Sandra Fluke, an attorney and women’s rights activist who captured the public’s attention when, in February 2012, Republican members of Congress refused to allow her to testify on the importance of requiring insurance plans to cover contraceptives, will speak at Trinity College on Thursday, Nov. 14 from 12:15 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. in the Washington Room in Mather Hall.
The event is free and open to the public.
Fluke, who was then a 30-year-old Georgetown University law student, had been invited by Democrats to speak at a hearing by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on new administration rules concerning the “conscience clause exceptions” in connection with the Affordable Care Act. The exception applied to church organizations, but not to affiliated nonprofit corporations such as hospitals.
Republicans would not allow Fluke to testify, asserting that Fluke lacked expertise, was not a member of the clergy and her name had not been submitted in time for the hearing. Democrats criticized the decision to bar Fluke.
The following week, Fluke spoke before the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee and outlined the reasons why Georgetown University should be required to offer health care that covers contraceptive drugs in spite of the Catholic university’s opposition to birth control.
In her testimony, Fluke claimed that during her time as a law student, birth control cost in excess of $3,000. And she maintained that 40 percent of Georgetown Law School’s female students suffered financial hardship as a result of birth control being excluded by the student health insurance plan. She suggested that women at Georgetown, other religious schools and employees of religious institutions had suffered “financial, emotional and medical burdens” because of the lack of contraceptive coverage.
Fluke’s testimony touched off a firestorm among conservatives, resulting in radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh labeling her a “slut” and “prostitute” and speculating on air about her sex life. Limbaugh subsequently apologized for his comments, an apology that Fluke rejected. Limbaugh’s remarks prompted more than 100 advertisers and two radio stations to drop his show.
Fluke was a featured speaker at the Democratic National Convention in 2012 at which Barack Obama was nominated for a second term as president.
Her advocacy and pro bono work for victims and families has been recognized by the Women Lawyers Association of Los Angeles, the Center for Reproductive Rights, and the National Partnership for Women and Families.
Fluke’s appearance is sponsored by the Women, Gender and Resource Action Center; the Office of Multicultural Affairs; the Connecticut Women’s Education and Legal Defense Fund; the state Permanent Commission on the Status of Women; Connecticut NOW; the departments of Public Policy and Law, Political Science, Sociology, Philosophy, Anthropology; and the Women, Gender and Sexuality Program.