Reporting from Washington —
The call from President Obama came on Friday morning, and he wanted to know if Sandra Fluke, a Georgetown law school student who had been called a “slut” and a “prostitute” by conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh, was OK. As much as Fluke remembered what he said, she recalled how he sounded.
“He was so kind,” she said in an interview. “I was just very impressed by that.”
Fluke, 30, was raised in rural Pennslyvania but has lived part-time in West Hollywood for the past five years. Until recently, she was a relative unknown: a third-year law student inWashington, D.C., who was active in promoting women's reproductive health issues.
But then Limbaugh, reacting to testimony Fluke gave at a mock congressional committee hearing in favor of an Obama administration requirement that health plans include coverage of contraceptives, started attacking her on his show.
"What does it say about the college co-ed Susan Fluke [sic] who goes before a congressional committee and essentially says that she must be paid to have sex -- what does that make her?” Limbaugh said on his show. “It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute.”
Now Fluke's name is plastered across the Internet next to the crude terms Limbaugh used to describe her.
When Fluke tried to talk policy with Obama, she said, he made it clear that wasn't why he called.
“When I said how important this policy was, he sort of wanted to move past that,” Fluke said. “He wanted to talk about whether or not I was OK.”
He also asked her to pass a message on to her parents.
He said that “as a father of two daughters, he knew how proud that my parents would be, and he wanted me to tell them how proud they should be,” Fluke said. “And that was really touching.”
Fluke's parents are more conservative than she is, she said, but they agree with her on contraceptives.
“I think that says something about the topic and the agreement across America about it,” she said.
She said she saw the name-calling as "an attempt to silence me and to silence women in general from speaking out about their reproductive healthcare needs."
"What has been made clear," Fluke said, "is that women will not be silenced on this issue, and neither will the men who support them."