In 2012, Abigail got a call from a friend, asking if she could help someone in need named Sandra. She was having an intense few weeks. Sandra Fluke was a third-year Georgetown Law student, and she was active in the movement to expand the school's student healthcare plan to include contraception.
Elements of the Obama administration's new healthcare law, the Affordable Care Act, were going to address this gap in health care for students, and Sandra was asked by Democratic staff in the U.S. House to come testify at a Congressional hearing on the issue.
But on the day of the hearing, Sandra was barred from testifying by Republican Chairman of the Committee, Daryl Issa. Ultimately the hearing featured a panel of five men testifying about their objections to contraception. The all-male panel on contraception drew heavy criticism, and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi invited Sandra to return to Congress and deliver her testimony.
Then right-wing media started attacking Sandra for her testimony, and Rush Limbaugh attacked Sandra for three consecutive days on his radio program, infamously calling her slurs that we will not repeat here. The mainstream media began to pick up on his over-the-top slander, and when The View asked Sandra to come on for her reaction to the ordeal, Abigail got the call about giving Sandra some professional communications help.
What we did
Sandra could have been the victim of a media maelstrom. Instead, Abigail worked with her to take control of the situation and create a much more meaningful opportunity to amplify her voice and several causes that she cared about.
Abigail worked with Sandra to get her message out across the entire spectrum of news outlets from MSNBC to Vogue (print issue May 2014, online August 2014), CNN to MS. magazine (cover, summer/fall 2012), Bloomberg to the New York Times Magazine.
Abigail secured public speaking opportunities for Sandra at colleges, NARAL, and Planned Parenthood chapters, and, in 2013, a professional speaker’s bureau began to represent her. She advised Sandra on political matters and organized campaign appearances for more than a dozen Democratic candidates running for the U.S. House and Senate in 2012. Sandra also delivered one of the most memorable speeches of the Democratic National Convention that year.
In 2014, Sandra decided to run for an open state senate seat in California, despite facing a crowded and well-financed primary field. Abigail served as the press secretary for her campaign, wrote copy for fundraising appeals and her website, consulted on mail pieces and polling, and provided political guidance. Defying the predictions of pundits, Sandra advanced through her primary—it was the best election-night upset of Abigail's career.
Together Abigail and Sandra wrote pieces for the Washington Post, Refinery 29, Huffington Post, and more, reaching massive audiences during the campaign. Mashable did a gorgeous profile of Sandra, and several local newspapers endorsed her candidacy. Sandra cares about many issues in addition to reproductive justice, and the campaign gave her the platform to talk to voters about policies that affect women and families, economic justice, and environmental protection.
While she didn't win in the general election, Abigail was never more proud to be a part of a campaign. Sandra used her megaphone to raise awareness of social justice issues that are often overlooked in mainstream media, and she stayed completely true to herself and her values during the entire process. More than four years after that first phone call, Sandra and Abigail are still friends and collaborate often.
Well the 2016 election certainly gave us a lot of material to work with! The country was so appalled by what Rush Limbaugh said about Sandra in 2012, we may have mistakenly thought that loud-mouthed misogynists learned a lesson. Instead, one became the Republican nominee... and then the president.
In the 2016 cycle, Sandra has been a sought-after commentator on both the aggressive bullying of the Republican nominee and America's first woman nominee to be president from a major political party. Together, Abigail and Sandra have written pieces for Cosmo.com "Sandra Fluke: We Should All Stand with Alicia Machado," Huffington Post "Veterans Deserve a Prepared Commander-In-Chief," and Refinery 29 "9 Tips for Tackling Mansplainers We Learned from Clinton's Debate Performance."