The Michigan House of Representatives has finally brought censorship into politics. During a discussion about proposing one of the most restrictive abortion bills in America, Representative Lisa Brown made the following comment:
“Finally, Mr. Speaker, I’m flattered that you’re all so interested in my vagina, but ‘no’ means ‘no.’” Rep. Brown was eventually banned from debating further measures on the House floor for 48 hours, just long enough to make sure she wasn’t heard on the proposed abortion legislation.
Representative Barb Byrum was prevented from speaking in the House on a proposed amendment to the restrictive abortion bill that would require men to prove that they had a medical emergency to have a vasectomy done. When she was gaveled as out of order for insisting that she be heard, she replied to the Speaker of the House that she represents as many people as he does, and should be heard.
Under HB 5711, 5712 and 5713, women’s health centers would have to shut down unless they could turn their exam rooms into full-fledged outpatient surgical operating rooms — even though medication abortion involves only the administration of pills. Under a section of the legislation that has not been taken up yet, a woman who discovers a fetal anomaly at 21 weeks would be forced to continue the pregnancy to term despite her doctor’s judgment that the pregnancy should be terminated. This would be true even if the woman was a victim of rape or incest.
The bill also requires certain OB-GYNs to carry $1 million in insurance coverage — a burden that is not imposed on any other specialty. Already, 21 of Michigan’s 83 counties have no practicing OB-GYNs, and that number will more than likely increase if the bill is allowed to pass the Senate.
In the midst of all this, female lawmakers who are concerned with how this legislation will affect their constituency are being silenced. In fact, virtually anyone else who opposes this legislation has not been given an opportunity to speak their mind or express concerns about undue restrictions on women’s health.
It’s no wonder that Michiganders are losing faith in their elected representatives. If the medically accurate term for a women’s reproductive organ is enough to make the Speaker of the Michigan House blush, one begins to wonder if he has any gonads himself.
How does a legislative body have a discussion about regulating women’s rights in terms of their reproductive health without talking about their reproductive organs? Do they refer to vaginas as “hoo-hah’s?” Perhaps they refer to it as “Victoria’s secret.”
No matter how Republicans think decorum should address proper terminology for private parts, it is clear that they don’t want anyone who opposes their viewpoint to have a say in whether or not they attempt to reverse Roe v. Wade at the state level. It is also clear that they don’t want the people who the legislation would affect the most, women, to speak their mind about their health.
Michigan legislature could keep the income taxes right where they are and use that budget surplus to fund sex education programs that include information about protecting yourself in the event you decide not to choose abstinence. They could give Planned Parenthood more money to spread their message of pregnancy prevention to poorer individuals, or to provide those same individuals more access to prenatal care that might prevent their fetuses from becoming unviable.
Instead, Jase Bolger and company has chosen to prevent women from speaking about their own health using medically and scientifically recognized terminology for body parts. House Republicans have chosen to censor the most important part of women’s reproductive capabilities in a discussion that would have a major effect on women’s ability to care for themselves in that respect.
I certainly hope that anyone with a vagina (and many who don’t have one) will remember that Michigan House Republicans blush at medical terminology when they cast their votes this November, and seat someone who is less opposed to even hearing opposing viewpoints.