Michigan lawmaker barred for saying 'vagina' in abortion debate

Posted Jun 16, 2012 by JohnThomas Didymus
House Republicans have barred Democratic Rep. Lisa Brown from speaking on the floor of the Michigan state legislature because she said the word "vagina" during a heated debate over abortions.
A pro-choice woman declaring a statement on abortion
A pro-choice woman declaring a statement on abortion
CBS News reports the Michigan lawmaker was blocked because of the remark she made while speaking against a controversial bill that would restrict abortions after 20 weeks. Brown's "vagina" comment came at the end of the speech she delivered on Wednesday: "Finally, Mr. Speaker, I'm flattered that you're all so interested in my vagina, but 'no' means 'no.'"
Brown, in her speech, argued that the abortion regulation bill would violate her Jewish faith that permits therapeutic abortions when the mother's life is at risk. She said: "I have not asked you to adopt and to adhere to my religious beliefs. Why are you asking me to adopt yours?"
The anti-abortion law, however, was passed on a 70-39 vote.
New York Daily News reports that a spokesman of House Speaker James Bolger, said in a statement that the lawmaker was not allowed to speak on a school employee retirement bill on Thursday becasue she had allegedly "failed to maintain the decorum of the House of Representatives."
According to New York Daily News, Democratic Rep. Barb Byrum (D-Onondaga) was also blocked from addressing the Republican-controlled legislature on Thursday. The lawmaker was prevented from introducing an amendment to the abortion bill that would ban men from getting a vasectomy unless they could provide proof it was a medical emergency. She said: "If we truly want to make sure children are born, we would regulate vasectomies."
Brown and Byrum were barred from speaking on the legislature's final day of session before its summer recess.
Republican Floor Leader Jim Stamas, told Detroit News that he removed Brown and Byrum from the list of speakers because they did not "maintain decorum." He said: "I ask all members to maintain a decorum of the House, and I felt it went too far."
According to AP, Republicans took control of the Michigan House after 2010 election. Rick Johnson, former Republican House Speaker, said the party controlling the Michigan House have "broad, unwritten discretion to police lawmakers on the floor." He said: "That comment would be very inappropriate. You have young children? Is that something you want them to hear from your state rep?"
AP reports that Rep. Lisa Lyons, R-Alto, said Brown's comments were "disgraceful." She said her arguments appeared to compare the anti-abortion bill to rape.
New York Daily News reports that Brown, however, defended herself at a press conference on Thursday, saying the term "vagina" is the "anatomically, medically correct term." She wondered: "If I can't say the word vagina, why are we legislating vaginas? What language should I use?"
Brown, in an op-ed column in The Detroit News Saturday, said: “I’m outraged that there are Michigan legislators that not only want to dictate what women can do, but what we can say."
According to AP, Brown, representing West Bloomfield, has said that she is getting support and campaign donations after she was barred from speaking in the House. She said: "The Constitution says free speech. I don't know why my rights should not be respected in a room where we take an oath to uphold the Constitution."
CBS News reports that Brown added: "I really had no idea it would have this effect on people. It's an anatomically correct term for woman's anatomy. It actually exists in Michigan statutes in three different places. This bill was about abortion. That doesn't happen without a vagina."
But Ari Adler, press secretary for House Speaker James Bogler, said that the problem wasn't the word "vagina" but "It was the context in which it was used and the way it was used, that was the problem."
In spite of Adler's view, comments by some male Republican representatives suggest they think the word "vagina" is offensive. For instance, Rep. Mike Callton, R-Nashville, said: "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."
The Huffington Post reports that Brown will participate in a performance of the Tony Award-winning play, "The Vagina Monologues" on the state Capitol steps. Michigan Democratic Party fundraiser Laura Hornshaw, said on Saturday that the performance scheduled for Monday evening was in response to the decision to stop Rep. Lisa Brown from speaking on the House floor Thursday.
NY Daily News reports that Eve Ensler will join Brown a performance of "The Vagina Monologues" on the state Capitol steps. Brown will perform with eight other female state legislators and the Tony-award winning playwright, Ensler, in a reading of her famous1996 play, The Detroit News reports.
According to The New York Daily News, Ensler encouraged her Twitter followers to send stories about their vaginas to Bolger. She said: "Censoring a woman for saying a word that is a body part that 51% of their constituents have is a repression that we have not and should not ever witness in this country."
NY Daily News reports Ensler said in a tweet: “I can’t wait to moan!”