On Contraception, AAUW Makes Sure Women Will Be Heard

February 24, 2012


Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke, Catholics for Choice Domestic Program Director Sara Hutchinson, AAUW top policy adviser Lisa Maatz, Washington Post writer Ann Gerhart

From left: Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke, Catholics for Choice Domestic Program Director Sara Hutchinson, AAUW top policy adviser Lisa Maatz, Washington Post writer Ann Gerhart

It’s been hard to turn on the news over the past few weeks without hearing the debate over women’s access to contraception. This debate was further inflamed by last week’s House of Representatives hearing on birth control that featured five men and no women on its opening panel. Sandra Fluke, a law student at Georgetown University, was scheduled to testify about how women are harmed when denied access to birth control. But she was turned away by the chair of the committee, who believed she was “not appropriate or qualified” to testify. Fluke’s exclusion meant that no witness would speak directly to women’s health and that no woman’s voice would be heard in the opening panel.

AAUW decided to give Fluke a voice by inviting her to speak at a public forum on Wednesday night. Featuring Fluke, Catholics for Choice Domestic Program Director Sara Hutchinson, Washington Post writer Ann Gerhart, and AAUW’s own top policy adviser Lisa Maatz, the panel talked about why access to birth control — a right most U.S. women take for granted — is still threatened in 2012 and how women can mobilize to make sure they aren’t silenced any longer.

In addition to online activism, Gerhart urged people to take their outrage offline. “Just saying you like something on Facebook is not activism,” she said. “You have to have your boots on the ground and show up.” Hutchinson encouraged the crowd to “keep saying what you know is true,” even in the face of criticism. Maatz predicted that this will become an election issue and “could very well change who gets elected.”

This debate shows no signs of ending. On Thursday morning, House Democrats held a Democratic Policy Committee hearing featuring Fluke, who spoke about the need for accessible, affordable contraception. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said that more than 300,000 women have told Congress that they support contraception and the need for women’s voices when lawmakers talk about women’s health. Pelosi also told the packed room that House Administration Committee Chair Rep. Dan Lungren (R-CA) had denied the use of congressional resources to record and broadcast the event, an about-face from normal House procedure. This was just another attempt to silence Fluke and women’s voices.

AAUW’s event may be over, but we’re not done with this issue. We’d love to hear from you, either through comments on the blog, on our Facebook page, or through Twitter using the hashtag #wmnreact.

Women will make themselves heard, whether it’s through social media, talking to friends and family, contacting elected officials, or turning out on election day. It’s our vote and our voice — we will be heard.

By:   |   February 24, 2012


  1. Oma says:

    If they won’t allow contraception for women, how about forced contraception for men? If they are faced with this option, there might be a change in mindset from the men.

  2. Karline Tierney says:

    It is important to stress that the issue includes the many requirements to use contraceptives besides for birth control. Access to contraceptives as medical remedies for many reproductive problems which women face needs to be known. Also, it is important to note that childbearing can be life threatning to many women for many reasons. It is NOT just a “convenience” issue. Karline Tierney

  3. Shirley Kessler says:

    Bravo to AAUW!

  4. Mynda Holman McGuire says:

    I am a long-time pro-choice advocate. However, I also would like to see the number of abortions drop to zero. To achieve that goal, all women MUST have free access to birth control. In addition, the babies who are born unwanted continue to add to the number who are abused, neglected and even killed. Universal, and free birth control would in many cases stop those sad outcomes.

    Religion MUST not be a factor in allowing birth control to all women. If there are women who oppose its use due to their religion, nothing in any law should force them to use birth control. On the other hand, the majority of women who have no religious qualms MUST be able to avail themselves to birth control.

  5. Tom Thompson says:

    “Senator” Baldwin,
    I fully support the rights of all Americans to make their own decisions about all health concerns. This certainly includes letting women keep control over how they choose to use all birth control methods, including abortion. Any law, state or federal, that seeks to interfere with these rights, is absolutely abhorent and unconstitutional.

    La Mesa CA

    • D. S. Kamp says:

      Actually it is less “unconstitutional” than this administration’s denial of the first right mentioned in the first amendment of the Bill of Rights.

  6. CRF says:

    You should demand your tuition money back if you are too stupid to be able to tell the difference between banning birth control–which no one is asking for–and demanding people decide between violating a regulation and obeying their religious precepts.

    • Carla, RN says:

      CRF, what about the “religious rights” of non Catholics attending the college, university, or grad school. What about the religious right of those working in Catholic institutions, who may not be Catholic. Don’t their rights count? I am not speaking of a church. A church has every right to not cover contraception if it so chooses, but a church does not take government funds, a Catholic INSTITUTION, such a hospital, college or university does take government funding and therefore must follow government rules.

