The past few weeks have been a hotbed of action in the evolving tapestry of women’s history. The Republican war on women has amped up to a fever pitch with efforts to restrict birth control, make abortions more difficult, force invasive procedures, and defund women’s health organizations like Planned Parenthood. When the Obama administration followed through on its promise to require employers to include contraception in their insurance plans, Republicans went nuts (okay even more nuts). Even though the plan allowed a narrow exemption for religious institutions and a method of accommodation for employers with religious affiliations (like some hospitals and community centers), the GOP trotted out their old “war on religion” lies. The odious Rep. Darrell (I hate women and gays) Issa held hearings about the mythical violation to religious freedom that the contraception rules created, inviting not one woman to testify about women’s health–talk about policing women’s eggs!. The ranking Democrat on the committee holding the hearings, Rep. Elijah White, asked to invite a woman to testify and was rebuffed. That woman was Sandra Fluke.
She was an exellent choice. A third year law student at Georgetown University, Fluke had already racked up impressive credentials in working for women’s rights. Since obtaining her degree in Feminist, Gender, & Sexuality Studies from Cornell in 2003, she has worked tirelessly against domestic violence and human trafficking. While working at Sanctuary for Families in New York, she she co-founded the New York Statewide Coalition for Fair Access to Family Court, which after a twenty-year stalemate, successfully advocated for legislation granting access to civil orders of protection for unmarried victims of domestic violence, including LGBTQ victims and teens. At Georgetown, Fluke is the Development Editor of the Journal of Gender and the Law, and served as the President of Law Students for Reproductive Justice, and the Vice President of the Women’s Legal Alliance. In her first year, she also co-founded a campus committee addressing human trafficking. It’s no wonder Issa didn’t want her near a microphone.
The Democrats, showing delightful backbone for a change, held their own hearing and allowed Fluke to testify. She told a moving story about a colleague who lost an ovary due to the lack of birth control coverage in her insurance. What did Sandra Fluke get for her efforts? An attack by Rush Limbaugh. In a diatribe that is mean-spirited and idiotic even by his own standards, the gasbag called her a “slut” and a “prostitute” just for mentioning birth control. When he was called out for his bad behavior, Limbaugh upped the ante and became even more offensive on two successive broadcasts. Not one Republican legislator or leader has offered more than a tepid response to Limbaugh’s ranting, certainly no repudiation. As a result, Fluke’s grace and eloquence have helped rip the mask off the Republican myth of victimhood and shown the true misogyny that lurks behind so many of their legislative agendas. She even managed to squeeze a very rare (if weak) apology from Limbaugh. What does she have to say about the whole situation?
Initially, you’re stunned, but then very quickly, you’re outraged, because this is historically the kind of language that is used to silence women, especially when women stand up and say that these are their reproductive health care needs and this is what they need.
Well said, Ms. Fluke. Thank you for your role in removing that silence and adding a ray of hope to women’s history.