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Peg McEntee: Contraceptive crusader Sandra Fluke still fighting

Published May 4, 2013 5:08 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Last year, Sandra Fluke spoke to a congressional committee and at the Democratic National Convention. Her fight to get insurance coverage for birth control at the Catholic Georgetown University earned her a truly nasty cheap shot from Rush Limbaugh, who ultimately issued a tepid apology.

She also graduated from Georgetown's law school and continues work as an advocate for social justice, with a sharp focus on reproductive rights for women, men and immigrants on the path to citizenship.

Her mission includes free legal work for victims of human trafficking in the sex trade and forced labor.

On Friday, at Planned Parenthood of Utah's annual Liberty Luncheon, Fluke said, "There was more than one victory in 2012, other than President [Barack] Obama's election. I passed the bar!" (That would be the California bar exam, making her a licensed attorney at age 32.)

Fluke spoke of the world facing Americans of her age — also known as the Millennial Generation. For her, it involves what she calls a beautiful vision.

"Reproductive justice is the fight for all people to have children … and to parent them as they wish, free from violence, discrimination and need," she said. "It fights for the things we've always fought for, like access to contraception, abortion [and] family planning."

For men, it's care for testicular cancer, for example. Fluke also wants to ensure that military veterans who may have been wounded in ways that could prevent them from having children have assisted reproductive technologies.

For same-sex couples, it's about health care and the ability to parent children, either by adoption or conception.

"This is a vision," Fluke said, " … that connects all different social-justice movements."

That would include the labor movement and workers' possible exposure to toxins. She foresees a more inclusive and racially aware vision of justice, including eliminating "racially biased child welfare policies."

As for immigrants, Fluke told a story.

"You've heard about the pathway to citizenship, when women will be paying taxes [and] working here legally as part of the community," she said. "But even if they're paying taxes, they won't have access to Medicaid, Medicare and the Affordable Care Act."

Even after becoming a permanent resident with a green card, Fluke said, the wait for acceptance in federal health programs is likely to take years. Under the act's individual mandate, residents are required to have insurance, which could be unaffordable given that they're ineligible for savings and rebates, Fluke said.

"That leaves our sisters out in the cold," she said, "and leaves our health care system broken."

After the luncheon, I asked her what she'd learned in the past year.

"I was inspired by the number of people who came together and supported … the policies I was fighting for," she replied. "It makes me feel like these are fights that can be won, and that we should take on, because occasionally we're able to win one."

How long will this last?

"It's good work," she said. "It's got to be done."

I have a strong hunch that Fluke, and her allies in Utah and across the county, really will get it done.

Peg McEntee is a news columnist. Reach her at pegmcentee@sltrib.com, facebook.com and Twitter, @Peg McEntee.