Yesterday in perhaps one of the most heartbreaking visual representations of how little conservative politicians care about women I’ve ever seen, California Republican Representative Darrell Issa assembled a panel of 5 men to testify before a Congressional committee about how having insurers pay for birth control for women was violating religious freedom of dudes. Democrats were denied their request to include a pro-birth control woman on the panel on the grounds that she was “unqualified” to discuss the issue. So what was she planning on saying?
Sandra Fluke is a third-year law student at Georgetown University. She said she was “stunned” by Rep. Issa’s decision to block her testimony, that of course women’s experiences with and need for birth control was relevant to the conversation.
The story Fluke was prepared to tell was a sad tale of a female friend of hers, a woman who took the pill to treat polycystic ovary syndrom (PCOS). Georgetown University student insurance refused to cover the prescription for the woman, even with a doctor’s note, and the woman was forced to cover the cost of her medication herself. At $100 a month, the woman eventually decided she couldn’t afford it and stopped taking it. She ended up developing a cyst that had to be surgically removed, and is now, at age 32, experiencing symptoms of early menopause. She may never be able to have a child. Not taking birth control ended up interfering with the ability to bear children! What say you now, fetus enthusiasts?
Fluke’s full prepared testimony is available here.
Of course, Rep. Issa doesn’t care that Sandra Fluke’s friend might not be able to have kids for a couple of reasons. One: he’s a total dick. But more importantly, his line about yesterday’s hearing (that he repeated eleventy times) was that it wasn’t about women, it was about religion. Therefore, the importance of birth control to women wasn’t as important as the disdain for birth control by some more extreme religions.
It seems this problem could’ve been solved, then, had Sandra Fluke simply declared herself high priestess in the Church of Everyone Gets Free Birth Control if They Want It and demanded a spot on the panel to testify that these men were violating her religious freedom by demanding the government prop up their non-fact-based beliefs at the expense of hers. And then maybe we all would have heard her story in the halls of Congress rather than on an MSNBC show.
Still, the image of a panel of men harumphing and whining about somehow being affiliated with a certain type of women’s health care that allows many Americans (both men and women) to have access to recreational sex without fear of pregnancy rubbed a lot of people the wrong way. And so did Rep. Issa’s extremely ill-advised references to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.during the hearing.
King was a strong proponent of birth control. But, like Sandra Fluke, he didn’t testify, either.