as friends I had who had many more partners, minus the cost of condoms for non-tested-and-trusted partners, which is pretty trivial.

This is why people thought it was a problem when a Congressional panel on birth control was held without a single woman on the panel: because apparently there are a lot of guys out there who have no idea, on a basic and not even ideological level, how birth control pills work or that they or some basic variant on them are also useful and necessary treatment for a wide variety of women’s health problems (like PCOS, and endometriosis), and that if you use them they become a fixed cost that has nothing whatsoever to do with how much sex you have or with how many different partners. Goodness knows Bill O’Reilly apparently doesn’t either. Rush probably damn well SHOULD know how birth control works given he’s been married four times and has no children, but apparently it didn’t take. This isn’t just a oral hormone contraceptives vs. everything else argument either- most forms of birth control other than condoms are a fixed, regular cost independent of the frequency of sex, and the ones that aren’t (like spermidical jelly) aren’t healthy to use often. Even condoms with spermicidal lube, which is most of them, aren’t necessarily. And not even Sandra Fluke was arguing that condoms need to be covered by health insurance.

What’s blowing me away about the way the whole debate is playing out on those sections of the right that I regularly interact with is this bizarre, permeating worldview that birth control is something only some strange sub-cult of leftist Sex Women uses, and not, you know, the majority of American adults. What’s even more bizarre is the fact that apparently the Sex Women somehow aren’t involving men as they rack up their birth control bill; the strangest assertion I’ve seen yet is the idea that “women are getting paid to have sex but I don’t see anyone paying men to!”. (Paraphrased.) HOW IS BABBY FORMED, DO YOU KNOW? LESBIAN SEX AND MASTURBATION DO NOT REQUIRE CONTRACEPTION.

Oh yeah, “paying people to have sex”, that was a good one, which formed the basis of the “prostitute” allegation. Leaving aside that it wouldn’t be taxpayers paying, but rather insurance companies using the money paid in by people who have insurance with that carrier, it makes for all sorts of interesting other arguments. By that logic, anyone who shares Rush Limbaugh’s insurance carrier has paid him to destroy his hearing and his liver by abusing prescription drugs, and also for the enhanced size of his ass via whatever health care he’s receiving related to his weight, as well as paying him to have sex if that Viagra he was caught with in the Dominican Republic (a famous sex-tourism destination) was indeed his.

And you know what? I’m not Rush’s insurance plan, but I wouldn’t bloody well care if I was, because THAT IS HOW HEALTH INSURANCE WORKS. You pay in to a common pool and ideally it protects you from major catastrophe and smooths some of the edges off your more mundane health issues. You have a choice not to buy it if you really can’t stomach the idea of even distantly enabling your neighbor’s more self-inflicted health issues even to have your own treated, which is in fact a valid argument against mandates that everyone has to, but most of us don’t really mind because it’s not really our business anyway.

Even if you accept the idea that anything health insurance covers is something someone is “paying you to do”, what exactly is your alternative, Sparky? Would you rather pay me to have kids? That’s what lack of contraception tends to lead to, and both the OBGYN costs and the kid’s medical costs tend to be covered by health insurance. (That’s not even going into the various actually taxpayer funded government services for children whose parents cannot fully support them.) This isn’t a Sex Woman set of costs, it’s the cost every single fertile heterosexual couple out there faces- most of whom are married.

What’s that? Abstinence after marriage is the only responsible solution to the horrific burden way less than 3k a year would be for insurance to pay for hormonal contraception, in order to treat medical conditions and prevent having more children than couples want or can afford?

I don’t think it will catch on.

*Their idea of sex education wasn’t “shame her and scare her silly”, so much as “teach her everything that could happen and will happen, that her body belongs to her and not to anybody telling her what to do with it one way or another, and that all told, sex is a lot better with someone you love and trust and sometimes regrettable in various ways predictable and un”. Thanks, mom and dad, it was all good advice. I’m sure if I’d had a higher baseline drive and a lower threshold for intimacy of all kinds I would have had some of that teen sex you hear about, but the idea was “safely and without devastating consequences”, not “keep her legs locked until legal adulthood”.

No Responses to “Yet Another Visit From Morbo”

  1. RobertM Says:

    I don’t claim to be any expert, but I think I know a bit more than the average male (which isn’t much) when it comes to this subject. The whole reaction from the right just makes me cringe.

