The feebleness of the Republicans and obtuseness of much of the media has, as was widely predicted and feared, transformed the proposed requirement that Catholic institutions be obliged to pay for insuring their employees for the costs of contraception, including abortion-inducing drugs and sterilization, into a ludicrous and degrading farce.
There were many ways of insuring these costs without the government gratuitously assaulting the Roman Catholic Church and creating a blood sport showdown between the Catholic Church leadership and the most militant shock-troops of the ad hoc abortionist-free love coalition. In fairness to the President, he must be commended for envisioning the almost unbelievably absurd spectacle that has already unfolded.
He well knew the screeching nature of his feticidal allies such as Planned Parenthood, but was he, with all the other preoccupations of his great office, aware that a Sandra Fluke was lurching around, close by, careering about in search of new ways to amplify her harradanly onslaught on the central nervous system of America? The answer must be that he did; such a miraculous anti-apparition could not just have emerged, like the Virgin Mother to Ste. Bernadette at Lourdes or to the children at Fatoma.
In a last-ditch effort to retain some context in this cacophonous divertissement to this generally fatuous election campaign, the issue has almost nothing to do with access to contraceptive medicine and devices. The government had many ways of including these in insurance without stamping its fiat on the Roman Catholic Church like a hob-nailed jackboot. It premeditatedly selected what it takes to be the primitive sacred cow of the Roman Catholic episcopate, and goaded it with an affront to First Amendment religious rights, while opening the cage of the snarling, flesh-rending women of the feminist left in a 360 degree behavioural coalition.
From the anti-choice, pro-abortionists at Planned Parenthood, the trip-wires snapped across the spectrum to Sandra Fluke, the compulsively belligerent and apparently sexually hyperactive campus radical claiming that the Obama measure spares her the schizophrenia-inducing choice between sexual abstinence and penury from the costs of birth control pills.
This is nonsense of course, as Planned Parenthood and like-minded organizations have useful and very affordable programs for the acquisition of birth control needs. Nobody, including the Catholic bishops, are trying to deny women access to contraception at bargain cost. (Three years' use of the oral contraceptive Tri-Sprintec, available at Walmart and Target, would cost $150; three years of two condoms per day would cost $881. Presumably the eager males could be persuaded, if necessary at the decisive moment, to split the cost.)
Contraception is not a health care issue at all. Pregnancy is not an illness; prevention of pregnancy is a completely legitimate step and should be practically available, and is. But it has almost nothing to do with health care. The whole discussion is a red herring except for the administration's premeditated ambush of the Catholic bishops, which Obama and his strategists calculated would be a free goal against an anachronistic paper tiger trying to impose medieval humbug on American women (and men).
The self-righteous pieties of New Jersey Democratic Senator Frank Lautenberg, that, "I don't want Republican politicians making decisions about my family's health care," and Democratic Senator Patty Murray's (Washington), "The Senate will not allow women's health care choices to be taken away from them," are ridiculous, and are not connected to the issue.
But the versatile, manifoldly hyperactive Ms. Fluke provided the piece de resistance; as former president of the (Jesuit-directed) Georgetown University Law Students for Reproductive Justice, she asserted the right to require the Roman Catholic Church, as it tries pastorally to persuade her of the virtues of a more restrained sexual regime, to pay to insure her contraceptive costs; i.e. the avoidance of reproduction in the name of reproductive rights, the subsidization of non-reproductive sex to the account of the chief public advocate of sexual moderation, and oppression of the Church by the State in the secularly holy name of church-state separation.
I would never have suspected Mr. Obama of possessing the imagination to create such a Gordian Knot of an imbroglio. Rush Limbaugh should not have called Ms. Fluke "a slut or a prostitute" and he has rightly apologized for doing so. But his suggestion that if she were going to conduct her sex life at the public's expense and at a frenetic pace, she should make and distribute videos of it, was not unreasonable, even if it was facetious.
The controversy is both entertaining and discouraging. The sex lives of competent adults are no business of anyone except the individuals involved, though religious and other institutions have the right to disapprove of some practices as long as the sanctions do not exceed their rightful sectarian jurisdictions. Preventive birth control is not only in widespread use; it has removed a great deal of tension in society and facilitated much inoffensive pleasure.
It is, in fact, a fine scientific advance that all conscientious people are free to apply as they think appropriate, (which is close to the position of many Catholic bishops). It is also a good thing, and Ms. Fluke may actually deserve some credit here for her commendably unabashed proclamation of energetic sexuality, that this antediluvian charade that women are demure, reluctant sex partners -- as much victims of male lust as happy participants -- is giving way to the admission that almost everyone likes sex.
The administration's attempted financial penalization of the Roman Catholic Church, to impose what the pope has rightly called "militant secularism" at the expense of the Church's legitimate official canons, is oppressive, unconstitutional, repugnant, and the lowest form of political chicanery. Senators Lautenberg and Murray are just dissembling hacks.
Ms. Fluke is either a crank or a charlatan, (though a somewhat amusing one). The only player still in the dugout is Justice Antonin Scalia, whose last public proruption into Catholic university matters was to rage against joint-gender residences at the Catholic University of America. He and Ms. Fluke should become better acquainted; that is a match that would sell out the local football stadium.
President Obama should be rebuked for his outrageous HHS directive but commended for his exemplary sense of mischief. The Republicans have been exposed, a semi-weekly occurrence this election season, as a slapstick vaudeville routine. It is hard to believe, and far from a tranquilizing thought, that out of this process, the fate of a great nation will be determined for four years.