Maybe we should change the title of this column to “‘States That Make Red Laws’ Round Up.” Because, Michigan is definitely not a red state. It is aqua blue – not even a swing state. And yet, it has been the center of attention this past week because of this over-the-top, far-reaching anti-abortion omnibus bill.
Among other things here’s what the bill would do:
- Ban abortion after 20 weeks;
- Impose extra, unnecessary licensing requirements on clinics resulting in the shutting down of some clinics;
- Make it more challenging for women to take RU-486, also known as the “abortion pill”;
- Institute paternalistic protection laws supposedly making it illegal for a woman to be “coerced into” abortion, while in reality making it nearly impossible for her to make the choice to get one.
This bill has become known by many as the “worst attack on women’s health in Michigan history.” And, it passed the House last Thursday after only 20 minutes of debate.
Because this bill puts so many restrictions into one ugly package, pro-choice lawmakers in Michigan reacted loudly and strongly, standing up in opposition to the bill and in defense of their constituents.
Then why did the debate only last 20 minutes? Well, partially because these pro-choice lawmakers were kicked out. Two female representatives were barred from speaking in the debate over the bill because of their comments.
Rep. Lisa Brown made one of the comments that made anti-choice lawmakers squirm when she said, “I have not asked you to adopt and adhere to my religious beliefs. Why are you asking me to adopt yours… I’m flattered that you’re all so interested in my vagina, but no means no.”
That resulted in her not being allowed to participate in the debate (although her stunning performance did win her a role in the Vagina Monologues in Michigan.) Another woman, Rep. Barb Byrum, was also barred from speaking, presumably because she said “vasectomy.” In other words, we have no idea why she was barred. Mostly likely, she was kicked out merely because she was standing up for women’s rights.
While the Michigan bill was already getting a lot of attention because of its outrageous restrictions that seemed intended to shut down abortion clinics throughout the state, the banning of female representatives in opposition to the bill caused it to explode in the media. The absurdity became clear again. Anti-choice lawmakers stopped a woman for speaking about women’s reproductive health because she said “vagina.” And, they still are trying to say that the bill is meant to protect women – in that patronizing tone, you can be sure of.
Anti-choice lawmakers made another revealing move –that their interests are not in women’s voices, but in controlling women’s access to health and in controlling their bodies.