Georgetown Invites Sandra Fluke to Talk to Undergrads About Contraception; Bans 'Outside Press'

April 16, 2012 - 5:03 PM

Sandra Fluke

Georgetown Law student Sandra Fluke testifying in February before the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee. (AP Photo)

(CNSNews.com) - Georgetown University, a Catholic institution run by the Jesuit order, invited Sandra Fluke to talk to undergraduate students at its main campus on Monday on the subject of contraception.

The event--billed as “A Conversation with Sandra Fluke on Contraception Access”--was closed to “outside press” and to the public.

Fluke, a student at Georgetown Law School, became a national figure in February when she testified at a House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee hearing put together by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California. Fluke explained to that all-Democratic panel why she favored a regulation issued by the Department of Health and Human Services, under the Obamacare legislation, that will require virtually all health insurance plans in the United States to provide free sterilizations and all FDA-approved contraceptives, including those that cause abortions.

Because the Catholic Church teaches that sterilization, artificial contraception and abortion are wrong, the regulation would require Catholic individuals and institutions to act against their consciences and the teachings of their church. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has described the regulation Fluke has been advocating as an “unprecedented” attack on religious liberty.

In her testimony before the Democratic panel, Fluke discussed the hardships she believes women at Georgetown Law School have experienced because the current student health plan at the school does not cover contraceptives.

CNSNews.com contacted the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., headed by Cardinal Donald Wuerl, to see if the archdiocese wanted to comment about Fluke being invited to speak to students at a Catholic university in the archdiocese. A spokeswomen for the archdiocese declined to comment and referred CNSNews.com to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops for comment on the issue. The U.S.C.C.B did not respond to inquiries made on Monday.

Fluke’s talk was sponsored by The Lecture Fund of Georgetown University. “The Georgetown University Lecture Fund is a non-partisan student-run organization that exists to enrich the academic experience of the Georgetown community,” the fund says on its website.

“At the beginning of each academic year, the Student Activities Commission (SAC) allocates money to the Lecture Fund,” says the site. "Once a week throughout the year, Associate Members meet with the Chair, the Vice-Chair for Internal Affairs, and the Vice-Chair for External Affairs, discussing and deliberating about different potential speakers coming to campus and about how to allocate these funds."

The Lecture Fund posted an invitation to its Sandra Fluke event online.

“Georgetown University campus community is invited to a conversation with Sandra Fluke on accessing contraception, moderated by Professor Judy Feder,” said the invitation.

“Sandra Fluke is former co-president of Georgetown Law Students for Reproductive Justice and a Public Interest Law Scholar at Georgetown's Law Center,” said the invitation. “She is former Vice President of Georgetown Law's Women's Legal Alliance and Career Chair for Outlaw, the Law Center's LGBT student group. She is also the Development Editor of the Georgetown Journal of Gender and the Law.

“Recently,” said the invitation, “Sandra testified before Congress on the need to provide comprehensive reproductive healthcare for women through insurance, especially contraception coverage.”

“The event is open to GU community only. Georgetown University ID is required, and seating is first-come first-served,” said the invitation. “There will be a Q&A session following the conversation.”

When CNSNews.com contacted the Lecture Fund about covering the event, Ceyda Erten from the group said in an e-mail, “The event is not open to outside press, and only members of Georgetown University community (with GU identification) are able to attend the event.”

Prof. Judy Feder, who moderated the event, is a professor of public policy and former dean of the Georgetown Public Policy Institute.

The National Organization for Women described Feder in 2008 as “a female health care expert” who “understands the importance of maintaining women’s reproductive rights.”

“Feder fully supports women’s right to choose abortion and birth control, as well as access to family planning services that include emergency contraception,” continued the organization.

When Fluke testified before Pelosi's panel on Capitol Hill in February, she said that students at Georgetown Law were "struggling financially" because the school health plan would not buy contraceptives for them.

“Without insurance coverage, contraception can cost a woman over $3,000 during law school," Fluke testified.

"For a lot of students who, like me, are on public interest scholarships, that’s practically an entire summer’s salary," Fluke said. "Forty percent of female students at Georgetown Law report struggling financially as a result of this policy.”

“Just last week, a married female student told me she had to stop using contraception because she couldn’t afford it any longer,” Fluke testified. “Women employed in low-wage jobs without contraceptive coverage face the same choice. You might respond that contraception is accessible in lots of other ways. Unfortunately, that's not true.”

Later, when Fluke visited Capitol Hill again in March, CNSNews.com asked her if she was aware that the Target store 3 miles from Georgetown Law School sold a month's supply of birth control pills for just $9.

Fluke was not.

“So, I’m not familiar with specific department store policies," Fluke told CNSNews.com. "I know that some generic forms of contraception are less expensive than others and that that has been widely reported. But what has not been widely reported is that many women cannot use those forms of contraception.”

“Women have different types of medical needs that require much more expensive forms,” Fluke told CNSNews.com. “One woman contacted me. She was very, very upset that that quote was being emphasized because she has a genetic condition that requires her to use contraception that costs $1,500.”

“So, this is medicine,” Fluke said.  “It’s not one-size-fits-all, and while it’s great that some women can access more affordable contraception, contraception needs to be accessible and affordable for all of the women who need all of the different kinds.”