Sandra Fluke testimony entered in Congressional Record by Senator Barbara Boxer

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Sandra Fluke testimony entered in Congressional Record by Senator Barbara Boxer  (2012) 
by Barbara Levy Boxer
Source: 2012 Congressional Record, Vol. 158, Pg. S1135 , see also text based version.
Congressional Record, February 29, 2012, United States Senate, Pages S1135 - S1137.
Sandra Fluke reading her prepared testimony; video by Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Democratic Party.

Sandra Fluke testimony entered in Congressional Record by Senator Barbara Boxer


HON. BARBARA BOXER

OF CALIFORNIA
IN THE UNITED STATES SENATE

February 29, 2012


Madam President, I ask unanimous consent to have printed in the Record the testimony of a woman who tried very hard to be allowed to speak with a panel of men at a congressional hearing.

There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the Record, as follows:


       [From the Law Students for Reproductive Justice Chapter]
         Testimony From Law Student Barred From House Hearing
      Members of Congress, good morning, and thank you for 
    allowing me to testify. My name is Sandra Fluke, and I'm a 
    third year student at Georgetown Law, a Jesuit school. I'm 
    also a past president of Georgetown Law Students for 
    Reproductive Justice or LSRJ. I'd like to acknowledge my 
    fellow LSRJ members and allies and thank them for being here 
    today.
      Georgetown LSRJ is 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 contraception coverage in 
    student health plans. Just as we students have faced 
    financial, emotional, and medical burdens as a result, 
    employees at religiously affiliated hospitals 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.
      As I have watched national media coverage of this debate, 
    it has been heartbreaking to see women's health treated as a 
    political football. When I turn off the TV and look around my 
    campus, I instead see the faces of the women affected, and I 
    have heard more and more of their stories. You see, 
    Georgetown does not cover contraceptives in its student 
    insurance, although it does cover contraceptives for faculty 
    and staff. On a daily basis, I hear from yet another woman 
    who has suffered financial, emotional, and medical burdens 
    because of this lack of contraceptive coverage. And so, I am 
    here to share their voices and ask that you hear them.
      Without insurance coverage, contraception 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 
    female students at Georgetown Law report struggling 
    financially as a result of this policy. One told us of how 
    embarrassed and powerless she felt when she was standing at 
    the pharmacy counter, learning for the first time that 
    contraception wasn't covered, and had to walk away because 
    she couldn't afford it. Students like her have no choice but 
    to go without contraception. Just on Tuesday, a married 
    female student told me she had to stop using contraception 
    because she couldn't afford it any longer.
      You might respond that contraception is accessible in lots 
    of other ways. Unfortunately, that's not true. Women's health 
    clinics provide vital medical services, but as the Guttmacher 
    Institute has documented, clinics are unable to meet the 
    crushing demand for these services. Clinics are closing and 
    women are being forced to go without. How can Congress 
    consider allowing even more employers and institutions to 
    refuse contraceptive coverage and then respond that the non-
    profit 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 dire consequences. A friend of mine, 
    for example, has polycystic ovarian syndrome and has to take 
    prescription birth control to stop cysts from growing on her 
    ovaries. Her prescription is technically covered by 
    Georgetown insurance because it's not intended to prevent 
    pregnancy. At many schools, it wouldn't be, and under Senator 
    Blunt's amendment, Senator Rubio's bill, or Representative 
    Fortenberry's bill, there's no requirement that an exception 
    be made for such medical needs. When they do 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 good enough and whose aren't, a woman's health 
    takes a back seat to a bureaucracy focused on policing her 
    body.
      In sixty-five percent of cases, our female students were 
    interrogated by insurance representatives and university 
    medical staff about why they need these prescriptions and 
    whether they're lying about their symptoms. For my friend, 
    and 20% of 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 
    the birth control to prevent pregnancy. She's gay, so clearly 
    polycystic ovarian syndrome was a much more urgent concern 
    than accidental pregnancy. After months of paying over $100 
    out of pocket, she just couldn't afford her medication 
    anymore and 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 her final exam period she'd been in the 
    emergency room all night in excruciating pain. She wrote, 
    "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. She's not here this 
    morning. She's in a doctor's office right now. Since last 
    year's surgery, she's been experiencing night sweats, weight 
    gain, and other symptoms of early menopause as a result of 
    the removal of her ovary. She's 32 years old. As she put it: 
    "If my body is indeed in early menopause, no fertility 
    specialist in the world will be able to help me have my 
    own children. I will have no chance at giving my mother 
    her desperately desired grandbabies, simply because the 
    insurance policy that I paid for totally unsubsidized by 
    my school wouldn't cover my prescription for birth control 
    when I needed it." Now, in addition to facing the health 
    complications that come with having menopause at an early 
    age--increased risk of cancer, heart disease, 
    osteoporosis, she may never be able to be a mom.
      Perhaps you think my friend's tragic story is rare. It's 
    not. One student told us doctors believe she has 
    endometriosis, but it can't be proven without surgery, so the 
    insurance hasn't been willing to cover her medication. Last 
    week, a friend of mine told me that she also has polycystic ovarian syndrome. 
      She's struggling to pay for her medication 
    and is terrified to not have access to it. Due to the 
    barriers erected by Georgetown's policy, she hasn't been 
    reimbursed for her medication since last August. I sincerely 
    pray that we don't have to wait until she loses an ovary or 
    is diagnosed with cancer before her needs and the needs of 
    all of these women are taken seriously.
      This is the message that not requiring coverage of 
    contraception sends. A woman's reproductive healthcare isn't 
    a necessity, isn't a priority. One student told us that she 
    knew birth control wasn't covered, and she assumed that's how 
    Georgetown's insurance handled all of women's sexual 
    healthcare, so when she was raped, she didn't go to the 
    doctor even to be examined or tested for sexually transmitted 
    infections because she thought insurance wasn't going to 
    cover something like that, something that was related to a 
    woman's reproductive health. As one student put it, "this 
    policy communicates to female students that our school 
    doesn't understand our needs." These are not feelings that 
    male fellow students experience. And they're not burdens that 
    male students must shoulder.
      In the media lately, conservative Catholic organizations 
    have been asking: what did we expect when we enrolled at a 
    Catholic school? We can only answer that we expected women to 
    be treated equally, to not have our school create untenable 
    burdens that impede our academic success. We expected that 
    our schools would live up to the Jesuit creed of cura 
    personalis, to care for the whole person, by meeting all of 
    our medical needs. We expected that when we told our 
    universities of the problems this policy created for 
    students, they would help us. We expected that when 94% of 
    students opposed the policy, the university would respect our 
    choices regarding insurance students pay for completely 
    unsubsidized by the university, especially when the 
    university already provides contraceptive coverage to faculty 
    and staff. We did not expect that women would be told in the 
    national media that if we wanted comprehensive insurance that 
    met our needs, not just those of men, we should have gone to 
    school elsewhere, even if that meant a less prestigious 
    university. We refuse to pick between a quality education and 
    our health, and we resent that, in the 21st century, anyone 
    thinks it's acceptable to ask us to make this choice simply 
    because we are women.
      Many of the students whose stories I've shared are Catholic 
    women, so ours is not a war against the church. It is a 
    struggle for access to the healthcare we need. The President 
    of the Association of Jesuit Colleges has shared that Jesuit 
    colleges and universities appreciate the modification to the 
    rule announced last week. Religious concerns are addressed 
    and women get the healthcare they need. That is something we 
    can all agree on. Thank you.

