03/20/2012 10:29 am ET Updated May 20, 2012

Why I Support Sandra Fluke

On Feb. 29, radio show host Rush Limbaugh called Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke a "slut" and "prostitute." The reason for these comments was that Fluke testified at an unofficial Democratic Party hearing Feb. 23 advocating all institutions to provide contraceptives in their healthcare insurance policies. Fluke specifically criticized Georgetown, a Jesuit university, for not providing contraceptive coverage in its student healthcare coverage, making contraceptives unaffordable for college students.

As a student at a Catholic university, the issue of whether religious institutions will be required to provide contraceptives in their healthcare coverage will directly affect me and many of my fellow female students.

This birth control debate has me asking a question: When was a negative connotation assigned to women who are responsibly exercising their right to reproductive health? 

In my family, I was raised to respect my body and to practice responsible decision making. My mother always has been open and supportive when discussing reproductive health. She encouraged abstinence, but put safety and responsibility before ideology. As a young Catholic woman who receives all of the health benefits from taking birth control, I find it morally offending that multiple public figures in society have labeled women who use contraceptives as "sluts" and "prostitutes."

Even hopeful Republican nominee Mitt Romney said in reference to Limbaugh's outburst, "Those aren't the words I would have used." Romney, along with the other three Republican nominees, particularly former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, has labeled birth control and healthcare as purely religious issues. In taking that stance, it is important to note 98 percent of Catholic women use contraceptives, according to a 2011 Guttmacher Institute study.

This means Catholic women would be a large number of Americans benefiting from the requirement that religious institutions provide contraceptives in their healthcare coverage.

Solely focusing on the fact that the pill and other forms of contraceptives prevent pregnancy is simplifying and polarizing the argument.

This is not a question of religion; it is an issue of the health of all women. The birth control pill not only prevents pregnancy, but it also prevents cervical cancer, ovarian cysts, acne and slows endometriosis. Every woman, despite religious orientation or the religious orientation of her employer, should have access to affordable birth control for preemptive measures. 

I am not saying religion and morality do not play a role in this contraception debate, but they are not the main issues, nor is it for politicians to decide. Religion and morality are personal, just as the decision to use contraceptives is personal to every woman. It is a decision that should be kept between a woman and her doctor, should she choose to pursue it. 

I am glad Sandra Fluke had the courage to stand up and say she is a woman using contraceptives. Why should we be ashamed of that? Being responsible and being proactive concerning our health does not make women sluts, it makes us smart.