Two Democratic congresswomen walked out of hearing of the House Oversight Committee on Thursday morning after committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., refused to allow a female witness to testify before a hearing examining the Obama administration's new regulation that requires employers to provide contraception coverage in health insurance plans.
Issa reportedly refused to comply with ranking committee member Rep. Elijah Cummings', D-Md., request to include a minority female to testify at the hearing, on the grounds that the hearing is not about reproductive rights and contraception but instead about the administration's action as they relate to freedom of religion and conscience, according to multiple reports.
In response, Democratic women on the panel on Thursday demanded that Issa consider permitting the testimony of a female college student, which was also refused. After Issa once again emphasized the hearing should focus on religious liberty instead of contraception coverage itself, Cummings, along with Reps. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., and Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., walked out of hearing.
Holmes Norton said she would not return to the hearing, according to Talking Points Memo, which reports she called the hearing an autocratic regime.
The congresswomen reportedly expressed their frustration over the fact that, up to this point, only men have been permitted to testify in a hearing that they insist is about contraception coverage, not religious freedom.
What I want to know is, where are the women? I look at this panel, and I don't one single individual representing the tens of millions of women across the country who want and need insurance coverage for basic preventive health care services, including family planning. Where are the women?, Maloney said.
The Web site reported Reps. Anne Maria Buerkle, R-N.Y. and Rosa Delauro, D-Ct., are the only women who remained at the hearing.
Republicans have opposed the contraception mandate -- a provison of the Affordable Care Act -- on the grounds that it violates the religious liberty of institutions that have either moral or religious objections to contraception. The GOP has sponsored legislation that would reverse the mandate by exemption all organizations with a moral objection from complying with the rule.
The following is a short clip of the hearing from the Web site ThinkProgress.