Mrs. BOXER. Madam President, this is a panel of men who were called by House Republican Chairman Issa to testify about women's health--not one woman there, but they were the experts. They denied this woman the chance to speak. If she had been allowed to speak, this is what she wanted to say:

She had a friend who went to the doctor, and the friend had a cyst on her ovary. The doctor said: You have to take birth control. That is going to help. Those pills are going to help reduce the size of that cyst.

She couldn't afford the birth control pills and her employer wouldn't cover them, so she couldn't take them. She is a student. She wrote her friend saying that the cyst "was so painful, I woke up thinking I'd been shot."

I will quote part of the friend's testimony relaying what her friend told her.

      Without 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. She's not here this 
    morning. She's in a doctor's office right now. Since last 
    year's surgery, she has been experiencing night sweats, 
    weight gain, and other symptoms of early menopause as a 
    result of the removal of her ovary. She's 32 years old. As 
    she put it, "If my body is indeed in early menopause, no 
    fertility specialist in the world will be able to help me 
    have my own children. I will have no chance of giving my 
    mother her desperately desired grandbabies, simply because 
    the insurance policy that I paid for totally unsubsidized by 
    my school wouldn't cover my prescription for birth control 
    when I needed it."

And so her friend says:

      Now, in addition to facing the health complications that 
    come with having menopause at an early age--increased risk of 
    cancer, heart disease, osteoporosis--she may never be able to 
    be a mom.


So when we talk about the Blunt amendment, we are not talking about some obtuse issue, we are not talking about some philosophical issue. What we are talking about when we talk about the Blunt amendment is a young woman, a student at law school who couldn't afford to pay for the birth control pills which would have saved her fertility, which would have saved her horrific pain--a painful operation where she lost her ovary simply because she couldn't have access to her birth control pills.

This is not about some argument that doesn't have real consequences for our people. The Presiding Officer's constituents and my constituents deserve to have access to preventive care. They deserve to have access to essential health care. The Blunt amendment will take that away from them. It will take that away from them. And all on a highway bill. All on a highway bill.

So let's keep the Blunt amendment away from this highway bill. This highway bill is a product of strong bipartisanship, as the Presiding Officer has told the Senate. Let's keep it clean. Let's keep out these extraneous amendments that will roll back environmental laws that are cleaning up the air, that will keep the arsenic and the mercury out of the air and the lead out of the air. Let's not roll back these laws on a highway bill. Let's get the highway bill done. When we have other arguments about other issues, let's put those issues on a relevant bill.

This is the time now for us to pull together, not pull apart. The Nation needs us to work together. It is an election year, and it is a difficult time. There is a lot of name-calling going on out there on the campaign trail, but we are still here, last I checked, and we are supposed to be doing our work for the American people. We have a chance to do it on this highway bill. Let's defeat the Blunt amendment in the morning.

I thank my friends for coming over to the floor and speaking so eloquently today against this dangerous, precedent-setting Blunt amendment that will turn back the clock on women's health and on our families' health.

I yield the floor, and I suggest the absence of a quorum. ____________________

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).