By Patricia Zengerle
CHARLOTTE, North Carolina (Reuters) - Women's health activist Sandra Fluke, who came under a barrage of attacks from conservatives this year for supporting Democratic President Barack Obama's contraceptive policy, lashed back on Wednesday in an unflinching speech at Democratic National Convention.
"Your new president could be a man who stands by when a public figure tries to silence a private citizen with hateful slurs. A man who won't stand up to the slurs, or to any of the extreme, bigoted voices in his own party," referring to Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's muted reaction after conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh called her a "slut" last March.
Fluke, then a 30-year-old law student at Georgetown University, got caught up in heated debate over Obama's policy requiring health insurance plans to cover contraception when she spoke out against Republicans' efforts to scrap the policy.
Limbaugh called her a "slut" and a "prostitute" for her comments. Limbaugh later apologized, but the controversy drove advertisers from his national radio show.
Obama telephoned Fluke after Limbaugh's comments, and invoked his concern for his two young daughters when he explained why he had reached out to the student.
Fluke has been an active campaigner for Obama's re-election. During the campaign, the party has focused on social issues like abortion rights and insurance coverage for contraception to appeal to women voters, while accusing Republicans of waging a "war on women."
Republicans reject the charge, and contend that Obama's policies hurt women by failing to alleviate stubbornly high unemployment and do more to create a U.S. business environment friendly to corporations that create jobs.
Fluke did not mention Romney by name in her short speech. She also targeted Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan, Romney's vice presidential running mate, a strong opponent of abortion rights.
Without naming him, Fluke said Ryan would be a vice president who co-sponsored a bill that would "allow pregnant women to die preventable deaths in our emergency rooms."
In the House of Representatives, Ryan has fought insurance coverage for contraception and co-sponsored a bill to give "personhood" rights to fetuses, a measure criticized as an effort to forbid abortions even when they might be necessary to save the life of a pregnant woman.
(Editing by David Lindsey and Alden Bentley)