  7. Carla, RN says:

    If anyone is completely against abortion, they should be supportive of the idea of making contraception free to women or covered in their insurance plans. We should supply free condoms to men, too. Viagra is included in all insurance plans! I do not understand how someone who wishes to overturn Roe v Wade, still wants to either ban contraception or give institutions that receive goverment funds the ability to refuse to pay for contraception. Many women take the hormones that are in contraceptive medications for reasons other than birth control.
    Some people cite that making religious institutions pay for insurance that covers contraception is “violating the religious rights of the institution.” However, what about the religious rights of the employees or students in that institution? Don’t they count? No one has said that “churches” have to have insurance plans that include birth control, we are speaking of religious institutions that readily accept government funds, such as Medicaid, Medicare, and other federal funds that help students obtain govenment aid to attend the religious college, university or post graduate school. Apparently stepping on the religious rights of the non Catholic employees or students is quite acceptable in the views of some persons.

  8. bess moore says:

    I’d like to see the number of abandoned, abused children reduced, too. Where are our priorities. Some people should not be allowed to reproduce.

  9. bess moore says:

    Where are men’s responsibility when it comes to birth control? Nonexistant? If I remember correctly, it takes two people to make a baby!

  10. Sandra Brown says:

    Way to go, AAUW!

  11. suetiggers says:

    I was pleased to see IMUS jump into this and make some very strong remarks against Limbaugh

  12. luvkeith says:

    This devil in disguise creature should be dropped from every radio station. Start making calls.

  13. Imogene Gunnels says:

    If the candidates running for president don’t have the “guts” to stand up to Rush Limbaugh they don’t have the leadership qualities to stand up to the power anywhere–Russia, China, Iran or powerful international businesses and groups.

  14. Narda says:

    AAUW this is not only an issue of birth control. This is prescriptive medication used for women’s health to control everything from excessive bleeding, frequency of menstruation, and the control of pain. How can men allow their wives and daughters to suffer when there is a medication which has been used over 40 years to be denied because it is also used for birth control.

    • Kathi R. Clark says:

      You are so right! I have severe endometriosis, having had two surgeries already, and birth control is the main medication I use to keep it at bay. I call it endometriosis control, and after my second surgery it has helped control my pain to be minimal.

  15. Rosemary Graham-Gardner says:

    Most men lack cojones and sense of responsibility..In the case of an unwanted pregnancy, there are many victims: most and for all the Child and then the Mother and the progenitor zips up his pants to go and dip his biscuit in another coffie. I Just want to see one single man standing up to that FAT misogynist buffoon. Men are the weaker sex. They don’t have any cojones to stand up to correct such wanking hypocritical misogynist and ignorant idiots..

  16. Suzanne Balk says:

    Thanks AAUW for getting into the fray…..this is like the days past when Branches across the country made activism for ERA, Pro-Choice and women’s issues a priority instead of bridge and garden clubs. This is what builds an organization and increases membership.

    • suetiggers says:

      Suzanne you are so right !! and I so miss those days…when it felt like women (and good men) united…we’ll never be defeated… It felt like we changed America.. now we need it again !

  17. Marilyn Morton says:

    Our Republican Speaker of the House Steve Tilley of Missouri intends to honor Limbaugh with a place in the Hall of Famous Missourians, a ring of busts in the Capital rotunda recognizing prominent Missourians.
    I certainly hope he hears from women throughout our area that it is an outrage toward women to honor such a person.

  18. Shayna says:

    I am a U.S. citizen who has been watching all of this unfold from outside the U.S. I have always felt that birth control was actually a matter of responsibility. I do not want a child nor would I as a recent graduate be able to afford to properly care for one. Isn’t taking the responsibility to not get pregnant in the first place better than having to contemplate a possible abortion later? Also if they are going to target birth control for women shouldn’t they do the same for men (and also subsequently provide state funded daycare for the amount of children these types of situations could result in)? Are men going to be restricted in their access to condoms? Will they have to provide proof of marriage or a doctor’s note saying that their condoms are medically necessary? Shouldn’t viagra and similar drugs also be found ‘morally’ objectionable? If you naturally are not able to conceive a child isn’t that the way ‘god’ intended you to be? I fully support the Viagra Bill in Ohio right now that would force men to have to have a long conversation with their doctor about why they need it, and under go stress tests. These bills are utterly ridiculous, these are issues that were suppose to be settled long before I was even born, although I am not naive enough to think the fight for equality is anywhere near over. There are things that I find objectionable, but my morals or religious preference is not the same as the other 300,000,000 people in the U.S. Maybe I have just been outside the states too long, but I don’t think I should be restricted from being a responsible citizen.

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