Two female Michigan lawmakers silenced after vagina, abortion comments

Posted on June 14, 2012


Freep.com, June 14, 2012 by Kathleen Gray

Freedom of speech has it limits – at least in the state House of Representatives.

State Reps. Lisa Brown, D-West Bloomfield, and Barb Byrum, D-Onondaga, were told today that they wouldn’t be recognized to publicly speak on any matters before the House because of comments they made Wednesday during an emotional debate on a bill that puts new restrictions on abortion providers.

Brown, who voted against the legislation, told supporters of the bill, “I’m flattered you’re all so concerned about my vagina. But no means no.”

And Byrum was gaveled out of order after she protested when she wasn’t allowed to speak on her amendment to the bill that would have required proof of a medical emergency or that a man’s life was in danger before a doctor could perform a vasectomy.

Today was the last day of session for the House before it takes a long summer break

The House bill, passed on a 70-39 vote, provides for sweeping new regulations and insurance requirements for abortion providers, makes it a crime to coerce a woman into having an abortion and regulates the disposal of fetal remains. It won’t be taken up in the state Senate until at least September. A companion bill that would have outlawed abortions past 20 weeks, with only an exception to save the life of the mother, was tabled by the House.

Ari Adler, spokesman for Speaker of the House Jase Bolger, R-Marshall, said it was the prerogative of Majority Floor Leader Jim Stamas, R-Midland, to maintain order and decorum during session of the House.

They “will not be recognized to speak on the House floor today after being gaveled down for their comments and actions yesterday that failed to maintain the decorum of the House of Representatives,” Adler said.

“House Republicans often go beyond simply allowing debate by welcoming open and passionate discussion of the issues before this chamber,” he added. “The only way we can continue doing so, however, is to ensure that the proper level of maturity and civility are maintained on the House floor.”

Brown and Byrum weren’t immediately available for comment.

“Both Representative Byrum and I were gaveled down without cause yesterday while voicing our opposition to the Republican’s war on women here in Michigan,” Brown said. “Regardless of their reasoning, this is a violation of my First Amendment rights and directly impedes my ability to serve the people who elected me into office.”

Brown wondered whether she was being silenced because of her comments that bill was forcing others’ religious beliefs on her or that she used the word “vagina, which is an anatomically medically correct term. If they are going to legislate my anatomy, I see no reason why I cannot mention it.”

Byrum added, “I was ignored by the majority floor leader and not allowed to speak on my amendment which would have held the same standards for men and women when it comes to legal, voluntary procedures in reproductive health and now I am being silenced for standing up for women. This is yet another example of this Republican majority’s misogynistic and cowardly tactics.”

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Posted in: Michigan