As I watched the Democratic National Convention last week, I was moved by many of the speakers, but it was one of the shortest speeches that shook me to my core. When Sandra Fluke stepped to the microphone and succinctly laid out what America would look like–particularly for women–under an Obama White House and under a Romney White House, she clearly illustrated just how polarized our nation has become.
Sandra Fluke, a Georgetown University law student, was thrown into the national spotlight earlier this year after Republicans refused to allow her to testify before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee regarding the importance of requiring insurance plans to cover birth control. In fact, the Republicans chose witnesses who included a Roman Catholic Bishop, a Lutheran Reverend, two professors, and a rabbi–all of whom were men. Democrats were told they could call one witness. They chose Fluke. However, she was not permitted to speak because Republican committee members deemed that she was not qualified (The Nation). The controversy sparked by this incident drew national attention when conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh called Fluke a slut and a prostitute, and demanded that she and other “feminazis” post videos of their sexual escapades: “If we are going to pay for your contraceptives, and thus pay for you to have sex, we want something for it. We want you to post the videos online so we can all watch” (ABC News).
Undaunted, Fluke continued to speak out on behalf of women’s rights, and when she took to the stage this week, she presented Americans with a clear choice: “Over the last six months, I’ve seen what these two futures look like. And six months from now, we’ll all be living in one, or the other. But only one. A country where our president either has our back or turns his back; a country that honors our foremothers by moving us forward, or one that forces our generation to re-fight the battles they already won; a country where we mean it when we talk about personal freedom, or one where that freedom doesn’t apply to our bodies and our voices” (Yahoo News).
And once again, conservative Republicans showed their true colors as they responded to Fluke with pure hate. Conservative pundit Ann Coulter tweeted this offensive remark: “Bill Clinton just impregnated Sandra Fluke backstage,” followed by “”They’re spicing things up with a live abortion on stage!” (Huffington Post). Conservative talk show host Michael Berry tweeted: “I hope someone was passing out free condoms tonight, otherwise Sandra Fluke might be in trouble tomorrow” (Thinkprogress.org). Conservative journalist Jay Nordlinger wrote: “I believe it says something creepy about America that she is famous — famous and adored. (She is pretty, true)” (National Review). And even before Fluke delivered her speech, Bill O’Reilly of Fox News insinuated that during her speech, instead of balloons falling from the ceiling, condoms should be dumped on her instead: “I’m wondering when Sandra Fluke speaks next week at the Democratic convention, what they’re going to drop from the ceiling. I’m just pointing out, there’s only one reason this woman is speaking, one and one only” (mediaite.com).
I applaud Sandra Fluke for standing up to this barrage of hatred and discrimination. She inspires me to do the same. I am frightened to think that my daughter could grow up having fewer rights than I had. I cannot allow that to happen. I will not fail her. I will continue to raise my own voice to ensure that she has control of her own life, her own body, and her own future.