Contraception battle moves to Colorado

By Kay Steiger
Tuesday, August 7, 2012 12:06 EDT
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Georgetown Law student Sandra Fluke testifies on contraception.
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Sandra Fluke, the unexpected face of the Affordable Care Act’s birth control mandate, campaigns for Obama in Denver the same week that an extreme wing of the anti-choice movement gathered enough signatures for a “personhood” ballot measure this fall in Colorado. The measure would define life as beginning at fertilization, effectively banning birth control.

The Obama campaign confirmed with The Hill on Tuesday that Fluke would speak at a campaign event on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, The Daily Beast reported that the Personhood Colorado gathered 112,000 signatures, enough to get an initiative on the ballot this fall that would legally define life as beginning at fertilization, effectively outlawing birth control and abortion. This is the third time the organization faces a statewide vote, garnering only about 30 percent of the vote in 2008 and 2010.

Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains vowed to defeat the initiative again to local Colorado press, releasing a statement that said, “Personal, private medical decisions would be taken out of a woman’s hands, and controlled by politicians and the government … These decisions are best left to a woman, her family, and her faith.”

Fluke became a central figure in the debate over a mandate in the Affordable Care Act that requires birth control to be covered with no co-pay because it is qualified as preventative care. Religious conservatives objected, saying employers who opposed contraception on religious grounds should not be obligated to cover contraception. Republicans blocked Fluke from testifying before a House committee, opting instead to have an all-male panel insist that coverage of birth control conflicted with religious freedom.

Democrats then subsequently held their own panel so that Fluke could testify, in which she insisted, “I’m an American woman who uses contraception, so let’s start right there. That makes me qualified to talk to my elected officials about my health care needs.”

Rush Limbaugh weighed in on the debate, saying that Fluke was a “slut” and that insisted she post sex videos online so taxpayers could see what they were paying for. Limbaugh later apologized when ratings in some markets tanked and advertisers fled after controversy over his remarks.

In June, Fluke said she wouldn’t engage in a “playground mouth battle” with the right.

The Obama administration resolved the issue with a compromise that mandated that health insurance companies cover the cost of contraception, not employers. The mandate became effective on Aug. 1.

The Guttmacher Institute found that in 2006, more than 1 million women ages 13 to 44 in Colorado were in need of contraceptive services.

Personhood USA was also unsuccessful in passing a similar initiative in Mississippi last fall, when 55 percent of voters rejected the measure.

Kay Steiger
Kay Steiger
Kay Steiger is the managing editor of Raw Story. Her contributions have appeared in The American Prospect, The Atlantic, Campus Progress, The Guardian, In These Times, Jezebel, Religion Dispatches, RH Reality Check, and others. You can follow her on Twitter @kaysteiger.
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