    Funny thing, a friend of mine actually asked me for ideas for an ‘informative speech’ for a class he’s taking. I encouraged him to do one one the non anti-baby uses for oral contraception. I figured he might learn something, teach the guys in his class something, and possibly impress his teacher.

  2. Laura Kellner Says:

    Thank you so much for this post. Throughout this whole monstrosity on primetime I’ve been thinking about my implant that allows me to get up and work, or simply to exist without feeling like there are Tesla coils or six guys with steel boots kicking me in my abdomen every month. –The six guys have now downgraded to one guy and a little person and the dwarf only works on a union schedule, so he takes breaks.

    The idea of a woman so much as mentioning (and yes the accuracy of her friend’s situation might be hearsay and should be backed up with the FRIEND’s TESTIMONY) a non-sexual need for birth control medication and being branded a slut and a whore is horrific. It also has a few historical precedents, none of which bode well for women’s rights.

  3. Old NFO Says:

    Excellent post, both my daughters had contraceptives for the same reason you did, and I didn’t worry about them immediately starting to have sex with any male walking by. And your point about the lack of women involved in the debate/decisions is a critical issue…

  4. Greg Says:

    My wife must have been an even bigger tramp than you…she started on OMG Oral Contraceptives at age 14.

    Proving your point about the other way to ‘tame’ the cycle, after three pregnancies, she’s pretty regular now.

    I just didn’t appreciate it enough when she only had 3 or 4 ‘rough patches’ a year.

  5. bluntobject Says:


    By that logic, anyone who shares Rush Limbaugh’s insurance carrier has paid him to destroy his hearing and his liver by abusing prescription drugs

    /raises hand

    I’ll kick in a twenty for Limbaugh’s Oxycontin fund. It’s not that I want to see him wreck himself on an opiate addiction, you understand… I just want to defray the cost to the other folks in his insurance pool. It’s a Canadian thing; we’re caring like that.

  6. Will Brown Says:

    An observation (or some), w/ caveat. The latter being that I’m not a woman either and I haven’t followed this whole embarrassment nearly as closely from the outset as I now see was necessary.

    That said, and the easiest point first, Rush spent the first hour of his program Monday explaining/apoligizing for himself and I have nothing to add – it’s his foot, he’s well capable of removing it without my assistence.

    My understanding is that birth control medication isn’t the political objection (despite all the attention to Babby prevention/leg posture/etc – talk about wandering about eyes wide shut Conservative Punditry), but to the legislative mandate requireing people to pay for it whether or not they choose to use it (for whatever medically indicated justification). I think this is a valid distinction on the US federal government level of legislation. I also think deliberately conflating the two arguments is both stupid (see:Conservative Punditry above) and disingenuous (no offense LabRat – my step-daughter began birth control pills when she was 15ish for essentially the same reasons you ascribe to).

    I suppose it is only to be expected that virtually any issue will be politicized in a national election year, but I keep getting disappointed by the displays of stupidity my fellow citizens prove themselves willing to publicly strive for and wish someone (ahem; looking at you Newt Gingrich) would make the point during this whole discussion that the German health care system is both semi-socialistic and fiscally viable (even after swallowing all the former East Germans) and a mechanism the Allies forced upon them post-WW II. If they can make “our” system work, why aren’t we even willing to try?

    Good post LabRat.

  7. mikee Says:

    Here is the actual issue brought up by the whole well-orchestrated Fluke drama: The federal government under President Obama is spending quite a bit more each year than it is collecting in tax revenue, and the percentage borrowed is estimated to continue rising without a real limit. That is the whole issue, about $.40 of borrowing for every $1.00 spent by Uncle Sam. Unless and until that is corrected to way less borrowing, preferably through lowering of government spending, or in an ideal world actually beginning to pay off the 16 TRILLION dollar debt, we are in an unsustainable situation where in a very few years all federal spending will come to a screeching crash in a wildly uncontrolled manner, likely dictated to us by our foreign lenders.

    And this unforgivable horror of overspending that will destroy our country has been swept out of the public’s attention to salve the supposedly hurt feelings of a rank political activist, guided by elected Democrats in a publicity stunt using purely Alyinskyite tactics that are so repetitious now the only real response should be a shrug in their general direction and loud, repeated recitations of the real issue, government overspending and how damaging it is to us all.

