Michigan Democratic State Representative Lisa Brown has been banned “indefinitely” from speaking on the House floor because she used the word “vagina” while registering her opposition to an anti-abortion bill her Republican colleagues were debating yesterday. Brown is a woman and Jewish, and held a press conference today wondering is she was banned from speaking because of her religious beliefs. Another female colleague, Rep. Barb Byrum, was also indefinitely banned from speaking, although she did not use the word “vagina” during her oration. The bill passed, and is now the most-restrictive anti-abortion bill in America.
“I’m flattered you’re all so concerned about my vagina. But no means no,” Brown said on the floor, the Detroit Free Press reports:
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.
Michigan Live adds:
“I was either banned for being Jewish and rightfully pointing out that HB 5711 was forcing contradictory religious beliefs upon me and my religion,” Brown said in a Thursday press conference. “Or is it because I used the word ‘vagina,’ which is an anatomically, medically correct term?”
Standing with Byrum, Planned Parenthood and several other House Democrats, Brown said that as a “committed and practicing Jew, I follow my faith’s teachings on women’s health issues.”
She said Jewish teachings say when a pregnant woman’s health and life are at stake, that woman’s life is the primary thing.
“As a Jew, I realize my beliefs are in the minority. I understand that many people hold different opinions and I respect that. It would never occur to to me to force my beliefs on someone else. All I did was urge my fellow lawmakers to extend to me that same consideration.”
Brown said she was stopped “from doing the very job I was elected to do.”
“Maybe my message of religious freedom didn’t sit well with the opposition. Or maybe they’re mad at me because I dared to say vagina, the correct medical name of a part of a woman’s anatomy that these lawmakers are trying to regulate.
“These lawmakers, predominantly men, have no problem passing legislation about my vagina. But I say its name, and they get outraged. I’m outraged that this legislative body wants to dictate what I can do, but what I can say.”
Calling the action “an indefinite Shut The Fuck Up order from the the male-lead body,” Erin Gloria Ryan, writing at Jezebel, noted, ”Apparently, during Michigan’s War on Women, ladies aren’t even allowed to serve in combat.” Ryan adds:
Rather than be a manly man and tell the women to their face that they had upset the Speaker, Bolger acted like a mincing, spineless ninny and relayed the women’s speaking ban through their party’s House leader. He gave no explanation as to why the women were banned, so both are left guessing (and fuming) today.
Byrum’s silencing is a little more cut and dry than Brown’s; she spoke out of turn (after trying, unsuccessfully, to be recognized to speak), which is technically a violation of House rules, which means that the Speaker was within his rights to reprimand her. But legislators speak out of turn fairly regularly, and only rarely are they told to sit down and shut up, officially.
I spoke with Rep. Lisa Brown, who was on the floor of the Michigan State House when we talked (because it’s not like she was allowed to participate in any debates today, right!? Cry.). She’s confused about what she did to offend the Man-Gods who want to run Michigan’s uteruses, but she’s got a couple of theories. During yesterday’s speech, she mentioned her Jewish faith, which she thought might have irked Republicans. But more plausible is the explanation that it was her use of the medically accurate, anatomically correct word “vagina” during the debate (“I’m flattered that you’re all so interested in my vagina, but no means no.”) grossed her male colleagues out. “What word should I have said?” she asked. Apparently, “vagina” is another v-word that Must Not Be Named. Like Voldemort.
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