Sandra Fluke is more than a third-year law student at Georgetown University. After last week's congressional testimony, she's also a major distraction. When Ms. Fluke demanded that college students have a right to sleep around with free birth control, she did President Obama a major favor. She took the spotlight away from the real issues of religious liberty and conscience rights and turned the debate into a distortion of the facts. And unfortunately, a lot of Americans seem to be sidetracked enough to buy Fluke's argument.
FRC's Cathy Ruse isn't one of them. She wrote a great piece for the Wall Street Journal that deconstructs the "Phony Contraception Debate," in which Fluke says it's a "burden" for women to buy their own contraception. "Without insurance coverage," Fluke claimed, "contraception, you know, can cost a woman over $3,000 during law school." Cathy Ruse wonders where she's buying her birth control, since "an employee at a Target pharmacy... told the Weekly Standard last week that one month's worth of generic oral contraceptives is $9 per month." And that's the price "without insurance," the employee says. "Still," Ruse writes, "Ms. Fulke is not mollified. Why? Because at the end of the day this is not about coverage of a medical condition. Ms. Fluke's crusade for reproductive justice is simply a demand that a Catholic school give up its religion to pay for her birth control pills. Georgetown's refusal to do so does not mean she has to have less sex, only that she has to take financial responsibility for it herself."
The distraction of Fluke's testimony is leading some in the media to call for conservatives to drop the issue. A Washington Times/Zogby poll claimed the GOP was on the "losing side" of birth control because 30% of Republicans polled agreed with the President's policy. (Of course, that means 70% opposed, but that seems to be of little consequence to the reporters). The wording of the question made it particularly difficult to gauge how voters feel since the phrasing was obviously designed to produce a certain outcome. "One side suggests that these rules constitute an effort by the federal government to interfere with religious organizations; others say that women have a right to choose birth control and insurance companies should not discriminate against women who cannot afford birth control. Do you think this is an issue of religious freedom or of women's health?"
Words like "right" and "discriminate" are intentionally loaded. The results lack even more credibility because the question makes no mention of this being a government mandate whereby faith-based groups are forced to provide drugs that can induce abortions. Once you get past the media confusion and spin and explain that to people, there's a 20-point swing in opinion. In its own polling, the Wall Street Journal found that support dropped significantly when researchers specifically mentioned "the morning after pill" or the "mandate" in its questions.