    Shame on everyone who participates in this mockery of a sham of a crapfest of misdirection of the public!

  8. Squid Says:

    The irony is that Fluke wants to set up a system where her birth control choices (and diagnostic tests, medical procedures, choice of providers, diet, exercise, &c…) really will be made by clueless Washington blowhards and bureaucrats.


  9. karrde Says:

    Labrat: definitely educational for this single guy.

    To the issue at hand: I suspect that the issue has been framed as an US vs. THEM issue by two groups of rabid partisans. Thus the ratio of signal-to-noise in the mess being generated by the partisans.

    And, weirdly, most people in the Press seem unable to do these two things:

    (1) find 100 women who use birth control pills, and figure out how many of them use the pills for non-birth-control reasons, when they started, and why. Anonymously, if they want…
    (2) ask the same women how much they pay for said pills

    Not to mention another possibility:
    (3) ask 10 OB/GYNs about Pill/IUD/condom/diaphragm/rhythm/whatever, get a quick listing of most common uses, most common complaints, get a rough cost/benefit analysis, and do a 30-minute expository piece on What the Candidates Aren’t Saying about Birth Control.

    Where are the inquisitive adults in the Media establishment?

  10. Silverevilchao Says:

    “but to the legislative mandate requireing people to pay for it whether or not they choose to use it (for whatever medically indicated justification).”

    But Jenovah’s Witnesses still pay for insurance that covers blood transfusions without any tantrums about it. Discuss.

  11. LawDog Says:

    Just because I’m, well, me, I went looking for a copy of the Georgetown University Health Care Plan to look for myself:

    I note under “Exclusions” on page 29:

    “Birth control and/or contraceptives, oral or other, whether medication or device; except as specifically provided in the policy”

    The last part — “Except as specifically provided in the policy” — interests me, but since I’m not a student, Georgetown won’t tell me a thing.

    Mildly interested, I did some other nosing about, and came across the text of Ms. Fluke’s testimony:

    Paragraph ten:

    “A friend of mine, for example, has polycystic ovarian syndrome, and she has to take prescription birth control to stop cysts from growing on her ovaries. Her prescription is technically covered by Georgetown’s insurance, because it’s not intended to prevent pregnancy

    does appear to support that Georgetown University’s insurance does cover the medical use of contraceptives.

    Now, whether the doctors, bean-counters or paper-pushers got stupid about following their own policies, I’ve neither the time, resources nor inclination to suss out.

    If they aren’t following their own policy, seems to me that a class-action lawsuit might be the more efficacious way to bring them to heel on following their own policies.


  12. LabRat Says:

    The reason for the whole rant isn’t the “real substance” of the issue- and I agree there is a very valid political argument to be had about the role of government, spending, and mandates in there, as well as that Fluke and her testimony were an activist mission in the beginning that was not entirely straightforward or accurate.

    The reason is that both conservative punditry in general and the Republican candidates for executive of the entire country were ludicrously easy to bait into turning this into “women are having sex and that’s absolutely terrible” instead of any “this is really about…” issue. Which tells me that for a very large number of people, including the vast bulk of commentary I’ve seen in the right-wing blogosphere, those issues are not, in fact, what it’s about.

    To quote Ken, this does not tell me “I deserve to lead”. It tells me we as a country in general are mega-fucked.

  13. phlegmfatale Says:

    I find dismaying the lack of evenhandedness, though. I know it’s human nature, but as you say, we are mega-fucked. I composed a post without having heard what Fluke or Rush said and I can see Ken’s point (my referral to this as censorship was overreacting a bit), but it does often appear to me there is a huge double-standard when it comes to what a conservative is allowed to say with impugnity. I don’t think that entertainers should be exempt from being held accountable for what they say, but I also blanch at the disingenuousness of a sponsor who has pulled out of Rush’s program as a plea for civil discourse yet still actively sponsors a podcast where a woman newsreader has her segment concluded with the male moderator saying “Zip it, cunt.”

    This is a perfect storm of hot-button topics– sexism/slut-shaming, reproductive freedom, the question of compelling a birth-control-opposed church to provide means of birth-control to its employees.– here we have sex, religion, freedom of speech and health care all rolled up into one convenient burrito on which we might ruminate endlessly with no resolution. Is it any wonder that the point is so difficult to discern, or that people are so conflicted?

