That all-male hearing on birth control access over at the House Oversight Committee provoked Democratic women on the committee to walk out of the hearing room. And Nancy Pelosi responded to the hearing this way:
“Five men are testifying on women’s health,” Pelosi said, adding, “Where are the women? Imagine having a panel on women’s health and they don’t have any women on the panel.
“Duh? What is it that men don’t understand about women’s health and how central the issue of family planning is to that? Not just if you’re having families but if you need those kinds of prescription drugs for your general health, which was the testimony they would have heard this morning if they had allowed a woman on the panel. I think the fact that they did not allow a woman on the panel is symbolic of the whole debate as to who is making these decisions about women’s health and who should be covered.”
Above I have the testimony that Sandra Fluke, a Georgetown law student, would have given to the committee, if she were allowed to testify. A transcript of that testimony is available here. As you can see, she describes the hardship of paying for contraceptive services (up to $3,000 annually), the trouble clinics are having to meet demand, and the real harm to women who need the medication.
A friend of mine, for example, has polycystic ovarian syndrome and has to take prescription birth control to stop cysts from growing on her ovaries. Her prescription is technically covered by Georgetown insurance because it’s not intended to prevent pregnancy. At many schools, it wouldn’t be, and under Senator Blunt’s amendment, Senator Rubio’s bill, or Representative Fortenberry’s bill, there’s no requirement that an exception be made for such medical needs. When they do exist, these exceptions don’t accomplish their well-intended goals because when you let university administrators or other employers, rather than women and their doctors, dictate whose medical needs are good enough and whose aren’t, a woman’s health takes a back seat to a bureaucracy focused on policing her body.
All of those listed Congressional Republicans are men, needless to say.
And this isn’t confined to Congress. There’s a broader war on lady parts that has exploded in the states over the past year. We’ve seen more restrictions, particularly on the legal medical procedure of abortion, over the last year than we have in decades. Two such bills just passed in the past twenty-four hours. In Virginia, extremely retrograde abortion measures just passed the legislature:
A Republican supermajority has muscled two of the most restrictive anti-abortion bills in years through the Virginia House, including one that would all but outlaw the procedure in the state by declaring that the rights of persons apply from the moment sperm and egg unite.
The bills passed over bitter yet futile objections from Democrats. And one GOP delegate caused the House to ripple when he said most abortions come as “matters of lifestyle convenience.”
Del. Bob Marshall’s House Bill 1 on personhood at conception passed on a 66-32 vote. And on a 63-36 vote, the House passed a bill that requires women to have a “transvaginal ultrasound” before undergoing abortions.
That’s akin to forcing a sexual assault on a woman as a condition of getting a legal medical procedure.
In Oklahoma, they also passed a personhood bill:
Oklahoma lawmakers edged closer toward trying to outlaw abortion on Wednesday by approving “personhood” legislation that gives individual rights to an embryo from the moment of conception.
The Republican-controlled state Senate voted 34-8 to pass the “Personhood Act” which defines the word person under state law to include unborn children from the moment of conception.
The measure now goes to the state House where pro-life Republicans outnumber Democrats by more than a 2-1 margin.
The closest a personhood law came to fruition was in Missouri, but the Supreme Court found it unconstitutional. Would they today? Or will the legislation survive such a challenge? And will it be the vehicle to overturn Roe v. Wade?
The aggressive move by Republican politicians to roll back practically every advance in women’s reproductive health may occasion a political backlash. But they have successfully chipped away at access, particularly to abortion, for many years.