A seat at the table

By Alison McQuade on
February 24, 2012

One week after Georgetown Law student, Sandra Fluke, was silenced and denied a seat at the table during Congressman Issa’s now infamous Man Panel hearing on birth control, Fluke was finally allowed to speak.

Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, along with Eleanor Holmes Norton, Elijah Cummings and Carolyn Maloney, convened a second panel to discuss birth control and women’s health care calling only Sandra Fluke to testify. I attended the hearing and was pleased to find that it was standing-room only and filled with so many women, eager to hear a woman speak on behalf of them and their health care needs.

Fluke shared a number of stories of friends, fellow students and acquaintances whose lives have been negatively affected by not having access to birth control that is covered by their insurance. Many women suffered severe and life-long health complications, others felt "embarrassed and powerless" by not being able to afford birth control. She even recounted the story of a woman who had been raped and didn’t see a doctor because "she didn’t think insurance was going to cover…something that was related to women’s health."

The health risks alone were scary enough, but the added stigma- created by insurance companies and employers who rank women’s health care as a second-rate priority by not covering all of women’s health needs – was the last straw. Fluke stated:

We did not expect that women would be told in the national media that if we wanted comprehensive insurance that met our needs, not just those of men, we should have gone to school elsewhere, even if that meant a less prestigious university. We refuse to pick between a quality education and our health, and we resent that, in the 21st century, anyone thinks it’s acceptable to ask us to make this choice simply because we are women.

In total, Fluke spent about an hour giving her statement and answering questions from the panel. “I’m an American woman who uses contraception…That makes me more than qualified to talk to my elected officials about my health care needs.” A woman. Talking about women’s health care. What a concept. In closing Pelosi thanked Fluke for speaking on behalf of women, “You not only have the Congress listening to you, but the country listening to you, and that is a powerful thing.”

EMILY’s List Executive Director Amy Dacey commented on the event, “It was an honor to be in the room with Sandra Fluke as she testified yesterday. She represented millions of women who are concerned about their own health. She should never have been silenced in Congressman Issa’s hearing.” Fluke never should have been silenced and neither should any other woman. We’re going to keep fighting the good fight and continuing to elect more Democratic pro-choice women to office to make sure this doesn’t happen again.

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