Feb. 23 (Bloomberg) -- A Georgetown University student who wasn’t allowed to testify at a U.S. House hearing last week told a panel of House Democrats about the difficulties that women face when access to contraceptives is restricted.
Sandra Fluke, a third-year law student, was the sole witness at an unofficial hearing today on women’s health issues. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, arranged the event after Fluke didn’t get a chance to testify at a Feb. 16 House Oversight and Government Reform hearing.
The official hearing focused on the Obama administration’s rule that employers, including religious-affiliated groups, must provide coverage for contraceptives in health-care plans. Democrats protested that all the witnesses at the Feb. 16 hearing were men.
“Clearly a woman should always have a seat at the table, unquestionably when the subject is women’s health,” Pelosi said.
Becca Watkins, a spokesman for Representative Darrell Issa, chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said Democrats the day before the Feb. 16 hearing had requested two witnesses, one of whom was Fluke. It is routine for the minority party to be allowed only one witness, and Issa extended the invitation to the other Democratic witness, Watkins said.
Fluke today spoke about the need for access to contraceptives. She is a member of Law Students for Reproductive Justice, a group at Georgetown University.
“The safety net that women have relied on in the past is not there,” she said.
Republican presidential candidates criticized the Obama administration’s rule during a debate in Arizona last night. Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney said Obama was mounting an “attack on religious conscience.”
“I don’t think we’ve seen in the history of this country the kind of attack on religious conscience, religious freedom, religious tolerance that we’ve seen under Barack Obama,” Romney said.
--Editors: Jodi Schneider, Katherine Rizzo
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