Nel's New Day

March 5, 2012

Limbaugh Just Doesn’t Go Away

Why hasn’t the Rush Limbaugh story begun to die? According to media, he apologized on Saturday, and the Republicans are doing their best to avoid the topic. According to Limbaugh and Fox, it’s just the far-left media that have kept the story alive. He’s wrong.

First, his apology wasn’t really an admission of guilt or a request for forgiveness. All he said was that he should have chosen better words than “slut” and “prostitute.” There was nothing about how he should not have attacked Sandra Fluke or that he spoke inappropriately when he said that wanting free birth control was trying to get paid to have sex. (I just heard a TV ad for Viagra which promised the ability of men having sex for several hours: that’s getting paid to have sex.) Then Limbaugh said he had made a mistake by sinking to the level of his opposition.

Unhappy about the way that he has lost advertising (12 companies thus far including AOL) and networks airing his radio program (at least two so far), Limbaugh has taken a different tack.He said that Fluke might not be a slut, but she’s the pawn of a radical leftist conspiracy to infiltrate Georgetown to force the school to provide birth control coverage to students. Limbaugh may not understand that he is losing, that a new Harris poll showed him to be the least liked “news personality” on a list of 26. He’s the only one who made the bottom percentages with all three political groups—Republicans, Democrats, and Independents. In fact, Republicans like him less than the other two groups do.

Since Limbaugh felt free to attack women for their medications, whether for contraception or medical conditions, young women across the nation are forced to bear the brunt of his bigotry. One mother wrote about her 16-year-old daughter’s being called a slut, a prostitute, a horny piece of trash that is out to sleep with every guy in school. According to the mother, the harassers told her daughter that their mothers labeled her with these terms; they were just “telling it like it is, you know, like that guy on the radio! The one who isn’t afraid to tell the truth!” In one of the daughter’s classes, the teacher praised Limbaugh.

The daughter is one of many women who take hormones for medical reasons other than birth control. But it doesn’t matter whether she took it for contraception or another medical issue.

Republican David Frum refuted the far-rights complaints about double standards in the media:

Point 1: Even by the rough standards of cable/talk radio/digital talk, Limbaugh’s verbal abuse of Sandra Fluke set a new kind of low. I can’t recall anything as brutal, ugly and deliberate ever being said by such a prominent person and so emphatically repeated. This was not a case of a bad “word choice.”

Point 2: The cases that conservatives cite as somehow equivalent to Limbaugh’s tirade against Fluke by and large did bring consequences for their authors. David Letterman delivered an abject seven-minute apology on air; Ed Schultz apologized on air before MSNBC suspended him for a week without pay.

Point 3: Limbaugh’s place in American public life is in no way comparable to that of David Letterman, Bill Maher, or Ed Schultz. Letterman is not a political figure at all; and while Maher and Schultz strongly identify as liberals, neither qualifies as anything like a powerbroker in the Democratic Party. A word of criticism from Limbaugh, by contrast, will reduce almost any member of the Republican caucus to abject groveling. Among TV and radio talkers and entertainers, there is none who commands anything like the deference that Limbaugh commands from Republicans: not Rachel Maddow, not Jon Stewart, not Michael Moore, not Keith Olbermann at his zenith. Democratic politicians may wish for favorable comment from their talkers, but they are not terrified of negative comment from them in the way that Republican politicians live in fear of a negative word from Limbaugh.

Point 4: Most fundamentally, why the impulse to counter one outrageous stunt by rummaging through the archives in search of some supposedly offsetting outrageous stunt? Why not respond to an indecent act on its own terms, and then–if there’s another indecency later–react to that too, and on its own terms? This latest Limbaugh outburst is the bottom of the barrel of shock talk. And the good news is that from the bottom of the barrel, there is nowhere to go but up.

