Women’s-rights activist Sandra Fluke kicked off the Democratic National Convention’s prime-time coverage on Wednesday night, about an hour after she was originally slated to speak.
Fluke’s absence in the 9 p.m. hour was conspicuous and set off speculation about whether the Georgetown law student would speak at all. Her move to the 10 p.m. prime-time hour, the only hour covered by broadcast television networks, put a new women’s champion in the brightest spotlight possible and underscored the Democrats’ omnipresent focus on courting the critical women’s vote.
Fluke attracted national media attention after being shut out of a congressional hearing on birth control, bringing her to the attention of Rush Limbaugh. His crude remarks ("slut" and "prostitute" were among the things he called her) created a huge backlash and gave Fluke a far bigger platform than the Capitol Hill testimony she wasn’t allowed to give.
She used her convention address to paint a picture of what a Romney-Ryan administration could look like for women. “In that America, your new president could be a man who stands by when a public figure tries to silence a private citizen with hateful slurs,” she said. “Who won't stand up to the slurs, or to any of the extreme, bigoted voices in his own party.” The reference was to Mitt Romney’s failure to take on Limbaugh beyond saying that "it's not the language I would have used."
Fluke painted a picture of an America in which states can force women to endure “invasive ultrasounds we don’t want and our doctors say we don’t need” and in which “access to birth control is controlled by people who will never use it.”
Political commentators on Twitter had mixed reactions to Fluke’s speech. “Sandra Fluke would not be annoying conservatives tonight if Rush Limbaugh could debate a woman without hurling ugly names,” tweeted moderate Republican commentator David Frum.
Kimberley Strassel, a columnist for The Wall Street Journal, tweeted that Fluke’s speaking slot was a mistake. “Her over-the-top rhetoric is undoing the warm-fuzzy Democratic portrait painted by Michelle Obama,” Strassel wrote.