Rush Limbaugh Doesn’t Understand Birth Control

    March 12, 2012
    Mike Tuttle

Let’s set aside differences with Rush Limbaugh on political grounds. Let’s look at pure, provable facts only for a moment. Even the most ardent of Limbaugh fans should be critical of his statements recently, if not out of decency, then out of a love of truth and accuracy. One of the biggest problems with Limbaugh’s slandering of Sandra Fluke is that he is also misinforming all his listeners, and in doing so could endanger the health of some people who listen to him and believe his outlandish, Dark Ages claims.

If Sandra Fluke had been talking about condoms, rather than birth control pills, Limbaugh’s assertion that she wanted someone to pay for her to have sex might hold just a little bit of water. (It would fall apart on several other fronts, but to those another time.) The biggest error Limbaugh makes is that he equates taking “birth control pills” with having sex. And, that is absolutely misinformed and ignorant.

The problem here is that these medications are commonly marketed and referred to as “birth control” when, in reality, they are hormone therapies. As such, they a have a wide array of common uses apart from preventing pregnancy. These are not rare, occasional applications, either. They are frequently-prescribed uses for “The Pill”.

A basic definition of how birth control pills work, from WebMD.

Hormonal contraceptives (the pill, the patch, and the vaginal ring) all contain a small amount of synthetic estrogen and progestin hormones. These hormones work to inhibit the body’s natural cyclical hormones to prevent pregnancy… Hormonal contraceptives also change the cervical mucus to make it difficult for the sperm to find an egg.

Due to the presence of the hormones in the pills, they are widely used to treat such conditions as:

    Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
    Absence of periods (for various reasons)
    Menstrual cramps
    Premenstrual syndrome
    Heavy menstrual periods
    Prevention of anemia

Limbaugh’s lack of knowledge on this, or lack of caring to inform his listeners, has caused him to do something very dangerous: he has mischaracterized users of birth control pills as promiscuous, immoral and free-loaders. This is made even worse when you consider that much of what Sandra Fluke actually said before that House panel had nothing to do with pregnancy or sex. If you have not read her comments yourself, take a moment to form an educated opinion on this matter. Among her comments she said:

We are all grateful for the new regulation that will meet the critical health care needs of so many women.

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.

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. Unfortunately, under many religious institutions and insurance plans, it wouldn’t be. There would be no exception for other medical needs… For my friend and 20% of the women in her situation, she never got the insurance company to cover her prescription. Despite verifications of her illness from her doctor, her claim was denied repeatedly on the assumption that she really wanted birth control to prevent pregnancy. She’s gay. So clearly polycystic ovarian syndrome was a much more urgent concern than accidental pregnancy for her.

One woman told us doctors believe she has endometriosis, but that can’t be proven without surgery. So the insurance has not been willing to cover her medication – the contraception she needs to treat her endometriosis.

Recently, another woman told me that she also has polycystic ovarian syndrome and she’s struggling to pay for her medication and is terrified to not have access to it.

Many of the women whose stories I’ve shared today are Catholic women. So ours is not a war against the church. It is a struggle for the access to the health care we need.

In fact, one of the most damning pieces of evidence is what Ms. Fluke did not mention: her own desire for pregnancy prevention. In fact, for all Rush Limbaugh could know from her statements, Ms. Fluke could be celibate. He insulted her with no regard for the content of her statements. Rather, he said she went “before a congressional committee and essentially [said] that she must be paid to have sex.” She said nothing that could even remotely be construed to mean that. She spoke about diseases and the needs of others.

Rush Limbaugh’s half-hearted apology, which he amended to mean that he wished he hadn’t sounded like ” a liberal”, missed the point as badly as his original statement. No one wants him to pay for anyone’s contraception. They want the insurance that they themselves pay for to do it.

Limbaugh should do more than apologize. He should readdress the issue and set the record straight after he actually reads the testimony. Or, he can push play below.