Women's rights activist won't be silenced by right wing political tactics
In an opinion piece published by CNN on Tuesday, Georgetown University law student and women’s rights advocate Sandra Fluke insisted she will not allow slurs from critics to silence her and other women from continuing to speak out on issues regarding women’s health and contraception.
Fluke has faced slurs and personal attacks after speaking before the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee in the United States House of Representatives about women’s health and contraception. She was called a “slut” and a “prostitute” by talk radio show host Rush Limbaugh.
In response to these attacks, Fluke has received public support from women, members of the media, and politicians including the President of the United States.
In her piece for CNN, Fluke took the opportunity to thank her supporters, writing, “By now, many have heard the stories I wanted to share thanks to the congressional leaders and members of the media who have supported me and millions of women in speaking out.” She characterized the “opponents of reproductive health access” who issued personal attacks against her as being motivated by an attempt to change the topic of conversation away from a dialogue about women’s health, and “to silence women’s voices regarding their own health care.”
Fluke wrote that the efforts by some to drown out women from speaking out about women’s health were unsuccessful. She came to this conclusion due to the multitude of positive comments and encouragement sent to her by both female and male individuals urging that contraception medication be considered a medical necessity.
Asserting that she would not remain silent on this issue of women’s health, Fluke wrote, “Attacking me and women who use contraception by calling us prostitutes and worse cannot silence us.”
She noted that a significant majority of women have utilized contraception medication, and commented that there exists a social disconnect between politicians attempting to make it more difficult for women to access this type of health care, and the views of society-at-large about the matter: “Restricting access to such a basic health care service, which 99% of sexually experienced American women have used and 62% of American women are using right now, is out of touch with public sentiment.”
Fluke concluded her piece by emphasizing that those in power should not govern based on ideology: “I am proud to stand with the millions of women and men who recognize that our government should legislate according to the reality of our lives — not for ideology.”
After being banned by Congressman Darrell Issa from speaking before a Committee on Oversight and Government Reform hearing on February 16 which consisted mainly of male panelists, Fluke appeared before a meeting of the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee convened by Minority leader of the United States House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi on February 23.
Fluke spoke to the committee about the need for contraception to be covered by health care plans offered by employers, as a matter integral to women’s health. She cited multiple cases where women take contraception medication as part of their health care for treatment of medical conditions unrelated to birth control, including two women who suffer from polycystic ovarian syndrome, a woman who is afflicted with endometriosis and another who takes contraception in order to prevent seizures.
Speaking before the United States Senate on February 17 along with fellow members Patty Murray, Kirsten Gillibrand, Barbara Boxer, and Charles Schumer, Senator Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire expressed her support for Fluke. Like Fluke, Senator Shaheen pointed out the need not to silence the voices of women in the public government debate about women’s health care:
“Time and time again, women have been silenced in this discussion, a discussion about our own very personal health care decisions.”
Senator Shaheen concluded her remarks with an explanation as to why she believes women should have significant representation in discussions about their health care: “Women deserve a voice in this debate because, after all, in the end this is about our health and it is about a health care decision that is between women, their families, their doctors, and their own faith.”
President Barack Obama called Fluke on March 2 to express his support for her courage to speak out on issues of women’s health. In his first press conference of 2012 on March 6, he discussed his reasons for deciding to call Fluke.
The President cited his personal thoughts about his own two daughters: “And the reason I called Ms. Fluke is because I thought about Malia and Sasha [Obama’s daughters], and one of the things I want them to do as they get older is to engage in issues they care about, even ones I may not agree with them on. I want them to be able to speak their mind in a civil and thoughtful way. And I don’t want them attacked or called horrible names because they’re being good citizens.”
President Obama went on to state that Fluke served as a positive role model for citizen participation in democracy and society: “And I wanted Sandra to know that I thought her parents should be proud of her, and that we want to send a message to all our young people that being part of a democracy involves argument and disagreements and debate, and we want you to be engaged, and there’s a way to do it that doesn’t involve you being demeaned and insulted, particularly when you’re a private citizen.”