President Barack Obama waded again into the controversy over a mandate that health insurance plans cover contraception by calling and thanking Sandra Fluke, a Georgetown law student whom conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh labeled a slut for backing the policy.
He encouraged me and supported me and thanked me for speaking out about the concerns of American women, Fluke told MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell. And what was really personal for me was that he said to tell my parents that they should be proud.
Fluke testified at an informal House hearing convened by Democrats that fellow students at Georgetown University, a Jesuit school whose student insurance does not cover birth control, had paid as much as $1,000 a year for contraception. She relayed the story of a young woman who had an ovary removed because she could not obtain prescription birth control to halt the growth of cysts.
Limbaugh lashed out at Fluke on his show on Wednesday, provoking an angry reaction from Democrats.
What does it say about the college coed ... who goes before a congressional committee and essentially says that she must be paid to have sex? Limbaugh said. It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute. She wants to be paid to have sex.
I will buy all of the women at Georgetown University as much aspirin to put between their knees as they want, Limbaugh added, alluding to controversial comments made by Rick Santorum backer Foster Friess.
White House press secretary Jay Carney called Limbaugh's remarks reprehensible. Under pressure from Democratic lawmakers, Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, issued a statement that rapped Limbaugh while also criticizing Democrats for politicizing the issue.
The speaker obviously believes the use of those words was inappropriate, as is trying to raise money off the situation, said Boehner aide Michael Steel.
Fluke's testimony came after Republicans called a hearing on the mandate and summoned an all-male panel to testify. In a passionate back-and-forth, Democrats decried the lack of women at the hearing; Republicans responded that the issue at hand was one of religious liberty, not women's rights.
It's an affront to each and every American's conscience to try to narrow this down into a contraception or a women's-health issue, Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle, R-N.Y, said at the hearing. I'm so appalled. This is an assault on our First Amendment rights.