Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Sandra Fluke's flawed arguments

The political Left's poster-child for the Republican "war on women" recently took up her mighty pen and vomited forth an op-ed in support of a woman's right to force others to pay for her contraceptives.

Fluke's argument ends up a case study in how to argue like a lawyer.  Shade the truth, appeal to emotion, distract from key issues, etc.  Examples follow.
I was proud to share the stories of my friends at Georgetown Law who have suffered dire medical consequences because our student insurance does not cover contraception for the purpose of preventing pregnancy.
An example would have been nice.  Probably the reader is expected to assume the existence of many legitimate examples.

When she spoke in front of Congressional Democrats, Fluke used as her example a friend with polycystic ovarian syndrome.  That friend couldn't afford "over $100" per month for her medication.  Here's how Fluke ended that story:
“Without her taking the birth control, a massive cyst the size of a tennis ball had grown on her ovary. She had to have surgery to remove her entire ovary as a result.

“On the morning I was originally scheduled to give this testimony, she was sitting in a doctor’s office, trying to cope with the consequences of this medical catastrophe."
Fluke's example appears medically incoherent.

First, the result experienced by her friend is not even listed as a symptom or prognosis of polycystic ovary syndrome.   Second, treatment does not prevent ovarian cysts, though it may reduce the risk of endometrial cancer. 

The Mayo Clinic website describes three reasons for treating polycystic ovary syndrome with medication:
  • Regulate menstrual cycle
  • Assist with ovulation (for those trying to become pregnant)
  • Reduce excessive hair growth or acne
What does the research say?
A few studies have addressed the possibility of an association between PCOS and epithelial ovarian cancer risk, and the results are conflicting but generally reassuring, and similarly the few available data appear to exclude a strong association between PCOS and breast cancer.
Fluke's key story takes an extremely questionable case of cause and effect and uses it as an emotional appeal.

Next example:
Because we spoke so loudly, opponents of reproductive health access demonized and smeared me and others on the public airwaves. These smears are obvious attempts to distract from meaningful policy discussions and to silence women's voices regarding their own health care.
Um, the volume of her message was the reason for the response from the other side?

There's some ironic truth, here.  The Left has used Fluke to change the subject from religious rights of conscience to the right to free contraception.  Fluke's op-ed hints that she's a willing tool.

Fluke's opposers want a meaningful policy discussion.  One that focuses on the issue of freedom of religion and rights of conscience.  Fluke's loud voice distracts from that.  Conservatives want Fluke "silenced" to the extent that her argument is a red herring.  It has nothing to do with her gender.
(D)espite the misinformation being spread, the regulation under discussion has absolutely nothing to do with government funding: It is all about the insurance policies provided by private employers and universities that are financed by individual workers, students and their families -- not taxpayers.
Here, Fluke misleads with a half truth.

The effect of the legislation is the levying of a private tax imposed by the government.  The government omits its role as a middleman handling the financial transactions.  Instead, it commands others to do its economic bidding.

Still no fact checks of Fluke by PolitiFact?  Just an uncritical posting of her remarks?

What a surprise.

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