Notably absent from last week's Republican congressional hearing on Obama's birth control policy was Sandra Fluke, a third-year student at Georgetown Law and past president of the school’s Students for Reproductive Justice group who had been a very vocal supporter of mandated birth control coverage. She was deemed "unqualified" by Republicans, but on Thursday, thanks to a hearing convened by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, she got her chance to speak.
Fluke's stories include the one about her friend who couldn't afford her uninsured birth control, which was $100 a month AND medically necessary. Because she couldn't have birth control, she developed a large cyst on her ovary, which required surgery. She may not be able to have children now.
It's stories like this that makes Fluke's testimony so compelling and important, and yet, it almost didn't happen. Here is what she was planning to say when she was denied:
Because she is "just a student," her qualifications have been questioned almost non-stop. Specifically, oversight committee Chairman Darrell Issa claimed she wasn't qualified to testify, as though the men they had testify were, in fact, the right people for the job. Last week, the Republican panel was comprised of mostly male witnesses and only two females, all of whom were opposed to the birth control policy that would mandate coverage.
When she was finally allowed to speak, Fluke was humble about her role, saying she was just one of many women who have stories to tell, and she is right. Fluke is unusual in that she is composed and dignified and clearly very mature for her young age. But her tale is no less compelling than millions of women who don't want to have babies at the present time in their lives.
There are married women who are just getting their careers off the ground who want to actually be able to provide for the families they create. There are women for whom birth control is medically necessary, not so they can fornicate and live debaucherous lives full of promiscuous sex, but so they can actually live lives free of ovarian cysts, debilitating periods, and other such legitimate health problems birth control can help combat.
Birth control has made a huge difference in women's lives and now House Republicans would like to see us go backward. Between the Komen debacle, the Draconian abortion law in Virginia, and these hearings that had no women to testify, it's becoming clear that women's health is on the line in a way it hasn't been for years.
Are we going backward, people? What is this? During today's hearing, Rep. Elijah Cummings said:
If this was a hearing on prostate cancer and there was a lineup of women, [the men] would not have stuck around ...
Indeed. And yet we women are expected to sit idly by while men who have no ovaries and who are far less affected by these kinds of decisions make them all. It's sick and it's wrong and Fluke speaks for all women who can think and who have ambition and desires to be more than baby making machines. She said that in her role at Georgetown and in the days leading up to being allowed to testify that every day she hears from another woman who has suffered because she lacked access to birth control. Fluke said:
One told us of how embarrassed and frustrated she felt when she was standing at the pharmacy counter when she found out it was not covered ... in the worst case, women who needed this medication have suffered dire consequences.
If we don't get angry and speak up about this, who will?
Do you think Fluke is "qualified" to speak?
Image via Oversight Democrats/YouTube