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Carolyn Maloney: Rush Limbaugh 'Slut' Comment Is Attempt To Silence Women

Posted: 03/01/12 11:34 AM ET  |  Updated: 03/01/12 01:17 PM ET

Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) angrily walked out of a congressional hearing on the contraception coverage rule last month because the one female witness the Democrats brought, Sandra Fluke, was rejected by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) for being "unqualified" to speak on the topic.

But after hearing that conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh called Fluke, a Georgetown University law student, a "slut" and a "prostitute" on Wednesday night for advocating that employers cover birth control pills in their health plans, Maloney is really fuming.

"I am just aghast," she told The Huffington Post on Thursday. "If the far right can attack people like Sandra Fluke, women are going to be afraid to speak because they're going to be called terrible words. It's an attempt to silence people that are speaking out for women."

Maloney and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) had brought Fluke into the hallway outside the House Oversight Committee hearing on Feb. 16 to allow her to give her testimony to reporters while the all-male panel of religious experts testified on record. Fluke told the story of one of her classmates who lost an ovary because Georgetown, a Jesuit university, did not cover the oral contraceptives that she was prescribed for her condition.

Limbaugh said on his show that Fluke's parents should be ashamed of her for testifying that she is "having so much sex she can't afford her own birth control pills."

He added:

"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? It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute. She wants to be paid to have sex. She's having so much sex she can't afford the contraception. She wants you and me and the taxpayers to pay her to have sex."

A handful of female Democratic lawmakers fired back on Wednesday and demanded that their Republican colleagues publicly denounce Limbaugh's comments. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said the remarks "unmask the strong disrespect for women held by some in this country," and Maloney told HuffPost that if Republicans "stand silently by and let this pass, they will be condoning it and attacking women."

Limbaugh's comments coincided with a heated Senate debate on Sen. Roy Blunt's (R-Mo.) controversial amendment, which would override President Barack Obama's contraception rule and let any employer refuse to cover birth control or any other health service for moral or religious reasons. While Obama's policy would allow churches and faith-based organizations to opt out of covering contraception, the Blunt amendment would allow anyone, including non-religious employers, to do so.

Maloney said that the GOP attacks on contraception access should serve as a "wake-up call" to the women's rights movement.

"I believe these efforts are sinking in," she said. "Women have to stand up and say stop. We have to get out and get out strong to let women know around the country that they can speak out against this abuse. The right to space and time our children for our own health and the ability to manage our lives -- this is a basic right, and they're going after it."

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