Cliff Kincaid
Will the "war on women" kill Limbaugh's radio show?
By Cliff Kincaid
March 8, 2012

Rush Limbaugh claims that MSNBC is hyping an alleged "Republican War on Women," stemming from the controversy caused by his vicious attacks on feminist Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke, for which he has apologized. Limbaugh's personal attacks on Fluke diverted attention away from the attempt by Catholic and other religious and political leaders to frame the issue in terms of private religious institutions having the freedom to decide on their own health coverage. Limbaugh has turned out to be the best thing going for President Obama and the Democrats.

Ironically, however, MSNBC itself has highlighted the fact that the real "war on women" stems in part from some of the birth control pills that Fluke apparently wants made available to more and more women. During her prepared testimony to a Democratic policy group, Fluke talked about the alleged health benefits of "prescription birth control" but ignored the documented dangers and side effects. Fluke, on behalf of Law Students for Reproductive Justice at Georgetown University, a Catholic institution, repeatedly referred to birth control pills as "medication," without noting the documented harmful effects that some of them can cause.

This MSNBC story, posted last December, talks about a 16-year-old girl by the name of Lynsey Lee who began taking the birth control pill known as Yaz to relieve severe menstrual cramping and developed a terrible blood clot. "Now, she is among the more than 10,000 American women who have filed class action lawsuits or claims against the German pharmaceutical giant Bayer, which makes Yaz, a popular birth control pill," the story said. "Thousands more claims are expected."

Lee's attorney, Noble McIntyre, senior partner and owner of McIntyre Law, explains her case in detail: "At the age of 16, Lynsey began taking Yaz (drospirenone and ethinyl estradiol) to relieve severe menstrual cramping. Soon afterward, she became ill, and began experiencing even more pain than before. It took doctors nearly a year to diagnose her with a blood clot in her left lung, a condition known as pulmonary embolism. Her doctors say it's too dangerous to try to perform surgery to remove it, so Lynsey must take blood thinners daily, and simply hope it dissolves. Every day, she is at risk of the blood clot dislodging which, if it blocks an artery, can be fatal."

Conservatives might be tempted to think such stories are ploys by ambulance chasing trial lawyers. But the evidence shows that many women have suffered, even died, because of birth control methods.

"You're Being Slowly Birth Control Pills!" is the headline on one website devoted to women's empowerment and women's rights. "Since the introduction of the Pill, there's been an explosion of women's diseases and maladies in a scope never experienced before in the history of medicine," it says. The site links birth control pills to the following health problems: migraine headaches, PMS, breast cancer, heart disease, heart attacks, strokes, blood clots, high blood pressure, uterine cancer, infertility, depression, post-partum depression, uterine fibroids, unnecessary hysterectomies, and anxiety disorders.

The American Life League, a Catholic group, maintains a website which tells the stories of women injured by birth control pills and devices.

The Food and Drug Administration has itself raised concern about the safety of Yaz and has ruled that product labeling must be included about studies suggesting a higher risk of blood clots associated with their use. Even so, some critics say that the FDA has been slow to respond to studies outlining the risks from birth control pills because some scientists on a drug safety advisory committee have had conflicts of interest with the companies making the pills.

The risk to women associated with some of these pills is the big omission in the Limbaugh story, which has degenerated into a he said/she said media extravaganza that Fluke, with the support of Obama and the liberal-left, is clearly winning. At this point, Limbaugh is desperate to hang on to his job, as advertisers and even stations abandon him over comments about her being a "slut" and "prostitute." Limbaugh also demanded sex videos of Fluke. As of March 5, a reported 45 advertisers had canceled their advertising on his radio show.

Limbaugh's attack was based on the assumption that birth control pills have no other medical purpose than preventing pregnancy. That was false. Young women also use them for such problems as irregular or absent menstrual periods, menstrual cramps, acne, PMS, and endometriosis. Some conservatives point out that Limbaugh also got his facts wrong by claiming Fluke was demanding tax-subsidized contraception.

Limbaugh apologized to Fluke, who had also worked for the pro-abortion NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund, initially in the form of a published statement on his website. But Obama, acting like the dignified and concerned leader, called her personally to demonstrate his sympathy with her plight. At his news conference, Obama said he called Fluke in part because he didn't want his own daughters to grow up and be intimidated by such a verbal assault. This sharp contrast is a big reason why Limbaugh is losing the public relations battle. He didn't even have the guts to call her personally to apologize, leading to speculation that the hasty statement was a last-ditch effort to stop the mass exodus of his advertisers.

If Limbaugh had wanted to seriously wade into the controversy over birth control, rather than keeping the story focused on the need to respect religious freedom, he could have examined the evidence of its damage to women's health, without casting aspersions on Fluke personally. But Limbaugh didn't bother to do any homework. On the other hand, those attacking Limbaugh don't want to acknowledge that Fluke's "testimony" to the Democratic Party group was not based on the complete evidence at hand showing the risks and dangers associated with the pills she was pushing.

Public Citizen, hardly a conservative group, demanded in 2007 that Yaz be banned and put the pill on its "Do Not Use" list.

Interestingly, the Daily Beast ran a fascinating piece by Peter Schweizer on another aspect of the birth control debate that has been conveniently ignored — the role of drug makers in the birth control business and how they stand to financially benefit from the Obama mandate. He writes, "You've heard of crony capitalism? Well this is America's first example of crony contraceptives."

He explains, "Back in 2009, many observers were surprised when Big Pharma came out in favor of President Obama's health-care reform bill. The industry spent millions running television ads in favor of the law and industry lobbyists pushed hard for it. One important reason they did so was the promise that with the new law they would have a new market of millions of new customers. The contraceptive mandate is a perfect example."

Big Pharma is a term used to describe the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America.

He points out that "among President Obama's biggest financial backers are precisely the Big Pharma companies who benefit from the mandate." He cites Sally Sussman, head of government affairs for drug-maker Pfizer, who is "one of his biggest campaign bundlers" and recently co-hosted a fundraiser for Obama.

Schweizer compares Obama's birth control mandate to Texas Governor Rick Perry's signing of an executive order that required school girls in Texas to be vaccinated with Gardasil, a controversial vaccine designed to fight against a sexually transmitted virus. Perry's mandate was strongly criticized by conservatives, who noted that Perry's chief of staff had gone to work as a lobbyist for Merck, the maker of Gardisil, and that Perry had received financial contributions from the drug maker.

"Again," Schweizer writes, "a corporation supports a politician who in turn issues a mandate that creates a bigger market and larger profits for its product."

Fluke, however, had nothing to say in her testimony about how the mandate she was endorsing would benefit the controversial pharmaceutical industry. The media failure to note this omission is another example of the bias that has permeated the "debate" over the "War on Women."

Limbaugh is losing this debate and may lose his show. He has no one to blame but himself. Armed with no facts and a series of smears, Limbaugh, a college drop-out, went into a battle with a young woman law student that he lost and is continuing to lose. Conservatives can and should do better than this. Limbaugh should go, before even more damage to the cause is done.

© Cliff Kincaid


The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.
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