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Law Student Discusses House Committee's Refusal To Hear Her Testimony on Contraceptive Coverage

Law Student Discusses House Committee's Refusal To Hear Her Testimony on Contraceptive Coverage

February 23, 2012 — Georgetown University Law Center student Sandra Fluke said she "felt insulted" after Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) refused to let her testify last week at a House committee hearing about religious freedom and the federal contraceptive coverage rules, National Journal reports (National Journal, 2/23).

Fluke was the sole witness Thursday morning at a House Democratic Steering Committee hearing called by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) after Issa refused to include Fluke's testimony last week (Walsh, "Political Ticker," CNN, 2/23).

Fluke said on Thursday, "I felt insulted, not for myself, but for the women I wanted to represent, the women whose stories I wanted to convey to the committee and the women who were silenced." She added, "There were no women there who were affected by this policy." Fluke said, "Many women in this country are energized about this issue" (National Journal, 2/23).

At last week's hearing, Fluke had planned to testify about the experiences of several fellow female students who were denied contraceptive coverage because of the university's Jesuit affiliation. One of Fluke's classmates was prescribed birth control to manage ovarian cysts but stopped after she was denied coverage, leading to complications and the removal of an ovary ("Political Ticker," CNN, 2/23).

Issa said Fluke could not testify because she lacked the proper credentials to testify in a hearing on religious freedom. The first witness panel at the hearing featured all men and no women (Pruitt, "The Ticket," Yahoo! News, 2/23). Several Democrats staged a walk-out in protest, contending that Issa's real aim was to silence anyone in favor of the contraceptive coverage rules from testifying (Bendery, Huffington Post, 2/21).

At a panel discussion organized by the American Association of University Women on Wednesday evening, Fluke said it was difficult to listen to witnesses at the hearing tell hypothetical stories when she had a real story to share with lawmakers. She added that she hopes that the conversation on women's health will expand beyond the current focus on contraception. "Women have not yet been heard in the halls of government," she said, adding that "there is something really important about your elected officials hearing your point of view" (Belogolova, National Journal, 2/22).

Poll Shows Support for Contraceptive Coverage, Planned Parenthood

About 54% of respondents in a recent Quinnipiac University poll approve of President Obama's plan to require that health insurers directly offer contraception at no cost for employees of religiously affiliated institutions, National Journal reports. The poll, which surveyed 2,605 registered voters last week, found that 38% of respondents oppose the policy.

Seventy-one percent of respondents said that health plans should cover birth control, compared with 24% who said they should not. Respondents were split almost evenly on whether the government should require private employers to cover contraception at no additional cost to employees in their health plans.

About 55% of respondents said they have a favorable opinion of Planned Parenthood, compared with 22% who said they do not. Additionally, 60% of respondents said they oppose cutting federal funding to the organization, and more than 80% said they would oppose such cuts if they knew the money was only funding non-abortion care, such as breast cancer screenings. National Journal notes that Planned Parenthood does not use federal funding to pay for abortion services (Fox, National Journal, 2/23).