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Sandra Fluke Campaigns For Women’s Reproductive Rights

Georgetown Law graduate Sandra Fluke talks to KPBS about the Rally for Women's Health.

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Rally For Women's Health

Sandra Fluke will speak at Planned Parenthood's Rally for Women's Health.

Friday, October 26, noon

6th and Laurel, Balboa Park

In February of this year, the House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight, chaired by San Diego Congressman Darrell Issa, held hearings on a "conscience exception" to a provision in the Affordable Care Act that requires insurance companies to cover costs of contraception.

Sandra Fluke, then a student at Georgetown University Law School, wanted to share her experiences. Her Jesuit college’s health plans for students did not cover birth control, and she felt it hurt her and some of her fellow students.

Those included "a new mom who needed that prescription to avoid becoming pregnant again too soon, which would be dangerous for her and any child she would carry, and also a friend who needed it to prevent cysts from growing on her ovaries," Fluke said.

But Fluke was barred by Congressional Republicans from speaking at the hearing. They said she had not registered in time. She said Issa deemed her testimony not appropriate.

All the people who were allowed to testify at the hearing were men, causing much derision from women and Democrats. Fluke was then lambasted by conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh using some very coarse language, which made Fluke a cause-celebre.

Fluke told KPBS at first she wanted to use her new celebrity to speak in a nonpartisan way about women's reproductive rights.

"I just found that day after day there was more news from Republican leaders on why they were wrong on these policies and I eventually just gave up, because I thought that it doesn't seem like they're listening," she said. "It doesn't seem like they're hearing young women's voices on things like fair pay, the Violence Against Women Act, all these reproductive issues, and I decided the most effective thing I could do was send a strong message through our elections."

So Fluke spoke at the Democratic National Convention and locally is supporting Scott Peters in his run for the 52nd Congressional District.

She said not enough voters are aware of bills such as the Protect Life Act, which would in part allow hospitals to deny abortions to pregnant women, even when the woman’s life is at stake.

“We literally had a bill in the House of Representatives this year that said a hospital could allow a woman to die if she needed an abortion to save her life and the hospital didn't want to provide it," Fluke said. "That's a staggering piece of legislation.”

Republican Congressman Brian Bilbray voted for the legislation, but would not comment on Fluke’s statement.

San Diego Republican Congressmen Darrell Issa and Duncan Hunter also voted for the Protect Life Act. It’s passed the House but not the Senate. Democratic members of Congress Bob Filner and Susan Davis opposed the bill.

Arguably, Fluke was the catalyst for the emphasis on women in the 2012 presidential campaign. She is currently on the campaign trail on behalf of Planned Parenthood, which has seen several states attempt to cut funding to the non-profit.

Claire Trageser contributed to this report.

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