Sandra Fluke, the Georgetown University law student who became a national figure during the debate over the administration’s contraception mandate, will introduce President Obama at a campaign stop in Denver on Wednesday, a campaign spokesman confirmed to The Hill.
Earlier this year, the White House took political heat over the mandate, under which employers' insurers must provide birth control to their employees without a co-pay. Critics said it was a violation of religious liberty.
Under pressure from religious groups, Obama announced an “accommodation” meant to allow exceptions from the mandate for Catholic hospitals and other religiously affiliated groups, although critics said the accommodation didn’t go far enough. The mandate went into effect five days ago.
Fluke, a women’s-rights activist, first entered the debate when she was not allowed to testify at a House Oversight Committee hearing on the mandate. The move by Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) backfired after photos of the initial all-male panel of witnesses went viral and sparked a segment on “Saturday Night Live.”
But Rush Limbaugh took the controversy to another level when he said Georgetown students are apparently “having so much sex they’re going broke,” called Fluke a “slut” and a “prostitute” and suggested she videotape her sexual activities and post them online for people to see, since taxpayers would be paying for her contraception through the mandate.
Limbaugh’s language was denounced by lawmakers on both sides, but Democrats believed they had struck political gold in the comments, which they thought could draw female voters to Obama and their party in the fall.
Obama waded into the controversy by calling Fluke and offering her support and encouragement before she went on a national television interview.
Earlier in the campaign cycle, Democrats accused Republicans of wanting to “turn back the clock” on women’s issues as part of a broader “war on women.” Republicans shot back that the real war on women was female unemployment, which they said was due to Obama’s failed economic policies.
The president has enjoyed a wide lead over Mitt Romney among female voters throughout the campaign, but Colorado is a critical swing state and the president will need his base to turn out in force if he’s to win the state again.
Obama leads Romney by 3 percent in Colorado, according to the RealClearPolitics average of polls.