Last week we told you about the House Committee on Oversight hearing that spent three hours addressing why employers should not have to cover birth control – without a single woman on the first panel of witnesses. Representative Darrell Issa, Chairman of the Committee, barred Georgetown Law student Sandra Fluke from the panel.
Chairman Issa questioned Fluke’s experience and he said that, as a student, she wasn’t qualified to testify. Thursday, Sandra responded to that assertion. “I’m an American woman who uses contraceptives,” she said. That’s what makes her qualified.
Well, this week she received the respect she deserved and ears to listen. Sandra made it on to a number of news shows, and on Thursday – a week after being rejected from the initial hearing – she finally got her chance to speak on Capitol Hill. Fluke then explained that since Georgetown University doesn’t cover contraceptives, a friend of hers eventually had to have one of her ovaries surgically removed. Oral contraceptives would have prevented the growth of a cyst the size of a tennis ball, but her friend could not afford the out-of-pocket costs.
On an interview Fluke had with CNN prior to her testimony, she told the anchors about other women she knew who have health issues due to Georgetown’s refusal to cover contraceptives. “One woman who I talked with recently needs contraception to prevent seizures,” she told her hosts. Sandra also mentioned another woman who recently gave birth. Her doctor prescribed birth control so she wouldn’t put herself in danger by getting pregnant again too soon after the birth.
While the anchors on CNN tried to frame Catholicism and women’s health as mutually exclusive issues, Fluke assured them that this isn’t the case. “These women whose stories I plan to talk about today are Catholic women,” she added.
Some members of the media wondered what Sandra’s testimony had to do with the Affordable Care Act. What they failed to understand is that this great health benefit flows from the Affordable Care Act. “Fluke’s testimony is focused on this being a women’s health issue and what impact this can have on women’s health. It’s powerful testimony in that regard,” responded a spokesperson for Representative Nancy Pelosi.
Powerful it is. Although Sandra just focused on one woman’s story, there are many similar stories out there. If access to reproductive health care is not viewed more seriously, more women will suffer avoidable harm, just like the woman whose story Fluke told.
While Chairman Issa was absent from Miss Fluke’s testimony, we can only hope that her heart-wrenching stories made enough of an impact for everyone to rethink why women need access to no-cost birth control.