Six months ago, Sandra Fluke was a third-year law student at Georgetown University who was denied the opportunity to speak at a House hearing on contraceptive coverage in the health care law. Today, she shared the prime time hour of the Democratic National Convention with former Pres. Bill Clinton.
Last week, Fluke and I spoke about the role of women’s health issues in the 2012 election for a longer story. You can read that here. What follows is a full transcript of our conversation, where we discussed the issue more fully – as well as her new found fame on the subject:
Sarah Kliff: Looking back on the past year, and everything that happened since that hearing, did you expect things to develop as they have?
Sandra Fluke: No, I really didn’t see it developing into everything it has. I think that obviously these are issues I’ve been concerned about for a long time and always worked on, as part of my dedication and advancing the public interest. But I certainly didn’t anticipate that it would become such a part of the campaign.
Beyond just my personal investment though, you can kind of see this coming. In the last two years, the amount of legislation in the House of Representatives and state legislatures has been really unprecedented, that has focused on reproductive rights.
SK: What do you think explains that spike in legislation?
SF: We’ve seen, for a long time now, the most conservative elements of the Republican party coming out. In that sense, it’s not a surprise that we’re having this conversation. And it’s important that people are talking about this rather than it just being something Congress legislates. People realize their lives are being effected.
SK: Some of the laws that are getting a lot of attention this year, like the required ultrasounds in Virginia, previously passed with little fanfare. Why do you think they’re getting so much traction now?
SF: Because it effects all of our lives. It’s unfortunate that there’s such a disconnect between what’s happening on our legislatures and what the public knows about, the consequences what that means for ourselves, our mothers and our wives.
I find it so offensive when people say it’s a distraction that we’re talking about these issues. Women are half this country. These issues are important to us, our health, our abiltiy to afford the health care. They matter to us on a daily basis, so they should be part of the conversation.
SK: This is something that the Democratic campaign is talking a lot about; you’ve even appeared at a rally with President Obama. What do you think it is that makes this a salient issue for Democratic voters?
SF: These are issues that always resonate with women. We’ve seen research that women do take these issues into account when they vote. It’s a real focal point this year because we’re seeing really extreme statements and positions. Mr. Romney and Mr. Ryan are in lock step with those extreme positions. There’s a very clear contrast this year.
With President Obama, there’s a feeling that he gets it. He has women in his life. He knows that our health care is important, that it’s important able to get access to the care that we need when we need it. That’s what translates. Women hear that when they hear him speak about these issues. He will be a champion and will defend us when we needs.
SK: When you talk to voters, how do you hear them talking about these issues in the context of the campaign and how they’ll vote?
SF: It’s sad, in a way, because when we saw those remarks from Rep. [Todd] Akin, and talked about the policies that he and Rep. Ryan have endorsed, I had women talk to me about their own sexual assaults. I didn’t realize that it had happened to them. It’s very important to women who have experienced these things. You can see that passion in this election.