Though political pundit and radio jockey Rush Limbaugh is known for being controversial, his comments made toward Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke probably made even his most ardent supporters cringe.
When Fluke wanted to speak at a Congressional hearing on contraception, Limbaugh decided to take the opportunity to call the young woman “a slut,” “a prostitute,” and continued to say that “She was not allowed to testify [at the hearing] because it was not about women at Georgetown who have so much sex they can’t afford birth control.”
Even though it probably goes without saying, Limbaugh’s comments were despicable and should make you question the state of his sanity. His words, however, managed to shed a light on a very important issue discussed in the new health care reform law: Birth control.
By the end of this week, a decision will be made on President Barack Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care act, which will affect every American citizen. Under the act, millions of those not yet insured would have the opportunity to join the ranks of the covered.
No longer would hospital visits cost astronomical amounts, and perhaps that lower-middle-class child diagnosed with cancer could finally afford the treatment he or she deserves.
And crucially, the official OK from the Supreme Court would also give millions of women the opportunity to receive their birth control for free.
Some, like Limbaugh, see this part of the bill as detrimental and perverted. Why should we be paying for our young women to be having casual sex? Don’t free contraceptives now give our teenage daughters a reason to get under the sheets?
The answer, of course, is no. Though free birth control seems like the apocalypse to some, to others it’s the promise of calm in an economic storm.
Few women are lucky enough to have their contraceptives covered by their insurance provider. If they aren’t covered — and most aren’t — each monthly pack of birth control can cost a woman around $75. Multiplied by 12, that’s $900 a year.
If Obama’s health care reform act passes with this contraceptive measure intact, these women will get a much-needed break. It’ll give them a little extra money to put food on the table or to save for their college education while offering them the safety and benefits of birth control.
And though some want to sweep the idea of teenage sex under the rug, it’s harmful to ignore the ever-growing presence of sex around young women. Yes, abstinence should continue to be taught as the No. 1 effective way to prevent STDs and pregnancy. But teenage girls need to be taught options besides having a condom on hand when it comes to keeping yourself safe.
It’s easy to get outraged at the thought of young people having promiscuous sex. But focusing on that also ignores the fact that birth control often helps to alleviate menstrual pain, severe acne and even mood swings as a result of hormone deficiencies. The key is to acknowledge that birth control does more than simply allow casual sex.
What women need is a choice, a choice in a world where our voices are often quieter than they should be.
And for those who think that free birth control will corrupt the minds of young Americans: Fear not. Birth control does not cause a sudden craze of hypersexualized women, contrary to what some might assume.
What women really want is the chance to make their own choices about their bodies, without having to pay an arm and a leg.
Sheridan Watson is a junior majoring in critical film studies and lifestyle editor for the Summer Trojan.