Is there anything in this country that someone doesn’t think someone else should pay for? Sandra Fluke, law student at Georgetown University’s School of Law and former head of Georgetown Law Students for Reproductive Justice apparently thinks that someone else should pick up the tab for her and her fellow students’ sexual activity.
Sandra Fluke testified before the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee on the 23rd of Feburary 2012 concerning the high cost of contraceptives and how poor female law students at Georgetown simply couldn’t afford the expense. She had wanted to testify at a hearing on the health reform law’s mandated coverage of contraceptives, which Congress held on the 16th; however House Oversight Chair Darrell Issa (R-CA) rejected her testimony, claiming that the Democrats submitted her name too late to be considered. So she testified before the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee instead. (Transcript of her testimony.)
So who is Sandra Fluke? Originally described as a “23-year old coed,” it now turns out that Ms. Fluke is really 30 years old. That might not be so much of a problem; it’s easy to get people’s ages wrong. However far from being “an innocent young coed,” in reality it appears that Ms. Fluke is also an activist who has been trying to change Georgetown’s policy on contraception (which incidentally, she knew about when she enrolled) for the past three years.
Georgetown University Law Center is one of the top law schools in the country, ranking number 14 in the nation for the past 10 years. This is not a cheap school to attend. According to the school’s website, tuition for full-time students for the 2011-2012 school year was $46,865 and for part-time students, $33,500. Living expenses cost about another $20,000 per year, so a full-time student is somewhere in the neighborhood of $66,865 per year. Three years and around $200K later, a full time student can obtain a JD (Juris Doctor) from Georgetown. Note: you must already possess a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university in order to enter their JD degree program, so add that to your total cost.
During this same period, according to Ms. Fluke, a female law student could be expected to pay approximately $3,000 in contraceptive expenses as well, or roughly $1000/year.
But Ms. Fluke mentioned being on a public interest scholarship. What is that? One thing I have learned about lawyers is that when dealing with them, “words mean things.” There is usually a specific meaning assigned to everything. According to their website, the Public Interest Law Scholars (PILS) program at Georgetown provides “financial, professional and academic support to law students dedicated to practicing law in the public interest.” It is a competitive program that selects eight students from each class of admitted students.
So the PILS program is a special interest scholarship program designed to assist those students who intend to pursue a career practicing law “in the public interest.” It is NOT, as I had originally assumed by the name, a program to provide financial assistance to aspiring lawyers who do not have the means to attend this prestigious institution of higher learning. In other words, one cannot assume that because a student is on a “public interest scholarship,” that they are financially destitute.
So what is “public interest law” anyway? Public interest law or “practicing law in the public interest” seems to mean practicing law to help those less fortunate. In general, public interest lawyers do legal work for charitable organizations or trusts. They may provide pro bono services. Northwestern University has a program called “The Legal Skills in Social Context LSSC) Social Justice Program” designed to address “unmet social justice needs”, which its website links with the context of practicing law in the public interest.
The website legalauthority.com, in a lengthy discussion on the subject, asks the question “Does someone have to be a Marxist to be a public interest lawyer?” According to the website, “No, although lawyers attracted to a Marxist rationale of a world simplistically divided between the powerful (exploiters) and the powerless (exploited) will find such a vision useful in rooting out instances when the powerful exploit the meek.” In other words, "no, but it helps."
One thing I have taken away from my research on public interest lawyers is that typically they are “underpaid.” This is because to public interest lawyers, helping the downtrodden is more satisfying and fulfilling than making large amounts of money, which typically their clients do not have. Again, according to top-law-schools.com, the median private sector salary for a Georgetown law graduate (class of 2008) is $160,000/year. I guess that a public interest lawyer would be expected to eke out a meager existence on something less than that.
Legalauthority.com has a lot to say concerning the subject of public interest law on their page “Is public interest law for you.” One piece of advice they have to offer: “First you must identify a cause.”
You must feel strongly about it and have thought enough about it to answer all your doubts. Usually, the cause will announce itself to you. This is what is meant by having a calling. The satisfaction you get is responding to a need, and this need comes from within. Stay focused. Choose your cause well, and you will produce within yourself a harmony of belief merged with action that most lawyers and most other citizens seldom, if ever, attain.
Apparently, Ms. Fluke’s current cause is free contraceptive care, presumably for all college students nationwide, but specifically for all law students at Georgetown Law. One wonders; is it possible that this is her graduation practicum? (She is graduating this year.) Did she receive academic credit for her performance before the Democrat steering and policy committee?
Ms. Fluke is clearly an activist; nothing wrong with that; it is a legal activity in this country. There are activists involved in many causes, both on the left, and the right. That isn’t the point. The point I am trying to make here is that this isn’t simply a case of a wide-eyed young college coed who is trying to right an “injustice” she discovered whilst attending college.
Instead, this is a seasoned operative who is trying to advance an agenda she has spent the last three years pursuing in a premeditated fashion. The goals may be the same, but the attack vector is completely different, and one should be aware of this. The goal of forcing a religious institution to violate its own religious principles should be looked at seriously as a first amendment issue without attempting to invoke the public sympathy vote to provide cover as Ms. Fluke is attempting.
Progressives, such as Ms. Fluke, believe that the good of the many outweigh the needs of the few; that the ends justify the means. There is no room in their world view for the opinions of others, if those opinions clash with what they deem “the greater good.” It is all very well for those of faith to have their beliefs just as long as those beliefs don’t stand in the way of their view of a perfect society.
Georgetown is not a cheap place to go to school. As a parent who is currently helping four of his children to attend college I have to ask; if one is willing to invest $200,000 to get a law degree from Georgetown, what is wrong with being expected to pay for one’s own birth control pills? Should I pick up the tab for the caffeine you consume to stay awake while pulling all-nighters studying too?
And if having an insurance company pick up the tab for your contraception is such a big thing for you, why not choose a school that has such an insurance policy in the first place. There are other schools besides Georgetown. It’s only number 14 after all, why not try number 13, or number 12? Ms. Fluke chose Georgetown specifically because it didn’t have such coverage, because she wanted to force them to carry it. Could not a person similarly choose a different school based on it having the coverage they desire?
Sandra Fluke came to Georgetown in search of a fight. She got what she came for, and in the process, picked up a JD degree from a prestigious university in the bargain. Mission accomplished!
Bargained well and done, Ms. Fluke, Bargained well and done.