    If resolution is made of unobtanium, what hope have we, really? The whole thing seems very disappointing and discouraging to me.

  14. ozymandias Says:

    What puzzles me is that the cost of birth control to an insurance company is far less than the cost of a child to the insurance company. Talk about penny-wise and pound-foolish.

  15. LabRat Says:

    My experience with misogyny from the left is that feminists complain about both pretty vociferously, but only their complaints about misogyny on the right makes it out of the circle and into the mainstream.

    Which is absolutely not fair, and is absolutely a problem. But that doesn’t equate to “you can’t complain about Rush”.

    There is complaining that misogyny on the left gets a free pass, which I’ve seen absolutely righteous criticism of on both sides… and then there’s complaining that you aren’t allowed to be as joyously nasty as the other guy and darnit that should be your privilege too. Which sadly I’ve seen a lot of on the right in the last few weeks.

  16. David W Says:

    “the cost of birth control to an insurance company is far less than the cost of a child to the insurance company. Talk about penny-wise and pound-foolish.”

    A minor point, here, and if we’re diverging too much from the post subject, Labrat, let me know – but do you really think people will be signficantly influenced in their decisions on birth control by whether it’s insurance-covered?

    I mean, insurance certainly doesn’t pay for the 2am (and 4 am, and 6 am) wakeup calls, or the Pampers and food and college tuition. The cost of contraception, on top of that, is a rounding error – either way! So, if you’re not going to be influenced by whether insurance pays or you do, I can be rather certain that the insurance company would rather not pay.

    And frankly, at least as long as I’m paying premiums, I’d rather buy the predictable stuff out of my own pocketbook, then pay extra premiums to run it by an insurance clerk first.

  17. LabRat Says:

    It’s not a matter of being significantly influenced in their decision to have children or not have children, as I see it. There are edge cases to be argued on being short a few bucks in a week when hormonal contraceptives require tight regularity to function being a problem. The reason to attack the logic isn’t because I really believe people make the decision to use contraception or not based on insurance coverage, but because the “we’re paying you to do (thing covered by insurance)” is fundamentally absurd, and carries the equally absurd co-argument of “we’re paying you to have children”. If you assert that you’re paying someone to do or not do something, what are the alternatives?

    Mostly it just makes no damn sense for there to be routine and uncontroversial coverage of drugs that cost a lot more and prevent or mitigate something of much less consequence, and contraception to somehow be a special case.

    As it happens the way my own insurance is structured I pay for almost everything out of pocket unless something big and bad goes down, so I’m used to treating all health care as a budgeted cost- which is one reason I see treating birth control pills as a special case as fundamentally silly.

  18. Will Brown Says:

    @ Silverevilchao

    Since your quote appears to be of me I’ll note that you should have read on to the next sentence. Taken together they complete the legislative objection: “… but to the legislative mandate requireing people to pay for it whether or not they choose to use it (for whatever medically indicated justification). I think this is a valid distinction on the US federal government level of legislation.”

    Prior to Obamacare, health insurance has been marketed and regulated on a state-by-state basis. The principle (a minor pun there) objection to the federal legislation is that there is no constitutional authorisation for it absent a parallel fecal release by a majority of the Supreme Court saying it doesn’t matter, that a waft of a pertubation of the olfactory system makes it clear that a better applicaton for said document is to wave it about ’till the air in chambers clears. Next case, please.

    Basicly, if Jehovah’s Witnesses object to a given state’s health insurance plan coverage, they are free to move to a different state or simply not buy a policy that offers that treatment option. Obamacare mandates that all citizens will buy a health insurance policy that includes stipulated coverage regardless of objection or perceived need. It’s not a question of health insurance coverage per se, it’s an objection to the federal implimentation and regulation of a commercial industry without lawful authorisation to do so.

    The US Constitution is structured as a restriction on the federal government; the states are free to experiment as they wish so long as they don’t actually contravene the national document or it’s supporting legislation. That’s the difference between what is actually involved in the Fluke juke, not to mention what conservative punditry has chosen to make over-much of and, I’m confidant, the absent part of the debate LabRat referred to in her post.

