"If you don't want your tax dollars to help the poor, then stop saying you want a country based on Christian values, because you don't." Jimmy Carter
“I think if Thomas Jefferson were looking down, the author of the Bill of Rights, on what’s being proposed here, he’d agree with it. He would agree that the First Amendment cannot be absolute.” - Chuck Schumer (D). Yet, Madison and Mason wrote the Bill of Rights, according to Sheila Jackson Lee, 400 years ago. Yup, it's a fact.
"I think the best way of doing good to the poor, is not making them easy in poverty, but leading or driving them out of it." --Benjamin Franklin 1776
Have any of you actually read what she said?
"Leader Pelosi, members of Congress, good morning, and thank you for calling this hearing on women's health and for allowing me to testify on behalf of the women who will benefit from the Affordable Care Act contraceptive coverage regulation.
My name is Sandra Fluke, and I'm a third-year student at Georgetown Law School. I'm also a past president of Georgetown Law Students for Reproductive Justice, or LSRJ. And I'd like to acknowledge my fellow LSRJ members and allies, and all of the student activists with us, and thank them so much for being here today.
We, as Georgetown LSRJ, are here today because we're so grateful that this regulation implements the nonpartisan medical advice of the Institute of Medicine. I attend a Jesuit law school that does not provide contraceptive coverage in its student health plan. And just as we students have faced financial, emotional and medical burdens as a result, employees at religiously affiliated hospitals and institutions and universities across the country have suffered similar burdens. We are all grateful for the new regulation that will meet the critical health care needs of so many women. Simultaneously, the recently announced adjustment addresses any potential conflict with the religious identity of Catholic and Jesuit institutions.
When I look around my campus, I see the faces of the women affected by this lack of contraceptive coverage. And especially in the last week, I have heard more and more of their stories. On a daily basis, I hear from yet another woman from Georgetown or from another school or who works for a religiously affiliated employer, and they tell me that they have suffered financially, emotionally and medically, because of this lack of coverage. And so I'm here today to share their voices, and I want to thank you for allowing them -- them, not me -- to be heard.
Without insurance coverage, contraception, as you know, can cost a woman over $3,000 during law school. For a lot of students who, like me, are on public interest scholarships, that's practically an entire summer's salary. Forty percent of the female students at Georgetown Law reported to us that they've struggled financially as a result of this policy.
One told us of how embarrassed and just powerless she felt when she was standing at the pharmacy counter and learned for the first time that contraception was not covered on her insurance, and she had to turn and walk away because she couldn't afford that prescription. Women like her have no choice but to go without contraception.
Just last week, a married female student told me that she had to stop using contraception because she and her husband just couldn't fit it into their budget any more. Women employed in low-wage jobs without contraceptive coverage face this same choice.
And some might respond that contraception is accessible in lots of other ways. Unfortunately, that's just not true. Women's health clinics provide a vital medical service, but, as the Guttmacher Institute has definitively documented, these clinics are unable to meet the crushing demand for these services. Clinics are closing, and women are being forced to go without the medical care they need.
How can Congress consider the Fortenberry, Rubio and Blunt legislation, that would allow even more employers and institutions to refuse contraception coverage, and then respond that the nonprofit clinics should step up to take care of the resulting medical crisis; particularly when so many legislators are attempting to defund those very same clinics?
These denials of contraceptive coverage impact real people. In the worst cases, women who need this medication for other medical reasons suffer very dire consequences. A friend of mine, for example, has polycystic ovarian syndrome, and she has to take prescription birth control to stop cysts from growing on her ovaries. Her prescription is technically covered by Georgetown's insurance, because it's not intended to prevent pregnancy. Unfortunately, under many religious institutions' insurance plans, it wouldn't be. There would be no exception for other medical needs. And under Senator Blunt's amendment, Senator Rubio's bill or Representative Fortenberry's bill, there's no requirement that such an exception be made for these medical needs.
When this exception does exist, these exceptions don't accomplish their well-intended goals, because when you let university administrators or other employers, rather than women and their doctors, dictate whose medical needs are legitimate and whose are not, a woman's health takes a backseat to a bureaucracy focused on policing her body. In 65 percent of the cases at our school, our female students were interrogated by insurance representatives and university medical staff about why they needed prescriptions and whether they were lying about their symptoms. For my friend, and 20 percent of the women in her situation, she never got the insurance company to cover her prescription. Despite verification of her illness from her doctor, her claim was denied repeatedly on the assumption that she really wanted birth control to prevent pregnancy. She's gay -- so clearly, polycystic ovarian syndrome was a much more urgent concern than accidental pregnancy for her.
After months of paying over $100 out of pocket, she just couldn't afford her medication anymore, and she had to stop taking it. I learned about all of this when I walked out of a test and got a message from her that, in the middle of the night in her final-exam period, she'd been in the emergency room. She'd been there all night in just terrible, excruciating pain. She wrote to me: "It was so painful I woke up thinking I'd been shot." Without her taking the birth control, a massive cyst the size of a tennis ball had grown on her ovary. She had to have surgery to remove her entire ovary as a result. On the morning I was originally scheduled to give this testimony, she was sitting in a doctor's office trying to cope with the consequences of this medical catastrophe.