On Contraception, AAUW Makes Sure Women Will Be HeardFebruary 24, 2012
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.