02/17/2012 10:32 am ET

Nancy Pelosi Rallies Base Over Birth Control Fight

WASHINGTON -- House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is firing up the Democratic base over a contentious hearing on birth control that left several congresswomen fuming.

In an email sent out late Thursday by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Pelosi urges supporters to sign a petition demanding that House Republican leaders let women have a voice in Hill discussions on women's health issues.

"We almost couldn’t believe it. Today, at a House Oversight Committee hearing, House Republicans convened a panel on denying access to birth control converge with five men and no women. As my colleague Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney asked, where are the women?" Pelosi says in the email. "Join me in our call to Speaker Boehner, Eric Cantor, Chairman Issa and all House Republicans to demand that women be brought to the table when discussing women’s health issues. Help us gather 50,000 signatures before Congress heads home tomorrow."

Democrats have already surpassed their goal -- a DCCC source said 95,168 people had signed the petition as of Friday morning. That level of response is "pretty massive" for just being overnight, said the source. The petition also collected 30,039 "likes" on Facebook.

Pelosi's email comes on the heels of Democratic lawmakers walking out of a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on religious liberty and birth control. They were protesting Chairman Darrell Issa's (R-Calif.) refusal to allow a progressive woman to testify in favor of the Obama administration's contraception rule. The morning panel at the hearing consisted exclusively of men from conservative religious organizations; a second panel included two women, but both were critics of Obama's birth control mandate, which does not exempt religiously affiliated employers from having to include contraception in employees' insurance coverage.