In a Huffington Post column, Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) wrote about the connection between birth control and women’s health. “Birth control protects women from the risk of bearing children before they are ready. Birth control helps to ensure that women do not bear too many children or bear children too soon after their last pregnancy. Birth control is used to relieve symptoms of endometriosis, regulate a cycle, reduce acne, relieve symptoms of depression, reduce migraines, treat polycystic ovary condition, alleviate anemia, and even reduce the risk of some cancers.”

For the people who complain about insurance companies having to pay out all that extra money, Maloney pointed out that employers may save money to provide employees with no co-pay coverage of birth control because it results in fewer unwanted and/or potentially harmful pregnancies preventing huge long-term costs of care related to problem pregnancies and pre-mature births.

Another complaint from anti-birth control people is the use of their taxes for contraceptives because they don’t believe in it. As Maloney says, one of the privileges of living in this society is the use of tax dollars for activities that tax payers don’t support. She uses the example of the death penalty. I would use the example of over $1 trillion for a war that I find inexcusable. My tax dollars went to George W. Bush’s war rather than saving people in this country; others can have their tax dollars used for women’s reproductive rights.

In these difficult economic times, Republicans are exploring women’s bodies to an extent never before seen. Republicans in at least 18 states are pushing bills or ballot initiatives to define “personhood” that would illegalize commonly used forms of birth control. Republicans in seven states have filed lawsuits attacking the provisions in the health care reform act that give women access to contraceptives. Nationally Republicans have introduced legislation in both the House and Senate to outlaw many forms of commonly used contraceptives. House Republicans have voted to strip Planned Parenthood of any federal funding to keep poor women from obtaining reproductive health care and contraceptives. Senate Republicans brought legislation to the floor to allow any employer, including for-profit private sector companies, to deny insurance coverage for contraceptives if doing so is contrary to their religious beliefs or “moral convictions.”

Nebraska is proposing a “conscience clause” designed to not only give all health care providers the right to refuse any action based on personal religious beliefs but also allow these providers the right to refuse the request to any other medical professional even in a medical emergency. In Idaho a pharmacist refused to fill a woman’s prescription for a drug meant to stop hemorrhaging, but the patient was able to take the prescription elsewhere. If Nebraska passes this “conscience clause,” the woman could bleed to death, and the pharmacist would be exonerated from any blame. And if Nebraska passes this law, other states will follow them.

Religious groups are determined to impose their own religious views on those who may not share their beliefs and to limit a woman’s access to reproductive health care and contraception. While people are seething with outrage over Limbaugh’s statements or trying to figure out a way to protect him, there are important questions to be asked in relationship to the religious views being forced on people in this country. Does the conservative government have the right to legislate its view of promiscuity, to decide how much sex is “too much,” to stop contraception from being a “sex enabler,” to create consequences for women having sex,” and to state that pregnancy prevention is not a legitimate medical need”?

March is Women’s History Month. Women need to fight this horrific encroachment on our rights. In protest to an Oklahoma “personhood” bill, passed by the Senate and now being addressed by the House, Democratic State Sen. Judy McIntyre, one of only four women in the 48-member Senate, carried a sign that stated, “If I wanted the government in my womb, I’d [bleep] a senator.” McIntyre is right. Government needs to get out of our vaginas.

We need to thank the following advertisers who think that Rush Limbaugh has gone too far to sponsor: Sleep Number Beds, The Sleep Train, Legal Zoom, Quicken Loans, Citrix Systems/GoToMeeting, ProFlowers, Tax Resolution Services, AOL, Carbonite, Bonobos, Sears/Kmart, and Allstate. Tractor maker John Deere, solar panel maker Verengo Solar, and postage website have also reported that they would no longer advertise. Hawaii radio station KPUA, dropped Limbaugh’s show because it “crossed the line of decency,” and another radio station in Pittsfield (MA) plans to no long air Limbaugh’s show.

In the meantime, women of Missouri, contact your House Speaker Steven Tilley, who has commissioned a bust of Rush Limbaugh—paid for with your tax-payer dollars—to be placed in the state capitol.


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