Brace yourselves ladies, because things in Michigan aren’t looking so great for women these days. The state House of Representatives voted Wednesday on a dramatic anti-choice bill that would impose severe regulations on abortion clinics. While we agree it’s best for women to have access to clean and safe facilities, many Democrats in Michigan argue this bill goes beyond simple inspection requirements and instead aims to regulate the clinics out of existence entirely. The bill passed 70-39, though it will not be taken up in the state senate until the assembly returns to session in the fall. Fingers crossed some feminist-minded intern 'misplaces' it over the summer.
I wish that nasty bill was the extent of the bad news. Unfortunately, there remains the fact that two female Democrats, Lisa Brown and Barb Byrum, were indefinitely suspended from speaking on the House floor after they stood against the bill in a passionate debate. A spokesman for the Speaker of the House said Thursday the women were silenced “for their comments and actions yesterday that failed to maintain the decorum of the House of Representatives.” So Brown and Byrum must have been throwing things, or swearing, or doing something else equally extreme to warrant such harsh punishment, right? Alas, that is not the case.
Byrum, for her part, introduced an amendment that would require men seeking vasectomies to prove their lives were in danger before getting the procedure, because fair is fair, right? She was then ignored by the majority floor leader and not given the chance to speak in defense of her amendment, and she protested, as just about anyone would in those circumstances. For that display of basic human emotion, she had all of her speaking privileges revoked indefinitely.
Brown’s case is even more infuriating. She doesn’t even know what she did to provoke the Republican leadership, but she has a few guesses. One is that she angered some folks when she brought up her Jewish faith in the debate against the bill. She reminded the rest of the assembly that Judaism actually requires life-saving abortions if a pregnant woman's life is at risk. In that way, bills outlawing abortion can be seen as violating religious freedom, despite what conservative Christians might say. But Brown also had the nerve to use the word ‘vagina’ in her speech, telling the house “I’m flattered you’re all so concerned about my vagina. But no means no.” So, is it that Republicans in Michigan feel they can legislate on women’s anatomy without ever having to hear the medically accurate terminology for it?
Both Brown and Byrum are rightfully furious with their treatment. Brown believes that, “Regardless of their reasoning, this is a violation of my First Amendment rights and directly impedes my ability to serve the people who elected me into office.” So, the war on women rages on ya’ll, and now they seem to think the easiest route to victory is just to make the women-folk shut up. Yikes.
If you'd like to show your support for these two women, you can find contact information on their websites here, for Brown, and here, for Byrum. And, if you'd like to give the man responsible for this appalling power play, Majority Floor Leader Jim Stamas, a piece of your mind, you can find his contact information here.
And check out this video of Brown, Byrum and several other female Democrats speaking out against the House's anti-choice efforts: