Two women Democrats in Michigan who were opposing an anti-abortion legislation passed this week were banned from speaking on the House floor.
The legislators, state Reps. Lisa Brown, D-West Bloomfield, and Barb Byrum, D-Onondaga, said majority floor leader Jim Stamas, R-Midland, and others didn't offer an explanation as to why they were silenced. Brown said she and Byrum were instead gaveled down without a cause Wednesday when they voiced their opposition to HB5711. The legislation introduced adds insurance and licensing requirements for clinics and bans abortions after 20 weeks unless it is necessary to save the woman's life to name a few.
In her speech on the floor Brown said the legislation regulates business and requires the purchase of exorbitant insurance policies that would force clinics to close their doors. She said people would lose their jobs as a result and women would lose their constitutional rights.
Judaism believes that therapeutic abortions, namely abortions performed in order to preserve the life of the mother are not only permissible but mandatory, Brown told lawmakers. 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 if 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 adapt and adhere to my religious beliefs. Why are you asking me to adapt yours? And finally Mr. Speaker, I'm flattered that you are all so interested in my vagina, but no means no.
Though cheers erupted after this speech, Republicans said Brown was offensive, according to Political Wire and she wasn't allowed to speak on a school employee retirement bill.
Brown said when she asked about the ban no rationale was provided. Instead, she came up with a few of her own.
Perhaps they are silencing me because I dared to speak out yesterday on religious oppression. In the speech on the house floor to oppose a sweeping new anti-abortion law I urged law makers to be considerate of other people's religious beliefs, she told reporters. As a Jew, I understand that my beliefs are in the minority. I understand that many people hold different opinions and I respect that. It would have never occurred to me to force my views onto someone else. All I did was urge my fellow lawmakers to extend me that same consideration.
Today I am banned from speaking on the house floor. Stopped from doing the very job I was elected to do, she said. Maybe my message of religious freedom didn't sit well with the opposition. Or maybe they are banning me because I dare say vagina the correct medical name of a part of a woman's anatomy that these lawmakers are trying to regulate. Isn't that something?
Brown also issued a statement on her website where she said she was either banned for being Jewish and rightfully pointing out that House Bill 5711 was forcing contradictory religious beliefs upon me and any other religion. Or it is because I said the word 'vagina' which is an anatomically, medically correct term.
She also said the lawmakers, predominantly men, have no problem casting legislation about her vagina, but become outraged at her mentioning the name of her female body part.
You know what, I'm outraged, she said. I'm outraged that this legislative body not only wants to dictate what women can do but what we can say. I am outraged that the leaders of house want to rob both me and my constituents of their voice ... and I am outraged that they think they can do these things without impunity.
Byrum: GOP Legislation Is Drastic
Byrum, too, is a upset and told reporters that she won't allow the Republican majority to hide the issue. She called the legislation drastic and said it was rushed through the health policy committee without input from professionals, women, women's organization who were in attendance.
I was not allowed to speak on my amendment to a bill that drastically affects me, my health and the health of all Michigan women, Byrum said. My amendment was aimed at sending a message that using women's bodies as political tactic to gain points for the special interests and extremists is absurd. If women are banned from making choices about their own reproductive freedom, then it's only fair or right that men only get a vasectomy to avert death or a necessity ... for physically illness or psychological injury and provide for those violations.
Byrum firmly believes that her forced silenced on the issue was a result of another v word. Not vagina, but vasectomy, a surgical procedure used for male sterilization and as a means for permanent birth control.
They didn't want me to speak because they were worried that I was going to say a different v word - not vagina but I was going to say vasectomy, the medical term my amendment spoke of, Byrum said. This is just another example of how cowardly their tactics are.
Bryum added that the leadership also didn't tell her that she was banned from speaking because they didn't have the guts to tell me.
I will not stand for this without a fight as a legislator, as a mother, as a woman, she said. Whether you are pro-choice or anti-choice, women deserve a voice in the House of Representative. I was sent here to represent my district, the women in Michigan and I will not stop doing that.
What do you think of the two women legislators being banned from speaking on the House floor? Do you think religion or the v word was the reason for the ban? Let us know in the comment box below.
Laura is a U.S. politics reporter for the International Business Times. She was always fascinated by the BBC World News each morning on the radio in Jamaica. That, and a love...