Two Democratic woman lawmakers in Michigan, Rep. Lisa Brown (West Bloomfield) and Rep. Barb Byrum (Onondaga), said Republican House leaders refused to allow them to speak on the House floor Thursday after their emotional remarks opposing an anti-abortion bill the day before.
Majority Floor Leader Jim Stamas (R-Midland) gaveled Brown out of order on Wednesday afternoon after she told her colleagues, “I’m flattered you’re all so concerned about my vagina, but no means no.”
Brown said she had no idea when she arrived at the House chamber Thursday morning that she would not be allowed to speak. She was about to deliver a speech in opposition to a bill that involves teacher retirement, as the minority vice chair of the Education Committee, but Minority Floor Leader Kate Segal (D-Battle Creek) told her she had been banned from speaking for the day.
"I'd love to know what I said that was offensive," Brown told The Huffington Post. "It was an anti-choice bill regarding abortion, which obviously involves a vagina, so, you know, I don't know what word I'm supposed to use otherwise."
Byrum caused a stir when she marched through the House gallery Wednesday protesting that she hadn't been allowed to speak on her amendment to the anti-abortion bill that would have required a man to have proof of a medical emergency before he could have a vasectomy.
"It's my impression that I'm being banned from speaking as a result of my use of the term vasectomy -- a medical procedure," Byrum told The Huffington Post. "Neither of us has been contacted by Republican leadership as to why or how long we've been banned. Talk about disrespectful, that they don’t have the common decency to tell us themselves."
Ari Adler, a spokesman for House Majority Leader Jase Bolger (R-Marshall), said the lawmakers were banned from speaking because of their behavior, not because of their word choice. "They behaved in a way that disrupted the decorum of the House," Adler said. "For Brown, it was not the words she used, but the way she used them that resulted in her being gaveled down." In Byrum's case, Adler said, "I hate to put it this way, but she essentially had a temper tantrum on the House floor."
Adler said the Republican floor leader told the Democratic floor leader the two representatives would not be recognized on Thursday. It's "not [the GOP's] concern" if the lawmakers weren't given the message, he said. It's unfortunate, he added, that the two lawmakers were sanctioned for what occurred during debate on an anti-abortion bill, because it makes it look as if they were silenced for reasons other than their "lack of decorum."
"The reality is, we have two representatives not being recognized today because of their actions yesterday," Adler said. "It has nothing to do with their gender or religion or the topics they were speaking about."
Byrum said that she believes her gender did have something to do with it, and that the silencing is unfair and unwarranted.
"There have been physical altercations between at least two men on the House floor, and I don't recall any of them every being banned from speaking," Bynum said. "It's just unacceptable to silence women when we're talking about women's reproductive rights."
99 Problems (JAY-Z)
Eric Fehrnstrom, senior campaign adviser for Mitt Romney, <a href="http://thinkprogress.org/politics/2012/06/03/494238/fehrnstrom-shiny-objects-women/" target="_hplink">said on Sunday</a> that issues pertaining to women's reproductive rights, such as abortion and birth control, were "shiny objects" meant to distract voters from the real issues. "Mitt Romney is pro-life," he told ABC's George Stephanopoulos. "He'll govern as a pro-life president, but you're going to see the Democrats use all sorts of shiny objects to distract people's attention from the Obama performance on the economy. This is not a social issue election."
The Senate will vote Thursday on the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would expand and strengthen the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and make it illegal for employers to punish women for bringing up pay disparity issues. Dana Perino, a Fox News contributor and former press secretary for President George W. Bush, <a href="http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2012/04/30/perino-equal-pay-issue-is-a-distraction-for-just-48-hours/" target="_hplink">called the equal pay issue</a> "a distraction" from the country's real financial problems last week. "Well, it's just yet another distraction of dealing with the major financial issues that the country should be dealing with," Perino said. "This is not a job creator."
Just My Imagination (The Temptations)
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), whose home state's legislature recently defunded Planned Parenthood and voted to pass a bill that would allow employers to deny women birth control coverage, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/26/john-mccain-war-on-women_n_1455591.html" target="_hplink">delivered a floor speech</a> in which he insisted that the war on women is something imaginary for Democrats to "sputter about." "My friends, this supposed 'War on Women' or the use of similarly outlandish rhetoric by partisan operatives has two purposes, and both are purely political in their purpose and effect: The first is to distract citizens from real issues that really matter and the second is to give talking heads something to sputter about when they appear on cable television," he said.
Butterfly Fly Away (Miley & Billy Ray Cyrus)
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus tried to trivialize concerns about the legislative "war on women" by comparing it to a "war on caterpillars." "If the Democrats said we had a war on caterpillars and every mainstream media outlet talked about the fact that Republicans have a war on caterpillars, then we'd have problems with caterpillars," Priebus <a href="http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-04-05/priebus-says-gender-battle-as-fictonal-as-caterpillar-war.html" target="_hplink">said in an April interview</a> on Bloomberg Television. "It's a fiction."
Distraction (Angels And Airwaves)
Missouri U.S. Senate candidate Sarah Steelman (R) took heat from her opponents in May when she contended that Democratic lawmakers' focus on the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act was "a distraction" from the issues they should be dealing with instead. "I think it's unfortunate that the Democrats have made a political football out of this thing, which I think is what they keep doing to distract from real problems that are facing our nation," she said in an interview with St. Louis Public Radio.
We Don't Care (Kanye West)
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) defended the Republican Party in April for going after insurance coverage for contraception by arguing that women don't actually care about contraception. "Women don't care about contraception," she said on ABC's The View. "They care about jobs and the economy and raising their families and all those other things."