Women to hold rally month after ‘vagina’ comment

Posted on July 17, 2012

SF Gate, July 17, 2012 by KATHY BARKS HOFFMAN

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Women riled over last month’s silencing of a female Democratic lawmaker who said “vagina” during a House debate about anti-abortion legislation and another who said “vasectomy” are pushing back at what they say is a war on women.

Members of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee and Democracy For America say they’ll attempt to deliver more than 115,000 signatures Wednesday morning to House Speaker Jase Bolger. The signers want GOP leaders to make a public apology to state Reps. Lisa Brown and Barb Byrum after suspending their speaking privileges for one day.

Bolger spokesman Ari Adler said Tuesday that he doesn’t anticipate any apology is forthcoming.

“They violated the decorum of the House and they were gaveled down for it, and then they were not recognized for the one day because of their actions,” he said.

Republican lawmakers have said Brown’s speaking privileges weren’t taken away for saying “vagina” on the House floor but for an out-of-line comment equating the anti-abortion legislation being debated to rape.

Brown said she wasn’t tying the legislation to rape. While speaking against a bill that would require doctors to ensure abortion-seekers haven’t been coerced into ending their pregnancies, Brown told Republicans: “I’m flattered you’re all so concerned about my vagina. But no means no.”

Brown noted that Democratic Rep. Barb Byrum of Onondaga also got hit with a day of silence for saying “vasectomy” after not being allowed to speak on an amendment that would have placed restrictions on male sterilization.

On Tuesday, Brown said she understands the frustration of women from labor unions, family planning groups and women’s equality organizations who plan to hold a “Women Take Over the Capitol” rally on the Capitol steps at 11 a.m. Wednesday, when lawmakers are in session the only time this month. She plans to attend the rally if votes aren’t being taken on the House floor when it occurs.

“I just laugh when I hear people say there’s no war on women,” said Brown, of West Bloomfield. “What happened to me is just a small battle in that war, but it’s indicative of it.”

Brown said it’s not just the anti-abortion legislation that passed last month that she opposes, but legislation that would affect how much in damages stay-at-home mothers could get in certain lawsuits and voter ID bills that Democrats say are intended to suppress voter turnout.

Dawn Kettinger of Michigan Nurses Association said the rally also will promote support for a ballot issue intended to put collective bargaining rights into the state constitution.

“Attacks on collective bargaining disproportionately hurt women” because so many women work in unionized professions such as nursing and teaching, Kettinger said.

The Michigan Catholic Conference said in a statement released Tuesday that the anti-abortion legislation Brown and other Democrats oppose is intended to protect the lives of women obtaining abortions by requiring licensing for non-licensed abortion clinics and similar standards to outpatient surgical facilities. It criticized those planning to attend Wednesday’s gathering.

“The protesters are on the wrong side of the issue and, more importantly, on the wrong side of women’s health,” said the conference’s policy advocate, Rebecca Mastee.

Opponents say the legislation is intended to put facilities offering abortions out of business, making it more difficult for women to obtain abortions.