Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke was finally given a chance to talk to Congress today.
Last Thursday, the Republican-controlled House Oversight and Government Reform Committee rejected Democrats' request that Fluke testify on the Obama administration's policy requiring that employees of religion-affiliated institutions have access to health insurance that covers birth control. In fact, no women were included in the hearing's first panel of witnesses.
Today, she testified at an unofficial Democratic-sponsored hearing (news cameras were allowed, but it was not covered by House-operated TV cameras).
"I'm an American woman who uses contraceptives," Fluke said, when asked by Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., about her qualifications to speak on the issue. "That makes me qualified to talk to my elected officials about my health care needs."
Fluke, a third-year law student, said that Georgetown Law, a Jesuit institution, does not provide contraception coverage in its student health plan and that contraception can cost a woman more than $3,000 during law school.
She 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.
It was the same story Fluke movingly told on msnbc's The Ed Show on the very evening she was silenced at that Feb. 16 GOP hearing.
"She had to pay out of pocket about $100 a month for her, month after month after month," Fluke said last week on The Ed Show. "And eventually she just couldn't afford it like many students just cannot afford that kind of a cost."
Fluke also spoke today of the confusion caused such policies, mentioning a woman who did not seek medical treatment after being raped because she believed Georgetown didn't provide coverage for women's "sexual health care."
Committee chairman Darrell Issa (R) had said at last week's hearing that the panel's focus was on whether the administration policy was a violation of religious freedom. He said at the time that Fluke, invited by Democrats in her capacity as former head of Georgetown Law Students for Reproductive Justice, was not qualified to speak on the religious rights question.
Democrats pounced on that image of a hearing discussing contraceptive rights being dominated by men while the one person Democrats had asked to appear on the witness stand, a woman, was turned away. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said they had since heard from 300,000 people urging that women's voices be heard on the issue.
Ed will have a lot more to say about this story tonight on The Ed Show at 8pET on msnbc!