Nel's New Day

June 20, 2012

Should Women Be Stopped from Saying ‘Vagina’?

On alternative media (where you can get real news), the story about the two female Democratic state representatives being banned from talking on the Michigan legislative floor hasn’t gone away. Instead it’s gotten better.

The problem for the male Republican lawmakers started when two women fought the vicious anti-choice omnibus bill and talked about vaginas and vasectomies. Rep. Barb Byrum even shouted at the speaker when he refused to let her address an amendment that would put restrictions on vasectomies in the same way that the men wanted to restrict abortion.

Early statements from the Republicans protested Rep. Lisa Brown’s use of the objectionable word “vagina” on the state legislative floor. It may have been difficult for them to object to the use of “vagina” because the bill uses the term three times. Since then, they have searched for another reason to dissent that might be more acceptable to the public.

Rep. Wayne Schmidt said, “It wasn’t about body parts. It wasn’t about dissent. It wasn’t about anyone’s religious beliefs. It was that last comment that took it a step too far, and that’s what crossed the line about … The ‘no means no’ comment. That went a step too far. As I said to someone up north here, it’s like giving a kid a time out for a day, you know. Hey, time out.”

Thus Schmidt wants to treat a colleague like a bad child and, at the same time, tell women that they have no right to say “no.” He’s saying that women must be silenced if they want to say “no,” that they must have a time out because women don’t have the right to say “no.” If women try to say no, then they will be banned from speaking at all.

Dahlia Lithwick has injected a bit of black humor into the situation. In this bit of satire she supports the silencing of women in the following manner:

The scourge of women being allowed to speak the word vagina in a legislative debate over what happens when women use their vaginas must be stopped. And if women are not capable of regulating their own word choice, the state should regulate it for them. To that end, we propose that the Michigan House promptly enact HB-5711(b)—a bill to regulate the use of the word vagina by females in mixed company.

The bill will include Part A(1)(a) providing that any women who seeks to use the word vagina in a floor debate be required to wait 72 hours after consulting with her physician before she may say it. It will also require her physician to certify in writing that said woman was not improperly coerced into saying the word vagina against her will. Section B(1)(d) provides that prior to allowing a female to say the word vagina a woman will have a mandatory visit with her physician at which he will read to her a scripted warning detailing the scientific evidence of the well-documented medical dangers inherent in saying the word vagina out loud, including the link between saying the word vagina and the risk of contracting breast cancer.

Because some women who say the word vagina in legislative proceedings occasionally come to regret having used the word, Part C(7) provides that there will also be mandatory counseling with counselors who have never used the word vagina in their lifetimes, and who would indeed die before they ever used such a word. Moreover the state health code is to be amended such that no woman who says the word vagina may do so out loud or in mixed company until and unless she is in a facility with full surgical capabilities. Objections that speech is not in fact a surgical procedure notwithstanding, it’s clear that the risk of saying the word vagina out loud is such that it should not be undertaken without proper medical safeguards to guarantee against any and all risks of negative consequences.

There is to be no exception in the event that a woman uses the word vagina as a result of rape, incest, or to preserve her health or ability to have future pregnancies. If women were intended to use the word vagina, there would be a word for vaginas.

Also, provision d(9)(a) of the bill would amend the current law to ensure that if any listener who hears the word vagina spoken aloud—although it may be the medically correct term for a woman’s reproductive organs—feels any religious objections to such speech, that speech may be curtailed in the interest of preserving the listener’s religious freedom as detailed in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. Any other marginally relevant provisions of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution are herein rescinded as needed.

Finally, Michigan state health statutes shall be amended by provision 12(b)(6) which provides that prior to speaking the word vagina out loud, any female resident of Michigan shall undergo a mandatory trans-vaginal ultrasound procedure, during which she must watch such ultrasound while listening to a government-scripted speech about the grave dangers of speaking anatomically correct words, aloud, in an enlightened democracy.

Such speech will, by necessity, include the word vagina.

You can join the people who object to Wayne Schmidt’s statement.

June 15, 2012

Republicans Try to Silence Women–Again

Republicans continue to show their disdain for women with the Michigan state House of Representatives providing the most recent prime example of males’ determination to silence women. The issue surrounded the most vicious attack on women’s reproductive rights to date that is contained in one bill:  HB 5711 bans abortions past 20 weeks with no exception for rape victims, the health of the pregnant woman, or fatal fetal anomalies.  It contains language regarding prohibitive insurance and licensing requirements for clinics performing abortions, requiring them to have surgery rooms even if they perform surgeries and requiring doctors to be present for medication abortions. Other provisions would screen women for “coercion” before an abortion, make it a crime to “coerce” a woman into having an abortion, create new guidelines on disposing fetal remains, and excessively regulate prescriptions of RU-486. The bill would also amend Michigan’s Public Health code to restrict and regulate abortion in the state.

During the bill’s debate, two Democrat representatives—both women—vigorously protested HB 5711. The House Speaker then told them they would not be recognized during debate the next day, which was the last day of the session before the summer recess. Michigan lawmakers have never before been formally barred from participating in floor debates.

Barb Byrum (D-Onondaga) was gaveled out of order after she protested when she wasn’t allowed to speak on her amendment, which would have required proof of a medical emergency or that a man’s life was in danger before a doctor could perform a vasectomy.

Lisa Brown (D-West Bloomfield) lost her speaking privileges because she said, “I’m flattered that you’re all so interested in my vagina,” she said, “but ‘no’ means ‘no.’”

“What she said was offensive,” said Rep. Mike Callton (R-Nashville). “It was so offensive, I don’t even want to say it in front of women. I would not say that in mixed company.” Evidently men are willing to make laws about women’s vaginas, but not use the word.

Brown also argued that the abortion regulation bill would violate her Jewish faith. “I have not asked you to adopt and to adhere to my religious beliefs. Why are you asking me to adopt yours?” Brown asked. Her reference was to the Jewish tenet dating back to the biblical era that “abortions performed in order to preserve the life of the mother are not only permissible, but mandatory.”

Former legislator Bill Ballenger said he was surprised by comments during the debate, including a suggestion from Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Detroit) that women withhold sex from their partners until such abortion-limiting bills stopped being considered. Tlaib was not hushed. “Those comments were really over the top,” Ballenger said. “But the idea of muzzling an elected official is not only counterintuitive but outrageous.”

“There have been many occasions of inappropriate behavior by men on the floor, and they haven’t lost their voice,” Brown said. “I was speaking to the bill at hand, I didn’t use any curse words and I was using anatomically correct language.”

In a statement, Brown said, “I was either banned for being Jewish and rightfully pointing out that House Bill 5711 was forcing contradictory religious beliefs upon me and any other religion. Or it is because I said the word ‘vagina’ which is an anatomically, medically correct term. If they are going to legislate my anatomy, I see no reason why I cannot mention it.” Ari Adler, a spokesman for Republican Speaker Pro Tem John Walsh, said Brown was called out of order for saying “no means no,” suggesting that Brown compared the abortion legislation to rape.

Before the 60-page bill was approved in committee, almost 100 people showed up at a hearing to testify against it. Committee Chair Gail Haines (R-Waterford) ended the hearing and cut off all testimony after a Michigan Right to Life spokesperson and a few others in support of the bill testified. The bill passed the house 70-39; in September it goes to the senate which has a Republican majority of 64-46.

State Rep. Mike Shirkey (R-Clark Lake) told a local television station on Wednesday that he supports the bill and hopes it will end abortion in Michigan. That’s the goal of lawmakers. Abortion is legal, according to the Supreme Court; Republicans want to circumvent this law. They also want to silence all women who disagree with them.


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