  19. Will Brown Says:

    @ LabRat

    (and mostly because reading you in high dudgeon mode is just too entertaining :))

    “The reason to attack the logic isn’t because I really believe people make the decision to use contraception or not based on insurance coverage, but because the “we’re paying you to do (thing covered by insurance)” is fundamentally absurd, and carries the equally absurd co-argument of “we’re paying you to have children”. If you assert that you’re paying someone to do or not do something, what are the alternatives?”

    So, let me get this straight; are you really advancing the argument that the fact Uncle Sugar is paying you to do (whatever it is – not asking, irrelevant to the point), that absent the public dosh* you’d be there doing it anyway? How else to view your objection to the concept that public (taxes extracted at the point of a gun, not to put too fine a point on it) monies paid as a result of private citizen health care choices can’t legitimately be characterized as subsidisation of those choices? That objecting to taxes being incrementally given to single mothers as being a subsidy paid for repeatedly having a child she knows in advance she cannot support is “fundamentally absurd”? I think we need to inventory our standards here, there appears to be a doubling (at the least, and on numerous sides of waaay too many arguments :)).

    As for “… it just makes no damn sense …”, what can I say, people are weird about what they choose to regard as “important issues”.

    *Feel free to flail me with the “baseless assumption bat” if you in fact don’t work for the US government. My argument remains a valid one I think, but in that case my supporting example failure makes it real hard to make that out.

  20. LabRat Says:

    Except that the original argument I was responding to was a direct equation of health insurance coverage to “paying someone to do something”, not actually paying them to do that thing and an argument against market incentives.

    By THAT argument covering Lipitor is paying someone to eat cheeseburgers, covering trauma care is paying people to ride motorcycles, anyone’s covered painkillers for any reason anywhere are paying Rush and his fellow addicts to eat them like Mentos. If health insurance coverage is “paying people to do things”, then people are also paid to get old, experience painful autoimmune disorders, and for that matter get PCOS or endometriosis.

    For people in heterosexual relationships that aren’t infertile, you don’t get paid to use birth control or have kids, you make a choice to do one or the other and your health care costs, and for what, follow.

  21. LabRat Says:

    As to the real issues of religious freedom of conscience and mandates in general, though I think what people choose to talk about is motivated more by what THEY actually think the real issue is than by leftist sneaky tactics-

    Religion: I accept that Catholics have a religious belief that contraception is morally wrong. I also think that if you’re going to have a whole bunch of businesses employing staff with no religious requirement treating people with no religious requirement and take billions of dollars in public funding, what you do and don’t cover should be subject to public rules. I’ve ranted about this before- faith-based missions and charities are well and good, but if you want to drink deeply from Uncle Sugar’s teat, you are subject to Uncle Sugar’s rules. I don’t feel as strongly about this and am willing to hear the counterargument, but I find it unbecoming when the “conservative” position is “we deserve lots of taxpayer dollars but we want special rules”.

    Mandates: I’m agin’ ’em. Conscience aside it’s ludicrous to mandate that citizens buy a service as a condition of citizenship.

    I oppose Obamacare and as an extension of that I oppose the HHS mandate- but apparently not for the same reasons as a lot of people I am nominally on the side of.

  22. Ken O Says:

         I always wondered why we don’t see a Government subsidy for vasectomies; paying for someone’s $800-$1300 procedure would save A LOT of government cheese.   Of course that’s assuming responsible adults, family planning and men who are not too macho or chickenshit to get one.  
         I have also been puzzled for some time that when my first wife and I BOTH had ourselves surgically altered to absolutely prevent conception, our insurance premiums were not reduced. Child birth and child care are expensive; we were basically just larger sources of revenue for the insurer because we had removed ourselves from that risk pool but still paid the premium for it. That makes about as much sense as requiring volcano insurance in Texas. While my absolutely wonderful Wife v2.0  Sam and I are unlikely to conceive short of divine intervention, I am snipped and she has Mirena for the same reasons you started BC, we would still pay full premium. 
         And what of homosexuals being denied spousal coverage and being forced to pay individual rates? They’re not real likely to conceive either. Shouldn’t they benefit from “spousal” plans and a rate reduction since the union is extremely unlikely to result in child birth? Nope. Two individual policies at the higher rate because it gives the insurance company higher revenue, less risk and therefore more profit. Forget about Ms. Fluke, this is a real injustice with far greater financial impact on couples.

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