It's been exactly a month since Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke testified before House Democrats in support of a private insurance mandate for contraceptives coverage—sparking national controversy, debate and support—and she's still on a roll. Fluke was in Portland last night to receive the first ever "Care No Matter What" award from Planned Parenthood at the organization's yearly gala. I caught her on the phone on the car ride from the airport for a quick Q and A.
MERCURY: How do you think your statement to the House and ensuing comments, especially from Rush Limbaugh, effected the national reproductive rights discussion?
FLUKE: I think the main thing, and my goal, is to refocus the conversation on women's health. People are become more concerned and aware that real women are effected by this policy. A lot of people didn't know that birth control is a vital need for some women with health problems, it's more than just a contraception. I think it's really helped reshift the overall discussion.
You've become this face for contraception rights over the matter of a few days. What have you learned from being thrown into the public sphere so quickly as this leader in women's rights?
It's been overwhelming, I really haven't had enough time to reflect on it yet. I'm extremely heartened by the support I've gotten from people across the country, it's amazing. To have an issue previously viewed as controversial politics thrown into the media spotlight is really important and I'm glad I could help get it to that point.
In your response to Limbaugh's "apology" you said that his attempt to silence you and other women using contraception is in vain. What are your next steps in staying involved with the national debate?
Well first, I'm going to try my hardest to graduate from law school. I'm also working with different media outlets, like the Huffington Post, to raise awareness for affordable health care benefits. I'm also working on a campaign on campuses across the country, organizing with students to make sure that they know their university could change its contraceptive insurance coverage right now.
How has this experience influenced your view on mass media/social media when dealing with political issues?
I'm disappointed in the extent that commentators have created a wealth of misinformation on this issue. A lot of people think that women are just asking for a government handout, which isn't the deal at all. This is for people who pay for private insurance already and deserve total coverage. Also, a lot of commentators think that contraception is still easy for women to attain, calling it a much ado about nothing. Unfortunately, this is also wrong.
So what does this Planned Parenthood recognition mean to you tonight?
I'm really touched to receive this award. It's also my first time at this gala, so I'm really looking forward to the entire event. Unfortunately I can't stay in Portland long enough to do much of anything, I'm actually flying out directly after the event tonight.
You're a busy lady. How are you balancing school and everything with your crazy schedule?
Not well! I'm really thankful to get some pro bono help from colleagues right now. We'll see how I manage...