A Michigan state lawmaker who was banned from speaking on the House floor after she used the word "vagina" in an argument against an anti-abortion bill joined several of her female Democratic colleagues on Monday night to perform "The Vagina Monologues" in front of 5,000 Michiganders on the Statehouse steps.
Eve Ensler, the Tony Award-winning author of the play, told MSNBC host Lawrence O'Donnell that it was one of the most "thrilling" nights she's had in the 16 years since the play was first performed.
"You know, it was one of the most amazing performances I've seen, and I think, in some ways, "The Vagina Monologues" was in its truest form today because it was not just about the art of it -- it was truly about the message and the reason for it," she said. "To see representatives, lawmakers, heads of Planned Parenthood and the ACLU, amazing actors come together for the liberation of women, for women's rights, in front of 5,000 people in Lansing, Michigan, I feel really good."
State Rep. Lisa Brown (D-West Bloomfield) was told last week she wouldn't be recognized on the House floor for a day after she said to Republicans, "I'm flattered you're all so concerned about my vagina. But no means no." The comment was in reference to a bill that would require doctors to screen women who are seeking abortions to make sure they hadn't been coerced.
Brown performed in "The Vagina Monologues" in order to protest having been silenced. "There's a little thing called free speech," she told O'Donnell on Monday night. "We're gonna put that to the test."
A spokesperson for the Michigan House Speaker told The Huffington Post that Brown wasn't banned for using the word "vagina," but for the manner in which she used it. Brown said she still hasn't heard directly from House leadership as to why or for how long she would be unable to speak, and she believes she did nothing to deserve that retaliation.
"To this day, I didn't say anything wrong. It's the anatomically correct terminology for the female anatomy," she said. "If you can't say vagina," she added, "we shouldn't be legislating them."
Ensler said she believes the performance made a big impact in the state, where legislators are currently considering one of the most extreme anti-abortion omnibus bills in the country.
"I think we took free speech back today, and I think to be there with 5,000 people who were completely embracing the play, the word, the reason. It was a different Michigan today, and I think there's going to be a huge turnaround here," she said. "One of the things that moved me so much tonight is how many young women came up to thank both of us for giving them a voice, for allowing them to be authentic, for allowing them to love their bodies, for allowing them to feel agency over their bodies and their rights."