Photo: Courtesy of CSPAN
The contraception controversy erupted in Washington today over a spate of inflammatory remarks from conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh.Everyone from House Speaker John Boehner and President Barack Obama to the President of Georgetown University has been drawn into the fray.
The uproar is centered around Sandra Fluke, a third-year Georgetown University law school student who was barred from testifying at a recent Congressional hearing on the Obama administration’s policy requiring religiously-affiliated institutions to provide contraception in employee health plans.
Fluke eventually testified before a House Democratic panel, telling a sad story about a female friend who lost an ovary because Georgetown’s student insurance would not cover the birth control she needed to treat a medical condition.
Her testimony sparked the ire of Rush Limbaugh, who accused Fluke of being a “slut” and a “prostitute” who is “having so much sex she’s going broke.”
President Obama has personally come to her defence, and Georgetown University officials released a statement today defending Fluke as the “model of civil discourse.”
Even Republicans have been forced to disavow Limbaugh’s comments.
All of this would have likely been avoided if House Republicans had just let Fluke testify in the first place. Her absence left the contraception panel with no female speakers, sparking outrage — and a major fundraising push — from Democratic women in the House.
(House Oversight Chair Darrell Issa rejected Fluke’s testimony on the grounds that she was “unqualified,” arguing that the panel was about religion, not about women.)
In reality, Fluke would not have been a very effective witness. As a student, she wouldn’t even be affected by the Obama policy on employer-provided health plans. Georgetown actually offers contraception in its employee plans.
Moreover, Republicans could have easily dismissed Fluke as a feminist activist.
According to a bio on Georgetown’s website, Fluke’s professional background is in domestic violence and human trafficking advocacy. At Georgetown law, she is the former president of Law Students for Reproductive Justice, an editor for the Journal of Gender and the Law, and vice president of the Women’s Legal Alliance. She has a bachelor’s degree in Feminist, Gender & Sexuality studies from Cornell.
Under normal circumstances, this resume would make Fluke an easy target for Republicans. But Limbaugh’s misogynistic vitriol has made the 30-year-old feminist virtually untouchable, and Democrats couldn’t be happier.
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