Sounding Off: The Sandra Fluke Controversy

I‘ll go ahead and put it out there: I stand with Sandra Fluke.
Fluke, a third year law student at Georgetown University, was invited by Democratic members of the House of Representatives to speak in Washington last Thursday. This was after the Republican-controlled House Oversight and Government Reform Committee denied to hear her testimony regarding the birth control coverage included in President Obama’s new health care law. This is the same Committee that made news last week for having five male religious leaders testify about contraceptive rights.

Fluke explained that, since she attends a Jesuit institution, her student health insurance plan does not cover contraception. According to Fluke, birth control alone can cost a student more than $3,000 during the three years she’s in law school. According to the Huffington Post, Fluke “spoke of a friend who had an ovary removed because the insurance company wouldn’t cover the prescription birth control she needed to stop the growth of cysts.” Fluke could be telling the story of any college woman who has to pay for her own contraceptives and whose insurance plan doesn’t cover the medicine.

This Wednesday, conservative radio show host Rush Limbaugh expressed to his viewers some of the most offensive language regarding contraception that has entered the airwaves. Limbaugh said Fluke (and women like her) are “sluts” and “prostitutes” because they need government assistance in paying for contraceptives. We are in the midst of an election year, so of course the rhetoric has been and will continue to be inflamed, but that does not mean that a public figure such as Limbaugh should blatantly insult women who use birth control.
Limbaugh distorted Fluke’s statements to the extreme, stating on his radio show “the women in [Fluke’s] law school program are having so much sex they’re going broke.” He continued to instruct Fluke and “the rest of you feminazis” directly: “If we are going to pay for your contraceptives and thus pay for you to have sex, we want something in return. We want you to post the videos online so we can all watch.” Asking all women who need help paying for their contraceptives to post pornographic videos of themselves online so people like Limbaugh can watch is absolutely repulsive. No woman deserves to be disrespected in the way Fluke was.

On Saturday afternoon, Limbaugh issued a statement of “apology” on his website. It’s notable that he acknowledged the insulting nature of his comments – Limbaugh has made many controversial statements in the past for which he refused to apologize. This change of heart may be due to the fact that his show has been dropped by several of its biggest advertisers, including LegalZoom, Sleep Number, and Quicken Loans, due to backlash over his recent statements.

It’s clear in his statement that Limbaugh is continuing his assault on Fluke: he finds it “absolutely absurd that during these very serious political times, we are discussing personal sexual recreational activities before members of Congress.” Fluke did not, in fact, discuss her “sexual recreational activities,” she simply spoke of the financial burden that being sexually responsible was causing her. He added that he called Fluke a “slut” in an “attempt to be humorous.” Women need to send the message to Limbaugh that names like “slut” and “prostitute” will never be funny.

If you’d like to join thousands of Americans (including yours truly) in standing up for Sandra and for women’s health care, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (Twitter: @DCCC) has started a petition that will be sent to Republican leaders, calling on them “to publicly denounce Rush Limbaugh’s cruel tirade against women.” To sign this petition, visit
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Mary Bryce Hargis is a sophomore at the University of Southern California majoring in Cognitive Science. After graduation, she wants to combine her two passions, psychology and law, into one high-powered career as a Trial Consultant. She's a transfer student from George Washington University in Washington, D.C., which she decided was entirely too cold for her. She enjoys taking advantage of the balmy Los Angeles weather with trips to Venice Beach, Topanga Canyon, and the Griffith Observatory. Born and raised in North Carolina, Mary Bryce is a southern girl at heart, but she has been majorly influenced by the Best Coast. In her free time, she likes to eat chocolate, watch True Blood, tweet, and go to USC Football games. 

Mary Higgins is a junior at USC majoring in Cognitive Science and minoring in Psychology and Law. She's originally from North Carolina (and will always be a southern girl), but she can't get enough of the Southern California sunshine. She enjoys sweet tea with lemon, working on her first original research project in social neuroscience, Trojan Football, and watching videos of baby elephants.