Is your health a reason to vote for Obama?"It's not political, it's personal," said senior advisors to the Obama campaign last week in a conference on women's issues in the 2012 presidential race. The event included big names from both Hollywood and D.C. Among them, reproductive justice advocate and Georgetown Law graduate Sandra Fluke, actresses Elizabeth Banks and Nia Long, and equal-pay advocate Lily Ledbetter. The Obama campaign gathered women to share their personal views and experiences with different issues. From Sandra Fluke's quest for affordable contraceptives to Elizabeth Banks' struggle to conceive, find out how personal health issues influence their vote.
Sandra Fluke: Outspoken Student 1. Sandra Fluke: Outspoken Student
Sandra Fluke became familiar to many Americans earlier this year when she testified on contraception coverage policy to a Congressional panel and was later publicly called a "slut" by Rush Limbaugh. Fluke's concern about women's insurance coverage began several years ago on the Georgetown campus. Explaining her Obama endorsement, she said, "In each of [the] issues that are critical to women, I see no leadership from Romney. I see leadership from President Obama. Obviously, Governor Romney is not looking for my vote."
When Fluke tapped women on campus to talk about how the lack of contraceptive coverage impacted them, she received many handwritten stories scribbled on the back of surveys. Among them, the story of one woman who had to have an ovary removed since she could not afford the birth-control pills necessary to manage her polycystic ovarian syndrome.
And while 65% respondents to her survey said they rely on the pill for medical needs, Fluke asserts that women deserve the opportunity to be sexually active, choose and use contraception that is covered by insurance without demonization. "This is not pot," Fluke pointed out. "It's contraception.
As for the "Get Out the Slut Vote" movement that followed Fluke's testimony and backlash, she said a rebuttal about her "sluttiness" was unnecessary.
"We want to keep contraceptive needs private," she said, segueing personal to political once again. "But if we are not having the conversation, someone else is having it for us."
Elizabeth Banks: Actress and New Mom2. Elizabeth Banks: Actress and New Mom
Growing up in Massachusetts in a family of factory workers, Banks said she was "very, very lucky" to have a quality education at public schools. When she went on to an Ivy League college, "it was a group effort, a full family effort."
She recalls not feeling like she could get excited about her acceptance into college until she received the loan package assuring her that her family could afford to send her. After school, Banks said, "My healthcare provider was Planned Parenthood of America."
While waiting for her SAG card and the insurance it provides, Banks said she held on to the work ethic of her upbringing every time she visited Planned Parenthood for exams, mammograms and birth control. The sliding scale, complete with a ruler outlining payments, was the reminder for her.
"I always gave a little more money [than the ruler suggested]," Banks remembered, "because I thought, 'I have more than others.'"
Now the actress and new mom says Obama will be getting her vote. And it's family planning that has the new-ish mom "all riled up." While battling infertility, Banks says her insurance would not cover the medications she says were necessary to "make my son." "I was trying to make a life, to bring a beautiful, gorgeous life into this world," Banks told the roundtable, "I used contraception to make a baby." [Banks is referring to the use of birth control pills in conjunction with IVF treatments.]
- By Jessica Ashley
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