Last week, Jim Stamas, the Republican Majority Floor Leader for Michigan’s House of Representatives decided to bar Lisa Brown (D-West Bloomfield), from speaking on any of the bills the House is attempting to pass before adjuring for the summer. The reason for the ban? She said “vagina.” To talk about a bill regulating abortion. What was she thinking, right?! See for yourself.
Below is the transcript:
This legislation does a lot of things, Mr Speaker. It regulates business, requiring exhorbitant insurance policies to be purchased which will result in clinics closing doors, causing people to lose their jobs, and denying women their constitutional rights.
Yesterday we heard from the representative from Holland speak about religious freedom. I’m Jewish. I keep kosher in my home. I have two sets of dishes — one for meat and one for dairy, and another two sets of dishes on top of that for Passover. Judaism believes that therapeutic abortion — namely abortions performed in order to preserve the life of the mother — are not only permissible but mandatory. The stage of pregnancy does not matter. Wherever there is a question of the life of the mother or that of the unborn child, Jewish law rules in favor of preserving the life of the mother. The status of the fetus as human life does not equal that of the mother. I have not asked you to adopt and adhere to my religious beliefs — why are you asking me to adopt yours?
And finally Mr. Speaker, I’m flattered that you’re all so interested in my vagina but no means no.
“My concern was the decorum of the House, not of anything she said,” Stamas told the Detroit News. “I ask all members to maintain a decorum of the House, and I felt it went too far yesterday.”
State Rep. Mike Callton (R-Nashville) doesn’t agree, saying, “What she said was offensive. It was so offensive, I don’t even want to say it in front of women. I would not say that in mixed company,” he said.
Brown responded during a press conference later reminding the offended gentlemen that “vagina” is the medically correct term for the organ that the bill being debated seeks to regulate.
“If I can’t say the word vagina, why are we legislating vaginas?” Brown asked. “What language should I use? We’re all adults here.”
The bill being discussed was one of the particularly heinous variety. Amanda Marcotte at Slate writes:
1) Michigan legislators have their eye on punishing women who try to get their abortions as quickly as possible after discovering their pregnancy, well before there’s any fetus to speak of. The bill forces women who want to take RU-486, which must be used in the first 63 days of pregnancy, to do so in the presence of a doctor. For the women who live in the 82 percent of Michigan counties without an abortion provider, this adds expense and time that usually result in women waiting until further along in their pregnancy to abort.
2) After all is said and done, even the existing abortion providers might not be there, since this bill is stuffed full of unnecessary regulations intended to shut down clinics, such as requiring clinics that only do medication abortion to have a full surgical suite that they will never actually use. If that expense doesn’t do them in, the requirement that they carry excessive levels of malpractice insurance will. These regulations have nothing to do with actual concerns about women’s safety. Abortion is one of the safest medical procedures around, especially in comparison with childbirth, which is 10 times more dangerous.
3) Doctors will now be required to screen for domestic violence and coercion before performing the abortion. In theory, this is the least offensive part of the bill, because counseling women to make sure that abortion is their own choice is already a standard part of abortion care. The problem is that the bill’s definition of “coercion” is troublingly vague and of course, utterly one-sided. The people who stand outside of abortion clinics to scare and harass women seeking abortion are coercive and abusive, but the bill doesn’t address this at all.
All that legislation and we can’t say “vagina”? What next?