Sandra Fluke's claim to fame, aside from provoking Rush Limbaugh's misogynistic ire, is that she chose to attend Georgetown Law School, knowing full well that the Catholic university's student health plan did not cover birth control, and then demanded that the policy be changed, under force of law, as a matter of "reproductive justice."
Although Fluke could have picked a different school, she told The Washington Post last February, "I decided I was absolutely not willing to compromise the quality of my education in exchange for my health care."
Fluke's sense of entitlement and her casual resort to the use of force made her an ideal speaker for last week's Democratic National Convention, where she was joined by many others who believe justice requires that they receive whatever they want (including automaker bailouts and cheap student loans), even if other people have to pay for it. This mentality is so pervasive among Democrats that they seem unable to distinguish between defending rights and soliciting subsidies.
The 2012 Democratic platform includes 1,400 words on "Protecting Rights and Freedoms." Among the alleged rights that the Democrats promise to defend: freedom from "discrimination in the workplace and other settings," "paycheck fairness" for women, "job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons," "evidence-based and age-appropriate sex education," government subsidies for Planned Parenthood and taxpayer-supported health care, including "free access" to "prenatal screenings, mammograms, cervical cancer screening, breast-feeding supports and contraception." These items all amount to promises of other people's money or demands that they be compelled to enter into contracts they would otherwise eschew.
Even "putting Americans back to work" — a rather vague mandate that presumably means whatever President Obama says it does — appears in the section on "rights and freedoms," specifically as a women's issue.
Why? Because "the challenges of supporting and raising a family are often primarily a woman's responsibility." All right then.
The platform does mention a few real rights, including "the individual right to bear arms." I also give the Democrats credit for "freedom to marry," since they argue (persuasively, in my view) that equality under the law means the government should not discriminate between couples based on sexual orientation.
Similarly, "a woman's right to make decisions regarding her pregnancy, including a safe and legal abortion," is based on a constitutional argument — not a very sound one, at least as laid out in Roe v. Wade, but nevertheless an argument about the proper relationship between government and the individual. True to form, the Democrats immediately add that women have a right to obtain abortions "regardless of ability to pay," once again conflating freedom from coercion with a claim on other people's resources. If the right to arms does not entail a right to gun subsidies, why would a right to abortion entail a right to abortion subsidies?
This fundamental confusion about rights was on display throughout the Democratic convention. Although Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential nominee, opposes legal restrictions on contraceptives, Fluke warned that a vote for him would be a vote for "an America in which access to birth control is controlled by people who will never use it." Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards likewise claimed that if you question government subsidies for her organization, or if you think insurers and employers should not be forced to offer health plans that cover contraceptives, you "want to end access to birth control."
Nancy Keenan, president of the National Abortion Rights Action League, declared that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act shows Obama "believes in a woman's right to make her own decisions." Yes, as long as the woman is not an insurer, an employer or a consumer interested in a health plan that does not meet the government's specifications.
Keenan also praised Obama for defending Fluke's "right to tell her story." At last: an actual right! Fluke surely should be free to tell her story, but that does not mean we have to listen.
Jacob Sullum is a senior editor at Reason magazine. Follow him on Twitter: @jacobsullum. To find out more about Jacob Sullum and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.