Sandra Fluke: I will not be silenced

Sandra Fluke is clearly not concerned about the risk of overexposure — but she might not need to be. Liberal outlets continue to praise her as the mainstream voice that will end sexual shaming and usher in a new era of respect for the “reproductive rights” of women. For those of us who disagree with her, though, this debate is getting old primarily because it’s going nowhere.

Most recently, Fluke authored an op-ed for CNN to restate the case that she thinks has been so distorted by talkers and writers on the right. Here’s an excerpt:

These attempts to silence women and the men who support them have clearly failed. I know this because I have received so many messages of support from across the country — women and men speaking out because they agree that contraception needs to be treated as a basic health care service.

Who are these supporters?

They are women with polycystic ovarian syndrome, who need contraception to prevent cysts from growing on their ovaries, which if unaddressed can lead to infertility and deadly ovarian cancer. They are sexual assault victims, who need contraception to prevent unwanted pregnancy.

They are Catholic women, who see no conflict between their social justice -based faith and family planning. They are new moms, whose doctors fear that another pregnancy too soon could jeopardize the mother’s health and the potential child’s health too. They are mothers and grandmothers who remember all too well what it was like to be called names decades ago, when they were fighting for a job, for health care benefits, for equality.

They are husbands, partners, boyfriends and male friends who know that without access to contraception, the women they care about can face unfair obstacles to participating in public life. And yes, they are young women of all income levels, races, classes and ethnicities who need access to contraception to control their reproduction, pursue their education and career goals and prevent unintended pregnancy. And they will not be silenced.

It’s a well-written op-ed, but, for those who saw her testimony or who have followed the subsequent controversy, it’s not worth reading in its entirety. Why? It says nothing new.

Fluke doesn’t seem to grasp that anyone could have heard her arguments and actually disagreed with them. Her premise is still that women have a right to insurance that covers contraception because they have a right to have sex without the fear of pregnancy.

Fluke shows very little respect for reality. The reality is that (a) the exercise of a right generally doesn’t cost somebody else something and, if it does, that might be a clue the so-called “right” is not actually a right and (b) the only completely foolproof way to prevent pregnancy is to abstain from sex. The possibility of pregnancy — even with contraception — is part of the reality of sex.

Fluke thinks objectors don’t understand that she’s not asking taxpayers to directly subsidize her birth control. She’s asking insurance companies to include contraception coverage in the plans they develop for clients (a.k.a. religious employers) that don’t want contraception coverage included in the plans. That shows little respect for the prerogative of the insurance company to include in its plans whatever it wants to assume risk for — and no more. It shows little respect for the prerogative of an employer to negotiate for a group rate for a plan that doesn’t violate his conscience. If Fluke and her Georgetown classmates want to purchase insurance that covers contraception, they are free to do so — such plans exist to meet the demand — but they are not then free to avail themselves of the group insurance rate negotiated for by an employer that opposes contraception for religious reasons. Simple enough.

Women who have sex when they’re not in a position to become pregnant are engaging in a risky behavior that triggers the need for contraception. Women like that on an insurance plan that does cover contraception are driving premiums up for everyone on that plan. As a woman who is not engaging in that risky behavior, I’d like to have the option to purchase an insurance plan that doesn’t cover contraception.


Like Fluke, I am not alone. Who are the people who share my opinion?

They are women with polycystic ovarian syndrome, who use one of the many other forms of medication available to treat their condition. They are sexual assault victims, who, in the midst of the horror and trauma they’ve experienced, find healing in the embrace of life and the love of a child.

They are Catholic women who affirm the Church’s teaching on contraception, recognizing that openness to life in all its fullness is the fundamental posture from which to engage reality. They are new moms who use natural methods or breast feeding to space the births of their children — and exult in how “in tune” with their bodies they become as a result. They are mothers and grandmothers who remember all too well what it was like to be denigrated by their fellow women for their decision to be at-home wives and the primary caretakers of their children.

They are husbands, partners, boyfriends and male friends who respect a woman’s fertility, who recognize that pregnancy is a possibility even with contraception and are ready and willing to embrace the responsibility of fatherhood and/or committed to forgoing sex if they’re not. And yes, they are young women of all income levels, races, classes and ethnicities who choose to wait to have sex until they are prepared for whatever the consequences of the decision to have sex might be. And we will not be silenced.


This is not a plea for Sandra Fluke to become like me. It is a plea for her and for others like her to recognize that (a) some men and women legitimately object to contraception on religious grounds and (b) to recognize that some women — even women who don’t object to contraception in general — legitimately do not think all insurance plans should be made by the federal government to cover contraception. It is a plea for her to respect that.

Before Rush Limbaugh called Sandra Fluke a “sl-t” and a “prostitute,” I watched the video of her testimony. Based on the evidence of that testimony, I didn’t think she was either of the words Rush Limbaugh used, but I thought she was unbelievably spoiled and disdainful of the opinions of others. Nothing that I have seen or read since then has changed my opinion of her. How I’d love for something to change it now!

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