In an academic article published last year, contraception advocate Sandra Fluke made the case that private health insurers should be required to pay for sex change operations.
Fluke has become a vocal surrogate of the Democratic Party and is scheduled to address the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., Wednesday night. On Tuesday afternoon she appeared at a Planned Parenthood “Yes We Plan” rally outside the convention venue, where condoms in anti-Republican packaging were distributed. [RELATED: Planned Parenthood distributes condoms with message: “Protect yourself from Romney & Ryan”]
She thrust herself into the media spotlight in February when she told the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee that many of her Georgetown Law School classmates were without birth control pills because the university’s insurance plan was not forced to cover it.
Fluke and co-editor Karen Hu advocated remaking U.S. law to remove what they called a “gender bias” at the root of denying coverage for “transgender medical needs,” describing it as “a prime example of direct discrimination.” [RELATED: Sandra Fluke chickening out on women’s issues debate with Breitbart’s Dana Loesch?]
“Transgender persons wishing to undergo the gender reassignment process frequently face heterosexist employer health insurance policies that label [gender-reassignment] surgery as cosmetic, or medically unnecessary and therefore uncovered,” Fluke and Hu wrote for the Georgetown Journal of Gender and the Law.
The review article was titled “Employment Discrimination Against LGBTQ Persons” and appeared in print in 2011.
By some estimates, sex change operations can cost between $15,000 and $20,000; the cost for some procedures can be as high as $50,000. Fluke and other advocates want insurers to cover all such operations. In general, assuming the costs of new coverage mandates tends to raise rates for all enrollees in a given health-care plan.
There is precedent for requiring insurers to cover these procedures. In Wisconsin, transgender prison inmates sued in federal court and won under the Eighth Amendment to overturn a law that barred public funding of sex changes. The Supreme Court declined to hear the case in March, allowing the decision to stand.
In San Francisco and Berkeley, Calif., municipal workers can undergo free sex changes at taxpayer expense.
In Alberta, Canada, government compensation for a sex-change surgery is now required by law. Australia’s national health service also covers costs for such surgery.
While many state legislatures may not be likely to follow suit, Fluke and Hu wrote that they hope left-leaning courts will expand the meaning of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to include Americans who do not self-identify with what they call traditional “gender identity” or “gender norms.” The Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.
Fluke was also thanked and acknowledged in the 2003 book, “Gender, Justice, and Law: From Asylum to Zygote-Issues and Resources for Judicial, Legal, and Continuing Legal Education.” The book was published by the National Judicial Education Program, a project of the National Organization for Women’s Legal Defense and Education Fund, where Fluke was employed.
The 500-page tome argues that “gender bias” exists throughout American “civil, criminal, family, juvenile, and probate law,” in areas as disparate as “driving while intoxicated” and “the right-to-die.” It covers some sixty-two areas of “particular concern for women” in the law, each of which the authors argue should be legally actionable.
While at Cornell University, Fluke led the activist group Students Acting for Gender Equality (SAGE). Paul Ibrahim, a former president of the Cornell Coalition for Life (CCL) — which tangled with SAGE over abortion politics — provided an assessment of just how radical the organization was when Fluke was active. [RELATED: Meet law student and feminist hero Sandra Fluke]
“One of the best decisions of my life was signing up for the SAGE discussion list,” Ibrahim wrote. “Nothing has provided me with more entertainment like witnessing angry fights between extremist feminists. … Some of these women spend four years doing nothing but complaining about the glass ceiling and lack of empowerment, but unfortunately, the organization continues to exist.”
The group repeatedly counter-protested CCL events and called the pro-life students names, such as “racist” or “Nazis.”
Among the events SAGE sponsored when Fluke was active included an open forum in February 2003 titled “Porn: Are We Fucked?” The main event involved screenings and critiques of pornographic films.
Also while at Cornell, Fluke was a teaching assistant to feminist professor Andrea Parrot for a course titled “Global Violence Against Women.” The class, according to Cornell’s catalogue, “focuses on the evolution of sexual norms, cross-cultural customs, legislation within changing sociopolitical systems, and delivery of services related to sexual issues, needs, and/or problems,” and “addresses future trends in sexuality.”
The existence of the Georgetown journal article was first noted by the Media Research Center in March 2012.