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Female Lawmakers Indefinitely Banned From Michigan House of Representatives for Saying, Apparently, “No Means No”
by Susana Polo | 2:03 pm, June 15th, 2012
Earlier this week the Michigan House of Representatives passed a bill that would criminalize abortions in pregnancies older than 20 weeks in all cases including incest, rape, and severe birth defects, leaving exception only for the physical health of the mother; make it a crime to coerce a woman into having an abortion (but not, of course, to coerce a woman out of having an abortion, coercion is fine, apparently, if it’s going in the right direction); would limit access to abortion to women who are able to find the time, money, and transportation to have their doctor present for the procedure regardless of whether they are having surgery or simply being prescribed abortion-inducing medication; would require doctors who perform abortions to foot hundreds of thousands of dollars more in malpractice insurance costs in order to do so legally; and would require abortion clinics to maintain a surgical outpatient facility regardless of whether they provide surgical abortions, an unnecessary cost and effort that would force most uncomplying clinics to close. It’s being called the nations worst anti-abortion bill, which, unfortunately, is quite the claim to fame at the moment.
But before the bill passed, Lisa Brown (right) and Barb Byrum (left) were among the members of the House minority party (Democrat) who spoke against it, and, for their responses to the bill, both women have been indefinitely banned by the House Majority Leader from speaking on the floor of the Michigan House of Representatives initially without official explanation. And naturally, since it was without explanation, theories have run rampant this week.
Byrum, for example, did speak out of turn, after her attempts to be recognized to speak were met with no acceptance, so that’s a least a serious violat — what? People do that all the time? And indefinite bans on speaking in the House that preventing legislators from working on behalf of the thousands in their districts who elected them are really rare? Well, okay.
Well, how about Lisa Brown? Brown ended her statements on the bill by saying “Finally, Mr. Speaker, I’m flattered that you’re all so interested in my vagina, but ‘no’ means ‘no.’” Which obviously we think is bold in a great way, that Nashville, Michigan representative Mike Callton told Detroit News was bold in the bad way:
What she said was offensive. It was so offensive, I don’t even want to say it in front of women. I would not say that in mixed company.
It was initially reported by Detroit News that what Callton is referring to here; the specific reason Brown was censured, was because she used the word “vagina” on the House floor. Because god forbid we remember that babies are sheltered, grown, and born via vaginas and their accoutrement, that vaginas and their accoutrement are parts of bodies, the those bodies belong to people, and those people have the right to have their own opinions about what happens to them physically and personally and given the severity of threats to one’s bodily autonomy, those people should be accorded some social understanding when they express those opinions in strong terms, or, in this case, in medically appropriate ones.
But I digress! Since the Detroit News revealed Callton’s statement, #vagina started trending on Twitter from all the folks tweeting it at House of Representatives twitter accounts, and it seems some further clarification was necessary, because a spokesman for the Michigan house Republicans has come forward to say that it really wasn’t about her word use at all, it was about her metaphors.
Speaker Pro Tem John Walsh, R-Livonia, gaveled Brown out of order for saying “no means no” — because it suggested Brown was comparing the abortion legislation to rape, House GOP spokesman Ari Adler said.
“It has nothing to do with the word vagina,” Adler said.
Yes, it certainly does seem shameful to draw a parallel between a law that would make it very much more difficult for women to have access to medical services that would allow them to control what goes on in their bodies, including forcing women to live through pregnancies despite knowing that their child will not survive being born due to fatal birth defects, and an act that forces a person’s body into the service of an unthinking agressor.
To be perfectly honest here, I’m not sure what is more shocking: that this happened at all, or that the Michigan GOP thought that it would be an improvement to spin this story as them silencing a woman for saying “No means no.”
Although the ban on Byrum and Brown initially had no voiced end to it, according to Detroit News, the two representatives will be allowed to speak on the House Floor again when the legislative body reconvenes after their summer recess.
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