Wanna apologize, Rush? Then end the war on women.

Rush Limbaugh thinks - and Republicans pray - that a statement of non-apology apology posted on his website for calling law student and women's rights advocate Sandra Fluke a 'slut' will make things blow over. Rush "apologized" for his "word choice" in calling Ms. Fluke a 'slut.' Well, Rush, your 'word choice' is the least of the problems. The real issue? Let's start with the tendency of conservative white men to tell women what kind of health care they can receive under their health insurance plan. Let's continue with the insistence of conservative religious zealots to usurp the religious and conscientious freedom of women and supplant it with the moral code of her employer. Let's finally consider the blatant attack on the separation of Church and State and the conservative battle to replace state with Church.

Apologize for those attitudes. Apologize for advocating against women's rights; apologize for prioritizing the dictates of a Church over the religious and conscientious freedom of individual American women. Apologize for the Right's war on women. Apologize for rooting for America to fail. Maybe then your apologies will start to mean something.

Limbaugh, of course, didn't do any of that. In fact, even in his statement of apology, he fanned the flames of the Right's war on women. He issued his "apology," while perpetuating one all-important myth that his attack was based on - that somehow the regulation requiring contraception to be covered without a copay or a deductible is the same as taxpayers paying for "sexual recreational activities" of women. Way to call Ms. Fluke a 'slut' within the very statement of apology for calling her a 'slut.'

In a very real sense, "sexual recreational activities" is the core part of the conservative war on women. This at once takes care of marginalizing women as sex objects, reinforces 12th century religious dictum that sex is only okay for the purpose of procreation (and thus only between a man and a woman in the missionary position...), and exempts men from the burden of responsibility. Rush never seems to complain about all the "sexual recreational activities" for men that is covered by insurance - boner pills (excuse the language, but let's get serious here), condoms and vasectomies, for example. Why suddenly the outrage about women having sex for pleasure, but no such outrage for men? Is it because in the conservative world, sex is supposed to be pleasurable for men and only pregnancy-inducing for women? Or is it because men and not women should get to decide when to have a child?

And what is it with the spreading of the myth that the government is paying for these "sexual recreational activities?"

Even ignoring for a second that there is a myriad of use of the contraceptive other than to prevent pregnancy, and forgetting temporarily that contraceptives are used in large part by married women, the issue at hand has to do with private, in most cases employer sponsored health insurance plans, that is privately paid for. It is also absurd to call it a religious liberties issue - as we have pointed out here on numerous occasions, the liberty of conscience is being threatened here is that of women - and it is being threatened by the conservatives. Churches or other religious houses that conduct business in the public square - including accepting both public dollars and money from clients who do not subscribe to that religion's theological dictates - have no 'right' to be exempt from labor law.

In addition, health insurance is not a gift from your employer. Health insurance is part of your compensation package. Whatever money your employer is putting into health insurance is money they are not putting into your paycheck. Just as your employer has no business deciding how you use the dollars that you earn from your labor, they have no more a 'right' to decide what kind of health care services you can get from health insurance you also receive as compensation for your labor. Just as your employer's nose does not belong in your decision on where to go to spend the vacation days that you have earned as part of your compensation package, so it doesn't belong in your bedroom or in your pharmacy or in your doctor's office deciding what kind of essential medical care you can avail yourself to.

Does the Right simply not understand this? I don't think that's the case. The concentration and agility with which the political conservatives use every possible avenue to heighten their war on women is something to see. They will use every possible excuse - no matter how lame and weak, self-contradictory and anti-American (like arguing that contraception is somehow a religious liberties issue and that the liberty belongs to the Church rather than individual women) - to further their anti-women agenda. Why? Because the Right's very worldview is threatened by empowered women. They lose control, they lose the entitled feeling of superiority, and the very essence of conservatism - a (white) male-controlled familial, social and national structure - comes crumbling down. In fact, the power of feminism - i.e. the freedom of women's full equality (in both rights and responsibilities), full expression and full participation - scares the established conservative worldview so much that many women on the Right are frightened by it.

What the Republican party and the larger conservative movement have done since the beginning of this contraception fight is use it as a proxy battle to attack women and the feminist movement. The Catholic bishops are as much a part of it as right wing members of Congress and the media. They, and Rush's statements - both in degrading Sandra Fluke at first and now his "apology" - have all concentrated their fire on the same thing: the notion of women's equality. That's why even in apologies, we hear euphemisms like "sexual recreational activities" to demean, marginalize and sexualize women. Because while Rush Limbaugh is afraid that the movement to strip him of his advertisers has had significant success, his - and the conservative movement's - commitment to carrying out the war on women remain unabated.